Orlando is a great place to visit, and one of the world’s top family destinations.  Here’s a list of tips I give anyone coming for a vacation.  If you’re planning to visit from the UK (my home country) you should find it of value.

#1 Time of Year to Visit

To determining the best time of year to come to Orlando is to first ask what you’d like to do when you get here.  If you’d like to “do-the-parks” then don’t come in the summer (June to August).  Many Brits make the mistake of coming in the school summer holidays.  At this time of year it’s *always* 30°C – can you image tramping round Disney for nine hours (with kids!) in this scorching heat?  If you want a park orientated vacation the best times to visit are February to May or September to early November  (note: avoid Thanksgiving at the end of November, and Christmas).

Alternatively, the summer is a great time to come if you’re looking for a relaxing time sitting next to the pool intermingled with shopping expeditions.  Also note June to August are the rainy months when most days the heavens will open for 30 minutes between 2 pm and 4 pm – it’s not a big deal (unless you’re playing golf) but you need to know about it.

#2 Where to Stay

If you’re coming as a family the best place to stay is in a villa.  The most popular ones are detached three or four bedroom properties with a pool (many now also have free WiFi internet). The advantages of a villa become apparent in the evenings; after you’ve put the kids to bed, you can loll in the pool sipping your favorite cocktail – this just isn’t possible if you’re in a hotel.  Villas are really not too expensive and you will be able to pick one up for $1,000 per week.  You might like to try Florida Leisure (www.floridaleisure.com/) – ask for Nigel and say I sent you.  You can also Google or look at ads in the classifies section of UK golf magazines.

#3 Car Hire

This is a big one.  Many UK visitors make the mistake of booking a super cheap rental car ($14 per day), only to find that when they get here the (non compulsory) insurance is an extra $40 per day!  In the US most people’s home motor insurance or credit card covers them for driving rental cars.  Naturally UK drivers are nervous about driving in the litigious US of A, so  they end up forking out the extra three hundred bucks a week for the insurance.  There is a solution – book with Holidays Autos (www.holidayautos.com), who include all the necessary insurance.  Be warned – when you pick up the car at the airport you will be asked if you’d like to take out extra insurance (since this is where they make their money) – decline their offer.  From my experience, you’ll save 50% using Holiday Autos compared to just booking though the car rental companies.

#4 Which Days to Visit the Parks

Ask yourself this – which park do you think 99.9% of kids are looking forward to visiting when they visit Orlando i.e. which park is the icon of central Florida.  Yes – Disney’s Magic Kingdom.  This means the first day after they arrive most kids have their heart set on going to Magic Kingdom.  As a result Magic Kingdom is packed on Sunday and Monday.  The key insight here is some days of the week are less crowded than others – which means if you go on the right day you’ll spend less time in queues and more time having fun!

I recommend visiting the Universal Studios or Sea World early in the week and leaving the Disney theme parks to later in the week.  This Disney link is a good resource.