I love Florida, every year for a while now we have packed up and jetted to Orlando courtesy of Virgin Atlantic on January 1st.

Let’s be honest, Christmas is great, the kids love it, I, love it. But after Boxing Day that’s it. It’s just a long boring week. The kids have usually done my head in, I’ve got legless and argued with someone and then I sit and moan about how the shops are closed, or the crap weather or how what is on TV is garbage. Pubs all inflate their prices and pass off reheated gash that tastes like cardboard as some exquisite Gordon Ramsey affair. Then there are the sales, everyone hits the shops en masse to grab a bargain, I can hear it now “here look this is only a quid” – Yeah, it was only a quid before.

So I escape the UK and hit the sun lashed beaches and parks in Orlando – So come Jan 1st if you are on the 1025 VS27 out of Manchester look out for us!
Anyway back to Orlando, when I first started to go it was a place reserved for families who had good mannered children and who were genuinely friendly people. Now it seems Florida is the new Benidorm, the place is littered with Chavs all trying to show off who has the largest fake gold necklace from Argos, or who can let everyone know just how English they are. Football shirts are a common sight as are morons in Union Jack shorts who shout in their common and crass accent about how ‘shit’ a particular thing is. Or how “I’m not paying that” – For these people finding a price they are unwilling to pay or something they do not like is a huge obstacle in their lives. Where most people would simply say “no thanks” and walk away, these idiot’s stand and argue as loud as possible how ridiculous it is. They stand out a mile and they love it. In the UK they no doubt sit and read the Sun and from their armchair put the country to rights proclaiming how much the UK has gone down the pan. Yet in Florida there is no one prouder to be British and more willing to let everyone know, they think they are the first Britons to ever travel and they assume that because they have had to save up for the past decade that they are immune to any law. Simply the British consulate will wade in and make a few excuses and they will be on their way.

Quick info on Florida
(I could write for hours on Florida so this is not exhaustive by any measure, it is a quick round up, I will elaborate in much more detail in my book)

How to get there
(I always DIY not package it is ALWAYS cheaper)

I always fly Virgin, I am a flying club member and since they fly from my local airport direct they are my natural choice. The planes are no doubt the oldest in the Virgin fleet but do have seat back entertainment and always seem to get there on time. They are not the cheapest but I’m happy to pay their prices. If you fly indirect to Orlando you will invariably save money and it’s not that big of a deal changing planes. You will fly to somewhere like Atlanta, go through customs at your point of entry, get your bags and have to re check them. But airports in the USA generally are designed for transit and are a damn sight easier to transit through than most EU airports. If you choose to use a US carrier then my advice is simple, they are all as bad as each other. Having flown all the major US airlines there is nothing between them. On the ground expect surly staff that treat you with contempt, expect age old aircraft with limited IFE and typical US service (limited and littered with attitude) if it were me I would simply book the cheapest and one which fit my schedule.

Get around

If you can drive then you would be an imbecile to come to Florida and not hire a car. The parks are strewn across an area the size of Greater Manchester. Then there are those further afield like Busch Gardens, or Kennedy Space centre or the Beach in Clearwater etc… You cannot walk most places. I have a friend who travelled to Orlando and did not hire a car, when asked what she thought of her holiday her reply was “Nightmare” That said, if you intend only to do Disney then stay at a Disney hotel and just get the connections. I would just like to reiterate though, if you can drive TAKE A CAR. Look earlier in my blog about driving in the USA.

Where to Stay

I have always stayed in Kissimmee; it is littered with restaurants, things to do of an evening and is only 10 minutes from Disney or 2 minutes to the highway which connects the whole of Florida. Best thing about Kissimmee though is the prices, it is 50% or cheaper than I Drive and Buena Vista, yet imo is a far better location. You will get a heck of a lot more for your money if you base in Kissimmee and that is fact.

When to go

Dec – Expensive, its Christmas and the busiest time of year in Orlando
Jan – All the parks still have the Christmas decorations up but it is one of the cheapest times of the year to go. Expect weather about 22 – 30 degrees, and in the parks literally walk off one ride and onto another.
Feb – Apr – Cooler weather and the parks quiet up until Easter Holiday, relatively cheap but the prices slowly climbing.
May – Jul – Lovely weather and up until summer the parks reasonably quiet and prices moderate.
Jul – Aug – The prices rocket skyward and the parks are teaming, rain is common most days and the heat in the high 30’s and humidity near 100%
Aug 26th – Oct – Prices tend to fall on Aug 26th and then drop slowly until December, the weather is still very nice and the parks begin to empty.
Oct – Said by many as the best time of year to visit, ridiculously cheap, still great weather and the parks empty.
Nov – Similar to Oct but for whatever reason not as cheap usually.

Outside Orlando

Clearwater, about an hour and half from Orlando (Follow signs for Tampa then to Clearwater Beach) this is my favorite beach in the whole USA. White sandy beaches, palm trees and gorgeous sunshine year round Clearwater is great. Mel Gibson has a home there and it is easy to see why. The sea is full of Dolphins which can either be seen from the pier or take one of the many boat rides out to see them. They do tricks for the boats and show that they truly are one of the world’s most amazing mammals.

Everglades (Miami) whilst the Everglades stretch right up to Orlando there is a huge difference to flying around on an airboat and passing a mall as you do, to being in the middle of nowhere and seeing Alligators only feet from your boat. Head down to Miami and then across the 41 West to find loads of airboat places all offering great tours for around $18 pp for a 30 min ride and usually a show thrown in where some guy shows how hard he is by wrestling an alligator.

Miami South Beach, Ok the beach may be snide and made up of tiny stones which are like sandpaper to walk on, but where else can you see some of the most beautiful women in the US wearing about a square centimeter of clothing on their entire bodies. And I mean come on, Its Miami!

Florida Keys, loads of little islands all conveniently connected by the US 1. They may be some of the most amazing beaches and places in the world but the road is the deadliest in the USA. For all the cheap arses head for Key Largo, for those with a little more panache (and time) It has to be Key West.


America is full of scams, from ‘buy on get one free’ only to find out after buying one that it is only applicable between the hours of 1am and 2am on each Tuesday, to the downright ridiculous ‘Get a brand new Toyota for free’ In the UK we are protected by legislation which pretty much means all adverts should be self explanatory and there should be nothing hidden or written in a way to make something sound better than it actually is. Well Congress in the US haven’t actually got round to that part of their lawmaking yet. Almost every advert you see will have endless limitations and qualifications clung to it and pretty much nothing is as it proclaims to be. Orlando is no different, the endless ‘Disney for a dollar’ etc etc all usually have time share viewing attached to them, or over priced breakfasts or are period tickets which are being re sold on – Illegally. If you buy a cheap ticket and are then caught at the gate expect to lose it. Your best hope would be to act ignorant and say you didn’t realise the bald headed, tattooed guy sat amongst a cloud of smoke which smelt like dope wasn’t an official Disney Vendor. The best and easiest way to avoid getting ripped off is to do your research and buy your tickets from the UK before you travel from a reputable dealer.

As I already mentioned Orlando is a huge topic and people have written confusing novels with about fifty volumes on it. Message boards are a plenty and are a great way to get info. But remember everyone is different. Many people like to advise after only one visit so take every bit of info with a pinch of salt. Just make sure you GET A CAR.


Just a dad trying to live the dream with my kids.

1 Comment

  1. I’d love to go back to Florida (went three times in the early ’90s) but sad to hear about the chav invasion; guess it was perhaps inevitable 🙁

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