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plus size vacations
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Vacations, Disneyland Orlando and more - our personal experiences

2008 Orlando vacation report
What a difference for a year ! Whereas 2007 gave us extremes of heat and cold [ 88F on 2 days down to 30F early one morning, Xmas 2008 proved a lovely, consistent 68F - 80F. This time we based at the top of I-Drive, next to Wet & Wild and Universal.

Again we did theme parks, only this time we deliberately avoided Disney. We visited Busch Gardens in Tampa twice, and really enjoyed it, but it's slightly less plus size friendly than Disney. We also visited Seaworld's new water park,- Aquatica, which is similar to Wet & Wild, but with a bigger area to sit down and chill out. Again, in all parks, we found long queues immediately coming up to Xmas, and into New Year, although queues were slightly smaller than '07. One new tip - when you arrive in parks, travel anti-clockwise if you are early - you will get shorter queues and more rides in as everyone else usually travels clockwise.

The one HUGE difference we saw this year was the attitude of service staff. With the recession we know things are getting much harder, but we as tourists could not help but notice how less friendly and almost aggressive some waiters/waitresses, taxi-drivers, sales staff etc. have become.
Back home we leave the tip on the table, and a good waiter gets 15% for good service - they have earned it !. Pre-tipping now seems a norm in some places, with waiters chasing you looking for tips BEFORE you have been served at all. As a tourist I don't like that - I want to pay for what I get, not for what somebody might or might not give me.
We also couldn't help but notice the number of "false" friends in service and retail staff - who were sweetness itself - until you decided that you didn't fancy the goods or other person they were recommending that had something to sell you. They then became aggressive, dismissive and blunt when you were not interested or didn't buy.
Orlando in general will need to watch out that this does not become common place. We were thinking of returning next year, but the less friendly attitude, and the "make the last buck from you" stance of quite a few people who served us has put us off.
We will probably return in 2010, and see the Harry Potter park, but if staff aren't more friendly it will be our last visit, which would be a pity.

2007 Orlando vacation report

Diane and I traveled with both our girls, aged 10 and 8. We spent 15 days in Orlando, mostly at the Disney parks, at the end of December 2007 and the first 6 days of January 08. All the parks were decorated for Christmas and it was uplifting and festive. The wait times for rides were not ridiculous in the first few days ( before Xmas ) but were very long between Xmas and New Year, and for the few days in Jan. We went to all the Disney parks, to Universal Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, to Seaworld and to Wet & Wild.
We did not stay in a Disney hotel. For cheaper than a Disney value resort, we stayed in a 4* hotel in the middle of International Drive. We had a breakfast buffet every morning, ate one meal at the park (we sometimes brought our own snacks to eat throughout the day) and ate dinner either in International Drive or at the dinner buffet back at the Hotel.

Possible downers, from a plus size viewpoint.

The first big downer we found was queues. Queues for everything, from admission, to rides, to toilets, to dining. On really busy days we were lucky to fit in 4 rides and a show. Credit to Disney, their fast-pass system is as fair way as is possible of ensuring that you at least get your favourite ride. Universal's Express-pass we thought of as a complete rip-off. - pay $75 to get in, and then have to pay $40 more or watch 'rich-kids' pass you out. We though that Express-pass got totally disproportionate priority.
We found Disney expensive, especially for food. On crowded days, even in Epcot where there are quite a lot of good restaurants, we found it almost impossible to get into anything other than fast-food after 5pm unless you pre-booked. Both Universal parks were much better in this respect. Seaworld hasn't the same dining facilities and usually shuts earlier.
Seaworld has just a few 'hills' but has many attractions with travelators and wheelchair access. Universal's, Disney's and Seaworld's pathways and roadways are wide, but on very crowded days progress was slow for scooter users. The only exception to this was Disney's animal kingdom, where roadways and paths are narrower.
Universal's parks didn't seem to have enough seats and benches to rest at.
The only other downer is that getting to Disney's parks, from anywhere other than a resort hotel, takes so long. A taxi from mid International Drive to Disney Central takes 40 minutes. The public bus takes well over an hour. From Disney Central to the parks takes from 10 to 25 minutes more.

Plus Size Vacation Plusses

From a 'Plus Size Friendly' point of view, we found Disney as a whole exceptional. Staff were extremely helpful and friendly. Here Disney scored over all other parks.
Transportation was also wonderful from a mobility viewpoint. Orlando has kneeling buses with lifts for scooters and wheelchairs, decent sized bus seats. Disney's parks had scooters for hire, and wide, flat pathways. Most theaters had wheelchair accommodation.
The day time parades and the evening parades in Disney are amazing - better than Universal's. Magic Kingdom's fireworks are brilliant, Epcot's exceptional. We definitely feel the parks are for both adults and children.
Another huge plus is that there are no mosquitos, however they've managed to eliminate them.

Our recommendations

Definitely Orlando is very plus size friendly - go there. If you can, avoid weekends, public holidays and times when schoolkids are on holidays, and your visit will be much more enjoyable, as you will be able to do and see much more. If you are going to stay late at any Disney Park, reserve your evening meal in advance. Also, PLAN AHEAD - if you don't you will leave feeling that there was so much more you could have done, but missed. If you are going to Disney get there early - it may allow you get 2 or more fast pass tickets for popular rides. Lastly, buy your park tickets on the net before you get there. If you are staying for several days, buy a multi-day ticket to match the length of your stay. You will save money by doing this.
We will too, God willing, before we go back there later this year.

FREEDOM PARADISE - A Size Friendly Vacation Club, Riviera Maya - CANCUN, MEXICO

We have had positive feedback from viewers about this. Size- friendly amenities include: Sturdy furniture, majority of (wide) armless chairs and sun beds, few well marked stairs, just 2 story buildings , standard rooms with sturdy comfortable beds (king or Dbl), walk-in showers with grab bars, shower seat available upon request at reservation, staff with a size-friendly attitude, activities for people of all sizes and ages and a secluded white sand beach that is easy to walk on.

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