These are the tips and hints about Orlando’s theme parks that only locals know – things that can save you time, energy and generally make your time here that little bit sweeter. With a little invested research now, you can concentrate on having a great time while others are stuck wondering where to go next and how to fit everything in.
With so much to see and only a short space of time to fit it all in, every little time or money saver is welcome knowledge to make your next Orlando trip as good as it can possibly be.
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Visit on overcast days
Many people often choose to skip out on theme park outings during rainy days, making the wait times much shorter than they might be on a typical day. Cloud coverage also means a more comfortable day running around the parks since the weather isn’t as hot and humid during these days. Bringing a rain jacket is highly recommended as Florida weather is infamous for ten to twenty minute downpours. It’s important to keep in mind that all outside attractions shut down when lighting is within 15 kilometers of the theme park. All indoor attractions remain open if it’s just a little rain though meaning you can fit in more rides per day.
Make use of the single rider line
These under-utilized queues aren’t always marked, so many people don’t know to use them. The single rider line is a special queue designated for people traveling by themselves or willing to be temporarily separated from their party. These are a big time-saver, as the wait time is usually a fraction of the time compared to the regular queue. The parks benefit from this queue because it allows them to fill single spots left empty in their attraction vehicles. In rare occurrences, parties of 2 or 3 can end up being placed together.
Download the theme park apps
Both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando have recently released smart phone applications that allow you to make ticket reservations, look up attraction wait times and review restaurant menus. Disney’s app also allows you to instantly locate yourself on their interactive, GPS-enabled map. In addition to that, you can also find Character Greeting locations and times. With Universal’s app, you can look up show times, locate near-by restrooms and make dining reservations.
Plan to visit the popular rides during non-peak hours
The most popular attractions such as Disney’s Frozen Ever After or Universal’s Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey often have wait times of an hour or more during the early afternoon. Avoid the large crowds by visiting early in the day or during parades and fireworks shows. These are the times when attraction wait times are at their lowest – sometimes as little as 5 to 10 minutes. It is also a good idea to plan for an early or late lunch. This not only allows you to benefit from smaller crowds at the attractions but also avoid the lunch rush at the theme park restaurants. If you stay at an onsite resorts guests for both theme parks also have the advantage of entering the parks one hour before opening time, allowing them to check out the more prominent attractions first.
Universal stays open later than Islands’ of Adventure
If you have a park-to-park pass, don’t head straight home when Islands’ of Adventure closes without checking the closing time of Universal because on several days a month the closing times are staggered by up to two hours…two hours you could spend exploring Diagon Alley or getting up to mischief with some Minion Mayhem!
Use credit card perks
Various credit card companies offer perks throughout the parks, with Chase and American Express at the top of the list. A Disney Visa Card gives cardholder guests the unique opportunity to meet Disney Characters in a private location, away from the large crowds. It also provides a 10% discount on all merchandise as well at select dining locations. There’s also special financing for guests purchasing Disney tickets with this card. American Express cardholders, on the other hand, can take advantage of various perks at Universal Orlando. This includes dining and merchandise discounts, as well as specially priced photo packages. Universal Studios also has a designated American Express Lounge providing cardholders with complimentary snacks, drinks, concierge-service and more.
Pack a lunch
Theme park dining can be very expensive – especially if you are visiting multiple days in a row. Bringing food and drinks can save you a lot of money throughout the week, given that a bottle of water can cost up to $5 in certain parks. All theme parks are fairly lenient with the amount of food you can bring in, but it’s important to note that outside coolers and alcohol are not allowed in any of the Orlando parks.
Other great alternatives are the various theme park dining plans. These are pre-paid food plans that allow 2 meals per day and unlimited drinks. For a large family, this often a great money-stretching option.
Look out for the finer details
Theme parks go to great lengths to include minor touches which will be missed be the less astute, such as Disney’s Hidden Mickeys and Universal’s Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter restrooms. With a little bit of attention, these finer details can be found all throughout the parks. In Disney’s Tomorrowland, for example, the futuristic metal palm trees subtly fold their leaves at night. In Frontierland, there is a winding brown sidewalk in the middle of the path; few know that this represents the raw sewage that Colonial America dealt with during that time.
At Universal Orlando, magical details can be found throughout the Harry Potter-themed land. Certain wand movements, made with a special wand purchasable throughout the park, make curtains flutter, lanterns light up and flowers bloom. You will also find understated details throughout Diagon Alley, such as billboards that were only briefly mentioned in the Harry Potter novels.
Plan in advance for the various water rides
Ziploc bags and rain ponchos are two great options for keeping you, and your cellphone, from getting soaked. Swimsuits are allowed at most water rides as well, but shoes must be worn at all times. Both Disney and Universal provide paid lockers for guests wanting to bring towels or an extra set of clothes. Plastic ponchos are sold throughout the parks and cost up to $12 each.
Remember where you parked!
Most people forget to make a note of where they left the car, and theme park parking lots are usually just as big as the park themselves. Theme parks have various ways to help their guests remember this, such as colored posts, character pictures or quirky names. The Universal app even has a parking-reminder feature, where you can set the appropriate level and row where you left your car. Remembering this small detail is a big part of ending the night on a good note, as no one likes to end the day by searching through infinite levels of parked vehicles!