“We live where people vacation.”
While that saying may make the skin crawl and stir up visions of cheesy text-on-Instagram posts, it still holds true. According to VisitOrlando.Com, more than 62 million people visited Orlando in 2014.
Among its many attractions, Orlando is home to some of the biggest theme parks in the world: Disney World, Universal Studios and Seaworld, in addition to various water parks and smaller scale theme parks scattered throughout Orlando. Not to mention neighboring city Tampa is home to Busch Gardens.
One has to consider many different things when wanting to venture out into the theme parks, but above all, costs and prioritizing are most important.
There are various websites that will come up when you Google search “Theme Park Discounts.” The best thing one can do to save money is to buy tickets ahead of time. Many theme parks offer Florida resident discounts or just online ticket purchasing discounts in general. At Rollins, students can use money on their R-card to purchase discount tickets at the Campus Center. Disney tickets are $69, Universal tickets are $68 for one park and $104 for two park, Seaworld tickets are $60, Bush Garden tickets are $60, and Aquatica tickets are $28.
Also, it may be more beneficial to purchase an annual pass for your theme park of choice. Not only does your pass provide parking, merchandise and dining discounts, but it may give you special access to exclusive events the park may be hosting, like Mardi Gras or Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios. Also, if you are regrouping from a particularly study heavy weekend, it may just make all the difference to go have a Butterbeer at Harry Potter world, just because you can.
Another important factor to keep in mind is when– time of day, day of the week, and season– that you attend the parks. Going to Disney World during the week on a day off from classes might be an alleviation in terms of wait time, as generally most attendees are back at work or school in the Spring and the Fall. While wait times will always be an issue year round or for new rides (and therefore unfortunately, not totally avoidable) inclement weather surprisingly does help. So, if you see a storm brewing, attending Disney World with a poncho on a Tuesday might make for an easier stroll down Main Street USA.
As far as wait times go, some extra money can make them shorter. You can splurge on Express Pass tickets (ranging from $80-$120 per day, depending on the date) for Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure. At Seaworld, you can opt for a Quick Queue Unlimited pass, starting at $19 for certain rides. According to Disney World’s main website, FastPass plus+ is ideal for planning a trip to the park and getting the most out of your day, “You can secure up to 3 FastPass+ selections per day in advance either online or using the mobile app, or for the same day at an in-park FastPass +kiosk. After you redeem your initial 3 picks, head to a kiosk where you’ll be able to make another selection.”
Beyond all prices and wait times, the most important thing I have discovered is being well acquainted with your food options. If you have dietary restrictions, certain parks will have options for you while others may have very minimal choices.
Clearly, pay close attention to outfit choices and make sure you have a light bag of items with you. After six hours of walking and standing, you will ultimately begin to wonder why you made certain choices, and you really should reserve those thoughts for which posed face you should do for your photo on Tower of Terror.