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Owen
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Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Sat Jan 16, 2016 1:54 pm

Hello everyone, so recently I have gotten Orlando booked for between the very end of August to the early middle of September in 2017, but I haven't a clue what to do!
Due to having to pay the trip off in smaller instalments, we have got to get things booked (excursions ext) around april time so it can all be paid off in time.

We are definitely wanting to go to -

Disney (all 4 parks)
Universal
Volcano Bay
Sea World
Discovery Cove
Busch Gardens

Using a multi ticket


We would like to go to -

Fun Spot USA I-Drive
Skyscraper *due to if construction stays on track for its planned 2017 opening*
Legoland Florida *included in multi ticket*
Disney Water Parks *time dependent*


So really I'm just looking for advice on the parks, travel and food ect.

Thanks in advance,
Owen.
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Capt. Barnacles
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Sat Jan 16, 2016 3:33 pm

First of all, you've booked the perfect time to go where crowds and weather are concerned. From experience of a trip in August, it rained every day without a single dry day, and kinda ruined the experience for us. September it dries up and crowds die down too after American schools return from their vacation.

Secondly, due to how much you're aiming to do, you'll need to begin planning out what you do on what days LONG in advance. Sea World and Animal Kingdom both have enough that both can be done in their entirety in a single day if you're willing to travel between the two. Where Fun Spot is concerned, you may be able to do that on the same day as one of the Universal Orlando parks, there's not a massive amount there so it can be done in a short amount of time. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Busch Gardens need a full day for each. The water parks COULD be both done in a single day if you wish but it's not exactly ideal.

From lack of experience I can't give much advice for the other places like LegoLand or Discovery Cove, but I hope I've helped somewhat with your plans :)
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Owen
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Sat Jan 16, 2016 4:09 pm

Haha thanks!

Yeah we are planning now like I say but will still need all sorts of information along the lines of money and travel ect :)

Oh! And also about Disney fast pass +

Any recommendations for each tier of rides?
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:18 pm

Never been to Disney, but have some tips for SeaWorld.

Go to Antarctica as soon as the park opens to avoid the queues.

Best time to do Wild Arctic is just as a Shamu show has started.

If you want to get a good seat at One Ocean, arrive 20-30 minutes early on a busy day. Up to 45 minutes early if you want the very best soak zone seats!

Don't miss Turtle Trek, it may not look like much on paper, but it's an absolutley incredible and eye opening experience.

Also, I'd highly reccomend Aquatica, it's a fantastic waterpark with some rather unique attractions.
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Sat Jan 16, 2016 9:07 pm

Thanks MakoMania, but what about Journey to Atlantis, Kraken and Manta?
Obviously Mako hasn't opened yet so we can't know for sure.
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Sat Jan 16, 2016 9:34 pm

The best advice I can give you about Florida that was given to me - DON'T PLAN! Whilst naturally you'll need to ensure you have a general day to day idea to maximise coverage, just keep it quite casual. All it takes is a thunderstorm or heavy rain to put a downer on an hour and cause any well meant plan to fail.

The proposed dates that you'll be on holiday will allow you to simply say that you're going to X and Y on these days and that's about it (with huge flexibility!). Once that peak weekend in August is over, you'll be at the resorts when they tend to calm down quite considerably. Due to the success of Halloween Horror Nights , people tend to plan September vacations around that and therefore The Universal Resort itself tends to be considerably quieter than usual during the weeks leading up to HHN - you should be experiencing 30 minute queues at maximum on the big 2 attractions in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Naturally this is dependant upon Universal's current aggressive expansion plan and likely development openings - just presume that if it's new, it'll be busier!

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Key Tips:
- Plan to spend a day at each, however depending on your intention to ride every attraction, you could probably shorten some of them down a little as Disney does utilise a lot of onstage for magical 'nothingess'. Personally, we did both EPCOT and Animal Kingdom in one day with a somewhat improvised 'around the world' drinking session.
- Do use the Disney World app that includes your free Fastpass allocation. Simply load your entrance tickets onto the app and the rest is pretty easy. Guest Services will use your ticket card and the app to come to any accomodations needed in case you have issues on park too. If you want a nice keepsake, you may as well buy a MagicBand - it's something I regret not picking up.
- Eat whenever you want. A little controversial advice, but it'll be busy no matter what at the food places. Disney do tend to queue bust quite well and the days you're going won't be horrendously busy anyway.
- Watch the street parades and start getting into position a good twenty minutes before.
- Remember to be a kid!

Disney's Magic Kindgom
This is Disney's flagship attraction at its flagship resort. It's where dreams come true and queues are made - it'll be busy, crazy, full of smiles, kids and magic! This will be the busiest park and can be a little stressful so make sure you've got yourself into the 'Disney bubble' first at the other parks and leave this until last. Go on a day the Wishes Fireworks are on and wait until the park fully closes as there's a special show every half hour that winks goodnight to guests. Many people miss this (myself included!).

TICKETS
Based on the attractions you wan to visit, id suggest the following will suit your needs well:
The Orlando Ultimate ticket - Disney parks, Disney water parks, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Busch Gardens, Searoworld, SeaWorld Aquatica. £525 and can be bought from American Attractions. You could then add on a day at LEGOLAND Florida, although it is a little out of Orlando and I can't make the decision if it's worth it for you.
Usually people suggest the Flex Ticket and than add on Disney, but this seems to come in a little cheaper overall. The tickets are valid for 14 days. Naturally this doesn't include Wet'n'Wild, nor should any ticket valid when you travel. It is yet to be announced if Universal intend to incorporate Volcano Bay into the Flexi tickets once open, or if they'll allow for black out for the first few years. Once you have added on your ORLANDO EYE tickets (definitely comes recommended) that's everything you've asked for. This ticket also seems to come with Disney's photo magic, which is a pretty amazing perk.

Travel & Food
I'm presuming that by travel, you're actually referring between parks?

We stayed at the Universal Resort and there were plenty of transport options to Disney from there and I-Drive. There are shuttles at about $20 return with Meres Transfers, or you can jump a cab for around $50 each way. Using the trolley along I-Drive is about $2, or you can buy a week pass. This service goes from Seaworld right the way to Universal and beyond, however it's wroth asking the driver where he's stopping for Universal Studios as it may change due to the huge works going on that area along Universal Boulevard. Usually depending on which hotel you're staying in and who you've booked with, they usually have a free shuttle service. Naturally though, Universal resort hotels do not offer this to Disney and the Walt Disney World resort is self contained and does not offer shuttles to external areas.

Busch is about a 90 minutes drive, or a 2 hour transfer. Best booking this through a travel agent or a resort excursion team to avoid any confusion or stress when over there. Remember that prices can change wildly.

I hope that this helps? Anything else then feel free to ask away :)

* Please note that prices are correct at time of publishing and that it's worth keeping in mind that most of this years price increases haven't taken affect yet. All information is my opinion etc. etc. Don't get eaten by a shark, it's just not cool!
 
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Owen
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Sat Jan 16, 2016 9:50 pm

Hi, thanks for the help I will definitely drop you a PM in the near future!

In regards to tickets we are planning to buy them through Thomson as they include -

Universal
Volcano Bay
Disney
Disney Water Parks
Sea World & Aquatica
Busch Gardens
Legoland Florida

And I think I saw you get the Disney memory maker included (not that I know what it is). Also out hotel comes with complementary transport to Universal, however not to the others. :)
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Sat Jan 16, 2016 9:57 pm

Owen wrote:
Hi, thanks for the help I will definitely drop you a PM in the near future!

In regards to tickets we are planning to buy them through Thomson as they include -

Universal
Volcano Bay
Disney
Disney Water Parks
Sea World & Aquatica
Busch Gardens
Legoland Florida

And I think I saw you get the Disney memory maker included (not that I know what it is). Also out hotel comes with complementary transport to Universal, however not to the others. :)


What's the cost? Generally the travel agents are quite expensive in comparison and offer no added bonus. If it includes LEGOLAND Florida, it'll likely the the FlexPlus with the free bonus of Legoland.
 
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Owen
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Sat Jan 16, 2016 10:01 pm

It's their own ticket I believe, not through Flex Plus - the price wasn't awful from what I can remember, however they are changing in april so the cost will be more up to date then.

Also, how does the magic band thing work?
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Sat Jan 16, 2016 10:27 pm

Owen wrote:
Thanks MakoMania, but what about Journey to Atlantis, Kraken and Manta?
Obviously Mako hasn't opened yet so we can't know for sure.


Manta & Kraken never seem to have excessive queue times. Although be aware that the park opens at 9am but Kraken will not open until 10am. Journey to Atlantis is another one to get done early in the day to avoid the queues as i've seen it at 150 minutes in the summer! And be aware that SeaWorld and Busch Gardens take weather very seriously and will have no hesitation in closing major coasters for the entirety of a day due to this. So I'd reccomend an open dated ticket just in case :)
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Sun Jan 17, 2016 9:19 pm

Owen wrote:
It's their own ticket I believe, not through Flex Plus - the price wasn't awful from what I can remember, however they are changing in april so the cost will be more up to date then.

Also, how does the magic band thing work?


Presumably as you've already made the booking, you've done this without the tickets. If this is correct, you'll find that the travel agent tickets tend to offer no real benefit and can be more expensive. They're usually of more value when applied to the whole booking as a 'grand total' discount is generally applied off the total. Most of the online ticket companies sell to the travel agents, so you're just paying for Thompson to have some extra commission.

The Magic Band quite literally works like this
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It's got an RFID and can be linked to your MyMagic+ account and card. You can pay in shops, board attractions, enter the park etc etc. Quite a good system with considerably more scope to be implemented across the resort.
 
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:09 am

Thanks!

Would anyone recommend upgrading our flights?

I mean we are travelling Virgin Atlantic standard but due to never bring on a virgin flight I haven't got a clue if the standard seating is five for the time or not?
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Fri Jan 22, 2016 4:48 pm

Argh, I just wrote out a MASSIVE reply then clicked the wrong button. :evil: :lol I'll try to remember everything...

I've been twice in the last few years and I'm planning a third trip for my honeymoon next year. We've been quite meticulous in how we've planned our trips and have generally found the following has worked well for us. It's just advice though, so take it how you wish :)

Tickets:

Although the bundle deals seem attractive, you can usually work a better price if you shop around and look at the various options.
Disney - I would avoid the UK deals (14, 21 day passes etc) and instead shop for the US deals and specifically the 'Magic Your Way' passes. These start at $110 for a single day pass but drastically reduce with the more days you purchase, and once you get up to 4 days you'll receive a 5th day free, and so on. Taylor this to the number of days you plan to spend in Disney parks and you'll probably end up getting a better deal (I know we did!). You can also buy park-hopper tickets if you plan on visiting more than one park in a day. Probably not advisable if it's your first trip, as you'll need a day for each park, but a good option if it's a return visit.

Seaworld parks: Seaworld do a multi-park ticket that includes Seaworld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens. You can buy a 7, 14 or 21 day pass which runs consecutively from first day of use. It's also worth noting that Busch Gardens run buses from I-drive which are free if you have a multi-park ticket. You just have to book in advance via their website.

Universal: Universal do their own multi-park ticket which gives you access to both parks and boardwalk.

Now, weirdly, I've always found it cheaper to buy the Seaworld and Universal multi tickets instead of the Orlando flex ticket. Perhaps that's changed in the last 18 months, but just my experience.

I've not visited Legoland so can't comment. So if you can get a multi-park ticket that includes that as well, then that may be a better option.

Funspot and the other midway attractions will charge you per ride, or you can buy an unlimited pass. White Lightening is great and is definitely worth doing, but the other rides are fair ground style at best.


Location:

I would always recommend staying on International Drive. It will be more cost effective and you're right in the middle of all the action. Seaworld, Universal, Aquatica, Funspot and all the mid-way attractions are easily accessible via the I-ride trolley (although you will have a 15 minute walk for Universal), as mentioned above, Busch run buses, and the majority of hotels will run shuttle buses to Epcot, from which you can reach any other Disney park via Disney's free on-site transportation network.
You also have plenty of shopping and restaurants, too.


Queues:

September is off-season, and generally parks will be less busy. My previous visits were in May and October, so you'll probably experience similar visitor numbers.

Disney: Disney doesn't really have an 'off-season' sadly, it's either busy or super-busy. So you will find yourself in lengthy queues. However, familiarise yourself with the Fastpass system as you can save yourself some time. This will allow you to pre-book slots for 3 attractions per day. That being said, they're not silly, and you will only be able to book 1 headline attraction as part of those 3. Also bare in mind that people will pick their spots for the parades and fireworks 2-3 hours in advance, which is crazy.

Universal: Aside from the major Harry Potter attractions, you should find that queue times are fairly low. Universal tend to run a great operation on their rides, so they eat through queues quickly. I wouldn't anticipate you'll queue much more than 15-20 minutes for most rides, unless they experience break downs.

Seaworld: Contrary to other comments in the thread, I've never experienced big queues for the coasters at Seaworld. On both occasions I've been I've not queued longer than 15 minutes for Manta and have walked on to Kraken - even achieving 6 consecutive re-rides!

Busch Gardens: Again, out of season, it's unlikely to be too busy. They don't run as speedy an operation as Universal, but at the time of year you're going, you shouldn't experience large queues. As with the above, rides like SheiKra and Montu have been virtually walk-ons whenever I've been, with minimal queues for Kumba (due to break down) and Cheetah Hunt (as it's the nearest to the entrance). I'd also highly recommend the Serengeti Safari. It's an additional fee but a great experience.


Flight-wise, you'll be fine with Virgin standard seats. I'm 6ft, have long legs and generally despise long haul flights for this reason, but I've never had an issue flying Virgin to the states. The Thomson dreamliner would be even nicer though.


Finally, as a piece of general advice, plan in some chill-out days. The theme parks are huge amounts of fun, but you'll be doing long days with lots of walking which can be very tiring and the last thing you want to do is burn out. Give yourself a break every 2-3 days and you'll feel better for it. Soak up some rays by the pool, do a bit a shopping at the factory outlets etc.
Orlando is an amazing place and you'll have a great time - but planning your days can make a big difference :D

P.S. Be sure to eat at Texas Brazil at the north of I-drive. Pricey, but worth every cent. =P~
 
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Fri Jan 29, 2016 5:29 pm

I agree with Ponder.

We did all the main parks (except IOA and Busch Gardens) and none of the water parks (though did revisit Disney parks with a hopper) in a fortnight and had to have a few chill out days because you were looking at 14/15hr theme park days. We ate at a place I think was called Ponderosa, an all you can eat buffet. We stayed in an apartment back in 1999 just off I-Drive, but my dad drove. We did one day at a factory shopping outlet (more like half a day and half a day by the pool). We went mid August so queues got quite busy, but even then I don't think we queued much more than an hour or 90 mins.

Can't be much more helpful as its been a long time since I went.
Could try looking at 365tickets for passes, that's where I got our Port Aventura tickets from last year.
 
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Fri Jan 29, 2016 5:42 pm

Agree with Kirsty on Ponderosa, there's several on I-Drive and the variety is great and the food is delicious! One of my favourites out there by far :)
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Fri Jan 29, 2016 5:55 pm

My tip is that you will end up doing a massive amount of walking so sensible and comfortable footwear is really important. Additionally, it's worth getting some sort of moisturiser as it will be very useful to soothe tired feet after a long day theme parking. I used some when I went and was very grateful for it :)
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Fri Jan 29, 2016 8:09 pm

Don't forget to ride Mako :)
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Owen
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Fri Jan 29, 2016 10:22 pm

Thanks everyone so far!

Any recommendations on excursions other than the main parks?
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Sat Jan 30, 2016 12:36 am

Owen wrote:
Thanks everyone so far!

Any recommendations on excursions other than the main parks?


Miami is an amazing experience, a few hour drive but definitley worth it. Kennedy Space center is also a fantastic day out. (Have to love the sign on the car park-"this area is infested with deadly snakes and alligators" :lol )

Seriously though, read some alligator safety tips before you go, they're everywhere!
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Re: Orlando & Tampa Trip Help

Sat Jan 30, 2016 1:31 am

Kirsty25 wrote:
I agree with Ponder.

We did all the main parks (except IOA and Busch Gardens) and none of the water parks (though did revisit Disney parks with a hopper) in a fortnight and had to have a few chill out days because you were looking at 14/15hr theme park days. We ate at a place I think was called Ponderosa, an all you can eat buffet. We stayed in an apartment back in 1999 just off I-Drive, but my dad drove. We did one day at a factory shopping outlet (more like half a day and half a day by the pool). We went mid August so queues got quite busy, but even then I don't think we queued much more than an hour or 90 mins.

Can't be much more helpful as its been a long time since I went.
Could try looking at 365tickets for passes, that's where I got our Port Aventura tickets from last year.


With respect Kirsty, the whole Orlando theme park scene has changed substantially since that visit and I'm not sure advice based on a visit 2 decades ago is of much benefit? Queues themselves can stretch two hours in a quiet day in summer at Disney alone.

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