Before getting back to my usual fitness and wellbeing posts, I thought I’d write a post to share some of my highlights and lessons learned from our Florida trip. It’s also helping to keep me awake and flight off the jet lag!
Packing: travel light. You’ll never need half of the stuff you take with you, so don’t bother. I stuck to shorts and to t shirts that covered my shoulders as I know I’m prone to sunburn there, regardless of how much suncream I use as it rubs off of rides. I found t shirts looser, more comfortable and more cooling. Who knew?
I also had two pairs of combat type shorts from Decathlon that I wore A LOT – I didn’t need a bag or bumbag as they had decent pockets, so I could go hands free.
I wore trainers every day- comfort was more important than anything else, plus I didn’t get sunburned feet from sandals or flip flops.
Best Park Tip: use a retractable ticket holder that clips to your belt loop rather than a lanyard. I found that it was easier to use, convenient and didn’t get in the way. I picked this one up in Universal, but Disney has plenty too. It meant my room key and park tickets were always close to hand:
Best travel tip: we hired a car and it was great, but onsite parking at Universal hotels was expensive. To get to and from the park we walked, or used the frequent bus, but the best way to travel was by water taxi. We could also go through security before getting on, avoiding the crowds at CityWalk
Best off-site travel: The I-Ride trolley that runs up and down International Drive was excellent. The virgin rep in the V Hub gave us a voucher each for a free 14 day pass so it didn’t even cost us anything- but passes are very cheap. It’s a great way to get to and from Orlando International Outlets and Vineyard Outlets- and everywhere in between:
Pocket Essentials: At the parks I carried my pass in my retractable holder, SPF50 lip balm, a small 30ml tube of suncream, and this: a cup from Decathlon that is made of soft water bottle material and scrunches up very, very small, fitting into a pocket very easily. I could then get a cup of water at water fountains to sip while waiting in line for attractions. Honestly, this was the best £3.99 I have ever spent!
For days when we walked longer distances outside of the park, and for on the aircraft we used our Decathlon soft water bottles and they too were perfect. Lots of people asked us about them as they thought they were great!
I also carried my trusty fan most days, but I wouldn’t call it an essential:
Best sunscreen: This was a-ma-zing for me, Neutrogena SPF70 and their specific face sunscreen too. I only put it on in the morning and it lasted all day- and for the first holiday ever I didn’t get any sunburn. It’s a game changer for me. It was easy to apply, soaked in well leaving my skin dry to touch, not oily or sticky. I picked it up in Walmart for around $8 I think.
Here’s the SPF lip balm I carried with me at all times too. It was also ideal:
Best drink: the coconut margarita at Chili’s was the best thing I drank all holiday!🥥🍸
Best meal: Best overall meal was at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium at City Walk. We had their own chocolate stout while waiting for our table. I had a salad, and an amazing s’mores dessert that I couldn’t finish, and a cherry chocolate cocktail. TheWelshWookie had a burger, a banana cream sundae and a whisky flight. It was all so good!
Best Sweet Treat: easy- voodoo doughnuts were immense!
Best Secret Menu Item: a ‘Deathly Hallows’ or ‘Triple’ from the Hogs Head. If you ask for it, the bar staff will deny its very existence so it’s very secretive indeed! We found out about it from a UOAP member in line in front of us:
Favourite Park: definitely both parts of the Harry Potter parks, including the Hogswart Express taking us from Kings Cross to Hogsmeade. (And from HS to IOA). It was amazing, I loved it all!
Best Roller Coaster: Hulk! It was by far my favourite! I also loved Maku at Seaworld and the Rip Ride Rocket at US but Hulk beat them all.
Best Water Ride: this is a toss up between Bluto’s Bilge Barge Rats (you get very, very wet!) and Jurassic Park’s River Adventure. The afternoon spent doing the water rides at IOA was a real highlight.
Best Disney Attraction: I loved Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the park overall as I didn’t expect to rate it so highly but it was a great day .
Best ‘awe’ moment: seeing the shuttle Atlantis for the first time at Kennedy Space Center. It was a fab day out and I’d highly recommend a visit.
Best Example of Hospitality: we went to Tropicana Fields to watch the Rays play the Blue Jays. Little did we know that it’s a cash free stadium and I had left our cards back in the hotel. Oops! We tried to pay for two soft drinks using Apple Pay but couldn’t get it to work- so the cashier just gave us souvenir cups and told us to help ourselves. It was so kind of her! Pity about the result of the game, mind you…
Best Universal Hotel: we didn’t visit them all, but of those that we did we were happy with our choice to stay at the Aventura Hotel. It was stunning. We had an upgraded room so had plenty of space, it was very comfortable with good facilities including the onsite V Hub. Our view over Volcano Bay was stunning!
The views from the rooftop bar, Bar 17, were also fabulous. It was well worth a couple of visits.
Bonus Pro Tip: buy glassware and mugs to use as we found that everywhere (including hotels) relies on disposables and plastics for everything. I wish I’d packed my travel cutlery too so I’d recommend that you bring those too. It’s a real shame- they use paper straws everywhere but use disposable cups, plates and cutlery which seems crazy to me! It also tends to be the black plastic that can’t be recycled. It was definitely the biggest negative I took away from the parks.
Flights: the Virgin flights and their Vera in flight entertainment system was ace, and service was excellent. The food was also great- I was very impressed, considering that airline food gets a (usually justifiable) bad rap. But many people just didn’t seem to care about what they were doing throughout the flight. I was mortified looking around as we disembarked to see the disgusting state that lots and lots of passengers left behind them. I felt heart sorry that the impression we left behind for the clean up crew was so bad. On the return flight, the guy behind me kept sticking his bare feet right down beside my seat- urgh! And he didn’t get the concept of a touch screen- I spent the night flight with what felt like him punching the screen and consequently the back of my seat and head rather than touching it! Perhaps we need a ‘flight etiquette’ guide as well as a safety guide?
It was a fabulous holiday though, from start to finish.
What are your top tips and best moments from your trips to Florida?