Whether it’s an annual trip or a once in a lifetime vacation, a visit to Orlando is something your family will never forget. But there’s so much to do that it can be hard to decide how to get the best use out of your time and money!
Read our list of dos and don’ts for everything you need to make your family’s Orlando trip a success.
Look for quality when it comes to accommodation
When you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Orlando you’ll find a huge range of options covering a variety of price points. If you’re looking for a budget choice, steer clear of the Disney ones – they tend to be very crowded, and not a lot nearer to the action than those available away from the park site.
Instead, you could consider renting – you’ll find a cottage or condo to suit almost any budget. Or if you’re looking for something a little more luxurious, Disney’s eight ‘deluxe’ resorts are convenient, cozy and well worth the money – and like all the on-site hotels, they come with some great bonuses too.
Don’t bother springing for a room with a view. You’ll be having way too much fun to even notice it.
Book ahead for the Magic Kingdom’s most magical moments
You’ll get the best deal on theme park tickets if you book online ahead of time: check out the Don’t list below for more.
If you want to plan out each day of your trip – and, crucially, bypass the lines – you’re going to want to make good use of the Fastpass+. From 30 days before your visit (or 60 days before, if you’re staying onsite), you can reserve up to three rides a day.
Also, if eating breakfast with a Disney character sounds like your kid’s wildest dream come true (or even your own idea of a great way to start a Thursday! We’re not here to judge), you’re going to need to reserve your spot online. There are opportunities to dine with costumed characters at many Orlando theme parks – and the Disney Character Breakfasts offer especially good eating as well as a magical experience – but those things get booked up months in advance.
Rent a car
Car rentals start at about $25 a day, which is more or less the same as a cab ride – well worth the money for the freedom and the ease of travel between Orlando’s various attractions. Disney World and some of the area hotels have free shuttle buses, but they tend to be both slow and crowded, especially at the end of the day – the last thing you want with a tired, whiny toddler in tow.
Pack smart and light
Not only will you be spending a lot of time walking around, but you may also have to pass through security multiple times per day, so stuffed, bulky bags and baggage are a bad idea. If your kids can cope without a stroller, leave it at home – or at least in the hotel – to save time on parking and reclaiming it, not to mention the hassle and effort of hauling it around.
Plan your packing thoroughly, both before you set off and each morning: you’ll need sunscreen, weather-proof gear and something to drink, along with the usual essentials like a camera and wallet, so try not to carry any unnecessary weight. And don’t forget to put on your comfiest shoes!
Get up early
There’s a reason we warn you against paying extra for a room with a view: if you’re doing Orlando right, you’re spending as little time in the room as possible. Get everyone up, dressed and out as early as you can so as not to miss a single exciting moment – and to avoid the worst of the lines by arriving in time for ‘rope drop’ at the theme parks. You’ll also benefit from the morning’s cooler weather, instead of standing in line in the noonday sun. If the kids are tired out by the afternoon you can always head back to the hotel for a nap before dinner or a dip in the pool, safe in the knowledge that you’ve still got in a good few hours of fun.
Pay full price for theme parks
There are so many discount deals available, you’d be plain Goofy (sorry) to pay full price. What’s more, exploring all the fantastic offers out there is a great way to find out about attractions you’d never even heard of – you might think you know what Orlando has to offer, but even if you’ve visited before, you most likely still have places left to discover.
OrlandoFunTickets.com has been offering great discount deals on Disney World tickets for over 10 years and is a trusted, convenient source of discounts for other Orlando theme parks too – check them out for up-to-date information on what to see and do during your trip.
Get carried away with paying for extras
One disadvantage of booking theme park tickets in advance – particularly Disney World tickets – is that it’s easy to let yourself get talked into springing for unnecessary extras. Do you really need a water-park pass? Think about how much you’re really going to be able to fit in – especially if you’re only planning a long weekend or another shortish trip – and don’t feel pressured into paying for shiny extras your family is never going to use.
Eat at Disney World during peak time
Snacks are a huge part of the Disney experience – it’s worth splashing out on Main Street, not only for the sake of deliciousness but also so you can say you did!
The restaurants are great too – but the waiting times when it’s busy are most definitely not. So unless you’ve booked a character dining experience (see the Do list above!), aim to avoid the peak times between 8 and 9 am, noon and 1.30pm, and 6 and 7 pm. A ninja-level Orlando tip is to adjust family mealtimes accordingly for a few weeks before your trip so that your young kids don’t get too freaked out by the change to their routine – it takes some commitment, but could be well worth it to avoid a meltdown in front of Mickey.
You can pick up a map to each park right inside the park gates, and they’ll make great souvenirs. But if that’s the first time you’ve seen a map of the park – especially if it’s the Magic Kingdom – you’re already in trouble. Take some time to familiarize yourself with relevant maps and walking routes before your vacation begins, to get a realistic idea of walking time and how to cut it down by making use of shortcuts and the Magic Kingdom Railroad.
The same applies when you venture outside the park in your rental car: Florida is a big place! Plan your routes ahead of time.
Whether your Orlando trip covers multiple attractions or is simply All Disney, All The Time, you and your family are going to have a magical stay in Florida. Keep our tips in mind and plan ahead – the more time and money you save, the more you can spend on making memories. Go enjoy yourselves!