Author Topic: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?  (Read 12845 times)

Jules13

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Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« on: March 21, 2014, 09:32:41 AM »
I would like to take my kids to Disney World at some point.  Every time I start to research it though, I get overwhelmed by it all.  Not just the price (though it's insane and I always abandon the idea thinking I can travel to Europe or fly to Australia for the same amount of money!), but just everything...all the opting, the resorts, the meal plans (which seem like a total waste)...just everything.  What I really want to do is take my kids to Disney World circa 1983, when everything was much simpler, but that is obviously not going to happen.

So, would appreciate any advice or tips, other than simply not to go.  I know they would have a blast.  I just want to make it the least painful for me as possible. :)

Thanks!
« Last Edit: March 21, 2014, 10:44:58 AM by Jules13 »

ragesinggoddess

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Re: Tips for Disney World?
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2014, 09:35:31 AM »
January is the best month to go (fewest lines). If you're not a football fan, Superbowl Sunday is the absolute quietest day in my experience (though I haven't been in many years). We stayed in Fort Wilderness one of the times we went and it was very easy--a ferry ride took us to the parks and there were camping and low-budget hotel options. We also had a kitchenette so we didn't need a meal plan.

Cpa Cat

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Re: Tips for Disney World?
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2014, 09:45:22 AM »
We were shocked by the food prices. Either do the meal plan or commit to feeding yourself from the grocery store. The food will destroy you if you're not careful.

mxt0133

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Re: Tips for Disney World?
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2014, 09:51:25 AM »
Based on your post you're not really selling Disney very well to yourself.  I myself would consider it an achievement if my kids never see step foot inside a Disney resort/theme park.  I guess I would suggest that you think about why you even want to take your kids to Disney in the first place?  Is it because of the advertisements or because all the other families are taking their kids there and you feel like your kids are missing out on something if they don't go there?

I bet you can think of numerous other places to take your kids to that will not involve paying ridiculous prices for food and accommodations and spending half your day waiting in lines to experience something for 5 minutes or less.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2014, 09:53:04 AM by mxt0133 »

serhomeslice

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Re: Tips for Disney World?
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2014, 09:54:39 AM »
We did it low budget in February 2 years ago and we stayed at the Sports complex.  2 adults and a boy and a girl child.   

$99 a night for 4 nights(2 queen beds).  It was a little cramped but we were rarely in the room.  We skipped the park 2 days and stayed at the pool where they have activities for the kids all day.  You can wheel up a cooler and snacks and you are good for the day.  They probably would have had just as much fun if we had stayed at the pool all 4 days!!!

Everything in Moderation

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Re: Tips for Disney World?
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2014, 10:03:39 AM »
There are many better places to go on a vacation, but I understand that want to bring your kids there.  I had great memories going there as a kid, even though now I much rather go backpacking, the beach, or to Europe.   

I will bring my kids there one time when they are old enough. 

I suggest only spending 2-3 days there, max.  After that, it gets boring, even for the kids.  Add on a few more vacation days on a beach, and you can have a nice vacation. 

I would try to sneak food in, movie theater style.  Not meals, but lots of snacks and power bars.  Bring empty water bottles and fill them in the park.  Hide the food on you or in a diaper bag, get creative. 

Jules13

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Re: Tips for Disney World?
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2014, 10:07:15 AM »
Quote
Based on your post you're not really selling Disney very well to yourself.  I myself would consider it an achievement if my kids never see step foot inside a Disney resort/theme park.  I guess I would suggest that you think about why you even want to take your kids to Disney in the first place?  Is it because of the advertisements or because all the other families are taking their kids there and you feel like your kids are missing out on something if they don't go there?

I bet you can think of numerous other places to take your kids to that will not involve paying ridiculous prices for food and accommodations and spending half your day waiting in lines to experience something for 5 minutes or less.

You are right about this.  It's so commercial now...why I'm not super crazed about the idea of it.  And, no, I could care less what anyone else is doing.  I just have fond memories of going to Disney World and Epcot as a kid, that is why.  I remember it was a such a big deal to my sister and I and we loved it.  We went twice to Disney World and once to Epcot, when it first opened. 

Jules13

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Re: Tips for Disney World?
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2014, 10:13:08 AM »
Quote
We did it low budget in February 2 years ago and we stayed at the Sports complex.  2 adults and a boy and a girl child.   

$99 a night for 4 nights(2 queen beds).  It was a little cramped but we were rarely in the room.  We skipped the park 2 days and stayed at the pool where they have activities for the kids all day.  You can wheel up a cooler and snacks and you are good for the day.  They probably would have had just as much fun if we had stayed at the pool all 4 days!!!

Thanks...will look up the Sports Complex.  We can deal with a cramped room that we aren't in much. :)

Jules13

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2014, 10:46:57 AM »
So, never assume anything evidently.  I just asked my older if he wants to go to Disney and he said he'd rather go to either Universal or St Louis (City Museum - which is one of the coolest places I've ever been for kids and worth every single dime you will spend there!).  My youngest said, "What's Disney World?"

Hmmm....obviously need to give this more thought. :)

kkbmustang

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Re: Tips for Disney World?
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2014, 10:47:40 AM »
I have super fond memories of Disney World (went A LOT growing up) and the same for my husband, but DisneyLand. We took our kids to each (World and Land) when they were younger as part of vacations with extended family (both sides).

Each time we did it a little bit differently, but sort of in the same style. Instead of staying at the parks, you can rent a condo/villa/duplex off property. We rented vans and it was not difficult to park and get onto property. It also allowed us to cook two meals at home per day (breakfast and lunch for an afternoon arrival and late night at the park) or an early arrival at the park (eating breakfast and dinner at home). We packed snacks for the kids because they were little (they still remember the trips) - gold fish, cheerios, etc.

We got the park hopper passes, which I think never expire and you can find on ebay, if you'd like to go that route. Our condo/villa/duplex had a pool so we could go swimming or just lounge around. We had a great time and it wasn't super stressful. It was easier, actually. We weren't forced to eat the crap food at the parks 24/7.

Also, we found a place (both California and Florida) that we used to rent strollers/toddler beds/cribs/beach toys/etc. that were cost effective and way less annoying than packing all of that crap.

bdh221

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2014, 11:57:42 AM »
Thank you for posting about the City Museum. I have never heard of it and after looking it up I think I might have to take a trip down there someday.


rebel100

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2014, 12:01:59 PM »
One budget friendly option would be to stay off property.  There are a ton of family friendly hotels and motels near disney that don't share that "magic kingdom cost". 

I would look closely at the 192/Kissimmee corridor for cheaper rates.  Be sure the hotel offers a shuttle service to the theme parks.  Get off property and everything is cheaper, even the disney merchandise and souvenirs. 

Random Hangers

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2014, 12:20:42 PM »
Assuming you actually meant Disney World (Orlando) and not Disneyland (Anaheim), I have a few tips as a native Floridian, who has seen my fair share of Disney. :-)

1. Yes, January is a decent time to go, both crowd-wise and weather-wise. However, be sure you don't go during the marathon weekend, because there's a huge influx of folks in the parks (many of them sporting medals!), finding rooms can be difficult, and roads in the area can be shut down. Other than that, I'd say anytime when kids are out of school are crowded.

2. When we were kids, my grandparents would throw us in the motorhome and park at Fort Wilderness. We'd eat two miles at "home" and one meal at the parks (typically lunch). This especially worked out because we got a little break at in the afternoon and for dinner (including naps for us kiddos), then went back for fireworks if we (read: my grandparents, lol) were feeling up to it.

3. If you don't stay on-property, expect to pay around $16/day for parking. There are ways to get around this, but they're generally very time-consuming or morally questionable, and not worth it.

4. Though you can spend gobs of money, there are ways around it, too. Have you kids each pick ONE souvenir, something meaningful for them, within a price limit (conversely, take lots of pictures or visit a local dollar store and pick some up on the cheap--kids likely won't know the difference). Stick to counter service restaurants, not full service. Stay at one of the value resorts, not moderate or deluxe. Pick up a Hidden Mickey guide (so much fun!) to give the kids something to do while in the parks. Bring your own camera and ask cast members or fellow tourists to take photos of you instead of buying one of Disney's photo packages (and offer to take their photos as well, of course).

5. There are a lot of lines: for rides, for food, for characters, etc. My reco is to not have a tight agenda but just pick a few things that you'd really like to hit (a favorite character, a highly regarded ride, etc) and you can spend most of your time wandering around instead of standing in one spot. Oh, and take advantage of FastPasses (free at Disney).

6. If you have a lot of time, you might want to explore disboards.com. Those folks are SERIOUS about Disney-ing.

Universal Orlando might feel a little more manageable because it's only two parks. Same with Cali's Disneyland, actually. You might want to consider those as options, especially if your kids don't have a strong preference. Good luck!

William

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Re: Tips for Disney World?
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2014, 12:20:54 PM »
Disney World is expensive.  It's unique therefore they can overcharge.

Acknowledge you're going to be spending a large amount of money or else I would scrap the plan.

You can hack your way through Disney but it will always be expensive.

mxt0133

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2014, 12:31:47 PM »
So, never assume anything evidently.  I just asked my older if he wants to go to Disney and he said he'd rather go to either Universal or St Louis (City Museum - which is one of the coolest places I've ever been for kids and worth every single dime you will spend there!).  My youngest said, "What's Disney World?"

Hmmm....obviously need to give this more thought. :)

This to me says that your raising your kids to be great future Mustachians!!!!!

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #15 on: March 21, 2014, 02:50:54 PM »
Having been to Disney World three times in the past five years with our large (3, 4, then 5 kids) family, here are my suggestions:

Maximizing efficiency:
1) use RideMax to plan your schedule.  Seriously.  It'll let you get to twice as many rides/attractions.  You'll be amazed at how easy you get onto rides when everyone else seems to be waiting.
2) take your own food.  I don't think they have rules against bringing in your own.
3) stay off-property (i.e. not in a Disney branded resort).  Bonnet Creek Resort is non-Disney, but surrounded by Disney properties.  You can get a suite with mini kitchen for less than a room on-property.

For our family, it was about right to spend two days at Magic Kingdom, two days at EPCOT, and one day each at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

If you REALLY want to research it in depth, go to the disboards.  And if you want more info from someone who's wife has spent many hours optimizing our own Disney vacation, just PM me.

Spork

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #16 on: March 21, 2014, 03:07:02 PM »

It's been ages since I went to WDW... but I went to Universal not that long ago.  (Warning: This was 2 adults/no kids).

Universal is somewhat adult themed... Not like hookers and gambling... just seems to have more adult themes.  The 2 parks can easily be done in 2 days.  We had whatever their fastpass was... and had rode everything once (and some stuff twice) long before the end of the day.

As has been said: the on-park hotels and the food is the killer.  Holy crap: A burger and fries for 2 will run you $30 or more.  Anything you can do to step a foot off the property will help.

This site has a ton of crap for Universal.  Ride reviews.  Best path through the park.  What is and is not worth paying for. 

NOTHING there is "Mustachian"...  but I went knowing that ahead of time.

marty998

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #17 on: March 21, 2014, 03:47:50 PM »
We did both in 7 days waaay back in Dec 99. No lines, all the local kiddos were in school. Just a shame the water parks were closed for (your) winter.

5 day hopper pass at Disneyworld and 2 days at Universal. We were quite lucky as Epcot had a millennium expo at the time and the park was open till very late each evening for shows and fireworks. You really did get your moneys worth with a 12 hour day split between one of the other parks and then Epcot in the evenings.

Universal had just opened the Islands of Adventure park and it was da bomb. Your kids will be grateful for years after you take them to that one.


Universal is somewhat adult themed... Not like hookers and gambling... just seems to have more adult themes.


Agree with you on that. But all the more reason for the adults (and kids) to go to a place free from mickey disney tinkerbell fairy rubbish.

TomTX

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #18 on: March 21, 2014, 04:53:14 PM »
Did Disney World (Magic Kingdom) with the wife a few years ago. January, cold, drizzly day - but we dressed for it and had a great time! Apparently my childhood visits (2? 3?) seared a basis in my mind, and we did not wait in a single line all day. And we did everything we wanted. Heck, we did Space Mountain 3 times in a row - the only "wait" was lining up to get into the next car.

Were there lines that day? Yep, but we timed everything to avoid them :D

Blazin

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #19 on: March 21, 2014, 05:58:47 PM »
+1 to bringing in your own food.   Also, we brought our souvenirs with us.   Packed a Mickey shirt for the kids that was new to them and bought a bunch of the pins from Amazon so the kids could then trade when we were there.   

avonlea

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #20 on: March 21, 2014, 06:15:13 PM »
Thank you for posting about the City Museum. I have never heard of it and after looking it up I think I might have to take a trip down there someday.

We love the City Museum, too.  There are several great attractions in St. Louis that are pretty inexpensive, but the City Museum is something that's worth paying a little extra to explore.

NumberJohnny5

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #21 on: March 21, 2014, 06:21:47 PM »
I'll say early December is the best time to go (I can't overemphasize EARLY December...late December will be a mad house).

We stay at Fort Wilderness, in a family sized tent. Bring heaters (if you're there in October for Halloween, bring an a/c). Around $50 or so a night, with all the perks of staying on property (Disney transportation, free parking at the parks if you decide to drive, Extra Magic Hours, etc.). It may have changed in the few years since we last went, but there were quite a few people there staying the season, and they had their area full of Christmas decorations (lots of Disney, but non-Disney characters like Bugs Bunny and Charlie Brown could be seen too). There's some kind of parade on the lake (haven't watched it, heard it's nice). It's a single boat ride between Fort Wilderness and the Magic Kingdom (and just one extra monorail between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot).

Absolutely love the Christmas decorations at Hollywood Studios. Really hope that hasn't changed. Also like the Christmas party at the Magic Kingdom; full disclosure, I don't care for the Halloween party that much, but my son prefers it to the Christmas party.

We purchased 10 day non-expiring Park Hopper tickets, with the Water Park option added. That's a total of twenty days of Disney (we don't go to the Water Parks/DisneyQuest as often as the parks, so the next time we bought tickets, we got the non Water Park ones). You'll hear arguments both ways as to whether you should get Park Hoppers or not. I prefer to get them; if you get the Extra Magic Hours (which you do if you're staying on property), you can start (or end) your day at that park, when the crowds are minimal. Let's say the Magic Kingdom has the Extra Magic Hours for the morning. Start there, not too crowded at all. Now the park opens to the commoners (sorry...I mean, the people who aren't eligible for Extra Magic Hours), and it's crowded. With Park Hopper tickets, just hop to another park that's not as crowded. I wouldn't waste a lot of time trying to hop from park to park, but if you're like us and need a break in the middle of the day, it's great to start at one park and end at another. Or stay until Animal Kingdom closes, then hop over to Hollywood Studios to watch Fantasia.

Should add, buying the 10-day non expiration tickets is probably only best if you use 2-3 days at a time. Unless this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, it's easy to only spend 2-3 days in the parks during a week vacation. Day one, rest and get your bearings (if you're there during Christmas time and want to go to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, do that on a day you're not spending at the park...it requires a separate ticket; we often go on the first day there). Day two, spend at the park(s). Day three, let kids stay at the resort and play in the pool (Fort Wilderness has a heated pool that's just a bit chilly if it's 50 degrees out, and a nice waterpark area too). Day four, spend at the park(s). Day five, go and do something else in Orlando (if you have a science museum membership that's good around the country, the one in Orlando is pretty nice). Day six, go to the park(s). Day seven, if you got the ticket with Water Parks, go to one of those (includes DisneyQuest, which is basically a big arcade; DisneyQuest is good for an afternoon, not quite an all-day outing).

If you do Character Dining, Fort Wilderness has one (which we have not gone to), Mickey's Bar-b-que or something like that. Whether it's worth it or not I'll leave up to you. All I'll say, is if you're going to do it, I'd prefer to NOT waste a park day (which you have to do if you eat at a venue inside a park). Of course that's just me; if you plan on staying in the park all day and not return to your room/tent for a break, I guess a character meal in the park would be fine (we've done one in Magic Kingdom, buffet was so-so, not waiting forever for characters was nice, probably wasn't worth the price).

I've even seen people post that they've gone to Fort Wilderness without even going to the parks, by request of their kids. Every night they have a Chip and Dale's party complete with smore's (you can buy kits there, and are more than welcome to bring your own supplies), followed by a movie.

Do run the numbers, may be cheaper for you to buy a regular expiring ticket.

Last time I checked, you're allowed to bring your own food. Not sure if they frown on bringing huge meals, but I thought I saw coolers there (this was at least three years ago, may have changed). We never had an issue bringing bottles of water, some sandwiches, packs of crackers, things like that.

For souvenirs, when we first arrive I try to go to the nearest Walmart that has a Dollar Tree nearby. Dollar Tree has tutus, magic wands, and crowns for the princess in your family (may even have fairy wings). Sadly they don't have much for the prince in your family, but they probably have plenty for a pirate. Also stock up on glow-in-the-dark sticks, much cheaper than if you try to buy the glowy stuff at Fantasia (note, we found the Fantasia Mickey at an op-shop before we went one year, put some new batteries in and score!). Walmart would be great for souvenirs. Any money our kids spend on souvenirs comes out of their allowance; they may spend $20 on a stuffed dog that can only be bought at Disney; I'd yell "NO!" and start to hyperventilate, if it wasn't for their allowance.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2014, 06:28:22 PM by josetann »

Jules13

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #22 on: March 21, 2014, 06:28:44 PM »
Thanks for all the great tips everyone!  I'm liking the idea of an off site condo (or something with a kitchen) with a pool and doing 2 meals at home, whether we do Disney or Universal.  I hate fast food type food, so this would work better for us.  And my kids probably wouldn't last all day at a park anyway...they'd get burnt out. 

Quote
Universal is somewhat adult themed... Not like hookers and gambling... just seems to have more adult themes.

That just made me laugh out loud.  But, I'm thinking my kids (both boys) would actually enjoy Universal better after looking at it.  I would only be trying to relive my visit to Disney I think and I'm guess I would be disappointing with all the annoying focus on princesses these days.  Plus, we are Harry Potter fans and I'm dying to see that area.  Thanks for that link...will check it out.

Someone mentioned Universal is 2 parks?  Island of Adventure and what else?  I'm confused about that.  Their site is down at the moment.

Quote
Quote from: Jules13 on Today at 10:46:57 am

    So, never assume anything evidently.  I just asked my older if he wants to go to Disney and he said he'd rather go to either Universal or St Louis (City Museum - which is one of the coolest places I've ever been for kids and worth every single dime you will spend there!).  My youngest said, "What's Disney World?"

    Hmmm....obviously need to give this more thought. :)


This to me says that your raising your kids to be great future Mustachians!!!!!

Ha!  That's what I thought when he said it!  Considering he's 5 1/2, I thought for sure he'd be dying to go.  :)

Quote
Thank you for posting about the City Museum. I have never heard of it and after looking it up I think I might have to take a trip down there someday.

I seriously and highly recommend St Louis as a vacation with kids!  Especially Mustacians.  It's a great city and there are so many FREE and inexpensive things to do it's crazy.  We've been twice (it's about 6 hours drive for us) and my boys ask to go back ALL THE TIME.  They love it there.  City Museum is one the most amazing places I've ever been.  Crazy fun.  We were there for 9 hours in October.  It was awesome!  For the younger set, Magic House is also fantastic.  We were there all day the first time we went.  So fun.  And only $10 admission!  Unreal.  The botanical garden is amazing, the Zoo is awesome and FREE!!  The science museum is FREE.  There are acres upon acres of park.  We love that place. 




ShortInSeattle

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #23 on: March 21, 2014, 06:31:59 PM »
Another shout out for Ridemax. We used it and spent the day going from ride to ride instead of line  to line.   Awesome software.

kkbmustang

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #24 on: March 21, 2014, 06:58:52 PM »
Just remembered another lesson we learned the hard way: DON'T FORGET SUNSCREEN. A teeny tiny bottle was some unGodly sum.

Spork

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #25 on: March 22, 2014, 08:03:30 AM »
Quote
Universal is somewhat adult themed... Not like hookers and gambling... just seems to have more adult themes.

That just made me laugh out loud.  But, I'm thinking my kids (both boys) would actually enjoy Universal better after looking at it.  I would only be trying to relive my visit to Disney I think and I'm guess I would be disappointing with all the annoying focus on princesses these days.  Plus, we are Harry Potter fans and I'm dying to see that area.  Thanks for that link...will check it out.

Someone mentioned Universal is 2 parks?  Island of Adventure and what else?  I'm confused about that.  Their site is down at the moment.


Harry was a good portion of why we went, too.  (Though there were other things we liked, too).  As of this summer, they'll double their Harry attractions.  When we went, there was Hogwarts and Hogsmeade (with a few rides).  They're adding a London portion (Diagon Alley and Hogwarts Express).

There is Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.  They're side-by-side.  You can easily walk from one to the other.  (And if you have passes to both, you can also take Hogwarts Express once it opens.)


stashing_it

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Re: Tips for Disney World?
« Reply #26 on: March 22, 2014, 10:07:52 AM »
I would try to sneak food in, movie theater style.  Not meals, but lots of snacks and power bars.  Bring empty water bottles and fill them in the park.  Hide the food on you or in a diaper bag, get creative.

You don't need to sneak food in.  We brought in soft coolers full of food.    At the bottom of the coolers were frozen bottles of water, and stacked on top were sandwhiches, fruit, snacks from the grocery store.

We then stuck the coolers in a locker, and came back at lunch.

Do not forget the water.  Take plenty.   A bottle is 25 cents when bought in a case, 3 to 4 dollars bought in the park.   And if you are like me you would not buy enough water if you had to pay 4 / bottle, and then be dehydrated the whole day.


Also, work the fast passes (free)   have someone from the group run ahead whenever the fast passes become available again to keep them maxed out.        Not that I'm saying you should do this, but often the ride operators don't really look at the fast passes, so if there are 4 people in your group, you can get on with 2 active fast passes and 2  "it is not yet time to get another fast pass" as a stack, and then 2 people can ride again with fast passes ;)


Parking is very expensive at the parks.   If you are staying offsite, look into public transportation to somewhere on disney, then you should be able to bus around

chasesfish

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #27 on: March 22, 2014, 03:10:15 PM »
A locker rental for a soft cooler is far cheaper than buying food on site.  Expect to pay for parking, or just stay at a hotel with a shuttle.  I found September after labor day to be a pleasant time of the year.


If you want to be mustachian, buy some DIS stock at the same time you go to the park.  Its been a good long-term holding for me

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Tips for Disney World?
« Reply #28 on: March 22, 2014, 06:51:28 PM »

Also, work the fast passes (free)   have someone from the group run ahead whenever the fast passes become available again to keep them maxed out.        Not that I'm saying you should do this, but often the ride operators don't really look at the fast passes, so if there are 4 people in your group, you can get on with 2 active fast passes and 2  "it is not yet time to get another fast pass" as a stack, and then 2 people can ride again with fast passes ;)
Disney have recently replaced FastPass with their new FastPassPlus system, which has received decidedly negative reviews from people who were used to maximizing their use of FastPass.  So don't count on that helping much.

Spork

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Re: Tips for Disney World?
« Reply #29 on: March 22, 2014, 08:52:12 PM »

Also, work the fast passes (free)   have someone from the group run ahead whenever the fast passes become available again to keep them maxed out.        Not that I'm saying you should do this, but often the ride operators don't really look at the fast passes, so if there are 4 people in your group, you can get on with 2 active fast passes and 2  "it is not yet time to get another fast pass" as a stack, and then 2 people can ride again with fast passes ;)
Disney have recently replaced FastPass with their new FastPassPlus system, which has received decidedly negative reviews from people who were used to maximizing their use of FastPass.  So don't count on that helping much.

Alternatively, Universal's fast pass (or whatever they call it) is nothing more than "a shorter line."  It's not a gadget or a gizmo.  It has a couple of levels (use once per ride or use as many as you want).  It's simple.  Whether it helps depends on the size of the crowd.

Another Reader

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #30 on: March 22, 2014, 09:38:57 PM »
Disneyland was fun in the late 50's and early 60's, when you drove for what seemed like hours through orange groves to get there.  Lines?  Maybe 4 or 5 people.  Stopping to eat fried chicken afterwards at Knott's Berry Farm was a nice treat.  Since then?  I would not go near the place.  Disney to me is a total rip-off and the experience of overpaying to stand in line has zero appeal. This conveys all the wrong ideas to kids.   Owning the stock, however, has been a much better idea.


Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #31 on: March 24, 2014, 01:23:46 AM »
We love DW and Universal (especially since HP world began!)  Here are my tips:
-Mousesavers.com.  They have tips on best time to avoid crowds and how to save money on foot, passes, etc.
-With a 6.5yr old, I would bring a stroller with a bottom basket.  Your soft cooler with sandwiches, drinks, and snacks can stay in the basket.  You can also keep hand sanitizer, sunblock, and ponchos stuffed in it.  And with all the walking, someone will want to ride in it eventually.  I would bring a stroller for any kid under 10.  ;)  If you rent a stroller, I heard of a tip to avoid getting it stolen.  Fill a diaper with root beer and tie it on the handle in a grocery bag.  No one will touch "your" stroller!  When we last went, it was way cheaper to buy a stroller than rent one for all the days we were there.
-We would eat breakfast in our condo, pack our sandwiches & snacks for lunch, and usually eat dinner after we leave the park.  If we wanted to stay longer to see the fireworks or something, we would eat at counter-service restaurants.  The food wasn't too bad, and kid's meals were a pretty good deal.  Do not get snacks in DW!  If you are hungry, just go get something to eat.  Those snack will bust the budget!  Sit down character restaurants are very expensive.  We usually have done one just for the experience.  YMMV.
-I would plan on one day each at the parks in DW, so at least four days.  I would make it an even five and repeat a favorite one.  But then it takes us quite a commitment to get to Orlando, so we try to make it worth it.  I would at least spend 3 days in Universal, more if you like roller coasters and Harry Potter. Prices for extra days after a certain point become very cheap.  If in doubt, I would pay for more days than you think you'll need (you can upgrade in the park). 
-The 3D rides at Universal made some in my family motion sick (Including the big HP one).  Options are to skip them, shut your eyes at certain points, or talk to your doctor about a motion sickness Rx before you go.  I've wondered if the patches you wear on a cruise would help...
-We like to break up the days at the park with a trip to Cocoa Beach.   
-Have fun!

MrsPete

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #32 on: March 24, 2014, 06:23:46 AM »
1.  Go in the summer.  Yes, the crowds are more intense, but the parks open early and stay open 'til . . . 11:00 pm?  You get more hours for your ticket.  If you manage your Fast Passes well (other people have described these), you'll ride more rides than you could in a short winter day. 

2.  Stay on site.  Yes, it's expensive, but you get some nice perks and can utilize your time more efficiently.  Every day one Disney park opens either 1 hour or 1.5 hours early just for people staying on site.  Be at the door of that park when the gates open, and you'll be able to ride-ride-ride in that short time.  Then, when the crowds hit around 10:00-11:00, go back to your hotel to relax in the air conditioning or the pool, eat sandwiches in the room and take a nap.  Then you'll be ready to go back to the parks in the late afternoon, when it's cooler and the crowds are dispersing. 

3. Use on site transportation.  Disney is BIG, and driving on site is no fun.  The busses drop you off right at the park gate, and you get to skip parking, paying to park, and walking from the distant reaches of the parking lot.  You also don't have to get into a hot car at the end of the day.   

4.  Food is expensive at Disney.  No two ways about it.  Bring your own breakfast and lunch in a cooler for your room, but do eat at some of their unique restaurants at some point.  Kids' meals are plenty big enough for me, especially in the summer heat.  You can ask for free ice water from any food vendor; they may not be exactly pleasant about giving you water if you're not buying food, but they will do it.

5.  Read up on some of the things you can do for free at Disney.  Example:  Watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the beach at the Polynesian hotel.  A couple of the hotels do ladybug releases periodically.  The campground has s'mores and storytelling in the evenings. 

6.  Read up on some of the things that aren't free but are outside the parks.  For example, my kids had an absolute blast driving the Mouse Boats. 

7.  Do not buy your tickets from ebay (or similar).  I have used-up, completely worthless tickets in my scrapbook, and if I were a dishonest person I could sell them to you saying they have 3 days of tickets left on them . . . and you wouldn't know the difference  until you reach the turnstiles are were told, "Sorry".  Since tickets are non-transferable, Disney would do nothing to help you get your money back.  It IS safe to buy from valid on-line ticket sales places; I have bought from TicketMania and have had a good experience.  My sister had a bad experience with them, but she waited 'til the last minute and had them delivered to her Disney hotel.  They had a mix-up with the drop-off.  Don't buy at the last minute.  Do consider buying a ticket with a large number of days and no expiration; it makes each day less expensive, and if you choose the right tickets, you can use that ticket for multiple visits over the years. 

Random Hangers

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #33 on: March 24, 2014, 07:02:45 AM »
Each Universal Park (Studios and Islands of Adventure) has separate and unique attractions, and if you're coming all the way down here, you might as well go to both. :-)

Studios highlights include the Simpsons (eerie how spot-on the whole area is), Transformers (so much fun!), Shrek and Despicable Me. Islands highlights are Potter (soon to spill over to the back side of Studios--it's a good thing you aren't planning on going immediately because this whole area is going to be INSANE until at least the fall, if the opening of the first Potter section is any indication), Seuss, Marvel, and Jurassic Park.

I'm not as familiar with the tips and tricks of staying on/off Universal property. They don't have an equivalent of Fort Wilderness, for example, and only have I think 3 on-site hotels. If you don't stay on property, you'll have to pay the daily parking fee, similar to Disney of about $16. Oh, and Universal charges for their version of FastPass. Its cost is variable based on the time of year (supply + demand and all that), but like someone else mentioned, it's really more of a "shortened line" pass.

Universal is much closer to International Drive, sort of a Mos Eisley except with tourists instead of bounter hunters: You'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Or at least overpriced, overstimulated, over indulgent, over EVERYTHING area that I would avoid if at all possible, especially on the weekends. That being said...we used to take out of town guests on a cruise down I-Drive on Saturday nights. It was the equivalent of driving through a zoo, watching the animals outside of their natural habitat, lol.

Good luck with your planning. Like someone else said, I believe orlandoinformer.com is the Universal equivalent of Disboards (and there may even be a Disboards sub-form for Universal). The best resources are those that have gone before you...


Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #34 on: March 24, 2014, 07:14:02 AM »
1.  Go in the summer.  Yes, the crowds are more intense, but the parks open early and stay open 'til . . . 11:00 pm?  You get more hours for your ticket.  If you manage your Fast Passes well (other people have described these), you'll ride more rides than you could in a short winter day. 
 
I agree with a lot of your advice, but I will never go in summer.  Heat, humidity, crowds, lines... not fun!  Our favorite time to go is in Oct/Nov/Jan.  Great temperatures, few crowds and we run on the rides so fast that there's no way I'd need to stay until 11pm.  For us the idea is to get on the rides as much as we want, not to stay there all day. 

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #35 on: March 24, 2014, 09:20:40 AM »
When I was young, we went to disney world once.  I was probably close to the "ideal age" at 7ish, my oldest sibling was entering high school.  We've been to florida multiple times at that point, always renting a condo on/near a beach or camping.

For our trip, we just stayed someplace in orlando, then spent the whole day at magic kingdom (then spent the rest of the trip in an atlantic-side beach condo).  My whole family thought it was the least enjoyable day we had on that trip.  Maybe we were too old? I dunno, we just thought it was lame.  Not relaxing, felt like manufactured 'fun'.  I understand the allure, but if you're already hesitant because it's not your '80s disney, I'm afraid you might regret it.  If you think your kids will truly enjoy it though, give it a shot!

Sorry if this wasn't the reply you were looking for, I have no tips on how to make it cheap.  I think that's disney's goal ;)

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #36 on: March 24, 2014, 06:43:17 PM »
So, never assume anything evidently.  I just asked my older if he wants to go to Disney and he said he'd rather go to either Universal or St Louis (City Museum - which is one of the coolest places I've ever been for kids and worth every single dime you will spend there!).  My youngest said, "What's Disney World?"

Hmmm....obviously need to give this more thought. :)

Zero interest in Disney but seeing this recommendation was worth stumbling into this thread. We're actually going to be in SL in a few weeks. We love the excellent (free) zoo but I've never heard of the City Museum.

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #37 on: March 24, 2014, 07:35:36 PM »
City Museum in St. Louis is unique, there is nothing else like it. It was built by my mad genius neighbor Bob Cassilly. Bob loved architecture, and he stole stuff and wheedled stuff and bought stuff to preserve it and then later to use it at City Museum. He bought a building with a million square feet in downtown St. Louis in the 80's and has since been building it up with all of this architectural finds. He takes pieces from buildings and re-purposes them is fabulous ways.

The last time I was there we took our Swiss and Italian relatives. They had small children, almost too small to appreciate City Museum. It's a crazy place.

All over my neighborhood is evidence of Bob's architectural/art pieces, in entry sculptures, in building decorations for infill housing. He was one of the original pioneers of Lafayette Square who loved these old buildings and who threw his body over them when the wrecking ball came.

He died 2 years ago in a freak accident when the bulldozer he was driving turned over on him. R.I.P. Mad Genius.


 

iris lily

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #38 on: March 24, 2014, 07:41:40 PM »
...Zero interest in Disney but seeing this recommendation was worth stumbling into this thread. We're actually going to be in SL in a few weeks. We love the excellent (free) zoo but I've never heard of the City Museum.
ah buddy, good think that you saw this thread. City Museum is THE place to go in St. Louis, All of those other touristy things (The Arch, Gran'ts Farm, The Zoo) pale next to it. But then, I love architecture.

For anyone else who likes architecture, stop into the newly renovated City Library which is 1 block from City Museum at 1301 Olive. The 1912 Library building, a Carnegie building, has been completely renovated from top to bottom. The project has won every kind of award there is due to the preservation of the original gorgeous buildings combined with modern updates. They don't build 'em like this any more.

Have you taken the Brewery Tour? It's nice, with the best part being the horse barn. See ing how the Clydesdales live is great.

iris lily

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #39 on: March 24, 2014, 07:47:23 PM »
I was always glad that my parents took us to Europe as our big family trip when I was in high school, rather than the typical Disney/Grand Canyon & Yellowstone jaunts.

Epcot wasn't around when I was a kid, but I know that I would have turned up my nose at The Avenue of Nations or whatever it is called because I wanted to see the Real Thing, not faux versions.

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #40 on: March 24, 2014, 08:10:08 PM »
I was just discussing Disney with my wife tonight.  I went when I was a kid and I don't really have many memories of it (positive or negative).  Awesome memories from childhood trips were to "real" places like camping, hiking, waterfalls, trails, lakes, Grand Canyon, Washington DC, San Francisco street cars and Chinatown. 

I used to think I owed my kids at least 1 Disney trip (we will probably be near Orlando once every few years for other vacations anyway), but I'm not so sure any more.  I've fished for interest from my kids (the oldest two LOVE disney princess type characters) and there doesn't seem to be much interest there.  It might be because none of us care for rides or roller coasters and can't stand waiting in line. 

I've come to the conclusion that Disney is mostly marketing hype intended to make you feel like every childhood is required to have at least 1 disney trip, and you are neglecting your kids if you don't go.  My kids might have to deal with the neglect issues once they are adults, but I think in the mean time we'll keep hitting up "real" vacation spots.  ;) 

As for the OP, when I was pricing out a trip a few years ago, there seemed to be specials at certain times of the year where you could get a hotel at a discount and park tickets for the going rate (more days = much lower per day cost), and they would give you a free meal plan.  I remember a 5 or 7 day trip was $1500 or so for 2 adults, 2 kids.  Rather reasonable as far as an almost all inclusive vacation goes (since we can drive down from NC), but we never pulled the trigger.  We can go on a cruise for slightly less money, the kids love cruises, and it's a nice laid back relaxing experience for us adults.

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #41 on: March 24, 2014, 08:22:45 PM »
I second Mousesavers.com website for excellent tips on hotels, dining and just about everything Disney.
With one of their promo rates,we stayed on Disney property, in a non-Disney Hotel. Free breakfast buffet, free evening meal for kids and we were within walking distance of a grocery store-so prepared our own lunches.
Fond memories of trips with older kids, need to bring younger 2 soon, so I'll be watching this thread ;)

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Re: Tips for Disney World OR Universal Studios?
« Reply #42 on: March 24, 2014, 08:35:36 PM »
Quote
I was always glad that my parents took us to Europe as our big family trip when I was in high school, rather than the typical Disney/Grand Canyon & Yellowstone jaunts.

This is on the cards in about 3 years when my youngest is around 8 or 9.  We already travel to Australia regularly, but want to take them to Europe.  We might try to make it an extended trip if I decide to homeschool at that time. 

Quote
I've come to the conclusion that Disney is mostly marketing hype intended to make you feel like every childhood is required to have at least 1 disney trip, and you are neglecting your kids if you don't go.

Yes, that is sort of where I was coming from.  That I "should" take them to Disney at least once!  After looking at Universal though, we've decided that we all would prefer that.  My son and I are big Harry Potter fans and I, personally, would really like to see that.  I hate crowds though, so will have to time it right so I'm not miserable.  But, my youngest hasn't seen any of the movies and won't for at least another year, so we've got time.  I want him to have at least seen the first movie.  I made my oldest read the books before he watched the movies. 

Quote
For anyone else who likes architecture, stop into the newly renovated City Library which is 1 block from City Museum at 1301 Olive. The 1912 Library building, a Carnegie building, has been completely renovated from top to bottom. The project has won every kind of award there is due to the preservation of the original gorgeous buildings combined with modern updates. They don't build 'em like this any more.

Will definitely add this to my next St Louis trip!  Thanks for the tip.  City Museum is so much fun that we might end up going again at the end of the summer for birthdays...who knows. 

Quote
Zero interest in Disney but seeing this recommendation was worth stumbling into this thread. We're actually going to be in SL in a few weeks. We love the excellent (free) zoo but I've never heard of the City Museum.

Just make sure your kids are old enough.  Our youngest had just turned 5 when we went.   I'm not sure I'd take a kid much younger than that.  If you go, definitely pay the extra to go on the roof - totally worth it!  And my husband plans to take or buy knee pads for next time.  We were so bruised up after the 9 hours we spent there crawling through and under and over every nook and cranny and sliding down crazy slides.  But, man...it was the most fun I'd had in ages. 

Quote
I agree with a lot of your advice, but I will never go in summer.  Heat, humidity, crowds, lines... not fun!  Our favorite time to go is in Oct/Nov/Jan.  Great temperatures, few crowds and we run on the rides so fast that there's no way I'd need to stay until 11pm.  For us the idea is to get on the rides as much as we want, not to stay there all day.

Agree about summer.  I hate crowds.  Thanks for the tip of Oct/Nov/Jan.

Quote
We like to break up the days at the park with a trip to Cocoa Beach.

Oh, I like this idea.  We would never survive 4 or 5 days of an amusement park.  But, maybe a couple of days then go to the beach.   

Thanks for all the tips!  I will have to archive them with the tips I've gotten from friends.  I have an ongoing list for when I finally bite the bullet and go.  I've looked several times but get so overwhelmed I just abandon the idea.  It's starting to feel more manageable now though.  Cheers.