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The Magic First Timer's Guide to Orlando
If you’re planning a holiday to Orlando for the first time, our new first timer's guide will help you make the most of your time in the world’s theme park capital.
With several years of collective, first-hand Florida experience the expert advisors at Magic Holidays, based in Blackpool, can hand-hold you through each step of the process. Whether that’s deciding how to make the most of the latest theme park rides, what you need to consider before you travel to Florida for the first time, and where to stay.
Magic Holidays’ ‘First Time In Florida’ wizard www.magicholidays.com/introduction will help get started on deciding what type of Orlando holiday is right for you, and our expert advisors can be contacted by telephone (on 0208 475 7750) or via our new instant messaging service on magicholidays.com for free unbiased advice.
What to know before I go?
You won't find anywhere in the world quite like Orlando, so utilise your time and think about what you need to do before you go for the first time. When there's so much to see and do, preperation makes perfect.
- 1 First things first, make sure your passport is valid for the dates of travel. If your kids are hitting their fifth birthday, don't forget, their baby passport will expire. Check the latest entry requirements for travelling to the US
- 2 You must get an authorisation in the form of an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) via the US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) before you travel, which allows most British Citizen passport holders to visit America for up to 90 days. It's really easy and just takes a few minutes. Depending on your situation, you may still need to get a visa but it is important to check the most up to date travel requirements for travel to the US before you book.
- 3 Check what you can and can't take into the United States before you travel - the customs officials are friendly and are there to protect you.
- 4 Don't forget that it is very hot in the summer in Orlando so bring sunscreen, hats, sun glasses, comfortable shoes and cool clothing.
- 5 Tipping etiquette is very different to the UK, and you will be expected to tip at least 10% at every meal and in taxis. Allow for this when thinking about how much spending money you want to bring.
- 6 Brits are known to being reserved - so you may find that Americans are often more friendly and upfront - be prepared to embrace the local culture!
- 7 Build rest days into your holiday. It is better to enjoy seeing less than dragging tired children to every corner of every park.
- 8 Be sure to pack comfortable footwear as you could be walking an average of 7-10 miles per day at the theme parks. There are push chairs available for tired toddlers at the theme parks.
- 9 Think about when you want to go. The US holiday seasons are good. Halloween is a huge draw and 'Halloween Horror Night' at Universal Studios throughout September and October should not be missed. Autumn holidays are often cheaper too.
- 10 Pre book your attraction tickets in the UK before you go, as they're often better value for money. Ask your Magic Holidays advisor about which ticket options are best for you.
- 11 Pre book the Kids Eats FREE card. This gives the children (3-11) free meals when an adult purchases a meal. It can be used at hundreds of outlets throughout Orlando.
- 12 Airlines are now strict on allowances, so any savings on shopping you do could be limited because of excess baggage charges. There is also a limit on the value of goods you are allowed to bring home so be sure to check with your airline before you go.
Where should I stay?
There are so many options - from hotels like the new super stylish Cabana Bay Beach Resort (which offers early ride access) onsite at Universal Orlando, to hotels on I Drive, and the less central but larger (and sometimes cheaper) villas in nearby Kissimmee. But which is right for you?
- 1 If you want to spend more time at the theme parks, it's best to book one of their onsite hotels so that you benefit from early access and free transportation.
- 2 If you're staying off site, driving tends to be the "done thing". Decide early whether you are going to drive as this will have a major imact on where you should stay in Orlando.
- 3 If your travelling in a large group, consider a villa, townhouse or apartment as this could be better value than mulitple hotel rooms.
- 4 If you are not driving, be sure to choose a hotel which offers transportation to the theme parks you wish to visit.
- 5 Check that the hotel you want to stay at offers FREE American breakfasts. Many do, and this can save a family hundreds of dollars, as well as time otherwise wasted looking for somewhere to eat.
- 6 If you are staying onsite at Disney World Resort or Universal Orlando, rather than carrying your gifts and merchandise, have them sent back to your resort hotel.
How do I get around?
With so much to do around I Drive, Kissimmee and the theme parks, you'll probably be wondering how to get to where you want to be.
- 1 If you decide not to drive, make sure your hotel offers shuttle transfers to the theme parks.
- 2 It may sound strange, but don't opt for a convertible car in the summer months. You'll appreciate the air conditioning in a car with a roof!
- 3 It is impotant to make sure that your car hire comfortably fits the number in your party and all of your luggage before you book.
- 4 If you're driving for the first time you will find a satellite navigation system essential, so remember to take your own and update it with an Orlando map before you go. Alternatively, prebook one with your car hire.
- 5 As the car parks at the theme parks are very large (approx 12,000 spaces each), take a note or picture of the section you park in on your phone. Often hire cars can look very similar.
What should I look out for in and around the theme parks?
These top tips will help you make the most of the theme parks, attractions, the shops and the surrounding areas - and may even help you save money and time!
- 1 Get up and out the door early to be there for when the parks open. This will help minimise the time you spend waiting in line and maximise the time you spend on the rides.
- 2 Most people will automatically travel through the theme parks clockwise so do the opposite. Head towards the popular rides first as these will usually have the longer waiting times as the day goes on.
- 3 Always get a park map and guide for the show times when you arrive in the theme parks so that you can plan your day well in advance.
- 4 If you want to move through your favourite rides quickly and skip the queues make good use of Fastpass+ at the Disney World Resort. It will allow you and your family to skip to the front on preselected rides each day.
- 5 In the Disney World Resort, try doing the most popular rides during the parade to avoid the longer queues.
- 6 Weekends at the theme parks can be busy, so do your shopping or go to the beach instead and save the theme parks for the weekends.
- 7 It's sunny all year round, but summer temperatures can reach up to 38 degrees so be sure to stay hydrated. Make use of the water fountains around the parks or head to the water parks to cool off!
- 8 For around $5 each you can fill up on an 'all you can eat' buffet breakfast at Ponderosa Steakhouses or Golden Corral Buffet & Grills. Great if you're on a budget!
- 9 Pre-book a character dining experience at Disney World Resort. You will receive fantastic food, and it's the best way to ensure that you meet your favourite characters.
- 10 Pick up a voucher booklet located in hotels and restaurants - these can have big savings on well known restaurants.
- 11 If you're looking for retail therapy, visit the Premium Shopping Outlets where you will find up to 75% off top name brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss and Calvin Klein. the Florida Mall can also be a day out in itself, boasting hundreds of shops, a large restaurant court and many entertainment options.
What's Hot Right Now?
From the opening of Orlando's tallest waterslide and Diagon Alley at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, to great shopping, restaurants and new Halloween attractions - you'll find plenty of new and exciting things to do this summer and autumn!
Diagon Alley at the wizarding World of Harry Potter
Perhaps the hottest new development to open in Orlando this summer is “Diagon Alley”, the expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. Go early as this is an un-missable attraction for Harry Potter and “Magic (Holidays)” fans alike. Don’t miss the chance to ride the Hogwarts Express train, see goblins at the Gringotts goblin bank, dine at the Leaky Cauldron, or see a wand choose a wizard at Ollivanders Wand Shop. The shops here are also fantastic, and include Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes joke shop, and Shutterbuttons photography shop where you can be part of your very own Potter movie sequence.
Ihu's Breakaway Falls - the new record breaking waterslide
If you love waterslides visit Seaworld Orlando’s new Ihu’sBreakway Falls – the tallest and steepest free-fall waterslide in Orlando. Perfect for those of you looking for an extreme adrenaline rush, you will climb 126 steps to the top of the eight-storey tower (which stands at almost 80 feet tall)and step into one of three ‘breakaway boxes’. As the door closes for the drop – you’ll watch in anticipation asyour fellow riders fall before you!
Eating Out and Restaurants Row
With so many restaurants and diners to choose from in the district of Restaurant Row, make sure you try a different one each night. There are over 30 eateries here alone.Alternatively, East End Market (which opened last year in Audubon Park near Downtown Orlando) offers a flavour of the local food scene.Tipping around 10-15% on top of your bill is the ‘done thing’ in the US!
Halloween Horror Nights
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios are a big draw for thrill seekers, and this year you will be able to explore haunted houses, and be spooked by terrifying street experiences and shows from some of the biggest names in horror – including feature films and TV series “The Walking Dead”, “From Dawn Til Dusk”,“Face Off” – and new this year – “The Purge Scare Zone” - featuring the familiar, deadly broadcast announcing the annual “purge”.Halloween Horror Nights run throughout September and October.
Check out our Latest News for up to date information on all the latest attractions.
Call 0207 580 5000 to speak to your Magic Holidays Florida Specialists
If you're visiting Florida for the first time, please do give us a call and tell us. we'll help you with all your questions and help book the Orlando Holiday you want. At Magic Holidays, we LOVE Orlando, and we know you will too!