When it is a 16 hour flight from Sydney to Dallas, plus another couple of hours from Dallas to Orlando, you need to spend a reasonable amount of time on the ground to make those killer flights worthwhile. For us that meant this 10 days in Orlando itinerary, followed by an amazing 7 night Disney cruise.
We had an absolute ball in the theme park capital of the world, hitting Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Epcot at Disney World, plus Universal Studios (Harry Potter’s home away from home!), Kennedy Space Center and LEGOLAND.
It was one incredible trip.
If you’re thinking of booking your own Disney World adventure, then get all my tips to plan your first trip here.
Disney fans can find all our Disney adventures around the world here. There’s Disney World, Disneyland Paris, Disney cruises and more!
- 1 Where to stay in Orlando, theme park capital of the world
- 2 Our 10 days in Orlando itinerary
- 2.1 Arrival day – Dinner at T-Rex
- 2.2 Day 1 – Morning at Animal Kingdom
- 2.3 Day 1 – Afternoon at Magic Kingdom
- 2.4 Day 2 – Morning at Magic Kingdom
- 2.5 Day 2 – Afternoon at Epcot
- 2.6 Day 3 – Magic Kingdom
- 2.7 Day 4 – Kennedy Space Center
- 2.8 Day 5 – Pool & Outlet mall
- 2.9 Day 6 – Universal Orlando
- 2.10 Day 7 – Universal Orlando
- 2.11 Day 8 – Disney Springs
- 2.12 Day 9 – LEGOLAND Hotel
- 2.13 Day 10 – LEGOLAND
Where to stay in Orlando, theme park capital of the world
The Orlando theme parks are quite a way out of Orlando city. Indeed you are unlikely to visit the city at all. The airport is about 25 min drive south east of the city, while the most popular theme parks are about 25 min drive south west.
You are most probably going to arrive at Orlando airport and head straight to the Disney World area – about a half hour drive.
Map of the theme park district in Orlando
The biggest question you need to answer is whether to pay the big bucks for a Disney World hotel with the ultimate location and theming that they offer (on-site) or to choose a more affordable hotel outside Disney World (off-site). For more detailed tips on choosing your Orlando hotel click here, but these are a few of my favourites.
Orlando hotel comparison chart
|On- or Off-site||Resort||Style of accom||Star rating||Approx cost for week (USD)||Click to check latest prices|
|On-site||Wilderness Lodge||Hotel - Queen + Bunk beds||4 star||$3,110|
|On-site||Caribbean Beach Resort||Hotel - 2 double beds||3 star||$2,048|
|Hotel - 1 Queen + 2 double size sofa beds||3 star||$2,603|
|Off-site||Staybridge Suites Lake Buena Vista||Apartment - 2 bedrooms||3 star||$1,305|
Our 10 days in Orlando itinerary
With 16 theme parks in Orlando and 4 in Disney World alone, planning a trip here can be overwhelming. No wonder it’s called the theme park capital of the world!
But Disney World is definitely the main drawcard and was where we wanted to spend the most time. It is the biggest Disney theme park in the world by far and, with all of its hotels, restaurants and other entertainment facilities, is almost a city in itself.
If I had endless time and money, my ideal way to see Disney World would be to only spend the mornings at the parks. It’s quieter and cooler. Then around 1pm when it’s madly busy and very hot, retreat to your hotel pool to relax for the afternoon. After all, the day time temperature averages between 21˚c and 33˚c all year round. It never gets particularly cold in Florida.
And it’s not the cost of the entry tickets which prevents you from doing this. We bought a 3-day parkhopper (you can visit multiple parks per day), but for about the same price you could get a 6-day pass, if you’re happy to stick with one park per day.
It is more about having time constraints and accommodation costs. We had 10 days on the ground in Orlando and I could have very happily spent six days at Disney World, but what about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the rest of Universal? What about Kennedy Space Center? LEGOLAND? Some time to relax would be nice too!
We jam-packed our time in our 10 days in Orlando itinerary, with alarms set to get to parks before opening, and very late nights for the kids, and this is what we covered –
- Animal Kingdom at Disney World – half day
- Magic Kingdom at Disney World – two days
- Epcot at Disney World – half day
- Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the rest of Universal – two days
- LEGOLAND – one day
- Kennedy Space Center – one day
- Disney Springs entertainment precinct/Moving hotels twice – one day
- Outlet shopping mall – half day
- Relaxing at resort pool – 3 x half days
Arrival day – Dinner at T-Rex
After surviving those epic flights (read our flight review here), we headed to the incredible Disney Springs restaurant precinct and had a fun dinner at T-Rex, a dinosaur themed restaurant. We loved it so much we went back for a second meal later in our trip.
Read my ultimate guide to your first visit to Disney World for detailed information about how to get a booking for these mega popular restaurants, character meals and Fast Passes for rides.
Day 1 – Morning at Animal Kingdom
We started our trip staying at Wilderness Lodge at Disney World (amazing theming, service, location and facilities – more info here), which meant we had access to EMH – Extra Magic Hours. Each day one of the Disney World parks is open extra early or late for hotel guests only.
On day 1 Disney’s Animal Kingdom was open early, so that’s where we headed. With minimal crowds we rode the Kilimanjaro Safari, Kali River Rapids and twice on Expedition Everest (our favourite Disney World ride) before brunch at Donald’s Safari Breakfast at Tusker House (our favourite character meal).
We caught the Festival of the Lion King show before heading back to our hotel in the early afternoon.
For full details and photos from our half day at Animal Kingdom, click here.
Day 1 – Afternoon at Magic Kingdom
After pool time at Wilderness Lodge (see waterslide, splash zone and more here) we caught the boat to Magic Kingdom for a meet and greet with Anna & Elsa, watched the night time parade (not operating at the moment) and the fireworks and light show over the castle.
Day 2 – Morning at Magic Kingdom
We enjoyed a sleep in after the late night last night, then back to Magic Kingdom for brunch with the princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table.
Read more about this incredible experience here.
Day 2 – Afternoon at Epcot
From Magic Kingdom it’s an easy monorail ride to Epcot. This was a particular favourite with my son, who loved Test Track, Mission: Space, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and meet and greet with Chip & Dale (hilarious!).
For a taste of Britain, the Rose & Crown pub is a lovely spot for a meal on the deck overlooking the lake.
Find all the photos and details from our Epcot visit here.
Day 3 – Magic Kingdom
This was a full day at Magic Kingdom from early morning with EMH until around 5pm. We went on lots of rides including 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and the Tea Cups, had a character meal at Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh and friends (Eeyore is my favourite!), and happened upon meet and greets with Buzz, Woody and Jessie.
Find out everything we did at Magic Kingdom here.
Day 4 – Kennedy Space Center
We moved hotels today, out of the Disney bubble and into a spacious self-contained apartment at Staybridge Suites Lake Buena Vista (more information here). It was heavenly to have so much space!
We also picked up a hire car and headed out to the Kennedy Space Center for a few hours to check out the rockets, space shuttles and launch area.
More info and photos from our NASA space adventure here.
Day 5 – Pool & Outlet mall
Today was a rest day with pool time in the morning at the hotel, followed by a visit to an outlet mall. I also took advantage of time at the hotel to use their laundry facilities.
Day 6 – Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando is made up of two theme parks – Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was our main goal here, but the kids also loved other areas and rides like Seuss Landing and the Despicable Me ride.
Today we hit a few rides along the way as we headed to Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. After a wand ceremony at Ollivanders we spent plenty of time casting spells, drinking butterbeer and riding Escape from Gringotts. We caught the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure and thoroughly explored this fabulously themed area.
Find lots more information and my Harry Potter tips here.
Day 7 – Universal Orlando
More of the same today. With so much to see here, two days is barely enough time. Within the Harry Potter area we rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge (which has since closed) in Hogsmeade. All incredibly awesome.
Day 8 – Disney Springs
Disney Springs is an entertainment and restaurant precinct within the Disney World area, but is free to enter. The kids loved playing at the LEGO store, I could have spent hours in the gigantic Disney store and there’s plenty more to explore.
More pool time today too.
Day 9 – LEGOLAND Hotel
We moved hotels again today to the LEGOLAND Hotel. Although it was a pain to move again, it was well worth it to stay here. The theming and activities make it almost as fun as the theme park itself.
My full LEGOLAND hotel review is here.
Day 10 – LEGOLAND
This is the perfect theme park for younger kids. All rides are aimed at under 12s, so my kids were thrilled to be allowed to ride most things without us. They particularly loved the Dragon rollercoaster and driving cars, boats and helicopters.
All my tips and tricks are here.