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Florida holiday's are child's play
Isla finally stopped talking and stood open-mouthed, her eyes wide like a startled rabbit as she caught sight of the castle.
But this wasn't any castle... This was Cinderella's Castle - and there was no place on earth she'd rather have been.
It had been seven years since my wife Rachel and I took our last trip to Florida, and since then we'd been blessed with two little princesses.
So Walt Disney World had become the land of their dreams as well as our own.
Our four-year-old Isla had been going on about her forthcoming Disney trip non-stop for months, so keeping her entertained in Florida was, predictably, a breeze.
But we were more concerned about the youngest member of the Jones clan, six-month old Evelyn, and how we would keep her happy and comfortable.
As anyone with children will testify, that stage in a baby's life can be extremely challenging for parents. Throw in long journeys, strange surroundings, and hot, humid weather, and it becomes a potentially volatile mix.
It's often said that preparation is key for holidays, particularly those to Orlando, and before we set off we were inundated with the usual pearls of wisdom from friends and family: "Make sure you visit...", "Don't forget to take..." and "Are you doing an itinerary?"
Luckily, we were also pointed in the direction of website Florida Baby (www.floridababy.co.uk), whose motto is 'Making Florida holidays child's play'.
The site was set up last year by Travel City Direct and is packed with hundreds of tips, a collection of amusing Look Who's Talking-style videos, and a users' forum, all of which are designed to help parents who are anxious about taking their little ones to the Sunshine State for the first time.
Our main concerns were about flights and boarding, both in England and in the US. But after reading the 'At the Airport' section on Florida Baby and following their tips on baby food allowances, security and jetlag, our minds were put at rest.
Once in Disney World itself, there are four legendary theme parks - Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios - and two water parks - Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon - to explore.
Apart from staring at the castle (the most photographed building in the world) in Magic Kingdom, Isla didn't know what to do first.
Evelyn, on the other hand, was usually happy enough just being pushed around, and catching up on her sleep.
So, as one parent took their turn on the bigger rides with our eldest, the other soaked up the atmosphere, while looking after the baby.
Also, thanks to Disney's Rider Switch system, which enables parents to go on some of the more popular rides straight after each other, we didn't get caught up in tedious queuing. At one stage, a petrified Mummy and Daddy were both separately frog-marched by a nonchalant Isla onto the "big lift up into the sky" - otherwise known as the spooky Hollywood Tower of Terror.
It was during the Friday afternoon at Epcot that I realised Isla is the perfect age for Disney World.
"Mummy, we have just been to Mars and landed on the red sand," she said after disembarking the Mission: Space simulator ride with her Daddy. To Isla, everything about the place was real - even Mickey and Minnie Mouse, who we saw later that evening, for the fifth time that week.
But it soon became clear that there's also plenty to keep children of Evelyn's age stimulated at Disney.
Climbing aboard Epcot's 'clamobiles', the four of us went on a fun-filled journey beneath the sea on the Nemo and Friends ride. Evelyn was the happiest we had seen her all holiday, and in her element afterwards, playing with the interactive fishy stuff.
Florida Baby also warned us that most families with young children need a break during the sweltering afternoons in the Orlando parks.
Refuge came in the form of the Baby Care Centers - cool calming havens that also stock everything parents of babies and toddlers may need for the day, including milk, nappies, wipes and food.
Once the heat had taken its toll (and Isla had tired of autograph hunting), the usual course of action for our family was to head back from the parks on the shuttle bus (or 'motorcoach') to our hotel - Disney's Port Orleans Riverside.
Offering a taste of the 'Big Easy', the complex, which sits beside the Sassagoula River, is a throwback to the days of giant paddle steamers, Southern mansions and beautiful lawned gardens.
There's also a massive food court, bar, merchandise shop and luxurious reception, plus Riverside guests can also use the facilities at the nearby French Quarter.
Although there's more than enough to do in Walt Disney World alone, our hire car from Dollar Rent-A-Car enabled us to sample the culinary delights of International Drive's many family friendly restaurants and diners.
Supermarkets in the zip code, such as Walgreens, are also ideal for stocking up on baby and holiday supplies, while Florida Mall on Orange Blossom Trail, which at nearly two million square feet is one of America's largest single-story shopping centres, is ideal for a bit of retail therapy.
Our holiday had begun, as all family trips to Orlando should - at Disney's Magic Kingdom.
And, after giving Isla the choice of which of the theme parks she wanted to return to, it also ended there.
In the space of seven short hours on our last day, she had climbed aboard the Big Thunder Railroad, Splash and Space - as well as the Mad Tea Party, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and Prince Charming's Regal Carousel.
The holiday was rounded off in fairytale fashion that afternoon with the dazzling World of Fantasy parade, on Main Street USA, smack bang in front of Cinderella's Castle.
The four of us, even Evelyn (we like to think), were left with many magical memories to take back to England.
Walt Disney World is often billed as the place 'Where Dreams Come True', and for seven magical days both our princesses lived the dream. As did their parents.
Key facts - Orlando, Florida
Best for: Children and adults of all ages.
Time to go: January, Spring and Autumn.
Don't miss: Disney's Magic Kingdom - the original and best theme park in Orlando, if not anywhere in the world.
Need to know: Baby supplies, help and advice are all plentiful inside the Disney parks, particularly at the Baby Care Centers.
Don't forget: Check Florida Baby (www.floridababy.co.uk) for travel tips and advice before you leave.
:: Richard Jones and his family were guests of Travel City Direct, which offers family holidays to Orlando, with flights from 21 regional airports.
:: Fourteen-night holidays in January 2012 at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside start at £899 per person, based on two adults and two children sharing and including scheduled flights ex Gatwick and Manchester, room only accommodation and car rental with Dollar Rent-A-Car. Packages ex Glasgow start at £1,129.
:: Travel City Direct offers a '14 days for 7' Disney park ticket from £239 per adult and £215 per child.
:: Call 0844 557 6965 or book online at www.travelcitydirect.com.