Tips and Ideas to Make Your Trip to Disney World & Universal Studios the Best Vacation Ever
If you’re planning a trip to Disney Word and Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida for a Honeymoon or family vacation, here’s some advice on planning the trip and getting the most bang for your buck.
Download the 'Disney World' App
I have an iPhone so I don't know if it's availble on Andriod or not I will say this, it's probably the coolest app I have on my phone. It breaks down for you all the rides in the park by how long the waits are for each ride. It tells you when and where the characters are going to be for your autograph books. It even has a map feature and shows where you are via GPS signal. Pretty amazing stuff if you ask me. Best part is, it's a free app! (make sure you get the offical one from Disney)
Speaking of apps, download Waze
Maybe I'm from the stone-age or something, but this GPS app blows my mind. Not only does this app use a standard map gps, but it also uses user reports. Think of it as a cross between Facebook and google maps. From road hazards from police to accident reports. All of it gets logged into their servers and populates to your cell phone. So not only does it direct you around traffic but it also alerts you to situations on your route. The other really cool feature is the search feature. It uses different search engines, google, waze, yelp, etc to help you find what you're looking for. For instance, we stayed in a hotel in a very touristy area (think $10 for a small bottle of sunscreen). So we typed in Walmart in the GPS, did a search and found one 7 miles from our hotel and saved TONS. Oh and this is a free app too.
Staying hydrated and bring a backpack
If you have a family, bring 2 backpacks. Fill one backpack with the stuff you'd like to bring with (umbrella is must) fill the other backpack with bottles of water and snacks. If you can only bring one backpack with you ... bring the one with snacks and water. Seriously this is one of the coolest things about Disney, they let you bring food and drinks in the park. Do it. We bought (at the aforementioned Walmart) a case of water for $2.50 ... a bottle of water at Disney is about $2.50. I'm no math genius but seriously. Besides that, when you wait in line for 2 hours to get on Toy Story Mania ride You'll enjoy having a drink and a snack while the line crawls. Though if you're like me you'll feel guilty when the kid behind you in line starts whining to their parents that they're hungry as you eat your granola bar.
Dining / drinking plans at Universal are worth ... sorta
Well I'd love to tell you all about Disney's meal plan options but we didn't stay at a Disney Resort, so, we didn't get to participate.
I can tell you about Universal, we bought our tickets, souvineer thermos cup, and meal plan at the same time on Universal's website. Thinking awesome we won't have to worry about any other costs than souvineers.
Well let me preface this by saying it's a major pain to keep up with the huge thermos from Universal ... but it's worth every penny. Get one for everybody in your family while we were there it was free refills all day on the Freestyle coke machines. Granted they ran short on some of the flavors, but you'd ALWAYS have something to wet your whistle. And if you like they can fill it up with tap water too (though you have to ask for it at a counter).
The food plan is ... well the food plan covers certain restaurants. Which? You know the REALLY fancy places you can eat, Three Broomsticks and Mythos? Yeah food plan doesn't work there. Guess where we wanted to eat at and ended up eating? I'm sad to say I feel that we wasted money on the meal plan.
We ended up forcing ourselves to eat at the places the wrist band works ate some decent burgers. The quality of the food between the wrist band restaurants to the non-wristband restaurants is basically comparing Smashburger hamburger to Burger King. Both are good, but one is mass produced the other has a bit of love behind it. The meal plan comes with an entree (pizza, burger, chicken fingers) and a dessert (cake or cookie).
As I sat there trying to force myself to eat another bite I thought, if I was going to universal with a family the meal plan is worth it. But if you're like us and want the more upscale dining experience and not having to sprint for an open table, skip em. (I still have nightmares about our 'meal' in Dr. Suess-land)
If you're going to buy souvenirs let me highly recommend you go to Downtown Disney. It's a huge outdoor shopping mall, that has tons of Disney stores and restaurants ... seriously, shopping in Downtown Disney for your Souvenirs is a way easier prospect than walking around the parks trying to find all the stores. We were there on our Honeymoon, and got our special wedding mouse ears and embroidered all in a one stop situation. Didn't even take long to do. In Universal, I'll be honest my wife and I were too excited about Harry Potter to stop and check out City Walk. We practically sprinted to the park from the parking garage. But I will say this, they have a really cool feature that comes in handy for while shopping at the candy shop in Hogsmead they will send all of the souvenirs you buy and send them to the front of the park. Which beats the heck out of getting a locker which can get pricey.
At Disney parks that's part of your admission, you can get a fast pass to any ride you want once a day. Which is awesome into it's self but it's not as "fast" as you'd think (as everybody gets a fast pass). It's more of a reserved time for priority seating. Which, don't be mistaken, is awesome. Especially if you're trying to knock out a whole park in a day, as you can get a fast pass for one ride then stand in line for another.
At Universal Studios the fast pass costs money. And when I say it costs, it costs a pretty penny. (The day we went it was $60 per person. Though I believe that price changes.) So, we passed, as we wanted to spend that $120 on souvenirs and such. However, a park employee noticed it was our honeymoon, so we did get the fast pass experience to the Harry Potter ride. You walk as fast (or as slow) as you want to the absolute front of the line. Also we went into parts of the "castle" other people weren't in, there were stairs you climbed and the portraits had a conversation about Harry Potter, my wife and I listened on, it was pretty neat. Also you can feel the seething envy of every soul you cruise to the glorious start of the ride as they walk at a snails pace. In summary at Universal it's Pricey, but truly 'fast'.
Is it worth it? Your mileage (and pocket book) may vary.
Be considerate of your fellow travelers
There's something to be said for having a plan while being flexible. If run all over the park trying to see everything you'll miss everything on your way there to the big thing. As sad as it is to say, I saw some people down right mad at their family members at the so called "Happiest Place on Earth". There's no answer to every single problem, is it really that big a deal if you don't see the entire park? No, that's what another trip is for. At the same time, if someone wants to do something you think is dumb, humor them odds are they humored you by waiting in line for 40 minutes to go into Haunted Mansion.
Nobody knows where they are they're all listening to gps that's telling them to turn at the last second. So be prepared to feel like you're about to die at least 3 times per car trip.
Bring money, lots of money!
Someone told me to plan on $100 a day per person. I scoffed. We had $900 and were going to be there for 5 days.
"Surely, $900 is more than enough for two people for 5 days." Nope! Our last day we ended up having $100 left and went to Epcot. We got halfway around the world before the vacation money ran out.
So yes, in addition to the $150(ish) per person ticket price per day, in addition to the $300 per night hotel room. You need $100 for each person, each day. It's possible to get by with less, but it won't be as awesome as it could be.
Cinderella's Table & Be Our Guest
Expensive? YES! Worth every penny. At Cinderella's Royal table you meet all of the princesses and get a great meal. We couldn't get reservations for Be Our Guest however they have a line for you to wait in for lunch. And it was amazing, a really cool atmosphere. I hear at dinner you can ask for some of the grey stuff and it's really delicious. Do them. Both.
Bring / Buy an umberella
In my experience it seriously it rains everyday in Florida, one big old shower ... every day ... it's like clock work. Don't be the person soaked. Buy an umbrella.
Pro tip: In the summer time you can expect it to feel: Hot, really hot, it's the surface of the sun, then it will rain ... then it'll get steamy ... then really nice as the sun sets.