This time of year is usually an insane time within the tourism industry. Brits, post Christmas, begin needing to know that they will have some kind sunshine in their future and book their annual exodus from our fair isle. I was going to give you a list of all the places that you could visit with a family but then I decided to concentrate on just one, Disneyland Florida.
Scarlett was 2 months shy of her third birthday when we lived the dream and headed, via Virgin Atlantic, to Florida. We had planned to spend 1 week in Lake Buena Vista and then to spend the final week in Key West. It was the beginning of January (we had the benefit of not adhering to school timetables yet), the weather was mid 70’s every day, perfect, and our hotel was just a 10 minute stroll to Downtown Disney which is an area full of restaurants and entertainment, in fact there was no need for us to go anywhere else in the evenings. Planet Hollywood and The Rainforest Cafe became firm favourites with us, and, as usual, the service was always exceptional, just don’t get me started on mandatory tips.
After a couple of days of staying poolside and just winding down it was soon time to go to Disneyland. I was super excited for Scarlett as The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse was her absolute favourite TV show. How was she going to respond when she saw Mickey? Will she know it’s someone in a suit? There’s me thinking it’s all about her, so how come when I walked into the grounds of The Magic Kingdom I was the one, upon seeing the castle, that burst into tears? It was super emotional and one that I didn’t even realise I was emotional about!
You know what? Disney isn’t for everybody. Some people like to bitch and moan about how expensive it is, how it’s exploiting the pockets of children and adults alike. Well, I don’t agree with that. It’s our choice alone to visit and spend our hard earned cash where we choose and, to be honest, I thought that it was very good value for money. It’s up to me if I want to spend my money hunting for a 5 foot mouse. Keep in mind though that we did go in the low season, it took us no longer than 15 minutes to get on any ride – I may have been writing a completely different review if we’d have gone during the height of summer, queuing for hours just for 2 minute ride? No thanks. The place was impeccably clean and incredibly fun but VERY tiring for a soon to be 3 year old. The magic really does ooze from every square inch of Disney, from the music seemingly eminating from every other bush around the site to the trash collectors whistling a happy, albeit branded, tune. The parade, the characters, the rides, the food, the shops, it was every child’s (and previous children’s) dream and we were in it.
We had a truly fantastic time visiting some of the theme parks but we never got to Epcot, after all we had to leave something out that we would have to come back for, right? We chose to make the next leg of our journey by car but I misjudged how long it would actually take to drive from Orlando to Key West (7 hours!), it was worth the long trip for me to be able drive over the amazing Overseas Highway – US Route 1, for any of you that have seen True Lies, you’ll know which highway I’m talking about. Key West was the paradise I was hoping for, a mixture of 5* hotels, biker bars, gay bars, sunshine, beaches, tours of Hemmingway’s house, ageing hippies, boat trips, dolphin watching and many more things that made my heart sing. We stayed at the Ocean Key hotel which was perfectly located next to the pier on Duval Street. This is where practically everyone in Key West meets each evening to watch the sunset at the southern most tip of the US mainland. It was perfect but with no images to prove it, you’ll just have to trust me and go visit.
A few words of advice from me…
- Hire a car.
- If you can, wait until your children are slightly older. Scarlett had so much fun but has no recollection of our time there whatsoever. I think 6 years + would be the optimal time.
- Buy your park tickets before you go.
- Do try to vaguely plan what you might like to do whilst there. With so many things to do and see it’s easy to miss things or do too much that you need another holiday to recuperate.
- On your departure day you can drop your bags at Downtown Disney very early in the morning so that you can spend more time at the resort. We were one of the first to arrive that morning and as such we were told that the flight we were booked on was over subscribed, if we agreed to change over to a Delta flight they would give us FREE return flights to be used within 3 years. How could we say no? It’s not going to happen to everyone but it’s worth a try.
Now the Disney Dream is a little closer to home. Did you know that Disney Cruise Line operates in Europe now? The whole magical experience contained within a fabulous ship and practically on our doorstep! I have promised both of my daughters that we will do the ‘Disney Thing’ in 2015 as they’ll be 6 and 10 then, do we fly to Florida or float on the Med?
[stextbox id=”tmk-box”]To plan your Disney adventure CLICK HERE [/stextbox]
Think big and reach for the stars,