There are a lot of things to consider as you plan your very first trip to Orlando’s Universal Studios. We recently ran across a great article by Robert Niles that breaks down everything you need to plan your day. Read his article or review our highlights below.
Before You Go
First up, find your accommodations. You can rent a vacation rental home for as little as $99 per night, or you can stay at a local resort. Universal offers perks to guests who stay at one of their three hotels, but these hotels start at $250+ so it’s often worth it to stay more affordably and pay for the perks you’ll actually use.
Next you’ll buy your park tickets. You can buy them the day of your visit, but if you take the time to purchase them beforehand, you’ll enjoy a considerable savings on discount theme park tickets. You’ll need to decide if you want to visit both parks, and how many days you want to visit in total. For adults without kids who travel at a fast pace, both parks can actually be done in a single day. For families who want to take it in, you may want 4 or more days. It’s up to you.
The Day of Your Visit
If you arrive at the parks before 6PM you’ll pay $16 to park, or just $5 if you come after 6PM. There is one parking garage for both Islands of Adventure and the sister park, Universal Studios Florida. You’ll walk from there to the parks via moving sidewalks. If you’re heading to Islands of Adventure, bear left. If you’re heading to the Studios, bear right.
When traveling during busier seasons, try to get to the park about an hour before it opens so you have plenty of time to park, get to the gate, and be one of the first in line. Another way to minimize waiting time is to go through single-rider lines. These lines allow you to skip the queue, but you won’t be sitting with others you’re traveling with. The 6 rides that offer these lines are:
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Incredible Hulk Coaster
Jurassic Park River Adventure
These simple tips cover the basics of planning for your first trip to Universal Studios Orlando.
As you begin planning your Orlando vacation you’ll run into plenty of offers that claim to be amazing deals you won’t find anywhere else. While there are tons of ways to save on accommodations, park tickets, attractions, and more, there are also companies out there who claim to give you a great savings but really don’t. Let’s take a look at a few warning signs to look out for so you can be sure to get the best possible deal.
Check Discounts Thoroughly
The most important step is to check discounts thoroughly. For example, you’ll find discount tickets offered but in some cases they won’t be a discount at all. You may find booths near the parks that offer tickets that end up not being valid. The right choice is to go through a well-respected and reputable company who is clear about the price of their discount theme park tickets.
Consider the Drawbacks
If a deal seems too good to be true it probably is. You’ll find hotels that claim to be “within minutes” of the parks for less than $30 a night. While this may seem like a great deal, remember that “within minutes” can mean literally any number of minutes – it could be an hour away! Choose accommodations that give you specifics. For example, these vacation homes are within 15 minutes of the parks and start at just $99 a night. If they’re any further than that, you’ll find that the cost savings is likely not worth the hours you may spend commuting back and forth.
Don’t Be Fooled By Disney
Disney works hard to promote their all-inclusive packages – many of which include all your meals. While it may seem convenient to pay just one price for everything, don’t be fooled into thinking these are discounted packages. They are simply another way for them to keep you on their property as long as possible, and there are always considerably less expensive ways to tour Disney World than staying at Disney’s hotels.
Epcot is a great choice for an adults-only anniversary evening, and this summer there are two new ideas that may just strike your fancy: the IllumiNation Sparkling Dessert Party and the Epcot After Hours Wind Down.
IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party
There are several aspects of this unique dessert party that make it romantic. It all starts shortly before the nightly IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth firework, laser light, and music extravaganza. Just as the evening light is fading Epcot’s World Showcase is starting to take on its relaxed, romantic air, you’ll be treated to a dessert party like no other.
One of the main benefits of this party is being able to see the fireworks show from an exceptional vantage point – without having to stake out a seat hours in advance. You’ll also get to taste delicious desserts, plus coffee, tea, and sparkling wine. The cost of the party varies based on the night you choose, but it always includes unlimited desserts, which are replenished throughout the night, and all you can drink beverages.
Epcot After Hours Wind Down
There are 4 options for the Epcot After Hours Wind Down: Spice Road Table in the Morocco pavilion, La Cava de Tequila in Mexico, Rose & Crown Pub in the UK, and Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar in Italy. No matter which spot you choose, you’ll get a flight of adult beverages, plus many tasty snacks to sample on.
While the food and drink selection is one part of the appeal, the main draw of this exclusive experience is that you get to stay in the park after closing. After the fireworks are complete, head to the spot you’ve chosen and wind down with the drinks and food of your choice. It’s the perfect way to have a night cap when you’re celebrating your anniversary in the happiest place on earth.
Disney World works hard to make their theme parks as accessible to everyone as possible, and that includes the autistic population. However, there are still things that you, as the parent, must take into consideration. Autism at the Parks posted an excellent packing list that shows you what to bring to the parks when traveling with a person with autism. If you don’t want to read it in its entirety, check out our highlights below.
Cool cloths. If you’re traveling in warmer months, take a damp cloth and wrap it around a frozen ice pack. It can do wonders to keep your cool and comfortable on hot days.
Hand towels. You may get splashed on rides, or you may get rained on. Hand towels help everyone dry off and stay calm.
Wipes and sanitizer. The last thing you want is a bug going around the family while you’re at Disney. Wipe down your hands before you eat and keep the germs at bay.
Sunscreen. It’s not an accident that Florida is known as the Sunshine State. Even if it’s cloudy or cold, sunscreen is always a must.
Fidgets. Stress balls, squishy balls, or other objects that a child can fidget with are great diversions when over stimulation kicks in.
Toys and games. If your kid has a game or toy that calms them down, don’t be shy about bringing it into the parks.
Bottled water. Put bottles of water in your freeze before you leave for the parks and they’ll slowly melt and stay cool throughout the day.
Snacks. Granola bars, nuts, and other small snacks can be brought into the parks and ensure there’s something there your kids will eat.
Earplugs. Some attractions can be loud and others can be REALLY loud. Earplugs can help keep the scary sounds out and keep your kids calm.
Flashcards. If your child is non-verbal, don’t forget to bring their flashcards or any media they need to communicate. Remember that it’s normal for your child to be overwhelmed by the many people, sounds, smells, and voices around them. It’s not uncommon for kids to take a step back and regress while they’re at the parks.
Disney World is definitely doable for special needs kids, and it can be an incredible experience for everyone involved. This simple packing list can go a long way toward keeping them comfortable while you’re in the parks.
Most families head to Orlando to visit one or more of the many theme parks, but there are actually tons of other things to do in Orlando. Whether you want to keep expenses down and need a more affordable break from the parks, or you simply want a more low key afternoon, mini golf is a great choice – especially for teens. Consider these top 5 mini golf courses in Orlando.
1. Congo River
There are actually a few Congo River courses in the area, including one on International Drive that’s near Wet ‘n’ Wild. These courses are unique in many ways, including the fact that you can actually feed live alligators! Some families choose this instead of Gatorland.
2. Winter Summerland
Located near the Blizzard Beach Water Park in Disney World, Winter Summerland truly takes the concept of cute to another level. There is a winter course that ties in with the snow-covered storyline of Blizzard Beach, and a summer course with a more tropical theme.
3. Pirate’s Cove
Though it is a chain based mini golf course with many similar courses throughout the country, Pirate’s Cove is a great choice for pirate-crazy teenagers. You can choose from an easier Captain’s Course or the Blackbeard’s course for a real challenge.
4. Fantasia’s Gardens
This spot is located near Hollywood Studios and has 2 courses – though they are both very different from one another. First up is the Gardens course, which draws its inspiration from the movie Fantasia. The Fairways course is modeled after a legitimate 18-hole course and many claim it’s the most challenging mini golf course they’ve ever played.
5. Hollywood Drive-In
The newest option in the area, the Hollywood Drive-In mini golf course is located near Universal’s City Walk and includes 2 courses. The first is themed after old horror films, while the other is themed after ‘50s SciFi films. They’re both full of gags, pop culture references, and a unique soundtrack.
Whether it’s your grandchild’s first or fiftieth flight, flying to Disney World with the grandparents is sure to be an exciting time – as long as you’re prepared. Check out these simple tips to help you make the most of your flight.
Carry-on vs checked bags. Spring for the extra cash and check an extra bag. Not only will you be suitcase free as you go through security and the airport, but you’ll be able to bring a stroller on the plane.
Spring for the extra plane ticket. Kids younger than 2 don’t technically need their own seat, but the last thing you want is your grandchild restless on your lap for hours. Paying the extra money makes everyone more comfortable.
Consider their outfits. Slip on shoes make security a breeze, and layers – even when it’s hot – allows you to keep them comfortable whether the plane is hot or cold.
Prepare for ear issues. Bottles and pacifiers are great for helping with the clogged ears, as are gum and large lollipops for older children.
Food is essential. Is there a better way to distract an upset kid than with food? Bring along trail mix, grapes, baby carrots, colorful crackers, and other plane-friendly foods.
Don’t forget the potty. If your grandkids are potty trained, then be sure to take them to the bathroom right before you take off and right before you land.
Get creative with books. Books are a must have, but consider bringing along a photo album that lets them stay in touch with their family back home.
DVDs can save you. Flying with young kids is easier than ever before, thanks to portable DVD players and headsets.
Great creative! Did you know you can make a tent on a plane? Just put your tray table down and drape a blanket over it. Glow in the dark toys are great for night flights. Think about your grandkids and come up with some creative flight ideas.
Surprise them. If your grandkids get really fussy, have a surprise waiting for them. It could be a new toy, a special snack, or an autograph book their favorite Disney characters can sign.
One extra- If you are staying in a vacation home near Disney World. We can have your strollers delivered to you house so you do not have to bring to them Orlando
Even the most challenging flight is well worth it when you step out of the gates and into the wonder that are the Orlando theme parks.
So you’ve taken your kids to Disney World before. OK, you’ve taken them to Disney World before . . . many times. Most people would be envious to make regular trips, but you know that the challenge can be getting out of the rut of simply doing all the same things you’ve done every time before. Let’s check out 3 unique things you can do at Disney World to make the experience new again.
1. Visit a meet and greet you haven’t prioritized in the past
For many dads, taking the kids to meet and greets is one of the first things they plan. While there are tons of characters spread throughout the parks, many parents get stuck in the rut of taking their kids to see the same few time and time again. Try a new one and have a totally new experience. Do your daughters usually beg for the princesses? Try out Buzz Lightyear at Hollywood Studios. Do your sons wait all year to meet Woody? Head over to Epcot to meet Alice in Wonderland. The sky’s the limit!
2. Play an interactive game
Several parks have interactive games you can try out, and in fact the Magic Kingdom has two: Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and the Pirates League. Many who travel to the parks just once every few years won’t prioritize these types of games because they can take up quite a bit of time in the parks. But for you? You visit plenty! Take a leisurely afternoon in Epcot tracking down Agent P, or check out the two options mentioned above in the Magic Kingdom.
3. Try a new restaurant every time
There are literally hundreds of places to eat a meal or a snack within the parks, and yet families can easily get stuck in a rut. You may love the ribs at Cosmic Rays, but have you tried them at Flame Tree BBQ? You may walk right by Sleep Hollow Refreshments and not realize they have some incredible waffle sandwiches to try. Branch out at every trip so you can always have a new experience.
These are just 3 options, but there are tons of ways to try something new. No matter how much of a Disney pro you feel like, there’s always a new taste, attraction, or show you can take in.
Is there a more magical place to get married than Disney World? If there is, we haven’t found it yet! We recently ran across an article in the Huffington Post by Anne Chertoff that revealed 10+ little known facts about Disney weddings. You can read the full blog, or stick around and we’ll recap what we found to be the 5 most interesting facts.
1. Getting Inspiration Just Got Easier
Disney has recently revamped their Disney Weddings website to include interactive features. You can view photos from real Disney weddings, learn about rules at various venues, and even create Pinterest-style boards of your favorite pictures.
2. Disney’s Wedding Pavilion Strikes the Perfect Disney Balance
You do want fairytale wedding, but you don’t want it overwhelmed with Mickey. Disney’s Wedding Pavilion is non-denominational, can seat up to 300 people, and offers a clean white palette that will let you decorate it anyway you’d like. It also includes numerous subtle touches of hidden Mickeys that give you a gentle reminder of where you are without ruining the elegance.
3. Mickey Mouse Can’t Marry You
Many guests are surprised to learn that Disney doesn’t allow characters to appear at wedding ceremonies. However, you can book up to 2 characters for 30 minutes at a time during wedding receptions and other wedding-related parties.
4. You Can Get Married in the Parks
Believe it or not, you can actually plan your wedding in one of the parks. Some parks, like Epcot, allow you to get married while the park is open but your wedding party may be limited to just 4 people. All parks allow weddings before or after park hours.
5. You Can Invite the Uninvited
Disney really thinks of everything, including entertainment for your guests in the form of invited uninvited guests. Otherwise known as “Tacky Tourists” these uninvited guests are available to entertain your wedding guests with cheesy jokes and little-known Disney facts.