Abit of advice for trip to America
Not sure wether this is the right place to put this but I know a majority of you are from across the pond. Heading to Florida in 9 days for 2 weeks and been asking round and doing some research on what to do, see, how to get around and the subject of tipping.
We are staying in Disney and have a flux ticket (think thats it) for Universal and Seaworld. As far as we've been told there is a shuttle bus for all the Disney parks (and that the parks open 2 hours earlier and finish later if you stay on the complex) and that for external attractions there is shuttle buses and trolley trams which are very cheap. We are also planning on doing international drive for Ripleys museum, the upside down house, hooters, dunkin doughnuts, Dennys etc then possibly Gatorland (although heard this is miles away) and JFK space center.
So yeah any other place recommendations, travel ideas, general tips would be much appreciated. Also with regards to tips we don't have a real tipping culture over here so the whole thing seems a touch alien to me. I have done some research and that hasn't really helped so advice on this would be great please.
Well.... ummm, Orlando and Disney are not the best the US has to offer. Sorry. I understand why Europeans think the US is void of culture because they all seem to flock to what is basically a giant amusement park. Hooters, Dunkin Doughnuts and Denny's are also among the worst of our offerings, food wise both in terms of being primal and actually tasting good. Downtown Orlando should have some great restaurants and there is a place near Disney that has good restaurants called Celebration.
I guess I'd visit Disney, if you have kids with you or if you enjoy that style of manufactured entertainment. I've never understood the appeal, but it is quite a spectacle. Epcot Center has a big area that is like a giant fake Europe.
However, if you want to enjoy the best of Florida, you need to rent a car and leave Orlando. Drive to Cocoa Beach. Ask around for the best places to eat (yummy seafood). Charter a fishing boat near the beach. Stop at a Citrus stand. Cocoa Beach is a day trip from Orlando. It's near Cape Canaveral. If you can get to the Gulf Coast, I love Sanibel Island- go look for shells and check out the flamingos and again, charter a fishing boat!
Tipping - I tip 20% to waitresses. If you eat at someplace like Waffle House and have say, a $5 tab, I'll leave a $5 for a tip. Sometimes I'll leave $10 or $15 if it is work travel and I eat there a few days and the staff is nice. The staff at chain restaurants are most likely not making a living wage even with tips. You should leave a couple of bucks for maids at the hotel.
I live in FL but never been to Orlando.
Tipping at a restaurant is 15-20%. Tip low for bad service, high for good. Waiters are paid around $4/hr, so you're paying their wage. Figure it out by moving the decimal point over one place, and then double that, and round as you feel appropriate for the service you received. You can add the tip to your credit card receipt or leave cash on the table (write "on table" on the tip line of the receipt).
As for tipping withing Disneyworld, tipping for valet service, pictures, maids, etc. I'm clueless, sorry. I think you should carry around a bunch of one dollar bills in an easily accessible place and pull them out when you need to. I think that's where I always screw up, by the time I figure out I'm supposed to hand someone a bill my wallet is on the bottom of my purse and all I have is twenty's and argh.... The only people you "have" to tip are service-only people. Tipping at Dunkin Donuts is just gratuitous, as they are being paid at least regular minimum wage (around $8/hr). Some people are not allowed to take tips (like Mcdonald's employees) and I think that may also apply to some people who work at DisneyWorld. But when it comes to people who do one-to-one personal service, like providing food, parking the car, carrying your luggage, a few dollars are expected. Just make sure to always tip with bills. People hate being tipped with change.
Sorry, I hope others can be more specific.
One suggestion: Europeans in general don't really realize how HUGE this country really is. Please, please, please, research your travel distances carefully (outside Disney), and recalculate how much time it will take you to travel from one place to the other at 55 miles per hour (the average speed limit over here). It is ALWAYS much longer than expected due to both our speed limits and the greater distance, even within one single state like Florida. Which, BTW, is frickin' LOOOOONG when you drive it north-south.
We have been to Disney, and although we are by far not experts on the place, the travel inter- and intra-park is EXCELLENT, so as long as you are on Disney property, you are taken care of travel-wise.
Why do you want to go to Denny's/Dunkin' Donuts?? They are icky places to eat for a Primal, honestly (if friendly, as always) - you can do much, much better. I get the attraction of Hooter's - my husband's cousin made it a point to go to one when he visited Ohio a few years back. Ask around at Disney - every bus driver and desk personnel and maid - who among them is a Florida native, and ask THEM for their recommendations for local eateries/Florida cuisine and for donut places - in St. Augustine there used to be this incredible cheesecake bakery, and I wouldn't have ever known if I hadn't asked a local on that particular trip. I have never gone wrong using this tactic from NYC to Florida to New Orleans to San Antonio Texas and back - the real locals have never steered me wrong.
Tipping: remember that tips are comments on the quality of the service you have just received - always.
For service that got the job done but is just okay, 15%. Less means that you are either 1. cheap, or 2. dissatisfied. The better the service, the more you tip - up to 25% of the total bill (but BEFORE taxes - this is listed clearly on your bill). This is for eateries and hair-stylists/barbers/manicurists, ie people who have to engage with you for a length of time.
Folks who just carry luggage, open doors, the hotel housekeeping maid, $2 to $5 each night/event is good.
For any kind of service: if you got really awful service, ask to speak to the manager and then tell them what bothers you.
Try to make sure you give the service person the cash in hand personally if at all possible, unless you do it on a credit card (you can do this at restaurants a lot) - there is a lot of stealing going on by other service personnel and sometimes even by floor managers (happened to me at a catering company) and if you can't do this, just trust that the money will get where it needs to go. If there is a "tip jar" - just some odd container that has "TIPS" marked somewhere on it and sits beside the cash register - this is totally discretionary and up to your whim and mood. ALWAYS check your bill thoroughly BEFORE paying - some eateries add a tip automatically for larger groups, and this should be marked on your menu and your bill - and if your service was bad, you can get this corrected better by management before you pay, rather than after...
Hope you have a good trip!! Disney itself is one of the very best when it comes to service - you should have a very nice holiday!
Not sure what kind of stuff you like. My tastes tend to be a bit offbeat, so I like:
Welcome to Gatorland, the Alligator Capital of the World and Orlando's Best Half Day Attraction!
and the city of Tarpon Springs Tarpon Springs Florida|Sponge Docks|Greek Restaurants|Epiphany|Sightseeing| - especially Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. Florida Gifts,Greek Gifts,arts,shopping,jewelry,gifts,sponges,loofah,s ea sponges,bath body,tarpon springs,faux painting
Key West, while a bit touristy is also fun - eat, drink, snorkle.
People travel to experience something different. If a Brit wanted to sip espresso and visit museums, he'd go to Paris. Yeah, Orlando isn't at the apex of high culture. So what.
Originally Posted by magnolia1973
I might suggest putting Waffle House over Denny's. Take a picture of your huge breakfast. And definitely do one of those fan-boat tours through the Everglades.
I love Florida, it's First World meets fetid, dangerous Third World swamp.
+1 for Key West. Awesome place. Although, you'll probably want to fly there instead of drive.
Originally Posted by JoanieL
Last edited by Grok; 11-03-2012 at 01:36 PM.
I don't like Florida, but I have a favorite aunt who lives in Stuart, and I SO have to send her your description of the place - perfectly on-target! Thanks for the chuckle!
Originally Posted by Rojo
Rojo is right - I can't believe I forgot the Everglades! If your group is big enough or if you can swing a private airboat, you might try it because the guide/driver may take you to places off the regular tour.
For real. You are going to a lot of gross places. Disney, at least, has decent food options.
Originally Posted by magnolia1973