10 Things to Know Before Visiting Orlando

The pink castle at Walt Disney World Orlando

As you prepare for a trip of a lifetime, we thought it would be good to put together some handy tips and information to help save you time and money when you are out exploring in Orlando!

Whether you are making the most of the theme parks, in search of some food or trying to stay safe, we have selected ten things you should know before visiting the Sunshine State!

Get to Grips with the Location of the Theme Parks

In total, there are ten main theme parks in the area of Orlando. The main parks are as follows:

The four main theme parks belonging to Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom.

Walt Disney World is the biggest theme park resort in the country, stretching over a staggering 40 sq miles. This equates to the size of San Francisco! With so much ground to cover, make sure to plan an itinerary, so you can visit everything your heart desires.

Fun Fact: Magic Kingdom was the first park built in the resort!

The two main theme parks belonging to Universal Orlando: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure

The entrance for both theme parks is usually sold as a park-to-park ticket. Universal Studios is a film and TV show-based theme park, whilst Islands of Adventure has different areas which reflect the fantasy and thrill of superheroes, dinosaurs and more! If you’re wondering where to head for Harry Potter; Diagon Alley can be found in Universal Studios and Hogsmeade is located in Islands of Adventure. Hop on the Hogwarts Express train to visit between the two, but be sure to have tickets for both parks!

The Hogwarts Express at Universal Studios Orlando

LEGOLAND Florida

All things LEGO, this is a mesmerising park where you can marvel at the creativity and genius of the impressive LEGO displays throughout the resort. Complete with rides and shows, it is enjoyable for all family members. A particular highlight to look out for is MINILAND USA. Here you can feel amazed by the recreations of the most acknowledged cities and attractions in the country. Keep an eye out for Orlando!

SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld has an abundance of activities for the whole family to enjoy. Whether you want to get to know more about the incredible ocean animals or wish to seek a thrill on one of the adrenaline amplifying rides, there is something to keep all ages entertained.

Discovery Cove

This wonderful attraction isn’t really classed as a theme park, but it’s certainly a big favourite, which is why we thought it was important to include in the list. Here you can visit dolphins, rays, sharks and other tropical fish, as well as birds and otters! With so many animals to learn about, you can’t help but leave feeling suitably educated. Make sure to look out for the cheeky marmosets hiding in the park too!

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Here, Africa is the inspiration for the combined wildlife and theme park! Busch gardens is outside of Orlando, but is still a top-rated destination for those travelling to Florida.

The parks of Universal Orlando, SeaWorld and Walt Disney World can be found in an estimated 15-mile radius between each other.

Our villas are located approximately 15 to 30 minutes away from the parks in Orlando. You’ll be able to get an idea of the location by having a look at our Florida Map. As you can see, there are a lot of theme parks to discover in Orlando and it’s a good idea to make some sort of plan for your trip, as it is unlikely that you will be able to visit them all during one visit.

Look Into Hiring a Car

In Orlando there are many ways to move around the area, including hiring a car for the duration of your stay. Renting a car is recommended where possible, purely for the freedom it can give you throughout your trip, allowing you to visit places which may feel more restricted when using public transport.

A man wearing a watch driving a car, hand on the steering wheel

A suitable alternative to car hire could be to use a taxi service. Preferred taxi services in the area include Uber and Lyft, which are both usable through mobile app services. Uber, you may already have downloaded and used in the UK. Lyft, on the other hand, is an American based company which only operates in the USA.

For more information about travelling around Orlando, take a look at our blog.

Expect a Diverse Range of Food Options

Be prepared to be immersed in a wide range of eating options when in Orlando. As one of the most visited places in the state of Florida, Orlando is a hub for different cuisine and culture.

There are a range of restaurants to suit all tastes. For example, Caribbean, Mexican, Italian, seafood, steakhouses and more, so you can have a taste of something different each day of your holiday. For more of an idea about finances while away, take a look at our cost of eating out guide.

If you want to try something especially unique to the state, why not try the Key Lime Pie?

A slice of key-lime pie

Prepare Your Tickets Ahead of Time

Preparation is always key! Being organised ahead of time will help to reduce unnecessary stress and hopefully save some precious time and money. You may also be able to seek the best deals for not only theme park tickets, but other areas of interest, such as dinner shows and animal experiences.

Here at Debbie’s Villas, we offer various free benefits when you book with us! These can include:

  • Disney FastPass and Memory Maker (Only with Disney ticket packages)
  • Kids Eat Free or Dine 4 Less Card†
  • A SmartSIM USA Sim Card†
  • Play4Less Card†

These extras are given free with every attraction ticket booking over £1000. A villa booking must also be made with us to comply with this offer. You will receive one of each card per property booking. Customers can choose whether they want to receive a Kids Eat Free or Dine 4 Less card.

Research the Weather

The weather can tend to be unpredictable in Orlando and differ throughout the year. However, more often than not, the sun will be shining - it is of course called the Sunshine State. Therefore you need to make sure that you have packed all the sun protection necessary, as well as essentials for the rainy spells!

Here at Debbie’s Villas, we want you to have the best time possible while staying in one of our stunning villas and have created a Guide to the Weather in Orlando to help you know what to expect each month of the year.

Explore More Than the Theme Parks

Just over 110 sq. miles in size, it is no surprise that there are plenty of things to do and sights to see in the region! Not only is Orlando home to some of the most desirable theme parks throughout the world, but it has a plethora of additional activities for you to get stuck into!

Museums, gardens, parks and markets, these are just the beginning of the things to experience in the area. And the best part is, so many of them are free.

Kissimmee Lakefront Park

If you are looking to indulge in nature, we would recommend visiting Lake Eola, Mead Botanical Garden or the West Orange Trail.

If you are keen to surround yourself in magic wherever you may be, we would encourage you to visit the areas of CityWalk, Celebration or Disney Boardwalk!

For more inspiration, our blog on Days Out on a Budget in Florida offers plenty more ideas about how you can spend your time and money wisely while staying in the area!

Make the Most of FastPass+

If you are visiting Walt Disney World, booking your tickets before arrival is necessary if you want to make use of FastPass+.

Here at Debbie’s Villas, our Disney attraction tickets come complete with the FastPass+ facility free of charge!

FastPass+ allows you to book slots ahead of time at attractions across all of the four Disney Parks. The best part about this service is that there is no extra fee! A total of three reservations can be made per day in advance of 30 days, for those who are staying outside of the Walt Disney World resort.

For similar benefits at Universal Studios, the Universal Express Pass is a great option. This pass will require a payment, but many feel that it is worth the extra cost, to save time queuing and spend more time having fun around the parks.

Learn About Tipping

In Orlando, there are a few guidelines you can follow to ensure you have supplied the correct tip to the deserving recipient. Unlike the UK, in America, it is very much expected that you should tip to show that you appreciate the services provided.

Tips are an essential part of a service provider’s overall income. It is understood that those who earn from a tipped income often receive $5.44 an hour.

Tipping Guidelines

  • Full service restaurants= 15%-20%
  • Buffet= 5%-10%
  • Fast food/ counter service= Spare change
  • Takeaway delivery= At least $2 or 10%-15% on totals over $50
  • Bartenders= $1- $2 per drink
  • Valet Parking= $2- $5
  • Taxi Driver= $10- $15

If in doubt, a tip of 15% is a suitable amount for services. Consequently, any tip that you would like to give will be appreciated when spared.

Close-up of a dollar bill

Some of the larger theme parks, nightclubs and other attractions may not be able to accept tips, which is worth bearing in mind. For further advice about tipping, take a look at our blog A Guide to Tipping In Florida.

Note Down Important Numbers

It is always best to be prepared for emergencies and knowing the local medical amenities and numbers can help you feel at ease, especially if you are travelling as a family. With this in mind, we have provided these essential numbers, in case you are in the unfortunate circumstance of needing assistance. They are also displayed in the Debbie’s Villas holiday booklet, which is sent to our customers in the post.

  • Medical Concierge (Urgent care for visitors to the Orlando area): 855-932-5252

  • Polk County Sheriff’s Dept: 863-298-6200

  • Polk County Fire Dept: 863-519-7350

  • Osceola County Sheriff’s Dept: 407-348-2222

  • Osceola County Fire Dept: 407-742-7000

Be Conscious of Wildlife

Orlando is home to some of the most unique and unusual animals throughout the world. There are some more hostile animals in the area too, however it is unlikely to ever come across a dangerous species during your trip. Regardless, it is essential to stick to some rules when in, or near, the habitat of some of these creatures, which will ensure top safety at all times.

We have provided some advice to make sure you know what to do if you see one, so you can keep your cool!

Alligators

Alligators can be found in freshwater areas such as swamps, lakes and rivers. For this reason, swimming and entering these regions should be avoided at all costs. Where alligators are most prevalent, signs will warn of the dangers of being in the area. Children should not be left unattended in these spaces either.

Alligators are not known for approaching humans and tend to feel more scared of us than we are of them! However, if you spot one, you mustn't approach it and should leave a distance of at least 50ft. It is also illegal to try and feed them because of the association they can make between humans and food, which can lead them to become aggressive towards humans if they are fed. For more information about these animals, take a look at our Guide to Alligators in Orlando.

Spiders

Spiders are nothing new for us. The chances of seeing one in Florida equates to the same likelihood as seeing one in the UK. In total, there are an estimated 900 species of spider in the state. Most of them tend to live in the wild. If you happen to be bitten by a spider while staying in Orlando, you must seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

Snakes

Out of around 50 species of snake, six of those residing in the state of Florida are venomous. Similar to alligators, it is unlikely you will come across one. However, if you do, it is important to keep your distance and not touch it. If you can, encourage it to leave, making sure any children are not near to it. Call a professional for assistance where necessary.

It is also worth mentioning that Florida is an area with many friendlier and less threatening animals such as Armadillos and Manatees, which are amazing to see if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity!

Armadillo in the wild

Hopefully, our guide has supplied some helpful information for you to use when planning your holiday to Orlando!

Here at Debbie’s Villas, we are dedicated to making sure you have the best holiday possible, starting with ensuring our guests are welcomed by the utmost luxury Orlando villas on their arrival.