In October 2017, after counting down the days for over a year, we set off on our holiday of lifetime to Orlando.
My motto on Disney holidays is “Go hard or go home!” and our type of holiday may not be for everyone but when it costs in excess of £10k, I want to squeeze out every last drop as who knows when we will be lucky enough to go again.
With that in mind, I spent the preceding 6 months planning! I followed numerous blogs and visited various websites to suss out the gluten free offerings. I looked at the estimated crowds and park opening times to ensure we went to the right parks on the right days and over time, I drew up an itinerary of what park we were going to on what day, what fast passes we were aiming to get, where we would eat lunch and details of all the reservations I had made for our evening meals. I even noted what outfits we would wear each day and yes, I do realise I have issues!
I also joined the “It’s Orlando Time” Facebook group where I found lots of brilliant tips and also loved reading the blogs that people wrote on the group whilst they were out in Orlando.
That’s when I decided to do the same while we were there as despite taking a million photographs, I felt it would be lovely to be able to look back and remember what we did each day.
As it is almost a year to the day since we travelled, I have decided to record the daily blogs that I wrote on here along with the photos from each day so that we can have a complete memory of what we all agreed was our best holiday ever!
As we were travelling with Type 1 and Coeliac, I am also hopeful that some Type 1 Tips and Gluten Free restaurants we found will be helpful to others.
Travel Day and Rest Day – 26/11/2017 & 27/11/2017
After staying in the Premier Inn North Terminal overnight, by 7am, the kids were bouncing off the walls so we all had showers and went down to breakfast where all the staff were dressed up for Halloween.
Every member of staff we encountered at the hotel both during the evening meal the previous evening, check in, breakfast and check out were all extremely friendly and polite and for anyone travelling to Orlando from Gatwick North Terminal, I would highly recommend staying here.
As part of the price, we had onsite parking at the hotel and as an added bonus, the terminal was a mere 5 minute walk away.
After breakfast, we headed straight to the airport to check in which was pretty painless and then headed to security. Due to all the medical paraphernalia I need to take for Fin, I paid £5.00 per adult (no charge for children) to go through the Premium Security as I always find this the most stressful part of travelling. They were amazing with Fin, immediately agreeing that he could bypass all the machines and agreeing to a pat down instead. As an added bonus we walked straight through with no queues and the whole process was over within 5 minutes. Well worth the £5.00!
We all had a drink in the airport (it’s tradition!) and then met a lady who, in her mid thirties, was travelling to Disney for the first time all on her own. She was so excited and asked me to take a picture of her and she then returned the favour and took one of us all in our Disney T shirts (which Andrew initially refused to wear but I knew I would wear him down!)
The flight (Virgin Atlantic – Pretty Woman) was on time and the whole journey went extremely quickly. I watched all 7 episodes of “Big Little Lies” and the boys watched Cars 3, Spiderman and Kong: Skull Island.
We had pre ordered gluten free meals for me and Fin and we were really impressed with them.
For mains, we had chicken in a soy sauce with sweet potato, green beans and peas which was really tasty. We also had a salad bowl, apple crisps and a raspberry jelly.
Mid flight, they handed out “Fab” lollies and then towards the end of the flight, we had chicken salad sandwiches on gluten free bread with crisps and popcorn.
Once we landed, we had to queue in immigration for over an hour which meant that by the time we got to baggage reclaim, all our cases were there waiting for us.
Headed straight to Alamo to pick up our car which again, was painless as I had already checked in online. We had paid for a Dodge Caravan and were told to head out to the parking lot and choose whichever one we wanted. We chose a white one, picked up our sat nav from the exit and were on the road by 7pm after landing at 5:20pm.
Tip: I changed my car rental booking several times before we left. Prices fluctuate hugely from month to month and whilst I initially reserved a car directly with Alamo for approximately £800.00, I eventually got the exact same car through Netflights (as a broker for Alamo) for £200.00 cheaper.
We arrived at our villa around 8pm and it was absolutely beautiful. We booked our villa through Citrus Grove Villas and you can see the full specification and details here.
We paid £1,800 (including pool heat) for 15 nights for 5 of us. However, the villa slept 8 and so for a large party, it would work out at £15.00 pppn which is insane!
It was located on the Regal Palms complex in the Davenport area. This is approximately a 30 minute drive from the parks but we love the Davenport area and don’t mind a slight drive in the mornings as it gives everyone time to get (even more) excited.
Prior to our arrival, I had arranged for the Villa Management Company to do a shop for us and so we arrived to a fully stocked fridge with all the items we had asked for.
While the boys had a game of pool, me and my mother unpacked and Andrew went to the local pizzeria to pick up pizzas for everyone. The local MIA pizza also catered for gluten free and we had the nicest GF pepperoni pizza ever!
After stuffing our faces, we were all exhausted and headed to bed!
As we were expecting to be a bit jet lagged on the first day, we had the one and only rest day of the next 15 planned for the following day and so everyone could have a lie in.
Day 1 – Pool Day and Disney Springs – 28/11/2017
The kids woke me up approximately 575 times through the night culminating in Cian coming into our bedroom at 4am and demanding to get up as it was “9am back home!”
After me hissing that unless he went back to sleep, we would be on the next flight back home, they finally gave in and I didn’t hear them until 8am when we all got up and had breakfast.
The boys and my mother then played games in the pool while me and Andrew went to Publix to stock up with some more supplies. It’s no wonder most people eat out on holidays out there are the groceries are SO expensive. We spent almost $100 and had very little to show for it.
We picked up a couple more pizzas and ate them around the pool then spent the afternoon sunbathing and listening to music while the boys amused themselves.
We had made a reservation at T-REX for 5pm but as everyone was enjoying spending time at the villa, we rang to cancel. There were no other reservations left for that evening (it was a Saturday night) but we were told that we would just have to queue for one of the walk in tables. I had ordered a Landry card before we went and so knew we wouldn’t have too long a wait.
Tip: Before travelling, apply for a Landry card here. It costs $25 but that credit then sits on the card and if you have a birthday during the period of your holiday, you also get an additional $25 credit added to the card. Nb. They do not check the birthday in any way and so if you should tell a little white lie, then I’m sure you wouldn’t get found out!
We arrived at T-REX in Disney Springs at 7pm and I heard the maître d tell the man in front of me that there was a 105 minute wait. I flashed my Landrys card and we were seated by 7:20pm so they are definitely worth having. They get you priority seating to T-REX, Rainforest Café, Bubba Gumps and Yak and Yeti amongst others.
The food in T-REX was lovely but the portions were HUGE. They had a few gluten free choices but unfortunately the waffle fries weren’t gluten free and so Fin had bbq ribs and skin on mash which he spent the entire evening picking the skin out of much to my annoyance.
He then had an amazing chocolate flourless cake which he demolished.
Back home, both of the boys eat adult meals. In Orlando, there is NO NEED to buy adult meals. The children’s meals are more than ample and so save yourself some dollar!
For 5 main meals, 3 desserts and 5 drinks, the meal came to $136 but with the $25 credit and $25 birthday bonus on the Landry card, we only ended up paying $86 (plus gratuity)which for a meal for 5 people, smack bang in the middle of Disney Springs wasn’t bad at all.
After we had finished our meal, we went to the Disney store to buy our Magic Bands and then headed to Guest Relations to get them linked to “My Disney Experience” which meant we were good to go for the following morning.
Tip: Magic Bands are not essential but I would highly recommend them. They act as your ticket to all the Disney parks meaning you just scan your wrist to enter. They are also linked to all your fast passes meaning you simply swipe at the fast pass queue at each attraction to release the barrier. In addition, they link to your photo pass meaning just one of the family needs to scan their band to ensure any photographs are linked to the family Disney account. All this can be done with tickets but it is so much easier not to have to fuss getting them in and out of your purse and with a gazillion things to fit in each day, every spare minute counts.
They also look quite cool.
Once we had got our bands sorted, we headed home.
EPCOT would be our first Disney park the next day. I planned this first as I am with Homer Simpson in that it is “The most boring place on Earth” and so I wanted to get it over and done with.
As it happens, we had a pretty fab day!