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

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7 WEEKS!!! – HHN, getting fit and a bit more about My Disney Experience

7 weeks to go now, thats only 49 days and being as we’re in the middle of a mini heatwave making it feel a bit like I am in Orlando anyway I am even more excited about it if that’s at all possible!!

The fitness regime has started. Lets see if I can tone myself up and lose a few pounds in 7 weeks. I’ve joined a really lovely gym at the Solent Hotel, who more than cater for us people with disabilities. The majority of the classes are accessible and it’s a really comfortable place to be. They have a lot of Personal Trainers and fitness experts who are able to discuss your needs and come up with a programme that is not only helping you achieve your goal, whether it be just general fitness or like me trying to shed a bit of a cake shelf before a holiday but also catered to what you can do. I’m starting aquafit next week. I’ve always wanted to have a go at that I will no doubt look a bit mental but it’s all in an effort to get in that bikini!! Everyone there is really welcoming from the staff to the other members so it’s a really lovely place to be. Decent sized pool and jacuzzi and it’s not too busy either.  They actually have a really cool offer on at the moment for a 4 week trial for £55 well worth it if you’re looking for somewhere to go over the summer and a good taster to what it’s like. Solent Hotel and Spa

Also yesterday we were lucky enough at Voice FM to have the opportunity to have a chat with Universal Studios Creative & Entertainment Director Michael Aiello about Halloween Horror Nights and what’s coming up at Universal Studios, including King Kong and Volcano Bay. If you want to find out what he had to say tune in to the Breakfast Show next Wednesday 8th July 7-10am on Southamptons Voice FM. We tried to get some exclusives out of him but did we succeed….

I’m now in charge of the whole families bookings of Fast Passes and checking us into our hotel. I had a few issues with the booking numbers being wrong, best thing to do is call Disney if you have any issues they connected all mine up to my Disney account while I was on the phone. You need 2 references for MDE, your hotel booking ref and your ticket numbers. If you have booked a package with both it will know and you only need the one. I was really impressed with the Disney call centre they did exactly what I needed and really really quickly. If you have any questions they are happy to help – and I love that they always say ‘have a magical day’ set me up for the day that did 🙂

 

No More Selfie Sticks… or Wet N Wild…

So Disney announced this week that they are extending their selfie stick ban to not only cover the rides but also now the parks as a whole and I can’t say I’m unhappy with the idea!!

Apart from the fact that quite honestly you look like a tit when you use one you have to think about the safety of others when you’re using one of those things. It’s bad enough having people who stop to look at stuff right in front of you but when you have a load of people just randomly stopping to take a selfie and it taking them a while to get it right it’s just a recipe for disaster. I for one am welcoming this ban and I’m hoping that everyone else will follow suit.

There are growing safety concerns for the use of the sticks on the fast moving rides and there have been numerous incidents of some of the rides being closed for periods of time because of this, much to the annoyance of other park guests because lets face it wait times at Disney are long enough without having the rides constantly stopped.

You can read a little more about it all Disney Ban on Selfie Sticks

We’re saying goodbye this year to something else in Orlando with the news that Wet N Wild is to close at the end of this year to make way for Universals Volcano Bay water park.

I had been wondering how long it would be before Universal opened their own water park and I have to say I am looking forward to seeing what they do with it. I visited Wet N Wild on my first trip in 1998 and to be honest I don’t remember a lot of it, I know it had some of the most extreme water rides because I wouldn’t go on them!! It’s definitely somewhere you need to visit if you have the chance before it closes.

There’s not a lot of info yet on Volcano Bay, needless to say it is based around a Volcano and I would imagine there will be something themed around it erupting, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of concept art yet but more information is expected to be announced in the coming months.

Updates

I am on a much needed half day today so thought I’d do a bit more updating on here. I’ve added a link to some really good info on the DAS card on the Disability page and more info on rides on the MK page – I didn’t realise there was so much there until I started doing this blog!! And how much I hadn’t seen!! If my Fiance is expecting a nice chilled out relaxing holiday this year he’s going to be sorely mistaken!!

100 days to go now, double digit dance tomorrow 🙂 Fast pass bookings in 10 days and I’ll be starting my get fit regime as well in the next few weeks so I’ll be blogging about that as well.

When you have a disability like mine – I have Spina Bifida – there can be limited exercise you can do, especially on your own. I’ve recently discovered that you do actually forget how to ride a bike – the popular saying being a big fat lie!! I have now sort of remembered but I am a bit wobbly and have a tendancy to fall off. A Lot. I have the wounds to prove it so I’m not allowed out on my own on my bike now in case I damage myself!! Shocking at the age of 36 but there you go…

For me the only thing really that I can do is swim. I wanted to be a paralympic swimmer as a kid actually although that never happened 😦 I love swimming and I think anyone with the same sort of condition as me will say the same, the water makes moving a lot easier. However I am short and I have muscle spasms in my legs so I panic if I can’t touch the bottom or have nothing to grab if it starts. Leisure centres for me are my worst nightmare, roped off lanes both sides of the pool either for old ladies to pootle in or others to speed swim in, when you’re somewhere in the middle you’re kinda stuck!! I don’t want to be swimming in the middle of a pool when I’m far too small to touch the bottom. Plus you always have those kids who just want to jump in and really it’s more stressful and you never really get to swim.

I’m in the process now of chatting to a few hotels who have gyms and spas and seeing if they can do anything for me. Hotel memberships can be so expensive when you’re only going to be using the pool. I don’t want to pay out £70 a month when I’m only using 10% of the things I’m paying for. Be different I think if it was by choice but when you don’t have the choice its a bit grating to be honest!!

Joining a gym is quite daunting I think as well for people like me so I shall keep you updated as to who I find and how good they are and if I manage to lose the stone I want to lose before we go. I think I’m being a bit ambitious, I’m not giving myself much time!!!