Kennedy Space Center, DisneyWorld & Universal Studios Orlando, Florida
DisneyWorld is exhausting! Well, at least it is if you try to do 1 park per day, which *is* possible, I can tell you from experience…if you have the right tools. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with small children, however. And even for those of you who don’t have small children, I wouldn’t recommend it for the faint of heart. You will be going at a break-neck pace all day and getting your exercise!
I’m often asked which park I like better, Disneyland or DisneyWorld. I’d probably tell you overall, I like Disneyland better but I think it’s worth a visit to DisneyWorld. Be sure to try all of the rides at DisneyWorld…even the ones that are the same as Disneyland…they are different!
There are hundreds of tips out there for a Disney vacation, including how to each cheap in the parks, where to stay, etc. Below are the tips that we’ve either discovered ourselves or tips we’ve gleaned from hours of research and then actual use.
Kennedy Space Center
ProTip #1 – You may be tempted by the Astronaut lunch…don’t be. You will get the *exact* same experience at the Astronaut Encounter (which is included in your regular admission) without the really, really bad steam table lunch.
ProTip #1 – Universal has 2 parks, we only did 1. If you are set on just doing 1 day per park, you might want to look into the “Express Pass”. They only sell so many per day and this gets you into the Express line for most rides (there are 3 rides it is not valid for). The Express pass is good for one line skip per ride, but…here is the clincher! Watch when they scan them…if it seems fast and you don’t hear a ‘beep’, then they didn’t really scan them! You can come back later and use your ticket again! We had only 1 person actually scan our ticket.
ProTip #2 – You can download apps that show line wait times for the Universal Parks.
ProTip #3 – Do the Hogsmead (Harry Potter) area of Islands of Adventure either very first thing in the morning or after 4pm. These are the least busy times.
ProTip #4 – The two big deals in Hogsmead are Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice. Butterbeer is especially popular and the lines to purchase it can be in excess of 30 mins! To skip the line, find the Three Broomsticks restaurant. Facing the restaurant, look to the right and locate the bathrooms. Just to the left of the bathrooms, is an alley. That alley leads to the back deck of the Three Broomsticks. Enter the backdoor and head to the bar (kids can go into the bar too). Order your butterbeer at the counter. Less than 5 mins of wait! Two notes about butterbeer: first, you can order it regular or frozen (like a slushee) and second, there is a alternate version of butterbeer. The original is like a cream soda with butterscotch…the alternate is root beer with butterscotch. The root beer version is only sold at one of the carts, so be prepared to wait.
As a side note, the pumpkin juice is good! Tastes like pumpkin pie and apple cider (neither of which I like, but the juice was really good!)
ProTip #1 – Get your tickets for Disney and Universal earlier in the year. The prices traditionally go up in early June.
ProTip #2 – Use www.mousesavers.com for research…great site!
ProTip #3 – At Downtown Disney, to avoid the crowds, walk around the sidewalk ‘outside’.
ProTip #4 – Hotels at DisneyWorld require a bus ride to get to the parks. We heard people complaining that it could take upwards of an hour to reach the parks on those buses. This includes actual Disney Hotels. My recommendation is that you rent a house! We were able to rent a 4 bedroom house with a pool AND a car for the same price as staying at a Holiday Inn outside of the park! There are whole neighborhoods of homes for rent there. We were a 15 – 20 min drive from the parks. Personally, I’d rather drive than be stuck on a bus! Having a home allowed us a private pool and a full kitchen for making breakfast before hitting the park. We had an excellent experience using Rene Galloway, a travel agent, who is an expert at DisneyWorld and the Orlando area: http://www.vacationplanning.4mydeals.com. I love her!
ProTip #5 – Before you go, buy a subscription to RideMax (www.ridemax.com). This will help you plan your days and not wait in lines. We never waited longer than 20 mins on our trip, using Ridemax. It’s AWESOME. The costs is $17 and if you can stick to a schedule, it will be the best $17 spent. The subscription is for both a download on your laptop and the web app on your iPhone. At the time of this writing I strongly recommend using the version on your laptop, printing the output to pdf and then emailing it to yourself. The phone app was not nearly as good at scheduling and also missed some key features of the downloaded app. It is possible to do 1 park a day with Ridemax, but expect some doozy days!
ProTip #6 – Chase Bank offers a Disney Rewards card that is worth looking into. I’m not sure I’d use it all the time unless I was an avid Disney visitor, but it was great to get it as soon as I knew we were going. The offers vary, but when I signed up, they offered a $200 Disney gift card as a bonus. I managed to earn another $100 in Disney rewards before our trip. We used this money to eat in the park, so we didn’t have to expend the energy to leave, find food and then return in time for our next Ridemax time stamp. http://disneyrewards.com/cards-overview-apply?CELL=6JGK11
ProTip #7 – Remember you can take a pack into the park. Bring water and snacks with you to save some money. We bought two water bottles that have filters built in (LA and Florida water is less than desirable in taste) so we can fill them at the water fountain and still have good tasting water. Water in the park is pricey. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004RLNDR0/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00. Also, it’s important to note that you can get free ice or free ice water from almost any vendor in the park.
ProTip #8 – One of the most fun things for our kids was pin trading. Disney sells pins everywhere. Pins at the park cost from $6.95 to $13.95 each! All of the Disney cast members wear lanyards with pins. Cast members *have* to trade with kids, period. Kids can trade up to 2 pins per day, per cast member (don’t forget the cleaning cast…usually in white uniforms, they get overlooked and often have great pins!) For trading…we went on eBay and bought a “lot” of 25 pins for $18. I highly recommend the pins listed as *Rack/Cast/LE* (that’s off the rack, cast member pins and limited edition) from these guys: http://stores.ebay.com/dizzney4pins. I also suggest you buy 50 pins per kid. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can trade up and it’s very addicting. We’ve even had Dizzney4Pins overnight more pins to us while we’ve been at the park! Buy your lanyard from them as well. The least expensive lanyard in the park is $8.95. These guys sell them for $3. Also, be sure to ask the pin stores if they have a pin trading board, wall, book, vest, or hat. That’s like hitting a windfall, and often times they do have them!
ProTip #9 – Remember that the Main Street Office will charge phones and whatnot for you. They give you a receipt to pick it up later.
ProTip #10 – Look on Mousesavers for best food values in the park. Note that the ‘half a chicken’ they often refer to as being enough food for 2 people, isn’t enough for 2 adults.
ProTip #11 – If you do the character breakfast buffet, the ticket you get is good for like 3 hours. So if you do a late breakfast (say 10am), you can come back at 12:50 and do lunch too. These things are super expensive so squeezing two meals out of it is a bonus. =)
ProTip #12 – If you have the “Waterparks & More” addition to your Disney ticket you should know two things. First, get to the waterparks early and ride everything once because after 11am, it will start to get very crowded. Second, go check out the Disney Quest Indoor Amusement park! It’s part of your “& More”. It’s in Downtown Disney and it’s worth at least 4 hours of your time. Try to avoid evenings after 7pm when it gets busy. This is 5 stories of interactive, virtual reality and video games from way back in the day to now. Once you are in, all attractions and games are free of charge.