Top 9 Insider Tips for Orlando Theme Parks

Learn how to save time and money during your next Orlando vacation


With so many things to see and do in Orlando, it's no wonder the city is one of the top destinations in the United States. But with so many attractions to take in, the costs can easily add up. Act like a local with some insider tips when planning, booking and, finally, experiencing all that Orlando's theme parks have to offer. You can maximize your travel fun while saving time and money in the long run with our local's theme park guide to Orlando.

1. Get Connected

Join the online community. "Like" your favorite Orlando attractions on Facebook; follow them on Twitter; sign up for email newsletters while planning a visit. Theme parks and attractions often use social media to give updates on things like height requirements or if popular rides are closed. You can also catch seasonal offers, find out what food and drink you can bring into each park and even information on special events and holiday highlights.

2. Buy Online

It costs more at the door. Save money when you buy single-day or multi-day theme park admission tickets online. An annual pass may be a better deal than two or more individual day tickets. Each theme park has its own prices and benefits in tiered price structures, so read the fine print.

3. Register for Disney Fastpass+

No one likes long lines. Disney's FastPass+ comes free with ticket purchases. Reserve three FP+ attractions per day up to 30 days in advance and avoid the waits at your choice of A-list rides. Insiders suggest three tips: Book as early as possible; stagger your FP+ choices to allow time for shorter rides or a snack; maximize the value of FP+ by booking the busiest attractions for late morning or early afternoon when lines are longest.

4. Use Two-Park Tickets at Universal

Discover two good reasons to get a two-park ticket for Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Wayfaring Wizards need a two-park ticket to ride the Hogwarts Express from its beginning at Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure to Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. And dinosaur thrill seekers need a two-park ticket for Jurassic Park River Adventure, the splashy water ride that brings you face-to-face with a terrifying T. Rex and his prehistoric pals at Jurassic World.

5. Check out the Go Orlando Card

More Florida fun awaits when you buy and download the Go Orlando Card to your smartphone. Opt for the card’s All-Inclusive pass, which lets you visit 34 top attractions for up to 55 percent less than what you would pay at the gate. Or choose the card’s less expensive Explorer Pass and pick three to five attractions from a list of 17. Make sure the attractions offered include places you want to visit, as some choices are further away than you expect.

6. Be Clever When Packing

Florida summers mean rainstorms are inevitable, so pack ponchos. Umbrellas are tricky in a crowd, and ponchos, like everything else, cost more inside theme parks. The same applies to basics, like hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, diapers, snacks and bottled water. Small strollers and backpacks are allowed, so plan ahead on how to organize items for each member of the family, and tag your belongings. Don’t forget comfy shoes as you can easily walk up to 9 miles a day exploring the parks before you get back to your hotel to relax.

7. Find Answers, Get the App

Disney Parks has an online help center with live chat and a "mom's panel" for planning and advice. Universal has tips for parents traveling with kids. Once you've arrived, download theme park apps to see live wait times, find out what characters are where and make dining reservations. You can navigate first aid centers, baby changing facilities, shaded rest stops and lost and found locations with the resort maps. Make an ID tag with contact numbers that each child can wear, just in case.

8. Note Military and Florida Resident Discounts

Military service members and their families may benefit from discounts widely offered in Orlando. These are individually set by each establishment. Florida locals are also given discounts at many theme parks during certain times of year, including Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, Discovery Cove and LEGOLAND Florida. There are often blackout dates, so double check first. A valid ID is essential for each adult present.

9. Think Ahead for Christmas

By Easter, it's not too soon to book the separate tickets required for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, one of the year's highlights at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. On 20 select nights during the pre-Christmas season, a parade of characters concludes with Santa Claus and a dazzling fireworks display at Cinderella's Castle. Tickets go on sale in April, but they're popular and limited in number. Visiting in November can give you early access to the event. Cookies and hot chocolate are part of the celebration. Fake snow falls on Main Street, and the park is open until midnight. For


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