Orlando – When’s the best time to visit? What’s on this year?

This is probably one of the most asked questions from people who are planning a trip to Florida. The answer is a really hard one! Orlando is a great place to visit whatever time of the year and there’s plenty to do whatever season you’re there.

Many of you are tied to the school holidays when you visit and obviously during these times it will be a bit busier than term time but with fast passes available for all the parks you can somewhat avoid some of the queues.

Crowding aside what are the other deciding factors in choosing when you visit?  For me I like to go when some of the seasonal events are on. Some of these you will be well aware of and some you might not be. So, here’s a little guide to what annual events are on this year. And a little info on what sort of weather you’re likely to have .Hopefully this will help you decide when you visit or give you some other things to experience on your trip.

MARCH : Going this month there is loads to do!! Weather wise March is one of my favourite times to go. It’s hot but not too hot and I’ve never had any issues with storms or bad weather. You might need a light jacket if you’re out in the evenings but you can go to waterparks and the beach and not be cold and get a tan.

HOURS OF SUN IN MARCH – AVERAGE 9 HOURS PER DAY

Disney has the annual Flower and Garden festival which has all sorts of topiaries all over Epcot of many different Disney characters. It’s included in your park admission and this year they also have loads of live music. Called ‘Garden Rocks’ throughout March and into May you can find some well known names in music playing free shows in the America Gardens Theatre. This month you can see Pointer Sisters, Simple Plan (my favourite band I’m so upset I’m not going), Plain White T’s, Night Ranger and The Little River Band. A full list of times can be found here.

Universal also has some live music as part of their annual Mardi Gras event in Citywalk. Again this is included with park admission and this runs through March. Acts playing this month are UB40, Toby Keith, Jason Derulo, Earth, Wind and Fire and the All American Rejects.

mardigras

Seaworld has a food festival on and you can see live music there as well. All included in your standard park admission. Discover loads of new cuisines from all over the world in the ‘Seven Seas Food Festival’. Live music every weekend until mid May and this month you can see ZZ Top and Phillip Phillips (whoever that is!)

For something a little different. Crayola Experience at Florida Mall is having Cirque month with La Nouba themed crafts. Some of the make up artists will be there to paint your faces like the performers in La Nouba and some of the costumes and props will be on display.

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There’s golf on at the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Club from 13th – 19th, Winter Park Sidewalk Arts Festival is also on this month, and the Lakeridge Winery has a wine and Seafood Festival.

It’s always worth checking out Hard Rock Live, House of Blues and Velvet Sessions. You never know who will be playing when you’re there.

March is a great time to visit if you’re a music fan!!

APRIL – Weather wise April is pretty similar to March, although it can get slightly hotter towards the end of the month.  It is Easter holidays so you’ll find the parks are fairly busy.

HOURS OF SUN IN APRIL – AVERAGE OF 10 PER DAY

Epcot still has the Flower and Garden festival and during ‘Garden Rocks’ this month you can see Blood, Sweat and Tears, Gin Blossoms, The Orchestra (feat members of ELO), Expose and Berlin.

Hollywood Studios has the Star Wars Galactic night from 13-16th as well. These are evening separate ticketed events and will include stars of the films doing talks and a scavenger hunt through the park amoungst other things. Tickets are $129 and need to be booked in advance it’s something that’s likely to sell out.

Seaworld’s Seven Seas food Festival is still on and this month you can see Jack Hanna, Village People, Commadores and more.

There’s a big Star Wars convention on during April the Star Wars Celebration. Conventions in the US are crazy so if you’re a Star Wars fan this would be well worth a visit.

star wars celebration

April is also Wrestlemania month at the Camping World Stadium on 2nd. This is a huge thing in the wrestling calendar and a really fun night out. If you like football then the soccer season starts so you may be able to catch Orlando City Soccer

MAY – Getting into May the weather is starting to get a little hotter. More humid and a lot warmer in the evenings.

HOURS OF SUN IN MAY – AVERAGE OF 10 PER DAY

Epcots Flower and Garden festival finishes this month so it’s your last chance to see the Park with all the awesome Disney themed flowers. Last few shows at America Gardens Theatre are Starship, Hermans Hermits and The Spinners.

Seaworlds food festival also finishes this month so be sure to check it out.

Legoland has Lego Star Wars days throughout May showing some of the most famous scenes from the movies made of Lego and opportunities to build your own as well as a Star Wars themed costume parade. This is included in standard park admission.

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The Orlando International Fringe festival is on this month which is modeled on the famous one in Edinburgh as well as another convention. The MegaCon is a huge comic/movie/gaming convention and has some incredible guests including Stan Lee and Tim Curry.

Football season is in full swing so now is a good time to get to a game.

JUNE/JULY/AUGUST – Orlando starts to get really hot during June, when you’re looking at high temperatures in the 90s. It’s really important to keep yourself hydrated during the summer months but all the inside buildings are air conditioned and are great places to cool off during the hottest times of the day. These are the busiest months to visit due to the summer holidays over here and during August you may experience some storms and heavy rain. The weather forecasts in Orlando are incredibly accurate and they can predict the times of showers pretty much to the minute. They’re usually over as quick as they start and don’t ruin your holiday at all. Standing out in the rain is quite nice, it’s like a hot shower.

AVERAGE HOURS OF SUN – JUNE 11, JULY 10, AUGUST 9

By the summer the 2 BIG new theme park openings should be well ironed out and hopefully should be less busy the further into the summer you get. Obviously I’m talking about Universals Volcano Bay and Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, both of these are scheduled to open towards the end of May and both look AMAZING!

It’s always worth checking out places like the Amway center in Orlando during the summer. There’s usually some really good touring music festivals.

SEPTEMBER – My other favourite time of the year to visit. September in Orlando weather wise is similar to March. Although it is classed as hurricane season so you are likely to get a bit of rain.

HOURS OF SUN IN SEPTEMBER – 9 HOURS PER DAY

September means HALLOWEEN!! I know it’s not strictly until October but they do like to drag it out!! Both Disney and Universal start their Halloween festivities in September.

Disney – Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party! One of my favourite things I have ever done and great for adults and children alike. Magic Kingdom is decorated for Halloween and there are themed parades and show, appearances from rare characters (including most of the Villains) and the best bit is the Treat or Treating around the parks. You can get so much candy!!  It’s the only time adults are allowed to dress up in the park as well. It’s not included in your ticket price and is a separate ticketed event but it’s well worth it. Dates for this year haven’t been announced yet but they usually start around the second week of the month. Prices are around $90 and can only be purchased from Disney directly. This is an evening event only.

 

Universal – Halloween Horror Nights, this is a lot more grown up than the Disney one and puts you inside some of the most popular horror movies and TV Shows. They have a series of ‘houses’ all with different themes. Each one has live actors in them transporting you into the film or TV show it’s based on. It’s not for the faint hearted!! Dates for this have been announced and are on selected evenings from 15th September. Past themes have been American Horror Story, Poltergeist, The Walking Dead and Friday the 13th. You can also dine with the scare actors and they have shows and special events as well. Again this isn’t included as part of your ticket price and you do need to purchase separate tickets for it. You can do this in advance from most of the UK resellers, it’s worth getting a Frequent Fear Pass which will allow unlimited access to selected dates during your stay. Prices are around £90 for these. This is also an evening event.

September is also Magical Dining Month. This is a fab event that lots of restaurants in the area participate in with loads of food offers. Nearly 100 places took part last year offering 3 course meals for $33 with money from each one going to charity. A lot of the best and most expensive places in Orlando take part in this so it’s a really good way to get to eat in some of those places for a portion of the price. September is a great month to visit if you’re a foodie!!

Epcot has it’s annual food and wine festival as well running until mid November.  With loads of food carts from all different parts of the world there’s even more choice of things to eat in Epcot during this festival, as well as concerts, celebrity chefs and other food themed events. I for one cannot wait to get to this!

OCTOBER – October starts to get a little cooler – although not by our standards – it’s still in the high 80s during the day.

HOURS OF SUN ON AVERAGE –  8 HOURS PER DAY

Both the Disney and Universal Halloween events run all through October.

Seaworld has it’s ‘Halloween Spooktacular’ which runs on weekends only throughout October and is included in your park admission. It’s aimed at children and there are not so scary live shows and trick or treating for candy throughout the park. It runs during park hours as well.

Busch Gardens has ‘Howl O Scream’ from the tail end of September through October. Running on weekends only.  It looks pretty similar to the Universal Horror Nights with scare actors and haunted houses and shows. It seems as though all the rides are open in the park which isn’t the case with Universal. It’s a separate ticketed event and you’re not allowed to wear costumes.

If you want a ‘real’ Halloween experience and you just so happen to be in Orlando on Halloween itself it’s worth a little trip to Celebration. It’s a Disney owned community and most residents will decorate for Halloween and Christmas so it’s a bit of a spectacle to see.

Halloween is a BIG thing in the US and I’m sure nearer the time most of the attractions will have some kind of event on for it.

NOVEMBER – Temperatures in November are in the 70s so much more bearable than the summer months but still hot enough for water parks and beaches.

HOURS OF SUN – AVERAGE 8 HOURS A DAY

It’s classed as low season for some of the behind the scenes tours at Seaworld and Busch Gardens so now is a good time to do those.

As soon as Halloween is over Christmas begins! Going to Disney end of Oct/start of November is great as you’ll get to experience both Holidays!

Disney Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party starts early November and like the Halloween one is a separate ticketed event. It follows the same idea as Halloween just all Christmas themed. Different parades, characters in festive costumes and a chance to meet Santa. You also get free milk and cookies and it will snow on main street.

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Orlando has a great theatre that has some of the best touring musicals so if you fancy seeing a bit of Broadway in Florida check out the Dr Phillips Center for Performing Arts and see if there’s anything on that takes your fancy.

DECEMBER – Although it is a lot cooler in December, mid 70s it’s still hot!

HOURS OF SUN – AVERAGE 7 HOURS A DAY

December is a great time to go to Discovery Cove as it’s classed as low season so likely to be a little cheaper.

Disneys Christmas Festivities will still be going and this is also when Universal start theirs. Not only that Epcot is a great place to visit throughout the Christmas season as each country in the world showcase will be decorated as they are at home and you can find out all about different Christmas traditions and food as you walk round the park. Not to mention the famous Candlelight Processional.

candlelight

Universal has a really good festive event included in your park admission called ‘Grinchmas’. Housed in Islands of Adventure, You’re able to meet the Grinch and some of the other ‘whos’ in WhoVille. Cindy-Lou reads the story of The Grinch and there is music and festive things to do all day. Universal Studios also has the Macys Day Parade.

Seaworld has its Christmas Celebration. You can meet Rudolph and friends, try some festive food and do some Christmas shopping. Ice Shows and more. All included in park admission. In past years they had the Polar Express Experience so hopefully they’ll have something equally as special this year.

Busch Gardens changes itself into Christmas Town. They have over 2 million Christmas lights and a whole host of Christmas shows and music. As well as a Christmas market and Santa’s House. All included with Park Admission.

christmastown

Legoland has a Christmas ‘Bricktacular’ has a HUGE Lego Christmas tree and other festive friends around the parks as well as fireworks, meet n greet with Lego Santa and themed building events. All with your park admission.

During Christmas Day parks can be unusually busy and Magic Kingdom has been known to hit capacity so plan well and if you want to go to Magic Kingdom get there extra early!!

Again as with Halloween, Celebration is a great place to visit over Christmas to see the decorations and the SNOW!

celebrationxmas

JANUARY/FEBRUARY – Weather in Jan/Feb are the coolest months in Orlando and again most things are classed as low season so a good time to do extras like Behind the Scenes tours.

HOURS OF SUN – JANUARY AVERAGE 7 PER DAY – FEBRUARY 8 HOURS

New Years Eve is a really popular time to go to the parks and all will have special events on with fireworks etc. Parks can be really busy though so be prepared for that especially into the evening.

Epcot is a great place to be on New Years with all the different festivities around the world and dance parties from 7pm.

January with the exception of New Years Eve and Day is a pretty quiet time to go to Florida.

February is of course Valentines Day, I couldn’t see any special things in any of the parks for this but being in Orlando for it is romantic enough surely!! There are plenty of romantic things to do though. I’ve found a great list of things within Walt Disney World here

Don’t forget to check out places like Old Town and Celebration who have regular fun family events on that are worth having a look at.

Hopefully this should have given an idea of what sort of things to expect at different times of year.

There’s probably a load more things going on that I don’t know about. Check out the Visit Orlando website for up to date info on what’s going on. There’s loads of sports events as well NFL, Basketball, Ice Hockey, Soccer, Golf… some ticket resellers in the UK sell sporting tickets but it’s worth checking Visit Orlando for dates of when they’re on.

If there’s anything you know about that I haven’t mentioned then please let me know

 

 

 

 

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Discovery Cove – A Review

When we booked our last trip one thing that we really wanted to do was swim with Dolphins and all I’d heard about Discovery Cove was good things.

One of the biggest appeals of DC is the fact that they limit the amount of people they allow in to 1200 so it’s never as packed as the major theme parks.

TOP TIP – book for a weekend, it’s a great time to avoid the busiest times in the other parks.

Whilst DC can be expensive in high season it’s well worth the money I think. Not only do you get to swim with Dolphins if you wish – which is actually quite an emotional thing to do – but the whole day is fully all inclusive. All your food, drink, snacks etc are included, including alcohol for those who are old enough, and there’s not many places, if any, in Orlando where you get that. Literally all you need to take is yourself and your camera.

It’s a relatively small park and is divided into 3 main areas, Dolphin Lagoon, The Great Reef and Wind Away River.

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The image above is what you will have on the lanyard you’re given on check in. This will have a photo of yourself on it and acts as your ticket for the day and also as your ticket for visiting the other Seaworld Parks included in your package after your day at DC.

We checked in at around 9am although the park actually opens at 7:30am for breakfast. If you’re swimming with Dolphins your swim time is allocated when you check in. Our swim was about midday so checking in at 9am was perfect for us.

On checking in you may be lucky enough to meet the lovely Sloth they have, you’re not able to hug him, which upset me, but you can give him a stroke and he was so lovely.  There’s animal encounters throughout the day just by wind away river so if you don’t see him in the morning keep an eye out there.

slothdc

As you get into Discovery Cove you have a complimentary photo taken that you can pick up at the end of the day.

You are able to pick up you snorkels and wetsuits once you’re inside. You have the choice of a proper wetsuit or you can just choose to have the jackets which is what we did. There are flotation devices for children as well if you need them.

Our first port of call was the Grand Reef which is a freshwater pool with 100s of fish and Rays swimming beneath you. What I wasn’t prepared for was the temperature!! The Grand Reef is cold! It’s kept at a temperature suitable for the marine life within it and although it will get warmer if the weather is hot, be prepared if you go to it first.

If you have a go-pro or other waterproof camera this is an amazing place to use it!

It’s not a massive area so can get a little packed during busy times and it’s also quite deep so be aware of that for non-swimmers. However there are rocks that you can hold on to as it’s just like a reef you’d find in the ocean.

I absolutely love Rays so being able to see them swim past you and swimming with other fish was amazing, and also not having to be in the middle of the ocean to do it makes it really appealing!

Amelia absolutely loved the snorkeling and we struggled to get her away from it to see the rest of the park!

DCIM107GOPRO

TOP TIP Although we didn’t stay all day I have been told that towards the end of the day the fish are fed and will all come up to the surface to feed. This is something incredible to see so it’s worth staying in the park for the day to witness it.

Next place we went to was the Aviary. I am not a fan of birds and they are really quite friendly so if like me you like to look at them from a safe distance then this is not the place for you!! They will land on you, and you will have a job getting them off… I had a little bird sit on the front of my ECV for ages looking at the pictures now it was pretty cute but I didn’t like it at the time!!

Discovery Coves Explorers Aviary has over 250 different birds and it wasn’t a small aviary either. You walk through into different areas with birds from different countries we spent a good half an hour if not more there. Again this is great for kids as you can see…

Wind Away River is Discovery Coves version of a lazy river and as you would expect from somewhere so tropical it’s not your average one. It’s not like you would normally find where you would sit in a rubber ring and float around this one you swim in. There’s no current but it takes you through caves and around islands where you can come face to face with monkeys and otters.

One other thing thats just by the entrance to the Wind Away River is a lovely little bar (and don’t forget all your snacks etc are included) and it’s a nice place to just sit in the bar area in the water and have a drink in the sun.

And now to the good bit, and the main reason most people go to Discovery Cove, the chance to swim with the dolphins.  I was really excited about doing this and it was so much better than I could ever have imagined.

Before you go in the water with the Dolphins you are given a pre-swim briefing that tells you all the do’s and don’t and lets you know exactly what to expect from your swim.  From memory I think it lasted no more than about 10 minutes and it was quite interesting.

You cannot wear any loose jewellery or take cameras into the water with you but if you have people in the party not swimming they can take photos from the beach and each group has a photographer and videographer capturing your time in the water. There is about 8 to a group.

The initial part of your experience is in shallow water – again a little cold – you’re introduced to a few different Dolphins and I remember being surprised by how different each one was personality wise. They reminded me a little of my dogs and the way they react to stuff. You can see that these mammals have genuine love for their handlers as well and they are incredibly affectionate animals.

You’re told in the briefing how to handle the Dolphins and you’re able to stroke them and get close. They are a lot bigger than I thought they’d be. That’s the first thing I thought when I saw one swimming towards me!

I forget the names of the Dolphins we met but we were told that some of them absolutely love being handled and stroked and these are the ones we got close to, they didn’t however like ‘swimming’ with people so we were introduced to a different Dolphin for that.

You’re shown a few commands to get them to do things and then you get to pose for photos. You are not rushed. You get to do this on your own and with your family group as well. Some of ours were taken twice, the photographer was great and made us pose again until she got the best shots.

You’re ‘swim’ is done after this and you are given the choice of staying close to the shallow water or swimming out a little deeper and being bought back.  This is an incredible thing to do. You’re shown how to hold on to them and then off they go. Personally I was terrified!! These are big animals, I am a really small woman, I could barely get my arms round it to hold on!! It’s a pretty quick swim but I’m so glad I did it and would definitely do it again.

One thing we didn’t do is SeaVenture, it looks amazing but its not something that appealed to us this trip as Amelia was too young to do it. It’s just off the Grand Reef and as you will have no doubt seen online is deep sea diving. Allowing you to walk long the seabed and see the fish from a completely different view. It’s not included in your package for Discovery Cove and it is something you pay extra for, it’s around £40 in advance.

The food at Discovery Cove was nice. You do have quite a lot of choice and as it’s all inclusive you can go back for more if you wish. There is one main restaurant and then snack carts around the parks. We ate a lot of pretzels!!

DC food

EXTRAS – You can also have a Cabana for the day here which is an extra cost and can only be booked through Discovery Cove directly, so when you’ve made your reservation for the day you can call them and book one if you like. It’s a good way to have a base for the day and you’ll have a fully stocked fridge all day while you’re there. It’s a nice way to make the day a little more special but it’s not something I would say is essential being as it’s not that busy.

Photos and Videos of your Dolphin Experience are of course extra and there are a few levels of packages you can purchase. We went for the bigger package that was around $190. For that we had all our photos printed and digitally, a photo album, frame, a poster size print and also a Blu-Ray of the swims. I haven’t been able to watch that yet though as our player isn’t multi regional so bear that in mind.

ACCESS INFO – Most if not all of Discovery Cove is accessible. A lot of it is on sand which can be a little tricky for standard wheelchairs, however they do have some outdoor wheelchairs that can maneuver easily on the sand. They’re not self propelling though so someone would need to push you. It’s recommended that you book these in advance. The aviary is accessible for chairs and can accommodate an ECV (just be prepared for the birds to be attracted to it!!) You can do the Dolphin Encounter as long as if you need one you have someone with you to assist you in and out of the water.

There are loads of places in the Wind Away River that you can actually take a wheelchair in the water to to be able to transfer into it. You may need help for some of the other areas if you have mobility issues.

All in all I really enjoyed Discovery Cove and it’s definitely somewhere I’d visit again. It’s a nice relaxing way to spend a day in Orlando away from the constant noise and chaos of the theme parks. It’s somewhere you can just chill out and not have to worry about anything. It’s like a tropical island paradise in the middle of Orlando. Swimming with Dolphins was one of the most incredible things I’ve done in my life and I’d highly recommended it to anyone!

Planning Your Trip – All Day Dining in other parks

Both the Universal and Seaworld parks have their own versions of the Disney Dining – although on a much smaller scale.

Universal offer a package exclusively for those staying on site who can purchase in advance just like you would at Disney, it’s the same as the standard Disney Dining and will give you 1 table service, 1 quick service, 1 snack and a drink per day of your stay. It’s valid in over 100 restaurants over the parks and Citywalk. It works out at roughly £50 per person per day.

You can also purchase 2 other dining options for a day at the park if you’re off site:

Universal Dining Plan Quick Service – 1 Quick Service meal, 1 snack and one non alcoholic drink (approx £20 per person)

Universal Dining Plan Quick Service and Coca Cola Freestyle – 1 Quick Service, 1 Snack and unlimited soft drinks. (approx £25 per person)

It’s easy to spot locations that accept the plan throughout the park as you will see this sign

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You’re given a card that has your credits loaded on and that’s what you use when you want to eat.

Seaworld Parks and Entertainment have their own version which is called ‘All Day Dining’ and it’s gives you just that. Dining all day while you’re in the park. You’re able to eat every hour if you wish.

They vary in prices seasonally and those prices reflect on how many places you can eat within the parks.

Aquatica is roughly £14 per person and has only one restaurant (Banana Beach) which is an all you can eat buffet

Seaworld is roughly £31 per person and that gives you 7 different restaurants.

Busch Gardens is around £30 per person and gives you a choice of 4 different restaurants

Dining experiences like Dine with Shamu and dining with Elmo and Friends are not included as part of the dining package.

For the price you’ll pay for the all day dining, if you eat in the park twice a day you’ll make your money back.

Just like Universal and Disney you’ll see signs that tell you where you can use it

All day dining

The Seaworld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica All Day Dining is via a wristband that you are given. Purchasing before you go will work out a little cheaper and most of the UK ticket agents sell these. If you purchase in advance you’re given an exchangeable voucher that you take to the park to switch for your wristband.

The other thing that both Universal and Seaworld still do that I’m upset Disney don’t anymore is the refillable souvenir cups. These are a great way to save money if you drink a lot of soda.  They’re usually around $10 or less and Seaworld Parks will have a choice of themed designs, you can use these all day and refills are just 99c (plus Tax) prices are roughly the same for Universal.

Step by Step Disney Dining Booking

I’m now at my 180 day mark (well, 179) and am able to book dining up until 3 days before the end of my trip. So it looks like when you hit your 180 mark (on resort anyway, I can’t comment if you’re off site) you can book dining for the next 10 days.

There is lots of blogs on booking dining etc but I thought it might be useful for you all to see exactly how it’s all done.

You will need to connect a credit or debit card to your account to secure the reservations, they don’t take any money from you unless you don’t turn up to the reservation. The only exception to this was when I went to book ‘Cinderellas Royal Table’ if you have the dining plan then it gives you the option to secure the booking using that if you don’t it’ll ask to charge it to your credit card. It was not cheap. $205 for 3 of us.

I was lucky with my reservations and managed to get all the places we wanted. So far we have bookings for Tusker House (breakfast with safari Donald and friends), Cinderellas Royal Table (Princess dining INSIDE the castle), Be Our Guest (where the Beast makes an appearance during dinner only and is not the same as character dining, he isn’t inside the restaurant while you eat but a separate room after), and this booking I’m going to use to show you how it works at Ohana (best friends breakfast with Lilo and Stitch)

So the first thing you do is choose your restaurant from the list and then choose your date, party size and either a specific time or you can choose a time of day.

ohana1

With this one I chose Breakfast but I wanted earlier than the available times listed so I actually chose a time instead and it came up with availability for 7:30 which was a better time for us. So it’s worth doing it both ways if the times that come up aren’t suitable for you.

Click on the time you wish to dine and then you’re taken to the next page where you chose who you’re booking for.

ohana2

You have a drop down menu for each of the other people you’re booking for, all you need to do is select their names in the list and then click on ‘next’ at the bottom.

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This shows you the date, time and location of your booking so check that you have the correct ones before you continue – I had to change a few reservations cos they booked for the wrong month – it will then give you the option of using your stored card or another one to secure the booking.

The next page will ask for a reservation contact, you need to put your mobile in using +44 at the start and dropping the first 0 of your phone number.

ohana4

Under the phone number you are able to make any special requests diet wise – it gives a list of common allergens and you can select whatever you need to. It does say to notify your server as well on arrival.

ohana5

All the terms and conditions of booking are on this page and it will tell you how many dining credits it uses as well.

You need to click to agree to these before clicking next.

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The last page is your confirmation and will have the number on it, a copy of all this is also sent to the email address you set up your MDE with.

Once all this has done it will show in ‘Your Reservations’

diningreservations

And there you go!! You’re all booked and all the dates/times/confirmation numbers will show in your MDE account so you can have everything there in the palm of your hand when you’re in the parks. You can see as well you’re able to cancel or change your reservations from here as well if need be.

Disneyland Paris Trip 2013 vs 2016

I’ve always had a strange relationship with Disneyland Paris. I visited for the first time the year it opened and to be honest other than Captain EO and buying a cool Star Tours baseball cap that I lost I don’t really remember a lot. At that point in my life I wasn’t really ‘into’ Disney so I don’t think I was particularly bothered about going which is why I don’t remember. My Dad was a coach driver at the time and it was one of his trips I got to go on. I think I was about 11.

It’s always been the ‘poorer’ sister to WDW, it’s smaller and of course you’re not guaranteed the weather like you are in Orlando. About 5 years ago I went with Paul (our first holiday together) and we took Amelia for her first Disney experience. We went in August and we had a great time, we had 2 days in the park and stayed in nearby Val’D’Europe. It was busy but we had amazing weather and seeing her little face when she met Cinderella is another one of those things that stick with you and make you all emotional when you think about it.

She was so little then and she was just excited the whole time. We drove there it took us about 8 hours in all I think from leaving home and getting on the ferry and then driving to Chessy the other side. She barely slept from the time we got there to the time we came home – and I remember her talking non stop for the whole trip.

All in all that trip cost us about £500 so we really did it on a budget, Eurotunnel, Ibis in Val D’Europe and the 2 day park tickets. This was before I worked in travel and I got my tickets then from 365 tickets as they were the cheapest. What I didn’t realise at the time was we were being sent vouchers so that meant a good hour or so queue when we got there before we could go in being as they had to be exchanged for ‘real’ tickets. If you’re doing this on a budget I recommend checking with the ticket provider that they are either real tickets or gate ready e-tickets. Attraction Tickets Direct are a great place to get them from and they do have offers from time to time on their tickets.

That trip changed my mind a little on DLRP but I was still disappointed at the lack of characters, Disney for me as you know is all about them and there really wasn’t that many about. I didn’t see them wandering about like you do in Orlando and it just didn’t make it as magical as WDW was.

Fast forward just over 3 years and I did another trip. No kids just me and my mate Manda (who had spent half a day at Disneyland park over the summer not really being a Disney fan and had sent me a picture of herself there that day with the caption ‘I get it now!’) and she really wanted to spend a bit more time there and experience it properly. We got a really good deal and we went all-inclusive this time.  We flew from Southampton to Orly and it was a short just over an hour flight, had transfers on the Disney Shuttle which is really easy to find when you get to the airport and a great way to get to the park. It was about an hours journey again to our on resort hotel. We stayed in Newport Bay which has been newly refurbished. Check in was quick the staff were really helpful just the Disney attitude I’d been used to.  Newport Bay is in a great location its right near Disney Village and is walking distance to the park entrance. There is also a shuttle bus which can take you to the parks as well which we used and that was really quick. They ran every 10 minutes.  The pool was big and we spent a little time in there, breakfast was included with our package and was a standard continental all you can eat buffet in the hotel. We had to book our time slot for breakfast which we had really early so we could make use of the extra magic hours.

We had the dining package as well which was brilliant. It meant we could eat in some really nice places in DLRP. Amanda is vegan so she was really happy to find before our trip that there was quite a lot of selection for her. We picked our choices of eatieries based on if she could eat more than just pasta or a veggie burger. DLRP advertises that they have an allergen menu as well which was useful for her. However we had issues trying to get the staff in Cafe Mickey to understand what we were asking for. Cafe Mickey is great for character dining, however not so great for food if you have allergies or are vegan. If you have the dining plan it’s worth going to but if you’re paying I don’t think it’s worth the money. In hindsight we wish we had chosen a different character dining experience. Allegen food comes in plastic pots and it’s a lot to pay for something so basic. Characters here rotate so you may get different ones at different times of day.

Inside the park was quiet. We went in September and went during the week. Most rides were walk on (with the exception of Ratatouille) with the extra magic hours we could actually walk up to the castle with no one in front of us at all. That was a moment!!

Knowing that these parks are a lot smaller than WDW I didn’t even think about hiring any sort of wheelchair or taking an ECV (which you cannot hire here). It would have made the trip easier if I had. Instead we had 2 days when Amanda had to push me about in a chair. Which I hired at 20 euros a day and a 100 euro deposit. The parks are a lot smaller and the studios you can walk from one side to the other in about 10 minutes. Next time however I will take a chair with me.

Disability access is not like Orlando. You can get a guest assistance pass and this allows exit entrance to most rides although with some we were given a return time. You can use the card for character meets too and they give you return times so you don’t queue. It works well and I didn’t have any issues with it at all. The rides are a lot closer together than on Orlando and it’s so much more manageable I think.

I had an amazing time on this trip. Staying on site made a real difference and not having to worry about purchasing food was amazing. I’d never had that before and I don’t think I’ll take a trip there without it again. We ate in some incredible places and with the exception of Mickeys the food was incredible. Your dining plan is given to you in vouchers which you exchange whenever you eat. You have vouchers for every night you are staying in the hotel not the amount of days you have in the park.

CHEF REMYS was the place I most wanted to eat in. Seeing all the pictures online the themeing of it just looked incredible. We booked that one quite far in advance as it does get booked up really quickly. I can’t recommend it enough!!

It’s in the Studios park and you can see the ride from the restaurant. Our waiter was amazing the service was incredible and the food was to die for!! Whatever you have make sure it comes with the ratatouille. In terms of the atmosphere and surroundings this was my favourite place that we ate.

CAFE AGRABAH was the place that Amanda was most looking forward to eating it. There was so much vegan stuff on their menu. I love Morrocan food so I was really looking forward to this. It’s an all you can eat buffet and it was so good. It wasn’t your normal boring nuggets and chips buffet it was proper healthy but tasty food. All sorts of rices and different stews etc. Plus it looks AMAZING!!

I loved the feel that you were in a Moroccan market place and outside when in reality you’re in a theme park in Paris and inside. This is a must do for everyone. It will cater to all tastes they do have the chips and nuggets for the fussier ones among us and it’s a nice change to the normal buffets you will find.

ANNETTES DINER is in the Disney Village and we ended up there by accident as we couldn’t get a table in any of the restaurants in the park (which taught us to book every meal and we did that for the rest of the trip when we got back to the hotel, hotel reception can do this for you). I do love a good american diner and Annettes is really good. The food is what you would expect from a diner mostly burgers and hotdogs.

I’d seen pictures of Annettes online and seen cast members dancing on the bar and I’m sure I’d seen them on roller skates (I’ve always wanted to go to a diner where the server is on skates) that never happened when we were there. I’m not sure if it’s something that only happens seasonally or if it doesn’t happen anymore. I was really disappointed by that. The food was good but it’s not amazing.

PLAZA GARDENS we actually ate here twice we liked it so much. Best puddings in the park!! This is an all you can eat buffet and had all sorts of different cuisines. Lots of vegan choice and some really nice stews and casseroles as well as pizza and chicken. It’s in a great location to eat before the fireworks which is exactly what we did. We booked for 7 and when we got to the castle at half 7 we had a perfect front row view of Disney Dreams.

And now onto the interesting stuff!! Rides and Characters!!

There wasn’t a lot new since my last trip. Ratatouille was the newest ride and that was really good but not if you suffer from motion sickness!! It’s really clever but did make me feel a bit sick. I was a bit upset that Star Tours and Big Thunder Mountain were closed. But I knew that before I went. There’s a lot of work going on in Discoveryland ready for the new updated Star Tours due to open in March. Always check online before you travel as the website will tell you all about any ride closures.

Character wise I had an amazing time there were loads of them!! Random ones as well and ones I’d never seen before which was exciting for me and made me a DLRP convert.

I am one of those grown ups who still takes an autograph book with her when she goes to Disney and this time I ran out of space.

We had the photopass included with our package as well which was really good. They could use some professional photographers all over the parks like in Orlando taking pictures in front of the castle instead of us having to take them. Aside from the characters and some of the rides (mostly the ones I can’t go on like Tower of Terror and Rock N Roller Coaster) there isn’t really anywhere else you can use the photopass.

DLRP has some incredible shows. Obviously you have Disney Dreams (which is soon to be replaced with ‘Disney Illuminations’ as part of the 25th Anniversary Celebrations) and you have the parade in the Disneyland Park – again something that’s being updated for the celebrations. The parade in Paris is no-where near as good as the Orlando one, there isn’t many floats and it doesn’t last very long at all. Hopefully the new one will be a little better.

Stitch LIVE! Is brilliant, it’s an interactive show where Stitch talks to the audience and gets children involved in it as well. It’s funny and great for all the family.

The best show at Disney however is Mickey and the Magician. It was due to run for a limited time but has now been extended until 2018. It’s in the studios park and is a must see. It’s in English and French but it’s easy to follow and it’s a music and magic show with loads of your favourite Disney characters and songs from the films. I most definitely did NOT cry!! I won’t ruin it and tell you what happens or what songs/films are included but what I will say is you’d be a fool to miss it. The special effects in this show are incredible as well, I was blown away by it.

All in all I think DLRP has improved massively. It’s a great place to visit for a bit of a Disney fix and with more character appearances and the new shows and parades it can only get better.

Obviously it’s not as big as Orlando and you won’t get the weather but if you go treating it as a completely different place and don’t compare it to Orlando then you’ll have an amazing time 🙂