Ok, So seems there’s so much interest surrounding this one and before I even started this I loved nothing more than a lil messenger icon popping up to somebody asking me about Florida.. Best way to book, flights, hotel, park tickets, shopping.. and of course the infamous.. Melting Pot, Oh holy just mentioning it makes my mouth water, see im already off with the food!
So lets tuck in…
When is the best time to go?
One answer to that question. October.
The weather is perfect, in the high 20 degs, the parks aren’t that busy (minus the weekend) so you don’t spend the best part of your day queuing for the rides. And to be fair we travelled Oct 19th to Nov 3rd 2016, mid term break and we didn’t pay an arm and a leg for it. We were there for Halloween this time round, and if you have little ones, this is the business, Trick or Treating round the parks and a great atmosphere about the Drive and in the hotels, it really is all about the kiddos!
The toss up between booking yourself or using a Travel Agent?
- In the 3 times we’ve visited, 1st was with an agency, 2nd we done it all ourselves, 3rd was an agency (I’m not sure about the naming places, I don’t want a law suit so we wont mention for now).. Can not fault either agency but I have to say, Im all for booking myself!
- Heres the gig, chances are when you get it cheaper through an agency it’s because you have a connecting flight rather than flying direct, sign up to Aer Lingus there and you get their sale emails, North America flights come in for the usual €249 one way, your laughing, all the way ! I can honestly say nothing beats a direct flight and I would never do a stop over with the youngfella again, that is just me personally, however if the stop over flight brings your price down, well to hell with it, book that baby up, your going to Florida (Tour America sale is on now, ring for a quote, dont be shy)
- Now remember international flights allow you a 23kg bag (Heads up for the shopping), now not all airlines allow a full bag for infants so thats worth checking when you book if your travelling with one.
Where to stay?
- This is simple, the Avanti Resort on International Drive. It’s a newly refurbished resort, rooms are spankers, none of this cleaner in twice a week, everyday, EVERYDAY, fresh bedding, towels, topping up your coffee machine, water, toiletries the whole shabang! The staff is so friendly and helpful. Its reception is a Starbucks, I know!!! An excellent range in the poolside snack bar and shop, can be a bit pricey, but not everything so its do-able.
- You will pay resort fees, $12 per night, this will NOT be included in any booking so keep that in mind, but it covers Wi-fi of an excellent signal, pool towels.. did I mention they’re heated, yes warm towels, i-ride passes and best of all a free Bus services to ALL the parks, they’re worth every dollar.
- It is located smack bang in the middle of it all, Millers Ale House (excellent food, reasonable prices) is up to your left, followed by the Pointe Orlando Shopping Centre which also boasts plenty of food options, I know food again.. And to the right is the i-drive 360, here you have the Big Wheel, Shake Shack, Coca Cola Experience, Sugar Factory, The Yardhouse, Dunkin Donuts, Five Guys across the road, The Longhorn a delicious steakhouse up the road.. and if you have those type of kids that go on the chicken nugget happy meal diet when they’re away that’s up on the next corner too!
- Most people go with the Rosen, mainly the International.. Right now for the 26th of Oct to the 2nd of Nov the Avanti is €470 for the week, the Rosen is €571.. Theres a bargain right there. Dont hate me right now though but it would be a serious shame to go for anything less than 10 nights.
- Now to be fair anywhere along International Drive is ideal. Disney bare in mind is a good 15/20 minute drive out and it is expensive $$$ to both stay in and spend in. One of things I love about Florida is that I don’t find food and drink that expensive even in the parks (we will cover that further down) but Disney itself most defo cuts into the dolla bills
- My recommendations of accomadation are The Avanti Resort (obvs), The Rosen Inn International, The Rosen Pointe Orlando. These are perfectly situated at all the necessary spots cause the I-Drive is loooonnnggg! On our last blow out pre baby binge here, we booked the Hyatt Regency, it was not purse friendly, although it was stunning, but in me eyes 3 visits later nothing beats the Avanti.
Parks & Park Tickets..
- So the bonus to the Package Holidays is that they will give you a 3 park ticket with your booking, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and the brand spanking new Water Park Volcano Bay (this is replacing Wet n Wild and bare in mind, Wet n wild is now closed and Volcano Bay isn’t due to open til June)
- However we added on parks with our package last time as we got the 5 bonus park ticket when we booked ourselves last time, this adds in Seaworld, Aquatica, and Busch Gardens. Now with both the agency and Attractiontickets.ie you will get the kids eat free pass, this is NOT just for the parks, and to be honest almost every place on I-Drive accept these, including Millers!
- Now being there for Halloween, and no I didn’t have the bottle to do it, but the husband did it with the boys, Halloween Horror Nights!!! This isn’t included on the tickets, now I’m almost sure you can add it on, but just incase bare in mind this is around $100 per person to pay at the door, but if unlike me you have a set of balls, get down to it.
- Speaking of paying at the door, we wanted the youngfella to see his oul mate Mickey Mouse, so we all paid on the day to go into Disney Magic Kingdom, again not cheap, it $240 for the 3 of us for park entry but if you have kids and you can spare it, either price a day ticket before you go, it could be cheaper, or leave it be. Trust me the other parks are more than enough to keep your kids talking for years.
- The other option is to just get the Disney 14 Day Ultimate. This has Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, the last 2 are their water parks, there are great offers on attraction tickets at the minute for this with free Cirque Du Soleil and a Disney Fast Pass so you can skip the queue right to the top (This was something we got in Islands of Adventure as it was busy the day we were there and it was so worth it) Prices for Disney 14 are €340 per child, €364 per adult, this is a really good deal. On top of this you can do meet and greets, dine with the characters all available as add on’s.
- I don’t find the parks expensive, they dont rip you off for food or snacks (Disney being the exception) most parks you buy your large cup ranging 10-12$ and you have free refills for the day, any drinks at all, water, flavoured water, fizzys (no alcohol obvs but you can still chill with a bud or a coors as they sell them too) and Seaworld ya can pay a $2 dollar supplement and get a slushie, the machines are placed all over the parks to refill from.
- So speaking of ticket prices, the 5 park bonus, from attraction tickets because I love how you get the kids eat free, 10% off at Macys, and a few other discount cards thrown in… Kids under 3 are free, 3-9yrs are €375 and an adult 9+ is €389. It does push the price up and this is also where you can save doing a package.
- I know Im probably blabbering on here now about parks, but I have to add in, we done Dine with Sahmu in Seaworld (please dont go all animal cruelty on me) but it was fantastic, the whales are right there with you eating, and food was actually good, it was a buffet of hot and cold and I couldn’t really fault it. We paid for this on the day when we got to Seaworld and it was $48 looking at attraction there its €19 per child and €29 per adult so it would be up to yourself if you would be interested.
Getting around, up and down…
- Car Hire, this was something we stupidly only done on our most recent visit, why we didn’t do it all along was very foolish of us, as good as the public transport and shuttles are, esp with the pram and packed food (and shopping) it was so handy to have the boot, the freedom to come and go and not be on a bus timetable, plus Busch Garden is over an hour away and there was no way i was putting a 10mth old through that on a bus. Also most park passes will have free parking for the day too, just make sure you snap where you left that car, these car parks are BIG, and Im bad enough playing hide and go seek at home with the car parks as it is. The cars aren’t any oul bangers and you can rent online in advance for as little as €219 a week and get yourselves around in comfort.
- The i-ride, think of the City Imp that stopped outside Clerys for all those years but with the face front of Henry from Thomas the Tank Engine and that’s the i-ride, it’s basically a bus that services International Drive all day til 11pm, and it can take you anywhere on the drive, to the Outlets either end of the drive (yes theres two), and it even goes to Seaworld, where you can also jump the connecting shuttle to Aquatica. Its $1.50 a pop, but most hotels give you complimentary passes for the duration of your stay, they’re sound like that.
- The bus routes all mainly run the drive too, they can take you to the Florida and Millenia Mall, you really are spoilt for shopping choice and while I found the outlets good no matter what the exchange rate, the malls can seem the same as home, but sure your on holidays and you have an extra few bob in your pocket anyway, ring in them tills girls and boys!
- If you dont want to use the bus, the hotels are more than obliging to call you a car so none of this going out to pull a taxi job, they are so friendly and all their cars are immaculate.
Food Glorious Food
- So as we’ve covered most eatery’s, all mentioned above, I can not write about Florida and leave out my ultimate go to grub when I’m there, those that know me, know whats coming next… Yes, THE MELTING POT…
- So good, its ranked no.9 of 2,779 places to eat on Tripadvisor so I’m not making it up. This is like nothing, and I mean nothing, like we have at home. This is Fondue in all its greatness. Fondue; Melt that baby up and get dippin.. It would be wrong of me to tell you this is anything less than an experience. Cheese Fondue, followed up with a Salad, onto a mains, finished with a Chocolate Foudue , Im weak just writing this section! DO NOT knock it till you’ve dipped your Granny Smith into your cheese fiesta, cooked your own filet mignon in the seasoned court bouillon or dipped a giant strawberry or marshmallow into your melted milk chocolate, and wash it all down with a Strawberry Basil Vodka Lemondae. This has to be seen to be believed so Ive attached pics in this blogs Gallery!
- I can not write this section without leaving out the decor, atmosphere and most important standard of service. Its the most modern chic resturant around, newly renovated and extended boasting not only a family fun photo booth for all to enjoy but they thought of everything right down to USB ports under your table for your convenience, I know, where would you get it, snap the food pics right up!
- I could go on and on here but please don’t ever come to me when you’ve had your holiday and tell me you didn’t get to eat here. Its a short taxi ride (a whole $7) from the Avanti, as it sits on West Sand Lake. Just please promise me you’ll go!!!
- I was so busy running round parks and eating all the food I almost forgot this part!!! But there are options a plenty! Almost everywhere is child friendly, and to be honest you do that much during the day you don’t even make it out every night, your just too tired from having a ball altogether.
- There is entertainment in abundance for the kiddos at night in Disney Springs, jump on the bus to go down and just jump a taxi back home every few nights if that suited you. Disney Springs (Formally downtown Disney) is Disney at Night.. Bars, Shops, Resturants, but again bare in mind, it aint cheap!
- The same idea goes down at Universal City Walk , this is located at the cross entrance to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, its Bars, Resturants, Shops open till late for night time entertainment. This boasts the Hard Rock Cafe, Bubba Gump Shrimp, Starbucks, again, and plenty of other food options for dinner with bars a plenty to wash it down.
- International Drive isnt short of anywhere to go at night either, hotels provide light entrrtainment and allow you in the pool right up to 11pm, and as mentioned before Millers, Bahama Breeze and not too many irish bars can occupy you with live music, karaoke and entertainment. Chances are any type of nightlife your looking for can be found, even for young couples who want to have rip round a dancefloor on a few cocktails.
After all these topics covered, yes it was a long one, lets round up Florida.. it is, thee most Family friendly holiday I have ever had, you are very unlikely to ever see a Bar Brawl, Drunken messes or any craziness. The streets are pristine, the grass in green, the air is clean, squirrels run round your feet walking down the road. Food, Drink and Entertainment to beat the band. Us Irish love an oul pound shop and theres $1.99 gift shops in abundance, you know to bring home the fridge magnets, cause if your irish and went away and you didnt bring home a fridge magent, were ya even away??!! On top of all that, this is one place you are never bored. My advice is to break up your days, you have unlimited access in an out as much as you like to the parks so we try do Park, Pool, Shopping day, all in that order. I feel it kind of gives you the best of everything and you dont run yourself ragged doing a park everyday.
Agency – Most offers range from roughly 5/600€ per person (Thats Sale price) for a week with a 3 park Ticket, more than likely the Rosen International or Pointe Orlando and 1 stop over with either British Airways, Virgin, American or United Airlines.
D.I.Y. As I wrote this I checked Flights direct, Stay in the Avanti, and the 5 park ticket and 2 week car hire for 2 adults and 1 infant, it came in at the €3000, bare in mind this is with extra parks, direct flight and a 2 week stay.
Spending money.. this is down to the individual however I can feedback as going twice in a couple and once with the baby, for a 2 week stay, drinking, eating and a LOT of shopping I had in around $3500 give or take a bit here and there and for me it was more than enough, out straight if you have less you can still have a grand holiday money-stress free, and if you had more, Im sure you can find a way to spend it. Its worth every Saturday night you stayed in and saved and every dress you refused to buy, even if River emailed you offering 25% off it.
Weighing up Florida against a Spain holiday for instance, yes you can go flights and accommodation for the same price, but it is the park tickets that really push it up. but I wont believe you if you go and tell me you didn’t have a ball.
I still have a bucket list for the place, including finally getting to Clearwater Beach, and doing a day trip to Miami to name a few.
Its much of a muchness however you decide to book, deals can be had.
Dont be shy if you have any tips or deals etc, post in the comments below, discuss on Facebook, we’re all here to share 🙂
This was a long one I know, but it was in demand so I had to get it done for you all,
I hope you come out of this booking the holiday of a lifetime 🙂