Central Florida’s crowds vary with the time of year, but families don’t always get to choose when they visit thanks to school, work, and other obligations.
If you have to navigate the crowds of Orlando theme parks (whether it’s the Walt Disney World Resort, the Universal Orlando Resort, or SeaWorld Orlando) you’ll want to know peak crowd times, the best line-skipping deals, and how to make a vacation at busy times not only doable but enjoyable and stress-free. 

Travel During the Off Season
This might not be a viable option, but if you can travel during the off season I highly recommend doing so. Even though Orlando is a popular travel destination year-round, there are select time periods where the crowds lessen. September, early November and early December, late January/early February, and early May are all preferred times to travel to Orlando. These times corner the time between school breaks and holidays, so crowds are at a minimum. Plus, when you travel during the off season you can get great deals on hotels rooms and cheaper flights.

Reserve a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel
Staying on-site really does have its perks! When you reserve a Disney World Resort, for example, you’ll gain access to extra magic hours, meaning more time at the parks when fewer people are there. On select days you can arrive at the park of your choice an hour early, or stay up to two hours after the park closes to the public. It’s a fantastic bonus and excellent way to avoid the masses.

Have a Plan
No matter which major theme park you attend—Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, or SeaWorld—it’s best to have a plan. Know what you want to do at each park, in order of importance, so you can hit the favorites first. Most major theme parks now offer apps that are super helpful, providing information like maps, ride wait times and more. This will save you the headache of surging through a crowd only to realize you’re on the wrong side of the park.

Use Walt Disney World’s FastPass+
If you travel to Walt Disney World and don’t make use of FastPass+, you’re making a huge mistake. HUGE. Disney’s FastPass+ program is the number one way to avoid crowds at Disney World and it’s absolutely free! With FastPass+ you can reserve a time for a specific ride or attraction, then return at the scheduled time and skip the line. Yes, that’s right—no waiting! It’s simple, easy, and will save you tons of time. In recent years, Walt Disney World has made use of Magic Bands which do a lot, but also digitally store your FastPass+ selections.  However, if you’re a non-Disney Resort guest and opt to not purchase a Magic Band you can still utilize FastPass+.

Splurge on Universal Orlando Express Passes
Unfortunately, Universal Orlando’s version of the FastPass isn’t free. However, it you’re traveling during a peak season the passes, which start at $34.99, can make your time much more manageable. Crowd levels can surge during the summer and the holidays, which are times I think Express Passes can really pay off.

Start your Day Early
You might be on vacation, but starting your day early means you’ll have access to Orlando theme parks when everyone else is still sleeping. Arrive at parks about 20 minutes before they open, and be ready at the gates so you can hit the most popular attractions before the influx of visitors really starts. For instance, lines for rides at Walt Disney World like Space Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Toy Story Mania, as well as Universal Orlando rides like The Incredible Hulk Coaster, Transformers: The Ride 3D, and Escape from Gringotts are all less busy in the morning. Wait until midday and you risk the chance of endless queues.

Choose Your Meal Times Wisely
If you choose to eat your meals during off-peak hours, you’ll avoid the dining rush. Fill up on an easy breakfast at your room or hotel, then have a late lunch (think 2 p.m.) so that you miss the time-consuming crowds found at theme park eateries. It’s also best to make a reservation for dinner restaurants. This way, you won’t waste time waiting for a table. Plus, if you eat a bit later (think 8 p.m.) restaurants will be less crowded.

Purchase your Theme Park Tickets in Advance
This piece of advice seems like a given, but some people still wait to purchase tickets at the park. Why torture yourself with yet another line when you can arrive with a kiosk ready e-ticket or hard copy ticket in hand? With either option you can skip the purchase line, and gain immediate entrance into the park. Total bonus.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ashley Dickey is Reserve Orlando's travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

PHOTOS: ©2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

3 Comment(s):

The Early to the Park Tip is always a Best Tip,
Whether Staying onsite or just One-Daying it,
Most people on vacation are dragging themselves out of bed each day because they are tired or just have the "I'm on vacation I do what i want when i want" attitude.
Rope Droppers are always better off.
AND the Universal Express Passes are Great even at a price and be sure to remember them at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights. Lines for the Haunted Houses can exceed an hour.
LASTLY, Stay onsite at Universal at one of their Original three Hotels (Portofino, Hard Rock or Royal Pacific). Even though they appear pricey, the room key serves as your Express Pass for FREE. So when figuring the actual VALUE of the room deduct the price of the number of Room Guests in each room multiplied by $35 (the cat of an Express Pass).

Anonymous said...

Universal Express Passes are wonderful time savers and will make your visit much easier and more fun. Just be aware that the $35.00 "starting at" price is just that. Two park express passes can exceed $100.00 per person on busy days. Just make sure you check the prices before purchasing. This also makes staying at a Universal Studios deluxe resort even more of a bargain with free express access to the rides during your entire stay.

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