For my final Orlando blog in this February series I am writing about getting around Orlando and the amazing shopping it has to offer.
There are two main ways to do Orlando without hiring a car. The first is to stay in the DisneyWorld Resort and use its fantastic transport system to move around within the resort. The second is to stay in the International Drive Resort area and use the I-Ride Trolley service – a ticketed trolley bus service servicing a pre-determined route northbound and southbound on International Drive. Most hotels in and around Orlando also provide a shuttle bus service to the theme parks. However, if you want to venture further and visit activities, restaurants or shopping outside of DisneyWorld or International Drive, then you will need a rental car.
In Florida the rental car market is better value for money than Europe and the standard of the cars is high. I have rented a car in Florida over 15 times and never had one quibble with the rental firm on return; it has always run smoothly. When collecting a rental from the airport most firms have a line of vehicles in the category booked and you can take your pick, so you find one that you feel comfortable with.
My experience of driving in Florida is that it is much easier than in Europe. Roads tend to be wide, straight and flat. There are virtually no roundabouts. Signposting is clear. And parking spaces are huge! However, do plan time for your journeys in busy rush hours/theme park exiting times as this impacts the roads as you might expect.
Fuelling stations seem to be everywhere in Orlando and they all have well-stocked shops for supplies. A tip for the first-time user – unlike the UK where you can rock up, lift the hose to add the fuel then pay in the kiosk afterwards – it’s the opposite in the US. Rock up, turn off your engine then go the kiosk to pay for the fuel you want. The cashier then releases that amount to the pump, and you fill up then leave. Simple enough yes but knowing this in advance will prevent you standing by the pump for 5 minutes thinking it must be broken!
If you have a rental car then I strongly encourage you to use it to explore the huge shopping opportunities Orlando has to offer. Visit the Florida Mall for typical US high-street shopping along with department stores, some market exclusives like M&M World and Crayola, and a huge food court. Or visit the higher-end Mall at Millenia for luxury brands and the famous Bloomingdales.
Orlando has its share of designer outlet shopping. I consider the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets and Orlando International Premium Outlets very similar so would recommend only visiting the one nearest to where you are staying. A third, Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores, is also worth a visit. It is smaller than the others but considerably less busy and easy to park, with many of the same stores, so try to fit in a visit here.
And a tip for any Costco members. If you take your UK Costco membership card with you can shop in Costco in Orlando. It is located relatively near to The Florida Mall and if you are self-catering in a villa it may be worth a visit near the start of your holiday.
Finally, if you miss you your sport whilst away, I’d recommend trying to catch a game at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium in Downtown Orlando. My son and husband watched a NFL game there last year and they had an amazing time in this impressive stadium which they ranked as the best day of their whole holiday! Driving to and from the stadium was simple, parking easy, plenty of marshals around and fantastic atmosphere.
This ends my 4-part Orlando blog special. I hope you have enjoyed it.