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Florida From Gatwick Saturday 25 August - 14 days, hotel & Car included - £588.00 per person for family of 4 or ...................... Thursday 23 August for £625 per person with Thomson

Phila4Phila4

Having seen a recent deal from Birmingham, I've just found this deal from Gatwick. Seems like a bargain for school holidays! 2 adults + 2 kids for £588 per person, including flights (better seat pitch than Virgin, BA, BMI and Monarch), seat back screens, leather seats), decent hotel and car hire.

Should be able to go & come back without the kids missing much school, especially if you go for the Thursday 25 August option (although slightly more).

Other deals I've found related to this will be posted separately below, along with some tips for those that haven't been before.


Same dates with Virgin Holidays and similar spec hotel is £4,300!





Also Thursday 23 August for 14 days - little bit more though at £625 per person. Details posted separately below.





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Top Comments (4)

    Phila4
    Tips – Part 1

    Where would I recommend staying?

    Personally, in a villa. You can find many across the internet but I always use Holiday-Rentals.co.uk site here.

    You can get a 3 bed villa if you haggle for as little as £600 for 2 weeks and £700 for a 4 bed.

    Closest areas to Disney are around Emerald Island, Formosa Gardens, Oak Island, Windsor Palms. Other good ones are near Highway 27/Davenport area, longer drive but still quite quick in a car.

    Hotels? Best to look around International Drive (I-Drive) and the 192 highway. Best just use Trip Advisor to check quality.



    To Miami


    Yes about 4 hours to Miami. Having been to Orlando 9 times we’ve yet to go there – far too much around Orlando for the need to stray down there!


    Car hire

    In my experience (although I always book my own usually) package deals with car hire will usually only include the car – all other extras like Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and other insurances are added on. Many people say it’s usually actually cheaper to just pass on the car and hire your own bizarrely. I usually book my car hire with US Rent-A-Car as I’ve always found them the cheapest – they basically act for all of the main car hire companies. You can always shop around but I’ve never found it cheaper elsewhere with a reputable company – cheaper even than the actual car rental companies direct!



    Arrange car hire BEFORE going! It will cost you a lot more if you do it at the airport there!


    ESTA forms (VISA)

    You no longer have to complete the green forms on the flight, but you do have to apply for ESTAs in advance, at a cost of $14 per person which is valid for 2 years, or until your passport expires if earlier. You MUST do these before you go and the official site for them is here.

    Do not get fooled by other sites which appear genuine US Government sites or suggest it's a complicated thing to do – they will just charge you more for doing exactly the same thing. They should take no longer than 5 minutes (10 minutes maximum) per person online and you should get an immediate response.


    Edited By: Phila4 on Aug 11, 2012 12:43: .
    Phila4
    Tips – Part 2

    Driving in Florida

    Driving is very easy, I’d go as far as saying easier than over here! People are generally very courteous and it’s quite a slow pace of life driving wise. Probably because every other driver is a Brit not knowing where they’re going lol!

    Speed limits around the main tourist areas are quite low (usually around 45mph) and on the busier stretches out of town and the I4 (the motorway) 65/55mph.

    Some tips though – do NOT flash drivers with your lights, like you would over here to let them make a manoeuvre or join the traffic – if it’s an American they won’t understand – they will think it’s weird or that you may be trouble makers!

    If (very unlikely – never happened to me) you get stopped by the Police, do NOT get out of the car. You stay rooted to your seat, wind the window down halfway and keep your hands on the wheel. Do NOT go rummaging around for your driving licence, wallet, handbag, car hire papers, passport etc, as that WILL spook them! You have to remember that over there the Police are always in danger of being shot and so they regard such movements are highly suspicious and will get very jumpy!

    One thing I’ve noticed. Americans are VERY polite, respectful and courteous (their kids are SO well behaved compared to over here, many even address their mums & dads as “Sir” or “Ma’am”. HOWEVER, when it comes to driving, in my experience they can be the complete opposite. My own personal experience is that if you’re travelling on a major road and want to pull in, say to get off at an exit, locals will invariably NOT let you in (as would happen here), so you need to make your move early & well before an exit ramp (sliproad) so you don’t miss it. Basically you have to impose yourself, look in your mirrors and go for it (indicate of course!). Plus over there you are allowed to overtake AND undertake, so look in your mirrors constantly as cars will come up on your inside and undertake you quite legally and happily.

    Also, if you’re in a side road (say coming out of a hotel car park or shop car park) and you want to join the main road, whereas here you just nudge your bumper out a little and people will flash you to let you out, it will rarely happen over there. Again, it’s just something they do not do or understand. You could have the traffic all bunched up at lights and you’re still waiting to get out – still nobody will let you out and you’ll normally have to wait until the queue of traffic has moved on through the green lights and join the back of it.

    Simply it’s weird – friendliest people I’ve ever met – but not when you’re driving!

    But please don’t let any of this worry you – it’s still very relaxed over there and a joy having such big roads and slow speeds.

    Speeding is frowned upon usually, and they will stop you if you’re out of kilter with everybody else. Generally it’s the same as here – a little over the speed limit and the police aren’t bothered. If you’re driving quite a bit faster than everybody else, or are driving erratically, just like here you may be stopped. I’ve often driven at 85mph (even 90 - yeah I know, I'm bad) on the I4 motorway not a problem – most people do and so you do not look out of place.

    Two other points – Red lights. You can turn RIGHT on a red light in most places – you just roll up to the Yield (Give Way) sign/line and look left/forward before pulling out to turn right. It works brilliantly and something we should have over here. Just remember though, it’s RIGHT ONLY, not left!

    Crossroads – you may find a roundabout in some shopping mall car parks, but practically nowhere else. Instead they use crossroads and not all of them have lights on. There’s a simple rule of the road there and in my experience EVERYBODY sticks to it. Whoever arrives and stops first at a crossroad has right of way (you MUST stop at a crossroads, strictly even if nobody else is anywhere near). Then the next person who stopped makes their move, then the next person and so on. Even if for instance you’re at a crossroad and somebody is coming from the opposite direction & carrying on past you and you’re doing the vice versa, if they got there first you let them go first, then you go. You take turns in order or arrival.


    Filling up with petrol

    Diesel cars are practically non-existent over there (something to do with the oil companies and government being in cahoots to control the market – apparently) so you will have an unleaded car. If I remember rightly just go for ‘regular’. BUT over there you will need to pay for your fuel first – go in and say you want, say, $30 dollars of regular/unleaded for pump 5 and they will set the pump for you. Go back out, put the pump in and pull the trigger. As it nears the amount you pre-paid (in this case $30), it will get a lot slower and the numbers tick over slowly (actually quite frustrating!) but will automatically stop once it hits $30 exactly.

    You can actually wedge the trigger open on the handle and go do something else (like grab a coffee and rummage around in the boot for something) and it will happily automatically put the fuel in until you hit the pre-paid amount.

    The drive from Orlando International Airport to International Drive (I-Drive) is about 30-40 minutes and Sanford to I-Drive about 60-75 minutes. Both ways will use tolls and will cost about $4 or $5 in total, BUT they are very nice and well kept roads and very quiet, so a perfect way to ease you into driving there. Just make sure you have some quarters in change for the tolls – get at the airport before you get in the car.


    Breakfast

    As others have said, fill up on Breakfast first as it will save you a lot of money if you’re in the parks. The breakfast buffet options at places like Golden Corral, Denny’s, Ponderosa, Sizzler are all excellent value for money and will fill you up.

    Mcdonalds in the morning at a drive thru can be cheap and quick – they always seem to do a breakfast muffin or biscuit (a biscuit there is something akin to a scone here, but a cross between slightly salty and sweet - very nice actually) with sausage and egg (basically a sausage and egg McMuffin) at about $1.98, but two for $2? Weird but always seems to be the same there and hasn’t changed in all the times we’ve been.


    Coffee

    This is usually cheap everywhere and is always filter coffee. I’ve always found the coffee in restaurants to be a little weak but this seems to be the American’s staple form of coffee – much like our cup of tea. I’ve found the best coffee in petrol stations and in my experience 7-11 ones are the best. They usually do about 6-8 different types of filter coffee, from weak, to medium, to strong and very strong, plus decaff. Usually around $1.50 for a large cup. Plus flavoured cream such as hazlenut, irish creme, vanilla etc.

    Look out for the plastic large moulded mugs you can buy there (certainly in 7-11 and maybe elsewhere), which are like thermos mugs. They cost around $5 each BUT you can use them forever and either fill up as many times as you like for as long as you have it (weeks, months even years!) for FREE (I’m sure it’s free) or a much smaller cost (like 30c or something), but I’m sure it’s free. $5 for as much coffee as you can drink in 2 weeks!!


    Hotdogs

    Again, we found these in 7-11 and you can get large ones for about $1.79 or smaller ones for about $1.29 (or two for $2). You just ask for whichever, they’re already cooked on a heater and they give it to you in a roll and box and you then go and help yourself to fillings like onions, pickles, ketchup, mayo, mustard, peppers etc., etc. Our kids loved them!
    Phila4
    Tips – Part 3

    Tipping

    In a service restaurant tipping is usually expected at 20% (minimum 15%), but it is accepted there that tipping is not obligatory if you do not feel you have had good service. In the vast majority of places you WILL get good service - it's what they do. Americans do not tolerate poor service so as a result, you usually always get good service. Apparently us Brits are some of the worst tippers in the world!

    In a self service place (like the all you can eat buffets) I’ve since found out that you are not really expected to tip. But we always have and usually between 10 & 15%. Why? Because they do take your plates away and they do keep you topped up with drinks (coffee, soft drinks, water etc.) and plus it’s just something you should do - it's manners.


    Brits guide

    This is a book you can buy in most bookstores or online and is like the ‘Bible’ of guide books. Usually updated each year and will cost about £13. Available at Amazon here for £10.49 with free delivery. I would say this is a MUST if it’s your first time, although even if it’s your 3rd, 4th, 5th etc., as it’s just so useful and informative!


    All Inclusive

    AI is not really available anywhere probably except Disney and Universal hotels. Just as well as otherwise you’d be tied to them all day long! The bonus is that is you stay in a Universal hotel you get FREE express passes for the rides (usually cost about $40 per person). If you stay one night you can check in early (although won't be able to get your room) and will get passes for both that day and the following day, so for the cost of 1 nights accommodation (probably about $200 per room) you can get 2 days of passes for a family of 4 for free (worth $320 or so). In busy times these can be worth their weight in gold as you'll save so much time by not having to queue for rides. Disney still do free Express tickets (Fast Passes) where you put your park tickets in a machine at a ride, get fast passes at a given time (usually about an hour or so later) so you can go off and do something else then just go back at the allotted time and get on quick with your fast passes. After a certain time you can get a second fast pass for the same or different ride, even though your allotted time for the first one hasn't arrived. You'll pick it up when you're there!


    The Dibb

    A great site & forum all about Orlando, Disney, Universal etc., and Florida in general is ‘The Dibb’. This is a must site and can be found at The Dibb. Honestly, you really must visit this site!


    Shuttles to the Parks

    Most hotels will provide shuttle services to and from the parks, but I’ve never used them.


    Car parking

    Disney and Universal (Seaworld too I think) all charge about $15 to park, as others have said. But also as others have said Downtown Disney will allow you to park free and get Disney buses to any of their parks too, so you’ll save on the parking charges. Plus they will take you right to the park gates – the Disney Car Parks are MASSIVE and you will need to wait for one of their trams most of the time to shuttle you to the gates anyway. As somebody has said, maybe put something on the top of your aerial as there are so many similar hire cars, but also take note of the car park section (if Disney, something like Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, Pluto etc.) you’re in and the row number too, as when the shuttles drop you back in the evening they will announce which row numbers they’re about to stop at – if you miss it then you’ll have to go all the way round to the beginning!

    But the Disney Waterparks have free parking too I believe so again, you could park there and get a shuttle to one of the other parks.

    It is strange but virtually the only places there you have to pay to park is in the theme parks, everywhere else (shopping centres, restaurants, hotels etc.) are free. Plus their parking spaces are usually very wide so no squeezing in necessary!

    But over here our theme parks are usually free, but you have to pay to park virtually everywhere else over here. Weird!


    Disney Annual Pass?

    If you think you will go back within a year it may work out better to buy an annual pass, which I believe also entitles you to free parking (and I believe much nearer the gates in a special section) as well as other perks.


    Disabled Badges

    Our badges here are very similar to theirs and will be accepted/acknowledged. Again, in the theme parks these will allow you to park in a special section right near the front of the car park near the gates, but I think you still have to pay.


    Using an iPhone/Android as a Satnav

    There may well be network charges if having to connect to the network/internet, which could well be very costly. Check before you go.


    Theme Park Tickets

    There are many places on the internet, but we’ve always used Attraction Tickets Direct which always seem to be either the cheapest or same as everywhere else. You may save £3 or £4 shopping around elsewhere but no more than that. And most places (including Attraction Tickets Direct) will send you ACTUAL tickets, but some will send you an email which you will need to take with you and present at the ticket booth to exchange for the tickets. We always preferred actual real tickets in advance.

    Adult Disney Tickets for 2012 are currently £247 and children’s (aged 3-9) £223 here .

    These give you 14 days admission within 14 days. Any unused days are lost 14 days after first use.


    If you think you may be going back again in future years, it would be more cost effective to buy tickets with non-expiry option – they will last forever until used up.

    For a family of 4, you can get 10 days non-expiry in the main parks for Disney (PLUS 10 days admission to the waterparks and other attractions) for about £1,400. I think you’ll only be able to get them from the US Disney website here – you can’t get them from the UK one.

    When you first use your tickets (certainly in Disney) you have to sign them and then your index finger print is scanned. But don’t worry about getting the tickets mixed up – it’s a con! We have intentionally mixed ours up to see what happens and each and every time, without fail, once we put the tickets in the machine at the gate and put our finger on the scanner, we got the green light and the gate opened. It’s just a ploy to make you think you can’t get away with using somebody else’s ticket! Not that I would condone that! :)

    But as others have said, avoid the touts offering really cheap tickets – avoid at all costs. You will be expected to attend some sort of timeshare presentation and it can take 4, 5 or even 6 hours and even then, once they know you’re only after the tickets, they may not give them to you. Just best to avoid.


    Ok, hope that helps you all!
    Phila4
    Tips - Part 4


    Universal 'Meal Deal'

    We did this once - you pay $20.99 for adults & kids 10 & over and $9.99 for kids 3 - 9. Don't do it! You can only get food from certain restaurants in the park and we found they severely understaff them so you could easily wait an hour to get served in busy times. Also, the food is pretty bland and not great, although it does fill you up. But for the cost it simply isn't worth it. You will be disappointed.

    We did it once and were appalled by it - complained at the way out (because we bought on the way in and it wasn't made clear there were restrictions) and they refunded the whole cost, but I did make a fuss so I suspect they wouldn't normally.

    Official site HERE should you wish to ignore this friendly warning................................

    But should you wish real life users reviews from Brits see HERE and HERE.


    Refillable drinks cups

    You'll also see from the above link that you can get refillable drinks cups for $8.99. You DON'T have to buy them online, you can buy there. This actually isn't a bad deal, especially if you have kids, as you WILL drink a lot because of the heat. You can get them refilled at many of the drink stalls around the park and they're quite big (probably hold a good litre or maybe nearer 2). You can buy just one and share it between you all day long.

    I think Disney do something similar, but not 100% sure.


    Take your own drinks

    One good tip is take a collapsible cooler bag with you into the parks (they won't allow ones on wheels). Stick some 2lt bottles of soft drinks in the freezer last thing at night (they cost less than $1 a bottle at Walmart) and pop them in before you leave for the park. Also, buy some capri-suns and freeze those too and stick them in, along with some chilled ones. The frozen ones will keep the chilled ones cool and as the day goes on the frozen ones start to warm up so the effect is you have chilled drinks all day long.

    Believe me, with kids, you can save yourself $10 - $15 a day doing that!

    If you don't have a freezer there, just get chilled bottles and either buy some ice at a petrol station, or get it from the hotel - most hotels have free ice machines dotted around the premises.

    And if you want some cups and ice in the parks, just go to a drinks stall or restaurant and they'll happily give you both for no cost - take them out and use your own drink. There are also water fountains everywhere, and the water is usually very cold. Free of course.


    Eating Out

    Florida isn't very expensive to eat out - much the same as most European destinations. Breakfast you can get for as little as $4 - $5 all you can eat. Buffets for all you can eat at lunch time or evening cost around $12/$13 (£7 or so) at places like Golden Corral, Dennys, Ponderosa, Sizzler etc. Another great place is Cici's Pizzas where they do all you can eat pizza and pasta - about $4/$5 each! We go there a few times as the pizzas are superb!

    If you have a decent breakfast you don't want anything else to eat until the evening anyway and the heat staves off any hunger in our experience.

    Yes you'll pay higher prices in the parks, but again if you have a decent breakfast you're not hungry anyway.

    Want a quick & cheap evening or daytime snack? Pop into Walmart and you can buy a tray of Southern Fried Chicken pieces hot for around $4 or $5, plus other hot snacks. A tray will easily satisfy the hunger of 2 adults and 2 kids.


    The heat

    You will be able to buy those water bottles with fans in the parks, probably around $10 or so each. Buy them somewhere like Walmart and they'll cost no more than $2 or $3 - fill them with water and spray away on your face and body to keep you cool!


    Shortcut to Disney from Highway 192

    There is great shortcut to Disney from the 192 which has very little traffic and you can get there in 5 to 10 minutes - going the official way the other way on the 192 can take almost an hour in busy times as you're stuck with everybody else. A lot of people don't know about the shortcut, so if anybody is interested, just ask!


    Voucher booklets

    These are littered everywhere (inside/outside restaurants, shops, petrol stations etc.) and come in all shapes and sizes. They will have vouchers for money off for everything you can think of. Again, the savings of a dollar or two here and there, or 10 or 20% off this and that really do add up.


    Restaurants generally

    Places such as fast food restaurants (McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys, KFC etc. as well as most other 'proper' restaurants) will give you free refills for drinks. They usually just give you the beakers (normally massive anyway) and off you go and select what you want from the dispenser. Finish it - just go and get some more.


    Petrol station drinks

    You can get MASSIVE (and I mean MASSIVE) beakers of drinks in petrol stations for around $1.50, and they contain 1 to 2 litres of drink. As far as I know, once you've bought one you can pop back in another time and refill it for free. Haven't done that for a while but I believe it's still the same. That's what you could do in 7-11 anyway. Petrol (sorry, 'gas') stations are everywhere.



    If I can think of anything else I'll post it.;)


    Edited By: Phila4 on Aug 11, 2012 14:50: .

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    Phila4
    Family of 4 - £2,353 (£588 per person) - Saturday 25 August to Saturday 8 September
    Family of 4 - £2,500 (£625 per person) - Thursday 23 August to Thursday 6 September

    2 Adults - £1,364 (£682 per person) - Saturday 25 August to Saturday 8 September
    2 Adults - £1,512 (£756 per person) - Thursday 23 August to Thursday 6 September

    Hotel details here .adult=2&roomConfigurationFormBean.room[0].children=2&roomConfigurationFormBean.room[0].childAge[0]=5&roomConfigurationFormBean.room[0].childAge[1]=7&numRemSearch=7]Maingate Lakeside Resort


    Hotel features

    Meals

    • Greenhouse Restaurant
    • Hurricane Sam’s Bar and Grill
    • Pizza Hut Express and general store onsite

    Swimming pool

    • 3 swimming pools
    • Sunbeds
    • Poolside bar and snack bar

    Activities

    • Fitness facility
    • Family arcade
    • 18-hole miniature golf course
    • Two half-court basketball courts

    For Families

    • 2 children's pools
    • 2 playgrounds

    Facilities

    • Coin operated laundry

    Shuttle Service

    • Complimentary shuttle service to Disney theme parks

    Extra Charges

    Some facilities may incur extra local charges, please see the A-Z Guide.

    Other Information

    We've plotted your holiday accommodation as accurately as possible. But for some smaller hotels or villas the map may pinpoint the centre of the nearest town rather than the property itself, so make sure you read the location description too.

    Our rating
    3

    No. of rooms
    475


    Room facilities

    All rooms have air-conditioning, cable TV, pay per view movies, free Wi-Fi, fridge, coffee maker, phone, iron and board, hairdryer and pool or lake view. Standard rooms have 2 double beds.

    Location

    • Along highway 192
    • 1.8 miles from the entrance to Walt Disney© World

    Your guide to Kissimmee, Florida

    "A little quieter and more spread out than I-Drive, Kissimmee is closer to the Walt Disney World Resort and has all the shops and eating places you could ever need."

    If you want to make your money go further, yet still have the buzz of the theme parks close at hand, then Kissimmee offers shops, shows and plenty of nightlife at prices that won’t break the bank. Follow the Orange Blossom Trail from Orlando, and you’ll...


    London Gatwick to Sanford, FL with Thomson Airways

    • Sat 25 Aug 2012 - Depart 10:30am - Arrive 15:05pm (US time) Day Flight

    • Sat 08 Sep 2012 - Depart 17:05pm - Arrive 6:35am (UK time) Night Flight

    • 14 nights
    • Room Only
    • Car hire
    Per Person: £588

    Alternative flights

    London Gatwick to Sanford, FL with Thomson Airways

    • Thu 23 Aug 2012 - Depart 10:30am - Arrive 15:05pm (US time) Day Flight
    • Thu 06 Sep 2012 - Depart 17:05pm (US time) - Arrive 6:35am Night Flight
    • 14 nights
    Per Person: £625




    Or





    Family of 4 - £2,672 (£668 per person) - Saturday 25 August to Saturday 8 September
    Family of 4 - £2,856 (£714 per person) - Thursday 23 August to Thursday 6 September

    2 Adults - £1,604 (£802 per person) - Saturday 25 August to Saturday 8 September
    2 Adults - £1,788 (£894 per person) - Thursday 23 August to Thursday 6 September


    Hotel details here Marriott Village (Courtyard)


    Hotel features

    Meals

    • Village Marketplace Food Court
    • Daily complimentary Continental breakfast for Springhill and Fairfield guests

    Swimming pool

    • Swimming pool

    Entertainment

    • Video arcade on the village green

    Activities

    • Gym
    • Whirlpool bath
    • Golf course at the Orlando World Center Marriott 2 miles away

    For Families

    • Interactive splash zone
    • Cots
    • Highchairs

    Facilities

    • 24-hour reception
    • Launderette
    • Wi-Fi

    Shuttle Service

    • Free transportation to Walt Disney World Theme Parks

    Car Hire

    Included if you book this accommodation as part of one of our holiday packages

    Extra Charges

    Some facilities may incur extra local charges, please see the A-Z Guide

    Travel longhaul with Thomson Airways and you can look forward to…

    • 33-inch seat pitch as standard – that’s more legroom in longhaul economy than BA, Virgin Atlantic, bmi and Monarch*
    • Comfy leather seats
    • Cutting-edge seatback entertainment

    Upgrade to Premium Class and you’ll get all this plus at least a whopping 36 inches all to yourself. Talk about living the high life!

    *Source: BATA website, September 2008

    24/7 Service in Resort

    This is our 24-hour phone service. You can use it to book days out, find out the local bus times and let us know about any problems that crop up. Prefer to speak to someone face to face? You can call us to arrange a personal visit too.

    Our rating
    3 plus

    Official Rating
    3 Star

    No. of lifts
    5

    No. of rooms
    388


    Room facilities

    All rooms have air-conditioning, TV, telephone, radio, hairdryer, mini-fridge, iron/board and coffee-maker. All Marriott hotels are non-smoking. Rooms have 2 double beds, bath & shower. Extra rollaway/sofa beds available.

    Location

    • 5 miles to Universal Studios® Orlando, Islands of Adventure® and SeaWorld Orlando®
    • 1 mile to the Downtown Disney area
    • 1 mile to the nearest supermarket and nightclub

    Your guide to Lake Buena Vista, Florida

    "Stay in Lake Buena Vista and you’ll be on the doorstep of Walt Disney World Resort, close to all the major attractions. There’s plenty of nightlife, entertainment and restaurants in nearby Downtown Disney to keep you going into the early hours."
    Before the theme parks came along, there was just Lake Buena Vista. A suburb of Florida, it’s now most well-known for being the home of the Walt Disney World Resort. If you want to be right where all the action’s at, this is it! Literally bang on the...


    London Gatwick to Sanford, FL

    • Sat 25 Aug 2012 Depart 10:30am - Arrive 15:05pm (US time) Day Flight
    • Sat 08 Sep 2012 Depart 17:05pm (US time) - Arrive 6:35am Night Flight
    • 14 nights
    • Room Only
    • Car hire
    Per Person: £668

    On Thomson Airways
    longhaul service

    • 33" seat pitch as standard
    • Seatback screen

    Alternative flights

    London Gatwick to Sanford, FL with Thomson Airways longhaul service

    • Thu 23 Aug 2012 Depart 10:30am - Arrive 15:05pm (US time) Day Flight
    • Thu 06 Sep 2012 Depart 17:05pm (US time) - Arrive 6:35am Night Flight
    • 14 nights
    Per Person: £714



    Edited By: Phila4 on Aug 11, 2012 12:42
    Phila4
    Tips – Part 1

    Where would I recommend staying?

    Personally, in a villa. You can find many across the internet but I always use Holiday-Rentals.co.uk site here.

    You can get a 3 bed villa if you haggle for as little as £600 for 2 weeks and £700 for a 4 bed.

    Closest areas to Disney are around Emerald Island, Formosa Gardens, Oak Island, Windsor Palms. Other good ones are near Highway 27/Davenport area, longer drive but still quite quick in a car.

    Hotels? Best to look around International Drive (I-Drive) and the 192 highway. Best just use Trip Advisor to check quality.



    To Miami


    Yes about 4 hours to Miami. Having been to Orlando 9 times we’ve yet to go there – far too much around Orlando for the need to stray down there!


    Car hire

    In my experience (although I always book my own usually) package deals with car hire will usually only include the car – all other extras like Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and other insurances are added on. Many people say it’s usually actually cheaper to just pass on the car and hire your own bizarrely. I usually book my car hire with US Rent-A-Car as I’ve always found them the cheapest – they basically act for all of the main car hire companies. You can always shop around but I’ve never found it cheaper elsewhere with a reputable company – cheaper even than the actual car rental companies direct!



    Arrange car hire BEFORE going! It will cost you a lot more if you do it at the airport there!


    ESTA forms (VISA)

    You no longer have to complete the green forms on the flight, but you do have to apply for ESTAs in advance, at a cost of $14 per person which is valid for 2 years, or until your passport expires if earlier. You MUST do these before you go and the official site for them is here.

    Do not get fooled by other sites which appear genuine US Government sites or suggest it's a complicated thing to do – they will just charge you more for doing exactly the same thing. They should take no longer than 5 minutes (10 minutes maximum) per person online and you should get an immediate response.


    Edited By: Phila4 on Aug 11, 2012 12:43: .
    Phila4
    Tips – Part 2

    Driving in Florida

    Driving is very easy, I’d go as far as saying easier than over here! People are generally very courteous and it’s quite a slow pace of life driving wise. Probably because every other driver is a Brit not knowing where they’re going lol!

    Speed limits around the main tourist areas are quite low (usually around 45mph) and on the busier stretches out of town and the I4 (the motorway) 65/55mph.

    Some tips though – do NOT flash drivers with your lights, like you would over here to let them make a manoeuvre or join the traffic – if it’s an American they won’t understand – they will think it’s weird or that you may be trouble makers!

    If (very unlikely – never happened to me) you get stopped by the Police, do NOT get out of the car. You stay rooted to your seat, wind the window down halfway and keep your hands on the wheel. Do NOT go rummaging around for your driving licence, wallet, handbag, car hire papers, passport etc, as that WILL spook them! You have to remember that over there the Police are always in danger of being shot and so they regard such movements are highly suspicious and will get very jumpy!

    One thing I’ve noticed. Americans are VERY polite, respectful and courteous (their kids are SO well behaved compared to over here, many even address their mums & dads as “Sir” or “Ma’am”. HOWEVER, when it comes to driving, in my experience they can be the complete opposite. My own personal experience is that if you’re travelling on a major road and want to pull in, say to get off at an exit, locals will invariably NOT let you in (as would happen here), so you need to make your move early & well before an exit ramp (sliproad) so you don’t miss it. Basically you have to impose yourself, look in your mirrors and go for it (indicate of course!). Plus over there you are allowed to overtake AND undertake, so look in your mirrors constantly as cars will come up on your inside and undertake you quite legally and happily.

    Also, if you’re in a side road (say coming out of a hotel car park or shop car park) and you want to join the main road, whereas here you just nudge your bumper out a little and people will flash you to let you out, it will rarely happen over there. Again, it’s just something they do not do or understand. You could have the traffic all bunched up at lights and you’re still waiting to get out – still nobody will let you out and you’ll normally have to wait until the queue of traffic has moved on through the green lights and join the back of it.

    Simply it’s weird – friendliest people I’ve ever met – but not when you’re driving!

    But please don’t let any of this worry you – it’s still very relaxed over there and a joy having such big roads and slow speeds.

    Speeding is frowned upon usually, and they will stop you if you’re out of kilter with everybody else. Generally it’s the same as here – a little over the speed limit and the police aren’t bothered. If you’re driving quite a bit faster than everybody else, or are driving erratically, just like here you may be stopped. I’ve often driven at 85mph (even 90 - yeah I know, I'm bad) on the I4 motorway not a problem – most people do and so you do not look out of place.

    Two other points – Red lights. You can turn RIGHT on a red light in most places – you just roll up to the Yield (Give Way) sign/line and look left/forward before pulling out to turn right. It works brilliantly and something we should have over here. Just remember though, it’s RIGHT ONLY, not left!

    Crossroads – you may find a roundabout in some shopping mall car parks, but practically nowhere else. Instead they use crossroads and not all of them have lights on. There’s a simple rule of the road there and in my experience EVERYBODY sticks to it. Whoever arrives and stops first at a crossroad has right of way (you MUST stop at a crossroads, strictly even if nobody else is anywhere near). Then the next person who stopped makes their move, then the next person and so on. Even if for instance you’re at a crossroad and somebody is coming from the opposite direction & carrying on past you and you’re doing the vice versa, if they got there first you let them go first, then you go. You take turns in order or arrival.


    Filling up with petrol

    Diesel cars are practically non-existent over there (something to do with the oil companies and government being in cahoots to control the market – apparently) so you will have an unleaded car. If I remember rightly just go for ‘regular’. BUT over there you will need to pay for your fuel first – go in and say you want, say, $30 dollars of regular/unleaded for pump 5 and they will set the pump for you. Go back out, put the pump in and pull the trigger. As it nears the amount you pre-paid (in this case $30), it will get a lot slower and the numbers tick over slowly (actually quite frustrating!) but will automatically stop once it hits $30 exactly.

    You can actually wedge the trigger open on the handle and go do something else (like grab a coffee and rummage around in the boot for something) and it will happily automatically put the fuel in until you hit the pre-paid amount.

    The drive from Orlando International Airport to International Drive (I-Drive) is about 30-40 minutes and Sanford to I-Drive about 60-75 minutes. Both ways will use tolls and will cost about $4 or $5 in total, BUT they are very nice and well kept roads and very quiet, so a perfect way to ease you into driving there. Just make sure you have some quarters in change for the tolls – get at the airport before you get in the car.


    Breakfast

    As others have said, fill up on Breakfast first as it will save you a lot of money if you’re in the parks. The breakfast buffet options at places like Golden Corral, Denny’s, Ponderosa, Sizzler are all excellent value for money and will fill you up.

    Mcdonalds in the morning at a drive thru can be cheap and quick – they always seem to do a breakfast muffin or biscuit (a biscuit there is something akin to a scone here, but a cross between slightly salty and sweet - very nice actually) with sausage and egg (basically a sausage and egg McMuffin) at about $1.98, but two for $2? Weird but always seems to be the same there and hasn’t changed in all the times we’ve been.


    Coffee

    This is usually cheap everywhere and is always filter coffee. I’ve always found the coffee in restaurants to be a little weak but this seems to be the American’s staple form of coffee – much like our cup of tea. I’ve found the best coffee in petrol stations and in my experience 7-11 ones are the best. They usually do about 6-8 different types of filter coffee, from weak, to medium, to strong and very strong, plus decaff. Usually around $1.50 for a large cup. Plus flavoured cream such as hazlenut, irish creme, vanilla etc.

    Look out for the plastic large moulded mugs you can buy there (certainly in 7-11 and maybe elsewhere), which are like thermos mugs. They cost around $5 each BUT you can use them forever and either fill up as many times as you like for as long as you have it (weeks, months even years!) for FREE (I’m sure it’s free) or a much smaller cost (like 30c or something), but I’m sure it’s free. $5 for as much coffee as you can drink in 2 weeks!!


    Hotdogs

    Again, we found these in 7-11 and you can get large ones for about $1.79 or smaller ones for about $1.29 (or two for $2). You just ask for whichever, they’re already cooked on a heater and they give it to you in a roll and box and you then go and help yourself to fillings like onions, pickles, ketchup, mayo, mustard, peppers etc., etc. Our kids loved them!
    Phila4
    Tips – Part 3

    Tipping

    In a service restaurant tipping is usually expected at 20% (minimum 15%), but it is accepted there that tipping is not obligatory if you do not feel you have had good service. In the vast majority of places you WILL get good service - it's what they do. Americans do not tolerate poor service so as a result, you usually always get good service. Apparently us Brits are some of the worst tippers in the world!

    In a self service place (like the all you can eat buffets) I’ve since found out that you are not really expected to tip. But we always have and usually between 10 & 15%. Why? Because they do take your plates away and they do keep you topped up with drinks (coffee, soft drinks, water etc.) and plus it’s just something you should do - it's manners.


    Brits guide

    This is a book you can buy in most bookstores or online and is like the ‘Bible’ of guide books. Usually updated each year and will cost about £13. Available at Amazon here for £10.49 with free delivery. I would say this is a MUST if it’s your first time, although even if it’s your 3rd, 4th, 5th etc., as it’s just so useful and informative!


    All Inclusive

    AI is not really available anywhere probably except Disney and Universal hotels. Just as well as otherwise you’d be tied to them all day long! The bonus is that is you stay in a Universal hotel you get FREE express passes for the rides (usually cost about $40 per person). If you stay one night you can check in early (although won't be able to get your room) and will get passes for both that day and the following day, so for the cost of 1 nights accommodation (probably about $200 per room) you can get 2 days of passes for a family of 4 for free (worth $320 or so). In busy times these can be worth their weight in gold as you'll save so much time by not having to queue for rides. Disney still do free Express tickets (Fast Passes) where you put your park tickets in a machine at a ride, get fast passes at a given time (usually about an hour or so later) so you can go off and do something else then just go back at the allotted time and get on quick with your fast passes. After a certain time you can get a second fast pass for the same or different ride, even though your allotted time for the first one hasn't arrived. You'll pick it up when you're there!


    The Dibb

    A great site & forum all about Orlando, Disney, Universal etc., and Florida in general is ‘The Dibb’. This is a must site and can be found at The Dibb. Honestly, you really must visit this site!


    Shuttles to the Parks

    Most hotels will provide shuttle services to and from the parks, but I’ve never used them.


    Car parking

    Disney and Universal (Seaworld too I think) all charge about $15 to park, as others have said. But also as others have said Downtown Disney will allow you to park free and get Disney buses to any of their parks too, so you’ll save on the parking charges. Plus they will take you right to the park gates – the Disney Car Parks are MASSIVE and you will need to wait for one of their trams most of the time to shuttle you to the gates anyway. As somebody has said, maybe put something on the top of your aerial as there are so many similar hire cars, but also take note of the car park section (if Disney, something like Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, Pluto etc.) you’re in and the row number too, as when the shuttles drop you back in the evening they will announce which row numbers they’re about to stop at – if you miss it then you’ll have to go all the way round to the beginning!

    But the Disney Waterparks have free parking too I believe so again, you could park there and get a shuttle to one of the other parks.

    It is strange but virtually the only places there you have to pay to park is in the theme parks, everywhere else (shopping centres, restaurants, hotels etc.) are free. Plus their parking spaces are usually very wide so no squeezing in necessary!

    But over here our theme parks are usually free, but you have to pay to park virtually everywhere else over here. Weird!


    Disney Annual Pass?

    If you think you will go back within a year it may work out better to buy an annual pass, which I believe also entitles you to free parking (and I believe much nearer the gates in a special section) as well as other perks.


    Disabled Badges

    Our badges here are very similar to theirs and will be accepted/acknowledged. Again, in the theme parks these will allow you to park in a special section right near the front of the car park near the gates, but I think you still have to pay.


    Using an iPhone/Android as a Satnav

    There may well be network charges if having to connect to the network/internet, which could well be very costly. Check before you go.


    Theme Park Tickets

    There are many places on the internet, but we’ve always used Attraction Tickets Direct which always seem to be either the cheapest or same as everywhere else. You may save £3 or £4 shopping around elsewhere but no more than that. And most places (including Attraction Tickets Direct) will send you ACTUAL tickets, but some will send you an email which you will need to take with you and present at the ticket booth to exchange for the tickets. We always preferred actual real tickets in advance.

    Adult Disney Tickets for 2012 are currently £247 and children’s (aged 3-9) £223 here .

    These give you 14 days admission within 14 days. Any unused days are lost 14 days after first use.


    If you think you may be going back again in future years, it would be more cost effective to buy tickets with non-expiry option – they will last forever until used up.

    For a family of 4, you can get 10 days non-expiry in the main parks for Disney (PLUS 10 days admission to the waterparks and other attractions) for about £1,400. I think you’ll only be able to get them from the US Disney website here – you can’t get them from the UK one.

    When you first use your tickets (certainly in Disney) you have to sign them and then your index finger print is scanned. But don’t worry about getting the tickets mixed up – it’s a con! We have intentionally mixed ours up to see what happens and each and every time, without fail, once we put the tickets in the machine at the gate and put our finger on the scanner, we got the green light and the gate opened. It’s just a ploy to make you think you can’t get away with using somebody else’s ticket! Not that I would condone that! :)

    But as others have said, avoid the touts offering really cheap tickets – avoid at all costs. You will be expected to attend some sort of timeshare presentation and it can take 4, 5 or even 6 hours and even then, once they know you’re only after the tickets, they may not give them to you. Just best to avoid.


    Ok, hope that helps you all!
    pinkjoanne123
    only problem the kids miss the first week back at school :(
    Phila4
    pinkjoanne123
    only problem the kids miss the first week back at school :(



    Probably only the first 2 or 3 day - ours don't go back until 6 September.
    pinkjoanne123
    mine go back 3rd sep.....good price though
    wooookie
    Seems to be a lot of extras that will bump up the actual cost of the holiday, esp with 5 of us going, good effort tho..
    Phila4
    wooookie
    Seems to be a lot of extras that will bump up the actual cost of the holiday, esp with 5 of us going, good effort tho..



    Yep, always the way with Florida, but a hell of a great holiday and place to go.

    We were told when we first went that we'd get "the bug" - very true, that's why we've been 9 times. Everybody else I know that goes have had the same happen - go once and you just have to go back again and again!
    cadmus
    brilliant deal "phila4" and your most helpful additional posts that will help many that are new to florida . you seem a florida nut like us .... we miss it so badly but hoperfully all going well we will return next year to orlando/kissimee. for us it realy is the most magical place on earth :) :3
    Phila4
    cadmus
    brilliant deal "phila4" and your most helpful additional posts that will help many that are new to florida . you seem a florida nut like us .... we miss it so badly but hoperfully all going well we will return next year to orlando/kissimee. for us it realy is the most magical place on earth :) :3



    I could have bought a house with the money it's cost us over the years! oO
    Shelby25
    Wow, heat for all the effort and information provided. Great deal
    antdav
    Great information and HEAT just for the effort!!!

    Thanks
    dai70
    Heat for effort and for recommending the dibb which is the best british disney forum around.
    cadmus
    dai70
    Heat for effort and for recommending the dibb which is the best british disney forum around.

    plus 1 .... yes its the best british disney site bar none . also their podcast(dibbcast) are great listening too.

    Edited By: cadmus on Aug 11, 2012 14:46
    Phila4
    Tips - Part 4


    Universal 'Meal Deal'

    We did this once - you pay $20.99 for adults & kids 10 & over and $9.99 for kids 3 - 9. Don't do it! You can only get food from certain restaurants in the park and we found they severely understaff them so you could easily wait an hour to get served in busy times. Also, the food is pretty bland and not great, although it does fill you up. But for the cost it simply isn't worth it. You will be disappointed.

    We did it once and were appalled by it - complained at the way out (because we bought on the way in and it wasn't made clear there were restrictions) and they refunded the whole cost, but I did make a fuss so I suspect they wouldn't normally.

    Official site HERE should you wish to ignore this friendly warning................................

    But should you wish real life users reviews from Brits see HERE and HERE.


    Refillable drinks cups

    You'll also see from the above link that you can get refillable drinks cups for $8.99. You DON'T have to buy them online, you can buy there. This actually isn't a bad deal, especially if you have kids, as you WILL drink a lot because of the heat. You can get them refilled at many of the drink stalls around the park and they're quite big (probably hold a good litre or maybe nearer 2). You can buy just one and share it between you all day long.

    I think Disney do something similar, but not 100% sure.


    Take your own drinks

    One good tip is take a collapsible cooler bag with you into the parks (they won't allow ones on wheels). Stick some 2lt bottles of soft drinks in the freezer last thing at night (they cost less than $1 a bottle at Walmart) and pop them in before you leave for the park. Also, buy some capri-suns and freeze those too and stick them in, along with some chilled ones. The frozen ones will keep the chilled ones cool and as the day goes on the frozen ones start to warm up so the effect is you have chilled drinks all day long.

    Believe me, with kids, you can save yourself $10 - $15 a day doing that!

    If you don't have a freezer there, just get chilled bottles and either buy some ice at a petrol station, or get it from the hotel - most hotels have free ice machines dotted around the premises.

    And if you want some cups and ice in the parks, just go to a drinks stall or restaurant and they'll happily give you both for no cost - take them out and use your own drink. There are also water fountains everywhere, and the water is usually very cold. Free of course.


    Eating Out

    Florida isn't very expensive to eat out - much the same as most European destinations. Breakfast you can get for as little as $4 - $5 all you can eat. Buffets for all you can eat at lunch time or evening cost around $12/$13 (£7 or so) at places like Golden Corral, Dennys, Ponderosa, Sizzler etc. Another great place is Cici's Pizzas where they do all you can eat pizza and pasta - about $4/$5 each! We go there a few times as the pizzas are superb!

    If you have a decent breakfast you don't want anything else to eat until the evening anyway and the heat staves off any hunger in our experience.

    Yes you'll pay higher prices in the parks, but again if you have a decent breakfast you're not hungry anyway.

    Want a quick & cheap evening or daytime snack? Pop into Walmart and you can buy a tray of Southern Fried Chicken pieces hot for around $4 or $5, plus other hot snacks. A tray will easily satisfy the hunger of 2 adults and 2 kids.


    The heat

    You will be able to buy those water bottles with fans in the parks, probably around $10 or so each. Buy them somewhere like Walmart and they'll cost no more than $2 or $3 - fill them with water and spray away on your face and body to keep you cool!


    Shortcut to Disney from Highway 192

    There is great shortcut to Disney from the 192 which has very little traffic and you can get there in 5 to 10 minutes - going the official way the other way on the 192 can take almost an hour in busy times as you're stuck with everybody else. A lot of people don't know about the shortcut, so if anybody is interested, just ask!


    Voucher booklets

    These are littered everywhere (inside/outside restaurants, shops, petrol stations etc.) and come in all shapes and sizes. They will have vouchers for money off for everything you can think of. Again, the savings of a dollar or two here and there, or 10 or 20% off this and that really do add up.


    Restaurants generally

    Places such as fast food restaurants (McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys, KFC etc. as well as most other 'proper' restaurants) will give you free refills for drinks. They usually just give you the beakers (normally massive anyway) and off you go and select what you want from the dispenser. Finish it - just go and get some more.


    Petrol station drinks

    You can get MASSIVE (and I mean MASSIVE) beakers of drinks in petrol stations for around $1.50, and they contain 1 to 2 litres of drink. As far as I know, once you've bought one you can pop back in another time and refill it for free. Haven't done that for a while but I believe it's still the same. That's what you could do in 7-11 anyway. Petrol (sorry, 'gas') stations are everywhere.



    If I can think of anything else I'll post it.;)


    Edited By: Phila4 on Aug 11, 2012 14:50: .
    cadmus
    Phila4
    cadmus
    brilliant deal "phila4" and your most helpful additional posts that will help many that are new to florida . you seem a florida nut like us .... we miss it so badly but hoperfully all going well we will return next year to orlando/kissimee. for us it realy is the most magical place on earth :) :3



    I could have bought a house with the money it's cost us over the years! oO

    i dont doubt it ...... but you do have some magic memories though. im just so envious of people that live in florida , they are so lucky to have all this on their doorstep.
    Phila4
    cadmus
    Phila4
    cadmus
    brilliant deal "phila4" and your most helpful additional posts that will help many that are new to florida . you seem a florida nut like us .... we miss it so badly but hoperfully all going well we will return next year to orlando/kissimee. for us it realy is the most magical place on earth :) :3



    I could have bought a house with the money it's cost us over the years! oO

    i dont doubt it ...... but you do have some magic memories though. im just so envious of people that live in florida , they are so lucky to have all this on their doorstep.



    Very true. But we stayed there once for 26 days and after about 18 we got very tired of the heat day after day. You couldn't do anything exertive without sweating buckets and were just longing for an 'English' drizzly day to cool us down. We were strongly considering trying to move out there before that particular visit, but that put us off.

    The thought of that day after day was just not pleasant, but maybe you get used to it?

    Still, when we touched down at Gatwick we got our wishes - cold, damp, drizzly and cloudy - within a couple of days we wished we were back there!

    I don't know, you just can't please some people! ;)
    toonarmani
    Seems like a bargain for school holidays!

    It would be ... if it was in the school holidays. oO
    smithyp1
    Got back a week today ....... tempting just to book it and go again !!!!

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