Review of "Orlando"

published 22/10/2004 | paulfoel
Member since : 02/07/2004
Reviews : 8
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Excellent
Pro hot, fun, cheap?
Cons too hot, long flight
very helpful

"Holidays to central Florida and Orlando"

Paul’s guide to Holidays in Central Florida

Getting to Florida

Flights

Manchester or Gatwick is your best bet for flights to Florida.

I always book flights myself directly using any of the following websites:-

www.airplaneticket.co.uk
www.flights4less.co.uk
www.ebookers.co.uk
www.travelocity.co.uk
www.expedia.co.uk

Don’t be afraid of booking a non-direct flight (for instance, changing planes at Atlanta) – it’s really not that much hassle and can save you loads of money.

Also, don’t be afraid of booking a non-charter flight with a US airline. In my experience, the leg room, service etc. is light years better than the likes of Airtours etc anyway.

Where to Fly to?

McCoy Orlando International is Central Florida’s main airport. Easy to get to, big, well organised and closest airport to Disneyworld.

Sanford is a smaller airport about an hours drive away that most British charter flights seem to use these days (it must be cheaper). It’s a bit small and a bit of a tip, and further to drive when you get off the plane. If you do fly into Sanford, avoid the toll road which will cost you $s and follow signs for the I-4 instead.

Tampa is another large international airport about an hour and a half away. Similar to Orlando but is usually quieter. Worth considering because it’s not a great hassle to drive to Orlando.


Getting to the Airport in the UK

Flightlink bus

Cramped, usually full, takes AGES to get to the airport.

Train

EXPENSIVE

Driving yourself and parking at the airport

Parking at most major airports is very expensive – usually around £70 for two weeks. Then you sometimes have the hassle of catching a shuttle bus to the terminal etc.

Hiring a car for one-way rental

I’ve done this the last few years. Basically, you can get a one-way rental to drive from home to the airport and then another one-way rental to get you home after the hols.

It normally costs about £35-£40 each way for a small-medium car and the added advantage is that most car rental places at the airport are right next to the terminal, so there’s no hassle with shuttle buses etc.

Best and cheapest is National. However, I’ve found you always get a better price by booking on their website rather than directly with the office.

www.nationalcar.co.uk

Now you’re in Florida….


Bloody hell, it’s hot…. Yep. Tell me about it. It is NEVER cold in Florida. Even when it’s raining. In fact, you will pray for it to rain….

Fortunately, every building has air-con, so you can jump from building to building! Don’t believe me – wait and see…

Pray you haven’t booked your holiday for July or August… Last time we went it was 100C in May!!!!


Transport in Florida

Car Hire

To be honest, a hire car is a MUST. Fortunately, all the roads are very easy to drive on and petrol is VERY cheap. Also, although it can be a little confusing at first, it gets pretty easy to find your way round

Rule No 1

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER book your car hire from your travel agent or from a British company. They will screw you on the rate etc. and con you into all the unnecessary insurances.

I always book my car hire directly on the internet.

www.alamo.com
www.nationalcar.com
www.dollar.com
www.travelocity.co.uk
www.expedia.co.uk

and also try using the discount codes on www.mousesaver.com (more about this later).

One other thing – if you’ve got a Natwest Gold credit card you get free Car Insurance (Collision Damage Waiver) in North America if you pay with this. Saves a fortune! Alternatively, American Express used to do Family Travel Insurance which included Car Insurance for North America.

Rule No. 2

Car rental agents are crooks! When you pick up your car, the agent WILL try to screw you to upgrade your car. Resist this – sometimes you get a bigger car for free anyway. (I’ve had convertibles, 4x4s – all for the price of a compact car). They’ll also try to get you take all sorts of Personal Liability insurance, Accident insurance etc.

The only essential one is Collision Damage Waiver (basically, if you wreck the car you’re not liable for the damage). You will get Personal Liability cover anyway (up to a limit) so it’s up to you if you really want more. All the others – load of crap mostly covered by your travel insurance anyway. Think carefully about whether you really need this extra insurance or it could get VERY expensive in extra charges.


Rule No. 3

Refuse the option to pre-pay for your fuel (i.e. full tank bring back empty). They will try to convince you it’s a good deal but they charge DOUBLE what the petrol actually costs at the pump! Unfortunately, ‘some’ car rental companies insist on this in their T+Cs – con or what?


Tickets for Theme Parks

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a cheap Disney ticket!!! Disney does not let anyone discount their tickets. So, unfortunately, you’re looking at around £35 per person per day!!! (and there are now 5 parks which will take 1-2 days each – not cheap!!!)

You will see places offering tickets for $5 etc. These are all timeshare scams. Never been on one but if you want to spend 5 hours at a timeshare presentation I guess you may get cheap tickets !!!1


Universal, Sea World, and Busch Gardens tickets, you can get a little cheaper. Go to the stand in Belz Factory Outlet to save a few $s. It’s usually worth it.


Visiting Theme Parks

Need to be planned with military precision…

Rule No 1

Get there early. Be there when it opens! If you want to stroll in at 11am, there’ll be a lot of people in the park before you…

Rule No 2

Understand how Fastpass/ExpressPass works. Both Disney and Universal have this and it works as a sort-of virtual queue. Basically, you pick these up at a rides entrance it tells you when to come back for the ride when you can go to the front of the queue. There are some rules which you need to understand such as you can’t get a second fastpass for a different ride until the time of your first fastpass is reached etc. It’s not too complicated but you need to understand it (fortunately, most Americans seem too thick to understand it!)

If these rules seem a bit sad and you can’t be bothered then feel free to ignore. If you want to queue for 2 hours at a time for each ride in 100C heat then that’s up to you….

Shopping

Stuff in the Theme Parks is very expensive. Disney Village Marketplace has got the largest Disney store in the world but prices here are the same as the Parks.

Best places for Disney stuff are the Character Corner Disney shops at Belz, and Lake Buena Vista Mall. Usually, the stock they get is pretty random but you get genuine Disney stuff for bargain prices…

For general shopping, best places are Belz (top end of International Drive), Lake Buena Vista Mall (between Lake Buena Vista Crossroads and I-192), and the Florida Mall (Sand lake Road towards the Airport)


Coupons

Sad, I know but everybody uses coupons. You can usually get them by the sackfull everywhere. They’ll give you up to 25% off your bill for food, etc.


Food

Best places to eat are Dennys, IHOP, Waffle House, etc etc.

Bear in mind that the fast food in the parks is comparatively expensive compared to outside the parks, and is pretty often fairly poor in quality. The restaurants in the park are mainly very nice but not cheap.

Other Useful Disney/Florida Websites


www.mousesavers.com – THE website to save money. This site lists special offers, codes for discount car hire, cheaper hotels etc. I’ve saved £1000s with discounts from this site (for instance, we had 14 nights at a Disney Hotel for $50 per night rather than the normal $109 per night).

www.disneydollarless.com – Another good site for cheapskates like me!

www.wdwig.com – An unofficial, honest guide to Disneyworld.

www.wdwinfo.com – Another unofficial guide.


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Comments on this review

  • ajfoster published 22/10/2004
    ...Denny's? IHOP? Waffle House? You failed to mention that these are alse the nadir of the American restaurant market. For better quality food, I'd recommend Red Lobster, Outback, Olive Garden or Elephant Bar, although there are some who would criticize them for being chain restaurants. However, they do give generous portions and in the USA you can ask for a doggie bag to take your leftovers with you. (This may be a moot point if you don't have a fridge in your hotel room.) (I never understood why this concept is considered so embarrassing in the UK.) You might also want to reconsider modifying the title of your review to reflect its emphasis of doing Orlando on a budget. You provide very little detail about visiting the attractions themselves and it would give your readers a better idea of what to expect in your advice. --Adrienne
  • Delicate_Orchid published 22/10/2004
    Some really good tips from your personal experience here. Desiree x
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Product Information : Orlando

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