Thursday, August 4, 2016

Disney and Universal During Peak Season

Orlando is a prime location for vacation in any season but obviously summer months and holidays are known as peak season. Off season are those months when there isn't much going on (think September, February and April) while peak can draw the crowds (June-August, Christmas, Thanksgiving). I have been to the parks during peaks and while it can be difficult, it can be done!Here are some tips for along the way.
Pack Light
This is sometimes easier said then done but try and only bring the necessities and preferably in a carry-on. I hate wasting time at the airport waiting on luggage and it can be a huge timesaver to go ahead and have you and your travel parties luggage with you right when you step off the plane. Also, Disney World Resort offers the Magical Express if you are staying at one of their On-Site Resorts meaning they will actually pick up your luggage for you and place it in your room. This is a good service however it does take a lengthy time to reach your destination (unless you are the first stop), if you don't want to waste time or you aren't staying at a Disney resort, I highly suggest renting a car for your stay.
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Universal Orlando Tip: Stay On Site and Arrive Early for New Attractions

I would recommend hitting up Universal Orlando first before Walt Disney World (if you are even headed to the Mouse) mainly because Universal Orlando has two parks and can be easily traveled in a day and a half. You will definitely want to start out at Diagon Alley at Universal Studios and soak up the atmosphere before taking the Hogwarts express to The Wizzarding World of Harry Potter in Islands of Adventure.

Universal Orlando is comprised of two Theme Parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, you must have a ticket to both parks to experience them both. Both are great in their own ways, Universal Studios is the more classic park and Islands is known for their thrills and coasters. I would also highly recommend staying onsite since you are permitted to enter the park early plus at select resorts (Portofino Bay Resort, Hard Rock Hotel and Royal Pacific Resort) you are given an unlimited Express Pass to enjoy most rides with no wait. The Cabana Bay Resort and new Sapphire Falls Resort offer early entry but no Express Passes, however they are a great deal! My budget pick would be the Cabana Bay Beach Resort and deluxe pick would be the Hard Rock Hotel!

Visit Skull Island: Reign of Kong
Ok, this is an all new ride and yes, there will be LONG waits, this attraction is excluded from Express Pass so make it a priority to do this first thing at opening (8am), if you are staying on-site, hang out in the Wizzarding World of Harry Potter or Jurassic Park until about 7:35am then start making your way over to Kong. You will thank me later when you aren't in a 2 hour standby line.

Reign of Kong, Diagon Alley, The Wizzarding World of Harry Potter and Jurassic Park draw the most crowds. Hit these areas first thing in the morning or come back later and night about 3 hours before closing. If you decide to not stay on-site I would try and budget Express Passes into your ticket plan, you are permitted to the front of the line for shows and bypass lines for most attractions, it can be a real lifesaver on those super crowded day or when you are short on time!

Utilize Quick Service Meals
Quick service is exactly how it sounds and can be found at all theme parks including Universal and Disney World. I hate wasting time eating big meals and I just feel like taking a nap afterwards, stick to quick meals or even healthy snacks (I love the fruit bowls!) throughout the day. It's a timesaver and a lot better on your wallet than sit-down restaurants. A list of quick service restaurants can be found here at Universal Orlando and here for Disney World!

Take the Time to Visit Disney Springs
The new take on "Downtown Disney" is a hip shopping mecca with stores like Free People, Lilly Pulitzer, Kate Spade, Sephora and more! The parks will be super crowded during the middle of the day so I suggest Disney Springs for a little relaxation. Check out a movie, go to one of the many restaurants, shop and just browse around waiting for the crowds to die down at the parks. Yes, they even have s Sprinkles Cupcake ATM!

Park Hop Around Disney World

Much like Disney it is essential to arrive early, if you are staying at one of Disney's Resorts take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours. If you have a Park Hopper ticket, meaning you can visit multiple parks in one day, take advantage of it! We love starting off at Hollywood Studios and walking via the Boardwalk to the secret entrance to Epcot right past the Boardwalk Resort.

TIP: The all new Frozen ride and pavilion recently opened and it gets crowded FAST like four hour wait time fast. Do the attraction right as the World Showcase portion of Epcot opens!

Stay Hydrated and Take Breaks
You will be moving around a lot, mixing in and out of large crowds and most likely it will be very warm, if you are visiting in the summer it can be downright sweltering. Be sure to listen to your body, drink plenty of water, eat some fruit, have an ice cream and if you feel like you are getting too tired or feel uncomfortable, go back to the hotel for a nap or relax by the pool. Chances are the rest of your party will be feeling the same way. If not? Hello sweet alone time!

Stay Late
Maybe you just aren't a morning person well that's fine! The night owls can enjoy the extra magic hours as well as late operating hours that are often found during peak seasons. In fact, the Animal Kingdom started for the first time being open past 6pm and that means you can ride favorites such as Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safari at night. The Magic Kingdom is sometimes even open as late as 2am, take advantage of the cooler temps and lighter crowds!

Enjoy the Scenery
Even when the parks are packed you can still find ways to enjoy yourself. Go on an older attraction with no wait, visit memorable areas of the parks or my favorite, take out the camera (even if it's just your iPhone) and explore the parks. There really is some beautiful scenery throughout the Universal and Disney as silly as that may sound. I could spend an hour or so just taking pics in Diagon Alley or seeing every little detail in the nooks of the Magic Kingdom. Go out there and see what you can find!

Have the Best Day Ever
In the end, you are on vacation! Have fun and even thought peak seasons can seem a little mad, remember we're all mad here so take your time, enjoy some Butterbeer or a Mickey Ice Cream Bar and do what you're feeling!

Happy Travels!


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