I’m going to Florida!! That’s something I’ll never get bored of saying – But I must admit I am so overwhelmed by the amount of planning that comes with this type of holiday, I love organising and list making – but planning an itinerary for Disney World and Universal Studios is super stressful!
For anyone that’s thinking about going to Florida – YOU SHOULD! Don’t even think about it – if you can afford it then you should experience the magic of Disney. I’ve been twice as a kid but never have I been in control of the day-to-day planning, so im pretty nervous about missing something or ruining the whole holiday by cocking up the reservations.
I wanted to share my planning process for this holiday as I’ve been searching the internet for help and advice and I’m sure that’s what most people end up doing after staring at a blank excel spreadsheet for a few hours wondering where the hell to start, so if I can help people’s planning process run smoother – then that’s just swell! Now, get yourself a coffee because this is going to be a long one.
I’ll start with the initial booking of the holiday, I’m going with my partner Rhys and we decided to book a package holiday through Virgin Holidays after going into Thompson Travel agents and enquiring with Ocean Florida – who both are excellent options so long as the price is right – but surprisingly Virgin was over £1000.00 cheaper than all the other places we checked and we had a free quick serve Disney dining plan and a free $200 gift card to spend in Disney – so it was a no brainer! We booked there and then! I’ve only ever had good experiences with Virgin so was excited to be flying with them again.
We booked 3 weeks staying in Port Orleans French Quarter which is a Disney hotel, and we’re travelling from Gatwick airport. We are traveling up the night before and staying in BLOC Hotel, I’m terrified about leaving my little pup for so long but I know it’s a holiday of a life time and she’ll be well taken care of with my parents. Although our flight isn’t until 2pm – I am extremely nervous about our travel day so being there the night before will (hopefully) allow me to be a bit more relaxed as we can go through “Twilight Check in” the night before our flight meaning we don’t have to lug all our cases around with us on the day. That’s my first tip! Book the airport hotel for the night before and take advantage of the twilight check in.
We have hired a car for part of the holiday and we have upgraded our dining plan – because there’s so much to see and so many amazing Disney restaurants to eat at, we decided this would benefit us more than the free Quick Serve Dining Plan the came with the holiday package. Tip number two – research the best time to book your holiday because Disney do great offers that can save you a lot of money, If you’re looking for a more affordable option then staying on International Drive and buying park tickets is another great choice you can make, this way you will not have the option of a dining plan and you would have to buy a magic band if you wanted too (You don’t need one unless your staying on property) – the magic band is basically a watch strap looking bracelet that’s waterproof and it counts as your room key, you can purchase Disney merchandise through it and have your purchases delivered to your hotel room, meaning you don’t have to carry your purchases around the parks all day, and it recognises your fast pass selections and dining reservations. You get to choose a colour and can personalise it. I’ve chosen yellow and Rhys opted for red we just got our names added, we were going to be that cheesy couple and get our nick names added as they are both Disney related but decided it was too mushy in the end. In case your curious he calls me Pidge (From Lady and the Tramp) and I always refer to him as my Beast – He’s a giant and has a hairy face like The Beast!
Next for us was to buy our Universal Studios tickets – we booked these through FloridaTix they are a reputable company that offer really competitive prices and they give you the option to put a deposit down and pay the balance off in instalments. They deliver real tickets rather than email confirmations and you get lots of free discount vouchers for the shopping malls too.
The final thing I really wanted to make sure we had booked was the Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights – me and Rhys are serious horror fans we got together at Halloween and our first date was the cinema to watch ‘Sinister’ so we decided to get the frequent fear ticket that means we can attend the event more than once. My parents kindly bought the tickets as a gift for Rhys’ 30th Birthday. We ordered the tickets from Attraction Tickets Direct again they are a highly recommended site that provide real tickets delivered before your holiday and they too offer instalment payments and provide you with free coupons.
Tip three is to make a specific list of things you 100% want to do, plan and pay for as much as you can before you go. That way you’re not splurging so much while your away and you know your going to achieve the most important things to you on your holiday. I would say write everything down, create a spreadsheet, make checklists. Its fun to see your holiday develop into a solid plan. At the same time something I’m trying to remember is that plans can change, I’m expecting at some point we will just want to chill out by the pool or sleep in one morning, but that’s ok too!
One of the most exciting and useful tools for planning – which leads me onto my fourth tip – is to utilise the ‘My Disney Experience’ site, you can download the app for free too. This is where your holiday really comes to life! You can book fast passes on here, make dining reservations, check parade/show times, search for wait times and check on park opening hours. It’s so easy to use and with the option of the app you will find its perfect for helping while you’re in the parks.
Most recently we have paid and reserved our seats on the plane – That’s tip number five! You’ve got a long flight ahead of you – so you want to be sat with someone your comfortable with.
My Final tip would be to join Facebook groups, any questions I can’t find the answer to online I can alway count on the guys over on Orlando fun in the sun and unlike some of the Orlando groups Facebook I find the members of this group so so positive and helpful, I NEVER feel silly for asking a question and there is lot of Orlando veterans that can offer advice on anything from travel advice down to the best places to eat while your out there.
What are your planning tips for a Florida holiday? Leave them in the comments so they can help me over the next few months!