What to Do in and Around Orlando: When Not at The Parks

My recent trip to Florida felt like a bolt-on to my trip last year. If you’re new to Musings of A So Called Shutterbug, you may not be aware that last year, for my 10 year wedding anniversary, me and my Husband planned a dream two weeks in Orlando staying at Walt Disney World. We visited all the parks and also Universal Studios. It was a jam-packed holiday, but there were things in and around Orlando that we didn’t do because we wanted to make use of our park tickets 100% of the time.

So when we got the opportunity to go back to Florida and stay with friends for a week, this year, we snapped it up. As part of this trip we wanted to do all of the things we hadn’t had the chance to do last time. And I’m pleased to say we managed to tick everything the list.

Now, as much as this is a post about what to do OUTSIDE the parks, we DID visit the Magic Kingdom for one evening, for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I haven’t planned a post about this event, but if you’d like to see one then please leave a comment.

Snow White Disneybound at Magic Kingdom

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We also managed to fit in both Universal Parks in one day, but again, that’s not why I’m here.

If you haven’t got the time or resources to visit the parks, or if that’s just not your thing, there’s LOTS to do (for basically no money) in and around Orlando. And I wanted to share with you, what we did!

EAT

You could spend a whole month in this area, and eat in a different and good place every meal time and never eat the same place twice. Whilst in Florida, we ate at Chick-Fil-A 3 times. You might not consider it good food, but we certainly did and I’ve been craving it ever since we got back.

Other places we ate were Smokey Bones, Egg City, Cracker Barrel (which is a big breakfast favourite of ours – you can even sit outside on the porch chairs and play checkers whilst you wait for your table!)

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Blaze Pizza at Disney Springs (and I’ll come back to Disney Springs in a bit) is epic

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And restaurant style food is also aplenty. We ate in some great ones but the best was Homecomin’, also in Disney Springs

The food here is amazing. I was able to try fried green tomatoes for the first time and oh my were they good.

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NBC Sports Grill at Universal’s City Walk (again, more about there in a bit) is great. We went there for Sunday football and not only is the atmosphere awesome, but the food is amazing too. We tried Wisconsin cheese curds there for the first time and I’ve been dreaming about them ever since!

Wisconsin Cheese Curds

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SHOPPING

So, other than getting fat, we like to go shopping when we’re away. One of our favourite past-times is going to local supermarkets and seeing what things they have that we don’t. We visited Target, Walmart and Publix as well as Walgreens and CVS. We spent a good hour and a half in the first Target we went to. I just love slowly browsing EVERYTHING (sorry to Sarah and Nick who we were with!)

This is aside from visiting the shopping malls, industrial parks like The Loop and one of the many outlet malls (Premium Outlet Mall is our choice) to have a good look.

One thing to remember is that even if you don’t have a part ticket you can still visit the bar and restaurant areas of the parks.

At Disney it’s Disney Springs, and has just been completely overhauled. It’s free to park here, and has shopping, restaurants, bars and entertainment. It also features the world’s largest Disney store which contains lots of the official Disney World parks merchandise, so even if you can’t visit the parks, you can get your merch on!

Disney Springs in Fall

The Universal Studios equivalent is called City Walk. The parking here isn’t free so you need to know you’re going to make a trip of it, but City Walk is open until the early hours so you can definitely make a whole night excursion if you wish. There’s a cinema, bars, restaurants and I think a bowling alley too. You can also visit the new Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium, Blue Man Group theatre and Hard Rock Cafe from here, all without park entry.

Let’s also not forget the 192 and its tacky gift shops. I LOVE visiting these and this time around went to Orange World, and the Wizard Gift shop.

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The shop-fronts are tourist attractions themselves, and that’s even before you go inside to see what interesting things they’re stocking. Orange World also just happens to be direstly opposite my favourite Cracker Barrel for breakfast.

RESORT HOPPING

One of the things I was eager to do, was ride the monorail and see some of the resorts on the line, whilst we were staying off property this time. You can visit any of the Disney World resorts without having a room there, but just remember you cannot park there or use the pools. We parked up at the Ticket and Transportation Centre (this isn’t free but you pay once for the day and can park at any of the Disney car parks using your ticket), and hopped on the resort monorail to the Polynesian and the Grand Floridan hotels.

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This meant I could get myself a wonderful Dole Whip at Pineapple Lanai at the Polynesian (they taste the best here anyway!)

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It was my first time seeing the Grand Floridan, and though it’s a little stuffy, I’m glad I went and had a look around.

The other thing we did was park up at Disney Springs and get on a resort bus (again, this is free and you don’t have to be staying at a resort to use these buses) You can get the bus to any resort of your choice. We wanted to visit the Boardwalk as we hadn’t before.

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We’re so glad we did, and we got there a few hours before sunset, so we were able to see it in both daylight and then at night after we’d eaten. The Boardwalk area is a lot quieter than other Disney restaurant areas. It has a few shops, restaurants and bars but comes to life at night with night clubs and lights aplenty.

WINTER PARK

Last time I was in Florida I wanted to visit Winter Park, but we just didn’t have the time. It’s north of Orlando and we wanted to know the trip would be worth it. I love the Rifle Paper Company, and new they had their flagship store and head office there, but didn’t know what else there was. I’m so glad we visited this time, because we managed to have breakfast, do some shopping, and have a good look around.

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Winter Park has a lovely ‘sleepy town’ feel but also feels like a hub of business. It’s rather trendy and I’d even go as far as to say it’s a little ‘hipster’.

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There are loads of restaurants and coffee shops. One coffee place I knew I wanted to visit was Foxtail Coffee, and try their nitro cold brew. I’d been following them for a while on instagram and really wanted to visit.

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BEACHES

And last but not least, you can’t visit Florida without going to one of their white sand beaches. We’re not beach day people, so we made a short visit to Clearwater on the morning of our flight out from Tampa airport.

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An absolutely stunning place. We visited on a chilly, and windy, morning but it would be nice to spend a little more time there next time we’re in Florida. It looked exactly like a postcard!

As you can see, as long as you have a car, you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money filling your time in Orlando and the surrounding areas. We’ve discovered loads of places this time around, and next time we visit I know we’ll be making a trip to these places again.

Orlando, you have my heart!

 

 

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

I’m back! And this week I have been mostly recovering from much delayed jet lag!

We had an AMAZING time in Florida, so good that we’re already trying to work out how we can go back next year. (I accidentally wrote ‘next week’… wouldn’t that be grand?!)

I was back to work last week, and it’s Christmas in full swing for my job-role, so it was nice to get stuck back into it.

As you know, I don’t go for full blow-by-blow posts when I return from a trip, but I will be posting some Florida related posts in the coming weeks. A few hints and tips for things to do when you’re not visiting the parks every day, and also a post on some of the beauty products I picked up whilst I was away.

If you want to catch up on photos from the trip, head over to my instagram. I also did quite a bit of insta-live whilst I was away. If you missed those, make sure you’re following me, because I enjoyed it so much I might just do it again.

I’ve gotta say I didn’t do any filming for YouTube whilst I was away, because I’d much rather enjoy my holiday than feel like I’m ‘working’ it. In fact I didn’t touch my camera the whole trip – my iPhone was my camera and did the trick 100% of the time.

So, a little bit about the trip. We stayed with some friends whilst we were there, and had a list of things we wanted to do – and we did EVERYTHING on the list.

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I was very pleased that we managed to do everything we wanted to do, and still felt like we had down-time during the trip.

We ate some amazing food

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We got to go to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Snow White Disneybound at Magic Kingdom

We went SHOPPING!

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Florida is a wonderful state, and I really do feel like Orlando is like a second home. It’s got a little bit of everything you’d want.

Anyhow, now I’m back, and Halloween is over. It’s Guy Fawkes night tonight, and that means tomorrow begins full-blown Christmas. It’s one of my favourite times of year, so bring on the glitter, lights, food and music. Bring on the festive films and festivities!

What’s In My Flight Bag?

A few weeks back I posted a poll on twitter to see whether people would be interested in a blog article about what I’m taking in my flight bag, ahead of my trip to Orlando. The result was a majority yes, with one person saying no and the rest telling me they wanted McNuggets….

So here it is (and everyone else needs to get their own darn nuggets)

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I’ve travelled long haul more often than not when flying, and so I’m pretty set in my ways. I don’t tend to take a whole lot because I don’t see a 9 hour flight as particularly long. I seem to be able to get myself into a good mind-set and don’t have many problems (probably the many years of long shifts in retail. You’ve gotta get through it somehow!).

This year I’m taking our fantastic Walt Disney World backpack as my hand luggage. It’s strong, covered in Mickeys and fits so much in it. It’s also go tonnes of pockets so I can separate everything and I know I’ll be able to find it at a moment’s notice.

Now, I’m the kind of person who goes for ease so I don’t take any liquids or gels with me. This means I can go through security without any hassles. I do take a Chapstick but that’s never caused any problems.

UK passport and longline wallet

Important stuff first, I’ll be taking my passport, duh, along with my travel wallet which will have cards, cash and driving licence in it (and my Sephora and Ulta loyalty cards, of course!) I’ll also have any other important vouchers or documents pertaining to the trip.

I’m be wearing layers on the flight so won’t need a change of clothes, but I am packing my flip flops so I can change into those once we’re in the hire car, and leave my converse and socks in my bag.

I’ll be taking my Sony a5000 in a little case, you can see in the top picture. I don’t intend to use it on the flight, but I prefer to have it in my hand luggage so it doesn’t get chucked about. Inside this case is also an e-cloth.

I can’t go on a long-haul flight without a neck pillow and eye mask. I never know whether the eye mask they provide will work for me (the bridge of my nose always causes problems!) so I take my own. This one is actually from a past flight, but I use it regularly because it works on my face!

mickey mouse lock screen on iphone 7 plus in case

Of course I’ll have my phone, but when I travel I pop it into a case, since I can then chuck it into any bag without worrying about it getting lost or scratched. This particular case is by Tortoise and is leather. I have had a couple of these in the past (different phone sizes) but I always go back to them because they are robust, easy to take the phone in and out, and this one also acts as a phone stand.

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Please ignore the amount of finger prints on my screen…. but as you can see the case acts as a stand so I can watch YouTube or tv on the phone at any point and not have to hold it.

I also will be taking my Beats headphones, but of course I forget to photograph them. DOH! The little red pouch in the top picture contains my sunglasses. I doubt I’ll need them for when we land, but it’s holiday so sunglasses!

tic tacs and a Disney book

Bottom right on the photo, that tiny blue square is a Juice pack for my phone. My battery on my iPhone 7+ is really good, but who knows how much I’ll be using it, so better to be safe than sorry.

I will take a book with me (it might not be this one) but I have a habit of taking books on holiday and never reading them, so who knows! And of course I’ll be taking some sweeties!

I’ll no doubt add things like plasters and pain killers, last-minute because they always come in handy.

So even though it looks like a fair bit, that backpack will still feel empty! I’ll probably end up shoving my jumper in there at some point and trying to fill the space, as we do! But these are my essentials.

I can’t wait to get on the flight now!!

 

I’m Going on my Hollibobs!

You’ll all know by now, that in a week I fly off to my second home, Orlando!

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I’m crazy excited, and I’ll be posting a lot of stuff on my instagram, so make sure you’re following me over there.

I’ve scheduled a bunch of posts ahead of time, so keep checking back here for new articles. Halloween season hasn’t passed me by so there’s quite a bit of horror film chat about to occur (if you hadn’t already noticed on twitter!)

So whilst I’m away, please still comment on my blog posts and stuff and send me the love. I’ll reply to you when I can 🙂

Ahead of my flying off, I have a post coming up about what’s in my hand luggage, which was asked for by my followers on twitter, so keep an eye out for that.

See you on the other side!

Returning To Orlando!

Never in a million years did I think that I would be visiting Orlando twice in as many years.

Even whilst boarding the plane last October (in the midst of a hurricane, no less) did I suspect that in just over a year I’d be heading back.

Orlando is definitely my second home, forgetting all the parks (but why would you want to?) it’s got all the weather, the food, the beaches and the views. It’s an incredible place.

So, when friends offered to have G Man and I for a stay whilst they are there in October, we knew we had to try to make it work somehow.

I’ll no doubt keep mentioning this over the period of time we have left until we head out, but I thought I would share a little bit of the things we want to do whilst we’re there!

Disney!

We’re not going to be spending much time in the parks, in fact it’ll be just one evening – Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party! We’ll be able to spend from 4pm til Midnight in Magic Kingdom and intend on rinsing every single second! I’ve got my costume sorted and I can’t wait to walk down Main Street and see the castle again!

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Visit Downtown Orlando, Winter Park, and St Augustine

Since our visit last year was straight Disney and Universal Studios jam-packed, we didn’t really go out and about in Orlando or the surrounding areas (apart from the shopping malls of course!) so this time around we want to visit some of these areas. I’m especially looking forward to seeing St Augustine because from what I’ve seen in photos it looks beautiful.

 

Complete my Orlando ‘Your Are Here’ Mug Collection

About a week after we left Orlando last year, Universal Studios announced the release of their Starbucks ‘You Are Here’ mug…. I knew I had to go back and get one, so that’s what I intend to do. I can’t have an incomplete collection now, can I?

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Shopping!

Oh yes! I will be stocking up on Bath and Body Works, getting my money’s worth in Victoria’s Secret and Hollister (the prices are so much better there!) and visiting far too many Target, Ulta and Sephoras. Let’s just say I’m planning on packing light so I have room to bring things home….. eek!

The Food!!

I honestly can’t wait to get eating! Blaze Pizza, Publix Subrolls, Cracker Barrel for breakfast – and the one I’m most looking forward to… Homecomin’ I get to have that beautiful Moonshine Cake that I’ve been dreaming about all year, again! This isn’t even mentioning Dole Whips and all the other Disney treats you can get in Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs!

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Speaking of Disney Springs……

I’m looking forward to spending time in Disney Springs and City Walk, as well as visiting the Boardwalk area which we didn’t do last time.

Clearwater

And last but not least, I’m really looking forward to hopefully visiting Clearwater beach. We didn’t have the chance last time, so I’m hoping we will this time around, because I can’t go to Florida twice and not see at least one of their beaches!

As well as all of this, we intend on relaxing, taking in the weather and spending time with our hosts. I really can’t wait!!

 

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

It’s been a while since I posted a life update, mainly because I have had so much stuff in ‘pending’ that I haven’t really been able to talk about.

But in the last few weeks we have started packing up our house. We’re moving!

A while back I posted some tweets on twitter, as we were trying to decide between two houses (large house, not great area OR smaller house, nice area) We decided to go for the latter, and ever since we’ve been waiting on the chain. It’s been a struggle and frustrating, but things have started to move along, and after a long wait we’re looking at an early September move.

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And once that’s all done, I can finally start looking forward to the other amazing thing happening this year, which is our return to Orlando! In October we’ll be flying out to stay with friends for a week of Florida sunshine and a teeny bit of Disney magic (more of that in a later post).

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Over the last few weeks, apart from packing, we’ve been hunkering down and trying not to spend any money or do anything too extravagant. We started to watch Breaking Bad on Netflix and we’re almost at the end. The final season has been the most interesting so far, but I’ve almost given up on it a couple of times. It’s just not been as amazing as people have made out.

I also celebrated my 34th birthday, and spent the day chilling out and pottering on odd jobs. It’s nice to spend it low-key some times. Maybe I’ll do something exciting next year for my 35th. But I like the quiet and calm, especially ahead of a big house move!

On the social media side of things, I was excited to see I’d hit 1k followers on Twitter, and also gained a few YouTube subscribers since my last video went live. I’m hoping to begin posting those regularly again once I’ve got my office set up in the new house. I also alluded to a YouTube project I wanted to give a go, on twitter, AGES ago – I still intend on doing that. So if you showed interest I’ll be in contact with you once I feel ready to begin.

So that’s what I’ve been up to the last few weeks; not much to tell! But I’ll be sharing things as they happen (and whilst I have internet!) and you’ll be able to take this exciting journey with me!

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

Hello Spring! I think…. it’s been bitter and raining, and even though we had a glorious spring-like day last week I fear that was our lot…

But I had a busy weekend, with a family wedding on the Saturday, lots of chores Sunday and then the weekend ended with a trip to the cinema to see Beauty and The Beast.

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And I think I’m the only person in the world not to enjoy it! We saw the film in 4DX which I usually enjoy, but this time around it seemed really unnecessary. I actually felt a little sea sick at parts. I enjoyed Emma Watson in the film, and Gaston and Le Fou were awesome, but the rest not so much. I didn’t like Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts, and I didn’t like the changes made to the original songs (time changes in Tale as Old as Time, whilst they danced) and the new songs were just major cringe. Sorry world, but I wasn’t won over.

I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Childish Gambino’s back catalogue this week. After hearing Redbone and LOVING it, and having recently completed watching Atlanta on Netflix, I have become a big fan of Donald Glover and his music is continuing to consistently impress me.

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Work has been tough and intense and trying to get things wrapped up ahead of my holiday next week, I’m focussing extra extra hard on leaving things in a good way before I disappear.

I’m so excited for my trip to Rome though, and I’m really looking forward to some sunshine and a slower pace for a few days. I’m also really looking forward to taking photos whilst I’m there. If you don’t already follow my instagram, then head over, because I’ve been sharing some of my favourite photos I’ve taken over the years and it’s been a great trip down memory lane.

I’ll be posting my Favourites a few days early this month, as it’ll be scheduled whilst we’re away – and then once I’m back I’ll tell you all about my holiday! But until then, fingers crossed for some more spring-like days – come on Britain, I know you can do it!

We Went To Disney World – the movie!

 

Okay, well it’s not a movie so much as the YouTube video I’ve been promising is now up!

It’s taken me a little while to get all the footage together, and in a way that got as much as I wanted in but without boring everyone!

And if you want to read about our trip, then you can read my blog ALL about it!

I hope you like it. If you do, don’t forget to give it a thumbs up and subscribe if you want to see more!

Planning Your Trip to Walt Disney World: part 3

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Whoo hoo! You’re at Walt Disney World. All your planning has paid off and you’re finally doing it!

If you’ve missed parts one and two of this planning series, then feel free to head back. But if you’re ready to enjoy your holiday, why not see what I consider to be awesome tips for when you’re there.

What’s Important to you?:

If seeing characters and getting autographs is important to you, then make sure you don’t just walk past photo ops when you see them. You don’t know when you’ll see that character again so spend the time waiting for your chance to meet them.

Don’t Miss Out:

If you see a piece of merchandise that you must have, don’t let it go. If you’re staying on Disney property it can be delivered to your room so you don’t have to worry about lugging it about, and some merchandise can only be bought in one or two stores. You might forget where you saw it, or even just never make it back to that part of the park.

This can be said for food too – if you don’t pick up that Dole Whip when you see it, you might never get to have it!

Rest:

It’s really important that you plan in rest when you can. The afternoons get HOT and if you’ve been up early and plan to be awake late then you’ll need a mid-afternoon rest. Take a nap in the hotel or even just chill out with a drink somewhere air conditioned. This is a great way to avoid arguments, feeling unwell or just plain exhaustion.

Really Work Your Fastpass:

There were a couple of occasions when we arrived for our fastpass and the wait for the ride was only short anyway. You have an hour period to use your fast pass in, so on these occasions we stood in line for the short wait (10-20 minutes), rode the ride in the standard line and then once we were done we walked right back and used our fast pass. By this time the wait was often longer the second time around, and so we managed to skip the line. This meant we got to ride twice within half an hour!

Be Flexible:

Even if you have a plan like we did, be prepared to change things dependent on weather or just how you’re feeling. We had a hurricane on the way when we were there which meant we had to skip our trip to the beach, reschedule a visit to Epcot and hide out in a mall when the rain set in!

Take Advantage of Freebies:

On our arrival, we were asked if we were celebrating. We told them it was our wedding anniversary so we got given badges each. It was my first visit too, so I got a 1st visit badge. If it’s your birthday they have badges for that also! Whilst out and around the parks and resorts, the cast members take note of your badges and acknowledge that you’re celebrating. We also got given a free cake on one of our quick service visits!

Take Advantage of Your Package:

On our last full day, we knew we had lots of Dining Plan quick service meal credits left – I mean A LOT so we headed to Goofy’s sweet shop in Disney Springs. Here they allow you to split your quick service meal credit for three snack credits and this meant we could get anything in the store that was snack credit eligible for FREE (most of the store was eligible). We had around 80 credits left at this point which meant we filled our basket full of sweets for back home and gifts and got them all for free. We felt quite guilty about taking advantage in this way, but the cast member who served us actually encouraged us to buy more and more and told us to come back the next day if we still had credits left. We had planned to, but the hurricane meant we couldn’t.

We also took advantage of the photo pass we had received in our package and whenever we saw a photographer with no or a short line we got our photos taken. This was a great way to keep a memento of our time in the parks and meant we were never waiting around for a photo op. The only photo line we stood in for a while was during our Halloween party night, but we knew we wanted a keepsake of that!

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We also each received a refillable mug as part of our package. If you have this, do take advantage of it. The mugs are plastic refillable cups that retail for $18. They are activated at the counter and then for the duration of your stay you can have free Coke Freestyle drinks as often as you like (one every 5 minutes, if you wish) at all the Disney resorts. This also includes coffee, tea and water. We used these every day and found them to be a real treat.

Go Off Site:

We rented a car which meant that we were able to go off-site to the stores and pick up cases of bottled water, iced coffee and snacks for our room. Our room had a mini fridge and so we were able to take cold bottled water with us whenever we left the room, and save money on buying water in the parks.

Check Your Receipt:

A lot of the receipts in the parks have money off codes or coupons at the bottom. These can save you money on future purchases in and around the parks and resort stores. So make sure you inspect your receipt and don’t just throw it away!

Stay Hydrated:

It’s essential that no matter how much fun you’re having you keep drinking water. It’s so easy to get distracted and forget to drink so keep an eye on how you’re feeling. There are water fountains everywhere and places selling water. But we took our own bottles and the backpack we carried had water bottle holders in it meaning we didn’t have to worry about carrying freezing wet bottles in our hands.

And on that note: Make sure you wear sunscreen – hats, sunglasses and sunscreen – and don’t forget the top of your ears. You don’t want to ruin your trip with sunburn and heat exhaustion. Look after yourself!

So, those are my hints and tips for an epic trip to Disney World. There’s so much more, but I could go on and on – and you should probably learn them for yourself! So, go ahead, have an amazing time, and enjoy yourselves. And don’t forget to come back and tell me all about your trip to the happiest place on earth J

Planning Your Trip to Walt Disney World: part 2

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Welcome to part two of how to plan your perfect Disney World trip. If you missed part one, then head back because that’s all about booking.

Now you’ve booked the fun stuff happens. You need to begin thinking about what you’re actually going to do whilst you’re there.

You need to think about the time of year you’re going and what’s important to you. We visited at the end of September and start of October. This meant it was Halloween-time and also the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.

This was so exciting for us, because we knew there would be special events and lots going on.

Once you’re booked you’re told you can book certain things ahead of time. Do these things – you don’t want to find something you want to do is fully booked and you miss out.

Let’s talk specifics:

Where to start

We built an Excel spreadsheet of the two weeks we were away. This had a column for each day, and rows stating the different parks’ opening hours. We reviewed the crowd calendars on the DIBB and Touring Plans and were able to see which days to go and which days to avoid certain parks.

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On here we also noted the fireworks and events and the opening times of each park. From here we were able to start building up a picture of where we would be at what times. We also made sure we blanked out enough afternoons or days where we wanted down time. It’s so important to remember the days will be long and it’s HOT so we wanted to make sure if we needed to cool down or rest, we’d planned it in.

Build your Magic Band:

If you’re staying on site, you get the pleasure of your own Magic Band. These things are truly wonderful. A magic band is a waterproof bracelet that you wear throughout your time at Disney World resorts and parks. It’s your room key, park tickets, parking permit, locker key, cash, holds your fast passes and ADRs, links your memory maker and photo pass, and holds all your dining plan credits. You can choose the colour of band and they print your name (or nickname) on the inside so that you know which is which if there are more than one of you.

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Whilst you’re on property you can also buy little clip on accessories to jazz them up. If you’re UK based you pick your band up when you check in, and if you’re in the US they deliver your band a few weeks ahead of your stay.

Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR):

You can book your ADRs from 180 days ahead of your trip. If there’s somewhere you really want to eat you should try and book as soon as you can. Using the sheet we’d built we could see which parks we would be on which days and what time of day. This meant we had a good idea of when we could book in our ADRs and it worked really well. Ahead of booking, I’d been avidly reading the Disney Food Blog and checking out menus on the Disney World website. Full menus can be viewed, so you have an idea of what sort of food to expect. Restaurants like Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Table are too popular to allow walk-ins so you really need to be prepared. ADRs are linked to your magic band and you are sent reminders via email so don’t worry about forgetting your booking. Be aware that if you don’t show for your ADR your account is charged for a no show, so make sure you’re certain when you book, and if you need to skip your booking make sure you cancel ahead of time.

Fast Passes:

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We spent a while looking up the different rides for the parks, and finding out how popular these were. Rides like Seven Dwarves Mine Train and Frozen Ever After are fairly new so we knew we had to book fast passes for these. Using the spreadsheet we knew where we were likely to be and when so at 60 days ahead of our trip we were able to book our rides in. (If you’re staying off site it’s 30 days ahead.) It’s essential that if you have your heart on riding something, you book ahead. Trying to get a walk-on for Frozen or Test Track is pretty much impossible. Once we’d booked our essential fast passes, we went back and saw what was left in the places we knew we’d be – this meant that if we found ourselves in a park and didn’t have anything better do, we had rides planned in.

Special Events:

Knowing we would be in Orlando for Halloween-time we knew we had to book a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party, and we also booked for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal. Knowing that I’m the kind of person who likes to do things a couple of times to really enjoy them, we planned in two nights at Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We also knew this would aid us should the weather be bad, and this was fortuitous since the first night we planned there was a total wash out.

Be Flexible:

We knew our plan looked very strict but we also knew we were fairly flexible with it. If we needed to change a plan, didn’t want to do something again, or the weather changed, we were able to alter things on a whim – but we had also planned a lot of things more than once so the important things were covered should we need to miss one at some point.

Book Your Car:

Disney World has a Car Care Centre on property. We hired a car from Alamo, and knew that we could get picked up from the park (they also pick up from your resort), taken to get our car and then drive off into the sunset. Door to door pick up and drop off service, effectively. Having a car was so important to us because it meant we didn’t have to rely on waiting for buses, we had free parking at the parks, and we could nip off-site whenever we wanted.

Plan Your Must Dos:

I knew there were certain sights, resorts and foods I wanted to experience over my time away. I made sure I had a list of them all and it meant that when we had down time I was able to suggest a visit to a certain resort, or trip off-site for breakfast at a spot I’d heard about. It was so important to me that I tick certain things off my list, and didn’t come home and realise I’d missed something. It’s not like you’re in Orlando every day!

Buy Essentials Ahead of Time:

We picked up things like granola bars and ponchos (though these never arrived from the amazon seller!) ahead of time. You can save money by doing this and means you’re never caught ratty and hungry or soaked from a sudden downpour. Saying that, I did enjoy my Disney poncho and it was thick and good quality – worth the price in my opinion!

And now you’re all planned, all that’s left to do is wait for the big day when you can leave for your trip. Head straight to part 3 which is tips for when you’re in the parks!