No matter how many guidebooks I read which told me that Walt Disney World is “the size of Manhattan,” I didn’t comprehend its scale or makeup. – UK Deb
UK Deb’s comment is probably the top feedback we get from Brit Guide readers. It is impossible to imagine the size of Walt Disney World, let alone the entire tourist-oriented area of Central Florida. It is not possible to walk between the various theme park complexes (it’s more than 15 miles from Magic Kingdom to Universal Studios) and it can take 30-60 minutes to leave Magic Kingdom and drive to Epcot in busy season.
The humidity was a surprise when we first visited. Even though our trip was late April it was far more humid than I imagined. – Catlady
We all know Florida is sub-tropical, but it’s easy to forget just how brutal the humidity can be, especially between June and October. The #1 ailment seen in the local Emergency rooms and Urgent Care centres is heatstroke, in part due to the extreme humidity. Drink, drink, drink! (PS: Meaning, water. Alcohol and soda are not water!) It is also important to bear your lowered stamina in mind when the humidity cranks up. You may do less, but you’ll enjoy it more, and the parks will be there when you return (and you will!).
Further to that…
I wish it had been stressed to me as a first timer just how important it is to drink constantly, as without keeping fully hydrated you will get tired, irritable and possibly very ill.–Sans
Even during cooler months, it is vital to stay hydrated. You’re going to be doing a lot of walking, possibly a lot of drinking (alcohol and soda add to dehydration), and restaurant food isn’t known for being low in sodium. The irritability Sans mentions is very real, so if you find yourself or your family members snapping at each other and it’s not because the kids are swinging from the queue railings like monkeys or the in-laws flat-out refuse to follow your detailed plan of campaign, it may be time to stop and re-hydrate so you don’t end up like this:
No matter how much pressure the car rental reps put on you to purchase extra insurance for the car when you get there, don’t do it. Buy a comprehensive insurance as part of your package in the UK and it covers everything. – JonathanW
One of the complaints we routinely hear about is the awkwardness of stepping up to the car hire counter and having the agent run through a litany of reasons why you need their added insurance. Some agents readily take “No” for an answer, and some have perfected the needling attitude of a time share sales representative. If your pre-purchased comprehensive insurance policy has you covered, simply smile and say, “No, thank you” until the agent moves on.
I thought about driving the first time we went in 1993 but didn’t do it. It is the thing I regret more than anything else about Orlando and America and, for anyone who is considering driving there: DO IT. It is easier than driving in the UK or in Europe. You don’t NEED to drive in Orlando as it is easy to get around without driving, but driving makes a massive difference and saves so much time. – Superspur
It is true you’ll save money by not hiring a car, but what you save in money you sacrifice in time. Buses are slow, schedules may not be convenient, and walking is definitely not an option due to distance and the lack of pavements. First-time visitors, or those staying at an onsite Disney or Universal resort may not feel the benefit as much, but a car is essential in Orlando if you’d like to travel beyond the main theme parks. Superspur’s experience reflects the huge amount of feedback we get regarding driving in the States: It’s easy, and, once you’ve done it, you’ll never look back.
I wish I’d known just how good Disney is for adults! I really wasn’t that keen on the Disney element of the trip before our first holiday, wrongly thinking it was really just for pre-teen girls.I blame the Disney advertising that was around then, it just focused on Mickey, Main Street and the Castle. Now I see adverts showing Space Mountain, Tower of Terror and Soarin’ etc. –spencem
We often say, “Disney is too good just for children,” and we mean it. There is nothing quite like seeing the parks through the eyes of your little ones, but visiting as adults has immense benefits, too, including greater spontaneity, upscale dining, and fabulous night life. Think the fantasy element is just for kids? Stand at the front of Main Street and watch how many grown men cry at the sight of Cinderella Castle.
Our first trip was way back in 1991, with an almost 6-year-old, and before the Internet. What we would have benefitted from that first year was a list of good places to eat for a family and a fussy eater. Now you can get on the websites of the restaurants and download menus. – Tigger’s Friend
We’re two countries separated by a common language…and entirely different cuisine. Somehow, everything just tastes different when you travel abroad, and, if you have a family member (notably, kids!) who will only drink Ribena or insists on Heinz beans, you may have a rebellion on your hands if you don’t plan ahead. Orlando is a food-lovers’ heaven, with more than 4,000 restaurants in the main tourist area alone, so finicky eaters are well advised to check out a handful of menus before arrival, to avoid the stress of hearing “I’m not going to eat that!”
We didn’t visit Disney on our first Orlando trip because we thought we’d ‘seen it’ by having visited Disneyland Paris. We later learned how wrong that assumption was. – Janice
While some of the attractions at Disneyland Paris overlap with those at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the experience is entirely different, not to mention there are two entire theme parks, two water parks, and a vast array of resorts and dining choice in Walt Disney World that are not found in Paris. There are enough differences along with the familiar to make each attraction seem ‘new’, and it’s nice to hear it all in English.
Now come and join us on ATD’s discussion forums and let us know your Florida experiences and what YOU wish you had known before your first trip – or prepare for your upcoming holiday by asking our veteran theme-parkers all your questions so you can tour Orlando like a pro!