Heading to Orlando theme parks? We share these top tips for visiting Orlando theme parks so you can enjoy the parks without stress.
Top tips for visiting Orlando Theme Parks
Take a bottle of water and refill it at the various water fountains or ask the servers in restaurants. Most parks will refill water bottles free of charge and we love bringing a foldable water bottle like this; you can collapse them whenever you are finished using them, so they take up much less space in your bag and you don’t have to worry about it getting crushed under all your souvenirs.
Use the website and park apps to get used to the layout of the park, so you can head straight to the ride you are most excited about. With the introduction of Genie +, there are many new things to learn about the Disney parks especially, so make sure you watch vlogs of those based in Orlando and get planning your days in the park. We always recommend you choose your ‘must-do’ attractions and rides before you visit so that you know which queues to prioritise.
- BEAT THE HEAT
If you are not too fussed about riding every single ride, head to the parks at around 3.30 pm, meaning you beat the hottest time and the park is starting to clear. Enjoying the parks in the evenings are great ways to beat the crowds and heat, especially if you are stuck to visiting during school holidays.
- RIDE TIMES
Both Universal and Disney offer apps with ride waiting times, check these before you leave and whilst you are at the park so that you know which rides are quieter when deciding what to ride next. Make sure to keep refreshing the app too so that you have the most up-to-date times.
- CHILD SWAP/RIDER SWITCH PASS
Travelling to the theme parks with small children? Many rides offer a ‘child swap’ option for young children to swap with their siblings; particularly helpful when you have only one adult or older sibling wanting to ride.
- FORGET THE PARADE
If you do love rides, then forget watching the parades and head straight to the best rides you want to try. Queues tend to be a lot quieter during parade times, particularly the evening parades.
- BUY YOUR TICKETS ONLINE
Avoid queues and save money by purchasing your tickets online and printing them before heading to the park. We save money and time by purchasing ticket packages at Undercover Tourist.
- LEAVE POTTER TO LAST
Whilst visiting Universal, both Harry Potter areas and rides get incredibly busy, incredibly early. Leave visiting these sections until later in the evening (when younger children are heading home) to avoid long queues. Also, there are lots of great Harry Potter souvenirs available at Universal Studios but skip the wand purchases whilst here, these are massively overpriced. Read this guide to visiting Harry Potter World on a budget if you plan on spending a lot of time at the Universal parks but don’t want to spend too much money.
- PACK LIGHT
Although it is tempting, don’t overpack your bag! This will weigh you down and slow you down during your trip. Bring your phone, wallet, camera, raincoat and water bottle and that is all! If you are travelling as a couple or a group of friends, perhaps take turns in bringing a bag.
- THE CORRECT FOOTWEAR
We have all done it; wore pretty new shoes on a day out and ended up with blistered, achy feet. Trainers are the best choice for trekking around these theme parks but I do love wearing a comfy pair of flip-flops in the hot months. You could also wear pumps or ballerina shoes, whatever you feel comfortable in, but just make sure to avoid brand-new shoes. This foot glide is a must too! Slip it into your bag and use it on achy, blistered feet when needed. The same company have this amazing body glide to prevent chafing too, so you can wear those dresses and skirts without anything aching after!
Food in parks can be so expensive but don’t forget you can bring your own food in with you. We like to bring in a few snacks and get the refillable cups. Eating at an indoor restaurant can be a godsend during the hot summer months, so bring some extra money for this. Alternatively, enjoy half days at the park and eat at restaurants outside of the parks before or after your time inside a theme park. This is especially useful at Universal when you can pop outside of the park and eat at City Walk.
In Orlando, it is so essential to bring sunscreen and keep applying it. It is easy to forget when you’re whizzing through the air at super speeds but don’t spoil the next few days of your holiday by forgetting to apply a bit whilst you’re queuing for the next ride.
- WEAR LAYERS
Orlando’s weather can change throughout the day, so bring layers to avoid the ‘waiting for the parade’ chill or to keep you covered in a thunderstorm. We love little raincoats that fold up into a tiny bag – we can throw them into our backpacks and wear them for wet rides or when it downpours.
- SINGLE RIDER
If you aren’t too fussed about sitting next to your friends or family, take the single rider queue, which can cut your wait time by half, if not more.
- BRING A CAMERA
Avoid paying for overcharged ride shots and bring your camera to capture your fun memories. You don’t need an expensive one either, just a decent phone camera or an affordable point-and-shoot camera would work. We love these travel cameras under $300.
- ARRIVE EARLY AND STAY LATE
I know I have said to arrive late if you are not too fussed about riding all the rides but if you are fussed and want a full day at the park then get there early. Parking lots fill up faster in the popular months and currently, you need to book ahead of time to secure your place in a park.
Now, if you are staying on Disney property, we recommend taking a mid-afternoon break from the parks to cool off and avoid burnout. But make sure to head back into the parks as the sun sets, especially Magic Kingdom. I am not sure how much Walt Disney spends on fireworks but the shows should not be missed, even if you only catch them once on your trip!
Bring a Poncho to avoid the inevitable rainy afternoons.
- BRING SPARE CLOTHES FOR WATER RIDES
The Island of Adventures includes lots of water rides that help you cool off in the summer. Unfortunately, because of the high humidity of the Orlando, clothes don’t always dry as well, so bring along some spare underwear to avoid walking around in wet clothes all day. This is also true for most theme parks if you want to enjoy their wetter rides.
- START AT THE BACK
No matter which park you are heading to, walk to the back of the park when you first enter the theme park and work your way forward to avoid long queues and hectic walkways. This is especially true if you are visiting first thing in the morning.
- ALTERNATE YOUR RIDES
This one we find much easier to do in Universal parks, but alternate your rides between outdoor and indoor air-conditioned rides to avoid getting too hot during the day. Also, try to time indoor meals or indoor rides during the middle of the day, when the sun and temperature are at their highest.
- SIT NEAR AN EXIT
When watching a show, try and get seats near an exit to allow for a fast escape at the end.
- CHARGE YOUR PHONE
Not just for pictures but for those moments you suddenly lose your party, make sure your phone is fully charged. We always like to carry a lightweight battery pack on busy and long days out but you can also find recharging stations around most theme parks these days.
- SOUVENIR SHOPPING
Buy your souvenirs at the end of your day, there is nothing worse than carrying around a half-deflated balloon and a collection of Simpson merchandise around the theme park all day. At Disney, if you choose to buy souvenirs during the day, you can collect the items at the exit as you leave the park or even get them sent to your hotel if you are staying at a Disney Resort.
- BOOK FOOD RESERVATIONS IN ADVANCE
If you are a large family or want to eat in a popular sit-down restaurant for dinner, you need to book a table prior to your visit. This is especially true at the moment, with many places running at a reduced capacity. Remember, you can always opt for a meal at one of the Disney resorts if you want the Disney experience but restaurants in the park are fully booked.
Choose a hotel near the theme parks that offer a shuttle bus to avoid high taxi charges. You can rent and drive yourself, which we found the most convenient method of transport but be warned that parking in any of the theme parks is expensive, costing upwards of $25 per day. Disney resorts offer free transport to Disney parks, Universal resorts are within walking distance to the Universal parks and there are many hotel chains that offer free shuttle buses (especially on international drive).
- HEIGHT RESTRICTIONS
If you are travelling with younger children, check the height restriction before visiting so you can purposefully avoid certain rides and therefore avoid child disappointment.
Take advantage of the theme park apps. Not only do they have wait times as we mentioned before, but you can use apps to reserve restaurants too. Disney’s Genie app can be used to help you cut down on wait times at certain rides whilst the Disney Genie Plus app is a paid-for service which allows faster access to most rides.
- USE THE CROWD CALENDAR
Undercover Tourist has a brilliant Crowd Calendar that gives you a rough idea of the park’s busiest days and weeks. Check it out before you plan any trip and avoid the Christmas period if possible.
- SPECIAL EVENTS
Throughout the year, the parks hold special events; whether it is a Christmas event, Halloween event or Disney’s popular Food and Wine Festival. For after-hour events, make sure to book tickets in advance, arrive early and stay late to make the most out of your time and money. Don’t overspend on food at these events (be picky about what you try) and avoid the first or last night of an event; these are always the busiest.
- PHOTOGRAPH THE PARKING LOT
So, theme park parking lots are massive! Take a photo of the area and lot you have parked in so you can find your car at the end of the day.