About 72 million people visited Orlando in 2017 — a record, making Orlando the first U.S. city to surpass the 70 million threshold for tourists, according to Visit Orlando.
What brings all those people to the area? The Orlando world-famous theme parks? A day at the parks is always amazing, but as seasoned visitors know, a little planning and knowledge can make it even more so. Whether it’s your first visit or you want to refine your approach, here are six tips for having the best theme park adventure ever.
Pack Your Patience and Practice Theme Park Etiquette
On my most recent visit to the Orlando parks one of the most disturbing things I came across was rude and impatient people. I understand you paid lots of money for your visit and feel you should receive VIP treatment. Everyone else standing in line paid lots of money for their visit too! I understand you’re hot. So is everyone else. Being rude to those around you will not move the line faster, make half the crowd disappear or the temperature change. You read that first sentence up there right? 72 million people!
The easiest way to ruin your day at one of the theme parks is to complain and be rude. Arrive knowing theme parks have lines. You have to wait in lines to get on an attraction, to get your food, to get a seat at a show. Don’t act surprised (or rude) by it.
Practice what I like to call “theme park etiquette.” I was so disturbed by some people on my recent visit that I jokingly said “people should have to take and pass a class on theme park etiquette before being able to purchase a ticket.” Most disturbing was that the bad behavior was on the part of parents, not children. Parents swearing at people around them. Parents pushing others out of their way. Some people so rude that even their own family members were bothered by it.
Be patient. Enjoy the people around you. Be kind. Share.
Buy Your Theme Park Tickets in Advance
No matter what area park you plan to visit, buying tickets online before you arrive can be a big time-saver. It can also, quite often, be a money saver as well. There are several dependable and reliable places to purchase park tickets at a slight discount over the gate prices. Check each site you find carefully. Some will mail you hard copy tickets so if you are close to your travel dates you won’t want to risk a mail delay. Some will send an E-Ticket to your inbox within minutes that can be turned in at the main gate of the area theme parks. Some will require a timeshare session or require you pick the tickets up at their offices in Orlando. Only you can to decide which option will work for you or which option will fit into your plans.
My personal favorite is Undercover Tourist for several reasons. Once you put your number of tickets in your cart, the total is what you will pay. They won’t add on any further taxes or handling fees. The savings are not huge unless you are buying for a bigger group but they are enough to cover a lunch at the parks. They offer lots of deals and sales so if you monitor the site you may find a “buy 4 days get a 5th day free” special going on that you should pass up. You can have hard card tickets mailed to your home or receive E-Tickets to your inbox within minutes. Your E-Ticket receipt gives you step by step directions to link the tickets to your My Disney Experience Account.
Undercover Tourist sells tickets to all of the Orlando area theme parks. My most recent order (2 adults and 1 child), I saved $123 over the cost of buying my 4 day passes directly from Disney! And . . . If you belong to Ebates rebate site, you can get an additional 1.0% rebate added to your Ebates account.
Bring Your Own Snacks and Beverages
Bringing your own snacks and beverages to theme parks can be a huge money-saver. All of the Orlando area theme parks have fairly open policies regarding outside food and drink, as long as the food does not require heating and the drinks are not alcoholic. SeaWorld is the most restrictive, but baby formula and food is permitted, as is food for guests with special dietary needs.
I’m fortunate to live close enough to Orlando to drive from home so I bring what I can with me. On my recent visit I purchased a case of water from my local Walmart on sale for $1.24 for 24 – 16 ounce bottles. A smidgen over five cents per bottle. Each night before going to bed I put 4 bottles of water in my rooms fridge/freezer and each morning I brought 4 bottles of frozen water in the parks with me. A bottle of water in the parks is over $3 each. A pretty decent savings for me – 4 x .05 = .20 OR 4 x 3.00 = $12.00. I was there for 7 days with 6 days in the parks so 6 days x $12 per day = $72 in savings for the week. Most of us carry a backpack or other bag into the parks anyway so why not put in what you really need?
I carry snacks for my daughter most trips anyway because of her food allergies. I also bring a few snacks for everyone else. I buy these nifty little portion cups in my local discount store to pack snacks for my grandchildren. Over time I have found that snack size Zip-Lock bags let the snacks get crushed and broken so I prefer these little packs. I bring a couple of cheerios and a couple of gold fish packs and we are good to go for snacks. Rather than buying 3 or 4 snacks per day, I buy one or some days, none.
Never Forget Where You Parked
Orlando’s theme parks attract hundreds of thousands of visitors on a daily basis, and the parking options are massive and can be somewhat confusing. If you don’t want to spend time at the end of a long and tiring day in search of your car (worse if it’s a rental and you don’t know the license plate number or remember the color), make sure to note where you parked.
I use my cellphone camera to take a photo of my location. All of the theme parks’ parking lots and garages use section names and numbering. After parking when walking to the entrance or the tram, I simply snap a picture of the number painted on the ground at the end of the row and a picture of the sign telling me what section I am parked in.
You will definitely be taking lots of photos and videos while you’re at any of the parks. Chances are you’ll be taking more photos and videos than you usually do. Arrive with your devices fully charged, and bring portable (fully charged) charging equipment if you can. There are many available at your local stores or on Amazon. If you forget a portable charger, you can buy one at all of area theme parks but you will pay lots more for one for the convenience. Some of the parks offer free battery charging at guest services.
Also, if you’re visiting during the summer months, there’s always a chance of afternoon rain in Florida. It usually doesn’t last more than a half hour. If you don’t feel like carrying umbrellas or ponchos, be prepared to find a covered spot to relax if the skies do open up. All of the parks also sell rain ponchos.
Sunscreen, Sunscreen and more Sunscreen. Yes, you can purchase it in the theme parks but bringing it from home is your best financial bet. You will be ready for your first day exploring the parks if you apply your sunscreen before you get there. Be sure to pack it in your park bag to re-apply throughout the day. The Florida sun can be dangerous to our skin. The only thing worse than a terrible sunburn – blistered feet!
Choose Your Footwear Carefully
A theme park is not the place to break in new shoes! It’s all about comfort, not fashion, so make sure you all wear comfortable shoes. If you do wind up getting a bad case of blistered feet, all of the area theme parks have first-aid stations where you can get Band-Aids. But prevention is the best medicine here. Remember with all the walking you will do, not only is it important to have comfortable shoes but shoes with good support too. I often see many walking around the theme parks in flip flops and wonder how much their back must hurt when the finally finish walking for the day. Never mind the fashion divas in high heels! Really!
Walking miles in a day – yes, miles – is not the time to be a fashion diva.
What tips do you have to help make a visit to an Orlando theme park better?