If you have children there’s a chance one day you will be planning a holiday to Orlando and in particular Disney World. As a family, we went in 2012 and again Easter 2016. On the later trip, my children were 13, 11 and 6. We flew with Virgin Atlantic, hired a car and stayed in a villa in the Davenport area.
It probably comes as no surprise that I approach a Disney trip the same way I do with planning events, with lots of research ensuring we will get the most from our holiday. I’m a huge believer that if you work out what you want to do – conduct your research – you will have the holiday of a lifetime. I only wish the same formulas would work for Chessington or Thorpe Park.
I thought I would pass on some of my top tips:
My husband likes to be early for everything, he hates being late. So if the airline says arrive 3 hours before he’d be there 4+ hours before and will be worried about traffic the whole time even in the wee hours of the morning. So, this time, I decided to start our holiday the night before by:
• Booking us a hotel for the night before our flight
• Booking valet parking, which enabled us to drive direct to the terminal where we handed over our keys to the parking attendant. On our return, we called the company who again met us in the terminal. No trying to maneuver cases and children onto shuttle buses.
• Checking in online and having boarding cards sent to my email
• Utilizing the Virgin Atlantic bag drop service (this allows you to check in your bags from 5pm the night before your flight leaving you with just hand luggage)
• Having a family meal and drink to toast our holiday
Orlando International Airport
The last time we flew to Orlando it was with Thomsons Airlines and into Stanford Airport, honestly given a choice this is the airport and airline I’d use in the future. We felt Orlando International (MCO) was a tad disorganised with no clear direction within the airport.
My biggest piece of advice if using MCO is once you go through immigration and have collected your luggage you will approach a very small escalator, which leads to the shuttle/monorail. We were asked to put our suitcases on the conveyor belt – we naively thought this conveyor belt took the suitcases to where the monorail is. We were wrong! So my advice is KEEP YOUR SUITCASES with you and take them up the escalator instead! If you don’t you’ll be separated from your suitcases for ages, it was approx 40 minutes before we found where they were. We were tourists wandering around aimlessly.
Once we were reunited with our suitcases we found the Alamo desk and collected paperwork from Virgin for our villa. We tend to upgrade as we don’t want to be driving in a car the same size as what we have at home. The children love having a 7 seater as they swap seats daily. We took a spare car seat we had at home for our youngest.
What to wear for Disney
As you’re going to be in and out of rides you want to be wearing clothes that are comfortable. I mainly stuck to shorts, vest tops or summer dresses. We did try to subtly choose what to wear to suit each park (star wars for Hollywood studios, khaki for the Animal Kingdom, red for the Magic Kingdom) but honestly that plan didn’t seem to last for very long with my family! I did see some amazing themed family t-shirts whilst away that made me smile – no way would my family agree to wear the same tops.
Look after your feet
You’ll be doing a lot of walking (approx 10 miles daily) when visiting the Disney parks so it stands to reason you need to look after your feet. I’m not a fan of trainers and avoid wearing if I possibly can! After much geeky research, I settled on sketchers go walks (amazingly comfy) (new style not the chunky originals). In the evenings, I changed into slightly more dressy, sandals. Oh, and word of advice, if you’re planning on water rides one day wear your sandals, not trainers or canvas shoes which will get wet and take hours to dry out!
What bags to use
My husband used his back pack (see below for our list of items to take into the parks) and I used my Baggalini wallet bag desktop . I feel quite geeky about this bag, in fact, I think it could be my new wedding day bag, with so many zips and sections to fill it appealed to my logistical mindset! It has 2 exterior features for your mobile phone and general zipper pocket (our passports fitted in there perfectly). The interior features 3 zippered interior pockets, 12 card slots, 3 pen slots (ideal for sharpies for an autograph book) & 2 slip pockets. I liked that you could unhook easily when going through the bag check and didn’t have to slip over your head.
Please note if taking a bag you will need to go through the bag check before entering the park each day.
What did I take into the parks?
1. Personalised autograph book for my daughter to use at the character meet & greets. I ordered from All Your Memories
2. A mix of sharpie pens, fine point for characters to use on autograph books. Tip – take the lid off for each character so easier for them to use Mickey Mouse hands are not designed for taking lids of pens!
3. I always tend to have headache tablets and plasters in my bag and in Florida it was no exception.
4. My Canon camera to take my own photos by also to create a video diary. This was always on my shoulder when in the parks.
5. We tend to set a budget of how much money each day so I will have this in a zipped pocket in my bag as well as a debit card in case we spent over budget, which never happened!
6. My iPhone was in theory in my bag but in reality was in my hand as I was scanning MDE throughout the day! I also photograph that day’s itinerary so I could keep glancing at what attraction was next.
7. All the park tickets, my family decided they didn’t trust themselves with the park tickets so I looked after them until we needed them.
8. If we were planning on lots of water rides or if there were thunderstorms (which happened one day) we took ponchos with us. I just bought some cheap ones via amazon which I’ve now thrown away.
9. We bought aerosol suncream when in Orlando and found this much easier to reapply protection throughout the day, there was minimal complaining from children as the process was so fast.
10. I normally always have at least 1 lipstick in my bag along with a lip balm if I get dry lips.
11. My Fitbit as I’m a tad obsessed about how many steps I do every day!
12. Minnie Mouse ears for my daughter and I, we bought some in the UK but I will admit we couldn’t resist more when on holiday. Frankly if you cant wear Minnie mouse ears when in Orlando when can you? My daughter loved that I did this alongside her.
13. Travel packs of tissues and hand wipes as you never know when needed, invariably by the husband, not children.
14. And finally my sunglasses
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Planning your Disney Holiday.