"We took the kids to New York last year, which was their first trip to the United States. This time we wanted to show them a different part of the country and they had asked to go to Universal Orlando Resort.
They seemed to be at the right age, 11 and 8, to appreciate and remember the trip. My husband also loves driving so we decided to mix Orlando with a road trip.
We flew to Miami. My husband had been there on a business trip a few years ago and had been saying ever since how he would love to go back with the kids. We flew return with British Airways and both flights were fantastic. We had a daytime outward flight so the kids were happy watching TV without us telling them to turn it off!
Despite being based in Florida, we managed to travel between Miami – Florida Keys – Naples – Orlando. We liked all of the destinations so it’s difficult to choose a favourite and I’m sure the kids would all have their own favourite moment!
The hotels were all perfect for us and selected according to our specifications. The Royal Palm was in a great location. We had a self-catering town house on a large resort in the Keys so we were able to cater for ourselves for a few days.
The Ritz-Carlton was very special, we stayed in 5* luxury. It had an amazing beach-front restaurant where we watched the sunset most evenings.
Our final accommodation was the Hard Rock Hotel, Universal Resort in Orlando, which was perfect because it was so close to the park entrances and as hotel guests we were able to get Express Passes for ALL the rides!
We experienced so much whilst we were there! My son and I went to the Dolphin Research Centre in Marathon, Florida Keys, where we swam with dolphins. This was recommended in one of your brochures rather than doing it in Orlando as the animals are in their natural environment and was a wonderful experience.
The airboat ride in the Everglades was great fun and a lot faster than I had anticipated!
We also saw an alligator. After driving down a one-way track for quite a few miles, we were about to give up seeing anything, but as we turned around there was a huge alligator in the water next to us. After that we saw about 10, plus a snake, several types of birds and insects.
The rest of the holiday was spent making the most of the facilities at the hotels/resorts, which meant a lot of swimming, sandcastle building, table tennis, eating and relaxing.
Keen to visit Key West, the farthest place south in the US, we spent a lovely evening there wandering around and watching a massive cruise ship sail away from port. My son wanted to go to Universal Studios, particularly Harry Potter World, my daughter wanted to go to Disneyland and my husband wanted to go to The Kennedy Space Centre (KSC), so we did them all!
A magical day was spent at Magic Kingdom and the KSC as well as four days in Universal Studios/Harry Potter World/Islands of Adventure.
We watched the parades at Universal and Magic Kingdom and stayed to see the shows and fireworks at the end of the evening.
My son was brave enough to go on all the big roller-coasters, which he loved every second of - his favourite was the Dragon Challenge in Harry Potter World. In contrast, my daughter liked the gentle rides and the 3/4D attractions - her favourite was The Minions.
I was really impressed by the Hogwarts Express, which was so cleverly done, even the feel of Kings Cross Station (apart from it being so warm!). It was just like you’d imagine the journey to be if you’d read the books.
We ate a lot of burgers and chips! To be honest, food wasn’t one of the highlights of the trip although we ate in one of the new restaurants in Magic Kingdom, which was lovely, we enjoyed being able to cater for ourselves and not having the American sized portions.
As this was part of the holiday, we had a hire car and sat nav so were able to get around easily. Typically we choose the ‘scenic route’ if there was a choice but driving in the States was straightforward. We were lucky to see lots of wildlife on our travels including dolphins and warthogs too – there’s always something to see as you drive from town to town.
The highlight of the trip would be different for all of us but for me it was after dinner one evening in Naples, when we sat on the beach watching the kids playing in the sea with the sun going down. It’s a lovely memory – warm and happy.
It was REALLY hot at that time of year so be prepared for the heat. There are lots of water-sports activities available in the Keys so if you enjoy the water, it’s a great place to go. Staying in a great hotel near the entrance to the park and getting Express Passes was well worth the money for a few days. The whole holiday was great. It was exactly what we’d requested and imagined!
Thank you to Abbotts Travel for their help with the planning and organising – we can’t wait for the next one."