Florida for Idiots: Summer 2010
Your Tour Operator's Welcome Meet
When you arrive in Sanford and have successfully overcome the immigration and customs hurdles and have actually found your luggage, your tour rep will give you a few very important bits of paper, one of which is the Welcome Meet invitation. Should you go?

If you've been to Florida more than once then you might feel you don't need any additional hand-holding and just want to get on with things, so will be tempted to skip the Welcome Meet. I can understand this, although you might miss out on some organised excursions that they are offering.

If you've never been to Florida, or only as a child, then I highly recommend you do go to the Welcome Meet.

Firstly, understand that whilst they do really try and orientate you to a Florida way of life, their ultimate goal is to sell you excursion tickets, if at all possible. That might sound cynical but it's how they make their money there.

That said, they are also there to make your holiday pleasurable and if you have any problems that you can't get resolved (at your hotel, for example) or have some general queries then your tour rep could be your newest best friend. They will do their best to help you and negotiate solutions on your behalf.

So you've arrived at the Welcome Meet either by your own car, or by being picked up by mini-bus / coach from the tour operator themselves. Sometimes they will hold the Welcome Meet right at your hotel (if enough passengers are staying there) or at a nearby hotel to which you can easily walk.

It normally starts at about 9:30am the morning after you've arrived which sounds early but given that you've (hopefully) gone to bed very early (local time) you should be raring to go.

They will give you some general information about what to expect, how you can turn right at a red traffic light when driving, and some sensible information about putting on sun screen and wearing a hat at all times (outdoors, you don't have to wear a hat to dinner).

At the same time they will have given you a list of excursions you can go on. These include all the usual evening dinner shows (Pirate's Dinner Adventure, Otta Control Dinner Show, Capone's Dinner Show, Arabian Nights, Sleuth's Mystery Dinner Show and probably many more).


Daytime excursions
with transport (if required) are also offered (subject to minimum numbers, not usually a problem). A few examples that Thomson offered during May 2009:

  • Cirque du Soleil (Disney quality circus)
  • Clearly Clearwater (Spend the day on the Gulf coast with optional boat tours)
  • Sun, Sand and Scales (A day trip to Daytona)
  • Mainly Manatees (Crystal River trip)
  • Gatorland (must see, surely?)
  • Cypress Gardens (Gardens, a roller coaster and a water park, fairly nearby)
  • and many more!
Prices are not available because they were not published. Instead we were advised to "see your First Choice representative for prices", cheeky devils. But they will of course tell you prices at your Welcome Meet.

How you would fit in more than a couple of the above trips alongside the theme parks beats me!
So once the information's been given out, the trips advertised there's usually an almight scrum to get the trips you want booked. Remember it's first come, first served, so if there are only 2 places left on that trip to Gatorland then you had better be first in the queue or you will have to wait for the following week - or just be plain disappointed!

After this has all calmed down you can leave to do your own thing. If you were brought to the Welcome Meet venue then you will be returned in the same way.

I-Ride small map (main route plus stops and other information)

I-Ride full map (all route information including locations of shopping areas, eating places and hotels)

Lynx bus route no 50 (Magic Kingdom / Downtown Disney to Sea World where you can pick up the I-Ride back to your hotel)

Lynx main web site

Orlando Tourist Information Bureau.com (organised trips including to the Florida Mall)

Prime Outlets (north International Drive) website

Premium Outlets (south International Drive) website

Florida Mall information

Mall at Millenia web site

Pointe Orlando web site

Golden Corral buffet restaurant website

Ponderosa buffet restaurant website

TGI restaurant web site

Things to do along International Drive

Look guys, these are just links to other people's web sites. I'm not responsible for any content you may (or may not) find there. I just supply them in good faith to increase your holiday enjoyment!