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HELP: Florida 2014/5


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Sup good people of TowersStreet!

Me and my girlfriend are mulling over the idea of doing Florida in 2014 or 2015 (but preferably the sooner the better!) and we have no idea where to start or what we should be looking at for it... Neither of us have ever been to the States and so it's quite a big deal for us to be going over there.

I wondered if those of you with some experience of the US and Florida had some tips to share? Rough pricings? Best times to go? How long the trip should be? What to do? Where to stay? Anything would be of a help to get us pointed in the right direction.

Best time to go: September/October
How long: at least 2 weeks (though depends upon how much you want to do)
What to do: Rough list of parks/places that you would want to do:
  • All 4 Disney parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom)
  • Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
  • SeaWorld
  • Busch Gardens Tampa
  • Kennedy Space Centre

Usually I would suggest at least one day for each, although in the case of Islands of Adventure I would try for two days as it's such a beastly park.

There are also some waterparks that you could do if you were so inclined (there are a lot of them!)
  • Winter Haven (Legoland)
  • Aquatica (SeaWorld)
  • Blizzard Beach (Disney)
  • Discovery Cove (the one where you can swim with Dolphins)
  • Typhoon Lagoon (Disney)
  • Wet 'n' Wild (Universal)

Remember to check this site out when you're planning your days, as it indicates which days will be busiest on each park (and it really works).

As for where to stay, it's completely up to you. You could pay a premium and go for a resort hotel (particularly a Disney one), go for a normal hotel in Orlando or even go for a self-accomodating apartment (although for just two of you that would probably be overkill).
Delay to 2015.

Why? Harry Potter Phase 2!.

I'd not usually advocate waiting for new developments in Orlando, as there's so many, but i'd wait for HP!

Then, just nip on a shorter break in 2014, to say Europa!


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AstroDan said:
Delay to 2015.

Why? Harry Potter Phase 2!.

I'd not usually advocate waiting for new developments in Orlando, as there's so many, but i'd wait for HP!

Then, just nip on a shorter break in 2014, to say Europa!


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Europa ?? I've heard good things about Drayton manor :)

But I would like to go Orlando in 2015, I'm a big fan of potter
The new Harry Potter expansion is set to open in June 2014.

If you are going in sept/oct you should be ok, if before then the queues for the new harry potter expansion will be crazy (when the original area opened in June 2010, their were queues of over 5 hrs just to get into the land) by the time I went in oct 2010, you were able to walk into the area without waiting.

You could always hold off visiting Orlando waiting for a new attraction to open but there is always something new opening at one of the parks!
I know you can always hold off, but like I said I think HP is worth it more than other stuff.

Mind you I had no idea it opened next June! Woo!

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I always thought it was 2015 but I double checked and it is planned for next June. Universal normally meet their deadlines in regards to opening new stuff.

Its likely though if you do delay to 2015 a new major ride will have opened that summer in Jurassic park area of IOA.
June opening of HP Part 2 would pretty much cement a September 2014 trip... Woo!
-If you're doing more than one Disney park in a day (ie Animal Kingdom until it closes, then Magic Kingdom in the evening) make sure to utilize the excellent (and air conditioned!) buses to save paying for parking twice.
-Use the lynx buses to travel to parks. As far as I'm aware, there are several stops all around (Downtown Disney, I-Drive etc).
-Do Busch on a weekday. Throughout the holiday, most parks were equally busy no matter which day we visited other than Busch where everything was walk on. We went on a Friday.
-Villas are most likely the cheapest way to go for accommodation, but I'd definitely recommend the Disney hotels. Even the 'value' one we stayed in (All-Star Sports) was brilliant. If you stay in Disney/Universal, you get ERT too, such as 1am Magic Kingdom :p
-I'd definitely recommend taking a couple of rest days between parks. We did all the parks in one go and were exhausted early. You'll do a lot of walking and be in the sun a lot, so don't be afraid of taking half days if you're going to a park within the resort you're staying.
I assume the transport situation out there is pretty good... And even if you stayed on resort somewhere, I presume it's simple enough to get to the other parks?

Yeah, you should be fine for transportation. Use the free Disney buses to travel between Disney Parks, and Lynx buses ($2) to travel between everywhere else. You can catch a Lynx bus from Orlando International Airport, but since we stayed with Disney they do a free service called Disneys Magical Express which takes you to your hotel relatively quickly.

To get to Busch, you can use the excellent Mears shuttle bus for free, and I would recommend it. We got it from SeaWorld, and we got there just after opening (don't know how many stops we made, I fell asleep :p).

We used taxis to get to Universal, although the Lynx buses are still the better option. A taxi to Uni cost us around $30 one way - good if you're desperate/willing to pay, not so good if you can find other ways.
Flights, it depends I know people have found good prices close to their holiday but I personally prefer to have them booked if I am booking other stuff in advance.

I have been to Fl twice and never visited Disney. Just did not see it was worth the money just for a few thrill rides. I want big thrills and not to bothered about all the details.

So you could decide to do one lot of parks or the other, it will save you a decent amount of cash. Most of the parks discount multi day passes with I think 2 week passes being about the best value. So if you are only going for 2 weeks its pointless getting 2 weeks of Universal/seaworld and 2 weeks of Disney.

There are plenty of places that sell tickets. But watch out for the dodgy ones.

We got ours from here and it worked out cheapest for us to get Universal 2 park ticket, Discovery cove ultimate ticket that then covered the rest of the parks as we wanted to do DC anyway.

I would really recommend Discovery cove, its an amazing day and a beautiful and relaxing place to be. It looks expensive but if you work it out with tickets to Seaworld and Busch its not that expensive for an all inclusive day out.

I found a good place to find info was on the trip advisor Orlando page. But there used to be a few Disney drama queens over there so it got rather annoying.

I have stayed in a hotel just off idrive which at the time was a Marriott and it was very nice. There was a daily bus transfer to Universal (after opening time) and there was one back in the afternoon and one in the evening. But Taxis were so cheap from there, all under $10 no matter how slow they drove :p

Seaworld was easy to get to on the buses. I would recommend Lynx buses rather than the I trolley. Lynxs goes a lot further and you can get to Disney using them if you want. I trolley just goes more or less up and down Idrive and has rubbish air con and is normally packed with tourists. On lynx they have good aircon and you get to mix with some locals. With tickets there is a free transfer to Busch gardens which is ok.

This is handy for an idea of buses in Orlando:

I have stayed in a villa which was good. Nice lot of space, nice quiet area. But the cost of a car was a bit expensive when you have to factor in (at the time) $15 a day parking at the parks! It was ok for us as at the time there was 5 of us so splitting the cost of everything brought the price down but if it was just me and the wife I am not sure I would get a car.

I would think that using the bus and the occasional taxi would be far cheaper. Might not be so good on time but if you are trying to keep costs down I would think that its the best way.

There are some apartments that are called vista cay that are just off idrive. They are smaller than villas so might work out cheaper.

When you get there go to a walmart or something and buy a big pack of bottled water, when I went bottled water in the parks was I think $3-5 for a 750ml bottle and when its really hot its amazing how much you can drink.

Get a small cooler and take some food in, its amazingly expensive in the parks. This can be more difficult in a hotel room with no kitchen equipment but some hotels do have fridges you can have in your room.

Budget Budget Budget and try to stick to your daily budget.

Also get more people to go with you to get the cost down.

There are tons of awesome restaurants to eat at and that can be a large bit of your costs of a holiday. But they are awesome! Olive garden being one of my favourites for a cheap meal Panda Express is awesome, as you might have seen me being tagged in the photos on facebook :p
I'm going to echo what has been said regarding holding back until 2015, as I believe Universal are intending to have the Jurassic Park expansion open by then. Not to mention that Falcon's Fury at Busch will have had time to settle in and the initial mad rush to experience WWOHP phase 2 will have simmered down.

One thing I highly recommend is a helicopter flight over Orlando with these folks. There are a variety of different routes with a range of prices, so it's quite flexible to suiting a budget you wish to allocate. I thoroughly enjoyed this when I visited in 2010 and can't stress enough how fantastic it is!
I went in 2011 and I'm going again in 2015! :D ;D

Anyways, we went on the first week of July just for a week.We planned to do a theme park everyday until we left but we decided to do a waterpark in the middle of the week to rest for a bit. I highly recommend going for 2 weeks if you want to do as much things as you want. A week isn't nearly enough!

We stayed at a quality inn on International Drive and rented a car which was great! The queues weren't THAT bad, the longest ride we waited for during the whole week was Harry Potter and the Forbbidden Journey ( 1 1/2 hours)
I went last September with my girlfriend and absolutely loved it, we did things on the cheap, but not to the extent that it made things a chore.

We went for three weeks and stayed in a cheapo hotel on International Drive, just opposite Wet 'n' Wild and we've ended up booking again to go in less than a month's time!

I noticed you ask in your original post about pricings, which no-one else has properly touched upon so I'll give you a breakdown od the costs we've paid for this year's trip, hopefully that will give you some idea!

Flight and hotel combined was £1700 for both of us self catered for 21 nights, flying on Virgin Atlantic.

Total attraction tickets for us was £1000, that's a 21 day ticket to Disney, 14 days at Universal and a trip to Discovery Cove which includes 14 days to Sea World and Aquatica.

We've chosen to rent a car this time, but we didn't last time. I would reassure anyone not renting a car that the busses are excellent and really easy to get your head around. The only downside is that for us it took around an hour to get from the hotel to Disney when it's a 20 minute journey if you were able to do it directly. £570 for us to rent a car for the three weeks. Terrified about driving over there!

Spends is always a toughie, it depends how much you're going to be spending! I remember most of the food and drink in the parks being on the upper side of reasonable, but not horiffic. We wouldn't have bought food in the parks if it was ridiculous but we bought a fair amount. We're taking $1600 this year between us, that worked out at around £1070 when we bought them. We took a similar amount last year and, bearing in mind we were self catered so ate out most of the time, we still ended up with around $100 left to take back home (and spend this year!)

Total cost for two of us for three weeks this September is around £4300, so £2150 each.

Everyone will have their own opinions of what's the best way of doing things, I suspect our arrangement of park tickets might look odd to some people. Last year we bought three lots of 14 day tickets and staggered them throughout but ultimately we did find that Disney was undoubtedly our favourite parks and we ended up with our final week without park tickets for it, hence this year we've decided to get tickets for the entire stay.

Moving away from the money, the best advice I can offer is if you make a plan for what you're going to do day by day (as we did), don't force yourself to stick to it. We had a plan of what parks we were going to do and when but we quickly discovered on the first night where a combination of jetlag, a 5am start and a full day at Animal Kingdom results in waking up at 2 in the morning, fully clothed realising we'd literally got into the hotel room, lay down for a second and immideately fallen asleep without even having an evening meal. Things may be different for other people but for us the biggest thing to work around was ourselves. We had a fairly busy plan of action and whilst we were out there we quickly worked out that we would be dead by the end of the three weeks if we stuck to it! Have some half days, go to parks after a lie in and lunch, lots are open until crazy late anyway.

Finally, this is the weirdest advice I have, don't walk past a dark ride that you're unfamiliar with and decide not to ride because it because you think it might be crap. Odds are you might be right but some of our biggest surprises of the trip were rides we had no idea what they were and ended up being pleasantly surprised by the quality and fun factor.

That ends possibly the longest post I have ever made, hope it gave some people some help!
the best advice I can give you for driving in America is its a lot easier than you think it will be.

If your phone does not have satnav then rest one off ebay with the latest maps. It made my life so much easier for getting about. Coming back from Kennedy space centre we just found a restaurant near the villa and it took us there, nice and easy. It takes a lot of stress away from having to rely on anyone to read maps and trying to spot road signs at night.
Also one thing not mentioned is Disney Quest which is in down town Disney. When me and my brother went a few years ago it was included in our Disney tickets and no one really new what it was like and if it was any good. So on a rest day we thought we would pop in and I must admit was pleasantly surprised was entertaining and helped having a rest day without feeling you had wasted a day of your holiday.
Watch Blackfish, read Death at SeaWorld and you will want nothing to do with the place - bucketload of money saved! Seriously though, my whole opinion of this park has completely changed and I for one will not be visiting it again, no matter how awesome Manta is! :'( :'(