14 May, 2024

7 Tips for Planning the Perfect Disney/Universal Adventure in Orlando, Florida

Planning a trip to Disney is overwhelming. At least, for me, it is. This would be an expensive trip considering the amusement park tickets, food, accommodations and travel. 

It requires a lot of planning as well. These amusement parks are busy on most of the days, and every popular ride has a lot of waiting. If we don't plan properly, and prioritize, it is tough to cover all important rides in less time.

Image by dazbrin from Pixabay

We visited both Disney and Universal last year with kids aged 9 and 12 years. I watched several youtube videos and read many blogs about planning for the trip. 

Here are some tips that I could come up with for anyone planning for a Disney /Universal Vacation or both. 

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When to book the vacation?

First and foremost, deciding the vacation dates as early as possible is important. The least busy times are usually Jan, Feb, late April, Early May, September and Early November.

We visited in the peak time in December, so there is a lot of crowd and more than 1.5 hr waiting time for popular rides.

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Also, decide on which parks to cover and when. Since we have boys above 8 yrs, we wanted to spend more time on Universal than Disney. If you have kids less than 8 yrs or upto 10 yrs, they might like Disney more. It depends on individual preference. 

Book the resort package , theme park tickets and then, don't forget theme park reservation. For Disney, you need theme park reservation even though you booked tickets. For Universal, getting tickets is enough.

These are the official websites for Disney and Universal where you can check and book packages including accommodation, theme park tickets, early access, transportation etc.,

How many days to spend on each park? What Parks to cover?

Disney World in Orlando has 4 theme parks and 2 water parks. 

  • Magic Kingdom
  • Hollywood Studios
  • Animal Kingdom
  • Blizzard Beach and
  • Typhoon Lagoon

We covered only Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. We want to visit EPCOT and Animal Kingdom the next time.

Image by Fabian from Pixabay

Universal has 2 theme parks and one water park.

  • Universal Studios
  • Islands of Adventure and
  • Volcano Bay

We covered all three.

We spent one day in each of the park. So, 5 days in total. We didn't take any rest day, but I highly recommend that you take a rest day in the middle of the week.

We visited Disney Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Universal Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay and Universal Hollywood Studios - one park each day. We would have taken a rest day after Islands of Adventure. We used the day at Volcano bay as partially rest day. 

Where to stay and what are the options?

We stayed in Disney World Resort. The main advantage was the shuttle to the parks. If your vacation is less than a week, I don't know if it will benefit to stay in the resort, but our vacation was 7 days, it helped a lot.We reached Orlando Saturday evening and checked out next friday morning. 

The resort packages are very good for 6 nights including 2 day ticket with admission to 1 park each day, and transportation to and fro theme parks. We visited only 2 Disney parks from Resort,  but stayed in the resort whole week and traveled to Universal by cab. 

Image by bottlein from Pixabay

Food in the resort at any time we return is a biggest advantage. That's one less thing to worry when we are tired. The breakfast options are great too. Our tickets include early park admission too, that's very useful.

A few people suggest taking an airbnb for whole week. If it works out for your budget, and transportation is easy to theme parks, that's another good option. 

There are different types of resorts for different budget levels. 

What are the food options?

Though food is expensive inside theme parks, there are many options available. 

Our Disney resort has many food options of different cuisines including veg and kid-friendly options. We tried to have breakfast and dinner at resort, though a few days we had dinner as well inside the park. Especially when we watched the Fireworks show.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Food options are spread out inside theme parks and the only easy way is to use app and book it online. 

It's better to carry packed snacks and water bottles. There will be a lot of walking and expect to be tired and hungry. We might have walked 10 to 12k steps each day.

Carrying liquid iv hydration multiplier packs helped. 

How to Plan for Rides?

The whole planning above is one side and covering the rides is entirely different side. Disney and Universal apps are a must and without them, it's almost impossible to plan for popular rides.

Image by nitli from Pixabay

1. Install the respective app - Disney / Universal

2. Make a personal list of your favorite and not-to-miss rides (I will give suggestions about each park in future posts)

3. Use Early access from resort or tickets package to take the popular rides early in the day or take popular rides in the evening after 6pm or during fireworks

4. A few rides are always with waiting time over 2 hrs. For those, purchase lightning pass or Disney Genie plus ticket through app

5. With long wait times and proper lunch breaks, you can plan 5 to 10 rides per day. If it's not a busy season, you might be able to do more. With toddlers and below 6yr kids, you might have to follow your own pace.

What are the other activities and not to miss things in theme parks?

Disney is famous for its parades. So, try to catch one if you are nearer.

Disney fireworks is just beautiful and a not to miss attraction.

There are several shows in Disney and Universal that are very well done. (I will give suggestions about each park in future posts)

Image by Mirco from Pixabay

There are also some outdoor shows happening on the main streets of parks and don't miss the meet and greets with your favorite Disney and Universal movie characters. 

How to capture memories and how to get official photos?

Disney Photo Pass service is available near all important rides and locations of the park. You can ask professional photographers at these common locations to capture a photo or video of your family and add them to your Disney Experience app to print / download it later.

Image by hartono subagio from Pixabay

Memory maker is a service which collects all photos and videos of single day or for whole vacation for a single price. This service though little expensive, I cannot tell you how easy it is to create memories of your family vacation with professional photos.

You can also use Disney themed filters from Disney experience app, and there is an option to save video memories as well.

Universal offers 1 day or 3 day photo packages allowing multiple digital downloads. 

So that's about the important tips for your next Disney / Universal vacation! I know, I have just scratched the surface of vacation planning, Will go in details in the coming posts covering each theme park separately.

Until next time,

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