For months before our trip to Florida I read the forums and the reviews and gathered much useful info. It's been 2 months since we returned and I'm finally getting round to repaying the favour! Rather than a full trip review thought I'd share some of the top things I learned.
There were eight of us on this trip: gran and grandpa, mum and dad, girl (7 years old), boy (10 years old), auntie and uncle. I'm the auntie :) We all stayed at the Polynesian resort in Disney and it was the kids first trip (and pretty much the same for the rest of us since it was 20 odd years since we last came as children ourselves).
- age doesn't matter. Every single person in our party had the holiday of a lifetime and loved all that Disney and the other parks had to offer. We were all on the rides (except grandpa who loved people watching and exploring the parks instead). There's no problem being a grown up and having a whale of a time - it's expected.
- get up early. Can't stress how small the queues are first thing, even in August. Use magic hours if you have them (and same at universal) or go for regular opening if you don't. We didn't have early entrance at universal but went for opening and got straight on some of the big rides such as spiderman. Even for Harry Potter we only waited 20 mins.
- get some rest! Getting up at 6.30am for a park opening takes it's toll. We were trying to fit so much in we exhausted ourselves within the first few days. Don't feel guilty for doing parks in the morning and pool/sleeping in the afternoon.
- don't take the lead from your kids. Some wise person told us on trip advisor that the kids will naturally get tired and tell you when the time in parks is done. Completely not true! Our kids had just had 3 weeks off and not clamboured on to a plane after knocking their pan in at work for the past 6 months. They could have kept going on the rides until midnight had we not tempted them back to the hotel with the pool and icecream.
- it's hot. I know it's obvious but it really is so if you're pale blue like us Scots cover up and keep the sunscreen topped up.
- don't wear new shoes! This is repeated on trip advisor time and time again and yet I felt I knew better. I bought a lovely comfy pair of new trainers (to go with my other lovely new holiday clothes) and got blisters within an hour. Breaking them in at home when it's cold and wet is completely different from when in Florida with hot, sweaty feet. Ew.
- don't stress about booking your meals 3 years in advance. We were on the Disney dining plan and I was worried that we wouldn't be able to use it. Don't get me wrong, I pre-booked 3 meals for us before we arrived (Chef Mickey's O'Hanas for breakfast and dinner) and if there's particular places you want to go then obviously get it booked before you go. However there's over 100 places you can eat and the website is excellent. We used our iPad and the free wifi in the hotel to find which restaurants had space for 8 people. I usually booked a day in advance, once we knew what we were going to do the next day. We had lovely meals doing this and some special ones, including Jiko's at the Animal Kingdom.
- the dining plan is plenty of food. We had the plan with one snack, one quick service mean and one sit down meal. Snacks can be things like big yoghurt pots with granola which easily do breakfast - look for a purple symbol with DP in it to see what a snack is. It's not all muffins and ice-cream.
- don't worry about your appearance. People of all shapes and sizes wear summer clothes there (and bikinis/swim suits) so really there's nothing to worry about. I think in Britain we're just not used to showing our skin much, no-one will bat an eyelid there. That said, it's hot hot hot so I wore swimming tops and shorts at the water park to avoid getting burnt.
- don't stress about itineraries. By all means do a bit of reading and know which parks/rides you absolutely do not want to miss. Then take it easy with the rest. We did and saw lots in our two weeks but couldn't do it all and looking back I'm glad we did a few things well rather than rushing round loads.
For those lucky enough to be jetting off in the near future, have a wonderful time! And many thanks to all those on trip advisor who post on this forum and gave me lots of helpful hints.