Driving in America is a whole new experience to a Brit. I am the map-reader in the family so the driving always falls to my husband, after four trips to Orlando we feel that we are starting to get to grips with it and there are some things worth remembering.
The hire-car will be an automatic. Having always driven manual cars this does take a bit of getting used to. The best thing to do is to put your "clutch" foot well under the seat and just concentrate on using the accelerator (gas) and brake. Failure to do this will see you bunny-hopping out of the airport! The attendants at the hire station will run through the basics with you if you ask. You will have to be in "Park" before you can take the key out.
Obviously you need to drive on the right. America does not have roundabouts (or at least I have never seen one) so if you have gone wrong you can usually do a u-turn.
Parking should always be done bonnet first. The cars don’t have plates on the front and I was told that you should always park with the plate showing.
You are not allowed to park near to fire hydrants.
You are not allowed to pass a yellow school bus on either side of the carriage-way if its lights are flashing.
Traffic lights are suspended above the road. It is easy to miss them when you are used to seeing them at the side. They swing around a lot when it is windy which can be quite scary! When you arrive at a junction and the light is on red you must stop first (obviously!). However if you are turning right and it is safe you are allowed to proceed as long as there is not a sign prohibiting it. This will save you having angry locals blaring their horns at you whilst you sit innocently waiting for the lights to change.
When a sign says something is "next left" it does not mean in a short distance like it does in the UK. It normally means almost immediately, sometimes directly behind the pole holding the sign so be prepared.
Filling up with fuel requires payment first so you will have to go into the kiosk before you can start.
Always carry small change as the toll-roads are usually 25 or 50 cents. Try and get some coins or small notes before your trip as several roads that you may use from the airport will have a charge and they don’t take kindly to a $20 bill. It is useful to have small notes available for tipping at the airport too.
Carry your passport, driving licence and hire-documents with you at all times.
If you are driving in to Disney or Universal be prepared by knowing which roads you want when you drive out. Getting into these places is easy but getting out when you are tired, it is dark and you have lost all sense of direction is trickier. Work out the road number you need and keep heading for it as you will no doubt end up coming out in a completely different way to the way you went in!
We have managed perfectly well on all our trips and a car really is essential to make the most of your holiday. Public transport and pedestrians are definitely rated behind the car-driver. Take things easy, always carry a map and use your common sense and you will soon be as happy on the road as the locals.