In April 2019 we embarked on the holiday of a lifetime; a family vacation to America. Not just your regular Florida trip, we flew into Atlanta Georgia, spent some time in the real, rustic United States visiting relatives, then road tripped down to Florida and back up again via Daytona Beach and Savannah.
After touching down (or rather pulling up, somewhat weary from a four year old singing excitedly in a car for ten hours) in Florida we crammed a huge amount in whilst also recouping some much needed rest – it is after all an essential part of any holiday!
As a newbie to U.S. travel, I was totally in awe of my in laws who project managed the entire trip for a party of ten, and I learnt a huge amount from them about how and what to plan for our next visit, whenever that may be.
One of the main outtakes from our stay in Florida was that we need to go back! Our 5 night villa stay in Kissimmee was always just a section of our wider trip, but the state has so much to offer and we barely touched the sides. Therefore, I’ve already set about imagining my dream itinerary for our next visit whilst it’s all fresh in my mind.
During our stay we did a 3 day park ticket for Walt Disney World which we opted to use for three sequential days at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Epcot. The remaining days we used to recoup from travelling by the villa pool and explore the local area.
We definitely picked the right three parks for the 4 girls age 4-9 we were travelling with, but the bits we didn’t get to do (Pandora aargh!) remain on my bucket list!
Aside from the parks we did experience (which were for the record OUT OF THIS WORLD – I challenge anyone to not be blown away by the scale Disney delivers) there were also 2 water parks and Hollywood Studios which we didn’t see. In a longer stint in Florida I’d love to make a journey on the Tower of Terror and do a splash park in that glorious weather.
But Florida’s not all about Disney. Florida boasts Universal Studios, the home of Harry Potter, Lego Land, Sea World and more… plenty of scope for the theme park lovers to be in an entirely different world each day. And, seeing how much we enjoyed Disney, I’m guessing the other parks would be a huge hit.
Our 2019 trip was never supposed to be a beach holiday, but there is no denying that the beach element of our holiday, two nights at Daytona, was one of the highlights.
Miles of vast white sand and blue crashing waves with Pelicans flying overhead; incredible memories that left me wanting more and will be forever in my nostaligic images of Florida.
Florida boasts over 825 miles of coast line and frankly if you headed to this state without seeing the Ocean (Sea World doesn’t count!) then you have missed a trick. Whether you make it to Orlando-centric Fort Lauderdale or right down to the Florida Keys, just dip your toes in the stunning beach life Florida has to offer.
Happily piggy backing someone elses itinerary, last time was all about new experiences and family time. Should we make it back to Florida with more time on our hands there are some bucket list items i’d simply have to tick off.
First up would be seeing Manatees in the wild – the natural springs of Florida offer opportunities to get up close to these gentle and graceful sea cows and it would be a dream to see some from somewhere other than behind glass.
Florida is also famed for the Everglades – an enormous national park which is more vast than I ever appreciated. A trip over the swamp land on an airboat would take me back to the TV shows of my childhood, and if I saw a wild gator? Life made!
Aside from crocs and Sea Cows, my Atlanta experience made me fall in love with a more rustic side to the states. Hiking up mountains and experiencing the view from a hillside, or seeing great expanses of open space should be as much of your USA experience as seeing fireworks over the Disney castle, if not more.
So incorporate one or more of the 175 national parks of Florida to your itinerary – I know I will.
Getting stuck in to the stateside lifestyle included visiting a bowling alley and a ball park which both felt straight off of a movie set.
Despite being a hugely un-sporty person, I’d love to embrace the culture and see a live game of Basketball, Baseball or American Football. That would definitely be on my dream itinerary for our next trip.
The only sport I am passionate about is running – and I would certainly make room in my baggage for my running shoes to take the opportunity to run along the coast line or through those incredible parks – an opportunity to see Florida from another angle in the dawn before that incredible heat rises for the day.
During our last stay we rented a large private villa with a pool which was the perfect HQ for our activities. With plenty of space for everyone to spread out (each family had it’s own bathroom) and a communal lounge to socialise together in the evenings it was the perfect space for our large party.
Having the ability to stock up on food and drink (hello WALMART!) was a huge saver in terms of money, time and convenience – we were able to feed the kids what they wanted, when they wanted as well as have a permanent supply of cold drinks and snacks from our own fridge.
We packed up snacks for our day trips too and made the most of having the self catering amenities. It of course also enables you to experience the take out essential dining experience of chinese take away…IN A CARTON!
Our private pool was contained with a mosquito net which is essential in the humidity of Florida in the sunshine. But perhaps only trumped by the pool itself, which given the heat of the midday sun was undoubtedly the most essential part of the entire stay.
Before our trip last year I had always stated America wasn’t high up my wishlist of places to visit. I was sure I’d go someday but happy to leave it to fate.
Subsequently to our family visit come road trip, I whole heartedly fell in love with everything America has to offer, but surprisingly more so the more authentic American experiences than the typical tourist highlights. So of course, do Disney, do the Theme Parks, but please please make sure you open your eyes to everything Florida has to offer.