I was lucky enough to visit Orlando with my family for the holiday of a lifetime. We stayed in super family-friendly accommodation, ate at family-friendly restaurants, visited theme parks, shopped till we dropped and had an amazing Orlando family holiday. Read on to get a Mum’s Guide to Parks, Sleeping, Eating & Things to do in Orlando with your family.
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Planning a family holiday to Orlando is a big undertaking, and you want to make sure everyone enjoys themselves thoroughly. Take a look at my tips below and see what worked for us:
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Family-Friendly Accommodation in Orlando
Before you book your accommodation do your research. Orlando is vast but getting around the city by public transport is possible if you book your accommodation in a central location.
Decide what will best suit your family a hotel, apartment or private villa. Tour America have a great guide of questions to ask yourself before making your decision.
Where Do You Want to Stay?
We stayed on International Drive which offers a great choice of hotels and apartments. We stayed in an apartment that was part of a hotel complex, so we had all the benefits of staying in a hotel, as we were able to use all the hotel facilities, with the choice to self cater some of our meals.
Other friends who have visited, have stayed outside the city in private villas with pools. This enabled them to have some family days around the pool with BBQ dinners. Car hire is essential if you are staying in a villa.
On-site theme park hotels can be a great choice if you plan on spending the majority of your Orlando holiday visiting a particular group of theme parks. They have added benefits such as early entry to parks, fast passes and often offer complimentary park and airport transfers.
Getting Around Orlando
We used public transport, the I-Ride trolley, and public bus service to access parks, restaurants and shopping. The prices were very reasonable and drivers are helpful.
Taxis and Uber are readily available too, but with tipping it can add up to a considerable cost.
I would recommend hiring a car as the best way to get around Orlando if you are planning on visiting many theme parks and have limited time. Just remember that parking charges will apply at some hotels and theme parks.
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Orlando Theme Parks
Orlando is the theme park capital of the world and no visit would be complete without a trip to one or more of it’s many theme parks.
Based on my visit, I would advise you:
- To be realistic about how many parks you can fit in on one trip.
- Get out the map and see how far each one is from your accommodation before booking tickets.
- Plan your itinerary in advance so you know how much time you have in each park. It is possible to visit more than one park in a day. We spent half a day in Seaworld and caught the complimentary bus from there to Aquatica for the afternoon.
- Include some non-theme park days.
- Buy your tickets in advance, if possible before you travel, to save time queuing. And buy combination tickets, to give you entry to several attractions over the course of your stay.
- Theme park tickets are non transferable, your fingerprint is taken when you arrive for your visit and is used to identify you if you come back or a second visit.
- Consider using fast passes and queue jump passes for busier parks.
- Check out the Tour America article on Tips for Staying Cool in Orlando Theme Parks.
- Pick age appropriate parks, or be prepared to separate while you are at the theme park, so that older and younger family members get to go on rides that are suitable for them.
10 Family-Friendly Things to Do in Orlando
From theme parks to educational experiences, Orlando has many family-friendly activities on offer. These are a few of my favourites.
- A visit to a theme park has to be top of the list. From the world famous Walt Disney World to the Harry Potter Experience at Universal Orlando Resort, my advice would be to set off early and plan on staying late! Book your theme park tickets before you travel.
- IFly Orlando offer indoor skydiving, where you can experience the adrenaline rush of skydiving in their vertical wind tunnel without actually having to jump out of a plane. This one is not for the feint hearted! It is located close to Wet n’ Wild, just off International Drive.
- Experience Orlando from the skies with an early morning hot air balloon ride. Those rollercoasters don’t look so tall after all!
- Experience an earthquake, hurricane and test your brain and imagination at Wonderworks on International Drive.
- Go shopping in Orlando at one of the many malls and outlet centres. There really is something for everyone in the family and great bargains to be had!
- Visit Kennedy Space Centre for an out of this world experience. Just an hour away from downtown Orlando, you and the children will enjoy this special journey.
- Get close to nature with an airboat ride on the world famous Florida swamps.
- Visit the Giraffe Ranch and get up close to giraffe, zebras, ostriches, warthogs and many more animals during your safari ride. Just 40 miles from downtown Orlando, the Giraffe Ranch is well worth a visit.
- For any CSI fans, you should include a trip to CSI: The Experience – will you solve the latest case?
- Swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove and experience the magic of these beautiful creatures, and much more besides.
Shopping on International Drive, Orlando
International Drive, know by locals as I-Drive, has some of the best shopping on offer at the Orlando Premium Outlets. There is one located at either end of I-Drive and you can get between them easily on public transport by taking the I-Ride Red line.
With everything from sportswear to clothing to the Disney Store, there really is a shop for everyone in the family. And everything at the Orlando Premium Outlets is discounted. My girls got great value in Converse trainers that we have not seen anywhere else. It is also possible to get extra value by registering with the VIP Shoppers Clubs.
Family-Friendly Restaurants in Orlando
As with most states in the USA, Orlando has a huge array of family-friendly restaurants. You can literally eat your way around the world, without leaving Florida!
From chain restaurants to fine dining, there are hundreds of great choices for families in Orlando. We have compiled a list of some of our favourite family-friendly restaurants in Orlando that would be useful.
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Have you any Orlando family-friendly holiday tips that you would like to share with our readers? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!