Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Orlando / Florida Visit General Tips

Hi everyone! 

I just got back from my Orlando, Florida trip. It was super fun! I am trying to write in detail about the park that we visited and the rides that we took .. however, as usual it will take some time before the posts are ready. Yes, I will divide the Florida trip stories into several posts. 

Meanwhile, here are some general tips for visiting theme parks in Orlando, Florida. Let me start with where to stay. I don't remember if I have mentioned about this before in my previous posts ... So, basically I bought the theme parks vacation deal from Costco Travel. I did try to purchase the trip separately (hotel, car, theme parks tickets, and plane tickets) on several different travel websites like Expedia, Hotwire, Kayak, etc. However, I found that the price difference was really small. So we decided to skip all the hassle and just purchased the whole vacation package from Costco. 

Costco gave us different total price depending on how long we stay and where we stay. If I remember correctly, they gave us six hotels to choose from. One of the more expensive option was Swan and Dolphin Resort which was located in Walt Disney World. However, we decided to go with the low price option which was Sheraton. Costco Travel gave us two different Sheraton Hotels to choose, one was the Sheraton Vistana Villages Resort Villas and the other one was Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas. They sounds similar right? I know =P Anyway, the latter (Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas) was closer to Downtown Disney, and that was the one we chose. You know what? We were super satisfied with our choice. 

The hotel room is super nice. It has two flat screen TVs, full kitchen with utensils, washer / dryer, and a Jacuzzi inside the bedroom! My favorite part is actually the bed. It is really comfortable. I wanted to take it home with me! In addition, as I have mentioned before, this hotel has a very strategic location. It is less than a mile from Downtown Disney, three miles from Epcot, five miles from Magic Kingdom, and seven miles from Universal Florida Resort. 

Me, super happy with the hotel

Another crucial aspect that Costco Travel offers is a full-size car. I did research on this specific issue and found different answers. Some people said that we don't need a car in Orlando. They have a very sophisticated transportation system to and from Disney Resort / Universal. Especially if we stay on Disney Resorts. On the other hand, some people felt that car is important. Yes, the transportation system is extensive but they have their own schedule and it might not be the same with our schedule. Not to mention sometimes you have to stand in line for the bus / monorail. Furthermore, if you have dining plan outside Disney Resort, you definitely need your own car.

We decided we need the car... and we were right. Yes, it cost more since we had to pay for gas and parking, but it gave us flexibility. Plus, it saved us a lot of time. For example, when Epcot closed, a wave of crowd exited the park at the same time. If we were to wait for a bus to our hotel, we might have to stand in line for another 30-45 mins. Not to mention there was a chance that we might miss the last bus since we're staying until the park closed. In addition, the parking wasn't that bad! We're always among the first 20 cars who parked in the morning =P 

We went to Orlando just for the theme parks. We visited 4 Disney Parks: Epcot, Hollywood Studio (which is similar to Disney California Adventure in a way), Animal Kingdom, and of course - Magic Kingdom. I like Hollywood Studio the most. Disney has two water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Too bad we didn't have chance to visit these two water parks. We will come back for them later =P On the other hand, Universal Orlando has two parks: Island of Adventure and Universal Studio Florida. Harry Potter World is a part of Island of Adventure. Overall, I like Island of Adventure. However, I don't like Universal Studio Florida. I think that park needs an overall face lift. Some of the newer rides, such as Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Shrek 4-D are good but the rest of the rides are very outdated. Besides Disney and Universal, Orlando has many other theme parks like Seaworld Orlando, Wet n Wild, and Busch Garden. Moreover, Orlando has big factory outlets =D

We were told that summer is the worst time to visit. However, we got lucky. We were about to visit from 13th August to 21st but somehow we postponed it into 18th August to 25th. Summer holiday in Florida ends at either 18th or 19th of August. So we actually visited during the lowest crowd level in August. Just before the parks are ready for Labor Day crowd. The weather was not nice ... for the first three days and the last day, it rained pretty hard in the afternoon. Tropical Storm is also common during late summer months. We left Orlando on Saturday, and we heard that tropical storm Isaac hit Orlando on late Sunday / Monday. We are super lucky!

So, what to bring to Orlando? For sure you'll need sunblock and sunglasses. Seriously, I don't think we can see properly without sunglasses. It was super hard to open our eyes. Another important article is Raincoats / poncho. Disney Stores sell those at high price, so you might want to get them at the local walgreens / wal-mart. If you're planning to visit Island of Adventure (which is a very wet park) you might need to bring clothes for change. Remember to put them inside plastic bags so they don't get wet either by the rides or the rain. Lastly, I learned that we're actually allowed to bring food (like PBJ sandwich, fruits, chips, granola bars, bottled water, etc) into the park. Another must for me are wet tissues and band-aid.  

Hmmm...what else? Oh, parking tips! If you're visiting Universal Orlando Resort and they offer you preferred parking, don't take it. It's not worth your $5. You still park at the same parking building, only at a level lower than the normal parking. In Disney Resort, the parking ticket (which cost $14) is good for a day. So if you have a park hopper ticket, and you decide to hop from Magic Kingdom to Epcot, you don't need to pay again for parking. Just show them your parking ticket that you get earlier from Magic Kingdom. 

I guess that's all I have for now. I hope these tips help. Gotta work on the detailed park posting! Ciao! =D


  1. A jacuzzi inside the hotel room? Nice!

    Bringing a car is really a good idea, especially if you plan to go exploring outside the planned spots. You don’t have to wait in line or try to squeeze in with other tourists and locals, and you have someplace secure to put your valuables in while roaming around the theme parks and the local sights. And if in case you get lost, just treat it as a sightseeing adventure! That’s what we call it when we are roaming around a new town and I have no idea where I’m going. :P

    Danny Riddell

  2. Totally agree! Thanks for visiting =)

  3. It is spacious. Imagine a hotel room and then imagine a whole villa for yourself. This is exactly the difference between staying in a Disney hotel room versus in a vacation villa.

  4. The hotel you went to looks great, and kinda felt like home, except for that jacuzzi that is. The kitchen seems fully furnished. It reminds me of an apartment or a condo rather than a hotel room, actually.

    Rowena @ Moonlight Bay Hostel

  5. The accommodations are amazing! Quite frankly, it’s the jacuzzi in the bedroom that blew me away. It opens up a lot of possibilities to relax after a long day of rides and moving around. Definitely worth looking into.

    John @ The Parkside