Recently on this stationery blog I talked about Art Deco and 1920’s Hollywood style inspiration at Disney’s Hollywood studios park in Florida.  Since then I have been exchanging with emails with some of my clients who are off on Orlando Honeymoons or Familymoons as one put it to Florida and to see Disney World and the other theme parks out there.  We’ve actually been swapping tips and I thought it might be useful for anyone else who stumbles onto my blog and is off their on a honeymoon or otherwise to write them down in a coherent fashion (somewhat).

This article has also got pretty long so click the text with arrows by it to read each section.  Should be back to the normal mix of wedding stationery and general wedding advice in the next post.  But you can visit Artemis Stationery any time to see our bespoke wedding stationery collections or look through this wedding invitations and stationery blog.

Orlando Honeymoons – Logistics

Sat nav, push chairs (strollers), sim cards & more
Take a push chair/stroller if you can (if you need one) as they cost $15 a day to hire at Disney I think.  If you don’t use a stroller park or area when you park it they tend to move strollers to the nearest one for that attraction.  I saw a few people panic from that when they’d left one in an entrance.  The stroller parks are manned and the big one’s they tend to move the strollers from the entrance side to the exit side or in others condense them.  So don’t panic if it’s not where you left it in the stroller park, having something distinctive on it can be helpful.

Most of the rides in Universal and Disney have a child swap feature in some it’s in area where you both queue up normally and then one person waits with anyone too small or reluctant to ride and then they swap.  In Disney they have fast passes which are free and mostly skips the queues and I think one person goes to the queue and just has to ask for a child swap ticket.

If you’re driving I really recommend a sat nav or other device you can use for that purpose.  Even have it programmed before you get to your car for the 1st time.  As most car pick ups are in the airport so there’s nowhere gentle to break yourselves in and get used to it before you’re in the madness of the roads around an international airport.  Although it’s just making sure you find the right lane a few times and then you’re on a toll road for a bit (for which you need money and our exit was unmanned and needed 75c in coins).  But the car pick ups at the airport are a massive multistorey so have a map handy or keep your eyes peeled for signs.  Can be a wee bit nervy till got that signal through on the Sat Nav

Definitely get a good guide book – I bought Orlando Brit tips or something similarly named and saved more than the cost of the book in coupons at a discount mall.  We did find shopping in Florida wasn’t as cheap as expected, the only big savings were at the outlet malls and even then some shops you had to think carefully whether they were actually cheap.  Eg some things were just 10-20% off their rrp.  But I did get some bargain running shoes and my sister in law got a cheap Guess hand bag.

If you get paper tickets for Disney when you get there you can exchange the tickets for credit card style ones which are better in many ways.  In Magic Kingdom we used City Hall on Main Street but there’s bound to be an equivalent at the other parks.  Though new wrist bands to replace tickets are meant to be rolled at some point 2013.

You can get 1 off or pay as you go US sim cards sent to the UK, that would of been great as the phone shops selling them are really hard to find but you probably want to at least be able to get data cheaply.  Like for price comparisons with Amazon in shops – Disney has a app for queue times and gives free Wifi but that often gets over loaded so handy to have 3 or 4g so you can get your ride time information through your phone.  I’ve seen that some US companies will ship pay as you go sim cards to the UK, this is really worth doing.  Especially as Disney has an app which details ride queue times.

Orlando Honeymoons – Theme parks

From the Disney parks to Universal and Seaworld
There are often common ways that people act.  Apparently most Americans get there Saturday which makes Sunday and Mondays peak days at Magic Kingdom as they want to do that park first.  Research this in guide books or online.

Similarly once in the theme parks there are common ways of acting.  Animal Kingdom is the perfect demonstration of this.  When you get there in the morning the bulk of people head to Africa to ride the safari.  There’s good reason for this as the animals are more active in the cooler parts of the day.  Then queues tend to build in Asia at the parks two biggest rides Kali river rapids and Expedition Everest.  If you head in the opposite direction Dinoland USA is really quiet.  You can do all the rides really quickly in the morning where they’ll have queues of half in an hour in the afternoon.  You should be able to get to Asia before it gets too busy.

If you’re not staying at Universal or a Disney resort be aware that these parks give early access to their guests.  Though Disney’s rotates between parks (called Extra Magic Hours) and can also give extra time to Disney guests at the end of the day.

In Disney Fastpasses are great, they let you skip most of the queue, are free and can normally be picked up near the entrance to the rides using your admission tickets. They can run out though.  Knowing which rides this can happen on can be important as sometimes however amazing a ride is who really wants to queue 2 hours if you can help it.  The rides I observed which sold out were Soarin in Epcot – Test Track and Space are the next most popular.  Midway Madness and Rock’n Roller Coaster in Disney Hollywood Studios.  Expedition Everest and the Kilimanjaro Safaris.  Magic Kingdom Peter Pan’s flight, Winnie the Pooh and Voyage of the Little Mermaid.

We used to think of the end of the days as magic hours.  Not always true but many rides which had massive queues in the day would be down to minutes.  We found rides like Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain in Magic Kingdom fell into this and Spiderman and the Hulk in Islands of Adventure.  Though in Hollywood Studios Rockin Rollercoaster and Midway Madness seemed to be busy till the end on busy days.  I’m not sure of Harry Potter.

Sometimes the queue is the star though others are amazingly boring.  Islands of Adventure is a great illustration of this.  In Poseidon you queue in a concrete tunnel, the building may be well done but as a queuing experience it’s terrible.  Where as at Harry Potter the Forbidden Journey you queue through Hogwarts and see all the moving paintings, the classrooms, it’s amazing.  While the Dumbo ride in Magic Kingdom you queue in playground or more parents sit in the middle and get called by a pager while your children have a lot of fun.

Single riders can be great way to get on a ride quickly but as more people know about them you will find more and more groups doing it so the time savings aren’t always that great.  Also at the big Harry Potter ride you will miss most of Hogwarts if you do this and you really need to see it at least once.

You need spare time to as you should allow for weather stopping play or returning to a park.  But you shouldn’t think of rain as ending the day.  Get a poncho and keep going.  The queues can get much shorter, although when it really gets heavy you may just want to shelter for that spell.  But in the warmer months everything will dry out pretty quick once it stops.  Outdoors roller-coasters will shut down while lightning is in the area.

Water parks may make an easy first day.  Just don’t forget the sun block.  Seaworld is the common first day stop for Brits.  There is lots of sitting with the shows so makes an easy day after spending the previous day travelling.  Though there are numerous thrill rides there.  Staff aren’t as friendly as Disney on average but children will love the dolphins and other animals there.  It has a strong conservation theme.  Quite easy to get lost in though. Big parks like the two Universal parks or Magic Kingdom or Epcot can be quite tiring so might be best avoided on your 1st day especially if you only have one day to do them in.

My two year old neice was big enough to go on some surprising rides.  Goofy’s roller-coaster in Magic King’s Story Book Circus being one of them though she is a bit ahead of her growth curve.

With the night time shows Magic Kingdom fireworks are best from the front of the castle/main street as the fireworks are set around the castle.  Though once you’ve seen Tinkerbells flight directly behind is almost as good and much quieter and much easier to get to a ride from once the fireworks are over.  At Epcot it’s from the middle of their lake and for the most part if you have a good view of the barges in the lake before it starts you should have a good view of the show.  They’re probably only put in the shade by Olympic scale fireworks.  My niece loved the electrical light parade to.  Hollywood Studios late night show is in a custom built seated arena.

I really recommend you try the interactive games in the Disney parks which are played across the theme parks.  In Magic Kingdom there is Sorcerers of the Kingdom which has you helping Merlin and casting spells at the Disney villians.  There is also a Pirate adventure in adventure land.  In Epcot you get to help agent P in the World showcase (I believe each land has a different adventure in each country).  If you don’t know who agent P is you will once you get there and green duckbill platypus + trilby hats everywhere.  Animal Kingdom lets you collect badges as a Wilderness Explorer (from Up).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtzIqluyvdghttps://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/magic-kingdom/attractions/sorcerers/ or https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot/attractions/agent-p-world-showcase-adventure/

The character signings in the parks tend to have big queues, they’re attractions in themselves.  My 2year old niece took a few tries to get warmed up to the characters.  The first few times she was a little scared!  Which I can’t blame her for is like the most massive soft toys she’s ever seen and they move.  Must be quite confusing!  She got over it but needed to go with a parent and they made her pass the autograph pen so she had a job.

Keep a look out for the badges they give to guests.  Not sure if there is a married one but saw 1st visit one’s, they’re free and normally near the front of the parks.  Magic Kingdom has they at the Town hall on the left as you walk in.  We did see newly marrieds in hats though!

Definitely plan!  Unless the parks are dead quiet most of them are more like 2 days to do completely especially with small children.

The heat can be a big challenge and quite fatiguing if in it all day.  Make sure you drink constantly and before you feel like you need to drink.  Getting enough salt is also really important as you’ll be sweating out much more than normal.  Many rides and shows are inside and air conditioned and doing these in the hot parts of the day can help keep everyone fresh.  If you’re feeling fatigued take it easy but look for somewhere inside where you can sit down, rehydrate and maybe have some fries with salt.   Often the best time in a park is in the evening once the queues start shrinking so look after yourself so you can be there then.  Even if that means going home and spending some time by the pool.

Universal has City Walk in between it’s two parks.  Made of shops, bars and restaurants it can be worth a visit in its own right (though you will pay parking as if you’re going to the parks).  One cunning plan for a long days at the park is to use the cinemas there as a break in the hottest part of the day before returning late afternoon.

 

Orlando Honeymoons – Food

General advice as well as food to look out for inside and outside of the parks
Some food at Disney seemingly has a cult following.  Aloha Isle (Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom) will have queues even at night time which is something for an icecream kiosk.  It sells pineapple ice cream floats.  They’re very refreshing though.  Turkey legs are the other item I noticed that had a T-shirt.  My whole group loved Disney’s fries but don’t confuse them with chips which are crisps which some kiosks have as a side rather than fries.  They were the best fries I can remember having.  Also love a good Disney pizza.  Whole one’s seemed good value as around $20 would feed three adults of moderate appetite.  I had this at Disney’s boardwalk.  What’s offered can vary though.  There are also some good and interesting hot dogs, pulled pork sandwiches and burgers.

With the pizza we split a funnel cake, which is as best I can tell doughnut dough pushed through a funnel into a deep fryer.  Served with sugar there are other upgrades, I went for chocolate sauce.  It was delicious and I regret only having 1 on the last holiday!

Of the less fresh offerings the fudge is a personal favourite.  A great choice of flavours and is lovely and moist.  I hate it when sellers let it dry out!  They sell it in reasonably large blocks.  About $4 a block which seems slightly pricey but if you buy 4 you get two free or buy 6 and get 33% off which is the same (Universal described it one way and Disney the other).  You have flavours like Cookies and Cream (can vouch for being fantastic), Rocky Road etc.  I think all the parks will have at least one shop selling it if not several.

I brought mine back on the plane and is still great 4 weeks on having been kept in a fridge and wrapped in clingfilm after purchase.  My sister in law swears by the Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwich and cookies to share, they’re not freshly baked but sometimes sold from sweet or baking areas, sometimes general shops.  While the ice cream is available from lots of food sellers who are dotted about everywhere (they all have slightly different stock).   They both really good!

Everywhere except Seaworld you can take food in (though Kennedy Space Centre I can’t remember). Universal says only snacks but what is a snack to them probably is lunch to most Brits.  Check for each parks specific rules, places with animals tend to have more specific rules.  Fortunately their policies are online if not always easy to find.  There are bag checks at all parks but only the space centre has security like an airport.  At Universal the checks are near the car to so if your lunch gets turned away only a short walk to put it back.  If you are eating in the parks the food places are really busy 12-2.  But some of them are icebergs in that at the front they look like just a small building but somehow they hide that they seat 500 odd people.  Typically it’s grab a seat while someone orders but a lot of the burger places let you finish off yourself so all the salad etc can be added.  Epcot is a good place to eat in the park as all the countries of the world have different foods there and I really loved the sushi I got from Japan and was gutted not to get time for Schwarmer in Morocco!

When nearing time to do food a good idea is find a nearby ride that’s not too special but a small one may want to do (if there is such a thing at Disney world!) and the person least interested queues for the food to cut down on everyone having to wait around and be efficient etc!  Stops little one’s or big kids getting bored and fidgety too!

The Harry Potter Butterbeer is really worth trying if you like butterscotch.  It comes in liquid or slushy styles is quite pricey and the liquid one is reckoned to be about 200 calories.

A lot of places have refillable drinks, in fact the only 4 places I can remember didn’t were the main 4 Disney parks.  Though there water parks did.  They’re normally worth getting as varied in price from $6-10 but refills cost around $1 as opposed to $3 or more for a normal drink.  With some you can bring the refillable drink container back on a second visit.

You don’t have to buy all your drinks though.  Water fountains are everywhere.  You can take bottles to fill but there isn’t normally a need if you don’t want to carry them.

Booking sit down restaurants in the parks before you travel can be wise.  The special places to dine are hard to get into.  My brother saw Cirque du Soleil which he said was amazing but was unable to book at the two restaurants they liked nearby and only managed to get something 8 days later at 5pm.

 

Disney Magic Outside of the Parks

There's more than 4 parks and 2 water parks at Walt Disney World
DownTown Disney, Disney Boardwalk and Quest are well worth visits while in Orlando.  You only need park tickets for Quest.  It’s easily overlooked but some of the small rides there are immense.  The 6 of us in my group captained a pirate ship in Pirates of the Caribbean there.  For that you board a simulator which one of you drives.  There are 6 canons over the deck you fire.  You’re surrounded by screens that go almost 360 and you have 3d glasses on.  And the deck goes up and down and side to side, it’s amazing.  One of Disneys best attractions I think as you can have a real adventure – I saw someone do it solo so there must be a way for an autopilot!  Quest has 7 or 8 other bigger attractions with the rest being full of free arcade games.  It’s quite mad!  But the big DisneyWorld store the other end of Down Town really has to be seen and look in the rafters.

Disney Boardwalk was just a great way to spend a more chilled evening where no tickets are needed but in Disney.  We realised you can walk from the back of Epcot to the front of MGM with the connecting waterways.  I had a pizza and funnel cake sat around the lake, lovely!  We also walked all around the lake going through the yacht club and beach club resorts.   All seemingly fine 🙂

 

Outside of Disney & Universal

Covering shopping and other attractions
Outside of Disney Cracker Barrels are pretty good, traditional amercian fare and pretty reasonable.

With the Space Centre, it might not be the best for very young children.  If you’re sure you’ll go again to Florida it may be worth doing when they’re older.  Though if you’re not sure there is some amazing stuff there.  Nasa has a left over Saturn V moon rocket and other equipment.  The rocket is in its display room hung from the ceiling and is insanely huge – I don’t know how you hang something like that and really worth the price of admission just to see that.  Soon the new space shuttle exhibition building will also be open and is meant to quite a big deal.

Busch Gardens is a bit of trek but if you want to see more animals or like big roller coasters it can be worth it.  Was very busy on the Saturday we went so may be a good shout for a week day visit.

There’s a cheesecake factory at Mall at Millenia.  A must for cheesecake fans and they do do take out (is mostly a restaurant).  The Mall at Millenia is quite a sight in itself and good for upmarket brands.

For discount shopping Orlando Premium Outlets are a good shout and in several locations.

Airboat rides can be every bit as good as a theme park ride and a real life adventure which will probably show you plenty of wild life.

Btw state plate game is a lot of fun for traffic jams.  We got 40 in about 5 days 😉 There are plenty of apps for it to help you keep track.

Lake side at the world showcase in Epcot
Lake side at the world showcase in Epcot