From Costa Rica it was a short, but very early flight to Miami in the southeast of Florida. The journey was absolutely smooth this time and the kids were very excited to meet their other aunt and uncle who live in Miami. We spent a little more than a week in Florida. The first days in Miami with family, before we headed north to Orlando where we visited Disneyworld. Carolina and the kids had been looking forward to visiting Disneyworld since the very beginning of our trip. It definitely became one of the highlights of our journey. During our stay in Florida it rained quite often letting the nick name “Sunshine State” appear a little ironic.
Driving a huge Car in the U.S.
Upon arrival at the airport we rented a car like in Costa Rica. We received a free upgrade and thus a huge car – even for American standards. In the beginning I was a bit concerned about parking, but soon I learned that Florida, or maybe the entire U.S., is made for huge cars. There was no parking spot that ever became difficult. Driving around was easy, if it had not been for different distance units. In the beginning I was confused by miles and feet, missing some right and left turns while still calculating in kilometers and meters in my head. Gas stations are complicated when paying with an international credit card. They always ask for the ZIP code, but only accept US zip codes. I already knew that from my last U.S.-visit, but it still annoys me.
Finally playing some Football again
In Miami we stayed with Carolina’s other sister. After Rio de Janeiro it was the second family reunion on our family world trip. We used this time to calm down a little after the exciting and eventful weeks in Costa Rica. As mentioned in one of the earlier articles it is important to have some calm days from time to time on such a long trip. Two evenings I had the chance to play football with some locals. It was great to finally play again after more than five months, but I saw, that I am completely out of shape. My excuse was the extreme humidity and fortunately I was not the only one feeling it. Later the second evening we cheered for the Toronto Raptors to win the NBA title, because we knew we will be in Toronto soon and wanted to find an even better atmosphere over there.
Spanish required in the U.S.
Miami has a huge Latin American population. People from all over Central and South America are coming to and staying in Miami. Hence, knowing a bit of Spanish always helps. I mastered this challenge impressively! In Costa Rica people sometimes replied in English to me, when I asked for something in Spanish. In Miami, however, I asked in English and people replied in Spanish to me. It was confusing and amazing at the same time. We also organized a belated, but proper birthday party for Diego in Miami. The poor little guy did not have one so far because of all the trouble we had with missing flights and yellow fever vaccinations in Rio de Janeiro on his original birthday. In Miami he got a real American barbeque party and loads of presents for his birthday.
Driving without a License
From Miami it is a 4h drive to Orlando. It took longer, because several times it was raining so heavily, that we had to drive slowly. Two days later I found out, I had been driving the whole distance without my driver’s license. I forgot my license at an Aquatic Center in Miami, where I had to deposit it in order to get a locker. All of a sudden the weather changed and lightning was in the air. The alarm of the Aquatic Center went off and we had to leave immediately. In that rush I returned the locker key, but forgot about my license. After two days of thinking where I could have possibly left it, it hit me. Fortunately, my sister-in-law picked it up and sent it over to a friend of mine in Toronto. I guess that was happiness in misfortune.
Getting into Disney’s Magic Kingdom
The first day in Orlando we wanted to leave very early for Disney’s Magic Kingdom, but could not. The apartment we stayed in was in a very bad condition. A window was broken, several window shades fell off and the noise at night next to a highway with a broken window was just unbearable. Both, Carolina and I, had barely slept two hours. Therefore we demanded a room change in the evening, but the owner insisted to change right away. We agreed and the new room was so much better. On the other hand we did not leave as early as intended for the Magic Kingdom. When we arrived, there were already very many cars at the carpark. There were huge queues at the security check, at the ferry to the entrance and again at the entrance itself. It felt like ages, before we finally got it at 11am.
Long Wait Times in Magic Kingdom
Disneyworld in Orlando consists of several amusement parks, but Magic Kingdom is the biggest and best-known. It is the park with Disney’s famous Magic Castle. I know Disney got inspired by Neuschwanstein castle in the south of Bavaria, but, knowing both castles, they look different. Magic Kingdom is indeed a magical place. It is very well maintained and offers many exciting attractions. However, I was annoyed by the long wait times in front of almost every attraction. It felt like we spent most time in the park waiting in queues. This is not much fun with two little kids. The lack of sleep did not help my mood either. Disney offers three fast passes per day to skip queues and one should choose wisely and well in advance. We did not know that before, but can only recommend that.
Magic Kingdom is huge and overwhelming
If you are planning to visit Disney parks, download the Disney app and get fast passes for the most exciting attractions like rollercoasters. Choose wisely, because you only have three fast passes per day and wait times are completely different. In Magic Kingdom they ranged from 30 to 120 minutes. When we finally understood the concept and found it in the app, fast passes for the most exciting attractions were already gone. Nevertheless we did a lot that day and met many famous Disney characters. Surprisingly the kids were afraid of the princesses and did not want to meet them. They preferred Goofy, Donald Duck and the race car track, the only attraction we did twice. In general, I believe one day is not sufficient for Magic Kingdom. It is so large and overwhelming, that one should plan at least two days.
Great Day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The other day in Disneyworld we visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I personally preferred this park much more. It is slightly smaller, with less people and mostly shorter wait times. This time we chose our fast passes much better and spent much less time in queues than in Magic Kingdom. We arrived at the park when it opened in the morning and only left when they kicked us out at night. It was a great, but exhausting day. Despite the partially heavy rain we covered almost all attractions. We saw short musical shows from “The Beauty and the Beast”, “Frozen” and “The little Mermaid”, participated in an Indiana Jones stunt show and much, much more. We hardly found time for lunch, because of the busy schedule. Unfortunately, Leandro’s Jedi training was cancelled because of the storm at exactly that time.
Memories that last
On the other hand we met Mickey and Minnie, Olaf (from “Frozen”), Mike and Sully (from “Monsters, Inc.”), Chip and Dale, Chewbacca and Stormtroopers. We even saw the Stormtrooper of the First Order walking up and down the main avenue. For me as a Star Wars fan this was exciting. In the evening we stayed for the final highlight show with most characters. The show was a mixture of musical and fire, light and water show. It was a great conclusion of an amazing day. Disney’s Hollywood Studios should not be missed when visiting Disneyworld. We had more fun there than in the Magic Kingdom. Visiting Disneyworld is no cheap endeavor, but once in Florida with children it is kind of a must. Additionally, fun is guaranteed not just for kids, but the entire family and those memories will stay.