Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned pro to Florida holidays, there’s always new advice to take on board. After two decades of championing the Sunshine State, we're still in awe at endless opportunities for adventure. Though we have learnt a few things along the way about how to maximise your stay. That's why, as part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, we've curated our top 20 tips for planning an unforgettable Florida trip...
When is Best to Visit?
It’s not called the Sunshine State for nothing - Florida enjoys a year-round tropical climate, so don’t forget to pack that sunscreen. Spring is generally considered the best time of year to visit, with fewer crowds and pleasant warmth, while summer is more humid with thunderstorms like clockwork most afternoons. Autumn remains warm but comfortable - just be aware of the hurricane season that begins from around mid-August to the end of October. Winter is ‘cooler’ but still gloriously sunny, plus there are loads of amazing holiday events!
Moreover, the best time to visit depends upon your type of holiday. For example, if you are visiting a domestic tourist hub like Orlando, you might want to consider visiting in January or February - before the 'Spring Break' and Easter crowds arrive.
There’s More to Orlando than Roller Coasters
It may be famous for its world-class theme parks and attractions, but Orlando
has much more to offer. Immerse yourself in its beautiful surrounding nature by taking an exhilarating airboat ride in Boggy Creek
, wandering the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, or making a snappy visit to Gatorland
to get up close to the state’s most famous toothsome residents.
Book Attraction Tickets Ahead
Save money and time by pre-booking your tickets, whether it’s for parks, experiences or shows. It is often much cheaper to purchase tickets before you travel; your queueing time may be greatly reduced, and it ensures you don’t end up disappointed or missing out on the popular experiences that get booked up quickly.
Plan Your Park Days
The bigger theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort
and Universal Orlando Resort
will often take more than a day to explore, so it’s always a good idea to have a rough plan in place. Head for your favourite rides early to minimise queueing time and make the most of flexible tickets such as Disney Magic Tickets, which offer unlimited park hopping access after 2pm.
What's more, when staying on-site at Walt Disney World Resort or Universal Orlando Resort, you can enjoy early park access before the general public (up to 30 minutes and 1 hour respectively). So, if you really want to experience as many of the big attractions as possible, it's an important benefit to consider.
Traversing the parks can be a sweaty business, so be sure to wear light clothing that easily dries if you’re on water-based attractions - especially if you're visiting SeaWorld
. Ponchos are often a sound investment! And, it goes without saying that comfortable shoes are a must because there will be a LOT of walking – just think of that impressive daily step count to get you through it.
Download the My Disney Experience App
One of our biggest tips for Florida holiday travel is to download the My Disney Experience App
, particularly if you’ve booked the Disney Dining Package
. This app will prove invaluable for ordering and paying for meals on the go, reserving tables and avoiding more dreaded queues when you’re hungry and hot!
Research Accommodation Types
There are pros and cons to all types of Florida accommodation, which includes villas
, condos, and hundreds of hotels from budget to luxury. Larger groups favour villas as they offer privacy, value for money and a home-from-home feeling, whereas hotels allow you to indulge a little more with having food and drink, and resort amenities and facilities on tap.
You can read more about the Orlando villa versus hotel debate in our dedicated guide.
Perks of Disney Hotel Stays
If you opt to stay in one of the Disney Resort Hotels
you’ll receive loads of benefits including Early Theme Park Entry, Disney shuttle transportation to all the parks and water parks, free parking within the resort, early access to dining reservations, character dining experiences, and of course proximity to the parks, as well as a host of fantastic bonuses that truly make it a holiday of a lifetime.
Yet it’s a quality we can’t define that makes staying on-site so special. From sleeping in themed bedrooms to waking up for breakfast with beloved film characters – you’ve seen all the Disney fairytales, now you simply must live one to feel the true magic of Walt Disney World.
Are Rental Cars Essential?
It depends on where you stay and whether you plan on discovering more of Florida outside of Orlando. If you’re in villa accommodation a rental car will be both convenient and economical, however, there are also some villa resorts – such as Encore Club at Reunion
– that offer free shuttle services to major attractions.
On-site Universal and Disney hotels provide in-resort complimentary shuttle services as standard. And Florida’s Amtrak rail service is also an option for travelling around the state, but it lacks the freedom to go exactly where you want, when you want.
The good news is that reasonable car hire prices have returned, now that demand is back and stocks have been replenished post the pandemic.
Explore State Parks and Natural Wonders
We all know about Florida’s hundreds of miles of sandy coastline and its world-renowned theme parks, but head inland to discover a world of beauty and charm. From leafy state parks to invigorating natural freshwater springs for picnicking, kayaking, tubing, swimming, and snorkelling, there is plenty to enjoy here absorbed in the tranquillity of nature.
We recommend Florida’s Everglades National Park, where you can venture through wetlands, forests and waterways and say hi to the State’s most famous resident, the alligator - as well as another notable native, the Florida Panther. Or, for something a little bit different, descend into the mystical caves of Cavens State Park, located in the Florida Panhandle
Orlando may be the Theme Park Capital of the World, but it lacks one of Florida’s most loved commodities: beaches. And frankly, falling in love with Florida a place at a time lets you experience the true splendour of the Sunshine State.
Consider a day or two trip to the Gulf Coast
gems such as St. Petersburg
, offering miles of powder-white sands that fringe the flawless waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Further afield are the exquisite Florida Keys
, the vibrant city of Miami
and the sophisticated town of Naples
to the south, while up north are the stunning beaches and coastal regions of the Panhandle
– all easily accessible within a few hours’ drive.
Don’t Underestimate Florida’s Size
If you’re planning to explore the state then take note of the major routes and check distances and times before embarking on a road trip. Orlando is well placed in Central Florida, but it takes around four hours or more to get down to Miami and the start of the Keys, while the beaches in the Panhandle are over six hours to the north.
Flexible Flight Destinations
Orlando alone has three international airports offering both charter and scheduled flights, but there are many airports across the state including Tampa
, Fort Lauderdale
and more, which serve a wide range of international and domestic destinations for exploring the state as well as the wider US and beyond.
Florida is five hours behind the UK. Outbound flights will often leave in the morning so it’s late afternoon when you arrive, while inbound flights are predominantly overnight. Take advantage of those early morning wakeups during your first few days to get to the parks promptly or to get a decent sunbed spot by the pool!
Stock Up on Insect Repellent
It will come as no surprise that due to Florida’s tropical climate, there is an abundance of nibbling little bugs ready to feast on your delicious British skin. Keep the sprays and creams close to hand, mainly in the early mornings and evenings in the hotter months, and especially near bodies of water, of which there are many in Florida like pools, swamps, and lakes!
If you’re planning on visiting Orlando’s excellent outlet malls or want to collect a world of souvenirs from your favourite parks, keep some extra luggage space free. Also, we’re not saying you’ll need to buy another suitcase for all your wares, but it has been known to happen!
PS. When you book a Florida holiday with us and get free Orlando experiences worth up to $440 per family
- including a $20 voucher per person at The Mall at Millenia. Better yet, you can arrive with free valet parking, on us.
What to Eat
Florida is an absolute gastronomic delight. From fine dining restaurants in its top hotels, freshly caught seafood along the endless coastline or authentic Cuban flavours in Miami’s street food scene - there’s something to tantalise the tastebuds everywhere you turn. And most importantly, there's food for every budget. Even a simple Mickey Pretzel delivers. Just make sure to do your research and book ahead if there’s an eatery you really want to visit, as the popular hangouts fill up fast.
Keep Your ID on You
You may believe that your days of being ID’d are behind you, but it’s wise to keep it close to hand when going anywhere that serves alcohol. Florida is very strict and even though you may look far beyond 21, you could still be asked to show your proof of age before entering a licenced venue.
Try Not to Do Everything
There’s so much to see and do in Florida that one or two weeks barely covers the surface, so don’t try to cram too much in and burn yourselves out. Think about what you want from your Florida trip, adrenaline-fuelled rollercoaster action, sun-soaked days by the sea, nightlife in the cities, or lush nature adventures. All of the above? Pick your ultimate activities and plan from there.
It goes without saying to book your trip with a reputable travel company such as Ocean Florida for everything, including accommodation, car hire, and attraction tickets. Not only will you be covered by all the relevant insurances like ATOL and TTA, but you get unmatched expertise and service from start to finish.
Don’t forget, our travel experts can give you the low-down on everything and anything you need to know before you book your next Florida holiday for 2024 and 2025 – get in touch and let’s get planning!