Yay for another sweet blog friend who wants to share some amazing tips with you today! Today, we have Cheryl from Kids on a Plane. Once a month, you can find ME over on Kids on a Plane, sharing some tips and tricks. Today, I am thrilled that she wants to join me here on A Princess and Her Pirates to give you some ideas for a Stress Free Orlando Theme Park Vacation!
Orlando is a favorite destination for families, especially families with young children. The area boasts a wide variety of theme parks and other attractions, including big players like Disney, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. While Orlando offers families many magical and memorable experiences, a vacation in the theme park capital of the world has the potential to become very stressful for parents and kids.
We’ve been to Orlando almost annually since our kids were infants and know that planning ahead is the key to every stress-free theme park family vacation. Here’s our top tips on how to have fun without having to need a vacation after your vacation.
Realize that you cannot see and do everything
There just isn’t enough time to visit every theme park in Orlando unless you have tons of time, money and patience. The first time we went with the kids we made the mistake of visiting a park every day of our vacation. Needless to say, by the time we got home we were all exhausted and sick.
Prioritize what you want to do on your upcoming trip, knowing that you will have to come back to see the rest on a future vacation. New rides, attractions and shows are always being added so don’t feel guilty for not seeing and doing it all this time around.
Choose the right hotel for your family
Orlando is home to thousands of hotels, resorts and upscale boutique properties. Millions of visitors flock to Florida every year so there’s something for every budget. When deciding where to stay though, don’t just look at the price tag.
Look for amenities your family will love and make use of after a busy day at the park or during a non-park day. Spas, pools, and on-site restaurants might be worth the extra cost. Consider the pros and cons of staying in properties associated with the theme parks. Yes, they may seem pricier at first but they offer guests several benefits including free transportation to and from the parks, early entry to the parks, and multiple pool and play areas.
Buying the right park tickets
Park tickets will eat into your vacation budget so make sure you only purchase the tickets you need. If you have younger children, I’d recommend staying away from tickets that allow you to visit multiple parks per day.
Some theme parks will offer discounts on multi-day tickets as well but spending 5 days out of a 7 day vacation inside a park may not be relaxing or fun for your family. Although it’s better value from a budgeting perspective, it may not be the best option if your goal is to minimize stress.
Plan some down time every day
Resist the urge to schedule every minute of your day. Our kids can handle only handle being in the parks for 3 hours at a time so we usually tour the parks in the morning, go back to our hotel or surrounding area for lunch, a nap or some pool time.
During our Disney World vacations, we love exploring Disney Springs, other Disney resorts and strolling along the boardwalk. If we have enough energy after relaxing for a few hours, we’ll head back to the park for dinner and try to squeeze in some rides before bedtime.
Even when we’re in the parks we spend time sitting on a bench and people watching or head to the less popular rides and areas to escape the crowds and noise. Living with the Land at EPCOT is a favorite relaxing ride of ours and Fantasyland’s Storybook Circus inside Magic Kingdom was our “Let’s take a break” spot when our kids were toddlers and preschoolers.
Minimize time spent in line
Speaking of rides, book your attraction passes in advance if it’s available at the park you’re visiting. Everyone will be much happier not having to line up for sometimes an hour in the blazing sun for a ride that lasts less than five minutes. Disney offers FastPASS+ where you can book rides, shows and character meets up to 60 days in advance if you’re staying at one of their resort hotels or 30 days in advance if you’re staying off-site.
Universal offers Express Passes which is a paid option that will get you to the front of the line for most rides and attractions.
Figure out how you’re getting from place to place
Depending on the time of your theme park visit, complimentary shuttles can be slow and crowded. Early morning and late at night are the busiest times of the day. Look at how empty the boat to Disney Springs from Port Orleans Riverside Resort is in the middle of the day! You might be waiting anywhere from 5 minutes to 60 minutes for a bus or boat back to your hotel – especially if you decide to stay for a fireworks show or special performance/event at the park. Expect wait times to increase as well if you’re visiting during a busy time of year like Spring Break or the summer months.
Renting a car will give you the ability to come and go as you please and allow you to explore the areas outside of the parks. There is no shortage of car rental companies in the area due to the large number of visitors each year and you might be able to get a deal on a car rental. Alternatively, you can take advantage of Uber and Lyft now too in Orlando.
Does your big kid need a stroller?
Your kids may not use strollers at home but expect to do a ton of walking during a theme park vacation. The parks are massive and just getting from the parking lot to the park entrance gates can be a long hike. One year at Universal, my fitness tracker told me I took 33K steps in 6 hours! Thankfully we rented a double stroller for our 7 and 4 year old that day.
Avoid the “My legs are so tired! I can’t walk anymore!” whining and consider bringing a stroller from home, renting one from a local company for the duration of your vacation or renting one once you get to the parks.
Pack properly to avoid overspending
Sunscreen, bathing suits and comfortable walking shoes are a essential for any Orlando theme park trip. It’s the extra stuff like souvenirs, snacks and drinks and special events once you get there that can push you over budget. Shop the sales before your trip to avoid spending your vacation dollars on overpriced souvenirs and thing-a-ma-jigs. Check out our Disney vacation must-have items post to get some ideas of what to pack.
Orlando is one of the most popular vacation spots for families with young children, with a wealth of family activities and plenty of great things to see and do. These stress-minimizing tips can help you turn your Orlando theme park vacation into a true family adventure – one you and your kids will remember for a lifetime.
Cheryl daydreams about exploring the world with her family often and will travel for good food, lattes and theme park rides that don’t require her to go too high in the sky. She’s afraid of heights!