Taking time out from the thrills and spills of the theme parks in Orlando, Florida to make the most of the shopping experiences of the tourist district has its own highlights, writes Ruth Brindle. Not least the knowledge that you are saving a lot of money on everything from trainers to designer handbags.

My personal favourites over many years of visiting this ever-growing city, and top of the list for many UK visitors, are the Florida Mall and the two Premium Outlet locations at Vineland and International Drive, all run by the world’s largest retail property owners, Simon, www.simon.com The outlets offer bargains of between 25 to 65 per cent below normal retail prices.

But just the same as any visit to Walt Disney World, Universal or SeaWorld, the sheer volume of what’s on offer and the size of the properties means that organisation is the key. And with comprehensive websites for UK travellers to visit before you fly over to the US, it’s possible to get your bargain hunting and purchase planning down to a fine art. Pin down which are your target shops and mark them on the downloadable map, or on your mall guide when you arrive. Coupon books with discounts which you can buy for $5 (£3.30) can save you hundreds of dollars at all the shopping venues and they also have a very useful US/UK size comparison guide. It’s also worth joining the VIP shopping club online to find out more and register for all the latest extra discount deals.

You can tag on a few hours of shopping at the beginning or end of a day at the parks, or take a leisurely day dedicated to spending! Vineland’s Premium Outlets, for instance, is quite near to Walt Disney World. The 160 outdoor stores, set along shaded avenues, have designer and upper high street level shops and include brands such as Prada, Fendi, Hugo Boss, Burberry, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren and Tory Burch – favoured by celebrities.

On a visit to Vineland in June our small band of friends gave our feet a rest during a busy shopping outing when we stopped off for a hilarious helping of lunchtime fun at the eatery Dick’s Last Resort and, even though we were given a hint of what was to come, were taken by surprise and tickled pink by our waiter’s cheeky ‘attitude’. Not so much service with a smile, as service with endless sarcasm.

After throwing our straws and serviettes at us, he pronounced himself indifferent to what we wanted to order, then later gave us all tall paper hats decorated with phrases such as ‘Still hot - it just comes in flashes’ for one of my female travelling companions, while I was dubbed ‘Retired Hooters girl’. Hmmmm. All taken with a pinch of salt, we did have a laugh as we munched through our traditional American fayre. But you have been warned, www.dickslastresort.com

The International Drive Premium Outlets is nearer to Universal Orlando, but easily accessible from any Orlando location. Formerly Prime Outlets, this shopping experience has been totally transformed by Simon since 2010 to a much more pleasant environment with trees and restaurants. There are 180 shops here – everything you could possibly want as long as you can fit it in your suitcase. But even if you can’t, invest in a very affordable Samsonite Tote-A-Ton fold-down duffle bag (around $30, under £20) to take them all home in. Seasoned Orlando shoppers know that the secret to success is to bring a lot less on the plane than you take home.

Particular brands to look out for here are the only Victoria’s Secret outlet in the US, a new Diesel outlet, Forever 21 and Coach. Both outlet malls also, of course, have most of our favourites, including Levis and Nike. Update your watch, jewellery and technology here too. Take a break during bargain hunting to enjoy some delicious Italian food at Vinitos www.vinitousa.com

But just minutes from Orlando International airport, The Florida Mall which attracts more than 20 million visitors a year with 250 stores in what can only be described as a giant undercover shopping paradise, has the best of full-price brands with all the up-to-the-minute styles. It’s a must do stop-off on the way home for Brits who can enjoy some useful privileges such as free luggage storage and a free two-hour appointment with a personal shopper that you can book ahead. Invaluable if you don’t have a lot of time and need to find the exact item you’re looking for.

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The Florida Mall's new dining pavilion

Abercrombie and Fitch and Hollister are magnets for us Brits, but there’s also a huge two-story Zara flagship store, where you can make big savings on UK prices. Anything Apple, Mac make-up, Gap and Banana Republic are favourites too. The mall has four major department stores Dillards, jcpenney, Sears and Macy’s (following signs for these stores is always a good indication of the direction you are walking in and where you’ve parked!). But fun places to check out for families also include the M&M’s® World store and the brand-new Crayola Experience, which opened at the beginning of July.

This vast 70,000 sq ft space of interactive experiences with its own café offers somewhere for youngsters to stay entertained while mum or dad shops. I thought it would provide an ideal option to keep everybody happy as parents could each take their turn for lone bargain hunting while their partner does some elaborate colouring in and lots, lots more with the kids, (both have to buy tickets, of course). It’s an amazing space with digital walls, the chance to star in your own picture, Doodle In The Dark and Modelling Madness to name a few of the experiences included. This costs $19.99 per person (£13) with under 2s free, www.crayolaexperience.com

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The Crayola Experience is a great place for families to hang out

Any little girls who love dolls will also be drawn to the new American Girl shop, one of only two in Florida, where youngsters can create a mini-me of themselves and even buy the same clothes for their doll that they wear. You can sit your doll at the table with you in a mini high chair at the store’s restaurant while you eat a really well-prepared and tasty meal, www.americangirl.com

But for a wider choice of food there’s a brand-new food pavilion with 16 eateries which gives the mall a more contemporary feel with healthy options as well as speciality foods such as Puerto Rican, Creole and Argentinian fayre.

One other option to get away from the crowds is at The Florida Hotel attached to the mall. It’s a great place to enjoy a drink or have a meal during your visit and it has a very impressive business centre stocked with shiny Apple Mac computers, www.thefloridahotelorlando.com Then it may be time to set off for your flight home. But there’s always something new to enjoy in Orlando, the fun capital of the world, and these are just a few of the new things for 2015 and what’s coming up in 2016…..

Next year Universal will ramp up its hotel offering with the 1,000-room Loews Sapphire Falls Resort with a Caribbean-inspired theme. It’s no wonder Universal’s popularity is soaring with the success of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that is double it’s original size and now spans both parks from the Islands of Adventure to Universal Studios and back! Taking a spooky steam train ride (watch out for the dementors) on the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 ¾ is magical.

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An artist's impression of the upcoming Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal

 Once again, the attention to detail in the buildings and the streets as you wander around is eye-popping. Watch out for a 60-ft fire-breathing dragon on the top of Gringotts Bank and make sure you take the 3-D, thrill-packed ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – one of the best rides in both parks. Both young and old are entranced here with many youngsters trying out their interactive wands, shopping for magical jokes and tricks at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and lapping up the super-sweet and delicious butterbeer ice-cream at Florean Fortescue’s ice-cream parlour.

Make sure you’re not afraid to experience the darker side of magic along Knockturn Alley too. Watch out next year for Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Islands of Adventure that will bring one of the most monumental figures in movie history, King Kong back to life. Guests will board large vehicles and explore ancient temple structures while encountering hostile natives and fending off unspeakable terrors. Of course we will, and we’ll love it! www.universalorlando.co.uk

I-Drive 360 is one of the newest attractions in town, opened by our own Merlin Entertainments this spring. What’s on offer will be familiar to London visitors as it has its own 400-foot-tall observation wheel The Orlando Eye (just shy of the height of the London Eye). It’s fun trying to figure out which theme park ride is which and if you can see as far as the Kennedy Space Center as you slowly turn in your capsule. Madame Tussauds Orlando is as fascinating as ever and the SEA LIFE Aquarium is thought to be one of the best. The project also includes Skeletons: Animals Unveiled! and a variety of dining and shopping outlets including Tin Roof, Bar Jour, Cafe du Paris, Sugar Factory, Yard House, Cowgirls and Seafood Republic, www.i-drive360.com

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The Orlando Eye

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The Boathouse at Disney Springs

Walt Disney World has announced plans to open a new Frozen ride at Epcot in early 2016. The Maelstrom ride, located in the Norway pavilion of the World Showcase, will be renovated into a new attraction based on Disney’s popular animated film. The ride will take guests to Arendelle and immerse them in many of their favourite moments with music from the film. Sing Let It Go at the top of your voices! Downtown Disney is also undergoing a major renovation to be renamed Disney Springs that will double the number of shops, restaurants and other venues. Due to be completed in 2016, www.disneyworld.disney.go.com

SeaWorld Orlando announced plans for Mako, a brand new 200-foot-tall coaster opening in summer 2016. Named for one of the ocean’s fastest known sharks, it will be Orlando’s tallest, fastest, and longest rollercoaster, reaching speeds of 73 mph as it races along 4,760 feet of steel track. SeaWorld’s new hypercoaster will be the centerpiece of the newly themed two-acre plaza that will be fully shark-themed. Aquatica – SeaWorld’s waterpark opened Orlando’s tallest and steepest free-fall waterslide in May. With slides nearly 80 feet tall, Ihu’s Breakaway Falls is the only multi-drop tower slide of its kind in Orlando. Busch Gardens Tampa announced plans for a new family thrill ride called Cobra’s Curse, opening in 2016. This spin coaster will be the only one of its kind in the world, featuring a vertical lift and taking riders on a whirlwind adventure. Key features of the ride will include an 80-foot snake icon, a trek over the park’s Serengeti Plain and the mysteries of an Egyptian archaeological excavation, www.seaworldparks.com

LEGOLAND Florida Resort Hotel opened in May. The four-story hotel features 152 brightly-coloured and highly themed rooms and suites, LEGO décor, interactive play areas, a pool and a restaurant, www.florida.legoland.com

For more information on Orlando and everything it has to offer visit www.visitorlando.com and if you want to discover more of Florida, get some ideas at www.visitflorida.com