Trip Report Orlando trip 2024

This is my review of our whole Orlando trip so covers more than just WDW. We travelled from England. I wrote this post to put in a Facebook group that we joined in the months leading up to booking our holiday, but thought I would post it here too….

We have been back home for a few weeks and have had plenty time to reflect upon our holiday of a lifetime and now I feel compelled to write about it all. Being in this group over the past few months has been valuable in picking up snippets of information, so thank you and I hope my holiday write up may now be of interest or help to others.

We are a family of 4, two adults and two teenage boys (16 & 14). This was our first ever trip to Orlando – a holiday we had been dreaming of for years and we were finally able to make it happen. It is likely to be a once in a lifetime trip so we wanted to make sure that we could absolutely maximise it, so we went for 22 days. We broke this into 10 days staying at Disney, 10 days on I-drive, and then a final 2 days in Tampa.

We flew with Virgin, Heathrow to Tampa. Everything was pretty seamless at the airport and on the plane. Meals and snacks were fine and there was a huge selection of in-flight movies and tv to watch.

Tampa airport was great! Small and efficient! We made the decision to fly in to Tampa firstly as we heard it was a relatively quiet airport, secondly as it seemed a bit cheaper than flying to Orlando, and thirdly as we always planned to have a couple of days at Busch Gardens and thought it would be logical to tie this in at the end of our holiday. This all worked out great for us. What I would say however is that flying in to Tampa may only be a viable option if you are planning or willing to hire a car for your trip.

Our car hire was with Hertz. This was all done through Virgin as we booked flights and car hire as a Fly Drive package. It was my first experience of driving abroad and it was pretty petrifying to begin with but I was enjoying it by the end and we’re glad we did it this way. Once you get used to it, the roads over there are wide and the signs and road markings are very clear.

We had booked an ‘intermediate’ SUV, which we hoped would be large enough for the 4 of us and all of our luggage. We ended up with a 2024 (brand new!) Nissan Rogue (I believe the Nissan X-Trail is the UK equivalent). It was lovely and it was a larger car than we expected - it was very spacious and we comfortably fit our 4 suitcases in the boot with a couple of smaller bags too. When picking the car up we took the option of paying $55 for fuel, allowing us to return the car empty. This seemed a fair deal (I sure can’t fill my car up at home for £45!) and it was one less thing for us to worry about. Sat Nav through my phone worked an absolute treat. We used googlemaps and set it to ‘avoid tolls’, and thus didn’t bother with buying any toll pass. I never felt like we were going the long way round just to avoid a toll road. Tampa to Orlando was very straightforward and Orlando itself seemed easy to navigate in and around the Disney/Universal/iDrive areas.

Anyway, if you are not bored yet, I have an actual holiday to talk about…

Our first 10 days we did Disney. We stayed at Pop Century and absolutely loved it there. Great vibe, loved the pools, loved the location (convenience of skyliner) and good quick serve food options. We made great use of the resort refill cups both in the restaurant and at Petals refill station. We had 2 refill cups between the 4 of us which felt sufficient.

Our room provided everything needed (sufficient space, storage, comfortable beds, clean, good size fridge, cable tv, alexa), and the resort in general always felt immaculate. The grounds are so well kept, hedges trimmed, paths swept etc, and the staff were always friendly. For us four it just felt perfect.

I wont go into too much detail about the Disney Parks. All I can say is that we absolutely loved everything. The parks are just amazing. The rides and attractions are truly incredible. Everything felt so perfectly done, the theming, the effects, the animatronics, the attention to detail. Be that newer rides or older ones, everything felt so well maintained and run efficiently. The ride I feel obliged to mention is Guardians of the Galaxy, because for all four of us it was unanimously our favourite ride ever!!! Just phenomenal and a pure joy to ride. Rise of the Resistance was also incredible. I could say so much more about so many rides but I’ll be writing forever.

The various shows and entertainment at the parks are also incredible. It goes without saying that Happily Ever After is just amazing. Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios was maybe even better in our opinion!

Typhoon Lagoon was so much fun. Definitely felt like more of a ‘child-friendly’ water park (compared to others which I’ll come on to later) but as a family we had so much fun there and the tidal wave in particular was awesome.

We absolutely loved the food and drink offerings throughout the Disney parks. Through posts in this group and hours spent looking at menus on the WDW app prior to going, we had built up a list of food and drinks we wanted to try and we managed to tick them all off whilst there. I must make a quick shout out to the Warm Cinamon Roll at Gaston’s Tavern in MK! OMG it’s huge and it’s incredible! And ask for extra icing! Oh, and grab a LeFou’s Brew to go with it. Absolute Winner!!!

We dined on quick serves and snacks throughout our Disney stay. Partly because quick serves are a cheaper option, but also for the convenience and flexibility to us all. We were never tied to a restaurant booking and we all just ate when we wanted to, even if at times we didn’t all eat at the same time it wasn’t an issue. On occasions, if we were not all super hungry, we would share 3 meals between the 4 of us. Ordering on the app for mobile pick up was quick and easy. The range of quick serve restaurants offered huge variety of food and we actually felt they were good value too.

We always took a couple of bottles of water with us on park days and those little sqeezy squash things (we bought a load from Aldi and took them over with us). We used water fountains and drink stations to refill our bottles with water. It isn’t the nicest tasting water (especially out of the fountains), but a quick squeeze of squash and everything is good! We did still buy drinks from time to time but I’m pretty sure we saved a fortune by staying hydrated this way.

We visited Disney Springs for a few hours one day. Was a cool place and we could have spent more time there but our boys, naturally, were not overly interested in walking around the shops etc. We made a point of visiting the Coca-Cola shop and went to the roof top bar as we wanted to try the round the world samplers. That was good fun!

One evening we had booked to do the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue over at Fort Wilderness. We debated booking this at the time, but we are so glad that we did! The food was good (and lots of it!) and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening!

The trip to Fort Wilderness gave us a reason to jump on a boat (from MK), which was great. The whole transportation system at Disney is superb – just so easy and efficient. Being at Pop we made good use of the skyliner which was so convenient (and even when there was a queue at opening in the morning it moved quickly).

Over the course of our 10 days at Disney we did every ride and attraction that we wanted to. We definitely benefitted from a quiet first few days in which we managed to smash in a super productive time at the parks, knocking off so many of the rides and shows. Our final few days at Disney were extremely busy but we felt able to just relax and take each day as it came having achieved so much in our first few days. We just focussed on re-doing our favourite things during this time. We managed the whole time without purchasing Genie Plus, nor any Individual Lightning Lane. We always managed to get a Virtual Queue slot for Tron or GOTG when trying – just get on the app in time and keep hitting that refresh button!

Everything feels doable if you have the time and a basic idea of what you want to do, but I would say that rope-dropping the parks is so valuable. It’s impossible to rope-drop every day through risk of pure burnout, but we found the energy to do it most days and it is so worth it in our opinion – that first hour in the parks from point of early entry is so worth the early wake up.

We ended our time at Disney in the only way possible – watching Happily Ever After one more time, tears in eyes.

For the next phase of our holiday we stayed at the Rosen Inn International on International Drive. This was planned as our time to visit the other parks as well as exploring the Idrive area.

The Rosen I think was very much as we expected. A budget hotel and the room felt quite outdated, but generally speaking the room and hotel provided everything needed and it is impossible to have any complaints given the price. The hotel grounds in general were beautifully kept and the buffet breakfast was excellent (we didn’t try the evening buffet but I suspect that would have been good too).

The location of the hotel was spot on. Having later explored i-drive a bit more it felt like this particular Rosen Inn isn’t in the nicest part of i-drive (compared to further south) however for convenience of Universal and food places etc it was ideal. All things considered we felt the hotel was excellent value for money.

We spent 3 days across Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and had an amazing time. We loved the Harry Potter areas in particular – the theming of the areas was incredible and a couple of awesome rides too. We did feel however that there were a few rides at the Universal parks which were quite similar (just with a different theme) and too many ‘simulator’ type rides - Certainly a couple of ‘once and done’ rides!

But the likes of Velicocoaster (immense!) and Hagrids more than make up for the not so great ones, along with some other great coasters and some really fun water rides. We also thought the Bourne Stuntacular was brilliant – superbly done! Also Universal are obviously putting a huge amount of investment into Epic universe which looks like it will be amazing.

We spent a day at Volcano Bay which was so much fun. This water park had more to offer than Typhoon Lagoon at Disney, certainly from a ‘thrill’ perspective anyway. Myself and our eldest lad loved the drop slides! Frightening, but an awesome experience!! The park felt huge and to begin with seemed difficult to navigate but we soon got to grips with it. The wrist band for the virtual queues worked well. A brilliantly fun day had!

After some initial deliberation we decided to book Discovery Cove. This was not a place we were particularly aware of prior to planning our Orlando holiday but often saw it mentioned in these facebook groups and everyone always spoke so positively of it as a brilliant day so we decided to go for it. When looking to book this we waited until Black Friday which I feel proved worthwhile. We got what felt like a great deal and we went for the ‘Ultimate Package’ as we always had Seaworld and Busch Gardens on our to-do list anyway and it seemed an absolute no-brainer to do it this way as part of our DC ticket which basically got us 14 day tickets to SW, BG and also Aquatica. This included free parking at all parks too (perfect particularly as we were hiring a car).

Our day at Discovery Cove was truly wonderful. A mix of fun and relaxation. Snorkelling with the fish and rays was an unexpected holiday highlight for us – it was such an amazing experience. The park in general was just beautiful. The animal bits are a nice little extra and the food and drink was lovely. We had such a good day! Just to say also, we opted not to do the dolphin swim, it seemed quite a pricey add-on and then would have been extra for photos as well. Just from observing others whilst there, I didn’t feel like we missed out on too much here and we didn’t regret not booking the dolphin swim.

Seaworld we loved. I know it’s a controversial park to some but we absolutely loved seeing the orcas and the dolphins – absolutely stunning and another holiday highlight for us. We had pre-booked the ‘Dine with orca’s’ lunch. This was basically a meal next to the Orca enclosure. At the time we were there, the orca’s were in a different section of the enclosure due to recent renovations so after our meal the trainers took all of us who had dined into the stadium area and we basically got to have a more private orca talk/show which was fantastic as there was only about 60-80 of us there. The meal was pretty nice too, 3 courses and drinks included. We also booked this on Black Friday and we thought it was brilliant value.

Away from the animals, Seaworld has some brilliant rides. Lots of rollercoasters and a couple of great water rides too. As a family we all love coasters so we thoroughly enjoyed everything about Seaworld. I’d say it’s a must do park if you like rollercoasters! It also felt calm and relaxed. Certainly a lot quieter than Disney and Universal parks (although I’m sure this can vary day to day as with any park... but we went there for one and a half days and barely queued more than 10-15 minutes for any ride on either day but maybe we just got lucky!). They are strict about taking food and drink into the park, but taking bottles of water is fine so we did this again for water refills with our squeezy squash!

Aquatica, much like Volcano Bay was a lot of fun. I’d say the two parks are pretty similar in terms of what they offer – a great mix of family fun and ‘thrill’ slides (including drop slides too). Maybe not as much at Aquatica as there is at Volcano Bay, but it felt a little bit quieter and easier to navigate. As with all the water parks, a thoroughly fun time was had there!

Away from the parks I will just mention that we made a visit Murphys Pub one day which was great for watching the football. We also had a trip to the Pirates Cove Adventure Golf on i-drive which was fantastic and as guests of the Rosen Inn we had half price entry which made it brilliant value. The four of us always enjoy a game of minigolf so have done a fair few back home, but I must say this was probably the best mini-golf we’ve ever done! The theming was excellent and the course was immaculate. A thoroughly enjoyable thing to do if you have a couple of hours spare one day!

We also made a couple of trips to Walmart during our time (both during our Disney and Rosen Inn stays) which was a fun experience in itself(!) and was well worth doing so that we had a few snacks and drinks etc back at the hotel.

For our final couple of days we headed back to Tampa where we had booked a Holiday Inn Express. This was in Ybor City. This didn’t feel like the nicest part of Tampa, however the hotel itself was really nice. It is either very recently built or recently refurbished. Our room was very spacious and modern. The location was perfect too – a very quick and easy drive to Busch Gardens – the primary reason why we booked this particular hotel. All round it was ideal for us for two nights and good value.

Busch Gardens was brilliant. We spent a half day there after our drive down from Orlando, followed by a full day. The park is huge so I’m glad we allowed ourselves more than a day to do it all. Loads of animals and loads of amazing rides. The park was quiet too on both days, so queue times were low which was brilliant. I was buzzing for Iron Gwazi as it’s often talked about as one of the best rollercoasters around and my god it did not disappoint. Incredible from start to finish. For me personally, it just edged Velocicoaster! Purely as a roller coaster, it’s the best I have ever been on! (But just to clarify as an all-round ride experience GOTG still wins as my favourite ever ride!).

We thoroughly enjoyed Busch Gardens, I would say if you like a thrill seeker type ride then it’s well worth trying to make a visit. And to say it again, if you do Discovery Cove, getting the Ultimate Package ticket is a no brainer if you have the days spare to visit BG (and Seaworld) as its amazing value.

Overall, to compare Disney, Universal and Seaworld parks against each other, we all felt Disney was just on another level to everything else. Just the most magical place in every way and undoubtedly the favourite part of our holiday for all four of us. But we honestly enjoyed everything so much.

Based upon our experience, I would offer the following tips;
  • Research! Especially if you’ve never been before! Research will help you plan your holiday (it did for us anyway). There is so much to do so figure out what your priorities are.
  • Do consider the option of flying to Tampa (especially if you are planning on hiring a car). Certainly worth doing a flight price comparison anyway.
  • Drink water! Both for hydration and money saving purposes! At all parks we took bottles for water along with squeezy squash. Water is freely available at all parks and we saved a fortune doing this.
  • Definitely purchase resort refill cups if staying at a Disney resort.
  • Quick serve meals offer good value and flexibility.
  • GeniePlus and Individual Lightning Lanes are not essential. But be prepared, have a loose plan for park days and be willing to get up early for some rope-drop days to maximise the slightly quieter park time.
  • Make sure you get on the WDW app ahead of the Virtual Queue windows and keeping hitting that refresh button at 6:59 / 12:59!
  • If you enjoy roller coasters, then Seaworld and Busch Gardens I would say are must-do trips. The Discovery Cove Ultimate Package represents great value if you are contemplating these places.
  • Black Friday is a good time to book certain things – especially anything Seaworld owned
  • Well worth purchasing some cheap and lightweight ponchos before flying out. We shoved these in our bag on a few park days and they came in handy when it poured with rain a couple of times.
  • Allow for the occasional rest day (or half rest day) as you will need it.
  • We used Revolut whilst over there to pay for absolutely everything and never had any issue anywhere. It was also great for converting currency in the months ahead of going.
  • Embrace it all and have the time of your life!!!
As a family we had dreamed of this holiday for a very long time. It was years in the making and we put in hours and hours of research and planning in the months leading up to booking it all, which helped us determine what we hoped to do and how we would structure it all. To have finally done it is somewhat overwhelming. There is always that fear of “what if something goes wrong” or “what if it isn’t what we dream it to be?” or “is it really worth the money?”, but we came home with the feeling that we would do it again in a heartbeat, and would not change a single thing. We did it our way and for us it was just perfect. And that is a beautiful feeling!

We genuinely had the best time ever and we are so pleased and thankful to have lived it. The memories will last a lifetime.



Well-Known Member
Loved reading the recap of your trip! So glad it went so well for you and your family.

Kudos to you for driving on the ‘right’ side of the road! I still take cabs and trains as much as possible in the UK! Even on a bike, I’m still terrified to make a right turn in London. 😁. I have to follow someone through the intersection.

So glad you got to experience Tampa as well as Orlando. My kids also loved Busch Gardens at your kids ages. Always a great time.

Wicked Sisters

Well-Known Member
In the Parks
Loved your report. So pleased you had such a wonderful time and I hope you can return there again sometime in the future. We are going back next year and being from the UK we have got free dining, plus other extras so maybe you could get this sort of deal in the future to help go to the most magical place on earth again.


Well-Known Member
What a great summation of superb holiday! It sounds like you got a lot of things done while you were here, and a nice mix of things to boot! Thanks for taking to time to post and I surely hope you are able to do it again one day.


Well-Known Member
Love the overview of your trip. We've been a few times from the UK and hsvd now slowed down on he things we fo each time. Back again in September (1998 was a once in a lifetime!) and do looking forward to it.
Hope you manage to get back again sometime.

Tiki Traveler

Well-Known Member
Good Times Summer GIF by V Energy

Truly a memorable trip! Enjoyable to read about the total offering of activities too!

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