Orlando is well known to Americans and Canadians alike, and you can guess that what attracts them most of all, besides the sunshine, are the various parks like Disney World and Universal Studio!
In this article, we’ll explain how to get there and get around, detail the different parks and show you the must-sees.
Introduction to Orlando
The city of Orlando is located in the state of Florida, which is known as the Sunshine State, and is about 40 kilometers from the sandy beaches of the eastern Atlantic.
Also, Orlando is one of the few places that brings together so many visitors from all over the world. You will hear every language, see every nationality and gender. The city hosts multiple theme park events and festivals, and is known for its LGBTQ+ celebrations.
Getting to Orlando
In general,Orlando International Airport will be the arrival point, but many also choose to arrive from Miami International Airport. Count 3 hours 30 minutes of driving if this is your case.
Air Canada offers flights to Orlando, as well as Air Transat or WestJet, depending on the Canadian city of departure.
I was able to find flights for an average of $450 each way in economy or using 15,500 Aeroplan points and $82.
With the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card Welcome Bonus, with no annual fee in the first year, you earn enough points for 2 round-trip tickets.
Flair Airlines can also be an option for Orlando Sanford Airport (SFB) starting at $320, basic luggage option included. However, flights are not as frequent, which can quickly become a problem in case of a cancellation or change of flight.
It is also possible to fly from Plattsburgh (PBG) or Burlington (BTV) to Orlando. Be sure to consider the associated costs (gas, parking, hotel) when choosing this option.
Finally, some will choose to drive, despite the prince inflation at the pump.
It will take an average of 23 hours of driving and one night in a hotel before arriving at destination, but it can be interesting for a family to save on airfare and car rental where you must also count the cost of car seats.
Getting around Orlando
If your goal is to get directly to Disney World and Universal Resorts from the airport, you will usually have bus and shuttle service available.
To get around the city, there are several options: cabs, buses, Uber or Lyft, rental cars, or the I-Ride trolley to hop on and off every 20 minutes on the International Drive.
Renting a car is often what people choose to do. When we go to Orlando, we often choose Hertz.
So why not consider renting an electric car: it’s an option to consider for your wallet, and it’s environmentally friendly.
Travelers who make this choice also benefit from free valet parking in certain hotels and parking lots, as well as privileged locations to charge their cars in the World Disney parks!
When to come to Orlando?
Although Florida is known for its sunshine and high temperatures in the summer, it does rain from time to time due to its subtropical climate.
In winter, the temperature will be around 21°C while in summer, the mercury will often be around 32°C. Ideal, isn’t it?
Activities in Orlando
Walt Disney World Resort is located in Lake Buena Vista whileUniversal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando are in the tourist district on International Drive. We are talking about a maximum distance of 15 minutes by car. Nothing crazy considering the size of each park!
Orlando is a city of fun, where childhood dreams come true, and much more happens. Indeed, you’ll find princess dresses, weddings, attractions, shows, shopping, sports activities such as golf, tennis, water sports, or time to relax in a spa or on the beach.
All conditions are there for you to have a big smile on your face at the end of your stay.
Also, this year is quite unique: it’s the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort. For the occasion, the castle is most elegant with its draperies and embellishments; the characters are dressed up in iridescent outfits and the decorations are magnified by touches of gold. Magic is everywhere.
And of course, the “Disney’s Enchantment” fireworks are a must if you want to feel park’s magic.
To buy your theme park tickets at a discount, in addition to rewards points, consider services like Undercover Tourist.
Advisors can also help you get the latest deals or prepare your trip if you want to visit theme parks. Some of them follow us and are part of our facebook group.
But don’t forget to check out our ultimate guide to Disney to save with loyalty points:
The Walt Disney World park brings together 6 theme parks:
- Magic Kingdom and its wonderful Cinderella castle (by the way, you can also find it at Disneyland Tokyo)
- Epcot, for a journey around the cultures of the world
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where we relive the most beautiful Disney classics
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom, built around the theme of nature and animals
- Disney’s Blizzard and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, which are two water parks
SeaWorld is a park that helps rescue and rehabilitate animals. It offers unique experiences between crazy attractions (Hyper coaster Mako) and endearing encounters (Penguins, Dolphins, Beluga, etc).
Finally, Universal has 3 parks:
- Universal Studios based on mythical films (Men in Black, Harry Potter, and many others)
- Universal’s Islands of Adventure, to be in the heart of the action and experience thrills with Marvel attractions, Jurassic World VelociCoaster for example,
- Universal’s Volcanic Bay, divided into 4 zones, is a water park that will blow your mind but where you can also relax with a good tropical cocktail
We all wish we could go to Orlando to try every attraction and attend every event (parades, fireworks, festivals)! But as you would have to leave for several weeks to do everything and have a big budget, you will have to make choices and be organized to avoid wasting money.
Museums and activity center
Besides these three famous parks, there are other lesser-known parks or activities nearby that are just as interesting to visit and can cost you less:
- The IconPark is another park that combines a Ferris wheel, a flying chair attraction, a Madame Tussauds museum, an aquarium and an express train.
- Fun Sport America, like a carnival with roller coasters, arcade games and go-karts.
- Gatorland, to be close to the alligators and experience zip-lining or off-road adventure.
- Also, for those who don’t have time to go to the Everglades, check out Marsh Landing Adventures for an airboat tour.
- The Orlando Science Center, with its dinosaur exhibit and planetarium.
- The Orlando Water Sports Complex is perfect for water lovers: boating, water skiing, water park. You can even take lessons.
- Maitland Park for young and old to relax. A market is held there on Sundays as well as open-air movies.
- For those who miss Voiles en Voiles in Montreal, go to the Tree Trek zip line park.
- For lovers of medieval times, enjoy a dinner show with spectacular knights determined to win.
- The Revolution Adventures park could appeal to men with its motorized and non-motorized activities (quad biking, ATV, buggies, fishing, shooting, archery, etc.).
- For rainy days, the Dezerland Park is the place to be: go-karting, arcade games, pinball machines, a car museum, bowling, mini-golf, etc.
- Want to test your escape performance? Do an escape game against the clock; there are lots of them. Among them: Escapology, The Escape Effect or RoomBreakOut.
- Finally, between botanical gardens, art museums, theaters, stadiums, Kart, it’s impossible to get bored.
Think about websites like Viator to book certain activities:
Golf courses in Orlando
Orlando is ranked 28th among the top 100 golf destinations in the world. As there are many of them, we will stick to a list of courses close to the area that are the most famous.
Let’s start with the Walt Disney World Resort which offers 4 golf courses:
- Disney Palm (9 holes)
- Disney’s Magnolia (18 holes)
- Disney’s Lake Buena Vista (18 holes)
- Disney’s Oak Trail (9 holes)
Children also have their place with a specific program for them.
Let’s continue with the other famous golf courses:
- Winter Park Golf Club. This park offers multiple activities (tennis, children’s games, swimming pools, etc.) but also a 9-hole golf course which is highly rated
- Grande Vista Golf Club
- Orange Lake Golf Course
- Bayhill Golf Course
- The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Grande Lakes
- Finally the Dubsdread Golf course
Also, one of the members of our community, Pascal Garneau, is an experienced golfer who has created a page about his passion. I suggest you check out his article Orlando Getaway and $8 Golf.
Finally, for a mini-golf experience, Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf will delight families.
Shopping and dining in Orlando
There are plenty of shops. It’s hard to list everything. But here are a few places to check out.
For starters, Disney Springs is the place to be if you want to stroll around, shop for the most famous brands, window shop, find a Disney outfit, or eat at one of the many restaurants (reservations recommended). Also, you can park for free.
Here again, there are events and activities: the Cirque du Soleil show Drawn to Life , Live Music, a carousel, an express train, etc.
There are several shopping centers in the area, such as the Mall at Millenia and the Florida Mall as well as outlets. The Orlando International Premium Outlet and the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlet are the closest to center or to attractions.
For those who visit Epcot Park, it’s a chance to sample food from around the world. Don’t wait!
With the various parks and all the major hotels, many chefs have moved to Orlando, giving locals a tremendous choice.
Outside of the parks and center, you might find something to suit your taste in Restaurant Row on Dr. Phillipps Blvd, or in Margaritaville or Disney Springs.
Staying in Orlando
Convenient hotels for the parks including Disney
As I said above, hotels abund and it can sometimes be difficult to find your way around. It all depends on your budget and what you have decided to do. It could cost you anywhere from $150 to $900 per night on average depending on what you choose!
- Are you going to Orlando for the parks?
- Do you have the budget to stay in themed hotels?
- Would you rather have an all-inclusive?
- Will you be with your family?
So many questions that you will have to answer to target the type of hotel that will suit you.
As you know, Marriott Bonvoy hotels are plentiful in Orlando and can save you money through their rewards program.
Since the days are intense and long in the parks, choosing a quiet, well-located and comfortable hotel is a good choice.
What better way to experience the magic of Disney than with the themed hotels of course if you are a complete fan of the Disney classics!
For example, at Disney’s Art of Animation resort, your child can sleep in a themed room inspired by The Little Mermaid or The Lion King for $277 per night.
In addition, by staying at Disney hotels, you will have access to various benefits, the most important of which is access to the parks 30 minutes before the official opening. This will give you time to get to the most popular attractions before the world arrives. However, you will have to get up early.
Although they offer some nice perks, Disney hotels have the disadvantage of being very expensive, which can quickly drain your wallet. The most affordable (between $230 and $550) and recommended are :
Other hotels in the Disney parks
Some hotels are partners with Disney and offer access to the park 30 minutes before opening time, free shuttle service to the parks, and meals with Disney characters. A significant advantage that can avoid taking the Genie+ in my opinion.
Here they are:
Hotels outside the Disney parks
If you’re staying outside the Disney parks, the distance from your hotel to Disney, Universal and SeaWorld parks will be key if you want to arrive before the crowds for the attractions. You should choose the ones located near the Walt Disney World Resort and Lake Buena Vista or Disney Springs.
For example, the Celeste Hotel, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, is highly rated if you want to enjoy center Orlando but will not be suitable for visiting the theme parks because it is 26 miles from WDW. It starts at $200 per night or 30,000 points.
A new area has just been created, built barely a year ago and which is certainly going to be quickly taken over: the Flamingo Crossings area, located 15 minutes west of the WDW park. Stores are slowly being set up, but a Target shopping center is already there, convenient for cheap food and equipment.
Several hotels to consider:
- Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando at Flamingo Crossings Town Center
- Residence Inn Orlando at Flamingo Crossings Town Center
- SpringHill Suites Orlando at Flamingo Crossings/Western Entrance or TownePlace Suites Orlando (sharing the same pool)
All four are interesting. We actually chose to test the Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando at FLAMINGO CROSSINGS Town Center during our last stay.
You can get a room for 99 US $ or 25,000 points per night in these hotels (breakfast included), more than good rates in Orlando!
Hotels to visit Orlando in general
If you want to visit Orlando, and skip the Disney parks, there are several hotels with slides or even water parks to consider such as the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center or the Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites, Waterpark, an IHG hotel.
More simple, affordable and efficient: look at the Courtyard Orlando Downtown, 1st out of 389 hotels in Orlando or the Delaney Hotel.
Save on conversion fees
Finally, if you plan to visit the United States, consider getting a credit card with no foreign currency conversion fees.
The best option in Canada is the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®, the current offering of which is as follows:
What toll roads to take in the Orlando area?
Careful: if you have a rental car, your credit card will not be accepted at the tolls and the lanes with transponders will not take cash. Choose the following toll lanes:
- “Exact Change Only”,
- “Change and Receipts, or
- “SunPass / E-Pass” if your vehicle is equipped with a transponder.
How much does it cost to park at the Walt Disney Word Resort?
At the entrance of the WDW park, you will have to pay US$25. This ticket is given to you for the day only and is valid on all the parks. You will be able to leave one park and park in another without having to pay again in the same day.
Can we bring food and juice into the parks?
Indeed, it is possible to take your snacks and meals inside the park where the costs can be more important. You will be checked at the entrance of the park but this will not be a problem.
I hope that all this information will help you to prepare your trip to Orlando and to enjoy it as much as possible, as Orlando has so much to offer. I’m already looking forward to my next trip!