Orlando, Florida is one of our most popular destinations for family holidays. It’s a global tourist hotspot with amazing resorts, attractions and of course the world-famous theme parks.
You’ll love the thrills & spills of Orlando!
From families with kids to kids at heart, Orlando is a world-class destination for fun lovers of all stripes.
Planning your Orlando holidays can be confusing. From flights to hotels to parks to food, there are so many elements to consider.
Our travel experts have been to Orlando many times and picked up plenty of hints along the way. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to planning your family holidays to Orlando. Let’s get planning!
Flight times from Dublin to Orlando clock in at an average of 9 hours and 45 minutes. You can get direct flights which make that journey a bit smoother. While most airlines have in-flight entertainment like movies and TV shows, if you’ve got smaller children it’s worth planning their entertainment in advance.
What time of year to go
The best time to visit Orlando really depends what you’re looking for. Good news for sun chasers – whatever time of year you go, you’re more or less guaranteed great weather. Bear in mind that temperatures from May onwards can hit highs of over 30, which for Irish people can be too much. If you want to avoid the really high temperatures, as well as the busiest times, consider visiting before then. From December through to the beginning of May could be right for you. September onwards is hurricane season, which could put a damper on the family fun although you’d be sure to find lower prices.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of places to stay in Orlando, Florida. We’d recommend staying on or near International Drive; some of our favourite hotels are here. This will keep you close to the action with just a short trip to the major parks and attractions.
The name ‘Orlando’ is synonymous with theme parks. Most Irish holiday makers want to enjoy the movie magic at Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando. And who can blame them? These legendary parks are packed with rides and attractions that will please the whole family.
The big question is Disney or Universal? Most do both. There’s also several other parks you should consider visiting.
Walt Disney World Resort
A truly magical destination! Your family holidays to Orlando would not be complete without a visit to Walt Disney World Resort Orlando.
It’s easy to forget that Walt Disney World is actually the overall name for 4 separate theme parks and 2 different water parks. They are:
- Disney’s Magic Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios
- Animal Kingdom
- Blizzard Beach
- Typhoon Lagoon
We’ve broken them down below.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom
This is the theme park that you probably think of when you think of Disney World Orlando and it’s the one you truly have to see. Here, you’ll find the iconic backdrop of the Cinderella Castle, the famous ‘it’s a small world’ ride and other rides like Space Mountain.
This is also the park where you’ll find your favourite Disney character walking around, or doing meet and greets – your chance to collect pictures and autographs!
Hollywood Studios theme park is filled with blockbuster action, live shows, thrilling attractions, tours and events. You’ll find tons of fun stuff for the whole family, like Toy Story World and much more.
This is Disney’s futuristic theme park with lots of space adventures to be had. You’ll find attraction like the Guardians of the Galaxy live show, have fun with technology and more.
Animal Kingdom is one of the largest animal theme parks in the world. You’ll get to explore the alien planet Pandora from the Avatar movies, Donald Duck’s pre-historic Dino Bash and fun shows straight out of beloved movie The Lion King.
Blizzard Beach & Typhoon Lagoon
Disney World also has these 2 distinct water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon. Whichever you choose, both are filled with water slides, play areas, rafts rides and other splashy attractions!
All in all, Walt Disney World Resort has a lot to pack in, so research ahead of time and make sure you’re using your precious time well, as well as taking in the right attraction for your family.
A must for movie fans, not to mention Potterheads. The main attraction here is probably the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where you can immerse yourself in the magical world of Diagon Alley, Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. There are some really fun attractions here like the Escape from Gringotts ride.
Across Universal’s 3 parks – Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay – you can go on loads of rides, meet beloved movie characters and experienced the epic world of Marvel heroes.
Other Theme Parks
There are more options for theme park fun in Orlando than you can fit into one trip. Here’s a selection of what this destination has to offer.
For aquatic adventures, visit SeaWorld. First off, if you’re going to SeaWorld you have to see the park’s signature show, Shamu. The Penguin Encounter exhibit lets you get up close and personal with these amazing Arctic visitors. See other spectacular creatures like dolphins and manatees.
Besides the animal attractions, there are plenty of great rides like the rollercoaster Manta. Just be prepared to get a bit wet! You should also check out it’s sister park, Discovery Cove.
This Lego-themed park is perfect for families with kids under 12. It’s got tons of attractions catering to younger children. There’s the swashbuckling Pirates’ Cove and the thrilling Lego Ninjago World. Kids can create their own minifigures, build whatever they can think of in Imagination Zone and have urban-themed fun in Lego City.
Fun Spot America
A great alternative destination for family fun. They’ve got great go karting, tons of amusements, kiddie friendly rides and fun wildlife attractions like The Gator Spot. Thrill seekers can have a go on the 250 foot high Skycoaster – you won’t find better views of Orlando than up here!
Coco Key Water Park
This water park is part of the Coco Key Hotel and Resort. It’s right along Orlando’s International Drive and a good option for a more affordable day out. There’s plenty of water slides, tubes and play areas for the whole family.
Busch Gardens Tampa
From Orlando, go down Interstate 4 until you hit Busch Garden. This is a major park with tons of rides and attractions, a lot of them African safari themed, and as well as that it’s home to Tampa’s largest zoo. Busch Gardens is about 1 ½ hours driving from Orlando but it could be worth a visit after you’ve seen the major attractions closer by.
Other things to do in Orlando
Orlando is the theme park capital of the world. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t tons of other things to do. When you’re planning your family holidays to Orlando, take some of these things into consideration too.
Orlando Balloon Ride
Take in some incredible views from on high. This is a truly spectacular way to see the sights, and get a bird’s eye view of those parks you’ll be spending so much time in.
ICON Orlando 360
This is another way of taking in those amazing vistas. Formerly known as The Orlando Eye, you can see it all from the top of the enormous Ferris Wheel. The eye is surrounded by a range of other attractions, dining, shopping and entertainment.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not
A museum of the weird and wonderful. You’ll find lots of fun exhibits and more hands-on activities for the kids.
Kennedy Space Centre
This is a great attraction. It’s about an hour from Orlando but worth going to! There are great space themed exhibitions, the chance to see real shuttles, meet astronauts and learn about famed US astronauts.
This spectacular space is an unforgettable sight and really worth a visit! This National Park contains untouched swampland and surprising natural beauty.
Keep it simple: the warm, sunny weather makes Orlando an ideal beach destination. Splash around or just lounge around the sands in places like the famous Daytona Beach. Orlando itself is not on the coast but the beaches are not too far away, making it a great option for a day trip.
Hints & tips
- Arrive early to popular theme parks – they stop admitting visitors once they reach their full capacity, and this can even happen before noon. You don’t want that to happen to your family!
- Buy your attraction tickets in advance – you’ll bypass the longest queues and be able to make the most of your time there. Multi-day and combo tickets tend to be better value too.
- Don’t forget to pace yourselves – with so much to do in Orlando it’s tempting to try and cram things in, but thanks to the hot weather and queues, it’s important to take your time, rest and stay hydrated. The parks are bigger than you might expect.
- Think about buying the special passes that’ll let you minimise time spent in the queue – for Disney, it’s the FastPass+ and for Universal it’s the Universal Express Plus pass.
Want some more inspiration from our teen correspondent? Check out Abbie’s Orlando Experience blog right here!
And, why not read about our Travel Advisor Sarah Jane’s trip here?
Thinking of booking your next family holiday to Orlando? Check out the Cassidy Travel website for great deals on flights and hotels, or call us on 0818-332500 for expert travel advice!
About Cassidy Travel
This blog is powered by Cassidy Travel, one of Ireland’s leading travel agencies. Our team of over 100 expert travel advisors sends 1000s of Irish holidaymakers around the world every year. And we love doing it! Visit our website to start planning your next getaway. If you’re Dublin-based, drop into one of our stores. With 33 years of experience we’ve mastered the art of easy booking. Whether it’s a city escape, US adventure or family holiday we’d love to help you plan, book and dream.