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
- 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.
- 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.
Vouchers and Freebies
- 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.
- 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!
FREE family fun in Orlando
- 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.
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