Orlando Theme Park Tips from KidsOutAndAbout.com readers: Disney, Universal Studios, Harry Potter World of Wizardry, Sea World, and more!
KidsOutAndAbout.com readers are definitely more expert than the editors at knowing how to navigate Florida's theme parks with kids! Here are some great tips we didn't think of:
- Wear comfortable shoes - no flip flops. Consider good walking shoes or first-rate sandals. And consider poly cotton blends if you're going on any water rides. I accept that I am a wave magnet.
- Stop at a grocery store on your way to the hotel and get supplies you need...zip lock bags, pretzels, water, drink mix powder, small snacks to fit in a fanny pack. (Avoids stopping for expensive drinks and snacks in the park).
- Consider making character meal reservations for lunch and have a nice mid-day break to let everyone cool down, sit down, rest and recharge.
- Buy a few themed items and take them with you to share as the trip begins. You can find character socks, t-shirts, sunglasses around town. Pack them and offer them as the trip begins.
- Rather than saying no, we said 'later' because we didn't want to carry things around (yes you can have items sent to your Disney room but you don't have bring that up). Plan to go to Downtown Disney toward the end of the trip and buy the one or two item their hearts desire. As you're touring, and an item is asked for, say "Let's put that on our list; we'll remember that one. It does look great." They usually forget about it in 24 hours. I do still wonder how we ever got the Davey Crockett rifle and the complete WDW Monorail set into our luggage for the flight home.
- On the other hand, if you see the perfect item, just get it and have it shipped home. I still love my Disney Waterford Champagne flutes and they're the ones I always toast with on New Year's. Tee shirts come and go but my Waterford still makes me smile.
- Before going on the trip, ask each person what they are most looking forward to; work it into your plan. And do create a plan of activities for each day. It really is fun to hear what each person is most excited to do. It often surprised me. Then, when someone asks, 'when are we going to do X?' -- you'll know. Wandering aimlessly leads to arguments and meltdowns.
From Pamela, an admitted Type-A Vacationer:
- Don't think you can't afford a Disney vacation. There are all types of options from budget to lavish and you shouldn't miss out on an adventure like this!
- Don't plan for a relaxing vacation. Disney is not about lazy days and long slow walks on the beach. I think even my pedometer was panting with exhaustion. Plan for at least one "re-entry day" before heading back to work or school.
- And in this vein, don't sleep in. In fact, set your alarm and get to the parks even before they open. During peak periods the parks fill up fast and we saw wait times for the most popular rides at 120 minutes! Luckily we arrived at the gates when they opened and had ridden our favorites before the park got too busy.
- Don't wing it. Plan, plan, plan. Even if you're not a Type-A vacationer like me, you should have a general idea of which park on what day, what are the must do's and where you'd like to eat. There are many resources for planning these kinds of trips and most are free.
Don’t let your teenagers sleep in the day you’re heading off to Harry Potter. If you’re not there before the gates open, you’re in a world of hurt. (Note from editor: We were at the Harry Potter part of Universal Studios Islands of Adventure on a Sunday early in April that was not during official "spring break" and were able to get in within 15 minutes at 5pm.)
I took my 13-year-old and 15-year-old daughters there during February break this year. Luckily someone had told me to get there before the park opened. They let us in at 8:30 a.m. (they don’t usually open until 9:00) and the girls only waited about 15 minutes for the Forbidden Journey. I didn’t do the rides (I get queasy too), but I really loved the frozen butterbeer!
It got so crowded the Universal folks roped off the entrance to Harry Potter within the first hour we were there, and there was a LONG line of people waiting for the “sorry, you’ll have to come back later” timed tickets.