Travelling to Orlando for the first time

Travelling to Orlando for the first time

How to plan your time (and downtime) in this theme park city

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This first appeared on MoneyWeHave.com

I didn’t always have a passion for travel. In fact, in high school, I was more interested in hanging out at the mall than visiting family in Europe (big mistake, I know). That being said, one of my earliest travel memories is when my parents took my brother and I to Orlando. It’s probably the first place I was really excited to go to.

In hindsight, it’s pretty obvious why. Orlando and the theme parks there are built and marketed towards families. It’s a lot easier for a 10-year-old to get excited about Mickey Mouse and Back to the Future (now the Simpsons ride) as opposed to say the Mona Lisa in Paris.

For some parents, they’re more than happy to take their kids to Orlando. But, for others, there’s not much of an appeal. Well, if you’re an adult with or without kids, I’m here to tell you why you should visit Orlando and what you should expect on your first trip.

The planning process

Although there are ways to save on your vacation in Orlando, generally speaking, it’s an expensive destination. Families travelling with kids will need to worry about the extra airfare, admission costs, and food. Unless you have an unlimited budget, everything needs to either be cost efficient or kid friendly.

Most parents tend to travel on their kid’s schedule. When the little ones are tired, then a break must be taken which means you need to plan your days accordingly. You can’t pack too much in, but you also want to maximize your time and money spent.

Now, if you’re going to Orlando as an adult, the sky’s the limit. Orlando may be known as the theme park capital of the world, but there are plenty of resorts and a thriving food scene. You could honestly have a fantastic time in Orlando without ever stepping foot in a theme park. Don’t forget to check out the Visit Orlando website for more ideas of what to do.

Without kids, you’ll also hopefully have a little more flexibility with your budget. That means you don’t need to pick a hotel that’s kid friendly (although most are), you can find one that appeals to you. You can do whatever you want. You can even eat ice cream for breakfast if you want or ride Space Mountain 10 times. No one is going to judge you (except maybe parents).

The theme park experience

There are more than a dozen major theme parks and countless other attractions in Orlando. Obviously, it’ll be impossible to see everything, so you’ll need to have a strategy.

If you’re travelling without kids, this can be the ultimate playground. You can skip the rides that target kids. Instead, head straight for the best attractions in Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, or whichever theme park you may happen to be at. Some parks have passes that allow you to skip lines which may be well worth the extra cost since it’ll save you from waiting in long lines.

Also, as an adult, you’ll have much more energy so you can see multiple theme parks a day. Disney and Universal studios offer multi-park passes, but keep in mind that things can be tiring. If your hotel is nearby, it’s worth heading back to take a break/nap in the middle of the day since many parks are open late. With children, you’ll still need to factor in breaks, but if your kids are teenagers, you can probably let them wander the parks on their own.

The good thing is that many theme parks now allow you to bring in your own food so you can save a bit of money. That being said, there are so many dining options available, that you may just want to splurge.

Scheduling downtime

Many people tend to see too many things when they travel and this is especially true for Orlando. The last time I was there, I did six theme parks in 3 days. Despite having a lot of fun, this was a huge mistake. I needed more time off just to recover from that vacation.

You absolutely need to schedule some downtime during your trip, but that doesn’t mean you’ll just be hanging out in your hotel room. Many hotels in Orlando are resorts so you could easily spend the day enjoying the facilities. There’s also many malls (including outlets) where you can do some serious shopping, and as mentioned, there are plenty of great restaurants you can eat at.

Speaking of food, some restaurants offer “kids eat free” with paying adults, so that’s a way to save some money. There’s also Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) that has great bars, restaurants, shopping, and entertainment that is suitable for kids and adults.

Final word

It’s a mistake to assume that Orlando is just a place to take your kids. Yes, the theme parks will draw you in, but enough is going on in this city to keep anyone entertained. Go in with an open mind, don’t pack your schedule, and I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time.

Barry Choi is a personal finance and budget travel expert at Moneywehave.com

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