As much as it pains me to admit it, I am one of those people that usually has a meltdown when you have to confess it’s your birthday and you are getting another year older. I’m not sure why this started occurring as I got older, maybe it’s due to me feeling like there is so much I should have accomplished by this age, no house, no husband, and I’m going to have to start Flintstoning my car soon. So to combat my birthday blues I planned a trip to Orlando, FL to visit as many places as I could cram into one vacation, and dragged my wonderfully patient, and Disney newbie boyfriend with me. He has never been to Disney or Universal so he wanted to cram as much as possible into our week long getaway. Mistake #1. Even for two adults traveling during off peak season (without children) the parks are too large and have too long of a wait time to be conquered in a day. If you’re ok with just taking in the views and not riding all the rides, like we did, it works, if not then give yourself multiple days. Lines can still be long during the off peak season (we saw some 70-90 minutes). Here is a break down of what we did and what I would do differently:
Day 1 – Monday Arrival and Epcot
Up at 5 am for a 7:30 flight
Landed at 10am and picked up our rental car
Check in time was not until 4! This was a boo boo on my part. I figured if we left early we wouldn’t lose a day due to travel, but I didn’t realize we also wouldn’t be able to get into our room to change and wash up before heading out to do our scheduled Epcot visit.
We ended up grabbing food on International Drive and going to Wonder Works to kill time. I love Wonder Works. It’s like an interactive museum that Americo and I both enjoyed. And it was only 27.99 per person for admission as well as a round of laser tag, their 4D rides, and their rope course. This was a bargain compared to the park prices in Orlando.
We finally got to our hotel, freshened up and headed to Epcot. Epcot doesn’t have many rides, but I love the countries. I think adults enjoy this park more than kids. They also had their Wine and Food festival going on. It’s advertised everywhere, but you don’t actually get anything special that I found. You still have to pay for food samples and what not.
Day 2- Magic Kingdom
Since Americo had never been to Disney World, Magic Kingdom was a must see. This is a huge park though and WILL take an entire day. He wasn’t feeling well so we didn’t do many rides, but they do have a ton of rides that aren’t too extreme as well as shows and characters. Even though we did not go during the busiest season, there are still LONG lines. Take advantage of the Fast Pass option with your ticket. You don’t have to pay for it, all you do is get a time to return to the ride. This can seriously cut down time. Also, the fireworks show that they do now is amazing, definitely worth staying to see, but we dipped out early to beat the fleeing crowds and beat traffic home.
Day 3- Animal Kingdom
I am an animal fanatic and have only been to Animal Kingdom once before, so this park was a MUST for me. We actually got to the park early and were surprised how many people were there already, it does close earlier than the other parks due to the animals so keep that in mind! We headed straight for the safari ride which was my favorite part, the line was short when we got there (20 minutes) and it was about 60 minutes when we left the park, but it does have the Fast Pass option. They also have a Rainforest Cafe here, which I drag all of my friends too and admit to ordering dino nuggets. I will never grow up, and I’m okay with that. Plus Disney food costs an arm and a leg and is TERRIBLE. Since we ended up leaving the park fairly early we drove over to Downtown Disney (they have shuttles if you choose to use them too). Downtown Disney is great for shopping and dinning, but keep reading for my souvenir tips!
Day 4- Universal Studios
The entire reason I planned this trip was to go see Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios. We did the park during the day and went there at night. Because Americo was sick we got to the park SUPER late, I think it was about 1:30 (the park closes at 5 for HHN) so we opted to get the Fast Pass option to squeeze in as many rides as possible first. BEST decision of the trip. We barely waited for anything, squeezed in everything we wanted to and still had an hour to kill before the Halloween fun began. It was about $45 a person for one park for the day, they have a few different options. If you can afford it, GET IT! Nothing ruins your fun more than standing in a hot, sunny line for 60 minutes for a 3 minute ride. HHN was a pretty big let down. I live for Halloween and was pumped to go to houses run by a huge company like Universal. We only went to 4 houses and did the street experience. The houses were pretty short and aside from them being loud and jumpy, were not my favorite. The Cabin in the Woods house did freak me out pretty bad, and the Walking Dead street experience was awesome though (they had Hershel’s barn, the bus, Morgan’s war zone area set up, the camper, and more). Side note- Universal parks have WAY better food than Disney and you can do a meal plan for only $25, Disney wanted to charge me $17 for a personal pan pizza in Epcot….No Thanks.
Day 5-Islands of Adventure
The only thing I have to say is the new Harry Potter ride is the most amazing ride I have ever been on. The end. HAHA! But really, I had NO idea what the ride was supposed to be like, and I am not a Harry Potter fanatic but the ride was awesome and I love how the Universal parks immerse you in the ride even when you’re waiting in line.
Day 6- Discovery Cove
If you want to do something different, get the Discovery Cove pass. It is an interactive and memorable experience that you will never forget. DC is a resort like park owned by Sea World where you get the unique opportunity to swim with dolphins and interact with many other sea creatures. Their lazy river is awesome, and their reef area is second only to the dolphin experience you get. Food and drinks are all included, alcoholic beverages too – SCORE! We stayed here ALL day and didn’t get bored, at all. I probably could have gone there everyday for our entire vacation and loved every minute of it. The park is so relaxing yet so much fun. And you also get access to Sea World and Aquatica with your ticket.
Day 7- Sea World and Flight Home!
Parks on weekends are WAY worse than during the week. It felt like there were just huge crowds everywhere. I’m also bummed about how Sea World has turned most of their exhibits into ride experiences. I do not want to wait on a 60 minute line to go on a simulator that leads me to see penguins. I would just like to see the animals, please and thank you.
Here are some tips for anyone heading to the area or the parks:
Pick one park (Universal, Disney or SeaWorld) for your week vacation and get a multi day pass. Squeezing as much as possible into a week is hard, you end up needing a vacation from vacation.
International Drive is filled with food and activities. If you have down time or a day without anything planned head there, they have dinner shows, Ripleys Believe It Or Not, Wonder Works, etc.
If you want to bring souvenirs home and don’t want to empty your wallet, we discovered a Walmart on Turkey Lake Road in Orlando. They have so many different things, alot of which are carried at the parks for double the price. Save your money and stop there to grab knick knacks and keepsakes. I wish we had found this before we did all our shopping!
Check out Undercover Tourist! Sometimes they have great deals on tickets (sometimes they are more expensive so do some shopping around). They also have really useful crowd forecasts!
If your hotel offers a free shuttle service, you may want to opt for it. It costs $15 every day to park at the theme parks and it adds up really quickly.
Disney (not sure about Universal) let’s you bring in outside food and drink. So we brought food and snacks with us, which really came in handy.
Band Aid Friction Block stick comes in handy when you’re doing all that walking. Saved me from a few blisters.
The Festival Bay mall was under massive amounts of construction but Bass Pro Shops and Shepler’s were open, and let’s be honest… That’s all that matters.
About the Author
Hey ya’ll, my name is Brittany. I am from a small town in upstate New York, yes NY, no it’s not all city here. I am 29 and grew up in Westchester County, that’s where I get my ‘accent’ from (it’s about an hour north of the Big Apple). I started this page to share the idea that you don’t have to fit a certain mold or standard someone else has. I like pink and sparkles, I surround myself with beautiful things, but I know how to get down and dirty with the best of them.