Tuesday 7 November 2017

Travel Diaries - ORLANDO

It has been a long while since I have done a travel diary. But, I have literally just come back from my trip to Orlando, Florida. And oh my, the holiday blues are already kicking in! But no, in all seriousness it was the holiday of a lifetime, we did everything from Disney to Halloween Horror Nights to Gatorland. I went with my other half and it was the most fun time out for the both of us, from work and just normal life in general, haha! And we went for Halloween and it was just out of this world! But I thought I'd share my experiences, post a few piccies and share my knowledge and give you my tips for an Orlando trip! As this was my third time going! Lucky me! Oh and I have already done a travel diaries on my trip to Singapore, so feel free to have a nosy at that!


So, the flight to the happiest place on earth is a not so happy 8-9 hours, haha! Well for us it was just over 9 hours there and around 7 and a half hours back. So yeah it is a long tedious flight, especially when the tiredness and excitement kick in! My top tip is to always prepare your entertainment, as I feel sometimes the choice of inflight entertainment on the plane isn't very good and if you want the extras, its going to cost ya! So I downloaded tv series and films on my Netflix app, I downloaded Stranger Things (OFC), Riverdale and a few movies incase I wanted a change!
Also, comfy clothes are a must! Joggers, baggy t-shirt, fluffy socks! And for me personally, no make-up, I put on a really hydrating moisturiser before the flight and did a full skincare routine once I got to my room. Because that aeroplane air-con is a buggar!
And don't forget your snacks! Personally I am not a fan of plane food, so I like to take some of my own snacks to get me through. And of course I will have a hearty meal before I fly! Salt and Vinegar Pringles are a must, I also take some hard boiled sweets to help me when my ears start to pop from take off and landing. (If you know what I mean you know what I mean, haha!)

Tickets and Accommodation

So we booked and flew with Thomas Cook, and they was great and I have flown with them pretty much on every holiday. We stayed on International Drive in one of the Rosen Inn hotels, and the hotel was great, but in my opinion, spending tonnes on a hotel seems pointless to me as your never in the room, as your always out doing stuff and when you do return, your straight to sleep! But if your staying in Disney I understand splurging on hotels, because they are all stunning and part of that magical Disney experience. But do your research and see what looks best to you, read reviews, read blog posts! But both our hotel, flights, transfers and that kind of thing, it was quite reasonably priced.
So with us staying on International Drive, we did a bit of everything, we didn't go for a Disney holiday. So when it came to our theme park tickets, I booked them through Attractions Direct. It is an amazing website with all sorts of days out ideas, theme park tickets and events. And I got the 'Combo Ticket' which is tickets for all Disney Parks and all Universal Studios parks for 14 days, as many times as you'd like! And with this combo, we got quite a few freebies, we got a day out to Gatorland, an airboat tour, tickers for the Coca Cola eye (which is just like the London eye) and some discounts at Outlet Malls. So it was amazing! And it was only around £500, which at first you think OMG! But when you think about what your getting and that for just one day at Disney for example is around $100! Best thing we did, and gave us plenty to do!
We didn't do Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party, but we did do the Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights. And again we got our tickets before we went and they cost £100 each. But that was for us to go to as many of the horror nights as we wanted for the 14 days we was there.
But yeah, my top tip, if your more into doing a bit of everything, International Drive is probably the best place to stay as its so easy to get to everywhere from that once place! For example we had shuttle buses from the hotel that took us to the Universal parks, there is the iRide that can take you up and down International Drive, to the Outlet Malls, Aquatica etc. And it was only $16 each way to Disney with Uber and it was only a 20 minute drive, which was amaze!

Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure/Volcano Bay

Wow, I love the Universal Studios parks. The rides are amazing, the look is amazing and just the atmosphere. There's always something going on and they have Harry Potter! I am a Harry Potter nerd and the fact I could walk down Diagon Alley and jump on the Hogwarts Express is amazing! And the rides are amazing, especially Gringotts, so so good! When we went, we downloaded the Universal Studios app, and it was so helpful, it helped us find things, keep up to date with ride wait times and keep up with what was going on in the day. The queue times when we went were reasonably okay, I think the longest we waited was around 40 minutes. And of course we got to go on the new King Kong ride in Islands of Adventure and it was amazing! Ride technology in America blows ma mind!

A top tip I have is take your own water! Plenty of bottles, as you need to keep hydrated in the heat and drinks prices in theme parks are gross. But yes, the only downfall is that food in theme parks is not the cheapest, but it's like that in all theme parks! But one thing we did, was buy a refillable cup, and we shared one between the two of us. It cost us $15 for the whole day and if we wanted to reactivate our cup for another day it was only $8, and you can use this in all 3 parks. This saved us so much money as a drink each for us came to around $6-$8 individually.

It was my first time to Volcano Bay this time round as it only opened earlier this year, and it is stunning. It looks and feels like your on a tropical island. Theres sand, palm trees, and a tiki sort of vibe which I loved. But its unlike any waterpark, as when you enter you get a wristband that kind of looks like an Apple Watch. And you tap your wristband on tiki poles outside various slides, and it puts you in a virtual queue. So it'll give you a time to go back, so you can dip in the lazy river while you wait. This is good, as you don't have to freeze your bum off while queuing on them steps up to the slide. But you can only tap one slide at a time, and if you have a 90 minute wait like we did, it's a bit of a pain. But they do have some slides open to freely queue for! But yes I loved Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay, definitely worth a visit!

Disney Parks

So Disney was Disney. Absolutely magical, of course. We did all of the parks, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and did a touch of shopping in Disney Springs. All of the parks have their own magical feel, but my favourite park was Animal Kingdom by far. As they have just opened Pandora the world of Avatar which is so unbelievable and just stunning, the attention to detail is just wow! Not only just the look of Pandora but the rides were also amazing, especially The Ride of Passage, which is like a 4D Motion Simulator and your flying on a Banshee, which is one of the animals from Pandora. And its the best ride I have ever been on! You can feel the Banshee breathing between your legs, you really feel like your flying and your in Pandora, and the smells and senses, it was just wow! The only downside is that it was a 3 and a half hour queue, which was not very fun, but completely worth it.
But I just love the feel in Animal Kingdom, the rides, especially Expedition Everest, it was so much fun! And being able to see all the animals on nature walks and jeep safaris, I loved it!

But you can't deny that the main highlight of Disney is the Happily Ever After fireworks in Magic Kingdom. They are truly magical and the music and projections on the castle, just really makes you realise it is one of the happiest places on earth, and being able to share that moment with my other half was just amazing. 

Another great thing with our passes is that it acted like a magicband, so if we got pictures taken in any of the parks, we just passed the photographer our card and we got our images straight onto the app. And they do such cute pictures, with characters, props, outside the castle etc, but they sometimes also add characters into your images, which is such a cute touch. 
Another tip, in Disney the app will be your saviour! You can download it and put in your passes details into it and create your own profiles. You can check ride times, make reservations at restaurants, and best of all, you can FAST PASS up to 3 rides a day, which comes in very handy trust me. And the app in general will just be your best friend, especially if your new to the Disney life! 

As we didn't stay in a Disney Resort, if you are thinking you want more of a full on Disney holiday or you have little ones, researching and seeing the options of staying in a Disney resort is so so worth it. Because if you stay in Disney they have various dining plans which may be more beneficial for yourselves and Disney guests get many more perks than other guests from outside the resort. My mum takes my sisters quite often, and always stays in the Disney resorts, and she's stayed in quite a few different ones, and always says its so worth it for her financially as everything is included regarding meals, drinks, snacks etc. And just being in the magic constantly, and all the hotels are beautiful. She recently stayed in the Animal Kingdom, Jambo House resort, and it was stunning. I went to visit her a couple of times and the hotel was gorgeous, just GOOGLE IT. And you'll understand me. 


It was nice to do something a bit different from theme parks, as much as we loved them. So free with out Attractions Direct ticket package, we got free tickets to Gatorland and it was so much fun! There was so many gators and all different sizes and breeds and was quite interesting to learn about them. We was able to feed the gators for a small fee which was fun, but just be careful of the birds, there are so many trying to steal their food!

There was a small petting farm, where you was able to stroke and feed the goats they had there. And my other half was in his element, as he has a weird obsession with goats. And you could do the same in the bird aviary, you was surrounded by so many birds, and you could buy seed sticks and you'd have birds all over you, they was only little budgies, don't worry. But still so much fun! And you could also go walk through the swamps and go on the hunt for wildlife, we saw snakes, otters and all sorts of birds, was quite cool! 

Definitely somewhere I would recommend to go, just to do something fun and different. And from International Drive it was around the same distance as going to Disney, around 20 minutes. And even though we got our tickets free, the entry fee wasn't expensive at all!

Universal Halloween Horror Nights

Now, this was one of the most fun things I have ever done! I've never been to a Horror Nights in Universal and I was so excited to finally go. As I said earlier we got our tickets before we went and it was £100 for unlimited access for the 14 days we was there! And tip from me, I would 100% do this, as when we went the first night, for just one night on the door it was over $100 and from being this time, you definitely need a couple of nights there to do everything! 

So the main horror houses there was Saw, American Horror Story, The Shining, Ash vs. Evil Dead and there was a Blumhouse productions house which consisted of The Purge, Insidious and Sinister, yes I know, terrifying! They then had other houses that I am guessing Universal created, and if I'm being honest, they were more terrifying than the well known ones! But they was all so much fun, quite scary but it was a lot of fun! 
And on top of this, they have various scare zones around the park, where there are characters walking around and jumping out and scaring you, so they had one with all the well known mazes characters, they had a whole scare zone for The Purge, but the worst was the scare zone that had clowns with chainsaws, need I say more?? But again they was so fun and just attention to detail was amazing and the actors were incredible. The purge especially as it was a performance as well as a scare zone, it was scary! But there is all sorts going on and always something to do!

Top tip from me, if you have both a day pass and a Halloween pass, you can stay in the park and get early access to the houses before the park is reopened to the public at 6:30pm. (As Universal shuts at 5:00pm then re-opens for Horror Nights at 6:30). And just run to the houses that have the longest queue! So for example when we did this, in the time that the park was open to us, we did like 3 houses, which ended up having around an 60 minutes to 90 minutes queue. So it's completely worth it! 
But yes, I definitely recommend doing the Horror Nights, it's so much fun and something I would 100% do again.

And that's about as much of the fun stuff we did! We spend majority of our time in all these parks, and the rest of the time we visited the outlet malls, Walmart (which might I say is something you have to do, its insane!), the pool, and not going to lie, MCDONALDS..A LOT! What can I say I love me a maccies. We also loved walking up and down International Drive in the evening, that's if we wasn't exhausted from those fun-filled days, but we'd pop into bars, have something to eat, or our favourite thing to do was play a game of mini golf! There was an amazing pirate golf not far from our hotel and we loved it, bringing out our competitive sides is what me and the other half love to do. 

But what we both said we'd do next time is to venture out of Florida, find other things to do that maybe aren't as well known, if that makes sense? And also we would have more structure to our holiday, as we went with the flow and would wake up and decide then what we was doing, where I think we could've done more with a slightly more structured holiday. But I love going with the flow and we still had an amazing holiday doing that! 

But all in all we had the most amazing holiday and we are so sad to be home already! But a holiday for next year is already in talks! I hope you enjoyed this post, and that it helped or entertained, or both? Haha! Let me know if you would like a part 2, with restaurant and food recommendations, best places to shop etc.

Speak soon!

Amy x
Amy Shipley

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