Florida for Idiots: Summer 2010
So you have either driven in your hire car to your hotel on International Drive, or your transfer coach has dropped you off, waved goodbye and now you're on your own. What do you do now?
First thing to do is to get to the reception desk in the hotel and hand over any vouchers or booking forms from the tour operator. These might have been given to you in the airport before you got your hire car or whilst you were sitting in the coach.
The reception staff, in my 15 years of Florida experience, are a pretty decent lot. Speak clearly and slowly (they can have problems with regional UK accents) and be polite. Get your room or suite key(s) and make your way there.
You may have to go outside again if the rooms are of the "motel" variety (walkways on the outside of the rooms) in various blocks. You might just go up in a lift if the hotel is more of a traditional european style with interior corridors.
At this point I always find it a bit surreal; here you are, some 4,000 miles from home in a very warm, tropical place with other guests all going about their business like they owned the place yet you are lugging your suitcase with a dodgy wheel through the grounds looking like you just got off the banana boat. Don't worry, it happens to everyone!
Right, you're in your room and have unpacked - at least the essentials. Your body clock is now telling you it's around midnight and time for sleepy-byes but the local time is likely to be around 6pm - 7pm.
Try and stay awake another hour or so. Go and get a bite to eat in the hotel restaurant (I don't normally recommend you eat in the hotel but this is a case of need, especially if you have smaller children with you but it's not a great idea to try and drive right now to find somewhere else).
Then grab a beer from the hotel bar if it has one (if you look under 30 years old you will need picture ID - a UK driving licence is ideal) and then crash into bed at about 9pm local time.
Yes, that makes it 2am your body clock time. But you have until 8am to sleep tomorrow morning, by which time your jet lag will have all but disappeared and you will be raring to go.
If you really have the energy (or have arrived early in the day) it's a great time to start gently exploring International Drive. Just remember the sudden increase in temperature and the 5-hour time difference can take its toll on you, no matter how young you are (or think you are!).
As an example, coming out of Enclave Suites and walking to I-Drive (basically opposite the Holiday Inn International) you will first pass TGI Friday's on your left (on Carrier Drive). If you turn right up International Drive (without crossing the road) you'll find Ponderosa swiftly followed by Sizzler restaurant fairly quickly after the Congo River Golf (sounds fun!) and before the main Wet 'n' Wild entrance.
Even on your first outing don't forget your discount coupons for all these venues - that's for the restaurants and entertainment venues. It all adds up!
Above all, enjoy the initial experience. Soak in the sun and heat. And if all else fails remember that the rains stops quickly and it's still warm even when raining!
I-Ride small map (main route plus stops and other information)
I-Ride full map (all route information including locations of shopping areas, eating places and hotels)
Lynx bus route no 50 (Magic Kingdom / Downtown Disney to Sea World where you can pick up the I-Ride back to your hotel)
Orlando Tourist Information Bureau.com (organised trips including to the Florida Mall)
Prime Outlets (north International Drive) website
Premium Outlets (south International Drive) website
Florida Mall information
Mall at Millenia web site
Pointe Orlando web site
Golden Corral buffet restaurant website
Ponderosa buffet restaurant website
TGI restaurant web site
Look guys, these are just links to other people's web sites. I'm not responsible for any content you may (or may not) find there. I just supply them in good faith to increase your holiday enjoyment!