This post about travel hacks for Orlando has been created in collaboration with Klook, an online platform to book travel activities such as attractions, tours, dining, transport and more. I’m a big fan of getting these things booked in advance to help pay for as much as possible in advance and make you feel like a super star traveller being all organised!
Are you planning a holiday to visit the theme parks in Orlando? If you are you are not going to be disappointed. A trip to Orlando is every bit as magical and exciting as you’re hoping it will be! It’s incredible. And I don’t care if you’re 6 years old, 66 or 106, you’re going to love it!
Here are my travel hacks for Orlando to help you plan, book, schedule and organise your holiday to Orlando. The perfect trip to Orlando really starts with the planning. This isn’t the kind of holiday where you can turn up and wing it, you really do need to be organised. So keep reading for my top travel hacks for Orlando!
1. Visit in the Shoulder or Off Seasons
Working out the best time to visit Orlando depends a lot on what kind of holiday you’re looking for. The vast majority of tourists are families so they plan their trips to Orlando around school holidays, so Spring Break, Christmas, and the summer holidays can be particularly busy times to visit. Summer months are also very hot and humid in Florida, which isn’t all that pleasant if you plan on hitting lots of theme parks.
Look into the shoulder seasons for fewer crowds, milder weather, and lower prices. These vary a little depending on school terms, but generally include January to February, late May to mid-June, mid-to-late August, and October.
January and February can be chillier by Florida’s standards, but the weather is still quite nice, and these are some of the quietest months to hit the parks. During October, temperatures in Orlando tend to be fairly pleasant. Many parks also host Halloween-themed events, which make this a particularly fun time to visit.
^ Stormy skies in Orlando in the summer
2. The longer you visit for, the better the deals are
If you’re lucky enough to take 2-3 weeks off work then I highly recommend visiting Orlando for as long as possible. Yes, you’ll spend more money on accommodation but your entry fees into the parks (which is a HUGE expense) won’t change a lot.
The Walt Disney World Ultimate Ticket costs almost the same whether you’re buying a 7 day, 14 day or 21 day ticket. The same applies to the Universal Orlando Park Explorer Ticket as the price is currently the same whether you book for 2 or 3 days.
3. Plan your Disney itinerary in advance
All the above said, the biggest theme parks in Orlando tend to be crowded all year round. This is when research really pays! The earlier you can book everything, the better. Park tickets in particular are best booked in advance, as you may find better deals and added extras. Booking early also means you can plan things like dining experiences and certain attractions in advance, too.
Reservations for table-service restaurants at Walt Disney World can be made up to 180 days in advance, and many guests take advantage of this. Unfortunately, this can mean that if you don’t book early, you might not get a reservation. Of course, there are plenty of quick-service dining options in every park, so you don’t need to pre-book every meal.
The same thing applies to Disney’s FastPass+ service. This allows guests to reserve queue-jump slots for specific rides during an allocated time slot. These can be selected as early as 30 days before your visit, and availability for the popular rides and attractions runs out quickly. Book FastPasses for the rides you’re most excited about as soon as you can, and plan your day at the parks around these time slots.
Travel Hack Tip: I recommend setting a reminder on your phone for the dates you can book these services so you don’t forget to book in advance.
4. Start at the back of the theme parks!
Most theme parks are designed to lead people in a clockwise direction. Crowds often instinctively move to the left upon entering a park, following a clockwise route – especially in DisneyWorld’s Magic Kingdom. To beat the crowds, go against the grain and take an anticlockwise route through each park. Alternatively, head straight to the back of the park before beginning your circuit. You won’t avoid all the crowds, but you’ll certainly get ahead of the herd!
5. Book accommodation in the right area
For first timers, the best area to stay is southwest Orlando. This is where you’ll find most of the popular tourist attractions and theme parks. International Drive, aka I-Drive, is particularly convenient: an eleven mile stretch of road lined with hundreds of hotels, restaurants, shops, and attractions. Plus, the I-RIDE Trolley service runs to and from many hotels and attractions, making getting around much easier.
If you’re planning on spending most of your time in Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista is the ideal place to stay for ease of access – although you’ll be further away from the city’s other parks.
Finally, Kissimmee is within 15 minutes’ drive of both I-Drive and Disney, so is ideal if you’d like to situate yourself away from the hustle and bustle. As well as many hotels, both Kissimmee and Lake Buena Vista are home to lots of villas which can be a more convenient option for families. I’ve always stayed in Kissimmee as we prefer to self cater and it’s often much more affordable considering you’ll all get your own bedrooms and usually get a private pool.
6. Mix things up with a few nights at a theme park hotel
Orlando’s theme park hotels offer a really unique experience, as well as a lot of handy perks. Hotel guests often get early access to the parks, which can be a great way to beat the crowds. However, the park hotels can be a little pricier, and they can feel a little “cut off” from the rest of the city. The Walt Disney World hotels, for example, are pretty far from Orlando’s other parks and attractions. One way to get the best of both worlds is to spend a couple of nights at a theme park hotel to experience all the fun, then spend the rest of your holiday in southwest Orlando close to all the city-center action!
7. Weigh up parking costs against taxis
Many people will tell you that you “need” to rent a car in Orlando. It can certainly make life a lot easier, but it’s not always a necessity. If you’re staying on I-Drive, most hotels offer a free shuttle service to the nearby parks, and the cost of taking a taxi is often less than the price you’ll pay for parking. Plus, you won’t have to fight over who gets to be the designated driver! Do a little calculating and work out what will be most cost effective – and convenient – for you.
8. Use the baby swap facilities
If you’re visiting theme parks with small kids in tow, the more high-adrenaline rides might seem out of reach. Thankfully, many parks offer a baby swap room at the top of the queues. You all queue up together, then one person waits in the baby swap area with the small kids, while the others go on the ride. Afterwards, you get to swap places without having to queue up all over again.
9. Go to Ollivander’s first
Calling all Harry Potter geeks!
In the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, make Ollivander’s wand shop your very first stop. There are two reasons for this. First, the queues build up fast so it pays to visit early. More importantly, this is where you can buy the extra special interactive wands. Dotted around the park are numerous spots where you can perform “real magic”. Be sure to pick up your wand before exploring the rest of the Wizarding World in order to get the full experience.
10. Come prepared!
Long days exploring Orlando’s theme parks and other attractions can really take their toll, so be sure to come prepared. Your number one wardrobe priority when packing for the parks should be decent, comfy footwear (aka, lightweight trainers!) Tired feet can ruin your fun fast, and a lot of walking is involved to get around these enormous theme parks. Top tip: be sure to break in any new shoes before your trip!
A backpack is the best option for a day bag at the parks, as you can carry a few necessities with you more comfortably. If you don’t want to carry everything around with you all day, you can usually rent a locker.
Pack a few healthy snacks, especially if you have kids and don’t want them filling up on junk food all day as there aren’t many healthy food options in the parks. There are usually refill stations dotted around the park, so a water bottle is a big money saver.
In Florida, rain showers can blow in out of nowhere – especially in the rainy season – so come prepared with a lightweight jacket or poncho.
11. Plan plenty of downtime
With so many theme parks in Orlando, it can feel a bit like a wasted day if you’re not racing around Disney World or hitting the slides at the waterparks. But all that adrenaline can be exhausting – not to mention all the walking in Florida’s notorious humidity. So be sure to plan in plenty of downtime.
Nights at the parks are often quieter, and boast some pretty epic parades and firework displays. Head home for an afternoon siesta, then return to the parks feeling refreshed ready for an evening of fun. You may also want to balance out your time at the parks with a few chill-out days. For instance, you could take a trip to the beach, one of Florida’s national parks, or to one of the parks or nature reserves close to Orlando. Spend a little time relaxing – you’re on holiday after all!
Those are my travel hacks for Orlando. Do you have any more to add to the list?