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First Time Trip to Disney Florida Advice
Get the most from your First Trip to Disney
Have you booked or are you planning your first trip to Florida? Are you concerned about what will happen, are you a nervous traveller and want to find out more?
This page contains some of the questions that I am asked frequently and the advice I typically give people.
Whatever your reasons for looking and whether this is your first trip or not I am sure you will find loads of useful information on this page.
Take note of these tips and you will be looking forward to booking your next trip as soon as you arrive home.
Note that whilst most of the advice is applicable to everybody, some of these answers are more applicable to people traveling from the UK into Orlando International Airport.
Also these are only my opinion and other people may have different ideas, the best bet is to go prepared and you will enjoy your holiday even more.
1: I have bought 14 day Disney ultimate tickets, but what.......?
1. I have bought 14 day ultimate tickets, but what do you suggest we do the first or last day to cover the one day not included?
My Answer to Question 1:
When you land in Orlando (mid afternoon?) it will take a good hour to hour and a half to get out of the airport. You then have to drive from the airport to the hotel, this will probably take half an hour to an hour depending on traffic, your route and if you get lost (!). So by the time you arrive at your room you won't feel like going to any of the parks. We have taken the bus to Downtown Disney on our first evening, and ended up in bed about 10:00pm. Your pass will then work from the first day you use it, which will be your second day and work all the way through to the last day, your 15th. In our experience we have never bothered with the parks on the last day, although last trip we did use them to go to Disney Quest in Downtown Disney for a couple of hours..
Question 2: Shopping
2. Which shopping malls are the best?
My Answer to Question 2:
Depends what you want. Florida Mall is one of the biggest and you could spend a full day there. There is also a bar called Ruby Tuesday which does good food at good prices (about $38 for 4 including drinks etc). There are also a number of Designer outlets for cheap jeans etc. The best for this is Orlando Premium Outlet at 8200 Vineland Ave, Orlando, FL, USA towards the bottom of International Drive south of Sea World. Don’t waste a whole day shopping, you are better going to a park early on then spend the late afternoon and evening shopping. Florida Mall is open till 9.00pm and the outlets tend to be open till 11:00pm.
Question 3: Guide Books?
Question 3: Is it worth getting a guide book and what would you recommend?
My Answer to Question 3:
This is something you have to decide for yourself. Are you happy to wander around aimlessly wasting valuable time thinking what to do next? Or do you want to be prepared, know what you want to do, where you can see the best attractions and so on and so on.... The cost of a good guide is minimal compared to the cost of your vacation and you will recoup the cost through extra enjoyment and less stress whilst on holiday. The following all come recommended.
UK Buyers click the UK Buyers Link to save money on postage
Question 4: Hairdryers and straighteners. How do YOU survive?
Question: I keep reading about dual voltage hairdryers and people buying them at Walmart because they can't survive without them or their straighteners. How do YOU survive?
My Answer to Question 4:
We have never taken a hairdryer or straightener, there should be one in the room, if not you can borrow one from reception. We have taken a hot brush which works fine on USA electric. Mobile phone chargers, iPad chargers etc all work fine.
Question 5: Transport to the shows like the Dixie Stampede?
Question 5: Are there any options for transport to the shows like the Dixie Stampede (if we want a drink?)
My Answer to Question 5:
This depends on where you are staying and who you are travelling with. We have used the Virgin services for this, ie buy the show tickets from them and use the free minibus. Depending on how many people are going, you may find that the bus goes around loads of hotels, a bit of a pain. You can drive there, but it means you can't drink if you are driving. Alternatively you can use a taxi from the hotel lobby and then book one for the return journey. Speak to your hotel guest services they may have a shuttle that you can use to get around.
Question 6: Disney Drive in Movie Restaurant?
Question 6: We have heard about a restaurant with cars you sit in or somewhere else similar, that other people have recommended, do you know what it is?
My answer to Question 6:
This is the Sci-Fi Diner at MGM Studios. You need to book a table, before you leave UK if you can. Call Disney dining on 001 407 939 3463. You may not get a table if you wait till you get there to try to book.
Question 7: Tolls from Airport to WDW?
Question 7: I gather the tolls between the airport and WDW are one dollar. Is this right?
My answer to Question 7:
Wrong. Most tolls are $0.75. Between the airport and I4 there only 2 tolls, they will give change, just get in the right lane.
Need a Roadmap?
You will not get a road map at the airport when you collect your hire car. It is worth getting one before you go if you are concerned about following the directions provided by your travel company. Have a look at these, they are all reasonable priced and up to date.
Question 8: Outside Disney
Question 8: What if I want to see more of Florida then just Disney?
My Answer to Question 8:
There is a lot more to Florida than just Disney. You can, if you really want to, just spend all your time in Disney. Do this and you will miss out on a whole load of great stuff. You may want to stay in the Orlando Area or you may want to go further afield. These guides have loads of great information and come recommended. Get one to read before you go and then read it again on the plane on your way there.
Question 9: Where to eat in Downtown Disney?
Question 9: Can you recommend somewhere in downtown Disney for a nice meal - will you list a couple of options so I can work my way through them?
My Answer to Question 9:
Rainforest cafe is the most popular, they do not take advance bookings, only walk-ins, and the wait is usually 1 - 2 hours, depending on time of day. If you want to go there, sign up for a table then go for a walk around the market place. There is also Planet Hollywood, you can book in advance, or walk in, never been impressed with Planet Hollywood. There are some other places, depends on your taste from cuban to crab snacks, sandwiches etc and even MacDonalds!!. We don't often eat in Downtown Disney, they are all quite pricey.
Question 10: What is the best way to take money with you?
Question 10: What do you find is the best way to pay for things (inside WDW and outside) - planning on taking dollars, travellers cheques and credit card, but don't know what sort of percentage of each I am likely to use.
My Answer to Question 10:
We have used all three, You can use Travellers Cheques like cash, so I tend to pay for more expensive purchases like meals with Travellers Cheques and use the change for incidental purchases, drinks, ice cream etc. You can arrange to use your disney room key to charge to your room throughout Disney, but it is very easy to lose track of what you spend. Ask for any purchases within Disney to be sent back to your hotel, arrives the following day, and all you have to do is pick up from the gift shop, a lot easier than carrying around all day!!
I use my mastercard for some things, especially shopping, you will often be asked for photo ID for either Travellers cheques or Cards, I just have my UK driving licence with me. On the subject of Driving Licence the car hire company may want to see the green paper part as well as the photo card so be sure to take it with you.
Question 11: Where to eat?
Question 11: Can you name a few restaurants inside and outside WDW which you recommend?
My Answer to Question 11:
Where do you start?
Inside Disney, take your pick, but getting tables can be difficult. Prices vary from not too bad, to quite expensive.
Chef Mickeys at the Contempory Resort is great for Breakfast.
Le Cellier at Canada, Epcot is good, book usually booked up 6 months ahead.
The restaurant at Italy, Epcot is also very good, more likely to get a booking.
The Chinese fast food (China, Epcot) is good for a midday snack and a bit different.
Liberty Tree Taven at Magic Kingdom is good but set menu, so may not be your liking. (no child option.)
Garden Grill (The Land, Epcot) is the same with a very similar set menu.
Prime Time Diner (MGM Studios) has been good in the past, but we were very disappointed last time we went.
Rain Forest Cafe (Animal Kingdom) same as everywhere.
Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom), great for breakfast, never been for dinner. Do not mistake this with the castle, which is known as the Royal Kitchen (disappointing).
Rose & Crown Pub (UK Epcot) for the American interpretation of UK food.
You can eat in any of the restaurants in any of the Disney Resorts just take your pick.
Outside Disney: Never booked, always just walked in. Again it is really a case of what do you want.
Bahama Breeze - International Drive & Crossroads - very good Caribbean food
Uno Chicago Bar - Reasonable pricing typical American menu
Universal - Hard Rock CafÃ©. Good nice food. Cheaper than Disney
Universal - NBA city - basketball theme
Universal - NASCAR Sports Grill.
Universal - Pastamore - Good Italian food,
Sea World - Hawian Luau night - quite good.
- Underwater Shark grill - ok
Question 12: Any tips for flying with Virgin Atlantic?
Question 12: What do I need to know about flying with Virgin Atlantic? This question also applies to many other tour operators but most of my experience is with Virgin Atlantic.
My Answer to Question 12:
Weigh your cases. Limit is 23kg per case. More important coming home after all that shopping. Take a case scale available from good department stores cheaply, make sure that it will read up to 23kg.
No liquids in your hand luggage etc.
Plane food is just about ok, you have to pre-book child and vegetarian meals. You can do this over the phone or on their website.
Free drinks, go ask if you want more than they bring round.
The entertainment may not come on automatically, watch other peoples screens, you sometime have to press the video button, keep it pressed for about 5 seconds, for it to come on.
Question 13: What about arriving?
Question 13: When we get to Orlando International what can we expect?
My Answer to Question 13:
Arriving at Orlando - Immigration is either quick or painfully slow, fill in the forms on the airplane correctly or you will have to do it all again. If you make a mistake start again. Once through immigration baggage collection is just behind the immigration desks, get your bags, and then go through customs. Once through customs you then have to put your bags on another conveyor and take the shuttle to the main terminal. When you get to the main terminal follow signs to baggage collection B and find the right carosel. Collect your bags again! This is usually the slowest part. Once you have your bags you then have to go get the car. This is on the bottom floor so take the lift down. You will then see all the car rental desks, ignore all these and look for the Virgin desk on its own, this is on the same side of the building as the lifts, opposite all the regular rental desks. Get your car paperwork, usually quite quick, only upgrade if you really want to. Then proceed out of the door to the garage where you will get your car brought to you by a valet. He will expect a tip, I normally give him $1 folded. Then find your way out of the airport. You won't be given a decent map, none exist. Try to follow the directions given to you by Virgin, at the car hire desk. Don't panic, it is not too bad.
Question 14: Kids Advice?
Question 14: How do I keep the kids happy?
My Answer to Question 14:
Happy kids means Happy parents. Keeping the children busy and interested can be a test for even the best most patient parents especially when they have been walking around the parks all day. The main thing is to keep them occupied. It all starts at the airport when you have wait for your flight. Here are some books that might help.
Question 15: Welcome Meeting?
Question 15: Is it worth going to the welcome meeting and are there any other operator services we should know about?
My Answer to question 15:
On your first trip go to the welcome meeting if you want to, we never bother now. If you don't go to the welcome meeting you won't have vouchers for valet checkin when you come home, but just use it anyway. Valet check in allows you to check in to the return flight at Cirque du Soleil in Downtown Disney, get your boarding passes and then spend the rest of the day doing something instead of queuing at the airport. We have used this without the vouchers, all they did was give the voucher there and then!
Do you need some more information? Have I missed something out? Do you just want to let others know what you think? This is your opportunity to add your comments.