I have been asked on a few occasions now what was our three week itinerary for our bucket list holiday to Orlando Florida. We wanted to experience as much as possible across the 5 main Walt Disney World parks, the 2 main Universal parks and a mini-break in St.Augustine on the east coast of Florida. All of this in three weeks.
We didn’t visit any other theme parks as we have decided to leave this for a future visit. We also didn’t visit a water park as it didn’t seem the right thing to do at the time with our then 4 year old. Again this is something for the future but certainly something you could easily fit into the following itinerary. A huge amount of research went into organising this holiday, booking hotels, fast passes and the whole schedule in general.
Day 1 – Travelling to Orlando Florida.
Day 2 – Chill out morning and Animal Kingdom in the afternoon.
Day 3 – Animal Kingdom and move to Fort Wilderness cabins in the PM.
Day 4 – Chill out morning and Magic Kingdom in the afternoon and evening.
Day 5 – Day at Magic Kingdom.
Day 6 – Move to villa, chill out day
Day 7 – Pool morning and Epcot PM.
Day 8 – Poorly day.
Day 9 – Hollywood Studios
Day 10 – Epcot.
Day 11 – Magic Kingdom.
Day 12 – Travel day to St. Augustine.
Day 13 – Trolleybus tour St. Augustine, Visit the Castillo.
Day 14 – St. Augustine beach am, Pirate ship ride PM.
Day 15 – Eco tours boat ride St Augustine PM Crazy golf.
Day 16 – Move to Cabana Bay Universal, evening Bubba Gump.
Day 17 – Universal Studios, lunch at Lombards, PM Pool hotel
Day 18 – Universal Islands of Adventure, Lunch Mythos. PM Pool hotel & Toothsome chocolate.
Day 19 – Universal Studios and PM Pool, Evening Mardi Gras at Universal.
Day 20 – Universal Islands of Adventure, lunch Cowfish.
Day 21 – Universal Studios AM, Fly back home PM.
All links in this post are links to my corresponding reviews. These are packed full of tips, things to do and general advice.
Day 1 – Travelling. Flight from Gatwick to Orlando Florida
We flew Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick London to Orlando Florida. Our flight left the UK in the day time and landed in Orlando at 5pm. Immigration was horrendous with hours and hours of queueing (twice). We then had to wait almost an hour for the DIsney Express courtesy bus to our hotel.
We would get a taxi in the future, we were so so tired. It did mean our bodies were already making some sort of attempt at adjusting to the fact that Orlando is 5 hours in time behind the UK. Because of all the delays we didn’t get to our hotel until our equivalent of 1am in the morning.
We flew in early March. Virgin had the best flight price and times available. I saved £250 by booking in the January sale. We were expecting 22-25oC weather. Instead, every day was scorching and almost 30oC with no rain whatsoever.
Day 2 – Animal Kingdom Lodge & Animal Kingdom
We chose to spend the first two nights of our holiday at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We stayed at club level in the hotel and we had a Savanna view room with a queen bed and bunk bed. In the morning we decided to spend some time at the hotel.
This was mostly in the hope of seeing some animals from our bedroom balcony. Plus I had a feeling we’d be tired so I wanted us to take our first day nice and easy. Sadly the animals were seeing the vet that morning so we hardly saw any. We took some time to explore, played on the playground and admired the swimming pool
At lunchtime, we headed out on the courtesy bus to the Kidani part of Animal Kingdom Lodge for our reservation at Sanaa restaurant. The food was excellent here and we saw a lot more animals at this part of the hotel than where we were staying (including Giraffe). The kid’s dessert was out of this world.
After lunch, we caught the courtesy bus to Animal Kingdom Disney park. We had three fast tracks booked which included a leisurely ride on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride to see some wonderful animals. Plus the excellent Lion King show. Our son met his first Disney characters as well. We were going to stay for the evening show but we were so tired we left early.
Day 3 – Animal Kingdom & a Move to Fort Wilderness Cabins
Sadly we never got to ride on Avatar. We couldn’t get a Fast pass and the queue was around 3 hours long. We had other rides we still wanted to go on and that we had fast passes booked for instead.
Day 3 we spent a morning and part of the afternoon doing everything else left to do at Animal Kingdom. Lunch was via reservation at Yak and Yeti near Expedition Everest which was very good. I still can’t believe we got our 4 year old on such an epic ride.
We left Animal Kingdom at around 3pm to take the Disney courtesy bus over to Fort Wilderness cabins. We had arranged with the concierge at Animal Kingdom lodge to have all our bags delivered to our new accommodation for us. This is included if you stay on site but we did tip well.
It all went smoothly and our bags arrived at our lodge just after us. I had read that the best form of transport to get around this huge site is by renting a golf cart. We did this and although it did break down on us it was still well worth renting.
We stayed in a cabin for three nights in total. The first night we had a reservation at Hoop dee doo revue. This was excellent and one of the highlights of our holiday. You eat your dinner while watching a Western themed show with songs, dancing and jokes.
Day 4 – Chill Out Morning & Magic Kingdom
I had booked us a stay at Fort Wilderness cabins because it is the Disney hotel with the most activities. Fun sounding activities like boat hire, pony rides, bonfire sing a longs. In our schedule, I had allowed a morning to enjoy these activities. Sadly none of them started until the afternoon which was very disappointing.
Instead, we got the courtesy boat over to the other two hotels nearby and explored both of them which was nice. Our son loved the splash area at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. We also had a lovely lunch at Disney’s Wilderness lodge all via the courtesy boat.
After lunch, we took the courtesy boat over to Magic Kingdom. This is a great way to arrive as it’s the transport with the shortest walk to the entrance.
We had 3 Fast Passes booked in and we also enjoyed a few meet and greets. We also stayed for the evening light show on the castle and later the fireworks over the castle. My goodness was it hard to find anywhere to stand. Get a spot early if you can.
We were glad that we stood at the top of main street as it made leaving the park a lot easier. We also got straight on a courtesy boat after the fireworks.
Day 5 – Magic Kingdom & Mickey’s Backyard BBQ
We had a pretty much full day at Magic Kingdom on day 5. The boats weren’t running in the morning due to mist on the lake. They did let us go in a courtesy taxi to the entrance though which made up for it. We managed to go on lots of rides and we had 3 Fast Passes booked and managed to book in two more once we had used them up. We had lunch at the Jungle Skipper canteen.
In the evening we had pre-booked to go to Mickey’s Backyard BBQ back at Fort Wilderness. Sadly, this evening entertainment is no longer available. We didn’t have the best experience ever but our son loved it.
Day 6 – Move to a Rented Villa Near Disney for one week
On Day 6 we packed our bags and got a taxi to the airport. We didn’t have a hire car during our on-site stay at Disney. We had decided that we’d need one as we were moving to an off-site villa.
We booked our rental car from Orlando airport as this was where we had to return it and it was too costly to pick it up at Disney. We rented our villa for 6 nights via Home Away. Our villa was in a gated site at Lake Berkley Resort Kissimmee. It was just down the road from supermarkets and restaurants. It took around 20 minutes to drive from the villa to Disney World and it was an easy drive.
This was supposed to be a chill-out day but we had a few stresses with a pool alarm going off on the patio door and a couple of other niggles. Once we were shown the ropes we had a lovely stay.
It was nice to come home on a hot day at a Disney park and have a dip in the pool or step outside the villa to do a spot of fishing. All rods were provided with our villa, all we had to get was a licence. We would sometimes spot a crocodile out on the island of birds.
There was also a lovely playground on the opposite side of our lake. We saved a lot of money staying here rather than at Disney for any longer. It was also perfect for us as my husband was being bothered too much by the heat at the parks so he loved being able to chill out and fish instead.
After our first dip in our pool we headed out that evening to Disney Springs for our reservation at T-Rex. This is a really fun themed restaurant and the food was good as well.
Three Week Florida Itinerary – Walt Disney World – St. Augustine – Universal
Day 7 – Pool Morning & Epcot afternoon and evening
Today we decided on some more chill out time and spent the morning in our swimming pool. After lunch my son and I headed for Epcot. You have to park a long way back arriving later in the day but there was a courtesy bus waiting to take us to the entrance.
We really enjoyed the rides at Epcot and made good use of our Fast Passes. Once we’d used them up we booked a couple of meet and greets.
We stayed until the firework display in the evening. It was really lovely seeing the Epcot World Showcase go from daylight to nighttime. Sadly we had a rubbish view for the fireworks. We stood too near the exit to World showcase, we should have stayed closer in.
We didn’t manage to cover all of Epcot and the rides during our afternoon and evening visit. But we had another day there already scheduled in.
Day 8 – Poorly Day – Because that’s holidays for you
Day 8 was one of those days. My husband had got up early and had been picked up by someone he was going fishing on a boat with. The plan was that we’d have a morning swimming and then join him in the PM. We needed a few bits from the local supermarket.
Our son had been saying he didn’t feel right and was talking a load of nonsense. The next thing I knew he was being sick in the supermarket car park. I got him back when he was up to it and there was no way I could drive him an hour to meet my husband.
Sadly that meant we couldn’t get in touch with him to tell him what had gone wrong which meant he panicked and came back early. Luckily he recovered relatively quickly after an unheard-of afternoon nap.
Day 9 – Hollywood Studios
We loved our day at Hollywood Studios. It was a lot quieter than the other parks and a lot more chilled out. This was perfect after the day before. We were going to stay for Fantasia in the evening but changed our minds as we didn’t want the day to be too much for our son.
That evening we ate out at Red Lobster near our villa. The food was excellent and we were sad we didn’t find another one during the rest of our holiday.
Day 10 – Epcot
We had a full day at Epcot on day 9. We had done half of the World Showcase in the evening of our other visit. This day we started on a couple of rides we had Fast Passes for and hadn’t done the other day. Then after that, we completed the rest of the World Showcase. You could spend hours there if you wanted to.
We had a reservation at Coral Reef restaurant for lunch which was very expensive. The fish was amazing, the food perhaps not quite worth the price tag.
Day 11 – One last day at Disney World – Magic Kingdom
This was our final day at Walt Disney World, but certainly not the end of our Florida adventures. The last Disney day for us had to be at Magic Kingdom. We still had a couple of the bigger rides that we hadn’t been on as we were waiting for our Fast Pass day. We also managed to fit in a few meet and greets we hadn’t already done plus one last go on some of our favourite rides.
This was also our last night in our villa. We were staying just around the corner from Medieval Times so we booked ourselves in there for the night. It was something we hadn’t planned on doing but it is certainly something we do regret doing. You can find out more in my review.
Day 12 – Travel day to St. Augustine
We spent many many hours researching somewhere to stay for a few days chill out in Florida. It was now during American’s half-term and finding somewhere good value for money was not easy. In the end we settled on one of the oldest towns in the country, St. Augustine. It’s a really lovely place to visit and we spent 4 happy days and nights here exploring.
We stayed at The Collector Luxury Inn in the heart of St. Augustine. I have since noticed that they have sadly changed the hotel to adults only. This seems like a big shame and we saw many families there during our stay. They have a small but very ornate swimming pool and all the accommodation is in old colonial houses.
We loved the Ford Mustang convertible that we hired during our stay in Florida. We managed to fit one large suitcase and 2 small bags in the boot. The other large suitcase had to go on the back seat with our son.
We had taken a leisurely drive off the interstate to St. Augustine so it was quite late by the time we checked in. We had a wander into the town and then had dinner at what was to become our favourite restaurant just around the corner.
Day 13 – Trolleybus Ride and Castillo de San Marcos
For plenty of ideas for things to do with the kids in St. Augustine please see – Top 8 Things To Do With Kids in St Augustine Florida. We purchased our Trolleybus tour tickets late the day before. This meant that we saved a bit of money on our tickets.
The tour has 23 stops so it is a great way of getting around the town. Stops that may be more of an interest to families are Potters wax museum, the harbour for the Black Raven pirate ship cruise and Ecotours, the colonial quarter for the Castillo. Plus Ripleys believe it or not, the pirate and treasure museum, oldest house, old jail tour and the history and oldest store museums.
We stopped at the Castillo de San Marcos and had a look around for an hour. It’s worth timing it for the canon display. The Castillo is the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S. It is the main site of interest that you will spot when you arrive in St. Augustine.
Day 14 – St. Augustine beach am, Pirate ship ride PM.
We hadn’t actually made it to a proper beach yet this holiday so on Day 14 we drove to St. Augustine beach. The beach is quite a long way from the town so you will need to drive there or catch a bus. It has beautiful golden sand and we found a fab free splash park near the pier.
In the afternoon we went for a ride on the Black Raven Pirate ship. You set sail on an authentic pirate ship with a few members of the crew that play the role of pirates extremely well. They are great with the kids and even our shy son was successfully encouraged up to battle with a pirate and have his face painted.
The pirate’s treasure is stolen by Blackbeard and you then go out to sea to have a mock battle with him and his pirate ship. It’s great fun and well worth the price. We bought our tickets in advance online and picked them up from the office at the harbour.
Day 15 – Eco tours boat ride St Augustine PM Crazy golf.
On day 15 we went on a Eco Tours boat ride. We chose a cruise that included bird and dolphin spotting. The captain of the boat was friendly and full of interesting facts. He did his best to find us birds and dolphins. I was really the only one, in the end, who spotted the dolphins. It was a case of blink and you missed them.
I believe there’s a lot more to see in the warmer months. It didn’t matter that we didn’t see a huge amount as it was lovely seeing St. Augustine from the water. Plus our son was allowed to drive the boat for a bit.
In the evening we headed back to St. Augustine beach to an Adventure Golf course we’d spotted the day before. We chose to play Fiesta Falls as it looked the most fun. There are 18 holes set around waterfalls, a pirate ship and a cave. It is especially fun if you play as the sun is setting. It was really lovely seeing a change in the light and it was certainly more challenging.
Day 16 – Move to Cabana Bay Universal, evening Bubba Gump
On Day 16 we packed our bags again and headed back to Orlando for a four night stay at Cabana Bay Universal. This is one of their budget resorts which doesn’t include the Fast Pass for the rides. To be honest the hotel was anything but budget and we really didn’t need the Fast Pass during our times at the Universal parks.
We loved our stay here, there’s two really good large pools, plus plenty of on-site facilities. There is also a great courtesy bus service to and from the parks.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the hotel and then we took the bus over to Universal City Walk to eat at Bubba Gump. We had a really nice meal and it is a really good themed restaurant.
Day 17 – Universal Studios, lunch at Lombards, PM Pool hotel
We really enjoyed our time at the two Universal Orlando theme parks. They also have a water park but we didn’t have time to visit. We spent one almost full day and four half days at the parks and this was enough for us to do everything we wanted to do.
One thing we really loved about the two parks was the meet and greets. We rarely had to queue and all the characters were really good, spending time with us and interacting with us. They were memories to cherish. The rides at the parks are also very good. A few of them are more 3-D/4-D based but on the whole still good fun.
Day 18 – Universal Islands of Adventure, Lunch Mythos. PM Pool hotel & Toothsome chocolate
This day we visited the other Universal park Islands of Adventure. Staying at the hotel you can visit the Harry Potter part of this park an hour before the main park opens. This worked well for us as we were able to wait for rope drop but the Jurassic World area and ride all the main rides there as soon as they opened. If they have the Raptor encounter on when you visit do it. It’s great fun! I will say no more.
Another restaurant you can book in at is Mythos which is within Islands of Adventure. The exterior of the restaurant really does have the wow factor with a towering rock with carved faces and waterfalls. We were excited to spot a banner outside the main entrance stating that Mythos has won “#1 theme park restaurant in the world six years in a row” – Theme Park Insider.
We spent the afternoon by the pool and splash pad at Cabana Bay. In the evening we took the complimentary bus back to Universal City Walk for our booking at the Toothsome chocolate emporium. This was OK but not as good as we’d hoped it would be.
Day 19 – Universal Studios and PM Pool, Evening Mardi Gras at Universal
We returned for another visit to Universal Studios. I have a useful post that outlines the Top 10 rides for families across the two parks. Top 10 Best Rides Universal & Islands of Adventure | Family Rides. Plus a guide to meeting characters at the two parks. Who you can meet and where you can find them – Characters You Can Meet & Greet at Universal Studios Orlando.
We had another pool afternoon before heading back to Universal Studios to watch their annual Mardi Gras which was great fun and worth keeping the little one up for.
Day 20 – Universal Islands of Adventure, lunch Cowfish
We visited Islands of Adventure before the park opened for one last time. This was our opportunity to go on any rides we hadn’t yet been on, meet some more characters and go on our favourite rides again.
We had lunch at Cowfish and then spent the rest of the day relaxing by the hotel pool.
Day 21 – Universal Studios AM, Fly back home PM
This was it, our final day! We had our room until lunchtime so we headed to Universal Studios for a final couple of hours. Then we checked out, packed up the car and headed for Orlando International airport.
We had an over night flight back from Orlando to Gatwick, London. My son was disappointed he couldn’t enjoy all the great onboard movies and games. He did sleep really well though in this TravelSnug with his newly acquired E.T. from Universal.
He has slept with him every night since, holding on to his memories! I feel very nostalgic after writing this post. I hope we can return again one day. There’s not much we’d do differently (aside from not get poorly).
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