Before you go

  • Don’t forget your ESTA.  An Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) is required before you travel to the USA.
  • Pre-Book your park tickets.  Buy all your park and attraction tickets before you travel.  It will save you time and money. Check tickets carefully when you receive them.
  • Make sure your passport is valid and up to date.  It requires 6 months left on it from your return date.
  • Photocopy your passport.  If you loose it it makes getting new ones a lot easier.
  • If you need a car it makes it cheaper and easier to book before you go.
  • Organise a toll pass before you travel, if you think you might use one.
  • Direct flights from Dublin to Orlando take about 9 hours and are more expensive than indirect flights.  Flights with one stopover take about 13 hours and are cheaper than direct flights.
  • If taking an indirect flight try to make your stopover an American one.  It means you can do preclearance in Ireland and it will save you time when you land.

At the Airport

Car Rental

  • Remember that all car hire bookings require a credit card on arrival.
  • When renting a car in Orlando, if you wish to travel a lot and plan on using the toll roads, consider getting the Visitor Toll Pass’.  You can save as much as 80% on all toll roads throughout Florida.  With Visitors Toll Pass you pay the lowest toll rate with no additional fees.  Plus, its free when you travel through the Orlando International Airport.  It is the smart alternative to costly rental car toll programs. The tolls are paid electronically while traveling on any toll road throughout Florida. It is accepted at all electronic toll collection points, allowing you to travel nonstop without fumbling for cash. It can be reserved before you travel and picked up at the Visitor Toll Pass counter on the rental car level at the airport. It works in all electronic express lanes were you see E-PASS, SunPass or LeeWay. You will need to download the Visitor Tool Pass App. On your return to the airport remove the pass and drop it in to the returns drop boxes or at the airport counter.  You will be billed by them within 3 days of the conclusion of your trip.
  • Always check your rental car for any scratches or damage before leaving the airport and report these to the rental company.  Take photographs of your car if necessary.
  • Plan your route in advance.  Use Map Quest or Google Maps, or a Sat-Nav if you have one.
  • American cars are automatic. If you haven’t driven one take your time to get use to it.
  • You will be driving on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Unless signs say otherwise, you can turn right at a red light.
  • To avoid ever losing your car in car parks, take a photo of your parking location on your camera or phone.
  • Don’t forget Orlando has UBER.  If you haven’t planned any transport, order an UBER, it’s fairly cheap.

How to beat the queues

  • Get there early.
  • Go to the newest, most popular rides first.
  • Pre-book Disney rides in advance where possible.  Using the Disney’s FastPass+ system.
  • Pre-purchase Park tickets if possible.  It works out much cheaper and saves time queuing to get in to the parks.
  • Avoid US School holidays if you can.
  • If you can at all, go to the parks when the kids are not on school holidays.
  • Besides seasonal considerations, certain days of the week are slower at the theme parks, usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Ride lines often slack off towards late afternoon, so save the big attractions you missed in the morning for later.
  • If queues are long and you are willing to split your group, opt for single rider lines.

Tips for the Parks

  • Avoid expensive roaming charges.  You can now enjoy free Wi-Fi in all Walt Disney World Parks, SeaWorld Parks, Universal Orlando Theme Parks and Universal CityWalk.
  • Consider visiting one of the smaller parks first and work your way up to the bigger ones.  This means each day will get more exciting!
  • Bring a picnic to the parks. You might have to leave this in the car and come back to it at intervals. Some parks have stopped you from bringing food in to them
  • Disney’s FastPass+ has now been replaced with a new service called Disney Genie.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and quick-drying clothes to the parks.

Tips for Dining

  • Make your own breakfast. At the beginning of your holiday take a trip to a supermarket like Walmart or Target to stock up on things like yoghurt, milk, and fruit, as well as cereal and pastries, so you can have breakfast before you leave the villa in the morning. Arriving at the parks with full stomachs means you won’t be tempted by the more expensive breakfast options available and then you can head straight to your favorite attractions too. If you’re visiting as a family, get your little ones to help you pick some breakfast items you can’t get at home. That way it still feels like they’re getting a holiday treat while keeping to your budget.
  • Bring your own snacks to the parks. You’re allowed to bring your own food into the parks (as long as it doesn’t need cooking) so while you’re at Walmart make sure you pick up some snacks too. Cereal bars, dried fruit, crisps, and other packaged goods are perfect to leave in your bag and take out as and when you need them. Not only will you save money compared to buying all your snacks in the parks, but you’ll always have something on hand if you’re peckish in a queue or waiting for a show.  You could even buy bread and fillings to bring sandwiches for lunch, saving your money for one restaurant meal per day.
  • Buy sides and snacks. For a cheap but delicious food option, take a look at the sides on the quick-service menus. They can work out better value for money.
  • If you have young children, most restaurants allow you to buy one meal between two.  There’s usually more than enough.
  • Look out for the discount vouchers. They can be found in shops and restaurants such as the Golden Corral, throughout Florida.

Tips for Families

  • Bring your own food to the parks.  Did you know that you’re allowed to bring your own food (that does not require heating) to the Disney Parks.  Taking in your own snacks is a simple yet effective way to save money during your trip, and also keeps the kids satisfied. Visit local grocery stores like Walmart and Target to stock up on healthy treats during the beginning of your stay, or pack the kids’ favorite cereal bars and other non-perishable treats in your suitcase.
  • Bring your own Disney merchandise. Make your holiday even more magical by bringing your own Disney costumes, ears and other goodies with you, if you already have them. That way, the excitement can start immediately and won’t cost you any extra. Jazz up your photos and daily outfits with your own gear, and carry the wonder of Disney throughout every aspect of your trip. Your kids will love the added holiday magic and will be less inclined to want a goodie when in the Disney Parks too. Win-win!
  • Take advantage of kids eat free offers. Many restaurants around the Orlando area offer kids eat-free discounts on selected days and meals, so do your research beforehand and plan your dinners wisely. International Drive, has many food places around the area that are fantastic choices for family-friendly dining. If they don’t offer kids eat-free offers, they’ll at the very least do a cheaper kids menu, offering healthy, filling meals that are perfect for little ones.
  • Ice Water is Free. A small but simple tip here – ice water is free across the quick-service dining locations throughout Walt Disney World Resort that also sell fountain drinks. Quench your family’s thirst without spending a penny! To save on plastic, bring in your own water bottle and ask for this to be filled up instead.  To make it more exciting for the kids, bring in some juice sachets to mix in with the water, readily available at most grocery stores. In the colder months (rare in Orlando, but still a possibility!) free cups of hot water are also available to Disney Park guests. Again, you can even make your own tea using store-bought tea bags, or maybe treat the kids to a hot chocolate, using a sachet.
  • Buy a cheap pushchair or use the one that is in the villa. This will save you money on pushchair rental.
  • Plan ‘free’ activities when in the Disney Parks. Mix up your holiday and take advantage of all that the Disney Parks have to offer. These are some great things to do when your little ones need a break from the attractions, and will come at no extra cost to you:
    • Spot the hidden Mickeys – one of the most popular and fun things to do. Find the hidden Mickeys across the Disney Parks
    • Spot animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – you don’t need to be staying in the hotel to walk around the grounds of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  A short stroll around the area will see your kids encounter zebras, giraffes, gazelles, flamingoes and much more!
    • Explore the Disney Parks in a scenic way, using boats or the Disney Skyliner.
    • Have a family picnic – bring your own treats and unwind in one of the many spaces in the Disney Parks.

FREE family fun in Orlando

  • Throughout the year there can be various free activities for kids (both young and old). Such as the Jacksonville Maritime Museum, and chocolate factory tours in Daytona Beach!  Yum!
  • Celebration is a community less than 10 minutes for Walt Disney World.  The town center is their central shopping, dining and entertainment hub. It features FREE, family-focused events all year around.  Such as exotic car shows, fall’s Oktoberfest, now snowing, a holiday celebration with faux snow.
  • Disney Springs has free admission, covered parking, the open-air Disney Springs dining, shopping and entertainment district at Walt Disney World Resort has remarkable architecture, natural beauty and free fun for all the family.  Including live performances and other entertaining interludes.  e.g. Kids can build as many Lego figures as the want at the Lego store.  The whole family an hop on free ferries that travel to and from several different Walt Disney World resort properties – even if you’re not staying at them.
  • Disney’s Boardwalk is within walking distance of EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studies, also featuring free admission.  It will transport you to charming turn of the 20th century Atlantic City.  As you walk along Coney Island-style boardwalk, take in free evening entertainment that includes jugglers, comedians and even fire-eaters.  Like Disney Springs it is connected to Disney’s complimentary ferry system via the adjacent Disney’s BoardWalk villas.
  • Old Town Entertainment District complete with authentic architecture and distinctive storefronts, offers free attractions in Kissimme just minutes from Walt Disney World.  In addition to its paid attractions, dining and shopping, Old town has a robust schedule of free events featuring classic car shows and live entertainment.
  • Promenade at Sunset Walk adjacent to Margaritavelle Resort Orlando in Kissimmee close to Walt Disney World, Promenade at Sunset Walk is home to dining venues, nightlife, retailers and more. They also host a regular lineup of free entertainment and events, including numerous holiday celebrations.
  • Universal CityWalk Parking is free after 6 p.m. (excluding special event nights) and admission is always free at this 30-acre entertainment complex, which features restaurants, nightclubs, shopping and more at Universal Orlando Resort. Free activities at Universal CityWalk include dance parties set to live DJ sets, cooling splash areas for kids, and water taxis that travel to and from several Universal Orlando official hotel properties, no stay required.

FREE Outdoor Adventures in Orlando

  • Farmers Markets If you want to sample some local flavor, look into our free farmers markets. Held at Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando, the Orlando Farmers Market is held on Sundays. On Saturdays, you can take in the Winter Garden Farmers Market close to Walt Disney World, the Winter Park Farmers’ Market north of downtown Orlando, and the Lake Nona Farmers Market in its forward-facing namesake community close to Orlando International Airport. (Please note that farmers markets are subject to cancelation or rescheduling.)
  • Parks and Gardens The Orlando area is home to numerous parks, state forests and gorgeous gardens with free entry. In downtown Orlando, for instance, the 43-acre Lake Eola Park offers relaxation, concerts and events, and even outdoor yoga on Sunday mornings.
  • Tours and Tastings at Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards Every day, Orlando’s largest premium winery offers free tours with tastings. Lasting about 45 minutes, including a 15-minute video presentation, the tours take you through the production area and provide a view of the 80-acre vineyards. Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards also hosts free summer and winter music series, as well as a free open house during the holidays. They’re in Clermont, about 35 minutes west of our tourism districts.
  • United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Campus offers an exciting way to enjoy tennis with top-notch facilities, a wide range of events that are free to attend, and 100 fully lit tennis courts. They even have pickleball. What’s more, the 60- and 30-foot courts at the Nemours Family Zone are free for all ages to play, but pre-registration is required. The facility is in our Lake Nona community.
  • West Orange Trail this 20.8-mile paved trail runs from Winter Garden near Walt Disney World to Apopka, west of Orlando’s main tourism districts. Hiking and biking are free, and the trail also features playground equipment and other amenities. If you didn’t bring bicycles with you, you can rent them from West Orange Trail Bikes and Blades Co. which offers delivery to area hotels.

Tips for Adult Groups

  • Rent a car. While many visitors to Walt Disney World Resort usually don’t feel the need to rent a car during their trip, if you’re travelling as a group of friends you may find that hiring a car costs very little extra, as you are splitting the costs between more adults. You’ll also be able to share the driving, which is perfect for the Florida road trips you should definitely take during those Disney Park away days. You’ll also be able to explore the Orlando area more too.
  • Use apps. There are loads of free and cheap mobile phone apps available to help you have a hassle-free holiday, many of which focus on the budgeting side of things. If you’re worried about going over your spending limit, consider downloading a money tracker and input all your purchases into it as you go. This is great as a group, but also individually – it may be the case that you have a different budget to other members in your group, and this will help you to keep track of what you’re spending. If you already use a banking app, put your savings into a separate ‘holiday fund’ pot so you know that everything in there is available to spend.   Additionally, splitting the bill apps are a great way to make sure no one is paying too much/too little during dinner or drinks. You can easily make a note of who owes who what using these apps too. A quick research online will reveal which app is best for your group. ​
  • Plan your meals/drinks. When on holiday, it’s tempting to eat out every evening, especially if you’re travelling as a large adult group – the drinks are often flowing too! Stay on top of your budget by pre-planning your dining habits as a group. Do some research before, and make sure to take advantage of local happy hours or lunch/dinner specials at restaurants.  Of course, you are still on holiday, so make sure you pick one or two nights to treat your group to a meal at a special restaurant. If you’ve been budgeting for the rest of the trip, this will feel like even more of a special occasion and you will enjoy it even more.
  • Stay at the villa.  Renting the villa for the duration of your holiday is much more cost-efficient than staying in individual hotel rooms. Depending on the size of your party, you might each get a room to yourself and there will be more bathrooms for you all to get ready in the mornings. You also have the luxury of having your own kitchen, making it easier to save money on dining, and a living space that will allow you to unwind in your own private space after a day in the Disney Parks. A pool that you can relax in which makes for a perfect way to take a chill day.
  • Swap Disney Merch. Getting those all-important photos complete with Disney Ears and other merchandise is a vital part of any group trip to Walt Disney World Resort. Save money and swap and share your ears/clothing. This will make your photos look varied and fun, but means that you can split the costs of the merchandise and keep to your budget. Liven up your photos with your friends and create lasting group memories.

FREE Nightlife in Orlando

  • ICON Park Part of the International Drive Entertainment District, the ICON Park entertainment, dining and shopping hub is home to The Wheel: our famous, 400-foot-tall observation wheel. It’s one of Orlando’s best spots for selfies, and entry to the complex is always free. Hang out on the central green to watch The Wheel’s nightly lighting, or just kick back, relax and enjoy some people-watching after exploring International Drive.
  • Movie Nights – Orlando has two ways to see free nighttime movies under the stars. At downtown Orlando’s Lake Eola Park, Movieola usually takes place on the last Friday of the month from April through August. Showcasing family-friendly films, the event begins at 6 p.m. with the movie starting around 8:15. You’re welcome to bring blankets, snacks and leashed pets. On the second Thursday of each month, the city of Winter Park partners with Maitland’s Enzian Theater to host Popcorn Flicks in the Park. Usually held in the charming community’s Central Park, the movies are suitable for all ages and begin at sunset. Feel free to bring snacks, non-alcoholic beverages and blankets. (Please note that movie nights are subject to cancelation or rescheduling.)
  • Nightly Opera at Loews Portofina Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. Every evening, the posh Loews Portofina Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando hosts Musica della Notte, which translates to Music of the Night. Starting at sunset, the free event features traditional opera, upbeat melodies and singular blend of pop music and opera appropriately called popera. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is also one of the stops at Universal Orlando Resort’s free water taxi service, which you can catch from Universal CityWalk.

FREE Arts and Culture in Orlando

  • The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. Located in Winter Park, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art hosts the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, including lamps, glasswork, pottery, jewelry and more — they even have a Morse-designed chapel. The museum is open to the public at no charge on select dates
  • 6 free Apps for Orlando Theme Parks.
  • My Disney Experience App
    • If you have booked ‘Disney tickets’, you will be able to use the My Disney Experience app a minimum of 30 days in advance, to start booking exciting theme park experiences.The app lets you make up to 3 FastPass+ reservations per park, per day, and this includes character meet and greets and ride reservations.
    • You can also browse restaurant menus and make reservations online. This is strongly recommended for popular restaurants like Cinderella’s Royal Table- a restaurant located inside Cinderella’s iconic castle!The GPS enabled maps also help you to navigate your way through the park and locate character greeting spots. You can even preview your PhotoPass pictures on your device throughout your holiday. The Disney parks have free Wi-Fi so you can check your plan, add to it, or make any changes when you’re in the park.
  •  Universal Orlando Resort App
    • If visiting the ‘Universal Orlando Resort’, this app is an absolute must. One of the handiest features, is that you can see the waiting time for the rides in real time. The Universal parks are famous for their thrilling rides, which can often mean long queues. To make sure you avoid them, you can use the app to set alerts when the wait time reaches 5 minutes or less! You can even set reminders for shows, so that you won’t miss out.The app has detailed maps of each Universal park, showing you exactly where everything is. The filters make it easy for you to find the rides and attractions that are perfect for you. You’ll even get park notifications, telling you everything you need to know, and you can get live updates by using the app with the free Wi-Fi throughout the parks.
  •  The SeaWorld Discovery App
    • If you plan on going to ‘SeaWorld’, then the SeaWorld Discovery App lets you “put the park in your pocket” and is a great tool to help you plan your visit. As well as basic information like opening times, there are lots of handy features you can use. Navigate your way through the park like a pro with the interactive map, with highlighted paths to help you find your destination. There’s even an amazing car finder feature, for when you leave the park and have forgotten where you’ve parked!
    • That’s not all though, you’ll be able to find out detailed information about SeaWorld’s incredible animals, as well as locations where you can connect with them. You can also monitor the waiting time for the park’s biggest rides (like Mako and Kraken), with live updates throughout the day. Make sure you take plenty of selfies with the fun photo frames too!
  •  The Random Ride Picker App
    • For something fun, try the Random Ride Picker app. This app isn’t just for Orlando, as it has over 70 different theme parks around the world to choose from. You’ll be pleased to know, that the Disney, Universal and SeaWorld parks are all included! Using the app is easy, you simply have to select which park you’re at and shake your phone to reveal a ride suggestion. So, if you’re up for a challenge, let the random ride picker seal your fate. Be warned though, you could end up on one of Orlando’s most terrifying roller coasters!
  •  Weather Pro
    • The weather is an important factor on any holiday, so it’s a good idea to download a weather app before you go. WeatherPro Free offers a 7-day forecast, with data in 3 hour periods, for up to 3 days ahead. Wind, precipitation and temperature information is also provided, so you’ll know whether to pack the sun cream or a coat. While Orlando is generally hot, the weather can be unpredictable, so it’s worth having an app to keep you up to date when you’re on the go.
  •  Lots to do in line
    • When visiting the Orlando theme parks you can expect to wait in line for some time, for the most popular rides. There are plenty of apps that can keep you entertained while you wait. Instead of scrolling aimlessly through your phone in the line, you can use your device to join in a fun game with the rest of your group. The ‘Lots to do in Line: Walt Disney World Edition’ is a great app. With over 180 trivia questions, 16 treasure hunts and 200 items to find, the time will fly by. You don’t have to be an expert to play either, as the answers can often be found hidden around you in the queue area.
    • If you want to answer even more questions you can upgrade the app, although there is a charge. It’s worth looking at similar apps, as there are so many to choose from, including SeaWorld’s Antarctica App which lets you learn all about Antarctica and its penguin inhabitants.