Thursday, January 24, 2013

5 Tips for an Orlando Theme Park Visit

Magic Kingdom

Orlando, Florida is home to a variety of theme, water, and amusement parks. Whether it is Disney, Universal, Sea World, or Wet N’ Wild you are interested in, there are more than enough activities to do and, most likely, not enough days or energy to do them all. Pick wisely and you will have a fun filled vacation with lots of reasons to return. Here are a few things I learned on my weekend trip down south.

1. Transportation- How do you plan to get around? If you are driving your own car or getting a rental, take into account hotel parking fees ($20/day), theme park parking lot fees ($14/day), rental fees ($12-32/day), gasoline cost, and driving through traffic. If you don’t have your own car, it is doable to maneuver without one. Many of the hotels have airport shuttles ($19/person) and a taxi will run about $50 to/from the airport and $10 to/from Downtown Disney or Universal CityWalk. Theme park shuttles run every hour and if you are on Disney property there is always the monorail or ferry. If you are riding shuttles, take note of the schedules and reservation requirements. If you have a digital camera or camera phone, take a snapshot of the schedule. If you lose the schedule, you’ll have a digital copy saved. Weigh your options and go with the one you are most comfortable with. I have stayed on Disney property once and had no issues with public transportation. This time, I was based on the Universal side and had a few issues with taxi and shuttle hours and customer service. Next time I’d look into renting my own car.

2. Accommodations- If you stay on Disney or Universal property there are a lot of perks. These are the newer hotels and have a resort like feel. By staying on Disney or Universal property, you may have early entry into the parks and a Universal Express card key for Universal. Skip the lines! This perk can cost up to $50 extra per person depending on the day you go so if you get it complimentary through the hotel you could be saving some real money.

There are countless budget friendly hotels and motels in the surrounding area. If you choose not to stay on Disney or Universal property, check if your hotel is part of the Disney or Universal partnership. You may be able to get into the parks an hour early.   

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure
3. When to Visit- I have been to Orlando during the height of Summer and Spring Break. Both months (July and April) were humid, hot, and crowded. Temperatures were in the high 80s. This time I went during Martin Luther King weekend (January) and it was still warm (72 degrees) and sunny. The coldest it got was a low of 64 and it rained barely a sprinkle. The crowds were non-existent (line wait times were anywhere from five minutes to 45 minutes). I vow never to go back during Summer or Spring Break. Off peak season is much better.   

4. Theme Park Logic- Study the map of the theme park. Cross off rides and attractions you are not interested in. If there is a FASTPASS available for a ride, get it and return at your designated time to avoid long wait times. While waiting, ride one or two rides or catch a show. Go on rides when people are eating lunch or dinner or watching a parade or fireworks show. If you need a logical path, walk the park clockwise, counterclockwise, or go to the farthest point and then make your way back to the entrance/exit, and take the train if you are tired of walking around the park.
FASTPASSES at Magic Kingdom
5. Birthday- It was my birthday weekend and I went to the Magic Kingdom on my actual birthday. I got a birthday button with my name on it and every time a park employee saw my button they wished me a happy birthday. One employee even serenaded me in Donald Duck’s voice and threw confetti on me. At the new Fantasyland, I was in one of the giftshop candy stores and I got a free chocolate covered marshmallow dipped in hot pink crystallized sugar. It was delicious! I felt really special all day. Universal is also on the birthday bandwagon and distributes birthday buttons as well.

Disney buttons
I had a whirlwind tour of three theme parks in three days. I’ve already planned my next trip and that would be during October when there are even less people. At the Magic Kingdom during Halloween they convert the Haunted Mansion into Nightmare Before Christmas and then overnight the park gets decked out in Christmas decorations complete with fake snow. I definitely want to experience that and will be using the tips I learned this last weekend to maximize my trip to its full potential. Happy theme park hopping!

1180 7 Seas Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

6000 Universal Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32819

1 comment:

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