Visiting Orlando Theme Parks
There are many great tips on all theme park pages but this ‘Orlando Theme Parks’ section covers generic theme park tips
The Best Theme Parks On The Planet
The very first time we visited Orlando we each bought an Orlando Flexticket (discontinued) and a one day ticket to Disney. Back in 2005, this was the was the best holiday that we had ever had. There are so many amazing things to see and do in Orlando so you don’t have to break the bank. You will still have an amazing time if you just do some of the parks and not all of them.
Orlando theme parks are unlike any theme park you will have ever visited anywhere in the world. Alton Towers and Blackpool Pleasure Beach will seem ‘old hat’ when you get back from Orlando. Disney World and Universal Studios are a million miles away from the English theme parks and I am not talking about distance. The big Orlando theme parks produce shows and special effects straight from the movies. A lot of what you see in the rides like Revenge Of The Mummy at Universal Studios and Avatar Flight Of Passage at Animal Kingdom were created by real Hollywood Special effects artists.
Orlando Theme Park Tips
Follow Mr Brit on Twitter
A great way to keep up to date on what is happening in the Orlando theme parks is to follow me, Mr Brit on Twitter. When Disney, Universal and other attractions announce important news, I will Tweet it.
This is a great way to keep up to date on what is happening in the Orlando theme parks before you travel. If you are already on Twitter follow me follow me here. If you don’t have a Twitter account, sign up!!
Take care of your tickets!!!
When you buy your tickets it is important to ensure you keep the tickets and the information on them safe. Photocopy the back of all tickets so you record the serial number/barcode. If the worst happens and your tickets were lost or stolen, the theme parks would be very likely to replace your tickets free of charge. If you do not have a copy of the tickets you will not get free replacements. In almost every situation, a photocopy will enable you to get replacements.
Don’t be fooled into buying used tickets
Don’t take the risk of buying used tickets from auction websites or on classified ads. You will not get entry into the parks with a used ticket. All major theme parks have fingerprint recognition so it is not worth ruining your holiday to try and save a few quid.
Use the theme park free wi-fi…
…even if you have data roaming in Orlando. theA data roaming signal can be very hit and miss. The theme parks offer free wi-fi so logon the first time you visit. Your phone will remember the network on subsequent visits. The Disney World wi-fi is called Disney-Guest and the Universal Studios wi-fi is called xfinity.
Don’t push them too hard
If you have children that seem afraid of going on a certain rides, don’t push them too hard. Maybe give that ride a miss and gradually build up their thrill ride confidence throughout your visits. Start with easier, more basic fairground style rides leading to the more adventurous towards the end of the holiday.
I have persuaded my children to ride some rides that they didn’t really want to go on in the past. I thought I knew better and they would be fine but this done more harm than good. They became scared of entering any sort of attraction queue for a little while afterwards. Let them decide and they will probably surprise you later in the holiday. They need to gain confidence at their own pace.
Buy a pair of Crocs
These shoes may look a bit daft and they have come in for some stick from the fashion police recently but they do save your feet in the theme parks. Every member of the Brit family wears crocs in theme parks and so do a lot of other people. I personally wear the Yukon Crocs in the link below. Standard Crocs can cost over £30 a pair in some UK shops so Amazon may be your best bet.
If you can’t bring yourself to wear a pair of Crocs, maybe just buy the kids some Crocs. Their feet will struggle to walk as much as yours. You could clock up over 50 miles of walking during a fortnight holiday. You can buy Disney themed crocs and you can buy character accessories to clip on the shoes.
This post contains affiliate links. For more information read my Disclosures
Mr Brit on YouTube
I have a Mr Brit YouTube Channel where hundreds of Orlando videos are being uploaded. I am visiting Orlando twice in 2019 and adding ride videos, restaurant videos and other Orlando related short films. The videos are being filmed to help you plan your Orlando holiday.
Theme Park Busy Days
Before you just head off to the theme parks, check which days are statistically busier than others. I have compiled lists and other information such as American bank holidays that will help you estimate the busiest days during your trip.
Visit the Theme Park Busy Times page to find out more.
Theme parks on a rainy day
The Florida weather is regarded as some of the best weather anywhere in the world. This is reflected in Florida’s nickname “The Sunshine State”.
As with most hot destinations, where there’s heat, there’s rain so the chances of getting wet are high. Don’t let the weather put a dark cloud over your holiday. Visiting a shopping mall is a good idea on rainy days but you can still visit the right theme parks.
The best theme park to visit on a wet day is Universal Studios. Almost all of the rides and attractions are located indoors. Disney’s Epcot is also quite a good park for a wet day as almost all of the rides are indoors. Another good park to visit on a rainy day is Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I would definitely give Seaworld a miss on a rainy day as almost every attraction is outdoors.
Check a weather website or app to see what the weather is like just before you go to Orlando. This way you will have an idea how the first week is looking and you can plan accordingly.
Check the forecast before you put your shorts on
One day in March we turned up to Animal Kingdom in our holiday clothes ie shorts and small T-shirts. The weather was unreal, it was colder than back home in the UK. Almost everyone else in the park were wearing large coats and jeans. We obviously didn’t bother watching the local news channel before we left the hotel. If we had, we would have realised that this day was going to be one ‘freak day’ of weather in Orlando. The temperature dropped to 66F and this isn’t a regular occurrence in Florida.
So while you’re getting ready on the morning of a theme park visit, pop the telly on and tune into the local news channel. They usually display the weather at the bottom of the screen. This way you won’t look like you’ve just been tele-ported from Barbados.
Purchase Ponchos in gift stores…
…before going to parks during bad weather or even when visiting theme parks with water rides. Some parks can charge $6 or $7 each for a poncho so buy them before visiting the parks.
Buy them in the gift stores outside of the park in Kissimmee or on International Drive. You could pick them up for under $2. If you really want a Disney themed poncho then pop to Wal-Mart and you can pick one up for just under $4.
If you have quite a large family you can buy them even cheaper on Amazon before you travel. These ’emergency’ ponchos can be bought for under £1 per person.
This post contains affiliate links. For more information read my Disclosures
Renting a stroller… (pushchair)
…in Theme Parks usually costs around $15 per day. Your child may not use a stroller anymore if they have grown out of one. Let’s say they are 3 or 4 years old and they like to walk everywhere. You no longer have a pushchair but it would still be a good idea to buy one when you get to Orlando. Your child’s little legs could rack up a lot of miles each day and in the sun, this will cause a lot of stress for you and your little one.
Renting a stroller at each park you visit could set you back quite a lot of money over a 2 week trip. Wal-Mart sell strollers from around $25 so you would save a lot of money by just buying one. The plastic theme park strollers can be uncomfortable so a soft stroller could be a better option. You would also save yourself over a hundred dollars by buying one from a Wal-Mart or Super Target store.
Don’t worry about bringing one back to the UK on a flight if you are over your luggage allowance. Strollers are not part of your luggage allowance so you hand it to the airline staff before you board. Then collect at the baggage reclaim when you land back in the UK.
Parking at the Theme Parks
Preferred parking or not? Preferred parking is supposed to get you into the Orlando theme parks quicker but it barely saves any time. The first time we went to Orlando we would pay the extra for preferred parking. After a few visits we noticed we were usually parked a couple of rows away from regular parking spaces.
The Florida theme parks are all designed so that you don’t have to wait too long to get to the main park. Disney World Resort have express trams waiting to get you to the theme park restaurants and gift shops ASAP. I wouldn’t bother with the preferred parking unless you can’t shut the door for money.
The 2019 prices for daily parking in the main theme parks are as follows…
Disney World Theme Parks – $25 regular, preferred $45-$50
Universal Orlando Resort – $25 regular, $35 preferred, $10 after 6pm
Take a picture of your car park sign
Your car will be parked near a sign such as “Jaws 414” or “C5”. After a few visits you will forget where you left your car. Some car parks are the size of small towns in Orlando. They are named after a character from the movies or just a letter and number combination.
Seaworld just has a number painted on the floor instead of a character sign so take a picture of this number. Seaworld is one of the easiest car parks to lose your car. If you forget to take a picture but you think you are in the right area, hold your key up in the air and press the lock button. Your car horn will sound if you are close to your car.
This tip is just a fun tip to give your kids (or the husband) an extra nice thing to do around the Orlando theme parks. Almost every park, ride and show in Orlando, have a ‘Penny Collector’ machine nearby. My kids have collected these coins at most parks and rides they visit around the world. It doesn’t cost much and it becomes a nice album of their memories from past holidays.
Most machines cost 2 x 25c and 1 penny. The penny will end up being squashed into something like my Back to the Future coin shown here. Make sure you put in a nice shiny coin so you get a better finished imprint.
In Disney World Resort you can go to guest services and ask for the “Walt Disney World Master Coin Press List”. This paper list will give you locations of over 150 penny machines throughout the Disney resort. Almost all of the theme park main gift shops will sell their own themed version of the wallets. You can grab a wallet before you go by using the links below.
I started collecting pressed pennies myself in 2018 so I am a long way behind my kids. I have collected them from New York, Scottish Castles and even the Lake District. It doesn’t have to be just an ‘Orlando’ hobby.
This post contains affiliate links. For more information read my Disclosures
Autograph hunting is very popular with children and adults to be honest. All Orlando theme parks are home to many movie/cartoon characters. You will find them walking around the park, hoping to meet your Little Brit’s. They will be only too happy to sign autographs and pose for photos with you and your children. You can order an autograph book before the holiday or just get one in a Wal-Mart store in Orlando. The Disney and Universal gift stores will also stock them but you could pay more at the theme parks.
One good tip if your children are going to collect autographs in is to get a really large pen. The characters will not carry their own and most of them have really large fingers. This makes it difficult to write with a normal size pen. The Grinch (pictured) has quite slim fingers so he is ok. Mickey Mouse has huge fingers so he would struggle with a normal pen. Grab a large oversized pen at a gift store before you go autograph hunting.
Losing your kids or other members of your party
This is probably obvious to you but each time you enter Orlando theme parks, allocate one area where you will meet if someone gets lost. If you have children that are old enough to go on some rides by themselves, tell them to meet you there if they can’t find you. As an example in Magic Kingdom you could say…
“if we can’t find each other after five minutes of looking, go straight to the statue of Walt Disney holding Mickey Mouse’s hand in front of the castle and we’ll meet up there”
We have an ‘emergency’ place in every park that we visit and it is really important to do this. It is easy to get lost by walking into a public toilet through one entrance and coming out of the toilets through a different exit. Pick a place and make sure that even the little ones understand where it is.
If the worst happens and you cannot find each other, try not to panic too much. Just grab the closest park staff member you see and they will help you out. If you cannot find anyone just shout “HELP” as loud as you can and someone will come running. Most park staff will have a radio or know where the closest one is.
The Orlando theme parks are really big so the chances of your child finding their way out of the park are slim. There are CCTV cameras hidden in trees, walls and lights so it shouldn’t be long before you are reunited. I have created a ‘Lost Child’ slip that you can print out and add your mobile number to. This is great to put into your ‘little ones’ pocket for a little bit of added security. If the worse happens and your child is lost, the park staff will have your number to reunite you. To print these Lost slips, click the image to view and save a larger version.
What is a Corn Dog?
The best way that I can describe it for you is – a Hot Dog that has been deep fried in a Yorkshire Pudding batter coating and stuck on a lolly stick. I have always avoided trying one after hearing the line in the Ratatouille movie describing them as a “cheap sausage in batter”. On one of my last trips, for research purposes I bravely ordered one in Busch Gardens.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it and I will have another when I return. I will probably stop having them when I get a dodgy one with hard chewy bits. For now I recommend them.
…have always been very popular in America and are now available in the UK. You can buy Churros in all Orlando theme parks so it shouldn’t take long before you come across a Churros cart. Anything sweet sells big in America and almost every corner you turn there are either cakes or doughnuts for sale. Churros are quite long and taste something resembling a cinnamon doughnut. They are best eaten when they are really fresh so ask the server if they have just been made.
We ate one in Islands Of Adventure recently. While I was munching away I overheard an American woman ask the server if the Churros were ‘soft and fresh’. The server replied “sort of” so the woman walked away and didn’t buy one. Ours did have a slight crunch to it on the outside but was nice nonetheless.
Taking your own drinks to the Theme Parks…
…will save you a small fortune if you have a large family. When we travel to Orlando theme parks we take at least 10 drinks in a backpack. If you are eating in the theme parks regularly, you could save hundreds of dollars per holiday by taking your own drinks.
Plastic bottles and cans are fine but some water parks that have marine life will not allow drinking straws. Plastic straws could harm the fish/dolphins so be careful what you pack. The average drink in a theme park will cost you around $3.50. Buy multi packs of Pepsi or Mountain Dew (it’s really nice) from a supermarket and you will pay as little as 25 cents per can. Bottled water can cost as little as 10p when bought in packs of 36.
Do not be embarrassed of taking your own drinks to Orlando theme parks. Lots of people do it and the Americans do not know the meaning of the word “shy”. We have been to many Dinner Shows where American families have have asked the staff for a doggy bag to take their uneaten meal back home. The unfinished meal is then slid into one of those “take-away” style boxes for the customer to take home.
One last drinking tip is to freeze some bottles of water the night before and leave them in the boot of the car. At the end of the day you should have some ready chilled drinks to drive back with.
Plan your day around the show times
We always prioritise the shows whenever we visit the Orlando theme parks. When you enter the park, make sure that you get the park map and check out the show times and plan what shows you want to see. Make sure that you get to these shows in time to get a good seat. You will be amazed at how good some of the Orlando theme park shows are and you can’t visit without seeing the “big ones”
Some shows have only a few performances a day but rides run all day long. You could miss out on an amazing show if you don’t plan around the shows. A lot of rides tend to get less busy as the day draws to an end so you should have a better chance of getting on the rides later in the day. If you are visiting Walt Disney World, see my FastPass+ section on how to reserve your ride slots and make the most of your time in the theme parks.
Beating the queues
Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort both have brilliant apps that show you how long the wait times are. Add these apps to your phone and you will be able to see the best times to hear for an attraction. Click the links above to find out more about their apps.
If you visit Orlando theme parks at the very beginning of the day when the rope drops, head straight for the most popular ride as it may be your best chance to get on.
Another tip which might sound a bit silly is queue to the left if possible. If you get in a queue for a ride/show that has 2 lanes and you can’t see the back of the queue, jump in the left queue lane. In America they drive on the right hand side of the road so most Americans are hard wired go to the right of 2 lanes. Statistically the left lane will be the less crowded.
An example to back-up my theory is that in Magic Kingdom, the pavements on Main Street are wider on the right than the left side. This is due to the fact that more people tend to walk on the right hand side of the streets in America so Disney designed it this way. This is because they drive on the right so they are more comfortable with that.