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2018 Theme Park Planning Guide

2018 Theme Park Planning Guide

TOOLS YOU NEED FOR A GREAT VACATION!

cedar point

GateKeeper at Cedar Point

Welcome to the Theme Park Planning Page where my mission is to help you maximize and enjoy your Florida Theme Park vacation.

Many of the tips listed here are essential to making the most out of your time in Orlando.

Before digging into the incredible tips for vacation planning, check out an important disclosure.

You’ve decided to take the leap and jump into the Florida theme park world. While on your internet search you’ve learned that planning the perfect vacation is becoming a bit overwhelming with conflicting advice from all sources.

Don’t worry anymore.

ThemeParkHipster is here to help guide you to planning your 2018 theme park vacation.





Theme Park Planning Tips

 

where are disney parks

Decide Which Park to Attend

Before you start planning you vacation, you will want to figure out which theme park you’d like to attend.

Choose the Best Time 

Planning a visit to the happiest place on Earth is always an exciting experience. And finding the best deals, tips, and tricks to make each theme park adventure is everything ThemeParkHipster is about.

While you’re searching for discounted theme park tickets, and taking advantage of free Walt Disney World dining, have you considered what are the best times to go?

Disney crowd calendar

The calendar can be applied to the other parks in Florida

Holiday peaks, Disney crowd sizes, weather, and a few other factors have a lot to do with your Disney experience, including how long you’ll be waiting in line for your favorite rides. Here are a few tips to get you started on picking the ideal times to travel to Disney alone, or with friends and family.

  1. Avoid ALL holidays
  2. Avoid peak seasons (summer time, spring break, and Christmas break)
  3. Book FastPasses early
  4. Use mobile ordering for food
  5. RSVP to special events or restaurants early

You can get the full story here!

What to avoid!  Always try to avoid the parks during major events, major holidays and some minor holidays too.

 


Purchase Your Tickets

Purchasing park tickets doesn’t have to be such a hassle as one might think. Today’s technology gives us the power to shop around for the best theme deals right at our finger tips.

theme park tickets

Here are some quick steps when hunting for the best theme park ticket prices:

1 – Shop the Internet.

Many theme park websites are available to help you find specials and discount coupons. ThemeParkHipsters can sometimes receive a discount for purchasing advance tickets online. Sites such as Undercover Tourist and Groupon.

2 – Don’t Forget the Special Deals and Discount Clubs.

Companies offer special ticket pricing when their product is purchased, such as a bottle of soda or a fast food meal. Florida residents can also receive discounts just for residing in Florida, which are usually significant in price savings.  

Discount Clubs such as AAA, offer exceptional reductions to many attractions that can save Hipsters 10% or more on admission tickets, selected merchandise and dining.

3 – Save with Vacation Packages.

Many resorts and hotels offer discounted theme park and attraction tickets through a package deal when booked in advance.

mels drive in universal studios

Links to online tickets for top theme parks:

Overall, remember to look around the web to find the best deal. You can find discounts to many of the world’s popular theme parks by doing just a little bit of digging.


Budget for Your Trip

You can save money by budgeting for your vacation in so many ways. Don’t stress yourself about breaking the bank for a chance at experiencing the famous mouse or wizard. I’ve put together a few tips in helping you do the parks in a cheap way!

  1. Shop around
  2. Use professional or club discounts
  3. Stay at an all-suite hotel with an in-room kitchen or vacation home
  4. Look for a flight leaving on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Saturdays
  5. Take advantage of freebies
  6. Book vacation during the off-season
  7. Use discount websites for cheap city activities

You can read the full list of money saving tips here.

Once you have the itinerary set, figure out how much food, tickets, transportation, lodging, souvenirs, and entertainment will cost. When budgeting for your solo trip, be sure not to forget to include miscellaneous items like souvenirs. The price of souvenirs can get really costly.

Remember!  Always remember that Orlando can truly be done on a budget as long as you stick to it.

Start your 6-month savings plan right away!

If you’re going to make this a big trip or just an extended weekend trip, then you probably could save in 3 to 6 months. The cost of a solo four-day Disney vacation is about $1500.

How to save for disney in six months

Disney Savings Jar

You don’t have to use this savings plan just for Walt Disney World. You can apply it to any solo theme park trip you have planned. The goal is to just get started and make your dream vacation happen.


Decide Which Hotel or Resort You Will Stay At

The wide array of hotels in Orlando can be comparable to the quantity of hotels in other destination cities. For the amount of hotels here in central Florida I recommend researching the many specials out there before committing to a reservation.

orlando hotel

Always remember that due to the large amount of hotels and resorts, there is always a better deal available. Staying off site from the major theme parks in areas such as, International Drive, can offer constant specials to lure guests away from the competition.

For a longer trip, the smartest solution may be to split your stay between two hotels or consider renting a vacation home, which is much cheaper than many extended stays at the major resorts.

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

 

The Walt Disney World Resort has over twenty hotels, including Moderate, Deluxe, Deluxe Villas, and a campsite for theme park guests to choose from. The perk of staying onsite is the ability to skip the hassle of baggage claim with free transportation from the Orlando International Airport to Disney World.  Hipsters are also able to experience extra magic hours in Walt Disney World theme parks, allowing for more time to conquer the must do attractions.

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel

There are 4+ Universal Studios Hotels to best fit your theme park vacation plans and budget.  If you choose to stay at one of the Universal Studios Hotels, you can receive pretty cool free perks including Universal Express.  For Universal Express, all you have to do is show your room key to ride attendants to get front of the line access at both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios.  

Hipster Power Tip: Don’t forget to checkout Hotels.com for significant hotel savings!

Don’t forget about a vacation home rental!

A vacation home is another great option where you can get a wonderful deal on lodging for your Florida vacation. Top Villas is one of the world’s leading luxury villa rental specialists boasting a portfolio of more than 4,000 luxury villas in over 50 of the world’s finest vacation destinations.




I am a fan of vacation home rentals with resort amenities for families or friends traveling to Disney on an extended vacation.


Review the Dining Options

Walt Disney World is currently offering FREE DINING for guests who buy a non-discounted 5-night/6-day Walt Disney Travel Company package that includes a room at a select Walt Disney World Resort hotel and ticket with Park Hopper® or Water Park Fun & More Option.

 

When guests stay at a select Disney Moderate Resort, Disney Deluxe Resort or Disney Deluxe Villa Resort, you get the Disney Dining Plan with a variety of delicious dining options!

The Disney Dining Plan is a prepaid meal plan for restaurants on the Walt Disney World Resort property. Guests can buy a pre-set amount of meals and snacks ahead of time for each traveling person, per night.

Festival of the Arts Japan Chirasi Sushi and Haupia Pearl

Festival of the Arts Japan Chirasi Sushi and Haupia Pearl

The amount of meals and snacks you receive in each plan depends on the type of plan you choose, and each type of meal or snack can be redeemed using a credit from your meal plan. It sounds like a lot, but meal plans can be very simple and a great money saver if you do things right.

Universal Orlando Resort also has a dining plan for guests. You can enjoy a selection of over 100 participating dining locations when you choose from the Universal Dining Plan (only available when pre-purchasing a Vacation Package or at the Universal Orlando™ Ticket Desk for on-site resort hotel guests).

Chicken and Waffle Sandwich from Cletus’ Chicken Shack

For dining at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, purchase an all-day dining pass. This option allows you to spend a certain amount of money with an opportunity to eat at any of the participating restaurants and quick services spots throughout the same day.

Kind of like a theme park buffet!


Experience Orlando Beyond the Parks

When you arrive into the Orlando area don’t be distracted by only the glitz and glamour of the theme parks. Orlando offers so much more for visitors to enjoy way beyond the parks.

Explore the nightlife in Downtown Orlando, the beautiful town of Winter Park, or the wonderful beaches such as New Smyrna and Daytona Beach. There are also local attractions outside the major parks throughout the city.

Kennedy Space Center tickets on groupon

Kennedy Space Center

Groupon helps you enjoy even more local attractions such as Fun SpotKennedy Space Center, and I-Drive NASCAR Indoor Kart Racing for the low!

Top 11 Thing You Must Do in Orlando
  1. Challenge yourself at Wonder Works
  2. Discover Ripley’s Believe It or Not
  3. Have fun and compete at Topgolf
  4. Shop at Orlando Premium Outlets
  5. Visit Old Town Kissimme
  6. Become an Astronaut for a day at the Kennedy Space Center
  7. Take a stroll around Lake Eola Park 
  8. Discover marine life at SEA Life Orlando Aquarium
  9. Enjoy the thrills with the Indoor Skydiving experience
  10. Try a variety of chocolate at The World of Chocolate Museum
  11. Battle with knights to the end at Medieval Times

Thinking about making a solo trip out to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay anytime soon? This wild and adventurous theme park is known to have some of the best roller coasters and thrill rides in Florida. Formerly known as the Dark Continent, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay invites you to seek adventures in the lush and mysterious lands of Africa.

Busch Garden Cheetah Hunt

Busch Gardens Cheetah Hunt

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is about 70 miles from the Walt Disney World Resort. There is a shuttle service that offers round-trip transportation to the park. The round-trip fare is free with park ticket purchase and departs Orlando daily with a maximum of three stops to Busch Gardens. Reservations are highly recommended and can be reserved by calling 1-800-221-1339 or visit Mears Destination Services online.

Busch Gardens usually opens at 10:00 a.m. and closes at 6:00 p.m.; however, during the peak summer days the park may be open until midnight. Remember when planning your trip, always check the park’s website or mobile app for the current hours and wait times.

While you’re over in Tampa, take advantage of the CityPASS. It allows you to see all of Tampa’s most popular attractions. The Tampa Bay CityPASS Attractions include:

  • Busch Gardens® Tampa
  • The Florida Aquarium
  • Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo
  • Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Chihuly Collection presented by the Morean Arts Center
  • OR Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI)


Save up to 51% or more on Tampa Bay’s 5 best attractions at CityPASS.com - Shop Now!

Cost: $106.00 (price may change)


A Few Last Minute Tips!

  • Bring older, broken-in shoes.
  • Pack flip-flops/Crocs in case it rains.
  • Bring Ziploc bags of many kinds and sizes (will keep items protected from water)
  • Do not underestimate the Florida sun and heat.
  • Prepare to drink lots of water.
  • If you buy a souvenir and are staying on grounds, use the package delivery service.
  • Bring a portable phone charger.
  • Don’t schedule late night magic hours, coupled with early morning breakfasts (you will not be a happy vacationer).

Don’t forget to check out what to pack for your theme park vacation:


Remember!  For your Orlando vacation, you want to have a general idea of what you want to do and where you want to go. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and I will get back with as soon as I can!

2018 Disney World Vacation Packages

The 2018 Disney World Packages offers free perks and plenty of options. You will need to do is pick your resort, tickets, and dining plan.

2017 Disney Vacation Packages

Save Up to 25% on Rooms at Select WALT DISNEY WORLD Resort Hotels

Enjoy Disney Resort Guest benefits and amenities like:

  • Early access to Disney FastPass+ planning
  • Extra Magic Hours
  • Complimentary Resort transportation
  • Standard parking
  • Onsite entertainment

Offer is available most nights August 1st through October 7th 2017 when you book by August 31, 2017.

 

Disney summer vacation

FREE Perks for 2018 Disney World Packages

You will receive a Magical Extras card to save money on dining, shopping, and recreation during your Disney vacation.  Also, you will receive vouchers for mini golf and the ESPN Wide World of Sports.

Things to Do

Miniature Golf:  

Four vouchers, each valid for one (1) round of miniature golf before 4:00 p.m. on one day. Choices: Disney’s Fantasia Gardens or Disney’s Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Courses.

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex:

Four vouchers per package. Each valid for one general admission on one day for one guest. Valid only on event days. Some events are extra.

Splitsville Luxury Lanes™:  10% discount on:

  • Bowling
  • Food and nonalcoholic beverages (dine-in only)
  • Non-discounted price of merchandise

Sammy Duvall’s Watersports:  10% on non-discounted price of all activities including:

  • Parasailing
  • Water skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Tubing trips at Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre in Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
Places to Eat

House of Blues™:

  • 20% off food and non-alcoholic beverages during lunch or dinner.
  • 10% off the price of non-discounted merchandise (excludes CD’s art, sundries and sale items).

Joffery’s Coffee & Tea Company®:

20% off non-discounted purchases at the following locations:

  • Magic Kingdom® Park
  • Epcot®
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios®
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom®Theme Park
  • Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park
  • Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
  • Disney Springs
Places to Shop

Something Silver®:

15% off the non-discounted price of merchandise located at Disney Springs.

Arribas Brothers:

10% off purchases at Disney Springs, Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot.

Curl® by Sammy Duvall:

10% off the price of non-discounted merchandise. Located at Disney Springs (excludes watches, sunglasses and electronics).

Pop Gallery:

10% off the non-discounted price of merchandise. Located at Disney Springs.

The Hair Wrap Company:

One charm with a value of $5.00 and a purchase of a hair wrap at select Walt Disney World locations.

Ticket Options

You can pick and choose the tickets, best for your Disney World vacation.  For example, start with the Base Ticket and add options like:

  • Park Hopper Option
  • Water Parks, Fun and More Option.

Base Ticket:

This ticket allows you to visit one park each day. You can visit this same park more than once that day. This only counts as one visit.

You can select 1 day to 10 days on the Base Ticket, based on the number of days you want to visit the main Disney Theme Parks.

Walt Disney Vacation Package

Other Ticket Add-Ons:

Park Hopper Option:  

The Park Hopper Option allows you to hop between Disney Theme Parks on the same day.

Water Parks, Fun & More:

This ticket allows you to visit extra attractions such as: water parks, the Wide World of Sports, and a golf course. The number of visits for this option is based on the number of days on your tickets.

Disney Dining Options

You can add one of the Disney Dining Plans to your 2018 Disney World Package to save time and money. Your Dining Plan Package can also connect to your MagicBand.

 2018 Quick Service Dining

For each PACKAGE NIGHT, each person (ages 3+) will receive:

  • 2 Quick-Service Meals: One entrée and one non-alcoholic beverage OR one complete combo meal
  • 2 Snacks: Frozen ice cream, popsicle or fruit bar, popcorn, piece of whole fruit, medium fountain soft drink or juice
  • Resort Refillable Drink Mug: One per person, per package

2018 Basic Dining

For each PACKAGE NIGHT, each person (ages 3+) will receive:

  • 1 Table-Service Meal: One entrée, one dessert and one non-alcoholic beverage OR one full buffet
  • 1 Quick-Service Meal: One entrée and one non-alcoholic beverage OR one complete combo meal
  • 2 Snacks: Frozen ice cream, popsicle or fruit bar, popcorn, piece of whole fruit, medium fountain soft drink or juice
  • Resort Refillable Drink Mug: One per person, per package
Disney Dining Waffles

Best Frozen Summer 

2018 Deluxe Dining

For each PACKAGE NIGHT, each person (ages 3+) will receive:

  • 3 Meals ANY combination of Quick-Service and/or Table-Service Restaurants
  • Each Table-Service meal includes: One appetizer, one entrée, one dessert and one non-alcoholic beverage OR one full buffet
  • Each Quick-Service meal includes: One entree and one non-alcoholic beverage OR one complete combo meal
  • 2 Snacks: Frozen ice cream, popsicle or fruit bar, popcorn, piece of whole fruit, medium fountain soft drink or juice
  • Resort Refillable Drink Mug: One per person, per package

Walt Disney World Planning Guidebooks

Get The Solo Theme Park Traveler’s Guide

Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World


2018 Universal Orlando Vacation Packages

Customize your vacation package with benefits such as Early Park Admission. You can book Universal theme park tickets that include transportation from Disney World area hotels.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Splash, Stay and Play Vacation Package

SAVE UP TO $100 when you see all three theme parks.

Vacation Package Includes:

  • 4-Night Hotel Accommodations
  • 3-Park 4-Day Base Ticket to Universal Studios Florida™, Universal’s Islands of Adventure™ and Universal’s Volcano Bay™
  • Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ and Universal’s Volcano Bay™ one hour before the park opens.
  • Access to select live entertainment venues? at Universal CityWalk™
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Exclusive Vacation Package

Admission to both Universal Orlando theme parks, hotel accommodations, Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™. Breakfast at the Three Broomsticks and the Leaky Cauldron™.

Universal Harry Potter Vacation Package

Vacation Package includes:

  • 4-Night Hotel Accommodations
  • 2-Park 4-Day Park to Park Ticket to Universal Studios Florida™ and Universal’s Islands of Adventure™
  • Breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron in Universal Studios Florida – one per person
  • Breakfast at the Three Broomsticks in Universal’s Islands of Adventure – one per person
  • Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  • One (1) Shutterbutton’s Photography Studio session in Diagon Alley
  • Access to select live entertainment venues?? at Universal CityWalk

For Package Arrivals after June 1, 2017: Package will include a 3-Park 4-Day Park to Park Ticket. Includes admission to Universal’s Volcano Bay™.

Universal Orlando Vacation Package
Create Your Own Vacation Package

Vacation Package includes:

  • 3-Night Hotel Accommodations
  • 2-Park 3-Day Park to Park Ticket* to Universal Studios Florida™ and Universal’s Islands of Adventure™
  • Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ and Universal’s Volcano Bay™.
  • Access to select live entertainment venues?? at Universal CityWalk

For Package Arrivals after June 1, 2017: Package will include a 3-Park 3-Day Park to Park Ticket. Includes admission to Universal’s Volcano Bay™.

Universal Savings Package

This 4-night vacation package starting from $89. Includes admission to Universal Studios Florida™ and Universal’s Islands of Adventure™.

Vacation Package includes:

  • 4-Night Hotel Accommodations
  • 2-Park 4-Day Base Ticket*** to Universal Studios Florida™ and Universal’s Islands of Adventure™
  • Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™.
  • Access to select live entertainment venues? at Universal CityWalk™
  • 3-Night Vacation Packages Also Available.

 

Universal Orlando Theme Park Ticket Tips

Photo Cred: Universal Orlando Resort

Buy in Advance and Save!

  • Buy your theme park tickets and skip the ticket booth line at the gate.
  • Save up to $20 when you buy tickets in advance. After June 1st buy the 3-Park Ticket to also experience Universal’s Volcano Bay™.

Theme Park Tickets with Roundtrip Transportation from Disney

Universal Orlando Resort 2-Park, 2-Day Park to Park, or 2-Park, 1-Day Park to Park with roundtrip transportation from Walt Disney World area hotels.

Universal Dining Plans

Quick Service Plan

  • One Quick Service Meal consisting of one of each: entrée and non-alcoholic beverage.
  • One Snack (such as popcorn, ice cream or a frozen beverage) from food carts or quick service locations.
  • One Beverage (non-alcoholic) from food carts or quick service locations.

Full Service Plan

  • One Full Service Meal entrée, chef-selected Dining Plan dessert, & non-alcoholic beverage.
  • One Quick Service Meal consisting of one of each: entrée and non-alcoholic beverage.
  • One Snack (such as popcorn, ice cream or a frozen beverage) from food carts or quick service locations.
  • One Beverage (non-alcoholic) from food carts or quick service locations.

Universal Orlando Planning Guidebook

More solo theme park hopping tips:
Get your no obligation FREE QUOTE!

Until next time, happy park hopping Hipsters!

NikkyJ