Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Orlando Florida



They say when you go to Disneyworld that no other holiday will ever feel the same again... You become the child within and you never ever want to return to adulthood. Lifes responsibilities feel a million miles away and you aren't even embarrassed to act like a 5 year old because everyone around you is doing the exact same thing.
I was never into Disney when I was young, but I most definitely grew into a wannabe Disney princess... you just need to look at the name of my business to see that but I think regardless of whether you are into it or not, visiting the parks should most definitely be on everyones bucket list.

Whilst I was away I posted a lot on snapchat and I had so many of you asking me to write a blog when I got home with my tips and recommendations for visiting.
This is going to be a long post so brace yourselves but hopefully, if you are planning a trip soon (I hate you if you are 'cause I wanna go back so badly) you will get all of the info that you need.

So firstly, we booked our trip through Expedia, we flew direct from Dublin to Orlando and we stayed at the Hardrock Hotel, Universal, for 12nights.

Tip number one is, if you are booking on Expedia, don't pick a date and stick to it. From one night to the next, the prices could be very different so try to be flexible and you may just save a fortune.

We bought our park tickets on orlandoattractiontickets.com and whilst they are probably the most expensive part of the holiday next to the hotel/flights, they are definitely the most rewarding and we found this site to be the cheapest to get everything included in our packages.

Obviously spending money is up to you, but if you like shopping then try to save as much as you can because the shops and the outlets are UNREAL! I talk a bit about my fave places further into the post so keep reading! 
Eating and drinking isn't overly expensive depending on where you go but most definitely save that bit extra money (and suitcase room) for shopping.

Below I have compiled some of my fave pics from the trip and under each section I will talk a bit about each park and what I loved and didn't love - So keep scrolling and I hope you enjoy the post!
Nicola x


Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom is by far the happiest and most magical place on earth. Leave your inhibitions at the gate, buy a pair of Minnie Mouse ears and enjoy the journey.
Nothing will ever compare to that feeling of walking up Main Street Disney and seeing Cinderella's castle for the first time... I swear I almost cried - truly the most magical sight.

One of the coolest things that came with our tickets was the Memory Maker... basically you connect your tickets to an app on your phone and then any time you see a park photographer and get your pic taken, they scan your ticket and within half an hour the pics are on your app! It was great, especially when there are only two of you and you can't get pics together very often.
With the "Disney World App" you can also secure your fast passes for any of the Disney rides which is super important as queuing for all of them will drive you insane!

Of course I had to queue to get a picture with Cinderella aptly captioned "When the Sequin one meets the Real one" and although I was a little mortified when I saw the five year old girls in the queue beside me, I honestly didn't care too much and it was worth it in the end.
There aren't too many rides in Magic Kingdom for Adults but be sure to meet all of the characters you like, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy!






Hollywood Studios
We did Magic Kingdom and Hollywood studios in one day and we still got everything done. My greatest recommendation for HS is to do Terror Tower. It is the most frightening but amazing ride that I was on! I also highly recommend the Aerosmith ride which is very cool!
I definitely wouldn't dedicate a full day of your Holiday to hollywood studios as there isn't an awful lot to do there so do it on a half day along with another park.



Hard Rock Hotel 

We stayed at the Hardrock Hotel which is in the grounds of Universal Studios. It was unreal and I could not recommend it enough. I know that a lot of people stay on International drive which is perfect but as we planned to have a few lazy days by the pool it was important to have a really nice hotel that was near to everything.
We could walk out the front of the hotel and jump on a water taxi over to Universal Studios or City Walk which comes to life at night.
The hotel had everything we could have needed from a market to buy Starbucks coffee and takeaway pizza to a high end steak and lobster restaurant. It had the most stunning pool and the breakfasts were amazing. We took full advantage of the Hotels facilities on our down days and it made it so worth the little extra money that we paid to stay there as we got to relax among the Disney madness.
Be sure to bring your american adapters for your plugs but they don't work for everything. I brought my own hairdryer and straighteners with me but they wouldn't work properly so the best tip that I picked up was to go to Walmart and buy straighteners (mine were Remington and only cost $19) If I hadn't done this, I would have looked like Monica from Friends (you know the episode) for the entire 12 days. The hotel had a hairdryer so I didn't have to buy that but check your hotel first before you go.






Shopping
As I said above, the shopping is amazing! We went to all of the Malls and all of the outlets and I loved everyone of them... my bank account however, did not!
My favourites were Mall of the Millenia and the Florida mall and we did both of the main outlets - Vinelands and Premium, which were fab! I spent 3hrs in Zara alone one night and I am surprised I still had a boyfriend by the end of it... but hey... I got some great stuff haha!


Universal Studios
Due to staying in one of the Universal hotels, our room keys acted as our fast passes for Universal so we were able to come and go as we please and get onto all of the rides and attractions very quickly.
We went to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure a few times and made sure to do all of the rides, some even two or three times. 
Harry Potter World was unreal, you really felt like you were in the movies or the books. I was so excited to try butter beer and was actually surprised at how nice it was.
Universal is very different to Disney World and would probably appeal more to "adults" if there is such a word in Orlando but I definitely loved them both.
Citywalk is also a part of Universal and it was very cool to wander at night, get some food and have a drink.
If you aren't staying in a Universal hotel then I definitely recommend paying the extra for the fast passes! You won't regret it! 
Oh and I passed out on the Hulk ride... legit blacked out... so be careful... but I did it again then and was fine haha! 






Getting from A to B
Taxis are definitely a little on the expensive side and I most definitely would not recommend renting a car. You don't get value for money at all as you have to pay for the car, pay to park at the hotels (approx $25 a night) pay to park at the different parks (approx $40 a day) and also fuel the car. So we got around by using the app "Lyft" similar to Uber but a little cheaper. You just connect your bank card and it uses your location on your phone to set pickup point... it shows you your price and your driver/type of car beforehand and it was definitely the easiest and cheapest way to get around!


Volcano Bay Water Park 
This was probably one of my least favourite days in Orlando. I usually love waterparks but this one was new and was still quite busy so the queues were annoying. 
You did get a wristband called a Tapu Tapu which you could tap to the rides and get a time to return for fast past but you could only do one at a time... so if your wait time was long for one... you just had to stand in the long queue for the rest of the rides whilst you waited. 
I didn't do the biggest ride but Kevin did and after waiting over 2hrs on the tapu tapu he still had another hour or so to wait when he got there.
Definitely not high on my list of recommendations.


Discovery Cove
This was one that I fought with myself over. I hate seeing animals like Dolphins in captivity but I also wanted more than anything to see them up close.
They are the most beautiful creatures and I absolutely loved seeing them but it did break my heart to see them in the pools as opposed to the open sea. 
We did the underwater walk which was incredible. You wear a helmet and go 14ft below the surface with the most beautiful fish swimming around you. We also visited the aviaries which were incredible as there are stunning tropical birds flying free around you and landing on your arm for food.
For the most part Discovery Cove is a beautiful place and an amazing day out but I definitely feel guilty for supporting a place that keeps Dolphins in captivity, even if they are really well looked after.





Animal Kingdom
On the opposite end of the scale to Discovery cove, Animal Kingdom was incredible and all of the animals, whilst still being in captivity, were allowed to roam in areas that were designed to look like their natural habitats. It had more of a feel of us being the ones in cages... they weren't forced to be  seen or to perform, they just did as they pleased and if we were lucky enough to see them then great and if not hen that was their choice.
We did the Kilimanjaro safari ride which was amazing and really gave the feel of being on a real safari in Africa and also the Expedition to Everest ride was pretty cool.
The best of all was the Avatar ride but that was so good I had to write about it separately below!






Avatar Flight of Passage
This is the newest ride in Animal Kingdom and the queues for it are crazy. The fast passes were booked up 60 days in advance so we decided to wait and we were so glad we did.. We queued for 105mins which felt like forever at the start but passed surprisingly quick and the ride was so good that I nearly would have queued the same time again. Its a virtual reality ride but on a totally different level to any of the rest that I experienced. You genuinely believe that you are in the movie Avatar and flying on the back of a Banshee, you fly through forests and you smell the trees, you fly through a waterfall and get sprayed with water... Honestly I can't even do it justice by describing it but if you get the chance to do it, queue for however long it takes. You won't regret it.


Happily Ever After Fireworks
As if there isn't enough amazement in Orlando, there is nothing more stunning than the happily ever after fireworks at Magic Kingdom.
It is truthfully the closest I have ever felt to believing that magic is real...
We left this to closer to the end of our holiday and it was an incredible way to finish an already unreal time. There are thousands upon thousands of people standing around and the second the first firework starts, everyone becomes silent... its both eerie and incredible because you know that each person is experiencing the same magic as you are... if you do nothing else when you are there, then be sure to see these fireworks. I promise you it is something that you will never ever forget!