To plan your Florida holiday takes time. If you’ve never been there, it’s difficult to know where to start but we are here to help you.
I’ve put this quick article together for people who are traveling from the UK to Florida for the first time. I’ve tried to cover the main points of what to consider when you’re looking to plan your Florida Holiday. Once you’ve built a picture of what you want your holiday to look like, you can visit our other pages to get more specific advice about your Florida tour. Since the original post lots has changed. So now in June 2022 I am trying to update all the content for you to make it as relevant as possible.
There are three airports in Orlando Florida but only two that you would use unless you won the lottery!
The three airports consist of the Orlando International Airport (MCO). This is the biggest airport located about 30 minutes to the east of Orlando. If you fly with Virgin or British Airways this is the airport you’ll land at.
Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB). Is 30 miles to the north of Orlando both Thomson’s and Thomas Cook fly into Sanford International Airport.
Melbourne (MLB). This is new for 2022. Tui now fly here rather than Sanford, I think because it is better for the Cruising clients to be near the coast. It is located on the East Coast of Florida. It takes around 1 hour 30 minutes by Private Transfer to get to the Orlando area.
Lastly is the Orlando Executive Airport which is located in downtown Orlando. It’s more for smaller internal flights and I don’t think you can fly to it from the UK.
Plan Your Florida Holiday – Where to Stay
You could consider a holiday rental if you have a big family traveling with you or if you prefer to stay in a quiet area. There are many available villas with a wide range of a number of bedrooms to choose from. They are all fully furnished so it can be a real home from home. You can book online with someone like Orlando Villas or Owners Direct. We usually travel with Virgin and stop at Westhaven which is close to Championsgate.
Westhaven and Championsgate are both beautiful. We’ve never had a bad Villa when booking through Virgin Holidays. We’ve heard horror stories about Thomson Villas but they can’t all be bad!
As with all things you can upgrade your Villa with all the major tour operators including Virgin.
Florida Hotels and Transportation
I guess in any plan for your Florida holiday you need to decide on a hotel and whether its onsite or off site. Here are some guidelines for you to consider…
International Drive, Orlando
Situated along Orlando’s main tourist destination is International Drive often called the I-Drive.
This place is the center of Orlando. You can shop, dine and enjoy exploring lots of attractions nearby. They have an I-Ride Trolley being offered to explore the I-Drive resort area without using a car.
Both Disney and Universal offer complimentary transport. So it’s easy to travel around Universal Orlando 2 parks and 3 hotels. While Walt Disney World has about twenty hotels, cabins, campsites that you can price up.
Car Hire Florida
We book all this with Alamo via Virgin. You can provide all your Driver Licence details whilst you are still in the UK. This means when you get to Orlando you can pick up the car and be on your way in about ten minutes.
We take the gold insurance package with Virgin. This includes a kid’s car seat and sat nav, you can also take the car back with no fuel in it at no extra charge. It’s the most expensive cover but it does cover you for almost everything. If the worst should happen I want to know that things will be dealt with swiftly and effectively. This came to pass when our car wouldn’t start and the issue was dealt within a few hour hours
Watch out with car hire in 2022. Lots of the car rental companies got rid of lots of stock when the pandemic hit. So now things have reopened, there is a really clamour for cars. Expect to pay over £750 MORE than you did before the pandemic.
So what car to get?
Well, we are a family of three so we can fit into most things. However, we’ve also traveled to Florida as a party of 5 and of 7 so we’ve had a range of vehicles.
We had a brand new red Mustang convertible 5.0l. All I can say is WOW!!! What a beast of a car, we felt a million dollars driving round in this.
Nice car, it’s in the same bracket as the Mustang but let’s be honest, it’s not quite as good.
Nice car, easy to drive. Not a Mustang!
I enjoyed driving round in this, it was high up and we felt safe.
My top tip for the car hire is to make sure you are happy with the car you are given. It’s easy with the people carrier type cars as they are all very similar. You don’t want to be given a substandard Mustang though! So my advice is to check it and make sure you are going to be happy driving it.
On our honeymoon, we got given a Chevy Camaro and my Dad picked it up for us. On closer inspection, it was old and scratched and as it was a present for our honeymoon I complained. Initially, they said that because my Dad had accepted it they wouldn’t change it. I persevered and we ended up with the brand new mustang so it’s worth making sure you get what you want as this wasted about 5 hours of the holiday.
Some people who stop on site with Disney or Universal don’t get a car. My advice would be to always get one. It gives you your freedom and driving in Florida is easy peasy.
You can grab the best deal being offered on theme park tickets through advanced purchases online but again we get them via Virgin Holiday. I’m pretty risk averse and I basically want to get to Disney, show my ticket and get into the park. I’ve heard horror stories about people getting to the park and the tickets not been valid so I stick with buying direct through Virgin Holidays. The other option is to go directly to Disney.
I’ll write more about Disney Dining plan and about the parks in other posts so look out for those. I’ve also done a Walt Disney World Overview here.
Water Parks in Florida
Weather Orlando Florida means the water parks are open all-year round so for those who wish to cool off, there are lots of choices.
This includes Sea World’s Aquatica Waterpark, Universals Volcano Bay and Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.
Let me tell you now they are all amazing and a great way to cool off. Our favorite is Typhoon Lagoon because of the amazing wave machine but they are all a lot of fun.
Again you can search for posts on each individual waterpark on this site.
Beaches in Florida
How to plan your Florida holiday is difficult as there is so much to do. Take Floridas beaches for example. Florida is famous for its beaches. The most popular with visitors from the UK who are mainly there for Disney is Clearwater. You can jump in the car, head to Tampa and then drive on to Clearwater. You can do it in a day and cover the beach, the Pier, the Aquarium and a boat tour to see dolphins in the wild.
One of best beaches is Canaveral National Seashore, which can be reached taking SR 50 East to US1. On the other hand, Cocoa Beach can be accessed via Toll Road 528 while Daytona Beach can be reached thru Interstate 4 (I-4) east.
Plan your Flordia Holiday – Where to Dine and Enjoy the Nightlife
We love all things about Disney so on an evening we like to head to Disney Springs. I always say that America is more of an experience than a holiday but Disney Springs makes you feel like you’re on a holiday. I love it. You can eat, shop and relax. There is also some great live music. You can watch the sunset over the lake and if the weather is good you can go up in a hot air balloon.
You may opt to eat at the Restaurant Row which is a one-mile stretch of various place to eat. You can choose from family-friendly diners to fine-dining restaurants.
You could have fun watching comedy shows at the Orlando Improv Comedy Club & Dinner Theater at Pointe Orlando.
Try and make sure when you plan your Florida holiday that you include some live music.
Another one to hang out is at Sak Comedy Lab in downtown and also Bonkerz Comedy Club scattered around the city. Orlando offers many entertainment spots with nightlife all located in one convenient location. This includes Universal CityWalk at Universal Orlando Resort.
For live music, try House of Blues Orlando at Disney Springs, Hard Rock Live Orlando at Universal or BB King’s Blues Club located at Pointe Orlando.
Plan your Florida Holiday
Planning your trip to Orlando is easier if you book ahead of time either via one of the major tour operators or by booking everything yourself.
Some people swear by booking everything yourself whilst we just book everything via Virgin Holidays. We do this as we like to know that should any problems arise we can speak to Virgin about the Villa, any tickets, the car hire or the insurance. I find this comforting. We would consider booking with Thomson’s or BA but we have always enjoyed traveling with Virgin and don’t feel the need to change. Especially with us always booking the last row of Economy seats in the Bubble, these are easier the best seats on the plane aside from First Class. Having flown Premium Economy I would even say they are better than that!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on how to plan your Florida holiday.