Although Hurricane Ian devastated Florida’s keys and much of the west coast, the east coast and the panhandle of Florida escaped pretty much unscathed. Hotels in Daytona Beach, Vero Beach and Cocoa Beach are a good choice because they’re a reasonable distance from Orlando if the family wants to hit Disney World for a day.
- Disney Vero Beach Resort is located in the laid-back community of Vero Beach. The Environmental Learning Center is a popular attraction where kids can kayak on a guided manatee-sighting tour or interact with other sea creatures in a “touch tank.” Sebastian Inlet State Park is great for teens and younger kids, as part of this three mile beach is perfect for beginning teen surfers while a nearby shallow bay is safe and fun for the little ones.
- Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront is a good choice for families on the beach nicknamed the East Coast surfing capital. Cape Canaveral is close as is Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, home to more endangered species than any other place in the USA.
- The Shores Resort and Spa in Daytona Beach is situated several miles from the crazy spring break college scene but is convenient to the International Speedway and the Museum of Arts and Sciences in case you need a break from the beach for a few hours.
Orlando is five to six hours by car from the panhandle beach locations, so a day trip to Disney from this location would be difficult. BUT, the beaches are beautiful and less crowded, and there are plenty of things to do.
- The Hilton Sandestin Beach Resort is an upscale family favorite. Three pools, several restaurants, kids programs and golf are some of the amenities here. The Big Kahuna Water Park will keep the kids occupied, and the whole family will enjoy the nature trails at Henderson Beach State Park and the Harbor Boardwalk featuring trendy restaurants and shops.
Another option is to switch priorities and make Disney World, Epcot and the other major Orlando theme parks (Sea World, Universal Studios, Legoland) the primary destination, and take a vacation from your vacation later and head off to the beaches for a day or two to unwind from all the excitement. You’ll want to plan well in advance if you want to stay at the Disney or Universal Studios properties during the busy spring break period, but there are lots of advantages if you do so. Don’t forget to reach out to our Dream Team. They will make sure you have an epic Disney vacation.
- Guests staying at premier onsite hotels can enjoy early entrance privileges as well as extended hours after the parks’ normal closing times. This is a great feature, especially for families with very young children (normally early risers) to get to the parks early, take a break for nap time during the busiest time of day, and return in the evening when everyone else has worn themselves out.
- No transportation worries while at the park – monorails, water taxis, and shuttle service within the park is free and convenient.
- Universal offers their premier guests unlimited access to rides – no waiting in line! Disney offers private VIP tours of their theme parks – the most efficient way to get to the attractions you want to see with little wait time and the benefit of a knowledgeable tour host.
Some helpful tips for folks visiting Orlando during peak times:
- Pick a cloudy or drizzly day to visit the parks – you might get a little damp, but you won’t have to wait in line for hours.
- Did you know there’s such a thing as a “single rider line?” If only one person in your group is brave enough for Space Mountain, the rest of the party can find something tamer and the fearless one will have a short wait. (These lines aren’t always well marked – you may have to ask.)
- Save time by using the park’s smartphone apps to make ticket reservations and check wait times for the popular attractions.
- Pay attention to the closing times at Universal Studios – on some days it stays open later than Islands of Adventure, a fact you can use to your advantage if you have a park-to-park pass.
- Plan to visit the most popular attractions during off-peak hours – early in the morning or during parades and fireworks shows. Follow this advice for dining also – don’t expect fast service if you show up for lunch at noon! Better yet, pack a midday meal.
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