With the British summer in full swing, there's no better time to start planning that winter family getaway to the States. Run it past the kids but I'm sure you'll get thumbs up all round if Orlando's theme parks are on the itinerary.
For those with a visit or two to Orlando under their belts, the planning phase may be a little easier, but for newbies there's a hundred and one decisions to be made if you're to maximise your time in Florida.
Although it's not always practical with kids, travelling outside of the school holidays will certainly save you money, especially on airfares. With a little flexibility on your side, shopping around and booking well in advance can literally halve your airfare spend.
Flying with local carriers can get you to Orlando International without changing flights — always a bonus, especially when you're travelling with the little-uns. Virgin Atlantic flies non-stop from London Gatwick and Manchester year round and also offers select departures from Glasgow during the summer months. British Airways departs London Gatwick for Orlando, daily.
If you're okay with a little back-tracking and a flight-change in a European hub, you can check out your options with American Airlines, United, Delta, US Airways, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa. It may well knock a few pounds off your airfare spend.
For those looking for the best weather, the shoulder seasons — from March through May and September through November — usually don't disappoint. The weather's warm but not too warm. Often it's in December when you'll really snare a bargain, though.
Keep in mind the hurricane season coincides with the Orlando's hottest months — from June through November — so always ensure your trip is covered for any unforeseen cancellations.
No doubt the biggest topic up for family discussion will be your theme park itinerary. With some of the most visited theme parks in the world on its doorstep, including Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and LEGOLAND Florida, it's well worth doing a little online homework to discover just what each park has to offer.
Take Disney World for example. Most visitors to Orlando do. It's the world's most visited theme park and with good reason. It's not until you start digging a little deeper at what's on offer that you gain an understanding of the need for the wide range of different Disney tickets available. We're talking a whole different scale to Alton Towers. For starters Disney World is not one, but four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios — spread over 43 square miles (111 square kilometres). Throw in a couple of water parks, 27 themed resort hotels and five golf courses and that's some serious ground to cover.
Decisions need to be made not only on which parks you'll visit but how long you'll need at each park to take in all of the attractions you want to see. Keep in mind queueing times for popular rides and attractions — which during peak season can run to an 90 minutes or more — when allocating times for each park.
Often your theme park itinerary will dictate your accommodation. Look at the options available for booking your park tickets and accommodation together, especially when booking in the off-peak seasons. Remember too their are many Orlando accommodation options available within a ten mile radius so if you're looking to save even more money, shop around online well in advance of your departure date.
Remember, there's more to Orlando than just theme parks. The city also boasts impressive shopping, golf courses, luxury resorts and world-class restaurants. Plan well and enjoy your holidays.