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Visiting Disney & The Gulf Coast Beaches

Growing up, my sister and I were lucky enough to visit Walt Disney World, Florida on a handful of occasions .  My mum seemed to have quite an obsession with the place, especially Epcot.  As soon as we could, we transported our own kids there (no easy feat from Hong Kong) and enjoyed the nostalgia and Disney magic .  Georgina has since returned (clearly turning into our mum) and shares her 3 week adventure of Disney and the Gulf Coast beaches.

We are huge fans of Walt Disney World and we were incredibly excited to plan a trip to Florida that took us to the four Disney parks and two water parks, plus time to explore some of the beautiful Gulf coast beaches within a two hour drive of Orlando.

Trip overview

Orlando – 8 days – Sheraton Vistana Resort on International Drive

Clearwater Beach – 3 days – Sandpearl Hotel

Orlando – 4 days – Sheraton Vistana Villages on Vistana Drive

St Pete Beach – 3 days – Rumfish Hotel, part of Tradewinds Resort

Planning:

  • Flights – booked via Virgin Atlantic (remember to pre-book your children’s meals)
  • ESTAs – double checked our ESTAs from our last trip. Three were still valid, but we had to get a new one for our son as he has a new passport
  • Travel insurance – checked that our annual family policy gave us worldwide cover
  • Disney tickets – booked 14 day pass (including the 4 parks and 2 water parks, plus a photopass) via Disney, which can only be booked from the UK
  • Disney guide – booked via World Class VIP
  • All hotels – booked direct
  • Car hire – used rentalcars.com for a price comparison and then booked direct via Avis. I chose to book direct as I wasn’t sure if the rental car seats would be guaranteed if we booked through a third party. We used the Uber app a few times in Orlando for cabs
  • Buggy hire – booked a Double City Mini GT via Kingdom Strollers, with a raincover and coolbag

Our favourite meals in Orlando

  • Café Tu Tu Tango – innovative sharing plates, this restaurant is a feast for the eyes too, with the work of local artists covering the walls, and artists working while you dine.
  • Maggiano’s – great tasting family style Italian food, huge portions and very friendly service.
  • Sweet Tomatoes – an all-you-can-eat salad buffet chain with pizza, soups and desserts too. This was a welcome, nutritious diversion from all the junk/beige food we ate elsewhere.
  • Hurricane Wings – chain restaurant specialising in wings. Not necessarily any more special than any other chain, but we had a couple of nice, good value meals at a few different branches.
  • Disney character meals. We did a few buffet lunches in the parks, which were pretty pricey but gave us a nice opportunity to relax and eat some decent food while the kids had a chance to meet some characters. Our favourite food was at Tuskers (Animal Kingdom) and the nicest atmosphere was at Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom).
  • Florida Mall Food Court – lots of options to suit everyone, great if you love to shop or need to kill some time in the air con!

Our favourite meals in Clearwater and St Pete Beach

  • Clear Sky Café – huge and tasty meals, we ate there for breakfast and for lunch
  • Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill – a Clearwater institution, the food was average but it was nice for a chilled meal at the beach
  • Salt Cracker Fish Camp – Clearwater, nice dinner by the harbour
  • Ice cream at Kilkins (Clearwater) and Ice & Cream (in Clearwater and in St Pete)
  • Frog Pond – St Pete, an excellent (and very friendly) breakfast spot
  • Sandpearl Resort – Clearwater, nice breakfast buffet, which offers a ‘kids eat free’ deal for families staying in the hotel
  • Tradewinds Island Resort – St Pete, we ate a number of meals at the Gulfside Grill (relaxed poolside restaurant) and Rumfish Grill (the hotel’s ‘smarter’ restaurant), and we were very impressed by the quality of the food.

 

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