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Forums Other Destination advice Orlando with young kids Dec 22 – no idea what I’m doing!

  • gjb1984 6 posts

    Hello, I’m going away with the wife and 3 + 5 year old december 15th-22nd.

    The trouble is this is a late booking and we have made no plans. I’m trying to sort out a suitable itinerary for the holiday, but I’m finding it really daunting. I don’t know what to do.

    We’re staying close to the main disney land theme park, and we will have a car.

    What should I be focusing on? We’re there to entertain the kids, but as they’re still young I don’t want to waste money on park tickets for places that aren’t appropriate for their age.

    Does anyone here have any advice? What should I focus on? Are there are decent deals I could access? Should we bother visiting anywhere outside of the traditional Orlando area (everglades? NASA museum?)

    Many thanks – any responses are massively appreciated even if it’s just links to trusted guides (I’ll be honest a google search put me off, there are too many obviously advertorial type blogs out there for family trips to Florida.)

    Michael C 703 posts

    Hi there – we went at that age, although only with 1!
    Sure you’ve read that Magic Kingdom is “best” for younger ones, and we did
    have a great day there, but it was also exhausting, expensive, and felt we’d “done” it.

    Cape Canaveral would be my outright nº 1, so exciting for all of us!

    In retrospect, I think we should also have taken into account that just hanging
    round in the hotel pool for kids that age is a great way to spend a day in itself.

    We went every evening to Disney Springs, and that was perfect: lights (you’ll have
    the Xmas stuff!), everyone outdoors, free kids’ disco each evening, etc. etc. And easy food options.

    Our left-field success was a trip to an NBA match! The atmosphere was fantastic, all based around
    fun and entertainment. It’s SO family-oriented that there’s a big (free) soft-play area inside,
    clearly set up so parents can swap: one watching a bit of the game as the other’s with the kids!

    It’ll be fantastic.

    Jamjaw 37 posts

    We went in April with various ages of kids – but with your age no reason you should not be looking at going to Magic Kingdom (which my nephews loved, aged 3 and 5) and also Animal Kingdom if yours like animals. The other two were not such a hit with the younger ones. Universal they found fun too – not so Islands of Adventure.

    Other things to consider – down time(!), water park (might not work but our little ones loved the splash park areas) and some of the other things to do (Ice Hockey; shopping; eating etc).

    I would say do not bother with Cape Canaveral at that age (and just accept you will need to return one day) and there are lots of everglade type things you can do not too far from orlando to see crocs and go on an airboat – all of the children enjoyed that.

    We loved our holiday and I think most people do too!

    Claire 27 posts

    We took my three old in April and she loved all the parks. One thing to consider though is you have to book the park you want to visit in advance and you need a ticket for this. As it is a busy period you may find there isn’t any availability for Disney parks on the days you want to visit if you leave it much longer:

    https://www.disneyworld.eu/availability-calendar/?segments=tickets,resort,passholder&defaultSegment=tickets

    Top tip for the flight is but lots of little things for them like sticker books, cars, cuddly toys etc and let them open a new one every 30/60 mins!

    elguiri 224 posts

    Would also recommend the Crayola Experience (https://www.crayolaexperience.com/orlando) was lots of fun for our 3 year old, and would be enjoyed by a 5 year old too. Also relatively cheap entry tickets.

    Ladyshopper 124 posts

    The Dibb is a great forum based website to use. It has loads of useful info about Orland/Florida, and don’t be put off by the fact it’s Disney based, as there are tons of different areas in the forum for ideas outside of Disney if you don’t want to do that.

    If you are going to do Disney, you need to book your park days. Car-parking costs a fortune, and also be aware a lot of the hotels are going down the resort tax route like other places in America (Las Vegas as a prime example). Just something to be aware of.

    Nigel Keya 80 posts

    You’re going to hate me (for a minute or 2) – but pls take it on board/ give it 30 seconds consideration? We never went for any of that Disney s*** with our 3 kids, and never regretted it. What a complete scam, nonsense & waste of money. However – OTOH your 3 & 5 YOs might quite like it for a short while, I’m thinking hours not days.

    So since you are investing so much time & money in going to Florida, of course you should give it (Disney) a fair go. Ask yourselves (perhaps): what’s the minimum you could get away with? A couple of hours then do other things that are more fun? Take your selfies for a few minutes then move on, would be my best advice.

    So, my opinion, which you can dismiss right now, of course is: enjoy Orlando, spend a couple hours at Disney – then go do some other great stuff in Florida which will give you more genuine family memories. Even if it’s just eating out, which is great in Florida.

    marshy11 248 posts

    The Dibb is a great forum based website to use. It has loads of useful info about Orland/Florida, and don’t be put off by the fact it’s Disney based, as there are tons of different areas in the forum for ideas outside of Disney if you don’t want to do that.

    If you are going to do Disney, you need to book your park days. Car-parking costs a fortune, and also be aware a lot of the hotels are going down the resort tax route like other places in America (Las Vegas as a prime example). Just something to be aware of.

    Yes, get yourself over to the Dibb. It was invaluable for us many moons ago when our son was young.

    Michael C 703 posts

    Btw if you want to buy a ticket for just one day, you’ll have to use
    a VPN and go onto the official US page.

    Or do like we did, and buy it at the gate on the day. We were there for
    opening time. The queue for people who already had tickets but needed their
    bags checked, etc., must have been 300-400. In the queue to buy tickets, there were 10-12 people.

    Oh, and if you do the Space Centre, Cocoa Village is 20 mins. away and v cute for
    a stroll/pizza/splash area.

    NorthernLass 8,248 posts

    Have to agree with “Nigel” that this is the US of A and there are plenty of cheaper/free things you can do with kids. Pool/beach (hopefully as I will also be in Florida on those dates!). BUT – have to say I adored Animal Kingdom and Harry Potter world as much as my son, who was 6 at the time did. I imagine that it’s even more magical at Xmas. So it depends whether you want to spend a load of money and wallow in the magic, really.

    But son is now 17 and the exchange rate is apocalyptic so we will be chilling out as cheaply as possible in the Keys and Fort Lauderdale (thank goodness for the stash of hotel points I accumulated in lockdown)!

    NorthernLass 8,248 posts

    Oh and water parks! Hours of fun. We went to Typhoon Lagoon, I think, which was brilliant, but there’s now one based around a massive fake volcano which looks even better.

    Tip – if you have the facilities to make picnics, this is a really good option for saving tons of money and queuing time. Even pack some plastic cutlery and plates/cups and a soft cool bag so at the very least you can buy ingredients and throw some sandwiches together.

    Jonathans 128 posts

    We did exactly this trip for October half term with both 3 and 5 year olds. We also did Peppa pig world (much smaller than the uk park) but equally as enjoyable. You only need half a day in the park. We also did sea world (with family adventure tour) and which got a stroke a dolphin and feed a ray, meet a penguin and meet Sesame Street characters.

    degsy 153 posts

    You’ll have an amazing (if expensive) time. We’ve been 3 times over the last 10 years with our 2 kids. We’ve always said it’s the holiday by which all others are judged – many will disagree I’m sure but you’ll get loads of fantastic family memories which you’ll never forget. There’s something for everyone whatever your age.
    As people have said already, Magic Kingdom and then Animal Kingdom are the parks to target given the age of your kids – these are the parks where they’ll be able to go on most rides.
    And make sure you have a plan, you’ll get so much more out of it. This book is your friend as it’ll give you some invaluable tips eg tell you which days to go to the parks: https://www.waterstones.com/book/brit-guide-to-orlando-2022/simon-and-susan-veness/9780572048181
    Enjoy!

    The Savage Squirrel 598 posts

    Going to echo most previous advice…

    For that length of stay, do not waste money on multiple theme park groups. Disney alone will give you more theme parks than you can handle or need in 7 days. Cape Canaveral was my highlight too, but it’s a long drive for a 3yo who will only be interested in the playground. One for another time I think.

    Jetlag and small children are actually very much your friend here. Just stay close to a UK time schedule. You can be at your chosen park bang on opening time, catch the busier rides you want to do while it is pretty empty then out by lunchtime when the crowds are building. Certainly Magic Kingdom and Animal Planet, but there’s a fair bit for younger ones at Hollywood Studio: Frozen Singalong (urgh, kill me now) and Muppets (actually quite good) spring to mind as well as the Toy Story section.

    There are actually some decent dining options in the parks, especially Epcot, but you will generally have to book them in advance – especially character dinners. If this is not for you then – again – out by lunch and eat elsewhere.

    The DiBB will give you all the info you could need on things like Fastpasses. Use them – they are invaluable.

    Wonderworks in Orlando is on a much smaller scale but very good – ideal for a more relaxed 1/2 day out. Also it’s indoors if weather isn’t great.

    Disney Springs shopping centre isn’t bad for kids either. Generally something free going on, and the lego shop alone could easily keep them entertained for an hour without spending money.

    One final thing. America is expensive now, Disney is jacked up much further and the exchange rate is terrible too. Just accept nothing will be “good value” and enjoy your holiday.

    gjb1984 6 posts

    I really appreciate the advice – thank you so much.

    I didn’t realise there was a Peppa Pig world there – my 3 year old will absolutely love that!

    I think we’ll target Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, a water park and Peppa Pig world. And keep the rest of the itinerary free for ad hoc things/pool days. Does this sound like a good plan or should I arrange some more activities?

    Based on the above choices, what is the best way to secure tickets for these particular parks? Is it possible to just buy on the day as my wife is notoriously anti-schedule and hates being tied down to activities in advance!

    Many thanks once again, you guys are really helping me out here.

    PS I should specify that budget isn’t a huge concern, I’ve not been abroad since early 2019 so the kitty is well and truly stacked up!

    The Savage Squirrel 598 posts

    Based on the above choices, what is the best way to secure tickets for these particular parks? Is it possible to just buy on the day as my wife is notoriously anti-schedule and hates being tied down to activities in advance!

    Your wife just needs to get over this and work a schedule on days you are going to a park. Correct use of scheduling ride times using Genie+ and the Lightning Lanes (it costs extra now but will be worth it if budget allows) can be the difference between queuing for a ride for 5-10 minutes or queuing for over an hour. Without pre booking you have only the bottom rung of dining options to choose from. Put more simply, it’s the difference between a crap time and a good one.

    degsy 153 posts

    Agreed with TSS – you need to have a modicum of a plan for the time you’re there. I wouldn’t just rock up to a park without any thought, that is likely to lead to a frustrating day.
    Plus if you have an idea of what you’re doing when, that’ll inform which tickets you buy – single day tickets work out a lot more expensive per day than eg a 4-day pass (which are usually flexible across all their parks).
    Lastly, I’ve never found a way to get discounted tickets for Disney, so I’ve always bought through the official website (not sure if others have had more joy with this).

    Tracey 218 posts

    Already have “it’s a small world” tune playing in my mind from reading this!

    Plan and plan again. We used a book called the Unofficial guide to Disney that helped enormously with tips for avoiding queues etc.

    One tip is to book a character meal on a non Disney day, your little one will love the interaction and that will be the only activity you need to do in the day for it to be a memorable day.

    Reney 791 posts

    Just to add that I think the youtube channel Disney Food Blog is great if you get bored of reading a website.

    NorthernLass 8,248 posts

    @Tracey, I now have that song in my head and I haven’t heard it for 10 years! One to avoid, lol.
    My son loved getting photos and autographs with the characters, we got him a special book to collect them in which also made a great souvenir.
    The kids might be a bit young but I recall the “Cars” show being hugely entertaining. All the relevant shows were worth seeing, TBH, kept the kids entertained and provided a welcome sit down!

    Claire 27 posts

    I really appreciate the advice – thank you so much.

    I didn’t realise there was a Peppa Pig world there – my 3 year old will absolutely love that!

    I think we’ll target Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, a water park and Peppa Pig world. And keep the rest of the itinerary free for ad hoc things/pool days. Does this sound like a good plan or should I arrange some more activities?

    Based on the above choices, what is the best way to secure tickets for these particular parks? Is it possible to just buy on the day as my wife is notoriously anti-schedule and hates being tied down to activities in advance!

    Many thanks once again, you guys are really helping me out here.

    PS I should specify that budget isn’t a huge concern, I’ve not been abroad since early 2019 so the kitty is well and truly stacked up!

    Buy tickets now so you can book your park days and I would go for a seller that sends you the physical tickets, if you buy from Disney you have to queue up to get them the first time you go. Lots of authorised sellers are on CB sites and some through in extras like Gatorland tickets.

    Andrew. 510 posts

    My last Orlando visit was in 2018, and it was in early December. It wasn’t with kids.

    Little point… It can be cold! We had light frosts on two of the mornings – but later in the day it was lovely and warm.

    gjb1984 6 posts

    Thanks everyone for the help – it’s all sorted now. Tickets booked for magic kingdom + animal kingdom, and plans for SeaWorld, Legoland & Peppa Pig World + free days for a waterpark visit/gatorland/chilling out around the pool.

    To the person who recommended the Disney guide book earlier in the thread – special thanks as this has really helped me out!

    PS – I wish I hadn’t left it this late to book, as I’ve missed out on booking the themed Princess meal at Magic Kingdom which my daughter would have loved. Lesson learnt!

    janed9388 63 posts

    Thanks everyone for the help – it’s all sorted now. Tickets booked for magic kingdom + animal kingdom, and plans for SeaWorld, Legoland & Peppa Pig World + free days for a waterpark visit/gatorland/chilling out around the pool.

    To the person who recommended the Disney guide book earlier in the thread – special thanks as this has really helped me out!

    PS – I wish I hadn’t left it this late to book, as I’ve missed out on booking the themed Princess meal at Magic Kingdom which my daughter would have loved. Lesson learnt!

    Sign up for mouse dining and set alerts for the princess meal, you get cancellations all the time. The paid plan is about $7 for a month and easily cancelled plus you can sign up for something like 20 different alerts vs only 3 on the free one. We got all of our preferred meals at great times in the summer. OK so I cancelled and re-booked some of them 5 or more times as they got closer and better times came up but we got everything we wanted – but be aware, I wouldn’t do it again as we were disappointed by the Disney dining experience generally – super expensive and not as great as the reviews would have you believe.

    gjb1984 6 posts

    Thanks everyone for the help – it’s all sorted now. Tickets booked for magic kingdom + animal kingdom, and plans for SeaWorld, Legoland & Peppa Pig World + free days for a waterpark visit/gatorland/chilling out around the pool.

    To the person who recommended the Disney guide book earlier in the thread – special thanks as this has really helped me out!

    PS – I wish I hadn’t left it this late to book, as I’ve missed out on booking the themed Princess meal at Magic Kingdom which my daughter would have loved. Lesson learnt!

    Sign up for mouse dining and set alerts for the princess meal, you get cancellations all the time. The paid plan is about $7 for a month and easily cancelled plus you can sign up for something like 20 different alerts vs only 3 on the free one. We got all of our preferred meals at great times in the summer. OK so I cancelled and re-booked some of them 5 or more times as they got closer and better times came up but we got everything we wanted – but be aware, I wouldn’t do it again as we were disappointed by the Disney dining experience generally – super expensive and not as great as the reviews would have you believe.

    Thank you – I’ve just signed up. But I also take on board your feedback about the meals. From the pictures I saw they all looked pretty basic or just inappropriate (quasi fine dining for a 3 year old…).

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