Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Dreams really do come true...

I'd always dreamed of going to Florida for as long as I can remember. It started when I was small and my mum used to go to our local travel agent and pick up the Virgin Holidays Florida brochures. I would spend hours cutting out the hotels and parks I wanted to visit and presenting them to my mum and dad as though I was doing a sales pitch. And every year, I would get the same answer... no. Now it wasn't just the cost that was the issue, but it was never my dad's sort of thing. Don't get me wrong, he's taken me to many a theme park over the years but I think Disney was just a step too far. He hates crowded places and has always had an issue with flying too far away from home. And of course with Florida being a good 9 hours away, it just wasn't his thing. I guess when I was younger, I resented my parents a bit for not taking me but on reflection I don't think I would have appreciated it as much as I did when I went for my 30th birthday.

Before I became 30 I went through a patch of saying I wasn't going to do anything to celebrate and went on and on about how depressed I was that I was "getting old". I still feel old and feel like I still have so much to achieve but about a year before the 'big event', I decided to just make the most of it and organise things with friends and family to see in the big 3-0. I started off with Vegas being the dream holiday but after speaking to my boyfriend we realised it just wasn't feasible money wise. But then I suddenly thought about how much I'd wanted to go to Disney and how I wanted to act like a big kid instead of worrying so much about how old I was becoming. Obviously Disney isn't any cheaper than Vegas but we settled on it and then the countdown began!

One thing I can't stress enough is if you've not been to Florida before, you need to read up on it. Luckily my hairdresser has a villa in Orlando and has been going out there twice a year for about 25 years. Yes I've been listening to her stories over the years which hasn't helped my infatuation! She kindly pointed me in the direction of an amazing group on Facebook called 'It's Orlando Time!' Honestly, it's the best site. So many people offer the most helpful tips and without it, our holiday wouldn't have ran as smoothly as it did. Plus it gets you so excited for your trip when you're seeing everyone's countdowns! Got to say though, slightly depressing once you're home!

So back to the planning... We wanted to make sure we experienced as much as possible so we booked our package through Virgin Holidays and added our park tickets so we had everything sorted. As we said this would be once in a lifetime, we went the whole hog and booked all the Disney parks, Universal and SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. We even went wild and booked the Virgin lounge at Manchester Airport - well it was my birthday holiday! And with that in mind that's totally why I had 3 breakfasts in the lounge... honest.

My first breakfast. No wonder I put on 6 pounds!

I could go on for hours about hints and tips to getting the most out of your holiday but I would be here all day. So I'll give you the top ones at the bottom of the blog.

The flight out to Orlando was brilliant with Virgin. The cabin crew were lovely and I was really impressed with the food and drink offering. I didn't manage to sleep a wink (not unusual with me - fear of flying!) so I also made use of the inflight entertainment. Que the amazing Trolls and A Streetcat called Bob. The latter I was nearly crying at so it's a good job the flight wasn't packed.

Surprisingly yummy food

I'd heard horror stories about Orlando airport but we were lucky that we didn't get stuck in any long queues. We flew out in April but we'd heard it was bad over Easter, so it definitely depends on what time of year you head out there! Picking up our car from Alamo was a nightmare but we did get a free upgrade to a bigger car. Honestly it was huge! My boyfriend's face was a picture when he was trying to reverse it out the car park. But as you can see from the picture below, he was rather happy with it by the time we got to the hotel.

Looks smaller in the photo!

So the hotel itself... Not the best if I'm honest but it was basic enough to last us for the 14 nights we were there. If anything that was the only thing that let down what was an amazing holiday. But I don't want to dwell on that, as there's so much more exciting stuff to tell you.

We had an itinerary and for anyone that knows me, that's a given! So shopping, eating (we did plenty of that!), parks, rocket launches etc was all included and we managed to do it all. We did decide against going to Busch Gardens, but that's just because it was further away than we expected. So I'm guessing you're thinking "what about time to relax?" You can do a relaxing holiday in Florida but if you're planning on doing the parks on your very first visit, you need to realise that it's going to be a hectic one. But you know what, we did manage to have time by the pool and just made sure we took full advantage of our 'rest days'.

So what can you expect to experience in Florida? Well here's just a few things...

Shopping - You might not get the bargains you could do a few years ago but you can see get a good deal if you find one. I'm in love with my two Kate Spade handbags. 

Hello Kate Spade

The magic of Disney - No matter what age you are, I truly believe you can feel the magic of Disney whatever park you're in. But Magic Kingdom really is the place to be. When you see Cinderella's Castle for the first time, it takes your breath away. And don't get me started on the firework show. I won't lie... I sobbed!

Isn't she a beauty?

The food - What can I say about the food? Calorific, amazing, so much choice - I could go on! I went out there worried about putting on weight, so I said no to a few things. Don't! Just go out there and enjoy it! Here's just a few of my food shots...

No trip to Florida is complete without visiting The Cheesecake Factory.
The Simpsons doughnut at Universal Studios
See I did healthy sometimes... sort of!

The beaches - Whether you decide to drive to Miami, hit Clearwater or even just drive an hour to Cocoa Beach - it's worth it to get away from the hussle and bussle. 

Cocoa Beach
I could talk all day about our amazing 2 weeks but honestly I'd be here for weeks. However, if you're still reading, you may remember at the top of this blog I said we called this our 'once in a lifetime holiday'. Well... it was supposed to be but we've got the bug! We're planning on heading back out there in 2019 to do it all again. These holidays don't come cheap but all the scrimping and saving is worth it to experience what Florida has to offer. We're still going to do the parks as Disney and Universal have already added rides/waterparks since we left a few months ago, but we're going to take it a little easier next time. One things for sure, I want my children one day to experience the magic, so I think Florida might just become our home away from home. 

And the reason I called this post 'dreams really do come true'? Well here's mine...

Finally... 💗
And if you've managed to read on long enough, I hope you find my hints and tips useful if you're planning on visiting the Sunshine State anytime soon! 

Florida hints and tips:

  • Set yourself a budget for spending money but give yourself 20% over just in case.
  • Don't forget the extras you have to pay for car hire, gas, parking at the Disney and Universal parks, tips etc. It all adds up, so make sure this doesn't come as a shock when you get there.
  • Try to get meal deals where you can in restaurants. A lot do 2 for $20, or even just share a main or pudding. The portion sizes are big, so sharing a meal isn't unusual.
  • If you don't want to get bored with fizzy drinks and prefer water, ask for 'iced water' in the parks. You can get it free from all Disney Quick Service restaurants and at the booths at Universal.
  • Keep an eye out for any upcoming rocket launches at Kennedy Space Center. We saw one and it was honestly the most amazing experience. 
  • Do not pack fancy evening clothes, I repeat DO NOT PACK FANCY EVENING CLOTHES! It's a waste of space as everyone just wears vest tops and shorts. And girls, don't pack heels... again you won't need them!
  • Take a large suitcase and a small one as hand luggage. I used my small one for all my bargains.
  • And with space in mind, roll your clothes instead of folding. It also doesn't hurt to use the pants in shoes trick to get yourself some extra space too.
  • Pack a jacket as the air conditioning is super cold in restaurants and if you're like me and you get cold easily, it's a must-have to pack.
  • If you're heading to Florida on a budget and you've got a room only hotel, head to Walmart (our version is Asda) and buy some cereal and milk. Fruit is also a good option as long as you have a fridge in your room.
  • Take a pool towel to the waterparks to save queuing and paying for towels. And don't forget most waterparks charge $15 to rent a large locker for the day. 
  • Get Disney's memory maker. You get official photos taken around the parks which you can view on your Disney app. They even throw in some magic shots if you ask nicely. I'll leave you with our good friends Simba, Timon and Pumba.
Hey guys!

If you have any tips you want to share as I'm always looking for more. Share them in the comment box below.


  1. This was so cute! Love love love!

  2. I cannot tell you how much I LOVED your post! I am so blessed to be able to live here, and the magic of Disney is still not lost on me...and we are fortunate to go whenever. The outlets get my wallet a lot! I am so so glad you finally had the chance to make the trip AND that you explored so much of Florida beyond Disney. There is truly a lot to offer here and I am so glad you were able to experience it. I truly hope you can make it in 2019 :) Cheers!

    1. Awww thank you! So jealous you love there and LOVE that you still love the magic of Disney :)

  3. We went to Disney in December. My MIL has a condo in Clearwater, so we had some beach time and park time. It is so crowded at Christmas time! I'll never do it again. So glad you got to go!!!! I also went once growing up when I was six, and went back at 25. It was so magical! You are right!

    1. I think my boyfriend got sick of me using the word 'magic' at Disney but it's so true! :)


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