Top of my holiday wishlist is another trip to Disney World, for I have discovered my happy place – and inner Minnie. Having never visited the Orlando resort as a child, I’ve always felt I’d missed out, so when I was invited to give a lecture on the Royal Family in Miami, it seemed the perfect opportunity to make a detour with my husband Chris and children Matilda, nine, and George, four.

When we arrived at Disney Yacht and Beach Club Resort we collectively exhaled. This place’s sheer scale is incredible. ‘I can’t believe we are in Disney World!’ Matilda squealed. I couldn’t either.

We were handed Mickey Mouse wristbands at check-in. These allow us to access all parks, and also contain tickets that enable us to skip the queues.

Fantasy life: You’ll find Mickey and Minnie and all their friends at Disney World’s four parks

Fantasy life: You’ll find Mickey and Minnie and all their friends at Disney World’s four parks

We were too excited to get out of bed so we grabbed our day bag stuffed full with sunscreen, water and a fold-away umbrella.

We headed to Epcot with its Eiffel Tower, large lake and other attractions. I was amazed at how huge the park is. Disney World isn’t just America’s top tourist destination, it’s a county in its own right, complete with a municipal district.

It’s easy to get around thanks to the modern transport infrastructure. The new cable-cars afford bird’s-eye views, boat rides make for a scenic experience while the monorail and Walt Disney World Bus Service whisk you quickly between the parks.

We are proud to sport our new Mickey and Minnie ears.), we strolled around the World Showcase, stopping at England with a quaint pub, lipstick-red post boxes and beautifully manicured gardens where we chanced upon Mary Poppins, much to Matilda and George’s delight.

Fast track: Katie and her husband get to try out the Slinky Dog rollercoaster, pictured above

Quick track: Katie with her husband can try the Slinky Dog rollercoaster (pictured above). 

Super nanny: Katie’s children meet Mary Poppins in the 'England' corner of the resort's World Showcase

Super nanny: Katie’s children meet Mary Poppins in the ‘England’ corner of the resort’s World Showcase 

We were able to hop across the ocean to Norway and sail through Frozen in a Viking-powered ship. The ride was filled with music and 3D technology, which makes them look so realistic. We did the trip three more times.

Because George is so young, Epcot was not able to offer many thrilling rides. Spaceship Earth was a huge dome the size of a golfball that illuminates at night. It was also suitable for everyone. The journey through the Stone Age, the Digital Age, and back on rickety trains, however, was both educational, fun, and informative.

The kids also loved The Seas With Nemo And Friends – a ride on a ‘clamobile’ which spins and turns as the underwater world of Finding Nemo whooshes past.

My highlight was Soarin’ Around The World – a virtual-reality hang-gliding ride. Matilda was just short enough to get us seats in the first row. This gave us a spectacular view of an African Savanna and a group of elephants.

After that, we climbed over the Taj Mahal and headed towards the North Pole. An icy blast of wind caught us off guard and I was pleasantly surprised to see a very real-looking polar bear and her cub jumping into the water.

Epcot hosts the best nightly fireworks show over Lake Erie, set to live music and featuring a spectacular light show.

The kids were exhausted and fell asleep on the train back to the hotel, but I stayed up plotting the next day’s itinerary.

It was ambitious, but possible. We tried to visit all four parks in three days. It is impossible to do everything you want in just three days. And it’s worth staying at a Disney hotel, as guests can enjoy crowd-free ‘magic hours’ in the morning before the parks open to the public.

According to Katie, there's no need to carry cash at Disney World. She says: 'Just charge everything to your Disney account, which is linked to your Mickey Mouse wristband'

Katie says that cash is not necessary to visit Disney World. Katie says, “Just charge all your Disney accounts to the Disney wristband linked to your Mickey Mouse wristband.”

You can also use the Disney Genie Service to check wait times and navigate around. You can use it to get passes that bypass lines, to reserve dining (essential for waiter service), and to pre-order food in order to reduce waiting times.

There’s no need to carry cash: just charge everything to your Disney account, which is linked to your Mickey Mouse wristband – the one piece of kit you don’t want to lose.

If you can stretch to paying for a VIP tour guide, rates range from £315 to £630 per hour, depending on the season, with a minimum booking of seven hours and a maximum of ten guests per tour.

'We dedicated the whole of our last day to exploring the Magic Kingdom and its four lands: Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Adventureland,' says Katie. Pictured is the resort's Cinderella castle, which is the gateway to Fantasyland

Katie says, “We spent the entire day exploring the Magic Kingdom’s four lands, Frontierland Fantasyland Tomorrowland Adventureland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.” This is Fantasyland’s gateway, the Cinderella Castle. 

Enjoy the comfort of having your SUV chauffeured to the parks. The driver will provide snacks and wipes for any sticky hands.

Mark, our charming guide was able to navigate us through every corner of Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom with ease. We never had to wait more than 10 minutes on any of the popular rides thanks to his pass.

The children were too small for some of them, but Mark was happy to keep them entertained so my husband and I could experience the Tower Of Terror (a sheer drop in the dark – never again) and the Slinky Dog rollercoaster.

Minnie adventure: A fireworks show at Walt Disney World Resort. 'The whole experience was a sensory overload,' says Katie

The Minnie Adventure: An evening of fireworks at Walt Disney World Resort. Katie says that the whole experience was sensory overload. 


Katie Nicholl was Disney’s guest. Virgin Atlantic Holidays offers seven nights at Walt Disney World from £5,284 for a family of four, excluding flights, departing on August 27. Includes Disney Magic Tickets with Disney Genie+ service (

The shows at Hollywood Studios are brilliantly produced – we enjoyed Beauty And The Beast and the Little Mermaid – and they provide some much needed time out from the sun and crowds.

We then headed to Animal Kingdom, home to ‘Africa’ and ‘Asia’ and the incredible World Of Avatar, which includes a spectacular ride down the film’s Na’vi river. We were able to ride in the jeep through the park and see hippos, elephants, and crocodiles.

The entire day was spent exploring the Magic Kingdom’s four lands, Frontierland Fantasyland Tomorrowland Adventureland.

Matilda wanted to see the castle, so she made an arrangement for lunch with Cinderella as well as the other Disney Princesses.

Watching the children’s faces as they met the stars of movies they love was wonderful, and when I discovered Disney champagne I was in second heaven!

The whole experience was a sensory overload with parades, music, fireworks like I’ve never seen and magical rides.

It was after a difficult year that I discovered what Disney meant to me: the escape. It was all about me, the world around me and I just enjoyed being a child again.