Planning Your Trip – Where to Start – Fastpasses

UPDATE – It would seem that some of the info I have is out of date. Fastpasses at Disney are now unlimited but you can still only book 3 in advance per person per day. These can be booked 30 days before each day of your visit when offsite.

Universal do include some of the Harry Potter rides with the Express Pass, however it doesn’t include Hogwarts Express, Gringotts and Forbidden Journey.

Current lists of what rides are included can be found on the official park websites

There is so much information on the internet about Fastpasses for all the parks and My Disney Experience (MDE) and as I’m told on a daily basis ‘it’s a bit of a minefield’ researching an Orlando holiday I thought I’d try and condense it all a little and give a bit of a guide to how it all works.

DISNEY

My Disney Experience is for want of a better word – amazing! It’s a complete hive of information and will give you pretty much everything you need to be able to plan your days within the Disney parks and resorts.

How much do they cost?

Fastpasses are included free of charge with your Disney tickets.

So how do I start?

You need to either download the MDE app search your app store for ‘My Disney Experience’ it’ll have a Mickey Ears logo or you can do it online

You just set up an account much like you would a social media account with your email address and you’re away. If you’re visiting with a very large group I recommend setting up one account and giving the log in details to the others in the party.

If you have an on site booking you can input your booking number in ‘add reservation’ and all your details will come up.

If you’re off site, once you receive your park tickets you are able to ‘add tickets’ to the account. To do this you can either scan the QR code or type in the number on the back – you need to scratch off the silver panel to do that – it will NOT invalidate your tickets. You are able to assign tickets to certain members of the party. It’s worth either writing names or initials on the back of them so you know who’s is who’s if there is a large group as when it comes to getting in the parks fingerprints are taken so you need to be using the same ticket every day.

This is also where your Memory Maker photos will go (I’ll get into that on another post) so it’s easy to keep them all in one place.

How many fastpasses do I get?

You get 3, per person per day. These can be booked in advance and you’re able to book 1 more on the day.

How do I book?

When you log in you should see this:

mde

You are then able to choose a date and a park and select the rides you wish to book for, It will then give you the choice of times you can book. If there is more than one ticket connected to your account it will ask you who you want to book the passes for. You can choose all or some.

NB : You are able to book these 30 days before you go if you are staying off site and 60 if you are onsite. If you’re trying too soon – as I was – it will then tell you the date you can start booking them.

If you are able to book once you’ve selected your date/park this is what comes up to show the timings.

mdefastpass

Once you have picked your time you have an hour window from then to ride. All your fastpasses will show in your MDE account so with the free Wi-Fi in the parks you will be able to see day by day what your plans are.

Once you get to the ride at the right time you need to go to the fastpass queue and you scan your ticket (or Magicband) on the mickey and in you go.

disney-scan-band1

Its that easy!!

How do I choose which rides to fastpass?

The app for MDE has all the current wait times showing for all the ride and some of the character meetings. If it’s something you are able to fastpass it will show you. (Not all rides/experiences have fastpass enabled)

My advice is to download the app once your holiday is booked and dip in and out of it on different days and times. This will then show you which rides tend to continuously have long wait times, these are the ones you would need to fastpass. In some of the parks they catergorise the rides. Epcot is one of those. You are not able to book 3 fastpasses for the premium rides for example. So you wouldn’t be able to book Test Track, Soarin’ and Mission Space. All this information will come up when you go to book.

Some of the more popular character greetings you are able to fastpass – Mickey in Toontown Theatre for example always has a pretty long wait – unless you go straight there as soon as the park opens or during a parade – this is well worth booking a fast pass for! For those of you with Princesses of your own, meeting the likes of Cinderella, Belle and Anna and Elsa is a must whilst at Disney – these always have pretty long queues.

UNIVERSAL

Universal have their own version of fastpasses – called Express Passes. These are only available through Universal directly and allow you to enter the rides via a different queue. You are not able to book these rides in advance.

images

How much do they cost?

The prices of these vary and are seasonal. There are also 2 types of them, Express Passes and Unlimited ones.

You can buy passes in advance from the official Universal Bookings UK site. You can buy 1 day 1 park passes or a 1 day-2 park pass which I think are much better value. You can easily do all of the rides in both parks in one day with an Express Pass, you can then visit again another day and not have to worry about getting on everything.

Alternatively you can buy the unlimited ones on the gate or from the UniversalOrlando.com website.  They are more expensive but they do include unlimited rides on all Express Pass enabled rides.

Do the include the Harry Potter rides?

No they don’t express passes do not include any of the rides within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Is there any other way to get Express Passes?

Yes there is. Select Universal hotels will include unlimited Express Passes as part of your room rate. If there is a family of 4 it actually can work out cheaper to do that rather than purchasing the express passes. For a one night stay you would be given 2 days of Express Passes, one for the day you check in and one for the day you check out.

All Universal hotels allow you to enter the park early giving you access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter before the park opens to the public.

TOP TIP: If you don’t mind splitting up your group and going on rides alone most rides have a single rider queue which is another way to get on the rides a little quicker than the regular line.

SEAWORLD PARKS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Seaworld and Busch Gardens have their own versions of these as well called Quik Queue you are able to buy these in advance from any of the ticket resellers.

These work exactly the same way as Express Passes and vary in price according to season and also if you want unlimited or not.

These do work out cheaper to buy in advance before you go, although you can purchase on the gate and you are also able to purchase one time tickets for use on one particular ride.

You can get these free if you stay in any of the Seaworld Resort hotels.

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Planning Your Trip – Where to Start -Where to sleep?

There are 3 main types of accommodation when you’re staying in Orlando (although I’m sure someone will mention something else) but these are the main ones us brits tend to use when we go.

On Site Resort Hotels

Off Site Hotels

Self Catering Villas

All have their benefits and it’ll be down to you and your budget and preferences to decide which is the best option for you. But I’ll give you a bit of information on each and the extras you get when staying on site that should hopefully make your decision a little easier.

Self Catering Villas

If there is a large group of you the self catering villas are a great cost effective way to stay in Orlando.

Most of these are in lovely gated communities and all come with their own pools, fully equipped kitchen, cable, spacious bedrooms and are really quite luxurious. I’ve stayed in villas a few times and they are really nice when there’s a family of you going. It’s like a home away from home and means you don’t have to eat out all the time. You can save a bit of money by going to a local Walmart and stocking up on food. They usually come with BBQ’s as well so that’s a really nice thing to be able to do with a whole family around the pool.

You can have the pools heated as well – which is usually at an extra cost. Bear that in mind if you’re going at a slightly cooler time of year – although that being said, none of it is particularly cool to us.

Price wise I’ve looked at some prices for a group of 10 and they’re from £1200 and up – obviously you pay more for more amenities. You can get all sorts of themed villas as well and there are plenty that are Disney themed if you search for them – if you’re not staying IN the magic this is the next best thing.

If you are in a villa you would need a car. Because these are in the gated communities there is less public transport links so you’d rely a lot on taxis. Having your own car is a must I would say if you’re using this type of accommodation.

The communities are really safe and secure with hardly any traffic, you’re usually given a code for the gates or a pass to allow you to enter so it’s not publicly accessible.

Some of these are built around lakes so you have some really lovely views outside and there are a lot of these villas on the golf resorts if there are any golfers in the family.

I remember there being a communal bigger pool on one of the resorts I stayed in and a kids play area as well but all these things will be listed when you choose a villa. Most will also have Wi-Fi now.

Looking at some of the villa locations the large majority seem to be in Kissimmee , which is where I stayed. I LOVE Kissimmee, it’s pretty central to all the parks and is about 20-25 minutes to each of them. There is also a lot to do in Kissimmee itself, loads of places to eat and it’s home of Old Town which is one of my absolute favourite places to visit when I’m in Orlando.

I couldn’t find my photos of my villa but these are a pretty good indication of a standard one. Google will throw up a good lot of great sites if you type in Cheap Orlando Villas.

Perks of a Villa: Privacy. Own Pool. Perfect for families. Secure. Lots of Space. Home Comforts.

Downsides: Lack of public transport links so a car is really a must.

Off Site Hotels

If you’re a small family or a couple or even going on your own then an Off Site Hotel would be the best option for you.

The large majority of hotels in the Orlando area are on International drive and most of those will provide free shuttle buses to all of the theme parks.

There are also quite a few in and around Kissimmee.

International Drive is a great location to stay in, there are public transport links all along it with the I-Ride Trolley and Lynx Buses.

You can get 14 nights in a budget hotel for around £300.

Most if not all hotels will have their own usually heated outdoor pool and free Wi-Fi. Rooms can be basic but if you’re not planning on spending much time in your hotel and it’s basically just a base to sleep then that doesn’t really matter.

There are some preferable locations for staying on I-Drive. If you want to be close to entertainment and things to do in the evening anything that is near Pointe Orlando or I-Drive 360 is a great place to stay. You’re within walking distance from many restaurants, shops, mini golf. Most rooms and hotels are pretty similar with the layout etc but they are much nicer than any budget hotel you would book here in the UK. Rooms are always clean, ice machines on most floors. Generally most rooms will have 2 double beds in them rather than the single ones we have.

I prefer the hotels to Villas myself. I think it feels more like a holiday when you’re not cooking your own food or doing your washing.

If you don’t want to drive or hire a car this is by far the best option.

Perks of an off site hotel: Cheaper. Good public transport links and free shuttles to the parks. Close to shops, restaurants and entertainment.

Downsides: Having to plan days around the public transport times if you’re not driving. Pools can be busy.

Resort Hotels

All 3 of the major theme park brands have either on site or very close hotels that have many unique offerings that you wouldn’t get when staying off site. Of course this is the most expensive way to stay in Orlando but it’s an amazing thing to do – even if you just experience it once (or twice).

Disney Resort Hotels

Of course Disney, being the biggest of all the resorts has the most choice when it comes to hotels and they do cater for every budget, from campsites to deluxe villas.

Campgrounds

Value Resort Hotels

Moderate Resort Hotels

Deluxe Resort Hotels

Deluxe Villas

There are also a few Select Deluxe Hotels that although are NOT owned by Disney they are on property and they also allow guests the Extra Magic Hours.

When staying on Disney Resorts all guests will benefit from Extra Magic Hours (EMH) meaning you can enter the parks an hour early (different parks on different days) or stay after closing. When we went during the summer months EMH for Magic Kingdom were midnight-2am on a weekend.

You also have free parking on resort which is a saving of $20 a day as well as use of all the inter-park transport buses, boats and the monorail.

When staying on Disney you also have the option of booking a Dining Plan which is great as it takes all the stress out of having to budget for the food you eat while you’re there. There are several different options with the Dining Plan and I will go into that on another post. There are certain times of year when it is offered free of charge when you book certain resorts. I love the idea of the free dining but looking at prices of food etc at Disney and having been before I think it’s actually only worth the money if you’re going to eat in some of the nicer restaurants every day. I have it for my upcoming trip so I’ll be able to comment more on that when I get back.

If you’re going with little ones some resorts also offer kids club and in-room babysitting.

All resorts have pools and the type of pool they have will vary dependent on the level of resort you go for.

Room Wise most of them look pretty similar its the recreation and food options that make the difference to the experience but all have that Disney Magic.

I stayed at All Star Music for my last trip and it really showed me what a difference it makes staying within Disney. The pools were great and the rooms were nice and clean, the only thing that let it down was the food court. There wasn’t a lot of choice and I felt like I was in Butlins. It wasn’t that clean at all and there was a bit of a lack of the Disney customer service that you would expect staying there. I was so looking forward to being told to ‘Have a Magical Day’ and ‘Welcome Home’ as you walk in which I’d been told happens when you stay on site but we didn’t get any of that 😦 There was a family of 9 of us and 2 of us had interconnecting rooms which was really useful when you have a tired little one and grandparents in the ajoining room, you can just open the door while she’s sleeping, and Nanny and Grandad can babysit while you have a meal out 🙂 This next trip we’re staying at Caribbean Beach so I’ll be able to tell you if it does actually make much of a difference choosing a more expensive resort.

It’s worth pointing out that you can have packages with and without park tickets but if you want Dining you need to purchase your tickets through Disney.

Prices start from £1500 for a family of 4 for 14 nights – hotel only.

Perks of the on-site at Disney: Extra Magic Hours. Free Parking. Disney Dining.

Downsides: Expensive.

Universal Resort Hotels

Universal are adding more resorts and growing quite a lot with the addition of Volcano Bay this year.

Again they cater for every budget.

Prime Value Hotel

Preferred Hotels

Premier Hotels

Staying on all the Universal hotels you benefit from early entry to Wizarding World of Harry Potter letting you in a whole hour early so you can get most of it done before the park gets busy.

There is also again the free transportation to the parks.

Portofino Bay, Loews Pacific and Hard Rock hotels also include Unlimited Express Passes. Having a 1 night stay in these hotels can work out cheaper than buying the passes on the gate. They will give you one for the day you check in and one for the day you check out.

Rooms in each look pretty similar and general room amenities much like the Disney resorts don’t change much. It’s the recreation that makes the difference.

Again as with Disney you can purchase the rooms with and without the park tickets included. Express Passes are given regardless of if you have booked direct.

Universal hotels are best booked for 1 or 2 nights and the rest of your stay On I-Drive or at Disney a 14 night stay in Loews Royal pacific came in at £2500!

Perks of staying on site at Universal: Early Entry to Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Express Passes at selected hotels.

Downsides: Expensive.

Seaworld Resort Hotels

Although Seaworld don’t have any ‘on-resort’ hotels as such they do have some hotel partners with a few perks.

Partner Hotels near Seaworld.

You get quite a few benefits staying in these and each one will give you free Quik Queue tickets, free Seaworld Rescue tour, Early entry in the summer and complimentary transport to and from the park.

You’d also get discounts on food and merchandise.

I have stayed on one of the Seaworld resort hotels and they are really nice but there’s no difference really to staying in one of the other hotels from that particular chain in another location in Orlando if you’re not wanting the extra Seaworld Perks.

14 night stay is coming in at around £1500.

Perks of staying on site: Seasonal Early Entry, Complimentary Quik Queue, On Site food and merchandise discounts.

Downsides: No Seaworld ‘themeing’ as such and not actually ‘on site’. Expensive.

*ALL PRICES ARE BASED ON FAMILY OF 4, 2 ADULTS 2 CHILDREN TRAVELING BETWEEN 5TH-19TH MAY 2017 IN LOWEST PRICE HOTELS

Planning your Trip – Where to Start! – Buying Park Tickets

I realized that although I’ve given you loads of tips and info on what to do when you get to Orlando what I haven’t really touched on is how to plan from the beginning!! So let me give you some basic info about Orlando and what there is to do, there are still people out there who don’t realize that Walt Disney World is not just ‘the park with the castle’…..

Orlando is a 8/9 hour flight from the UK. My big tip with booking flights is to leave the UK as early as possible to get to Orlando late afternoon – you’re able to have a look about go out for some food and then go to bed at the same time as you would at home. I find this stops any jetlag you may suffer from. Coming home, always get the latest possible evening flight, giving you at least half the day to maybe visit your favourite park or do a bit of shopping..

Orlando has 3 main theme park resorts. Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, Seaworld Parks and Entertainment.

Walt Disney World (the clue is in the name, it is a WORLD) not just one park. Disney is made up of:

Magic Kingdom (the one with the Castle)

Epcot (the one with the Golf Ball)

Animal Kingdom (the one with the tree)

Hollywood Studios (the one that used to have the Hat…)

Blizzard Beach

Typhoon Lagoon

Disney Springs

Disneys Boardwalk

ESPN World Wide of Sports

Disney Resort Hotels

Universal Orlando Resort is made up of:

Universal Studios (including Diagon Alley of Wizarding World of Harry Potter)

Universal’s Islands of Adventure (including Hogsmeade and Hogwarts of Wizarding World of Harry Potter)

Volcano Bay

Citywalk

Universal Resort Hotels

Seaworld Parks and Entertainment is made up of:

Seaworld

Aquatica

Busch Gardens

Discovery Cove

Most of the parks are in Orlando with the exception of Busch Gardens which is just over an hour away on the west coast in Tampa.

All the tickets that we can purchase in the UK are valid for unlimited access for 14 days, and on first trips people always say ‘but I won’t need 14 days’ – you will!! Buying your tickets in the UK before you travel is a lot cheaper than purchasing them on the gate in Orlando. The 14 day tickets are not available once you get there. With these tickets you’re able to ‘hop’ between the parks meaning you can visit more than one in a day if you like and Disney parks tend to stay open late. It gives you the flexibility to be able to see the evening shows at Disney but spend a day somewhere else if you wanted. ‘Hopping’ at Universal will include the use of the Hogwarts Express which transports you between the Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter. All 14 day tickets for the Seaworld Parks will include complimentary bus travel to Busch Gardens.

The only park that you cannot visit multiple times is Discovery Cove. This is a one day experience where you can swim with Dolphins if you wish. This is a fully all inclusive day with all your food and drink (including alcohol) included. You have to book a date for this as it gets booked up quickly and prices vary throughout the year. All the Discovery Cove tickets include unlimited access to Seaworld and Aquatica, there is an Ultimate package which will also include Busch Gardens.

Are there any waterparks included?

Yes. Disney has Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, Universal has Volcano Bay when it opens and Aquatica is Seaworlds offering.

What Parks Shall I Visit?

If you’re unsure what parks you want to visit my advice to you is to use YouTube to watch some holiday planning videos that show you what there is at each of the parks.

Think about who there is in your party and what would be of interest to them.

Surely I won’t need 14 day tickets?

You may not think you do and you may think that buying a smaller amount of days will save you money. That all depends on what parks you want to see.

If you want to visit all the parks at Disney including the Water Parks you will need at least 9 days! The 14 day tickets include water parks and park hopping. On the gate you’d pay $60 for each of the water parks and around $120 per day for each of the theme parks, plus an extra $55 to park hop. And don’t forget the 6% sales tax you have to add as well.

If you want to see all of Universal then as of June you’d probably need 4 days. One for each of the theme parks, one to hop between the 2 and see things you might not have on the other days and then a whole extra day (maybe 2 it looks HUGE) for Volcano Bay. Again the 14 day tickets are much more cost effective than buying 3 days on the gate and including the hopping.

Seaworld, Aquatica, Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove you could spend a day in each and see everything. One day in each of the parks (with the exception of Discovery Cove) is around $70 (plus the sales tax). If you want to visit one more than once or all of them then again the 14 day tickets work out best.

Ticket Types

In the UK you are able to buy the 14 day tickets that I mentioned. There are many ticket sellers in the UK who provide these at a lesser cost than travel agents and usually the parks directly.

It is really important to check that whoever you buy from is providing you with real gate ready tickets. This means that when you get to the parks you are able to go straight in. Some travel agents will provide you with vouchers which you would need to exchange when you get there, meaning you have to queue for them BEFORE you get in the queue to get in.

You will also need your ticket numbers to be able to book your Disney FastPasses, although these numbers can be given to you by your travel agent 30 days before you travel this isn’t automatic and you may find yourself chasing them for it and missing out on booking some of the rides you want to do.

There are a number of resellers in the UK who send real tickets and will have offers on throughout the year.  There are links to some of those in the useful links page.

Most of these are Orlando experts and will give great advice.

Most will allow you to secure the current prices with a small deposit and will give up to 6 weeks before you leave to pay the balance.

The tickets all have the same names with the sellers:

Disney Ultimate

Universal Explorer

Seaworld 3 park

Discovery Cove Standard ticket and Discovery Cove Ultimate ticket.

All the resellers above do combination ticket packages which works out better than purchasing them individually.  They will all have different names but they will include the same tickets within them. Each of the tickets will have 14 days on it from the first day of activation so if you’re going for longer than 14 days you are able to stagger that so you can visit parks for the whole duration of your trip.

You cannot buy a combination ticket to include Discovery Cove. This is a stand alone ticket and will include your entry to the other parks owned by Seaworld.

Do they offer discounted tickets for Disabled or free carer tickets?

No. And the reason for this is that 90% of the rides and attractions are fully accessible. Universal do a small discount on the gate but this is for day tickets only and it the saving is minimal. There is a system in place for guests with disabilities. I go into  much more detail here – Disney with Disabilities

What’s included in my ticket?

All the tickets above will include unlimited park hopping access to all the parks owned by that company.

Disney tickets also include Disneys Fastpass which allows you to skip the line at some of the key attractions by being able to book your time on the ride 30 days before you go (60 if you’re staying on site). It gives you 3 fast passes per person per day which you can book on your My Disney Experience (MDE) account. The app for this gives you all the current wait times for rides so by looking at it a bit before you go you’re able to figure out what rides you would need to book for. Peter Pans Flight always has a really long line, as does Soarin’, some of the character meets will have a long wait you can book some of them too.

Currently the UK tickets also include Disney Memory Maker (or photopass) free of charge. This is ALL of your professional photos taken around the parks, ride photos (and videos for the ones that have them), character photos and all the ones in the scenic places around the parks. These are all digital photos that are uploaded to your MDE account when the photographer scans your ticket. You can then download them all when you get home and get them printed off when you like. I found when I did mine that if you leave them in your shopping basket with some of these companies they start to send you discount codes so you will buy them. Photobox is what I used for my 2000 odd when I came home. It’s a great thing to have with the tickets it’s worth $170.

Disney tickets also include mini golf free every day (before 4pm) there are 2 mini golf courses on Disney, Winter Summerland and Fantasia Gardens and they’re so much fun. Nothing like the boring golf we have here.

You can also use the Oak Trail golf course if you want a ‘normal’ round of golf. Tickets include a round and club hire.

Universal tickets include park hopping as well – this means you can use the Hogwarts Express to travel between the 2 Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter.

Seaworld tickets currently include free parking if you’re purchasing a ticket to include all 3 parks and you do get the free transportation to Busch Gardens as well if you don’t fancy the drive.

Can I skip the lines?

Yes you can.

Disney’s Fastpass is free and included in the tickets.

Universal have their own called an Express Pass which you can only buy from them directly. It’s more cost effective to buy a 1-day 2- park Express meaning you can do all the rides in both the parks in one day. With an Express Pass it’s easy to do that. The UK based booking site has them and they vary season to season – these tickets allow you one ride on each of the rides that day. You can get unlimited ones on the gate. Some of the hotels on the Universal Resort include free express passes and early entry to Harry Potter.

Seaworld and Busch Gardens have a ‘QuikQueue’ ticket which is the same sort of thing. All the re-sellers I mentioned sell an unlimited one which gives you as many rides as you like on each of the rides. This varies in price by park and season.

None of the waterparks have fastpasses. Volcano Bay however has a virtual queuing system using a wristband called ‘TapuTapu’ which allows you to select the ride and time you want and will vibrate when you can get on, meaning you can do other things while you’re waiting.

Hopefully that should answer most of the questions you have about tickets. If there’s anything else you want to know or I’ve missed let me know.

 

 

 

Updates :)

I’ve been a busy bee today!!

I’ve added a few food reviews here, Chef Mickeys and dining with Minions How To Eat Cheap in Orlando… and some of the best places 🙂 

I’ve also updated some of the disability info and talked a bit about the best ways to get around Orlando Disney (and other Parks) – With Disabilities

Have a read 🙂

It’s NEXT WEEK!!

Excuse me while I squeal a little!! I can now finally say we go next week!! The excitement is getting a bit much now to be honest I may well burst at any moment!

I get asked loads why I love Florida so much and how there are ‘loads of other places in the world’ but you know what? Apart from Italy (and maybe Germany after watching a Vlog about Europa Park) there isn’t really anywhere else I’m that bothered about visiting and I don’t think they’ll live up to my expectations after being to Disney.  I’m not a sit by the pool and drink type so a package holiday being stuck in a resort is my idea of hell I need things to do!!

I get asked why I don’t get bored being that I’ve been before – this will be trip number 6 – I don’t get bored because there’s always something new to see. In the space of 17 years I’ve seen loads of things come and go.  Rides like Snow Whites Scary Adventures and Mr Toads Wild Ride and Toon Town where you could visit the houses of Minnie and Mickey Mouse have gone and are missed and then there are things like Alien which scarred me for life and I’m not sorry to see the back of.

Of course the big new thing is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which has now stretched over 2 parks instead of just the one that there was on my last trip.

Even in 3 years there has been loads of development and new stuff to check out this time. Aside from the WWOHP extension there’s also the New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom, the new Frozen show and new parades at Disney. As well as the developments at Downtown Disney.   Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure now has a Raptor encounter and Universal Studios has Transformers and Springfield USA is open.

Seaworld has opened Empire of the Penguin and opened some new shows as well, not to mention the big opening of I-Drive 360 which comprises of the Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds and Sealife Orlando.

With more changes and new rides/parks opening over the next few years – Avatarland at Animal Kingdom, the Star Wars expansion at Hollywood Studios (or whatever it will be called then…) and Universals Volcano Bay as well as the much talked about Nintendo Partnership at Universal.  And then there’s the King Kong ride that I totally forgot about – I remember the original one!! You can never get bored of Orlando there’s always something new opening!

The other thing I love is how accessible it is and how completely suitable it is for anyone with a disability. Be it a mobility issue like me or more complex needs no matter where you go in Orlando they will do whatever they can to help you and have policies in place for everything you could think of. Nothing is a hassle to them and unlike some other holiday destinations – I’ve been put in upstairs rooms in hotels with no lift and been felt like I’m causing the problem when I’m unable to walk up the stairs!! Here any sort of Disability isn’t seen as a major problem and rather than make a fuss they just figure out how to help you rather than huffing about it!!

The one thing I haven’t done properly in Orlando is a water park – I did Aquatica last time but all I did was bob along in the lazy river – I’m curious to see how they are geared up for someone like me.  There’s quite a few things I’m doing for the first time on this trip, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon which I’m really looking forward to. Discovery Cove which is something I’ve heard nothing but good things about (and that’s not just because all the food and drink is free), We’re doing a Penguin Encounter at Seaworld where we actually get to meet a real penguin – I’m a BIG fan of anywhere where I can cuddle any sort of animal, not sure the penguin will want me to cuddle it but I will give it a try.  We have an Airboat ride as well which I won’t lie, I’m a little bit scared of. I don’t really like boats at the best of times – unless it’s a cruise ship – so being on something that doesn’t look that steady and surrounded by gators isn’t exactly filling me with excitement. I panic in a kayak so goodness knows what I’m going to be like on this.  Also I’m finally getting to do a character breakfast – the bonus of taking kids – we’re doing both Chef Mickeys and Universals Superstar Breakfast (if the tickets get sorted in time) and also the Pirates Adventure Dinner Show. Last time I went to a dinner show I was ill with sunstroke and it wasn’t a pleasant experience so fingers crossed this one will be better.

The only thing that could make this trip even more perfect is that elusive booking at ‘Be Our Guest’…..

It’s THIS Month – Now I’m allowed to be excited!!

Ok, so we all know I’ve been bursting with excitement about this trip since I started writing this – and since it was booked last year – but now with only 18 days to go I’m officially allowed to be excited 🙂

Cases are now packed – mostly – with a few little bits that we need to get. That’s the excuse for packing early ladies by the way, it’s so you have plenty of time to buy things if you realise you’ve forgotten when you’re packing. In my case it was pants for my other half, I don’t think he would’ve been best pleased if we got there and he had 6 pairs to last him 2 weeks.  I managed to con him into Disneybounding so he now has a VERY cool Pinocchio outfit complete with an amazing ‘Real Boy’ hat from www.cakeworthystore.com – who I highly recommend for bounding stuff its really good and shipping is really fast. and seriously how cool is this hat…

realboySo now we have Dopey, Pinocchio and Minnie Mouse 🙂 Glad to see everyone is getting into the spirit of it now 🙂

ESTAs and Insurance were done today as well so we are all pretty much ready to go.

I’ve also conned my other half into doing the Universal Superstar Breakfast, I’ve heard mixed reviews on this one but I think the chance to have breakfast with a Minion should outweigh anything else!!

Blue Men…

Yes, you read that right Blue Men. What has that got to do with Orlando I hear some of you say.

Well, Universal Studios is the home of one incredibly funny and innovative show ‘Blue Man Group’ and it’s a must see if you’re in Orlando. I’ve seen it before and I’m lucky enough to be watching it again this time round.

It’s a strange thing to try and explain it’s a show, it has music, it has mime, it has a LOT of paint, it has comedy and it has men who are blue from head to toe. I’ve seen it and I’m still not entirely sure what I witnessed, what I do know is I absolutely loved it and laughed. A Lot.

The current show investigates technology and the iPhone in particular. The basic gist is that they’re aliens trying to figure out what we’re all about. The music is original the comedy is just hilarious and its a one of a kind family friendly show.

I tried to find something on YouTube to show you all what it’s about but I couldn’t find anything that did this is the closest I found. All I can say is watch it, you won’t regret it!!

To Plan or Not to Plan…..

I’m now at my 37 day mark and to say I’m organised is a bit of an understatement. As you are well aware I’ve booked all my FastPasses, checked in to my hotel and booked an ADR (advanced dining reservation) for those who don’t know.  All my reservations/stuff we’re doing have now been put in a spreadsheet – yes I am that organised with it all – and the whole 14 days is pretty much planned out for us.

Is this planning a little TOO much, well for me I don’t think so. Having been to Orlando before I know how much there is to do and it’s impossible to do everything in 14 days, besides the theme parks there’s over 100 other attractions in Orlando and if you wanted to do everything it has to offer you’d need at least 67 full days there! It’s not all about the themeparks you know!!

I am well aware that I have probably planned FAR too much but I know some of the things that are really unmissable so you have to make sure you cater for that sort of thing. Disney, Magic Kingdom especially has some ridiculous wait times for rides so if you don’t want to spend most of your day queuing for rides – or to meet Frozen characters if you have girls – then it is wise to book some fastpasses and plan a little for those days. The rest of the day leave to chance.  Planning and booking those rides that your kids just HAVE to do is also a great way to avoid disappointment and tantrums!!

You can do Disney without planning but be prepared for LONG queues and stress.

Universal Studios as well needs a bit of planning. We all know that the busiest part of those parks are the Harry Potter parts so unless you want to be queuing for ages for those it’s good to plan to do them first or last thing. Universal offer an express pass that will allow you front of line access to each ride once during the day which is a really good way to avoid planning. However it doesn’t include the Harry Potter rides. You can buy express passes before you leave the UK for a much cheaper price than on the gate, £50 for 1 park and £57 for both for one day. You can get them from the UK Universal Bookings Site Universal UK Bookings

If you want to go to Discovery Cove, particularly over the Summer months then that again needs some planning. Discovery Cove gets booked up from 6 months in advance.  Working for a travel company and having calls over the last few weeks from customers who are wanting to book every day I’m experiencing first hand the disappointment from people who just cannot get a booking after leaving it so late.

There is no real need to book every day down to the minute but it is an idea to pre book a few things that you really want to do and then do the rest when you get there. Orlando is a place that you really need to research before you go there are so many amazing forums and websites with info and people who will give you honest opinions on what to do and not to do. A good one for planning advice is the Facebook group‘It’s Orlando Time’ loads of people who love Orlando helping you make your trip as magical as it can be.  A little bit of research will really help your trip run smoothly.