When you think of Orlando, what’s the first thing that pops into your head?
Whether it’s Mickey Mouse or Universal’s Islands of Adventure, there are so many family-friendly attractions that come to mind when visiting Orlando, Florida. Because of its exciting atmosphere and hotspot for amusement park enthusiasts, Orlando is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States.
With that being said, if this is your first time to this Central Florida city, then you will definitely want to know these top 7 insider travel tips when visiting Orlando, Florida. That way, you can beat the crowds and make the most of your Orlando vacation.
Let’s dive right in!
1. Map Out Orlando Before You Hit the Road
For starters, Orlando covers a HUGE area! If you plan to drive in and around Orlando, you’ll definitely want to pull out your phone and take a look at the city on Google Maps.
First, the main metro area of Orlando, including Downtown Orlando, is located in Orange County. However, many of Orlando’s top amusement parks and resorts spill into neighboring counties, like Osceola County and Polk County.
Luckily, despite Orlando’s size, the city and popular surrounding destinations are all connected by major roadways. Keep reading to learn which roads you will most likely be traveling on.
Cruise Down International Drive
Known as Orlando’s most famous street, International Drive is also considered to be the busiest section of road in all of Orlando! This is because the drive quickly connects visitors to many of the theme parks in the area, including Walt Disney World.
As you cruise down this popular road, you will see loads of roadside attractions dotted along the way.
For instance, you will most definitely catch a glimpse of The Wheel, a huge ferris wheel located in ICON Park and the hilarious slanted building that is home to Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum of oddities.
Drive Through the Heart of Orlando on I-4
Called “The Orlando Expressway” by locals, this major interstate runs through the heart of Orlando and connects the metro area with its surrounding suburbs and towns, like Winter Park, Lake Buena Vista, and Altamonte Springs.
This interstate is extremely convenient for travelers. For example, if you plan to drive from Walt Disney World to Downtown Orlando, I-4 will quickly take you to your destination in less than 30 minutes.
Pro-Tip: Before you hit the road, be sure to check which exit you need to take once on I-4. This interstate moves quickly and is often very busy, so you definitely don’t want to accidentally miss your exit!
2. Prepare for Heat, Humidity, and Rain
Florida is called the Sunshine State for a reason. In fact, there is enough hot summer sun to run nearly half of Disney World with solar power year-round!
For that very reason, you need to be ready to endure Florida’s heat and humidity, especially if you plan to visit in the summer. Be sure to pack sun shirts, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a pair of flip-flops.
Beat the Heat with a Portable Fan
From June through October, Orlando is very hot and humid. Average temperatures can soar above 95 degrees. Tack on humidity and the heat index can easily feel like 105+ degrees!
With that being said, an easy way to cool off is to spritz yourself off with a portable fan and misting spray set. Fill up your fan mister with ice and water to give you hours of hand-held heat relief!
Pro-Tip: Plan to schedule water rides, water park visits, and indoor attractions with A/C during the hottest parts of the day (between noon-4PM) so you can keep cool under the scorching Florida sun!
Pack a Poncho
Along with summer heat comes the afternoon rainstorms! Always remember to pack a raincoat, umbrella, and a poncho so you stay dry throughout the duration of your stay in Orlando.
Pro-Tip: Be sure to add the city of Orlando on your weather app and monitor the chance of rain on the radar BEFORE you go out on the town. If the app says there is over a 30% chance of rain, DEFINITELY bring an umbrella! This will save you from feeling wet and soggy after an unexpected rainstorm.
3. Make Dinner Reservations in Advance
Especially when it comes to popular restaurants located in and around the parks, such as Boma Flavors of Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, you definitely have to call way in advance to get placed on a waiting list.
During the height of tourist season, restaurants fill up fast and you can be stuck waiting hours for a table. Sometimes, the most highly anticipated eateries have waiting lists that take reservations months in advance!
Definitely do your research and call to make a reservation as soon as you can.
4. Visit Amusement Parks on These Days to Skip the Lines
One of the biggest rookie mistakes when visiting Orlando, Florida for the first time is choosing the wrong days to hit the amusement parks.
For example, Disney World is extremely packed right after Christmas and before New Years. You can expect to wait over 2 hours just to hop on one ride! Midsummer is also very crowded and boiling hot, so you might want to consider these alternative days to visit Orlando and beat the crowds:
- Mother’s Day and Father’s Day
- Weekdays after school starts (Mid-September and Mid-January)
- March-May after major holidays such as Easter
Interestingly enough, unlike other holidays like Christmas and Halloween, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are typically unpopular days to hit the theme parks. Furthermore, if you want to avoid the heat, April and May are fantastic months to enjoy cool Spring weather!
5. Take a Day Trip to Must-See Nearby Destinations
If you would like to take a day away from the hustle and bustle of Orlando, consider taking a slight detour to other exciting places nearby.
Here are a couple of great locations that have been enjoyed by visitors for decades.
Explore the Galaxy at Kennedy Space Center
In just an hour, you can drive to Cape Canaveral on the East Coast of Florida and visit the spectacular Kennedy Space Center.
Marvel at galactic feats and see real-life spacecraft, moon rocks, astronaut suits, and other historical artifacts at the KSC museum. You can also plan an exclusive personalized experience to dine with an Astronaut.
Or, if you time your visit right, you may even get to see a rocket launch into space!
Meet Manatees at Crystal River
While you are visiting Orlando, Florida, hop on over to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge on the West Coast of Florida to soak in the warm coastal environment of Crystal River and encounter wild manatees in their natural habitat!
From November to March, manatees congregate in the river to stay warm and protected from the colder coastal waters. You can schedule a manatee tour with a professional guide to help you find these docile beauties and even snorkel with them!
In this gorgeous gulf town, you can also indulge in fun water sports, including boating and kayaking. Or, if you are a history buff, you can visit the ancient remains of a Native American settlement at the Crystal River Archaeological State Park.
Pro-Tip: Plan to visit Crystal River during a cold winter day to increase your chances of spotting a huge cluster of manatees!
6. Buy Tickets Before You Visit
If you are visiting Orlando, Florida for the first time, then you will LOVE to hear this!
You DO NOT have to wait in a massive line to buy your tickets for shows, amusement parks, museums, etc. Instead, you can buy them online before you make the trip! It’s so convenient and will save you a good 30+ minutes depending on where you go.
Pro-Tip: Make good use of student, veteran, Florida resident, and teacher discounts! Many parks, museums, and other attractions will give you a nice discount if you show them proof of residency or status.
7. Take Advantage of Convenient Transportation
Here’s the best news: When visiting Orlando, Florida, affordable, convenient, and even complimentary transportation is all around you!
For instance, many resorts and hotels provide free shuttles to popular attractions, such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. Some hotels, like the Hard Rock Hotel and the Walt Disney Swan Hotel, even offer a complimentary water taxi service that floats you to the parks.
If you plan to drive your own car, keep in mind that parking lots to major attractions may fill up fast and some hotels will charge you an extra fee to park your car on the premises.
Enjoy Your Orlando Vacation to the Fullest
Orlando is a thrilling destination for family fun and entertainment. While you’re planning your Florida vacation, be sure to research the best places to eat, shop, and dine so you can beat the crowds and make the most of your visit.
And when it comes to scheduling day trips, Real Florida Adventures has got you covered! We provide unique experiences and 1-day Florida excursions for the whole family to enjoy.
Last but not least, be sure to keep these expert tips in mind while planning your visit to this exciting Central Florida city!