Family

So why and when should you experience Disney – Florida? PART I

I will as soon as I can load pics give you a view inside the parks.

There is so much information out there, so obviously other bloggers are writing the pros and cons about Disney. 

REALITY:

Walt Disney World is for many of us a once in a lifetime experience.  Note, I wrote “experience.”  For those lucky enough to have annual passes, such as Florida residents, then the experience happens as many times as they choose. I absolutely love Walt Disney World!

 If I could find a suitable position there, I most certainly would apply and hope that they would hire me :0)

 This place is sheer magic because it  has something for everyone.  You just need to know what you want to see and wear comfy shoes and buy a poncho for the unexpected downpours of rain Floridians get a certains times of the year and of the day…or just get rained on…it stings a bit, and you may shiver, but it is fun!

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/ to plan your vacation.

GETTING THERE:

Firstly, WDW is in Orlando, Florida, USA or to be specific, near Kissimmee or Lake Buena Vista. So Air, Rail, Coach or Car is possible.  In some cases, even cruise ships or yachts.

Flying:

If you fly into MCO (Orlando International airport) which is a fabulous airport, and much closer than Sanford airport, you will be pleasantly suprised.  MCO is an international airport but maintains a personal experience.  It has currency exchange, wifi areas, all the bells and whistles of most larger international hubs without the nuisance of being massive.  It has loads of small boutiquey and national/international shops and some full-service restaurants and a food court too (fast food), a Disney shop and others merchants too (which I will write about later). Once at the airport you can rent a car on the spot since they are open 24 hours a day – but best to make a reservation in advance so you can find better bargains and deals. 

Whatever airline, rental car and hotel you use/stay at, be sure to enquire on their own version of frequent flyer miles/points.  If you frequent other places too, points or mileage adds up to a free day here and there, or several upgrades.  If you stay at Disney then you will likely check out their version of time-share, which is quite a delight as they are adding new properties.  Furthermore, they are linked somehow to RCI – a vacation ownership club where you pay maintenance fees and get time to stay at non-Disney properties.  It is also worthy noting, Disney, in Florida, is always IN-SEASON, even though certain times of the year are slower than others, and, for that matter cooler than others.  I note this because with the vacation club they have you are able to exchange much easier than with some of the other timeshare properties.  basically it is brand recognition and the excellence of service and quality of properties that you have to exchange.  WDW parks are open everyday of the year, barring a natural disaster or any other bizarre occurrence.  They do have curfew though.  Guests staying at a Disney resort can however get extra Magic hours to certain parks everyday of the week.  Pick up the weekly time schedules for the parks at your Disney hotel concierge. 

The park that closes earliest is usually Animal Kingdom due to the obvious, animals that need to be fed, groomed and checked out.  Then usually a tie between Hollywood Studios and EPCOT, then Magic Kingdom. 

Magic Kingdom has the most capacity because it has the iconic Cinderella’s Castle at its helm on Main Street.  Don’t be surprised if you wait 2 hours for a little kid ride.  My advice get a fast pass and come back later.  Enjoy the experiences of the park…try not to wait in line.  It is annoying for all – been there, done that…you know the rest by now :0)  Then perhaps EPCOT [Experimental Prototype Community Of Tommorrow) with its iconic massive Golf Ball – guys this is actually Spaceship Earth which is a wonderful and educational treat for the family (a must see), then Animal Kingdom, then Hollywood Studios.

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/

http://www.orlandoairports.net/

Rental Cars:

Alamo Car Rental usually has a lot of international tourists all piling in off the same flight at the same time of course and the line is long, like, uber long.  There are also, National, Enterprise, Avis, Hertz, Dollar and others.  Have a major credit card, driver’s license and your insurance information or you can buy car rental insurance. International travelers will likely need to show proof of return to their home country and possibly passport with  travel visa document and maybe even a copy of their reservations at a hotel or at least the address where they are staying. 

www.alamo.com

www.nationalcar.com

www.enterprise.com

www.hertz.com

www.avis.com

www.dollarcarrental.com

Generally you need to be 25 years old, sometimes you can be 21( but usually pay a much higher rate to rent ) and the credit card (cc) and the cc holder to rent a car.  They will not accept payments over the phone from another cardholder, much like the airlines – yes my dopey self found out the hard way. Debit cards have recently become the nemesis of car rental companies.  Usually they will put a $250 hold on the card and then charge out the full fee in advance.  If any car rental companies even do this at all anymore.  Even with a cc, they may put a $250 hold on your cc.  There are many options with car rentals…one being navigation systems/GPS for an additional daily fee – or they give you a paper map-free but vague imho. You can also add additional drivers, purchase fuel refill for the car – therefore, you do not need to fill the car up with gas/petrol prior to bringing it back.  They do it for you at the cost per gallon they have posted when you rent the car.  If you do not purchase this in advance and they (car rental company) has to fill the tank up it is usually twice as much money for you to pay. So pre-paid fuel  is a good option if you are new to the area or think you may be in a rush getting to the airport…example of contigency plan for you.

Please note that to get to Disney from the airport, unless taking back roads that the locals do, you may need to pay a toll so have cash and change available.  If you do not, you car tag will be recorded and you will be sent a bill with a fine ( i think) usually. You can also buy/rent a sunpass or epass from some, if not all, of the car rental companies.  Ask about this.

Driving:

I would make a trip to your local AAA office, if possible, join if you have to, and get a TripTik.  This will outline the best route and also the agents usually highlights construction site, perhaps even speed traps.  Just drive safely.  Break the trip up if you need to.  Be safe, not sorry. Have necessaties in case you get in traffic…food,drinks, pillows, blankets, credit card and cash. if you have electronis, keep chargers, DVD players, movies, games, coloring, etc well stocked. Remember this can be a long drive for many.  Keep the phone number of your hotel in your phone in case you expect to check-in later than normal.  Trust me you do not want to lose your reservation after all your planning.

I will get you directions once you hit the Florida state line shortly, but gps and AAA may be better for you.

www.aaa.com

Here are some mapquest links (double check these with other maps as well)

From Jacksonville, Florida: http://mapq.st/KEGdyF

From Tallahassee, Florida:  http://mapq.st/KEGdyF

From Atlanta, GA:  http://mapq.st/KunHZ9

Have your mechanic do an oil change, check everything and replace what needs replacing.   Just remember if you go the speed limit, have your tires inflated to correct pressure, use cruise control, you are supposed to save gas AND it will be safer!  If you have kids, make pit stops at iconic American places to visit, eat, etc. or the rest-stops will do :0)  This is an adventure, try to remember that it will be a fond and cherised memory after the crying and multiple melt-downs by all, smells, car littered with trash allowing no foot room, boredom of driving and back cramps (yes, you know what I mean) and, of course, let’s not forget the 1001st  time you hear “When will we be there?”

Airport Transportation from MCO (orlando International Airport):

If you are staying within Disney area hotels, there is usually a shuttlebus.  Contact your hotels for that information.  This may be free or not.  The buses that I went on were older, airconditioned, fabric seats, but smelled of diesel fuel -yuck.

Taxis are ok, but quite pricey.  Many take credit cards but have cash on hand.  Prices can be expensive…consumer beware. They generally get tips 10-15%.  This is common in the USA, even in restaurants, hair salons, spas.  It is customary to tip… be safe and at least say 15%.    Check the Better Business Bureau if needed and some suggestions are:

http://www.orlandoairporttaxicab.com/

http://www.taxiorlando.com/

http://www.taxifarefinder.com/main.php?city=Orlando&from=Orlando+International+Airport+(MCO)

If you are staying at the Walt Disney Resort Hotels, on their property, you can take the Disney Express Bus directly to your hotel and your luggage will be taken to your room.  It is a coach style bus…you have to wait in a line at the airport 9there are signs on the ground transportation level) and then you are, finally, seated – there are little tv’s that play a looped video on the secrets of Disney, what to do, the must-sees, etc. 

The journey there is quite long and the bus may stop at several hotels before you get to yours.  Animal Kingdom seemed to be the farthest away, but is a delightful place (as all of them are) … so have your own snacks, diapers, wipes and juices for your kids and you for the interim.  Also, take something for a headache if you medically are able to – you will need some ‘woosaahhh relaxation and meditation’ a.k.a “me time”  when you get to the destination (relatively speaking)- stretch, breathe deeply and relax. 

You will be tired and aggravated, because like most trips/vacations the journey is a royal you know what, especially if it is sweltering humid/hot, your feet and back hurt, your head hurts and there are complications with money, food, kids, delays, jetlag, etc. 

MegaBus: Cushy Double decker coach bus that is superior to greyhound, imho. Perhaps more direct? Limited stations that are direct to Orlando but you may be able to get connections from one location to another to get to Orlando vs a straight direct drive. Get a rental car or taxi/limo when you arrive.

 http://www.megabus.com/

http://us.megabus.com/routemap.aspx

Greyhound Bus: Gets you there…take the express or you will stop a million times in tiny little towns off the beaten path.  If you have the time and not the money perhaps this coach is also a good option.  I cannot say all passengers smell alike though.  Been there, done that…got the T-shirt…again.

http://www.greyhound.com/

Amtrak/Rail: Probably a good idea again if you want to explore North America.  Takes a long time, unless there is a direct route.  Get a sleeper bunk and cash/credit for rail food.

http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/HomePage

Sailing/Cruising:  Port Canveral, Miami, Tampa, are all areas that can accommodate but you need a rental car from their unless your hotel provides one, such as the Disney Cruise Line (which is a really cute coach btw).  have all your documents.  Please parents always have your child’s birth certificate if travelling and especially without second parent and if you have a different last name – PLEASE CHECK WHAT TRAVEL DOCUMENTS YOU NEED – CHECK AGAIN BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME, THEN CHECK AGAIN.  Better yet, just get a passport – have a safe place for all of them plus your tickets and cash/cc’s and important phone numbers. 

PLEASE ASK WHAT IS NEEDED at PORT of EMBARKATION and DEBARKATION.  International travellers, please note Miami has a very tight security protocol.  It is larger and has an influx of international tourists and immigrants (legal and illegal perhaps).  This is for our protection and the lines may be longer and you may be asked more questions or to do more for security.  This is their job (TSA) but again have back up documents, number to your embassy in the US and any other vital info as a back up.  Yes, in the USA, you take your shoes off before going through screenings and the full body scan is in effect.  All our ports of entry and airports are strict with the security and so they should be. 

http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/contacts/ports/fl/

Again, friends, TRAVEL IS MESSY, at times that is, but also VERY ENJOYABLE.  Always have a plan B, plan C  and honestly up to Plan X, Y and Z because the truth is anything can happen.  Computer failures, weather problems,  you get sick, Airline door won’t shut so you miss your connection, you know the scenarios.  DO NOT FEAR!  You can always blog me – Urgent- and I can help you out or advise, because, yes I have been there and I have several T-shirts to prove it. wink, wink.  ‘Tis Murphy’s Law.

I will continue this shortly :0)  If you have questions, nice comments, or concerns please let me know.

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