Orlando Vacation Planning Guide

  • 01 of 10

    Orlando: Florida's #1 Vacation Destination

    Aerial view of Downtown Orlando's Lake Eola
    Aerial view of Downtown Orlando's beautiful Lake Eola. © Visit Orlando

    Orlando is an ever-growing metropolis - a patchwork of interlocking communities - that also just happens to draw millions of visitors each year to experience its great weather and numerous attractions. Home to the popular Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld, Orlando is also the location of dozens of more attractions, museums, shopping venues, dinner theaters, gardens and water parks.

    If you're planning an Orlando vacation, learning a little bit about the area and what to expect will help you get the most from your time and vacation dollars. I've teamed with About.com's Theme Parks Guide, Arthur Levine; Budget Travel Guide, Mark Kahler; Hotels & Resorts Guide, Charlyn Keating Chisholm; and, others to provide helpful information and tips for planning your vacation.

    First, let's look at some frequently asked questions about Orlando:

    What is Orlando's weather like? A first-hand account of Orlando's weather by month, as well as monthly average temperatures...MORE and rainfall.

    When is the best time to go? If you are planning to visit Orlando on vacation, one of the hardest things to do is choose when to visit. While special events and promotions may have some influence on theme park attendance; historically, Disney World's highest theme park attendances tend to be influenced by certain holidays. These month-by-month guides to Florida will give you an insight into when are the best times of the year to visit.

    When is hurricane season? The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30, with the highest storm probability is from August through October. | More Hurricane Information |

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  • 02 of 10

    Getting To and Around Orlando

    Lynx Orlando
    Lynx provides transportation around Orlando. Compliments of Lynx

    When planning your Orlando vacation, how you're going to get there is an important consideration. These handy tools will help you decide whether it is cheaper to drive or fly.

    If you've decided to fly, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the airport and transportation options from the airport.

    • Orlando International Airport
    • Orlando Sanford International Airport
    • Daytona Beach International Airport

    If you're flying into Orlando International Airport on your way to one of the Disney World resorts, you can now take advantage of Disney's Magical Express — the complimentary airport shuttle and luggage delivery service available to guests staying on property and traveling via certain airlines.

    If you're driving, use these tips to plan your driving trip to Disney World.

    Getting Around Orlando

    If you're planning a vacation in Orlando and you've never been there before, it is important to get to know Orlando's neighborhoods and learn how to get around. No matter...MORE how you are getting around town — rental car, cab or public transportation — these maps of the greater Orlando area will be helpful.

    This driving distance chart will be helpful if you plan to visit beaches and attractions located along the coasts of Florida.

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  • 03 of 10

    Disney World

    Contemporary Resort
    Disney's Contemporary Resort with view of the Magic Kingdom. © The Walt Disney Company

    Disney World is Florida's No. 1 vacation destination — perhaps even the top destination in the world — so it pays to plan ahead to see as much as possible and get the most from your vacation dollar. Here we'll answer your top questions, plus give you links to more information to make your vacation planning easier.

    When is the best time to go to Disney World? If you are planning a Disney World vacation, one of the hardest things to do is choose when to visit. While special events and promotions may have some influence on theme park attendance; historically, Disney World's highest theme park attendances tend to be influenced by certain holidays. These month-by-month guides to Disney World will give you an insight into when are the best times of the year to visit.

    Where should I stay when I visit Disney World? While the Orlando area provides thousands of hotel rooms that cater to every budget, staying on Disney World property also offers accommodations for every pocketbook and in...MOREcludes many perks and benefits that add value to your vacation experience.

    How much are tickets to Disney World's theme parks? The bad news is that a single-day, single-park adult ticket to a Disney World theme park is now over $80. The good news is that the more days' tickets you purchase, the cheaper they become. See this ticket information for everything you ever wanted to ask about Disney World tickets but were afraid to ask.

    More Information

    Sign up to receive daily emails — 7 in all — that will help you plan your vacation, save money, and have the best possible time. Here's what they'll cover:

    • Planning and Booking Your Vacation
    • General Information (tickets, special accommodations, etc.)
    • Getting To and Around Disney World
    • Great Tips for Families
    • About Disney World's Theme & Water Parks
    • Getting the Most from Your Theme Park Visit
    • Things to Do - Dining, Shopping & More!

    If you want instant information, try our Disney World Vacation Planner with information on how to book your vacation, where to stay and dine and more!

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  • 04 of 10

    Universal Orlando

    Spiderman Adventure
    Spiderman Adventure at Universal Orlando. © Universal Orlando

    Universal Studios theme park was once only a one-day destination for visitors to Orlando. Now, Universal Orlando is a destination resort in its own right. The addition of the spectacular Islands of Adventure theme park, the CityWalk entertainment complex and three luxury hotels offer guests a multi-day vacation destination. | Universal Orlando Photo Gallery |

    When is the best time to go? Once of the hardest things to do is choose the best time to visit a theme park. While special events and promotions may have a significant influence on theme park attendance; historically, Universal's highest theme park attendances tend to be influenced by certain holidays. These month-by-month guides to Universal Orlando should give you some insight into when might be the best time of the year to visit.

    Where to stay at Universal Orlando?

    • Hard Rock Hotel
    • Portofino Bay Hotel
    • Royal Pacific Resort
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  • 05 of 10

    SeaWorld Orlando

    Believe
    The idea that with enough belief and determination anything is possible is brought to life in "Believe," a stirring musical "killer whale ballet" that showcases the awe-inspiring bond between man and killer whale. © SeaWorld Orlando

    As the world's premier marine adventure park, SeaWorld Orlando features 200 acres of world-class shows, thrilling rides, and unforgettable animal encounters. SeaWorld guests can get splashed by Shamu, dine eye-to-eye with sharks, sleep next to manatees, or be suspended mid-air on a state-of-the-art roller coaster – all in one adventure-packed day.

    Dining is part of the adventure at SeaWorld Orlando. Let's face it, sometimes the hardest part of an adventurous day is deciding where to eat... and, whether it will be healthy. SeaWorld's restaurants offer fresh ingredients and healthy alternatives, so whether you choose a quick sandwich, pizza, family-style meal, fancy fare or an up-close dining experience, you can be assured that your family is eating healthy.

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  • 06 of 10

    International Drive (I-Drive)

    WonderWorks Museum, International Drive
    WonderWorks Museum, International Drive. Richard Cummins/Getty Images

    Location, location, location. The International Drive Resort area (I-Drive) not only offers over 100 hotels and resorts to satisfy every budget and more than 150 spectacular restaurants — it offers a superb location! You can't get much closer to the center the action.

    I-Drive's convenient location also puts visitors just ten minutes from the Walt Disney World Resort and a little over an hour's drive away from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Kennedy Space Center and beaches on both coasts.

    Where is the best place to stay on International Drive? International Drive Hotels along this long thoroughfare provides a variety of lodging choices. One end seems to be geared more toward families and although inexpensive tend to offer perks like transportation to the major theme parks and free breakfast. Farther down, those nearer the Convention Center are geared toward business and luxury amenities and thus are more expensive. These are highly recommended by About.com's Hotels & Resorts...MORE Guide, Charlyn Keating Chisholm.

    If you'd like to make your own choice of lodging, it is easy to make a selection with the simple hotel search available on the International Drive website. Simply indicating the dates of your stay and the number of adults and children will return an ample list of available "book now" rooms in every price range — from Holiday Inn and Red Roof Inn to the upscale Hilton, Peabody, and Renaissance hotels — or, if you prefer, you can take the link to the I-Drive Lodging Directory.

    What attractions are located along International Drive? Besides being the location of the nation's second largest convention center, Orlando's world-famous attractions Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld Orlando and its newest water park Aquatica, Discovery Cove and Wet 'n Wild are all a short distance away. Also, located on International Drive are other attractions and entertainment such​ as Pointe Orlando, WonderWorks, Fun Spot Action Park, Ripley's Believe It Or Not Orlando Odditorium, and Pirate's Cove Mini Golf.

    What Restaurants Will I Find Along International Drive?​

    • Buffet Restaurants on International Drive - Quick, easy and inexpensive dining options can be found along I-Drive for your family when you consider one of these all-you-can-eat buffets.
    • Family Dining on International Drive - Staying along I-Drive in Orlando? Check out these quick, easy and affordable restaurants on International Drive.
    • International Dining on International Drive - With the exception of Epcot at Disney World, International Drive has one of the most diverse cuisine choices in all of Orlando. You'll find Brazilian Churrascaria, English, Greek, Indian, Irish, Italian, Japanese and Thai.
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  • 07 of 10

    Where to Stay in Orlando

    Nickelodeon Family Suites
    Splish-splashing fun awaits families at the Nick Hotel in Orlando. © Nickelodeon Family Suites

    Even more important than how to get to Orlando is where you are going to stay. Orlando resort and hotel accommodations can accommodate every vacation budget. Even a stay at Disney World can be affordable when you stay at one of Disney World's value resorts.

    Disney World Resorts

    Universal Orlando Resorts

    • Hard Rock Hotel
    • Portofino Bay Hotel
    • Royal Pacific Resort

    From About.com's Hotels Guide, Charlyn Keating Chisholm...

    • Top 10 Kid-Friendly Orlando Hotels - These hotels and resorts are especially kid-friendly because they cater to families with special children's areas, supervised activities, family-friendly room layouts and suites, and fun kid-friendly theming.
    • 10 Best Orlando Hotels - If you're coming to Orlando to have fun... then the place you stay should be fun too. These Orlando hotels have the recipe for a good time by combining location, price, amenities, and...MORE service.
    • International Drive Hotels - This long thoroughfare has a variety of lodging choices. One end seems to be geared more toward families and although inexpensive tend to offer perks like transportation to the major theme parks and free breakfast. Farther down, those nearer the Convention Center are geared toward business and luxury amenities and thus are more expensive.
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  • 08 of 10

    Dining in Orlando

    Queen Victoria Room
    Enjoy three or four hours of leisurely fine dining with a 10-course meal at the semi-private Queen Victoria Room at Victoria & Albert's in Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. © The Walt Disney Company

    Who would know best about Orlando's dining scene than About.com's Orlando Guide, Theresa Johnston. Below she shares some of her favorite places to dine out in Central Florida.

    • Top Orlando Steakhouses - Looking for a great steak? You can count on Theresa's favorite places to go for a great steak dinner.
    • Restaurants with Best Wine Lists - Where will you find the best wine lists at Orlando area restaurants? According to Wine Spectator Magazine they're located at Disney World, Orlando, Winter Park and Sand Lake Road.
    • Top Romantic Restaurants in Orlando - When love is in the air, romance often depends on the right setting; and, when that setting is a restaurant the ambiance and food have to be perfect.
    • Orlando Themed Dining - Atmosphere, entertainment and good food make these dining experiences fun!

    International Drive

    • Buffet Restaurants on International Drive - Quick, easy and inexpensive dining options can be found along I-Drive for your family when you consider one of these...MORE all-you-can-eat buffets.
    • Family Dining on International Drive - Staying along I-Drive in Orlando? Check out these quick, easy and affordable restaurants on International Drive.
    • International Dining on International Drive - With the exception of Epcot at Disney World, International Drive has one of the most diverse cuisine choices in all of Orlando. You'll find Brazilian Churrascaria, English, Greek, Indian, Irish, Italian, Japanese and Thai.

    Disney World

    SeaWorld Orlando

    Whether you choose a quick sandwich or pizza or a world-class entree, SeaWorld Orlando has a wide array of dining experiences.

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  • 09 of 10

    Things to Do in Orlando

    Manta
    Manta's riders drop more than 100 feet as they spin, glide, skim the water and soar like a giant ray at SeaWorld Orlando. © SeaWorld Orlando

    Once you have arrived and settled into your hotel, you'll want to take advantage of every minute to see and experience Orlando. Home to Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld, Orlando is the location of dozens of more attractions, museums, shopping venues, dinner theaters, gardens and water parks. There is so much to see and do, that it is impossible to take it all in during one vacation.

    Here you'll find something to please every member of the family:

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  • 10 of 10

    Money Saving Tips for Orlando

    Disney World Tickets
    The more days' Disney World tickets you buy... the cheaper they are. © The Walt Disney Company

    Is Orlando too expensive for you? Don't answer the question until you read these Orlando on a budget tips from Budget Travel Guide, Mark Kahler, for saving money in one of the world's favorite cities.

    We all like a bargain, but is it possible to get something on your vacation or getaway for free? Of course, it is. I'm going to show you where and how to see top attractions and interesting places in Central Florida for free!

    The Central Florida area has many places to spend some leisure time, where the admission is always free. Most are run by non-profit organizations, so if you have enjoyed your experience there, a donation is always helpful so their work can be continued.

    Of course you want the very best deal when spending your vacation dollars, so I've put together what I consider the best money-saving, value-packed vacation and getaway places and deals in Florida — places that offer great add-on value with special events and concerts, as well as deals on park admissions,...MORE annual passes, special value cards (including the Go Orlando Card) and more.

    These tips will also help you to save on your Orlando vacation.