Our Holiday to Orlando: Tips for the Crowds

Back in May we headed to Orlando in Florida for 15 nights of what we hoped would be lots of sun and theme park fun!  It turned out to be a magical trip lots of character meets, thrilling rides and incredible food.  But boy was it busy!  I will be writing a few posts about our trip and this one will be about tackling crowds.

crowds orlando mickey

We did our research and organised our visit according to queue planners, May didn’t sound like a bad month to try.  So, it surprised us seeing just how packed the Disney parks were.  Although I was told that it was quieter than it can be, so I dread to think what it’s like at its absolute busiest.

Queuing at Universal

crowds universal

Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure were much more manageable.  It helped we also booked to stay a night in Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.  With it we had two-day express unlimited passes, so queuing was a breeze!  It did hike up the cost of our holiday slightly.  I think we paid 432 dollars for the night.  But for value added I felt it was worth it.  We managed to fit so much into our two days including watching all the seated shows which also have expresses lines.  This means you end up getting a better view to watch the entertainment as they allow entrance to the express line first.  We planned our visit at the weekend knowing we had the express passes, so we could go to Disney parks midweek when they would hopefully be quieter.

If you stay in any of the Universal hotels you get early access to the park, one hour before it normally opens.  Again, this helps you cram in more to your day.

Queuing at Disney

If your staying at a Disney hotel you benefit from additional magic hours.  We stayed on International Drive so didn’t have this luxury.  Instead I planned to go to Disney parks on the days they didn’t have extra hours seeing as it was of no use to me.  One day I made a mistake and went on a magic hour day and you could notice a difference.  As those Disney guests were let in earlier the queues had built up substantially by the time we were allowed entrance.

For both parks download the apps so you can see queue times.  These vary dramatically during the day and help you plan where to head to next.  You can be lucky and a ride that has closed because of weather conditions is reopened and your close enough to quickly re-join and face a much smaller queue!

When you arrive at Disney head to guest services, you can get a badge to celebrate your stay!  The boys had first visit badges, as did my husband.  It doesn’t cost anything, and it came with an added bonus of an extra fast park (for 5 guests on one ride) for the park we were in that day!  I don’t know if you always get that or the lovely member of staff was just feeling particularly generous on the day!  Either way it’s worth a try.

FastPass+ System

Most importantly at Disney make full use of the FastPass system.  It’s worth putting in the effort before you go, booking the most popular rides.  Do your research see which ones have the biggest queues and try and grab them.  We only had a 30-day window as we weren’t staying in a Disney hotel, so sadly we never got Flight of the Passage.  It was such an incredible ride I am glad we arrived at the park early that day and queued the 70 minutes.   Later in the day it would be double that.  I don’t like queueing more than 30-40 minutes (my boys get very restless and annoying in queues!!!) but for that ride I was willing to make an exception.

Certain rides don’t have particularly big queues so don’t waste your fast passes on them.

disney ride crowds

You can book three rides, some are tiered, so you can only get one of the most popular.  But as we were visiting multiple days we just booked the other one for another day.  Once you join the queue for your third ride/show you can book another fast pass.  What surprised me was that people I spoke to at the park hadn’t realised they could have more.  Sometimes its worth booking a throw away fast pass just to use up your third ride to unlock the top tier again.  My mum wanted another go on the popular Toy Story Mania so we booked the Muppets 3D which had no queue so she could have her pick of the rides again.

Other Crowd Tips

Be willing to stay at the park even in a downpour!  The rain does eventually clear!  Living in Wales we are quite hardy to bad weather so were happy to stick around most of the time.  Many guests weren’t so it was quieter after.

Give yourself a break.  Crowds are exhausting, pick out a few days where you do something else.  Gatorland, Wonderworks and the Crayola Experience were all a lovely break from quite so many people!

Book accommodation big enough for everyone’s needs, especially if you are travelling with extended family.   We walked 130 miles over our holiday, with heat and crowds you will need your rest.

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