We are celebrating a lot of big birthdays in our family this year and we have decided to celebrate by having a three week holiday to Orlando, Florida as both Mark and I turn 40, Abby turns 16 and Harry turns 13 – what a year! Plus we’re taking a couple of Orlando novices with us, Mark’s niece Hope is about to turn 21 and his nephew Josh turned 18 last year, so we invited them to spread their wings and come with us to Florida to experience everything that Orlando has to offer. We’re very excited to have them with us because we love spending time with them and it will be nice to see things through their eyes as they will be experiencing it all for the first time.
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So what’s the plan? Well despite this being our 7th trip to Orlando we are going to treat it like our very first visit so that Hope and Josh get see it all. We are breaking with tradition and not going straight to Disney for our accommodation this time, but instead we are mixing it up with a stay in a villa too. Since becoming Disney Vacation Club members we have always stayed in a Disney hotel, but with there being six of us we felt that a villa would give us a bit more space plus we don’t have enough points for three weeks in a two bedroom villa onsite. So, we will spend two weeks staying at a villa on Emerald Island and then for our final week will stay in a two bedroom villa at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
If you’re thinking of staying in a villa in Orlando, Top Villas has a great selection – there’s something for every budget!
We are going to visit all of the Walt Disney World parks (obvs!), Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, SeaWorld, Aquatica, Bush Gardens, Kennedy Space Centre and Gatorland. Several of these parks will be a first visit for all of us, so that’s really exciting, plus Mark is booked to do the keeper experience at Gatorland which sounds terrifying but he can’t wait!
For our trips to Orlando I like to have a bit of an itinerary because there is so much to see and do. It’s not something that is set in stone though and we do adjust things as necessary, to take into account things like the weather and tired kids. The popular theme park restaurants do get booked up in advance so I book those as early as possible. Disney restaurants can be booked 180 days before your visit and I fully recommend doing this because it’s not always possible to get a table just by turning up at the venue. If there is a restaurant you really want to eat at then book it as soon as you can. As we are staying offsite for the first two weeks we will eat at restaurants outside of the parks as this helps to keep the costs down. We are going to eat at a few Disney restaurants though; Tusker House for breakfast, Whispering Canyon Cafe and 50s Prime Time Diner are our ‘must dos’, plus Beaches and Cream for the Kitchen Sink! We’re also thinking of going to the Sci-Fi Dine In and T-Rex. Outside of Disney we will go to Bahama Breeze as we love it there, Harry really wants to go to the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal and Hope has found a restaurant called Tin Roof that she wants to try. The first two weeks will be spent mainly visiting the non-Disney parks, although we will have 21 day tickets so will dip in and out of Disney World, and the final week will be spent mainly at Disney World.
We haven’t been to Orlando since our Christmas visit to Walt Disney World in 2015 (we used our points to visit Disney’s Aulani resort in Hawaii in 2016) and I can’t wait to go back! Epcot is my favourite Disney park, I absolutely love wandering around the World Showcase. I’m also looking forward to seeing Disney Springs as last time we were there it was in the middle of it’s huge makeover going from Downtown Disney to Disney Springs. We are very much looking forward to checking out the new shops there too! At Universal Orlando we are looking forward to visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as we know that has changed considerably since our last visit and I know that Josh is going to love both the Transformers and the Spiderman ride – two of our favourite rides.
On our 2014 trip to Disney’s Vero Beach resort we got talking to a family and have been friends ever since. They subsequently moved from another part of America to Florida and now live roughly two hours south of Orlando, so we’re really hoping that we’ll be able to meet up with them while we are over there. When we visited Disney at Christmas they were able to come up for a few days and we had so much fun with them in the parks. We haven’t seen them for a couple of years and we’re all really looking forward to our reunion.
I love planning Orlando holidays almost as much as I love going on them, I get excited thinking about all the things we are going to see and do and I love all the memories that come flooding back when I start thinking about previous trips. I really hope that this holiday lives up to expectations for Hope and Josh, because they’ve heard us talk about Florida so much I don’t want them to get there and not enjoy it. Right, I’m off to do some more planning – is it too early to pack?!!
If you have any suggestions of places outside of the parks to visit then please share them with me below.