Two weeks ago Matt and I celebrated our five-year anniversary in Orlando, FL. We arrived Wednesday night and left Sunday morning, which left us only three full days for activities. We initially thought we would do Disney’s four parks in two days and Universal’s two parks in one day, but, to our surprise, there were no lines at the parks and we were able to get through three of Disney’s parks in one day. So, the following is our itinerary with some suggestions:
Wednesday night: Arrive.
Thursday: (Start every day very early. Matt and I finished our morning runs by 8am and then quickly had breakfast and headed over to the parks.) Spend first day at Disney. Park at Magic Kingdom. Be done with rides by noon. Head to Epcot. Ride the rides there and have lunch at one of the country exhibits (I highly recommend Italy and Morocco). Head to Hollywood Studios. Finish rides by 6ish so you can make it to the parade at 7pm and then the fireworks at 8pm at Magic Kingdom (please note that times change daily so make sure to check Disney’s schedule). If you do not mind missing the parade or fireworks you could park the car at Epcot, ride a couple of rides there (leave by 10-10:30 – there is not that many MUST rides at Epcot), head to Animal Kingdom (stay until 1pm), head to Hollywood Studios (until 4ish), then head to Magic Kingdom (you may actually be able to ride rides and see the parade and fireworks, but you need to be strategic). Finish with taking the tram back to Epcot. If Matt and I knew that we could do Disney in one day we would have done the itinerary I just laid out.
Friday: Spend day at Universal. We were at Universal Studios from 9am – noon. We ate lunch at CityWalk. We then spent the rest of the afternoon at Islands of Adventure. We went home to change and then returned to CityWalk (DO DO DO spend an evening at CityWalk) for a late dinner, some mini golf (DO – see photo below of the crazy course), and a show at MargaritaVille .
Saturday: Spend day at SeaWorld and Aquatica (SeaWorld’s water park). We spent the morning feeding dolphins and sea lions, watching the Shamu and dolphin shows, and riding the rides at SeaWorld. Around noon we headed to Aquatica. We rode the rides there and then we went back to SeaWorld around 4pm to participate in Bands, Brew and BBQ where we ate bbq, drank some beer, and watched Sara Evans perform.
Sunday Morning: returned back to DC.
Note about this itinerary: Again, this itinerary can only really work if (1) you go off-season and (2) you plan very well. With regard to planning, here are some tips:
- Before you get to the park, research which rides you would like to go on or shows you would like to see. Highlight the rides or show areas on a map. Make sure you have the most current map.
- Get to the parks early!
- Wear sneakers and plan to run. We pretty much sprinted between rides to make sure we could get to every ride we wanted to.
- For Disney, plan to park your car at one of the parks that stay open the latest (Epcot and Magic Kingdom typically stay open the latest).
- Many of the parks have a faster line. Disney has FastPass, which is free and you just grab a timeframe and come back when your time has come. I recommend grabbing FastPass for any rides that have a wait and riding all the non-FastPass rides until your time has come. Universal has a similar program, but you pay for it. If I was going peak season I would have bought this pass although I find it to be quite expensive: the price depends on the day, but for us it would have been $50 for both Universal parks per person! SeaWorld did not have enough rides to need to buy its pass and Aquatica did not have any sort of express/fast lane.
Note about accommodations
: We found no need to stay on Disney or Universal property. We booked a room at Sheraton Vistana Villages
and paid less than half as much as we would have had we booked a room at one of the hotels on Disney or Universal property. And, we had much more room and many more amenities. Our “room” was actually an apartment with a full kitchen, dining room, porch, living room, king size bed in the bedroom, and a super large bathroom with two large areas separated by a door. Sheraton’s property also came with amazing amenities including many pools (see below), a gym, a grocery store, etc. And, it was super convenient: about five minutes from SeaWorld and fifteen – twenty minutes to Universal and Disney.
Stay tuned to CourtneyMara.com as I will post reviews in the next week or so of the rides we rode in Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, and Aquatica!