Orlando 2017 – Day 14 & 15

Day 14 & 15 – Typhoon Lagoon, a last visit to Outback and Disney Springs

Due to travelling home the following day, we decided to have a relaxing day at Typhoon Lagoon for our last full day of the holiday.

As we normally travel to Orlando in October / November, either Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach are closed (alternate years) for refurbishment.

Unfortunately, 2017 fell that Blizzard Beach was closed and being the much better of the two parks, we were a little disappointed to be stuck with Typhoon Lagoon.

We hadn’t visited Typhoon Lagoon for over 10 years, but to be honest, not a lot had changed. The waves are really good fun but after visiting all the new attractions at Volcano Bay, we just found all the slides at Typhoon Lagoon really lame in comparison.


The weather was also quite overcast and I couldn’t help wishing that we had gone to a theme park instead as it was quite cold.

Nevertheless, we made the most of the day. We did all the rides and the boys spent most of the day in the waves.

After going home and doing a bit of packing, the boys had one last dip in the pool before  we headed to our favourite restaurant, Outback. As always, the food was delicious.


The next morning, after packing up all of our luggage and loading the car, we took a few photographs of our home and car for the two weeks before heading to Disney Springs.

We had a wander around Disney Springs and visited the main Disney Store which was decked out for Christmas before arriving at Raglan Road Irish Pub for our 1pm reservation.


They have quite an extensive GF menu and both myself and Fin had beer battered cod in a gluten free batter with chips and tomato sauce which was delicious. It was so nice to have a change from the normal burger, steak and ribs options.

After our meal we visited Erin McKenna’s bakery which is just around the corner from Raglan Road.

Everything is gluten free and vegan and the choices were amazing! You can visit their website here.

We bought a few doughnuts and cookies and you would never have known they were gluten free. They were quite expensive but TOTALLY worth it.

Finally, we went to the Disney Photopass Studio and had our final photos added to our card. We only found out about this by chance and whilst they don’t have a huge array of backgrounds, they were a nice touch to finish off the holiday.


Sadly, it was then time to make our way back to the car and head to the airport.

It was an easy drive and the car drop off to Alamo was really straight forward. We were lucky enough to be chosen for premium security and flew through which was brilliant as the queues for the regular lines were huge.

The flight was on time and uneventful and we all slept on and off all flight after what had been a manic but amazing 15 days.

I can honestly say it was the best holiday of my life and as we touched down at Gatwick, I was absolutely devastated to be home.







Orlando 2017 – Day 9

Day 9 – Universal Studios

As part of my research before we left, I found out that if you book a one night stay in selected Universal hotels, you get Express Passes to BOTH Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure for BOTH days either side of your stay.

The current cost of an express pass per person per day is $139.99. That means for 5 of us to have unlimited express passes for both parks, for both days would have cost us  $1,400.00, approximately £1,069.00.

For a one night stay in the Hard Rock Hotel and unlimited passes for both parks for both days, we paid £380.00.

You do the math!! It’s an insane saving of almost £700.00 with a free hotel stay thrown in. Only certain Universal hotels offer the express passes so make sure you check which ones are included at the time of booking.

Anyway, I digress….

After packing the previous evening, we left the villa at 8:30am and headed to the Hard Rock Hotel. We parked the car and checked our bags in with the concierge. We were told that despite our rooms not being ready we would be issued with temporary room cards which would double as our express passes and we could exchange these for our actual room cards when we returned at the end of the day.

We walked through the grounds down to the Water Taxi, which we caught across to the parks and headed into Universal Studios.



It was MUCH busier than I remembered and we were so grateful for our express passes. We did the Despicable Me ride followed by the Shrek show, the Transformers ride and the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit before stopping for lunch at the Classic Monsters Cafe. Food was  easy enough and they had a variety of options with gluten free buns. We both chose gluten free bacon cheese burgers and fries.

We then made our way over to Revenge of the Mummy, the Simpsons Ride, Men in Black and lastly ET before heading for Diagon Alley.



After visiting Islands of Adventure and Hogsmeade in 2012, but not really appreciating all the scenery due to not having read the books, for Christmas 2016, I bought Cian all 7 of the Harry Potter books and we made it our mission to read them all before we travelled to Florida. I am SO glad that we did as walking into Diagon Alley took my breath away.

I actually felt as though I was there, looking around at all those places we had read about and the attention to detail was out of this world! Cian’s face was a picture and something I will always remember.

We rode the Escape from Gringotts which was fantastic, ate ice cream from Fortescue’s and bought Puking Pastilles from Weasley’s.

The highlight for Cian was the interactive wand from Gringotts. This was rather expensive at $50.00 but it was amazing.


It came with a map of Diagon Alley and all the places where you were able to conduct spells were clearly marked. Then if you moved your wand in the direction shown on the map, magic happened!

Sometimes, curtains opened and closed, items danced in the window, flower pots floated and shoots of water appeared. It really was incredible how they had designed it all and brought it to life and everywhere you looked there were children with beaming smiles!


After we had exhausted every nook and cranny of Diagon Alley we made our way to Kings Cross Station to board the train to Hogsmeade. The queue for the train was quite long even with an express pass so we didn’t get to Hogsmeade, which is in Islands of Adventure, until 6:55pm and the park was meant to close at 7pm.

However, as we walked past the Forbidden Journey ride, it was still open and so we raced to the front of the queue and managed to get on the last ride of the day. It was every bit as good as I remembered.

We then made our way to the Hard Rock Café for our 7:30pm dinner reservation. I had steak and Finley had ribs which were both delicious.

After our meal, we caught a water taxi back to the hotel, picked up our new room keys, collected our luggage and flopped into bed ready for another hectic day at Islands of Adventure.












Orlando 2017 – Day 6

Day 6 – Magic Kingdom

I’m not going to lie. Magic Kingdom has never been my favourite park and after seeing a lot of reviews on the It’s Orlando Time Facebook page slating the crowds, I was kind of dreading our visit.

We arrived at 9:45am, a little later than planned, and queues for most rides were already showing 30 to 50 minutes on the app. Coupled with the fact that it was a gazillion degrees, I was not optimistic for the day ahead. We queued for about five minutes and then the ferryboat arrived and we made our way over.


The park looked beautiful and is already decorated for Christmas. We had some lovely pictures in front of the castle then headed to Adventureland.

I originally had a Fast Pass for the Haunted Mansion but the boys didn’t want to go in (they definitely weren’t scared though!!) and so I quickly changed it on my phone to the Jungle Cruise which had temporarily been re-named the Jingle Cruise for Christmas. We also did Aladdin’s Magic Carpet and Pirates of the Caribbean.

It was 12:10pm by now so we headed to Columbia Harbour House for lunch. Me and Fin had gluten free chicken tenders and chips which were prepared especially and brought out personally by the chef.

Headed straight to Thunder Mountain and then made our way to the parade. We had a fab spot but we were in direct sunlight and I actually thought I was going to melt at one point. The parade was excellent but a lot shorter than I remembered from five years ago.

After this, we headed to Tomorrowland for our Fast Pass for Space Mountain. We then did Mickey’s Philharmonic, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Test Track.

We then had pictures with Buzz Lightyear, which made Andrew’s day, before heading for our next Fast Pass for the Buzz Lightyear ride. We still had an hour to kill after this so I made everyone go on It’s a Small World, the Little Mermaid ride and Peter Pan’s flight much to their disgust!

Next we headed to Liberty Tree Tavern for our dinner reservation. It is a thanksgiving type of feast and all I can say is Wow! The chef personally brought all the Gluten Free courses and everything was delicious.

We had warm gluten free rolls and salad for starters then beef pot roast, roast pork, roast turkey, gluten free stuffing and gravy and red skinned mashed potato. It was so tasty and expertly cooked. For dessert, we had warm gluten free brownies with vanilla ice cream.

Unfortunately, as we were so hungry, I forgot to take a picture until we had almost finished!

We left the Liberty Tree Tavern at 8:40pm just in time to get a decent enough spot for Happily Ever After. This was hands down the best ever show I have seen in Magic Kingdom. The projections onto the castle were so clever and the music and the variety of films they used really made it for me. Amazing!

The show finished at 9:20pm and despite a huge queue for the ferry, we were in the car and on the road by 10:15pm so not too bad at all.

After leaving the villa at 8:45am, we didn’t get home until just before 11pm so it was a very long day.

So….Magic Kingdom … was it busy? Yes

Were the queues huge? Yes

Did we have a blast? Hell Yeah!





Orlando 2017 – Day 5

Day 5 – Aquatica

None of us woke up until 8:45am and so didn’t get to Aquatica until 10:15am but it was empty and so we parked right by the entrance.

We had such a lovely relaxing day. We bought the dining package which was $25 for adults and $15 for kids for an entrée, dessert, snack and all day refillable drinks in a souvenir cup which we definitely maximised the use of, as the weather was scorching.

The boys spent the majority of the day either riding the slides or just having fun in the pool.

The gluten free options for lunch were probably the worst we have come across. They were able to do hot dogs but no fries and I had a burger in between two pieces of hard gluten free bread.

We managed to do all the slides and I even braved the one in a cylinder where the floor disappears form under you. I was terrified but it was actually not as bad as I expected. I made the boys go on first to suss it out obviously!

We left the park at 5pm and then the boys spent a couple of hours in the pool back in the villa before we went for food at Outback.

I love Outback and it’s probably one of my favourite restaurants in Orlando and as an added bonus, they have a extensive gluten free menu!

I had a rib eye steak with a loaded jacket potato and Fin had bbq ribs and a jacket potato. Randomly, as I didn’t want my second side, they brought me two loaded jackets.

The food was delicious, as always and everyone agreed it was our best meal yet.

A very long day awaited us in Magic Kingdom the next day and so we headed back as soon as we had paid our bill.




Orlando 2017 – Day 4

Day 4 – Animal Kingdom – 31/10/17

I first set foot in Animal Kingdom in 2005 and I fell in love with the place. Since then, it has been my favourite Disney park and I couldn’t wait to get back!

As it was Halloween and there were huge events on in Magic Kingdom and Universal, we scheduled Animal Kingdom thinking that it would be quiet! WRONG!

We got to the park at 9:05 and the car park was already rammed!

As we walked in, there were loads of photo pass photographers waiting to take photographs in front of the Tree of Life and we had quite a few done before we headed to our first planned attraction – The Lion King.

This is a show and I wouldn’t waste a fast pass on this as it shows almost every hour and holds a huge amount of people. As long as you are there 15 minutes before the next showing, it’s very unlikely that you won’t get in.

The Lion King is one of my favourite films and I love the show that they put on in AK. It is bright, full of vibrant colours, music and acrobatics. It puts you in such a good mood and it’s impossible to leave without a smile on your face.

After the show, we posed for a picture with Timon before heading to our first fast pass of the day – Kilimanjaro Safari.


This is extremely popular and the queues are 60 minutes + within an hour of the park opening. With our FP we only queued for 10 minutes before we were loaded on to our truck.

As well as seeing lots of animals, the ride itself is made even more entertaining by the guide and the totally uneven paths throwing you around the jeep.

Next, we made our way to “It’s a Bug’s Life” which is a 4D show inside the Tree of Life and I won’t give away any spoilers but it is really good fun with a few surprises thrown in!


We then decided to make our way to Pandora, stopping for lunch on the way at Pizzafari.

The chef made us gluten free pepperoni pizzas and brought them to our table despite it being a self service restaurant which I was really impressed with.

After lunch, when we walked into Pandora, all I could say was WOW! Even though we had seen pictures, they do not do it justice. The attention to detail and workmanship is out of this world and you literally feel as though you are in another land.

We then entered the queue for the long awaited Flight of Passage. Despite being in the fast pass queue, we still waited approximately 25 minutes but it was totally worth it!

It is without a doubt THE best ride I have ever experienced. You feel as though you are actually riding on a banshee through Pandora. The colours and the smells are amazing and I really can’t put it into words, you need to ride it to understand! If you are unable to get a fast pass I would definitely wait in the standby queue. You won’t regret it!

Next, we went straight over to the Na’vi River Journey which was nice enough but nowhere near worth the waiting times in the standby queue.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon, we managed to ride Expedition Everest 3 times, Dinosaur and Primeval Whirl by constantly booking one fast pass after another.


We also had photographs with Russell from up and the one and only Donald Duck!

We then made our way back over to Pandora for the Na’vi Drum Ceremony!

Finally, as we had utilised all our fast passes, we booked the last one of the day for the Rivers Of Light show on the lake.

The whole stadium was packed and the atmosphere was really peaceful with lanterns blowing and music playing.

Whilst I enjoyed the show, it wasn’t up to the normal Disney standard and I much prefer Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios.

Our last stop of the day was at the Rainforest Café which is located at the front of the park. Again, I hadn’t made a reservation but I presented my Landrys card and we were seated within 10 minutes.

The chef came to see us straight away to discuss gluten free options and we both ordered Bacon Cheese Burgers with fries which were delicious.

Then after a very long but enjoyable day, we headed back to the villa for a well needed rest. We got in at 10pm after leaving at 8:30am that morning.

Luckily we had a lazy day planned at Aquatica the next day.

Beth xx