Surviving the Holidays in Orlando

All is calm. All is bright.  Only one of these statements can be used to accurately describe the holidays at Orlando. With so many holiday events in Orlando between the awe-inspiring attractions to the deck-the-halls-extravaganza in the hotels, all is bright indeed. The holiday season in itself can be stressful, and as magical as Orlando is during the holidays, it can be overwhelming. Having survived 30 some odd holiday seasons in Orlando, I am here to help!

Christmas Tree at Orlando Int’l Airport (Photo credit: Brisan)

Tips for Visitors

Orlando has been named one of the top destinations for the holidays year after year (read Orbitz’s list, Smart Destinations, or Network Journal). Practically every corner of Central Florida is covered in holiday cheer. However, when the kids are out of school, Orlando gets packed!

Disney's Animal Kingdom Crowd
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Crowd (Photo credit: Michael Kappel)
  • Pack for layers – It does get cold here ‘ya know, and our weather can be a pain in the rear. For example, yesterday we were in the mid 7o’s (Fahrenheit) however, one little cold front comes through and tonight we have the fireplace going. Tomorrow it will be warm again. That’s just how it goes.
  • Avoid the malls – Be prepared to either get there first thing in the morning or prepare for insanity, especially at the outlet malls.
  • AVOID Interstate 4 (I-4) – It is a nightmare during the week of Christmas. Use the tolls roads, use the backroads. Better yet stay on Disney or Universal property and stay off the roads as much as possible.
  • Be patient – It will be busy. The lines will be long. Take deep breaths, plan ahead, and prepare for delays and lines… everywhere.
  • Stay hydrated – it may not be sweltering like it is in the summer, but you need to stay hydrated. Chances are you will be doing more walking than you’re used to and pushing yourself to be able to “see it all”, so take care of yourself.
  • Plan ahead – Chances are if you are reading this, you already know the beauty of doing research over the internet. If you know someone who is not as internet savvy, please tell them to visit the theme parks’ websites beforehand so that they know the park hours and schedules.
  • Go local – Orlando isn’t just about the theme parks. Get out there and explore! Support small businesses and escape the crowds. There are many resources out there. Check out my “Central Florida Suburbs” or “Small towns in Florida” sections of ThisFloridaLife. Also, one of my favorite local blogs / websites is The Daily City.
  • The Best Time is the Night Time – The best holiday entertainment in the theme parks tends to happen at night. So be sure to be rested enough to be a night owl.
  • Know where your hotel is – Once again, I assume you know how to use the internet well. In my option, Google Maps is your friend when choosing a hotel. Make sure it is near the places you want to go, otherwise you will be stuck in traffic for 50% of your trip.
  • Drive safe – Please drive safe and follow these simple rules:
  1. Don’t drive slow in the fast lane (left hand lane)
  2. Don’t text and drive
  3. You CAN turn right if at a red light, unless otherwise stated by a sign.
  4. If you miss your exit or your turn do not slam on your brakes or cross over multiple lanes of traffic. You can always turn around at a safer point.
Traffic to Magic Kingdom backed up for over a mile 12-27-2012 Source: @bioreconstruct on Twitter)
Traffic to Magic Kingdom backed up for over a mile 12-27-2012 Source: @bioreconstruct on Twitter)

Tips for Residents

  • Go to the parks before they get here – What fun is being a Florida Resident if you don’t get out to the parks during the holidays? The best time to go to the parks before the crowds really hit is the week before Thanksgiving (up until the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week). And the second week in December.
  • AVOID I-4 – I cannot stress this enough!!!
  • Be patient – Every year it happens. Complaints about the traffic and “silly tourists” invading during the holidays. Let it go. The vast majority of us would not have jobs were it not for all the lovely visitors. It is only temporary, and we need tourism.
  • Get away – While the attractions area is busting at the seams, go visit the roads and trails less traveled. Go hiking, go kayaking, go enjoy nature and relax. Visit the Florida State Parks website, Florida Adventurer, or Authentic Florida’s travel section and of course do some browsing here on ThisFloridaLife for ideas.
Disney's Honorary VoluntEars Cavalcade
Just one example of Disney’s smiling faces (Photo credit: aeronerd)

Most Important Tip for Visitors and Residents

Be thankful – First, to all the visitors let me say as a lifelong resident, thank YOU for visiting my hometown. I truly am grateful for you because tourism is the backbone of Orlando’s economy. Second, the people working in the tourism industry work long hours, away from their families during the holidays. Yes, we all choose what job we take, but still it is nice to be appreciated. So while you are out in the parks, dining out, or at your hotel, it will brighten the day of those working there to hear a simple “thanks for working during the holidays” or “thanks for being here”. As someone who, once upon a time, worked many a Christmas and/or Thanksgiving out in the parks, away from my family, nothing cheered me up more than to hear “thank you” from the Guests.

And on that note, thank you for reading ThisFloridaLife!


4 thoughts on “Surviving the Holidays in Orlando”

  1. Just wanted to check in and say Happy New Year, you are doing such a great job on this blog, it is so informative and I just love your writing style. Hope 2013 is all you wish for!

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