All this wind and snow is making me want to go on holiday! This time last year, Mr J and I were planning our first trip abroad with Wonderboy – cue wistful sigh. We decided to go the whole nine yards and head to sunnier climes in Florida, or more precisely, Orlando. We were off to chase some Disney magic – eek the excitement!
For almost a year, I spent every spare minute scouring cyberspace to glean some hints and tips for taking an almost 3yr old to Orlando. I googled, spoke to friends, joined Facebook groups, checked out travel forums, searched Pinterest … there was no stone left unturned. I found plenty of info for babies and loads about taking school age children but very little in one place for older toddlers or pre-schoolers – and let’s be honest, they’re a different kettle of fish entirely.
With much planning we had an amazing time and I’ll put together Disney specific posts later, but for now, for those of you considering an Orlando adventure, here are our tried and tested tips based on our own experiences –
If you’re happy sleeping in the same room as your little one then this tip is redundant. However if, like us, the thought of you all stuck in one room for a fortnight puts you on edge then read on…
Don’t think your accommodation choices are limited to a villa or hotel room. We found that a condo or suite hotel ticked the boxes of providing more space, kitchen facilities and separate bedrooms while still being part of a resort with a reception, pool area and the usual communal hotel facilities. Having separate bedrooms and a living area was fantastic when Wonderboy had a nap or crashed out at 8pm. It meant we could still chill out with the lights or tv on without the worry of waking him. Plus, we had a washing machine and tumble dryer – always useful when little ones and ice creams are around!
Manage Your Expectations
Yes, it will be fabulous and yes, you’ll make magical memories to last a lifetime but, honestly? It can also be quite hard work. Having a preschooler, while wonderful, can be challenging in the comfort of your own home – throw in a hot climate, jet lag and a healthy dose of over stimulation courtesy of the fab Disney Parks and there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll be looking into the tear stained, tantrum-y face of your little one on more than one occasion. Such is life. Brush it off and embrace all the good bits.
The Car Seat Debate
If you’re heading to Florida you’re no doubt hiring a car – so what about car seats? Take your own! After hearing countless stories of dirty car seats and seeing the huge cost of hiring them through car rental companies, we took our own. Actually, since rental cars don’t seem to have isofix over there, we bought a cheap one to take with us and we still saved on the hire price.
Sure, we were a bit concerned about adding a car seat to 3 cases, 2 adult hand luggage bags, Wonderboy, a buggy and a Trunki but we needn’t have worried. It was totally do-able and totally worth it – no battling to fit an unfamiliar car seat after a 9 hour flight for us!
Holiday time is precious so don’t waste it getting lost. Avoid the inevitable ‘Are we there yet?’ and use a sat nav. While you can hire these from your car hire company, it’s pretty expensive. I’d suggest taking your own and downloading the USA maps before you leave home – much cheaper than hiring plus you’re familiar with the set up. Alternatively, there are apps you can get for your phone but just make sure they don’t constantly download from the internet or you’ll be coming home to a hefty mobile bill.
Take a Buggy
Even if your little one doesn’t use a buggy at home anymore, take one. Wonderboy can walk for miles but there’s no way he could’ve managed round the parks. The sheer scale of the Disney Parks is unimaginable until you get there but to give some context, it took us 35 mins to get from our parked car to the gates of Magic Kingdom and I once read that if you spend the day at Epcot you’ll walk up to 9 miles! Combine this with 30 degree heat and frankly, I thought the buggy looked pretty inviting myself!
While you can hire buggies in Disney, they are only for inside the actual parks so if your little prince or princess falls asleep after the fireworks you’ll need to carry them all the way back to the car – no mean feat. Even if you don’t want to take your own, pick up a cheap umbrella stroller from Walmart once you’re over there. You’ll save a fortune on the daily hire cost ($15 a day in 2014) plus you’ll have it on non park days too.
Mark Your Buggy
On the subject of buggies, mark yours with something eye catching. When you park up, your buggy will be added to a sea of black strollers and the cast members will move them about in order to keep them tidy while you’re away enjoying yourself. This was a great tip I got on a forum so we tied a big red ribbon to the handles so it was easier to spot.
Protect The Car Seat and Buggy
We went in May so it was by no means the hottest of temperatures. However, with no undercover parking at Disney, our car regularly reached over 100 degrees when we returned to it and the car seat was so incredibly hot it would’ve burnt Wonderboy’s legs! It took us a few days to cotton on but we eventually started covering the car seat with hoodies to protect it from the direct sunlight and it made a big difference.
Ditto for buggies in the parks. You’re not allowed your buggy in the ride queues so you leave it in a Buggy Park nearby. They’re rarely shaded so the buggies get super hot so be careful!
Remember to take this with you, or if you’re like us and forget, use a rain poncho instead. Florida is super sunny but the rain can be tropical and come on suddenly so best be prepared.
Phew! This is turning into a book as opposed to a blog post! More tips in the next instalment so why not join It’s A Mummy Thing and have the next post sent straight to your inbox. Just pop your email in the ‘Don’t Miss A Thing’ box at the top right.
If you’ve got any Orlando tips, or even general holiday ideas, I’d love to hear them in the Comments section below!