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Orlando / Disney / Universal Chat

Be good to see some pics, last time I went was in 2006 and the exchange rate was great!
Did my childhood dream of going on the Jaws ride and we saw Johnathan Ross there.

Dont ask what’s going on with my son who is with me in the top left😂

Happy days😎
E46ED5BC-6264-4D8A-8361-DA095B12A36F.jpeg
 
Be good to see some pics, last time I went was in 2006 and the exchange rate was great!
Did my childhood dream of going on the Jaws ride and we saw Johnathan Ross there.

Dont ask what’s going on with my son who is with me in the top left😂

Happy days😎
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This might be the best on ride photo I’ve ever seen. You can’t ask people to post pics and lead with this!
 
This instantly becomes my #1 thread on here at the moment :)

Very interesting updates today.... No more parking charges at the hotels... Free ride pics thrown in for those with Genie+
Saying that Genie+, whilst it "works" for a lot of people, means you spend your like on your mobile booking your next ride. Takes some of the magic away.
However is a "pointless perk" for us in the UK, since when you buy UK tickets you get Memory Maker thrown in... (Ride and Photographer pics).

With regards to Ride pics, this is the funniest we had in November last year... Misses on Haunted Mansion...

2022-10-28 - Magic Kingdom Park - Haunted Mansion (8).jpeg
 
Going over in late June. Haven't been for ages, so any top tips welcome
 
Take LOTS of $$$ as prices have gone mad. Not just talking in the parks.... outside too.
Bottle of Coke (590ml) in Magic Kingdom - $6
Last time i was there... Breakfast in Dennys Circa $35 plus tax. Nov 2022 - $55+

Worth buying one of these for £12.... https://www.attractiontickets.com/e...dining/orlando-meal-tickets/eat-and-play-card Just present it at the till.. covers a chunk of the Tip at the very least....

My biggest tip for IN the parks, any reataurant you san walt into and ask for a cup of "iced water". It's free, and costs $0. We were doing it all the time!!

Another Big tip - however for universal tho. We usually have 2 days - one for each park (IOA and US) - Book an overnight at the Royal Pacific. Turn up the first morning at 7am - tell them you want to check in... you get unlimited fast passes for the day you arrive AND the day you leave. Cost - around $400. Much cheaper than buying fast passes, and the hotel is Lovely!!

Final one - Get decent insurance!! Misses (as is usual for any holiday for her!) ended up being carted to hospital from Main Street USA... The hospital was like a 5* hotel... fortunately i palmed the lot off onto the insurance (the ladt there was excellent - all she said was "all i need is a US address to Bill" - So i sorted it. We are now a couple of months in and havent heard a thing... i do know then she was in NY about 10 years ago and ended up being drived 6 minutes in an ambulence it cost nearly $10K - This trip was 10 MILES through traffic areas... dread to think how much that cost... Plus an overnight stay...... Xray, MRI.... I recon $40K....

Ive been probably upwards of 15 times now. the marked difference - before i enjoyed it - this time i didnt. Will be a while until i go again.... 😥
 
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I love florida, was on the last flight out on thomas cook, they folded about 3 hours into the flight :confused:
 

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We're going in June, been a good few years now so be interesting to see how it has changed. Park ticket prices definitely seem to have gone up.

Bit disappointed they've moved to digital fast passes, I had the route to collect them in the parks sorted as my cardio for the day and am quite good at palming two out of four with blanks so we always used to get extra rides.

Josh cracked his head open at Disney when he was little, the private ambulance was very nice, but the refusal to treat him until they had validated the insurance was hell of a shock and I ended up with me shouting "Just take my f***ing Amex card!". Still, we got free fast passes out of it on the return back to the park so I couldn't be too annoyed with him ;)
 
Either side of covid we’ve tried to get to Orlando end of Feb (pre spring break and Mardi Gras events) and late Sept (Halloween events).
We have a good routine always staying at Universals Cabana Bay, great value in comparison to anything Disney, I never drive in the States either so we utilise Lyft and occasionally Uber.

Spend most days mooching around Universal parks and I-drive, we tend to do 1 Disney park day only (wherever has a new ride) and 1 Disney night event so I can get my fireworks fix. It’s just too stressful and busy to do multiple days around Disney for us.

Universal is just far more chilled and generally better value although there are exceptions of course. Most of our planning goes into where we are going to eat each evening, so we don’t run around the parks trying to get everything done each day either.

Food Highlights;
Cowfish (tuna nachos)
Boathouse at Disney Springs for seafood & steak (we’ve been to Shula’s steak house and it’s not even close to Boathouse food quality)
Bowling Alley at Disney Springs for sushi!! Yes really, it is insane how amazing it is and more jarring being in a bowling alley.

Also, Velocicoaster is the best ride going. So smooth and FAST, sit in the back row to really feel the speed too.
 
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Either side of covid we’ve tried to get to Orlando end of Feb (pre spring break and Mardi Gras events) and late Sept (Halloween events).

Uncanny - we do exactly the same. We’re heading out at the end of Feb for Mardi Gras, and just booked a few days in late Sept for HHN before heading to NYC to visit my brother-in-law. Couldn’t resist. Are you heading out this year?

Universal is just far more chilled and generally better value although there are exceptions of course. Most of our planning goes into where we are going to eat each evening, so we don’t run around the parks trying to get everything done each day either.

Completely agree - we have Universal annual passes and much prefer it to WDW for those exact reasons. Really don’t like booking restaurants six months in advance at Disney. Much easier to park hop and it’s a much more relaxed experience all round. It’s nice to be able to just decide to do pool time without worrying it’s throwing you off plan.

Food Highlights;
Cowfish (tuna nachos)
Boathouse at Disney Springs for seafood & steak (we’ve been to Shula’s steak house and it’s not even close to Boathouse food quality)
Bowling Alley at Disney Springs for sushi!! Yes really, it is insane how amazing it is and more jarring being in a bowling alley.

Love Cowfish and we always fit in a visit to the Boathouse. The lobster roll is incredible and I’m convinced they do the best fries in Orlando. I’d add Strong Water Tavern at Sapphire Falls to that list, probably our favourite place to eat at Universal now - love the curry goat and the best drinks at the resort. We’re also big fans of Mythos at IoA and Bigfire in City Walk. And Antojitos. And a hotdog and a beer at Hot Dog Hall of Fame for a healthy late breakfast.

Also, Velocicoaster is the best ride going. So smooth and FAST, sit in the back row to really feel the speed too.

Yes, we were blown away by it last year. My wife tends not to like big coasters but even she can’t wait to get back on it. Highly recommend the front row at night.
 
Are you heading out this year?

Sept most definitely, Feb is looking unlikely at the moment as the Mrs is moving into a larger studio soon and we haven’t had dates confirmed by the landlord yet.

Strong Water Tavern at Sapphire Falls to that list, probably our favourite place to eat at Universal now - love the curry goat and the best drinks at the resort. We’re also big fans of Mythos at IoA and Bigfire in City Walk. And Antojitos. And a hotdog and a beer at Hot Dog Hall of Fame for a healthy late breakfast.

Ahh the Mrs wanted to go to the Tavern but called it a sports bar and it confused me. We’ve had breakfast in Saphire Falls a few of times, they have a nice buffet. Saw the actor who plays Jack Reacher in there with his wife and kids too last year.
We like Bigfire too, the Mrs loves
Antojitos but we have to make sure the mariachi band are on, the Queso fundido is amazing.

We’ve not jumped on the voodoo donut bandwagon though, Donut Bar in Vegas is a thousand times better.
 
I have said that when my daughter is old enough to really appreciate it, we will go. Just looked at it again and after reading this, realise that the sheer volume of options, locations, events and eateries, means it is very confusing.
And hideously expensive. £7414 for three people for two weeks choosing largely the cheapest options via the Disney site.
Am I missing a booking trick?
 
Sept most definitely, Feb is looking unlikely at the moment as the Mrs is moving into a larger studio soon and we haven’t had dates confirmed by the landlord yet.

Ah that’s a shame re Feb - but I’ll PM you our Sept dates and if they coincide with yours and you’re up for a few pre-HHN beers let me know.

Ahh the Mrs wanted to go to the Tavern but called it a sports bar and it confused me. We’ve had breakfast in Saphire Falls a few of times, they have a nice buffet. Saw the actor who plays Jack Reacher in there with his wife and kids too last year.
We like Bigfire too, the Mrs loves
Antojitos but we have to make sure the mariachi band are on, the Queso fundido is amazing.

Strong Water is 100% worth a visit - not a sports bar atmosphere in the slightest and the food is great. If you’re a fan of rum the drinks are hard to beat too. We only got around to visiting for the first time last year but it’s pretty much top of our list for next month.

We’ve not jumped on the voodoo donut bandwagon though, Donut Bar in Vegas is a thousand times better.

Yeah we did Voodoo for the first time last year too and weren’t blown away. Neither of us have much of a sweet tooth if I’m honest but id take a Toothsome milkshake over a voodoo donut anyday.
 
I have said that when my daughter is old enough to really appreciate it, we will go. Just looked at it again and after reading this, realise that the sheer volume of options, locations, events and eateries, means it is very confusing.
And hideously expensive. £7414 for three people for two weeks choosing largely the cheapest options via the Disney site.
Am I missing a booking trick?

How far away are you from your daughter being old enough to appreciate it? I personally don’t think the current pricing can last forever - Disney have already re-introduced dining promotions and scrapped parking fees at resorts over the last week or so. I think the covid handout cash in the States might be starting to dry up. I wouldn’t start looking at prices until you’re a year or so out.
 
This sounds like you think prices will come down or at least settle and not go up. I will look at next year when she is 7. She isn’t much into Disney films at the moment so I think a lot of the magic will be lost
 
This sounds like you think prices will come down or at least settle and not go up. I will look at next year when she is 7. She isn’t much into Disney films at the moment so I think a lot of the magic will be lost
That pic above where the youngest sons are 5 and 7 and they don’t remember anything but enjoyed it, and my other son 12 and daughter 16. Daughter had the hump as she was missing her boyfriend😂
Only went the once for two weeks and went to all the parks with fast passes, amazing holiday where we stayed in Kissimmee with a Walmart near by which was handy.
Drove out of the airport and turned onto the wrong side of the road😂, apart from that loved all the under taking and traffic light rules😎
We booked it the week before we went on a whim.

Edit: We also drove out to the Kennedy Space Centre which was awsome!
 
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We went again last year, prices definitely up from 2018 when we went previously.

Comparing pictures of the parks from 2018 and 2022, I’d estimate Disney was around twice as populated in 2022, I guess people just moving around post CV19? The queues were testament to this!

As much as we really enjoy Disney we actually prefer Universal, so last year we stayed in a Universal hotel, hotel was great, the added benefit of a shuttle bus that runs all day, so car parking charges and staying at a Universal hotel then gains you early access to the Universal parks. The next benefit of this is with not being driving whilst at Universal then you can enjoy a couple of Duffs at Moe’s in the Simpsons area of the park, possibly one of the best places on earth IMO!

The Vociraptor coaster at Universal is epic, as in really really good.

We don’t really have any interest in Harry Potter, however this area is also amazing, so well executed.

As my boy is a huge Star Wars fan, we spent quite a bit of time at the Star Wars area of Disney, again really good. One experience he wanted to do was to build one of the lightsabers in the workshop, you MUST book this online, this I initially failed trying to book online, spoke to Disney’s help desk, whoa were no help whatsoever as they just told you to do this online. A bit of Googling and I found that when trying to book this from the UK you need to use a VPN and set your location as to the US, that done I got it booked, it took some time as initially there was no availability during our stay, frequent rechecking and I found availability and sorted the booking. My word of advice here is book these activities as early as possible, a lot book up fast!

Rather controversial….. SeaWorld has some great coasters, some great -ve G on some of them, but there’s the SeaWorld trauma that goes with it! But if you do venture there, Sharks grill is great dining, great food for a park and superb service, it’s a bit of peace and relaxation for an hour or so.

All in all, a great holiday although not the cheapest ATM.

Chris.
 
This sounds like you think prices will come down or at least settle and not go up.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say I think they will - but I am hoping that’s the outcome, yes.

Either way, here are a few tips:

Hotels:

If you want to stay on Disney property, consider DVC rental to save some money. I’ve done it myself quite a few times. Essentially, Disney Vacation Club is the WDW equivalent of a timeshare. People have bought contracts at varying prices which gives them a certain number of points to spend at DVC properties each year. These properties tend to be connected to WDW hotels - for example, you have Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary, Beach Club Villas at the Beach Club, Boardwalk Villas at the Boardwalk and so on.

If the owner of a DVC contract isn’t going to use all their points in any given year they have a few options, one of which is to use them to book a room for other people. This is known as DVC rental - you pay someone to book you a room using their DVC points, paying a certain amount of £ per point. You can arrange this directly with the DVC owner, normally via one of the WDW forums, or via a DVC rental broker such as the following:

https://dvcrequest.com/ (the oldest and most well known)



And quite a few others if you Google DVC rental. These brokers are a bit more expensive, but generally perceived as a safer bet, as there Is always a slight risk of being scammed if you arrange directly with an owner via a forum - but if you do your research the chances can be mitigated, The only difference between staying in a DVC Rental as opposed to a WDW resort is you tend to have a little kitchen area, which is a bonus, but less frequent housekeeping visits.

It’s definitely worth a look, but one caveat - you need to be booking eleven months in advance for the popular resorts:


If you don’t want to go for DVC rental, it’s worth checking the prices at the Swan and Dolphin.


These are Marriott hotels which are on Disney property - located in the Boardwalk area just next to the Yacht and Beach Club Resort, and the Boardwalk Resort. From here you can either walk or get a boat directly to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and they’re normally a fair bit less expensive than some of the Disney resorts. You can also check sites like hotels.com and booking.com for the Swan and Dolphin to see if you can get better rates than they advertise on their own website.

Failing all the above, you can look into the Disney Springs hotel. These are third party hotels located around Disney Springs, which is a large shopping & dining district on the outskirts of WDW. Do check the reviews though, as some are meant to be much better than others.


If your daughter is a Harry Potter fan then you really should include a visit to Universal - and if you do, it’s worth considering booking one night at one of their three deluxe resorts (Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel, Royal Pacific Resort) as this will give everyone staying in the room unlimited Universal express for both the day you check in and the day you check out. You can literally drive over at 6am on your check in day and they’ll issue you room keys that work as express passes before the parks open. I generally find hotels.com has the lowest prices for these but it’s worth looking around a bit.


Tickets
It’s almost always worth buying tickets in advance over here as the parks offer tickets to the UK market that aren’t available in the US. Check out https://www.attractiontickets.com/en as I’ve generally found them to do the best prices.

If you’re ever sure you’re going in the next calendar year, it can be worth waiting for Black Friday for ticket deals.


Flights
It’s never too late to start collecting Virgin Atlantic air miles! This is prob a whole other thread in its own but you can easily build up quite a balance between the VA credit cards and the Shops Away website. I’m a little bit obsessed with collecting air miles but it means we haven’t paid the full ticket fare for a flight to the States in years.




Reward flight or not, it’s worth bearing in mind that Tampa international airport is only around 60-90 mins drive from WDW so it’s worth comparing prices between TPA and MCO. Reward availability, on Virgin at least, tends to be much better for flights to TPA. Tui also fly to Melbourne Orlando Intl and sometimes have good prices so worth considering that as an option too.
 
Also - if you aren’t a regular or semi regular visitor to Orlando and are considering a once and done trip for next year, I’d suggest delaying a year. Universal are currently building a third theme park, Epic Universe, which will open in Summer 2025. It will have Super Nintendo World, a Universal Monsters land, a third Harry Potter land, and a How To Train Your Dragon land. It’ll be worth waiting a year.
 
I wouldn’t go as far as to say I think they will - but I am hoping that’s the outcome, yes.

Either way, here are a few tips:

Hotels:

If you want to stay on Disney property, consider DVC rental to save some money. I’ve done it myself quite a few times. Essentially, Disney Vacation Club is the WDW equivalent of a timeshare. People have bought contracts at varying prices which gives them a certain number of points to spend at DVC properties each year. These properties tend to be connected to WDW hotels - for example, you have Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary, Beach Club Villas at the Beach Club, Boardwalk Villas at the Boardwalk and so on.

If the owner of a DVC contract isn’t going to use all their points in any given year they have a few options, one of which is to use them to book a room for other people. This is known as DVC rental - you pay someone to book you a room using their DVC points, paying a certain amount of £ per point. You can arrange this directly with the DVC owner, normally via one of the WDW forums, or via a DVC rental broker such as the following:

https://dvcrequest.com/ (the oldest and most well known)



And quite a few others if you Google DVC rental. These brokers are a bit more expensive, but generally perceived as a safer bet, as there Is always a slight risk of being scammed if you arrange directly with an owner via a forum - but if you do your research the chances can be mitigated, The only difference between staying in a DVC Rental as opposed to a WDW resort is you tend to have a little kitchen area, which is a bonus, but less frequent housekeeping visits.

It’s definitely worth a look, but one caveat - you need to be booking eleven months in advance for the popular resorts:


If you don’t want to go for DVC rental, it’s worth checking the prices at the Swan and Dolphin.


These are Marriott hotels which are on Disney property - located in the Boardwalk area just next to the Yacht and Beach Club Resort, and the Boardwalk Resort. From here you can either walk or get a boat directly to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and they’re normally a fair bit less expensive than some of the Disney resorts. You can also check sites like hotels.com and booking.com for the Swan and Dolphin to see if you can get better rates than they advertise on their own website.

Failing all the above, you can look into the Disney Springs hotel. These are third party hotels located around Disney Springs, which is a large shopping & dining district on the outskirts of WDW. Do check the reviews though, as some are meant to be much better than others.


If your daughter is a Harry Potter fan then you really should include a visit to Universal - and if you do, it’s worth considering booking one night at one of their three deluxe resorts (Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel, Royal Pacific Resort) as this will give everyone staying in the room unlimited Universal express for both the day you check in and the day you check out. You can literally drive over at 6am on your check in day and they’ll issue you room keys that work as express passes before the parks open. I generally find hotels.com has the lowest prices for these but it’s worth looking around a bit.


Tickets
It’s almost always worth buying tickets in advance over here as the parks offer tickets to the UK market that aren’t available in the US. Check out https://www.attractiontickets.com/en as I’ve generally found them to do the best prices.

If you’re ever sure you’re going in the next calendar year, it can be worth waiting for Black Friday for ticket deals.


Flights
It’s never too late to start collecting Virgin Atlantic air miles! This is prob a whole other thread in its own but you can easily build up quite a balance between the VA credit cards and the Shops Away website. I’m a little bit obsessed with collecting air miles but it means we haven’t paid the full ticket fare for a flight to the States in years.




Reward flight or not, it’s worth bearing in mind that Tampa international airport is only around 60-90 mins drive from WDW so it’s worth comparing prices between TPA and MCO. Reward availability, on Virgin at least, tends to be much better for flights to TPA. Tui also fly to Melbourne Orlando Intl and sometimes have good prices so worth considering that as an option too.
Thanks for this buddy- lots of excellent info-I took the kids and family to Orlando in Feb 2019 using my Virgin Airmiles. Think at the time it was 25,000 miles per person during Feb Half term. Will probs wait until 2025 if the new Universal Parl opens then. They’re getting right into Harry Potter and we mainly did the Disney thing last time
 
Heads up that Cafe La Bamba is currently open for all Universal
Park guests, it’s generally opened only for themed events and VIP experiences. Looks like they have table service offering burritos, tacos, nachos etc at reasonable prices* (in context of Disney/Universal concession pricing)
 
Flights

Reward flight or not, it’s worth bearing in mind that Tampa international airport is only around 60-90 mins drive from WDW so it’s worth comparing prices between TPA and MCO. Reward availability, on Virgin at least, tends to be much better for flights to TPA. Tui also fly to Melbourne Orlando Intl and sometimes have good prices so worth considering that as an option too.

Tampa is good for Clearwater and Busch Gardens too (<-- apparently great for rides, but not been to BG myself). It's always worth being creative with flights if you are slightly flexible on start dates... the majority of people still seem to book nice neat 2 week holidays from Fri-to-Fri and/or through fixed itineraries at travel agents. Try booking outside the norm - this summer we got 2 "free" days in Corfu by flying back later in the week. Before Christmas we got return flights to Edinburgh for £41 by flying Sun-Weds.

The last time we flew to Florida was about 10 years ago with Virgin - apparently the overwhelming majority of Orlando/Disney tourists hotel overnight at Gatwick before the morning flights... by the time we arrived after driving up, nearly a full 3 hours before check-in, the flight was already full. Long story short we accepted being bumped and got flights to Manchester, hotel, food and £500 pp to fly the next morning instead... as we were going to Clearwater for a few days before Orlando we lost 1 day there but no impact on the parks time and £2k on card :clap: You can ask/volunteer to be bumped on any flights.

Also if you know you're wanting a car that's worth checking too when deciding where to fly to - many moons ago it was cheaper overall to fly to Miami as the car hire was so much cheaper there than in Orlando (although I was hiring that for more than 4 weeks and taking it out of state too - something the rental company didn't register on their system so when I didn't return it after 4 weeks they put out an all-states alert on the car being stolen and had police phoning relatives in the UK trying to locate me and the car. This was pre-internet era so I knew nothing about it until I returned the car after 12,000 miles having apparently avoided state troopers in half of the US :))
 
For those of us who choose to watch the Premier League via alternative routes.
NBC / Peacock are hosting their fan fest event this Saturday and Sunday in citywalk. They’d started setting up before yesterday’s match and presented the game from outside the NBC bar n grill, looks like it’ll be very cool.
 
Looks amazing, sun isn’t even up yet and it’s chocker. Loads of stalls, stands, games, freebies and stages have been put up. They’re using the whole of citywalk.
FE22AF8D-8F3E-455E-B479-7B111114701A.jpeg
 
Disney currently running cast member previews on Tron, once that's complete the soft opening should be ongoing until the official date.
 
Disney currently running cast member previews on Tron, once that's complete the soft opening should be ongoing until the official date.
Interestingly people praising that they have proper accessability seats... however by all accounts there are possibly major issues with people and size... apparently a lot more restrictive than FOP!!
 
don't forget to go fast pass hunting when rides are out of order!

Was at Disney in LA with iepinball and a bunch of others after INDISC it was alot of fun, Mandy and I usually go to Florida every year. GOTG in Florida is not to be missed, one of the highlights. And don't forget to set Chewy mode when you goto Smugglers run! I'd say universal is way more expensive than Disney especially if you want to park hop.

Also the bigger issue around pricing is the things you don't think about. $20+ parking per day, $4 for water etc its that stuff that grates.
 
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