Mr Brit’s Orlando Guide starts here. There are hundreds of tips throughout the guide but this is your starting point.
Mr Brit’s Orlando Guide
History Of Orlando
I have to start this Orlando guide with the place itself. Legend has it that Orlando got its name from a local soldier who died during a war against the Seminole Indians in 1837. The soldier was called Orlando Reeves and he was killed in the area that is today known as Orlando.
It is also thought that Orlando Reeves operated a sugar mill about 30 miles north of Orlando at Spring Garden in Volusia County. Settlers found the name Orlando carved into a tree and assumed it was a marker for his burial. They then referred to the area as “Orlando’s grave” and later it was simply known as “Orlando.”
Walt Disney World
The historical event that turned Orlando into the worlds most fun city happened in 1965 when Walt Disney announced plans to build a theme park. Walt planned to build it bigger and better than his original Disneyland in California. His new project was to be named Walt Disney World Resort.
Walt Disney had previously considered the areas of Miami in the South and Tampa on the West coast for the location of Disney World but he decided it would be best to move the location inland due to hurricane statistics. Hurricanes lose their strength as they travel inland so a more central location in Florida would be a much safer place to look.
Planning permission fail
Walt took a flight over the site which is today known as Disney World on November 22, 1963, the actual day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Texas. He first applied to the Sanford Council to build Walt Disney World there but was turned down. Walt appealed the decision and his appeal was declined so Orlando was eventually chosen as the location for Disney World.
This decision by Sanford ranks up there with the record companies that turned down the chance to sign a brand new pop band called The Beatles. It doesn’t sound like a great name for a travel guide anyway “Mr Brit’s Guide To Sanford” …or is it just me!
Walt never actually saw it open
Walt Disney sadly died on December 15th 1966, almost 5 years before his Orlando theme park opened. Walt’s brother and business partner, Roy O. Disney postponed his retirement to oversee the construction of the resort. Magic Kingdom opened its gates to the world in 1971 and soon became the No1 Dream destination in the world. Roy O. Disney died on December 20th 1971, just three months after Disney World opened.
A list of major Orlando attractions and the year they opened:
1971 Disney Magic Kingdom
1982 Disney’s Epcot
1989 Disney-MGM Studios (renamed Hollywood Studios in 2008)
1990 Universal Studios
1998 Disney’s Animal Kingdom
1999 Islands Of Adventure
2008 Aquatica (owned by Seaworld)
There are two main airports that feed the Orlando area and they are Orlando International Airport (airport code MCO) and Orlando Sanford International Airport (airport code SFB). Orlando MCO is the largest and most popular Orlando airport as it is so close to the main tourist areas with just a 20 minute drive to International Drive. Orlando is airport used by British Airways. Virgin Atlantic, Norwegian and Thomas Cook. Sanford is around a 45 minute journey and Sanford is the airport used by TUI.
You can find out more about both airports in the Flying To Orlando section of my Orlando guide. Visit the official websites Orlando MCO and Sanford SFB
Where the tourists go
The main areas that tourists stay in Orlando are – U.S 27, International Drive, Lake Buena Vista and Kissimmee. Four Corners incorporates the U.S 27 and it is home to many villa estates. You would need to be driving to stay in any villa estates. The Brit family usually stay in this area although we have stayed in all areas of Orlando.
International Drive (I-Drive)
International Drive or I-Drive as it commonly known is located south of the Downtown area of Orlando and stretches for 14.5 miles. I-Drive is home to many major Orlando attractions such as Universal Studios, Islands Of Adventure and Volcano Bay at the North end. Seaworld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove are located to the South of I-Drive. The area is also home to many hotels, restaurants, shopping malls along and lots of smaller entertainment establishments such as Dinner Shows and amusement arcades.
At the north end of I-Drive, you can find various shopping malls and outlet stores. See the Shopping section of my Orlando guide for more details. I-Drive has its very own bus transport shuttle called the I-Ride Trolley. The trolley stops near all of the major shops, hotels, restaurants and attractions in the I-Drive area. Read more about the I-Ride Trolley in the On The Buses section of the guide.
Lake Buena Vista
Lake Buena Vista is another main tourist area of Orlando and is a lot closer to the Walt Disney World Resort. The name of the lake was changed form the Black Lake when Disney World came to Orlando, to fit in with the Disney brand. You might have noticed the name Buena Vista Entertainment appear at the end of a Disney movie. Disney’s headquarters in California are situated on Buena Vista Street in Hollywood.
The Lake Buena Vista area is the home of Walt Disney World Resort and there are also many golf courses located around this area. Villa builders have always tried to build as close to the Lake Buena Vista area as possible so there are many places to stay within a few miles. The Lake Buena Vista area has also attracted many shops and hotels so this is also a very popular area for tourists. Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets is close to Lake Buena Vista and you can find out more in the Orlando Outlet Stores section of this Orlando guide.
Kissimmee is another area full of rental villa communities and through the years has been very popular with tourists. The area has lost a lot of its attraction over recent years and now looks like an older, smaller version of I-Drive. There are many similarities to the 2 areas but I-Drive is much more attractive due to its location in relation to the larger attractions. Medieval Times Dinner Show is in the Kissimmee area and there are many large brand name discount shops in this area.
The Lovely Little Locals
These lovely little lizards are everywhere in Florida. They are only the size of your finger and they are not aggressive at all. They will actually run away from you so don’t worry about them. I love seeing these little guys because it is a sure sign I am on holiday!!!!
People tend to call them Geckos but they are actually called Anoles. There are many different species of Anoles and they come in many different colours. The little guy above has a foot missing so he struggled to run away from me while I photographed him. There are lots of exotic wildlife in Orlando and these guys are some of the nicer variety.
American Words and Phrases
Not every English word has the same meaning in America. I visited Disney’s Magic Kingdom once and I spotted a sign reading Hot Dog & Chips so off I went to the back of the queue. After a ten minute wait I reached the front of the queue only to realise it was ‘Hot Dog & crisps’. Here are some common phrases that you will probably come across in Orlando…
“for here or to go” means eating in or taking away
“soda” means fizzy drinks
“vacation” means holiday
“diapers” means nappies
“your cheque” means your bill
“Gas” means petrol
“The line” means the queue
“Chips” means crisps so as stated above, you will get Hot Dog and crisps
“Beer” means Lager and
“Lager” means Beer (how mad is that!!)
“pissed” means mad or angry and not drunk
“restroom” means toilet
“band aids” means elastoplast
“stroller” means Pushchair
“soother” or “pacifier” means a dummy
“freeway” means motorway
“jay walking” is illegally crossing the road
“DUI” stands for driving under the influence (driving drunk)
a penny is 1 cent
a Dime is 10 cents
a Nickel is 5 cents
a quarter is 25 cents
a buck is a Dollar
Making a call
This first tip is the most important ‘calling tip’ in my opinion. GET A THREE SIM CARD!!! that allows your allowance to be used abroad. Some other networks do include the USA in their allowances so check your current provider. Every member of the Brit family has a Three contract and we no longer worry about the cost of calls. With other providers you could be charged well over £1 a minute just for answering your phone. NOTE: Even if you are currently with Three, check your specific package qualifies for free roaming.
Calling to the USA can cause a few problems, knowing what to leave in the number or what to take out. The same applies to calling back home to the UK. You need the international dialling code for the UK but it isn’t as simple as putting 44 at the beginning.
How to do it right
If you were going to call a theme park, hotel or any other US number from the UK you would usually see the number listed in this format:
Call Disney on (407)-939-3463
To dial this USA number you would first dial the USA international code which is 001 so to dial the example above you would enter this into your phone: 001 407 939 3463
If you are calling a free phone USA number (which you will probably not get free as you are outside the US) you would usually see a number like this:
To dial this number you would enter the US dialling code (001) and “drop” the first 1 from the listed number and dial it like this:
001 800 345 6789
Calling a name instead of a number is very common in the USA and for Brit’s it can be a little bit tricky. Many American companies like to advertise their phone numbers like this:
Call us on ….(407) CALL-A-CAB
Your telephone at home probably has 3 or 4 small letters above the key pad numbers similar to texting on your mobile phone so instead of dialling numbers you hit each letter on your keypad and you would dial the above number by hitting these numbers:
001 407 2255 2 222
Calling from the USA to the UK
The UK international dialling code is listed as +44 but you would dial it as 01144. You must “drop” the first 0 from the number so if you were going to dial this number in the UK:
you would dial it from the USA like this:
This also applies to mobiles so “drop” the first 0 from the mobile number and dial it like 01144 7…… You can also just add the +44 to mobile numbers and this still works. Add +44 at the beginning and “drop” the first 0 so it looks something like this
If you use the +44 technique you never need to change anything whilst using your mobile phone abroad. When you are back home in the UK you would still be charged your normal amount if Mum was stored as +447901****** and not 07901******.
DO NOT call the UK from your hotel
During my last visit to Orlando I asked the hotel staff how much does it cost to call the UK from my hotel room phone? The hotel receptionist slowly smiled at me and said “to start the call it will cost you $15 and then $5 per minute” I would have fallen off my chair but I was stood up at the time.
After finding out about these excessive charges it reminded me about an incident a couple of years earlier.
My eldest son asked if he could call his friend back home. Mrs Brit and I were about to leave him in the hotel room alone so I told him he could, but just for a few minutes. When check-out day arrived we got a telephone bill for £35 so I had a right go at him. “A few minutes I said” and he swore that he did make 2 calls but only stayed on a few minutes. I didn’t believe him because of the amount on the bill.
I took the money out of his pocket money over the next month or so. He probably did just stay on the phone for a few minutes so I suppose I owe him an apology now. I don’t know if this is standard hotel practice in Orlando but make sure you check with reception before you dial.
The cheapest way to call
As mentioned above the cheapest way to call while in the USA is to get a Three SIM card or any other provider that allows the USA to be included in your allowance. If you do not want to, or cannot change provider and you need to speak to someone back home, get them to call you. I know this sounds tight but it is just pennies for them as they are calling a UK number. It could cost you many pounds the other way around and you wouldn’t want to stay on for a long chat.
To avoid having to speak in the style of a race horse commentator, what you could do is send a text back home asking the person to give you a quick ring. Give them the number as the example above….. 001 407 1234567. Let them know the room number if you are in a hotel. When they call you they wouldn’t pay much so you wouldn’t mind chatting for a long time. Many home phone packages include international calls.
Drinking the tap water in Orlando
It is widely reported that Florida’s water is safe to drink but you may find that the taste is slightly stronger than UK water. The Orlando weather is obviously hotter than our weather at home so the tap water is also warmer. Running the tap will not make it any colder. If you need to drink water and do not have bottled, then you should be fine. Bulk-buy bottled water from a supermarket and you will get a good deal on a large quantity of the small bottles.
Who To Tip
Don’t tip everyone that serves you. You don’t have to tip staff in McDonalds who pass your food to you. Barmaids/tenders who pass you a drink over the bar don’t deserve a tip for each drink. In British frequented places, the staff usually expect a tip but they are not always entitled to one. Don’t be intimidated into giving a tip for every drink you get across the bar.
If a waitress brings a drink to your table, she deserves a tip of usually $1 per drink. If you go to the bar and get one yourself, you don’t have to tip the staff. The cheekiest thing I ever saw was a large jug on the bar of a British pub with a sign saying… “Notice to the British, please remember that tips are customary in the USA so please leave a tip every time you purchase a drink”. I didn’t tip when I went to the bar because I was collecting my own drink. The bartenders gave me dirty looks throughout the night which was a great way of losing a returning customer.
This is a blatant attempt to “pressure” the Brits that are not fully up to speed on tipping. If you drink in American bars you will see that it’s not required. I have travelled to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York and in these cities, the locals usually just tip a couple of dollars at the end of the night. They don’t tip for every drink so you don’t have to.
Tip who deserve to be tipped
If the bar staff are pleasant and chatty, give them a tip at the end of your visit. Don’t tip because you feel like you have to, you don’t have to. The bell boy/concierge would deserve a tip (usually $1 per bag/case). Airport bus drivers are already getting paid for their service so it is Your choice if you tip or not.
If the driver is chatty and bubbly, I will tip them. If they are miserable, they won’t get a tip from me, same applies to taxi drivers. You don’t have to tip Uber drivers but they can rate you as a customer. Other Uber drivers may not accept your ride when you try to request an Uber. Uber is a great way to get around if you are not driving so visit the Taxis and Uber section for more info.
Dinner show servers usually don’t get paid by the show and only receive wages via tips. These people really do need a tip but the same approach goes for them. If they are nice to you and courteous, give them a good tip of around $10-$20 per family. Miserable gits will receive a fiver (dollars). You are paying them a charge for the service they give you. A good service deserves a good tip and vice versa.
Mr Brit and Donald Duck (my hero) I am the one on the left!!