THERE are not many occasions where I would let my daughter bounce up and down on my shoulders, put me in a chokehold and scream at the top of her lungs.
Anyone watching us would presume this is why I had tears in my eyes. But these were happy tears.
We wanted a holiday to remember before she started school (and make the most of being able to travel before we have to pay for soaring school-break prices)
Louise and family enjoy a meet and greet with Mickey and Minnie
Anna meets the Minions
Nothing could have prepared me for how emotional I would feel standing in Walt Disney World’s Main Street, watching the magic unfold as all of Anna’s favourite Disney characters emerged from Cinderella’s castle.
We wanted a holiday to remember before she started school (and make the most of being able to travel before we have to pay for soaring school-break prices).
So off we went to Orlando with four-year-old Anna and her one-year-old brother, Adam.
Of course, Walt Disney World delivered, with plenty of rides for even the smallest guests.
While the Frozen princesses on parade were a hit with Anna, even Adam could enjoy rides such as Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid.
You board a giant clamshell to explore Prince Eric’s castle and watch Sebastian the crab entertain in a musical animatronic adventure.
Showing an early enthusiasm for cars, Adam’s visit to Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy at Hollywood Studios was a great pit stop, and a welcome air-conditioned break from the heat.
Chase with a Yeti
Toy Story Land proved a hit with both. It’s a colourful area where you explore Andy’s backyard through the toys’ perspective.
Animal Kingdom, a slower-paced park, also provided us with shade on one of the hotter days.
We encountered gorillas, hippos and exotic birds as we strolled on a self-guided tour of the Pangani Forest before heading to The Boneyard, an play space where little ones can dig for dinosaur bones.
The Festival of The Lion King was a great way to introduce kids to a West End-style show filled with songs and puppetry.
All that walking can be exhausting for little legs so pushchairs are a must. Double pushchairs are available to hire but we didn’t think they looked comfortable.
We decided to pre-book ours from online company Orlando Stroller Rentals, which can deliver and collect from your accommodation.
When the children fell asleep, it was time to take advantage of our Fast Passes and more thrill-seeking rides, including the breathtaking Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest — a high-speed train chase with a Yeti.
The Rider Switch programme means one parent can wait with the kids while the other rides, then swap without having to queue again.
Each park also has excellent baby-care centres for nappy changes and feeding.
With so much excitement around every corner, it’s very tempting to cram too much into your itinerary.
We carefully planned downtime every day to recharge our batteries.
A favourite way for us to unwind was at our home for the week — a luxurious condo-style family suite at Wyndham Bonnet Creek. It is next to Walt Disney World and close to other attractions, offering great respite after a hectic day.
We loved cooling down in one of the five pools and lazy river, where Adam fell asleep while floating along with me on more than one occasion.
Staying here also gave us the flexibility of making our own lunches, which saved money. There was also the option of having dinner in, while watching the fireworks from our balcony, when the children were too exhausted to venture back out.
We ordered our shopping ahead of arrival through a company called Instacart, which delivers groceries to your holiday home just like any other online food shop.
We got soaked on the Battle of Bricksburg ride while we sprayed down Duplo alien invaders (and each other) with water cannons
Wyndham guests can take a shuttle service to the Disney parks and the resort is not far from Universal and SeaWorld by car.
We didn’t feel confident about hiring one as we hadn’t driven on the opposite side of the road before — and didn’t want to attempt this with two distractions in the back seats.
Uber and Lyft are a great option if you have older children but they didn’t cater for us on this occasion as we needed child car seats.
We found Kidmoto a safe and convenient solution. Our friendly driver Jaime took the stress out of travelling in a motor from one of its luxurious fleet, and played Frozen for Anna and Adam to watch en route to Legoland. This is the perfect toddler-friendly theme park. My two loved the Lego Movie World, which includes rides, attractions and dining experiences inspired by characters and themes from the films.
We got soaked on the Battle of Bricksburg ride while we sprayed down Duplo alien invaders (and each other) with water cannons.
The Great Lego Race is the first rollercoaster with VR technology specifically designed for kids, which puts you in the centre of an action-packed road rally.
Coming this summer is the first Peppa Pig Land at the park, with six rides and themed playgrounds.
One place we didn’t find any racing cars was Sesame Street.
SeaWorld has brought this beloved children’s TV show to life and it is full of interactive fun and the chance to meet the likes of Elmo and Cookie Monster. We sat and enjoyed storytime with Big Bird and joined the whole gang in their award-winning parade.
There’s plenty to amuse toddlers outside of the main theme parks.
Icon Park on International Drive was great, and is easy to spot with its 400ft observation wheel.
At the Sea Life Centre, sharks, stingrays and sea turtles swam below our feet and above our heads as we walked through a 360-degree tunnel.
Anna was mesmerized by a mermaid who we watched swim underwater and met back on land afterwards for a “shellfie”.
Orlando with little ones was a huge success for the whole family. We made memories to last a lifetime.
Coming this summer is the first Peppa Pig Land at the park, with six rides and themed playgroundsCredit: Legoland
It’s great for parents to grab some relaxation, with family suites close to the attractionsCredit: PR SUPPLIED
COVID: Fully vaccinated travellers must provide evidence of a negative lateral flow test taken no more than one day before travel.
GETTING THERE: British Airways flies from Heathrow to Orlando with return fares from £401pp. See ba.com/orlando.
STAYING THERE: Suites at Wyndham Bonnet Creek are from £150 per night, based on four sharing. See wyndhambonnetcreek.com or extraholidays.com.
OUT & ABOUT: See visitorlando.com.