Our Ultimate Guide to booking your Orlando holiday for 2021 (from the UK)

So, you’ve picked the most magical place on earth to spend your holiday and you want to book as soon as possible; but where do you start? We’ve visited Orlando 7 times and it’s one of our favourite holiday destinations; great for families, couples and everyone in between! Enjoy the world-famous theme parks, check out the dining and nightlife scene and shop ‘til you drop. There’s also some excellent beaches and towns to visit nearby. See below for our complete guide to booking a holiday to Orlando when flying from the UK.

We share our tried and tested booking tricks and tips and provide information on almost everything you need to know for your booking your holiday. Booking and planning is all part of the fun! The guide is aimed at anyone looking to save money on their Orlando holiday, first-timers and regular visitors alike.


CONTENTS:

When’s the best time to visit?

Weather

How long to go far

Package holiday or separate flights and accommodation?

Step-by-step guide to finding the cheapest prices

Booking tips

Car hire and getting around in Orlando

Booking theme park tickets


When’s the best time to visit Orlando

The busiest times of the year to visit are within the US school holidays; Christmas-time, Easter, the entire summer up until the end of August, and American bank holidays such as thanksgiving and labour day.

Travel outside of these times and there’s a good chance you’ll beat the crowds. In our opinion, the best months to visit Orlando are September, October and May; you’ll find less queues and excellent weather.

Weather

Known as the sunshine state, Florida experiences warm temperatures year-round. The summer months of June to August are the most hot and humid and temperatures soar to 33 degrees. You’ll find moderate late-20’s temperatures and less humidity in the spring and autumn months, and winter is a little cooler, however you’ll still be able to wear shorts and a t-shirt.

Being within a tropical climate, heavy afternoon storms are likely, however they don’t last long and the clouds usually clear up within a couple of hours.

Average Orlando temperatures – courtesy of Holiday-weather.com

How long to go for?

As long as you can! No, seriously, there’s so much to do here. The typical length of stay is 2-weeks and that’s a perfect amount of time to see most attractions and get a taste of Orlando’s magic.

If you’re visiting for less time, be sure to prioritise your itinerary and visit your must-see attractions only. If visiting for longer than 2 weeks, we recommend renting a car and seeing other areas of Florida.

Booking your holiday. Package deal or separate flights and accommodation?

The golden question many people ask before booking is – is it cheaper to book flights and accommodation separately or as part of a package?

Well…you’ll find many travel companies offer a variety of packages in the UK, the main companies being Virgin Holidays, TUI and Thomas Cook. Generally, we recommend booking flights and accommodation separately as it’s cheaper (and more fun/personalised!), however it isn’t always the case. Sometimes you can find a last-minute package deal or special offer with an online package deal.

We recommend shopping around and comparing all options.

Below is a step-by-step approach to researching your flights and accommodation and then using various websites to find the best prices possible for your chosen dates. Follow our guide to plan your own holiday and be sure to ask us if you have any questions or need help.

Keep in mind the following when researching your holiday:

  • Try to be flexible on dates of travel and airports you’re flying from. You’ll find the cheapest flights this way. Ideally, find the cheapest dates to fly before booking your annual leave at work.
  • Fully research all accommodation options and areas yourself. Everyone is different, and a couple will want a completely different Orlando experience to a family for instance.
  • Always check the reviews for your hotel before booking.
  • Pay special attention to extra fees such as check-in airline baggage, add-ons and extras. Some travel companies and airlines charge for these whilst others don’t.
  • Note down all prices and options throughout the research process so you can compare at the end.

Step 1: Firstly, choose a place to stay

The best accommodation in Orlando all depends on your budget, how many people are in your group and the type of holiday you want. We’ve assembled the top types of accommodation to help inspire you to choose, and some recommendations of our own.

Pro-tip: Choose at least three different hotels/accommodation options in your price range rather than one. You’ll have much more flexibility to find a good deal.

Accommodation options:

Disney hotels

The official Disney hotels are our own personal preference, and they can be more affordable than you’d think. The hotels are all located within the Disney World area of Lake Buena Vista and cover a huge area of land. Each hotel has a different theme, from Polynesian to Caribbean, classic Floridian and many more.

Hotels are grouped into 3 categories; value, moderate and deluxe, which outlines the amount of facilities and class of the hotel. Contrary to popular belief, many of the Disney hotels have a luxurious setting and aren’t full of characters and kid’s clubs. They’re designed as much for couples and adults just as much as families – it all depends on the hotel you choose.

Pro’s:

  • Excellent themes and intricately decorated with options for every budget
  • Complimentary bus and boat shuttle service to the Disney parks, plus special park opening hours for hotel guests
  • Free Disney Dining Plan if you book between specific dates

Con’s:

  • More expensive than International Drive hotels and villa options
  • May not be suitable for those that don’t want to spend lots of time in Disney World
  • Further away from International Drive attractions and restaurants – limited to Disney

Compare Disney World Hotels on the official website.

A major benefit of staying in Disney is the availability of the Disney Dining Plan, an all-inclusive eating option that entitles you to meals in all the Disney parks and hotels. It’s a great way of saving money. You can buy the meal plan separately or it’s free if you book between specific dates. Find more information on this here.

Our top Disney hotel picks:

Luxury: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Mid-range: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Budget-friendly: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Universal Orlando hotels

Another popular option for themed hotels right next to the parks are the Universal Orlando resorts. Located at the top of the famous International Drive and within walking distance (or water taxi) of the Universal theme parks, these hotels are a great base for exploring the action-packed resort of Universal. Just like Disney, there’s both luxury and affordable hotels and each one is themed.

We recommend staying at Universal instead of Disney if you’re not a big fan of Disney and prefer to spend most of your time in the Universal parks. They have more ‘adult’ themed activities and a vibrant nightlife, which Disney hotels do not. You’re within a short walk of the many bars and restaurants of City Walk and hotels such as the Hard Rock have regular evening entertainment.

Pro’s:

  • Top-rated hotels for mid to higher budgets and some nice 4-star hotels
  • Easy access to the Universal Parks and vibrant nightlife of City Walk
  • A lively atmosphere that feels ‘in the centre of the action’

Con’s:

  • More expensive than International Drive hotels and villa options
  • Not very well located for Disney World – a key consideration if you want to spend lots of time in the Disney Parks
  • Feels quite busy and overpopulated compared to other resort areas

Compare all Universal hotels on the official website

Our top Universal hotel picks:

Luxury: Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando

Mid-range: Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando

Budget-friendly: Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Other hotel options

If you don’t mind staying outside of the theme parks and want to be closer to cheaper dining, attractions and shopping areas on International Drive, there’s countless excellent hotels. Many of these hotels cost a fraction of the price of Disney and Universal – perfect if you’re on a budget holiday. Of course, there’s also the most luxurious hotels in Orlando such as the Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton.

We recommend visiting Tripadvisor’s top International Drive hotels list here. Enter your chosen dates and sort by ‘Travellers Ranked’ to see the best rated hotels you can get for your money.

Pro’s:

  • A combination of both the most affordable hotels and luxury hotels.
  • Excellently located for International Drive’s many dining and shopping options
  • Cheaper in general versus staying in a theme park resort

Con’s:

  • You’ll have to drive or take a bus/taxi to the Disney and Universal theme parks, which could be a while away depending on your location.
  • Lacks the immersion and magical atmosphere of theme park resort hotels
  • You’ll need a car if you want to explore the area fully

Our top hotel picks:

Luxury: Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walk Disney World

Mid-range: Marriott’s Cypress Harbour Villas

Budget-friendly: Floriday’s Resort

Villa in Kissimmee

Floridian villas are something special. Think of a large house with multiple bedrooms, a giant kitchen and basement, pool table and private pool. They cost a lot less than you’d think! We recommend a villa for large groups, those looking to save money by eating in, or if you simply want your own space. Villas are generally cheaper than Disney and Universal Hotels, offering privacy and personal space, however you won’t have the broad range of facilities and close proximity to the theme parks.

Be sure to pick a villa in the Kissimmee/Lake Buena Vista area so you’re within a short drive of all of the attractions. We recommend booking your villa through a private listings website rather than with a branded agency. You’ll save money and have a lot more options to choose from.

Our recommended websites for booking a villa:

Step 2: Find package deals for your selected dates:

Once you have an idea of where you want to stay, it’s time to see what packages are available for your selected hotel. If you’ve opted to stay in a villa, skip to step 3 of the guide – you’re best suited with separate flights and accommodation over a package holiday.

Open each of the following package holiday websites in new tabs and proceed with search for the best deal for your selected dates.

Simply search the website for your chosen hotel and flights for your desired dates.

Note down all of the prices as a reference so you know how much you’re looking at paying with a package.

Step 3: See how much it would be to book your flights and accommodation separately, starting with flights

It’s now time to see if you can get a better deal by booking flights and accommodation separately yourself, rather than as part of a package.

Visit Skyscanner here and enter your departure dates and airports. Instead of selecting an exact date, try to be flexible and choose the ‘full month’ option on the calendar. This will show you the cheapest dates to fly on either side of your preferred dates.

Flight finding tips:

  • Be flexible on dates. Prices can vary wildly
  • Select the ‘all Orlando airports’ and ‘add nearby airports’ options on the booking form. There are two airports in the Orlando area, Orlando International and Sanford, which is only a 40-minute drive to the central Orlando area.
  • Compare flights from nearby UK airports if the prices near your local airport seem expensive. Travelling a couple of hours to an alternative airport could save you hundreds of pounds.
  • Some airlines such as British Airways have check-in baggage included on long-haul flights, whilst you’ll have to pay extra with TUI. Keep this in mind when researching. Flights may seem cheaper at first, however if you add seat selection, meals and baggage, they can turn out to be more expensive than other options.

Compare the flight options to find the best dates, times and prices to suit you. Also take note of the flight duration times. Some flights may appear cheap but involve multiple layovers and airports to get there. We highly recommend paying the extra to fly direct if it isn’t much more – it saves a lot of time and hassle.

Note down the flight dates, times, airlines and prices.

Step 4: Compare the best prices for your selected accommodation

If you’ve opted for a hotel, visit Trivago.co.uk here and enter your hotel name and dates (matched with the best flight dates you found) into the booking form, along with the number of travellers.

This site will compare lots of other travel websites to find the best price per night for your stay. You can then click-through to the booking site for the full details.

Be sure to browse the internet for any additional discounts and cashback for the hotel booking website you’ve picked. Sites such as Hotels.com and Ebookers regularly have 10% discount on many hotels, which you can apply at the checkout for extra money off your  hotel.

Search Google for ‘[insert hotels website name] discount codes’ or ‘[insert hotels website name] cashback’ to see what’s currently available.

The top UK voucher and cashback websites worth checking out are:

Note down the total ‘best’ prices available for each of your selected hotel options. Again, we’d recommend picking 2 or 3 hotels you like to compare costs.

If you’ve opted for a villa, there’s no need to compare using Trivago. You would have already compared villa options to find the best price in step 1 of our guide.

Step 5: Summarise and compare your best options for package holidays versus booking separately.

By now you should have a selection of flight and accommodation options with the best prices available for your dates. The difficult part is deciding on the best option for you! Maybe you’re able to upgrade to an extra special hotel for the money you’ve saved, or you can keep that extra cash for spending money whilst you’re on holiday. It’s all about finding the best possible price for your holiday.

In our experience, booking flights and accommodation separately is usually cheaper, however sometimes you have the added benefit of booking everything in one place. Package holidays can offer complimentary transfers and low deposits instead of an upfront payment needed with booking separately.

Book your holiday on the chosen websites and remember the following:

  • Check all dates and times before pushing the ‘book’ button!
  • Book using a credit card for extra protection
  • Buy travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked your holiday (if you don’t have annual USA cover already)

Using these 5 easy steps, you should be able to save hundreds of pounds on your holiday. Why visit a travel agent in person when you can book everything yourself and save money? It’s a fun way to research your destination and you’ll learn plenty about Orlando and the things to do on the way.

If you have any questions about the above steps, get in touch. We’d be happy to help.

Magical bonus tips for booking an Orlando holiday:

The above guide is our go-to guide for booking an Orlando holiday for the best price, however here are some extra tips and tricks to keep in mind.

  • If you’re flexible on dates and where you’re staying, Holiday Pirates is an excellent website for finding super cheap deals to Orlando. Browse their latest offers here. They scan the internet to find the best deals, which you then book on travel agent sites.
  • Book as far in advance as possible for your trip. The 6 -8 months before you travel period is perfect. However, you can also find a good last-minute deal if you’re travelling in a less busy period such as May, September or October. Read more on finding last minute deals here.
  • You may wish to plan a multi-destination trip to Florida. Use the above method for finding flights and accommodation and plan as many destinations as you wish.
  • If you’re staying in Disney or Universal, consider booking theme park tickets with your hotel as part of a package. It can be cheaper than buying tickets separately afterwards.

Booking the extras:

Now you’ve booked the essentials, it’s a good time to start thinking about extras such as car rental and theme park tickets. The further in advance you book, the cheaper it usually is.

Should you rent a car? Getting around whilst in Orlando

The short answer is yes. Unless you only plan on staying in Disney and catching the shuttle bus to parks or spending most of your time relaxing in a hotel, you should definitely rent a car. Car rentals are reasonably priced if you shop around and driving isn’t as difficult as some may lead you to think. Once you get the hang of being on the other side of the road it can be handled with ease. Just make sure you have a good navigator by your side or a trusty Sat-Nav.

Transport options:

Car rental

We recommend renting a car for pick-up at the airport. Alamo is our preferred company. They have good reviews, prices are reasonable and we’ve never encountered any issues. Expect to pay anything from around £250 for a basic car, to £400 for an SUV, for a 2-week rental.

Pre-book your car rental on the Alamo website here.

An alternative to Alamo is to shop around using Skyscanner’s handy comparison tool here. You can find cheaper rentals but be sure to check the reviews before booking.

Both Orlando International Airport and Sanford Airport offer similar rental prices and the same companies.

Shuttle buses – Disney and other

Many hotels, particularly if you’re staying in Disney or Universal, have complimentary shuttle bus or boat transfers to all the parks in their resort. They’re quick, frequent and are recommended over driving as you’ll often get to the parks quicker without worrying about parking.

Some hotels on International Drive also offer bus shuttle services that operate at specific times of the day. Check with your hotel before booking.

Taxis/Uber

Admittedly, taxis can be pretty expensive in Orlando so we’d advise on using them only if you really need to (i.e. you don’t plan on doing much travelling outside the theme parks and hotel). They’re marked with yellow ‘Mears’ branding and can be booked at your hotel or via their website here.

Our personal preference for taxis is Uber. It’s cheaper than standard taxis and is and easy to use with the mobile app. Sign up to Uber here and download their official app. Enter the code ‘uu1owue’ when signing up for a discount on your first booking.

Planning your theme park visits and buying tickets

It’s considerably cheaper to book your tickets online in the UK before arrival and you can get some great deals when booking multiple parks. This is due to UK tour operators getting discounted tickets to attract UK tourists, catering to longer holiday packages. Americans tend to visit for a few days to a week, versus UK visitors having longer 10 day+ holidays.

Orlando theme park tickets tips - Depicts Disneyworld welcome sign

Deciding on theme parks to visit

If you’re unsure of which theme park tickets to choose, check out our Orlando theme park comparison guide here. If you already know where you want to go, read on to see the best places to buy tickets.

Multi-theme park tickets

Once you’ve decided on the theme parks and attractions you’d like to visit and have a plan in place, we recommend browsing and booking with Attraction Tickets direct.

You’ll find that most ticket package websites are priced very similarly and ATD have some of the best reviews. Opt for the longer duration tickets for extra flexibility. You’ll also save money this way.

Ticket examples:

  • Disney and Universal Combo Ticket – 9 theme/water parks included
  • Orlando Ultimate Freedom Ticket – includes all of the main theme parks
  • Disney and Seaworld Combo Pass – Includes all Disneyworld parks and Seaworld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica

Browse the current Attraction Ticket Direct packages here.

Booking Disney and Universal tickets with your hotel

If you’re staying in Disney or at a Universal resort, it can be cheaper to buy tickets with your hotel as part of a package through the official website, at the same time as booking your hotel. Before booking your hotel, check how much it is with the tickets added on and compare prices with Attraction Tickets Direct to determine the best value.

We hope you enjoyed reading our comprehensive guide to booking a holiday in Orlando. Now you’ve booked all the essentials and extras, the fun part is spending time researching what you want to do when you’re there. From eating out and action-packed shows to blissful white-sand beaches, there’s a lot to do in the sunny state of Florida and it’s well worth spending some time assembling an itinerary.

Check out our other Orlando holiday guides


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