Planning Orlando Trips

Over 70 million people visited Orlando in 2022. It’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States.

If you haven’t visited before, you might be struggling to plan your trip. There are just so many different options for you to consider.

We’ve got you covered. Read on for our top tips for planning Orlando trips for first-time visitors.

1. Determine Your Priorities

Orlando offers a wide range of attractions. Decide what interests you the most.

Create a list of all the different attractions you want to visit in Orlando. This can include theme parks like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and others, as well as other places of interest.

Reflect on your interests and preferences. Are you a big fan of Disney characters and movies? Do you enjoy thrilling roller coasters and theme park rides? Are you interested in space exploration or wildlife encounters? Understanding what excites you will help you prioritize the attractions you’ll enjoy the most.

Consider the composition of your travel group. If you’re planning an Orlando family trip, family-friendly attractions and activities will be a priority. For adults or couples, you might want to explore nightlife, upscale dining, and other adult-oriented entertainment options.

2. Pick the Right Time

Consider the time of year you plan to visit. Summers can be hot and crowded, while spring and fall offer milder weather and fewer crowds. If you can, avoid major holidays and school breaks.

Check the operating hours of the theme parks you plan to visit. Some parks have extended hours during peak seasons or special events, which can affect your itinerary planning.

Orlando hosts various special events and festivals throughout the year. Research if any specific events align with your interests and consider planning your trip around them. From holiday celebrations to food festivals and cultural events, these experiences can add extra excitement to your visit.

3. Consider Your Orlando Trip Budget

Booking hotels in Orlando can get expensive, depending on what times of year you’re looking at.

Figure out how much you can afford to spend on your trip to Orlando. Consider expenses like transportation, accommodation, theme park tickets, meals, souvenirs, and any additional activities you plan to do.

Orlando offers some free or low-cost attractions like Disney Springs, CityWalk, and various outdoor parks and nature reserves. Incorporate these into your itinerary to balance your expenses.

Set a souvenir budget and stick to it. Consider buying souvenirs outside the parks or looking for affordable options like pins or keychains.

While theme parks offer various add-ons and experiences, evaluate if these are essential for your trip or if they fit within your budget. There might be more valuable things for you to spend your money on.

4. Look for Accommodations

There are also lots of places to stay in Orlando. When you’re booking hotels in Orlando, you’ll want to ensure you do thorough research to pick the best place for you.

Decide on the amenities that are essential for your stay. Some accommodations offer complimentary breakfast, free Wi-Fi, pools, fitness centers, shuttle services to theme parks, and more. Prioritize what matters most to you.

Look for any special deals, packages, or discounts offered by hotels or resorts. Some may offer theme park ticket bundles or free nights for extended stays.

Westgate has plenty of options for you, such as their Cocoa Beach resort.

Pay attention to the cancellation policies when you’re booking hotels in Orlando, especially if your travel plans may be subject to change. Flexible cancellation policies can provide peace of mind in case unexpected circumstances arise.

5. Think About Transportation

You’ll need to get yourself to Orlando and get yourself around once you’re there.

If you’re coming from a distance, flying to Orlando International Airport (MCO) is a common choice. Check for flight deals in advance and consider booking early to get better rates.

If you plan to visit multiple parks, renting a car may be convenient. Some hotels also offer shuttle services to the major attractions. Public transportation options are limited, so plan accordingly.

Many hotels and resorts in Orlando offer shuttle services to major theme parks and popular destinations. Check with your accommodation to see if they provide this service.

6. Plan Your Theme Park Days

Orlando’s theme parks are vast, and it’s impossible to see everything in one day. So, you’ll want to designate at least a few days, depending on your interests.

Make a rough itinerary for each theme park day, highlighting the must-see attractions, shows, and dining experiences. Be realistic about how much you can fit into one day. Some parks are quite large, and it’s impossible to see everything in one visit.

Plan to arrive at the parks early, especially if you want to experience popular attractions with shorter wait times. Arriving early also allows you to take advantage of extra magic hours or early park access if available.

Some theme parks offer virtual queue systems or advance reservations for popular attractions. Check if the parks you plan to visit have these options and make reservations for high-demand rides to avoid long wait times.

Theme parks can be physically demanding, so schedule breaks in your itinerary to rest, have a meal, or escape the heat. Consider taking advantage of indoor shows or attractions during the hottest parts of the day.

While having a plan is essential, be open to adjusting your Orlando trip schedule based on unforeseen circumstances or if you discover new attractions you’d like to try. Flexibility allows you to enjoy the spontaneity of the parks.

Don’t forget to take photos and capture the magical moments during your theme park days. Consider purchasing a Memory Maker (Disney) or utilizing park photographers to capture professional-quality pictures.

7. Explore Beyond the Parks

While Orlando offers great theme parks, there’s a lot more for you to see.

While theme parks are the main draw, Orlando has more to offer. Explore International Drive. Known as I-Drive, this bustling boulevard offers shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Visit ICON Park, Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium, and enjoy the Orlando Eye.

If you’re a nature enthusiast, head to Gatorland to get up close to alligators and other reptiles. Enjoy entertaining shows and learn about Florida’s unique wildlife.

For a different kind of wildlife experience, take an airboat tour through the Everglades with Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures. Spot alligators, birds, and other creatures in their natural habitat.

Take advantage of Orlando’s natural beauty by spending time in its many parks and green spaces. Whether you’re enjoying a picnic at Lake Eola Park or exploring the scenic trails of Wekiwa Springs State Park, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to connect with nature.

8. Arts and Culture

Don’t skip learning during your visit to Orlando. For art enthusiasts, the Orlando Museum of Art houses an impressive collection of American, African, and contemporary art.

Located in the historic Parramore neighborhood, the Wells’ Built Museum of African American History and Culture provides insight into African American history and contributions to the local community.

There’s also the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts. Dedicated to the life and work of Zora Neale Hurston, an influential African American writer and anthropologist, this museum celebrates African American arts and culture.

Or, you might be more interested in science. The Orlando Science Center offers visitors of all ages the opportunity to explore and engage with various scientific concepts through hands-on exhibits.

For those who like natural history, the NatureWorks exhibit showcases Florida’s diverse ecosystems and wildlife. Visitors can learn about the region’s native animals, habitats, and conservation efforts.

You may also want to check out the Gotha Historic District. Located just outside of Orlando, this small historic district features several buildings dating back to the late 1800s, including the historic Gotha Post Office and the Wesleyan Methodist Church.

9. Pack Right

Make sure you bring everything you need when you’re visiting Orlando, so you don’t have to run out and buy essentials. Comfortable footwear is a must for walking around the theme parks.

Don’t forget to carry a portable phone charger for when your device runs low on battery.

As you’ll likely be spending time at water parks or your hotel’s pool, don’t forget to pack swimwear and flip-flops. Sun protection is essential, so pack sunscreen with a high SPF, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to shield yourself from the strong Florida sun.

Remember to carry a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the day, especially in the heat.

When visiting the theme parks, a comfortable backpack or day bag will come in handy to carry your essentials and any souvenirs you might purchase. Consider bringing a lanyard or pouch to keep your park tickets and IDs easily accessible.

If you’re interested in character meet-and-greets, don’t forget an autograph book and pen. A poncho or quick-dry towel can be useful for water rides or unexpected rain showers.

If you’re traveling from outside the U.S., bring the appropriate power adapters and converters for your electronic devices. By packing right and considering all your essentials, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your first-time trip to Orlando and create wonderful memories.

10. Think About Day Trips

There are plenty of places around Orlando you can explore if you happen to have enough time.

A visit to the Kennedy Space Center, located about an hour’s drive from Orlando, is an unforgettable experience for space enthusiasts and curious minds alike. Explore interactive exhibits, see real spacecraft, and learn about the history of space exploration.

Just an hour’s drive east of Orlando, Daytona Beach offers beautiful sandy shores, a vibrant boardwalk, and various water activities. Relax on the beach, take a stroll along the pier, or visit the Daytona International Speedway.

The historic city of St. Augustine, about two hours north of Orlando, is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the United States. Explore the charming streets, visit historical landmarks, and enjoy the city’s unique atmosphere.

Approximately an hour and a half away, Tampa offers attractions like Busch Gardens, an exciting theme park with thrilling rides and animal encounters. So, if you haven’t yet gotten your fill of theme parks in Orlando, consider making a pit spot in Tampa!

11. Eat Right

Don’t rush around and end up living on snacks during your Orlando visit. There are so many amazing food options available to you!

Orlando is a melting pot of cultures, and you can find a variety of international restaurants serving dishes from around the world. From authentic Latin American cuisine to Asian flavors and Mediterranean delights, there’s no shortage of options for global food enthusiasts.

A visit to Orlando wouldn’t be complete without trying a traditional Cuban sandwich. Packed with roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard, it’s a flavorful delight.

Florida’s coastal location makes it an excellent place to enjoy fresh seafood. Many restaurants in Orlando offer delicious seafood dishes, such as crab, shrimp, and grouper.

Orlando has a thriving food truck scene, offering a diverse range of cuisines on wheels. From gourmet burgers to fusion tacos, food trucks provide a fun and unique dining experience.

There’s no shortage of beverages, either. Craft beer enthusiasts will find plenty of breweries and craft beer bars throughout the city. Enjoy locally brewed beers and unique flavors.

Start Planning Orlando Trips Today

There are a lot of things that go into planning Orlando trips you’ll truly enjoy. Choose your theme parks, look at local restaurants, and decide when you want to go.

Then, you should be well on your way to planning the trip of your dreams. Just don’t forget to double-check your packing list!

Do you want more travel advice? You can visit our Travel Tips section for more tips and personal picks.