Our lucky, now depleted family (we are now only 3), de camped to Florida for 10 nights recently and in hurricane season too! Disappointingly, we did not have to hunker down, nor did we die or blow away! I have to say whilst there was a little spit spot of rain and a puff or two of wind, it was hardly a bother. In fact we benefited greatly from the decreased numbers at the parks, which was an added bonus, obviously. Those que’s can be killers in such high heat and humidity! Another right holiday spoiler is Jet Lag, with a 5 hour time difference it certainly has an affect. Bolognese at 2am anyone?
Until booking, I personally never really fancied Florida as a holiday destination, one because it’s generally known to be very expensive and two because it just never flicked my switch (bad mum). Still, with flights and accommodation currently somewhat cheaper than some european destinations, I gave in and dully booked! Would I go again? I will let you know at the end of this write up!
The flight out was okay as flights go. The plane was 1/3 full so there were seats aplenty! The flight back was torturous. Full and also carrying lots of annoying teens (use nice words Donna!), that seemed unable to restrain themselves from constantly kicking the back of seats! The Thomas Cook planes are a bit cramped, especially the window seat! You will develop a severely cricked neck and shoulders if you fancy a view! Next time I will fly premium not cattle class no matter the cost! It was totally vile! Also drinks and snacks were not included, so there’s another hidden cost and believe me there are lots of these surprises on a ‘cheap’ holiday, truly! It is a long haul flight so 2 meals are included. They were supposedly James Martin meals…….hum! Not sure I would put my name to sausage and mash in congealed gravy. Mind you I do accept that inflight meals of quality are pretty much impossible.
We didn’t ‘do Disney’ as we felt Universal suited our needs as a family much better. Our last daughter at home, is nearly 15 and so the thought of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse did not appeal, so much as Harry Potter World did! We also decided wisely to use a local Floridian tourist office to help us plan once there, what we wanted to do and anyway tickets are cheaper bought that way! Tickets are not cheaper bought in UK with your tour operator no matter what they tell you! What you are given is a voucher, not a ticket and therefore you still have to que initially, to get your tickets at Guest Services! Send one person and the rest of you go for a drink! Buy a lanyard and hang those tickets round your necks for safe keeping! Don’t loose them like my husband did! A refund will take 2/3 months as they wait for the voucher to expire! Oh and do give yourself days off for shopping, you’ll need these. We arrived at our villa at supper time and took the following day off to find our feet and do a bit of shopping. You will want to splash about in your pool after a 9.5 hour flight, believe me!
Universal is definitely more ‘adult’ fun! The simulators and rides are literally to die for…well.. I died of fright several times, I can tell you. I was hoodwinked on to the Mummy returns ride, having been told it was a simulator! Imagine my face when I realised it was a high speed stomach churning roller coaster! Seriously I nearly had heart failure, not that I saw anything as my eyes were glued shut in sheer panic! Jeez, I can still feel the first drop and with it went my stomach! Never again! They tried, boy they tried to get me one again but not a chance in hell! I was so weak at the knee’s for about an hour after the first go! I don’t believe it is fun, it’s entirely torture! Just the thought……….nooooooooo! I promise you I will never forgive them………..ever! lol
There’s so much to do in Orlando, from amazing beaches to so many iconic tourist attractions and obviously the many themed parks. 10 days wasn’t really enough but anymore would probably bankrupt you!
When I thought about writing this travel review up, I remembered a lot of advice before we went, none of which was relevant except for probably the cost. I had listened gravely to the horror stories of 10 and 12k credit card spends! So with this in mind, I thought I’d give you a run down of what we did and how much it REALLY cost us from getting there, to the parks and car hire etc. Hope it helps!
All prices in GBP (we booked everything separately)
Flights with Thomas Cool Airlines 3 basic adult flights return flights Stansted to Orlando economy, 28th August – 1100.00
upgrade to priority boarding, seat booking and one extra case on return journey – 350.00
1 Night in the Hilton Airport hotel family room – 144.00
Dinner at the hotel – 100
Travel insurance for the family – 155.00
Stansted Airport Car Parking Priority (booked through holiday extras) 134.00
ESTA Visas – 60.00
Suitcases – 120.00
Petrol – return 70.00
Food and bits on journey there and back -100.00
Holiday gear to go – 300.00
Private Villa in Claremont – 4 beds plus pool – 1150.00 including 200.00 deposit
Car hire – Dollar car hire USA Grand Cherokee all insurance waivers, tolls and empty fuel return 400.00
Food and eating out – 150.00 a day
Park tickets – 2 days Universal, 2 days Wet and Wild, Wild Florida, Kennedy Space Centre, Daytona Beach and night ents – 1000.00
Gifts and Clothes shopping (you will do a lot of clothes shopping) – 700.00/1000.00
The Low Down
To be honest Wet and Wild is a little dated! Built 39 years ago, it is so ready for retirement. The husband still managed to coax me out of my comfort zone and on to horrid water rides, which turned me a dark shade of green! Universal are building a new water park ready for next summer which is really needed! If you’ve been to Wild Wadi in Dubai you will feel Wet and Wild is its poor relation. Still a good time was had by all. Universal is amazing. Lot of fast rides (they made me do it) and great attractions. A ride on the Hogwarts Express was the business! Harry Potter world is brilliant if a little odd seeing snow capped houses in high summer heat!
Orlando itself is easy to get around. Junk food is aplenty which I did not like at all. Everything seems loaded with sugar and salt and I was appalled! The portions are treble the size they need to be so watch your waistline! Maybe share between three! I did discover the Wholefoods supermarket which is great for Deli supplies. Eating out in general was very disappointing and because you drive everywhere there’s not a lot of drinking, boo hoo!
Daytona beach was amazing…….white beaches, warm sea and lots of sunshine! The temperature averaged between 28 and 33. We had rain and wind due to hurricane Hemine. You’ll be glad to know we escaped the worst but this made the que’s shorter at the parks and it was still very warm! Word to the wise, Orlando is a VERY active holiday destination! You need good shoes and great health. You need to be mobile although the parks do have wheel chairs and strollers (prams). The parks also gets my vote for having lots of rest rooms (loo’s to us Brits). Drink lots of water and stay hydrated and make sure you use sun cream even if it is overcast!
Our villa was fab, way bigger than we needed. It was well equipped and in a great location. However as usual the bedding was a bit tired. There was absolutely no welcome pack. They only left us two dish washer tablets! Hardly any loo roll which isn’t what you need after a long flight. There was not one tea bag,cloths, washing up liquid etc. That said we had a wonderful time. Orange Tree was a really quiet residential area and well located for all of Orlando. We enjoyed the pool but as the week went on it got cooler. We hadn’t realised we could pay to have it heated. The villa could have housed 2 large families easily and with all mod cons it was very easy to live there. There was a great supermarket and Chinese take away just 3 minutes down the road! As we were there for a long period we didn’t want large hotel bills and so this suited us very well.
Tip: Do take an empty suitcase and shop! Go mad! The coveted American brands are so much cheaper there, you’d be mad not to! My absolute favourite hour was speeding along on the Florida Everglades looking for Alligators! My husbands was a visit to NASA/Kennedy Space Station. My daughters favourite pastime in Florida was shopping, without a doubt! She came home with bags full of Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Victoria Secrets, to name a few popular American brands!
All in all we had a great time and I think because theres so much of America to see, we won’t bother going back to Florida for the next ten years!
Maybe to Disney, in the future with the grandkids we will hopefully have one day………….
Holiday score: 7/10