How you should do Disney…

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” – Walt Disney

If you believe in magic, come on an adventure with us to the Magic Kingdom Park, located several kilometres southwest of Orlando, near Lake Buena Vista.

The original Disney park that opened way back in 1971 today welcomes 52 million visitors and your rather persistent eight-year-old would dearly love to add your family into the mix.

There are four parks, two waterparks, four golf courses, a nine-hole course for juniors, a camp site and a downtown centre called Disney Springs.

The Magic Kingdom is built against the backdrop of the iconic Cinderella Castle – the home of Main Street USA, of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Although there are more than enough activities to keep the whole family entertained for more than two days, the afternoon float parade is a highlight that should not be missed. Short on time? Try to squeeze your visit into a day, but you’ll miss out on many rides.

The EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow) Centre was initially intended as a centre for Disney employees who worked at the Magic Kingdom. It was built as a ‘town’ where people lived, interacted, married, were born, etc. It is that context (that obviously no longer remains today) that has given rise to the experimental and futuristic slant to this park. EPCOT is another full-day visit.

And if you like Star Wars, head to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the park dedicated to the Disney film franchise. Here you can watch Jack Sparrow entertain crowds by teaching children to fight with swords, or equally so, Darth Vader with his light sabre. If there is a Disney film, there is an equivalent Disney ride for you to enjoy here and it will definitely take you a full day to enjoy it to its fullest.

The Animal Kingdom, in our opinion, is the best of all Orlando’s park, or certainly the most surprising. And if you think because you’re from Africa, there’s nothing the Americans could teach you about animals? Think again! The park is divided into four sections, neatly positioned around Discovery Isle and the Tree of Life: Africa, Asia, Dinoworld and the unbelievably brilliant Pandora – The World of Avatar. The most jaw-dropping part of this park is its architecture or ‘Sets’. Visitors would never believe that they were not in fact in East Africa or Asia (although Mt. Everest has a roller coaster spilling out of it). We cannot vouch for the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth so spend a full day here and make sure you visit Pandora in the day time as well as at night. Avatar Flight of Passage has queues so make sure you have time or use the impressive My Disney Experience App to fast track you here. This is quite possibly the best theme park ride we have ever been on, one not to be missed.

Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) is a little centre on a lake that comprises shops, restaurants and bars, etc. There are no ‘attractions’ or ‘rides’ but it is a great place to visit at the end of a day and enjoy some good food and entertainment. It is light on activities for children, so may be the perfect adult break. The largest Disney Store stocking everything can also be found there.

So, what are our suggestions?

  • We would recommend a minimum of four days in the park, an extra day if you are in high season as the number of people will make it impossible to do everything you wish on a one-park, one-day basis.
  • We would stay in a Disney hotel for five nights. Our recommendation is the Port Orleans Hotels as you can take a boat to Disney Springs in the evenings.
  • Disney’s Magical Express Transportation provides efficient and comfortable transfers to and from the airport. Be warned however that there could be a 45- to 75-minute wait.

In a nutshell, a five-night stay at Port Orleans with a four-day Magic Your Way pass including the airport transfer will cost from R16, 170 per person sharing (Valid 8 July to 11 August 2018). Children (three to nine years) can travel from R5, 190 per child sharing with two adults.

The United Europe package includes:

  • 5 nights’ standard room accommodation in Orlando at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort.
  • Return Disney Magical Express Transfers, Airport / Hotel / Airport.
  • 4 Days Magic Your Way Park Hopper Ticket giving you access to Magic Kingdom® Park, Epcot®, Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios®
  • Magic Your ticket includes complimentary use of the Disney Transportation system.

All prices are based on per person sharing. Rates are correct and all packages are available at time of publication. Prices exclude flights, meals/touring and excursions not specified, visas, travel insurance and items of a personal nature. Rates are subject to change, exchange rates fluctuations and availability. Advance purchase, weekend/peak season surcharge, block out periods and minimum stay conditions may apply.

Updated – January 2018

Mark Buck is the Managing Director of United Europe Travel Services (Pty) Ltd, a travel wholesaler based in South Africa

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