Important Changes to the VISA Waiver Programme

Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA)

US Customs and Border Protection and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have introduced ESTA, allowing nationals of eligible VWP countries to apply for advance authorisation to travel to the United States. With effect from 12th January 2009, all VWP travellers will be required to obtain an electronic travel authorisation through ESTA, prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States.

ESTA is a web based system and will replace the paper I-94W form (green card). ESTA applications must be submitted no later than 72 hours prior to travel and, in most cases, applicants will be provided with an immediate response.

Approved travel authorisation via ESTA is required for all VWP travellers and is valid for up to two years, or until the expiry of the travellers passport (whichever comes first). The authorisation will be vaild for multiple entries into the United States.

After 12th January 2009, any VWP traveller who has not applied for, and received, authorisation via ESTA may be denied boarding, experience delayed processing or be denied admission at a US port of entry.

As of the 9th September 2010, the US Government will be charging passengers to apply for their ESTA, currently the charge will be  $14 per person. Once you have obtained the ESTA, it is valid for 2 years.

If you cannot obtain authorisation via ESTA, you will be required to obtain a nonimmigrant visa at a US Embassy or Consulate prior to travel.

Eligible Countries

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom

ESTA will enhance the security of the VWP and enable the United States to maintain and expand participation in the program. If your country is not listed above, please check the ESTA website to check the current status.

Websites

Additional Information:  www.cbp.gov/esta and www.CBP.gov

Applications: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov

Information supplied by the US Government under CBP Publication No. 0000-0717; June 2008. All information is subject to change by the US Government

Planning your DisneyWorld Visit

There are many ways to prepare your DisneyWorld visit from using online busy period checkers to planning your way around the parks to see and do as much as possible. 

The most essential tool you will require is the My Disney Experience app.(for IOS and android). The app allows you to do pretty much anything Disney related during and way before your visit. You can view the park maps and see exactly where you are using your phones GPS, book and manage restaurant table bookings, see wait times on the rides and see showtimes. We recommend you plan your days way before your holiday! Even restaurant bookings in the parks can become unavailable weeks in advance.

Most of the popular rides have FastPass+,  which is best used on the app. This allows you to skip the queues on up to 3 popular attractions per day at time slots you choose. Once you have linked you park tickets with your Disney account on the app you are able to plan your FastPass up to30 days in advance. So, pre-planning your park days can be quite important before you even arrive in Florida. A great tool to help you which parks are best to visit on certain days is the Crowd CalendarUse this to see which parks are quietest during the duration of your stay, so you can make the most of the park you are visiting. You will then be able to book restaurants and plan your FastPasses for the day of your visit.

Disneyworld has a FREE WIFI network inside all of their parks and Disney areas which is ideal for using the app wherever you are and for downloading the app in park if you haven’t already. It also means you will be able to contact your group easily if you lose them and even video call your family and friends whilst waiting in ride queues.

Other ways you can use the app are to view any official Disney photos that may have been taken, check character meeting times, and share your daily itinerary with all the members of your group.

 

 

The Journey To Florida

To help avoid fatigue, have you considered travelling down to your departure airport the night before your flight?

  • It will start your holiday a day earlier
  • It will save the early morning drive to gatwick or your airport of departure
  • You will get a full nights sleep before you travel thus reducing the effect of the time difference ‘Florida is 5 hours ahead’
  • Your car will be looked after while you are away
  • It will take away the possibility of traffic holdups or a breakdown on the morning of the flight

There are many options such as on site airport and locally associated hotels, local bed & breakfasts, travel lodges etc;

However we have found that the Stanhill Court Hotel is one the of the best. It is a luxury country house hotel, built in 1881, situated a short taxi ride away from Gatwick in its own 35 acre grounds. You can safely leave your car at the hotel and enjoy a night’s rest in one of their luxurious rooms. You can also enjoy a meal in their award winning restaurant or if you prefer, a lighter meal in the bar. All of this is available for a surprisingly moderate cost. Please visit them on their website www.stanhillcourthotel.co.uk or call them on 01293 862166. Please mention our name and that you found them through us.

Flights & Car Hire

Flights to Florida , Orlando in particular, are now available from many airlines in many options.

Costs for Direct flights to Orlando International or Sanford Airports can vary depending on the time of year and the airline you choose. Indirect flights are generally slightly cheaper and although it can make the travelling time longer on the occasions we have used them, we have not had any bad experiences. Scheduled flights normally cost a little more than charter flights, however you do get better seats, entertainment and free drinks. Scheduled flights fly into Orlando International and Charter flights fly into Sanford.

Indirect flights – flights with at least one stop between the UK and the destination (Orlando) – are usually good value and don’t be put off by the thought of a stop-over. Connecting flights are usually scheduled for departure approximately 2 or so hours after landing. Much of this time will be taken up with imigration and will pass quite quickly. You then travel on to Orlando on an internal flight and with no immigration to go through at Orlando you clear the airport much quicker.

Car Hire rates vary depending on the type of vehicle required and how many drivers etc. for larger groups, upgrading to a 7,8 or 9 seat people carrier rather than 2 separate cars may be a good idea as is the ‘gold cover’ option which gives you additional driver(s) and a full tank of petrol. You can return the vehicle empty, so there’s no chasing around on the last day to fill up. All hire cars in Florida are automatic and have aircon – a necessity.

We have found a company called ‘Charter Travel’ very good and helpful on both airfares and car hire rates. They state that all airfares to the USA are heavily discounted and although on occasions they are not the cheapest, generally we find they provide great value and because we recommend many guests we find they offer excellent rates. Don’t forget to mention our names.

Holiday Insurance

Holiday Insurance is essential for anyone travelling abroad. It gives you peace of mind to enjoy your holiday knowing that you and your family are covered for any unforeseen cancellations, losses, accidents or illness. Should you require it, we have arranged a special discount for you with our preferred supplier ‘Gold Cover Travel Insurance’. We use an annual policy which covers us for all of our trips away be they abroad or just a weekend away in this country and is excellent value, especially when you consider the comprehensive cover for health, belongings, cancellation etc. We feel this is excellent value. To obtain a quote, either go to www.gibling.goldcover.net or alternatively telephone 01892 559530 and quote S & J Gibling.

Attractions

There are attractions everywhere. We all know the main well known, well publicised Theme Parks such as Disney World, SeaWorld, Universal and Busch Gardens. But there are many others, smaller but equally as good such as Gatorland and an air boat ride.


Theme Parks:

Walt Disney World – (15 Minutes) The closest theme parks to the villas, Walt Disney World. Theme parks include Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom with additional water parks Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

Universal Orlando Resort – ( 30 minutes) Universal Resort consisting of Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and the new waterpark, Volcano Bay.

SeaWorld / Discovery Cove & Aquatica – (30 minutes) 3 Fantastic attractions with SeaWorld being the main theme park with rides and shows. Discovery cove is your chance to swim with Dolphins, rays and tropical fish. Aquatica is their incredible water park.

Gatorland – (40 minutes) Alligators… Lots of them. There’s other animals there too, such as tortoises, birds and wild cats,..but it’s still mostly alligators. SNAP!

Busch Gardens, Tampa – (60 minutes) Another fantastic theme park with roller coasters, attractions, live-shows and home to more than 12,000 animals.

Kennedy Space Centre –  (80 minutes) … not the smallest step, but absolutely worth the journey! The Kennedy Space Centre has everything to see and hear about astronauts, space rockets and moon landings. Time it right and you also might be able to witness a rocket launch.


Tickets to most attractions can be booked in advance of your travel dates at preferential rates if required, excluding Discovery Cove, where direct booking in advance is recommended to ensure that your place is reserved.

Shopping

For the shop’a’holic Florida is a paradise. Shops are everywhere. On the side of every road you will see ‘Outlets’ for Nike and many other well known brand names. Huge stores with everything from fishing rods to golf clubs are all around. And the Malls are everywhere. In them you get great value and a huge selection of different stores.

With our villas being situated on Hampton Lakes which is on highway 27, they are ideally situated. There are several Publix supermarkets, Pharmacies, Wallmart, and Petrol stations at which you can easily obtain food, drinks and other provisions as well as the odd present or souvenir.

Eating Out

A statistic is that on average everyone in America eats at least one meal in a Restaurant every day. Once you get there you will see why. Restaurants are everywhere.

RESTAURANTS

Favourite restaurants are many, so we will name just a few to help you grow out of those holiday clothes!

Olive Garden – Lake Buena Vista, Sandlake Road opposite Florida Mall entrance.  There is also one on the 192.  Casual Italian – as much salad and as many breadsticks as you can eat as long as you order an Entrée.

192 West near the DEMIM shop/Goodings Plaza entrance

Carrabas – Casual Italian
Gordianos – Italian and very very large pizzas
Outback – Australian theme steak house – as much bread as you can eat with your meal – try cheese fries but you may need to share, as you will if you try the ‘Blooming Onion’.

192 West near Old Town
Ruby Tuesdays – Great for Ribs, Steaks and Burgers
There are other numerous other low cost restaurants too many to name.

There are also many fast food places not far from the Highway 27/192 Junction including Pizza Hut, McDonalds etc.  On the interstate 4 West/Highway 27 intersection you have The Waffle House, Wendys, New York Pizza and Bob Evans and more.

BRITISH STYLE PUBS

There are a number of the above located on the 192, the closest of which is the Stage Door British Pub and situated less than 1 mile from the junction of the 192 and highway 27.  They serve a good selection of both local and British beers as well as providing good value home cooked British food.

Alternatively, if you would like a quiet night in, you can order a takeaway and they will deliver to your villa.

Golf

Well, where do we start?

Firstly our villas are not situated on a golf course – so there is no danger of being surprised by a wayward shot or the need to duck or lift up a child to protect yourself when you hear the dreaded ‘Fore’….. Only joking you don’t need to lift a child just crouch beside you wife!!

If you decide that while you are in Florida a round of golf sounds like a good idea, but you haven’t bought any equipment, don’t worry, all courses rent out clubs and shoes at reasonable prices. Some also provide a box of complimentary balls when hiring. Should you decide to buy equipment, you’ll find that it is also quite reasonably priced, should you decide to buy a pair of shoes, some balls etc. it won’t break the bank. All course green fees include a buggy and some also include practice range balls. Prices vary but can be from a little as $40 to well over $100 for a quality championship course. Courses tend to have 3,4 or even 5 Tee positions to accomodate all levels of players. Follows is a short look at some of the local courses.

The nearest course to our villas is:-

Highland Reserve:  which is situated a couple of hundred yards away on highway 27. It is an 18 hole par 72, 6673 yard course and was nominated by Golf For Women Magazine as one of their 50 top courses. Rated 3.5 Stars by Golf Digest’s “Places to Play” guide, Golf Pac, one of the country’s largest golf vacation travel companies, ranks Highlands Reserve as one of their most requested golf courses year after year as chosen by their customers. It is only a couple of minutes from our villas. (We have played it several times and have found it to be a great course to warm up on).

Providence: Situated a 15minute drive away on highway 17/92. In the Providence Homes and Golf community near Davenport. It is an 18 hole, 6929 yard, par 72, championship course. Off the back tees, It will test your game and soothe your senses as it winds its way through land featuring fresh water creeks, ancient hardwoods and wetlands. During your round it is not unusual to get a glimpse of some of the large variety of local wildlife such as otters, deer, wild turkey and of course, the numerious aligators in the many water features. (We like it that much, we play it every time we stay in our Villas).

Champions Gate: is an easy course to find as it is only 5 minutes away from our villas. It is a nationally acclaimed golf facility for world-class golf, offers 36 holes designed by International Golf Champion Greg Norman and is the World Headquarters of David Leadbetter Golf Academy. Situated just off the I4, it is unmissable with its distictive gates. It features two premier 18-hole, par 72 championship golf courses, One ‘The National’ a 7128 yard, off the competition tee, is a traditional American style and the other ‘The International’ a 7363 yard, off the competition Tee, is an authentic Scottish links style course. It is only a short 5 minute drive from our villas (Two great courses to play again and again).

Celebration: is a Championship 18 hole, 6772 yard course which has hosted several high profile tournaments. It is rated by golf Digest’s “Best Places to Play” in 2006-2007 , and in 2006 was rated number 12 by The Florida Golf News. It is only 15 minutes from our villas (It has several testing holes and is one of the friendliest courses you will play)

Southern Dunes: is a Championship 18 hole, 7200 yard course which has hosted several high profile tournaments. In March 2004 it was rated number 6 in “Florida by Golfweeks America’s best Courses you can play”. It is situated around 20 minutes from our villas. (It is a gem of a course and we can’t wait to play it again)

Orange County National: has 36 World Class Holes as well as a 9 hole short course. It hosted the 2003 and 2005 PGA Tours and was rated “a four and a half star course in Golf Digest in 1999 – 2005”. Both the Panther Lake and the Crooked Cat courses are Par 72 and with several Tees caters for all levels of players. It is situated around 20 minutes from our villas. (It is carved out of the rich Florida landscape and is a joy to play)

Falcons Fire Golf Club: is advertised as The Orlando areas Best Public Golf Course. It is a natural, classic 18  hole, par 72 golf course boasting tournament playing conditions 12 months a year, Falcon’s Fire is arguably not only one of the finest maintained golf facility in Central Florida but also nationally. It is rated as a four star Course by Golf Digest Magazine and also one of North America’s Top 10 Golf Tournament Facilities. It has played host to the Oldsmobile Scramble National Finals and the Senior PGA Tour Regional Qualifying Tournament 1993 – 2001. With its mix of green, green grass and lots of water and sand it’s one of the most appealing courses you will play. It is situated around 25 minutes from our villas. (It is a course that once you’ve played once you will look forward to playing again and again).

Disney World Golf Courses: now consist of five, yes five championship and one 9 hole courses. They are ‘Eagle Pines’, ‘Osprey Ridge’, ‘Lake Buena Vista’, ‘Palm’ and their Championship Course ‘Magnolia’. Add to that the 9 Hole ‘Oak Trail’ and you could spend an entire holiday playing the Disney Courses alone! They are all perfectly manicured and rated four and five star by Golf Digest and with yardage of up to 7550 yards they are all a fine test of golf. Magnolia is the home to the final rounds of the PGA TOUR FUNAI Classic. which is televised Worldwide. All the courses are situated 15 – 20 minutes from our villas. (A great choice of excellent courses)

There are several good golf guides produced locally listing the dozens of fantastic courses you can play. Edwin Watts Golf Shops always have these guides available and you will find they are only too pleased to offer advice on which courses are in best condition, where to play, value for money etc. especially when you’ve shopped in their store….

Find out more about these and other great courses – all within a 30 minute drive of the villas.

We have listed just a few of the many courses you can play, but to get a feel of how many Courses there are in Central Florida do an internet search. We did and stopped when we realised how many there are.

Money Saving Tips

Make a point to pick up a discount booklet. There are many varied booklets and they are available from most supermarkets, many souvenir shops, and all shopping plazas and malls. In them you will find money off vouchers for restaurants, attractions and shops. In restaurants we recommend a tip of perhaps 10% to 15%. The savings made by using a voucher is normally 10% or a free course. The voucher simply covers most if not all of the tip. The saving on entrance to attactions can be as little as $2 or as much as $10 or more per person. Many also give addresses and directions so they are extremely handy to keep in the car.

Spending one, two or more weeks away from home can be expensive. Eating out is reasonably priced however paying for the family and/or group to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day will add up. Our villas have fully equipped kitchens with everything from a coffee maker to a dishwasher. There are several supermarkets within a few minutes of the villas which stock everything you would ever need. The goods available are very similar to the UK, so buy your breakfast foods there. Cereal, milk, coffee, bread etc are all there (perhaps you may want to take your own favourite brand of tea, as much of the local stuff would take two or three months to brew!!).

Look out for the ‘all you can eat’ restaurants. If you are having a late start and not planning to get to an attraction until say lunch time, try one of the restaurants that offer a breakfast menu. These are extremely good value and costs are only $4 or $5. For this you really can eat all you can! Start with cereal, move on to the fry-up, then all the breads and toasts with cheese, ham, preserves, try the pancakes with maple syrup, refresh your pallets with fruit and then (if you’re up to it) start again!!! Treat it as a brunch it will last you the day and save you money on eating in the parks, which can be a little expensive.

If you are staying for two weeks then take enough clothes to last one week. The villas are fully equipped with easy to use washing machines and tumble dryers so you can keep your existing clothes fresh and clean. You will be doing some shopping for clothes so why not wear what you buy. Clothes are cheap in Florida and by leaving space in your case on the way out you will have space to bring back what you buy.