The Sunshine State is the world’s biggest magnet for kids. Theme parks, beaches, Mickey Mouse! It’s literally designed with fun in mind.
The one thing I found with my Floridian holiday is that it was actually quite exhausting. I needed my sleep at the end of a fun-filled day, and I needed a few days to get over it when I got home. Despite this, I can quite honestly say that I went to bed every night with a smile on my face.
Here’s a few things to remember and see when you head off to the land of fun.
1) Comfortable shoes! This is not a fashion-fest, believe me. My poor plaster-ridden feet found this out on day 1! I ended up buying a pair of Converse and living in them. Flip flops alone aren’t the best idea because your feet aren’t supported, and you’ll probably lose them getting on and off of rides etc.
2) Budget wisely. The shops in theme parks are designed to make you go a little money mad. The kids will be wandering around with lights in their eyes, but just remember that whatever you have, has to last you. A good tip I found was to split money up per day throughout the holiday, and only take out what you need. If you must take your credit card (for emergencies of course), give yourself a stern talking to before you use it – do you really need it?
3) Plan, plan, plan! If you’re heading off to Disney World (and if not, why not?) then I found a great site called The Dibb. This is basically a forum of regular Disney goers and any question I had, I found a reliable answer. There is also an opening hours section, which is available months ahead of time. This is ideal because you’ll find certain parks are open later on certain days, and some have special events, such as fireworks etc. Believe me, you don’t want to miss a Disney firework display! I drew up a rough itinerary, just basically where we would go on which day, and it wasn’t rigid, it changed a few times during our stay, but we didn’t miss anything, and that’s the overall aim.
4) Special offers. When you know which parks you want to visit, look into ticket bundle offers. Make sure you use a reputable agent. You can buy low-priced Disney tickets in Florida online before you leave home. We bought a bundle deal that allowed us to visit Discovery Cove for an all inclusive day (including the most amazing dolphin swim), and unlimited SeaWorld access for the duration of our stay. This saved us quite a lot, in fact we got two visits to SeaWorld out of it, which was basically for free.
5) Work out your Disney days. When you’re buying your Disney World Passes, and this is best done in advance because the gate prices on the day are higher, work out how many days you’re actually going to be in the resort. Like before, use the itinerary idea. You don’t want to be paying for a 14 days’ pass, when in reality you’re only going to be using Disney for 7 days, because you’re off exploring the rest of the area for the remaining days of your holiday.
6) Fill up at breakfast. Theme park days are busy, but you’ll also find that theme park food is expensive. Fill up the little ones at breakfast as much as you can, and you’ll minimise the food you need to buy in the parks. You can’t take picnics in with you, and they will randomly spot check your bag on the way in. I made sure we all had a big breakfast, and then we had a light snack at lunch, followed by a proper sit down meal outside of the park in the evening, somewhere like Denny’s or Golden Corale etc.
7) Refillable drinks bottles. You can’t take a Disney bottle into a Universal park obviously, but it is worth buying one of the official bottles and getting refillable drinks throughout the day. When the sun is beating down, it’s important to keep drinking, and when you have a family to constantly buy rounds of drinks for, the cost can rack up. This will cut costs and keep everyone hydrated.
8) Look beyond the theme parks. Yes the theme parks are amazing, and yes, you really do have to visit them, but Florida is beautiful in other ways too, and the beaches nearby are a fantastic family day out. We went to Clearwater and had the most beautiful, laid-back day on the beach, doing the old fashioned thing of building sandcastles and paddling in the sea. There are lots of trips you can book, but there is also the option of hiring a car too. Boggy Creek was a great day out too, which is basically an airboat ride on the Everglades. We didn’t see a crocodile, but we got to hold a baby one in a demonstration afterwards. It will definitely put a smile on the kids’ faces!
There is far too much to do in Florida to list it all, but Orlando is obviously the main centrepoint. It is a tiring holiday, especially if you choose to do the themepark rounds, but it will be a family holiday to remember, in fact quite frankly it is THE ultimate family holiday.