As a huge theme park family we have always wanted to visit during the holidays. In December we finally had our chance to do a quick Orlando getaway. It may have been a bit too fast but we ended up having a great family Orlando weekend getaway that was perfect for our family.
We have planned many Orlando Florida vacations but this was our first visit that was during the holidays. It was also the first time we surprised the kids the day of for a trip! Watch their reaction in the video near the end of this post.
My husband and I had such a difficult time keeping it a secret and there were many times we almost spilled it!
Day 1: Surprise We Are Going to Orlando, Florida!
I am not sure I will ever do a surprise trip again…it was such a challenge to keep it a secret! I think part of the excitement of a trip is the anticipation and I love planning the trip with the kids, but their reaction was pretty amazing and we were all really excited!
I secretly packed our bags and had everything ready for when we surprised them in the morning. We had an afternoon flight so they were headed to school and I would pick them up later.
We made our way to the airport without any issues and thankfully the weather was great. You never really know what the weather will do in December in New York, but we were on our flight and arrived in Orlando around 4:00pm.
At this point we had to pick up our baggage, car, and drive to Encore Resort for our weekend stay.
Driving in Style Mazda CX9 Signature SUV
For the trip we partnered with Mazda to drive the 2019 CX9 Signature SUV and I was so impressed. It had so many nice features that make time in the car so enjoyable, but my favorite features are the safety features.
As a parent safety is so important to me on the road. Mazda takes safety serious with it’s detection features that help when someone is in your blind spot or driving too close. This made our drives around Orlando so much better!
Our Home for the Weekend at Encore Resort
Another surprise we had for the kids was our Orlando accommodations. This was the first time we were staying off-site during our theme park vacations. We found the perfect family friendly place to stay in our partner for the trip, Encore Resorts at Reunion.
The minute the kids saw the water park, the house, and the private pool they were in love. I recommend checking out my post on everything we loved about Encore Resort that includes a house tour during our stay.
After we checked in and started exploring it was time for dinner. We were all tired from traveling all afternoon and didn’t want to go out for dinner. Thankfully there is an on-site casual dining option at Encore Resort.
My daughter and I made the short walk to Finn’s to order our food while the boys spent time exploring the house and playing air hockey.
Dinner was great and it was nice to have a place to eat at the resort. After dinner we decided to spend a little time in our private pool and hot tub. We didn’t stay out too long because we had an early morning start at Disney’s Hollywood Studios tomorrow.
Day 2: Disney’s Hollywood Studios
One of the things I loved about staying at Encore Resort was the grab and go breakfast options. We picked up our coffee and breakfast choices, and started the short drive to Hollywood Studios.
Hollywood Studios was a short drive, maybe around 20 minutes, from the resort. We also left the resort around 7:15 am to be among the first to enter the park.
I always plan on arriving very early at the parks and we had our breakfast to eat while we waited in line.
I know that it might be difficult to wake early to arrive and then wait again but there is something special about being among the first people in the park. There is a magic and sense of wonder in the crowd.
Be prepared for crowds, even early in the morning. Our main goal for the day was to ride the new attractions and explore Toy Story Land. We didn’t have FastPass tickets for the new rides and we knew arriving early would be our best chance to experience them.
Thankfully it worked out great and we made our way through the entire park experiencing everything we had on our list.
Read More About Our Visit: Our Day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
After our day at Hollywood Studios we were exhausted but needed to stop and pick up a few groceries. There is a Wal-Mart with a grocery store about 3 miles from Encore Resort.
We made a quick stop and picked up bottles of water and a few snacks. As we arrived home we were exhausted and surprised that we spent the entire day at the parks.
We knew that we really wanted to spend time at the resort water park and decided to make it a priority to come back tomorrow.
Day 3: SeaWorld & Encore Resort Water Park
We started our day early again and were some of the first guests at SeaWorld. It was a cloudy day and I was really worried about making it back to the water park.
Thankfully the crowds were low at the park and we had a chance to ride everythign we wanted. Our favorites were Journey to Atlantis and Antartica Emprie of the Penguins.
I also braved one of SeaWorld’s roller coasters: Kraken. I think I screamed the entire way but it was a fun ride.
This was our first visit to SeaWorld and I found it difficult to navigate the park at first. Even though I planned and looked at maps before we arrived, it took a bit of time to really understand.
We enjoyed our morning at SeaWorld, but after lunch we were ready to return to Encore to spend some time at the water park. The Christmas Celebration at SeaWorld would continue in the evening and we would return back for dinner.
The weather during our weekend in Orlando was probably one of the cloudiest and coolest temps we have ever experienced on our visits. The high was around 70 degrees, but that didn’t stop us.
By some rare chance the clouds opened up and the sun came out for around an hour. It gave us the perfect amount of time to enjoy the water park.
We arrived and had the water park to ourselves. The pool and slides were empty and the kids loved it! They must have gone up and down the slides twenty times before we left.
Our biggest regret of this trip was not spending enough time at the water park. The pool area was gorgeous, the splash pad was great for all ages, and the water slides were so much fun.
Next time we stay at Encore Resort we will build an entire day into our vacation to relax at the resort.
Our final evening in Orlando was spent at SeaWorld for their holiday celebration. SeaWorld does a great job of entertaining and ringing in the Christmas spirit. You can read about our SeaWorld Christmas Celebration and decide if it is a good fit for your family.
After two long and exciting days at the parks we were exhausted but we had so much fun adding a bit of travel to our holiday countdown.
Day 4: Early Flight Back Home to Rochester
To keep costs as budget friendly as possible for this trip we had to book the least expensive flight home. This meant waking early to catch the 8:00 AM flight back to Rochester.
I don’t mind the early flights on the way to our vacations but on the way home they are exhausting. We took a bit of time the day before to pack and clean up the house so we were ready Sunday morning.
Our Orlando weekend getaway was jam packed with activities and I really could have used one more day to relax, but we loved our stay and adding a fun weekend of family time into the busy month of December.
Are you planning a visit to Walt Disney World or Orlando? Check out my Walt Disney World tips to start planning.
Leah has been traveling with her family of 5 since 2012 and sharing her expertise on planning family vacations and visiting theme parks since 2016. Leah has been featured in Visit Rochester, Undercover Tourist, and Home Publications. She has worked with brands like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Hersheypark, Toyota, and various Tourism boards and destinations. Leah creates family travel itineraries based on real trip experiences with her family. Her guides and tips help others plan great family vacations. Learn more about Leah and Five for the Road.