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Universal or Disney World?

Need help deciding between Universal Orlando or Walt Disney World. Which is the nicer place to stay? What's the best way to see both parks in 6 days?

From Tara Phillips
Posted July 6, 2006 at 7:15 AM
My family is planning a much needed vacation to Orlando. We started our planning with WDW, but found the USF website and got excited over the bigger coasters and what looked like a nice hotel (Royal Pacific). We all decided to stay at USF for 6 days, and try to see WDW with a 2 day pass. But after reading a bunch of online travel reviews and discussion boards about USF, I'm not so sure this is the best way to go. How hard is it to get to WDW from a USF resort/hotel? Or vice versa? (My hubby wants to stay "in" a resort rather than outside). We're coming from Oregon and it's not going to be cheap, so I want to make sure we plan this right. Any feedback, opinions and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. My girls are 15 (loves coasters) and 10 (not into scary stuff at all). ??


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Dennis Basden
Posted July 6, 2006 at 8:04 AM
Well I know you will have a few pro-Universal folks (namely Erik) tell you otherwise but I think you have your plan reversed.

If I had 6 days and wanted to get a feel for both locations I would do 4 days at Disney and 2 Days at Universal.

WDW is 4 separate parks, each with activities that will appeal to both of you and your children. For the thrill rider, MGM will be their favorite park, thanks to Rock and Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. But Epcot's Test Track, Magic Kingdom's 3 Mountains, and Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest and Dinosaur are also great rides that the whole family will enjoy.

I would do one day at each Disney Park and one day at each Universal Park.

It's not impossible to get from Universal to WDW, but at certain times of the day there can be a bit of traffic on I-4. If you do the 4-2 split the way I suggest it makes more sense to stay at Disney and drive to Universal, but if something about the hotels at Universal is appealing, driving to WDW is not that bad.

From Anthony Murphy
Posted July 6, 2006 at 8:20 AM
I would say go more to Disney World longer! Universal is nice, but there is more to do at Disney World. I like the 4 and 2 day thing. One for each park!

From Jake Countiss
Posted July 6, 2006 at 11:51 AM
Maybe four days at Disney

Next Day at Universal. (can get both parks done in one day.

Last Day at Seaworld, Wet n Wild, or a Disney water park.

From Erik Yates
Posted July 6, 2006 at 6:25 PM
Thanks for outing me Dennis, always appreciated. My recomendation is this, rent a car. You will never get between the two park areas in enough time, the lines for the buses are always brutal. If you rent a car its a simple matter of getting on Universal Blvd to 528, which then hits right into I-4 which will take you directly to the evil empire. I do recommend at least one day at Magic Kingdom and Epcot, but you'll only need half a day at Animal Kingdom and MGM. MGM is mainly shows and a lot for little kids, stuff that can be skipped. Animal Kingdom just doesnt have all that much to offer and can be done in about 4 hours if you get there early. So that takes care of three days. Spend one day at the Universal parks, if you stay onsite at Universal you get to use your room key as an Express pass which will allow you to do more in less time. Disney does not offer that kind of treatment with fastpass. The Universal hotels also are a lot closer to eating establishments, such as City Place, and a whole downtown area right along International Drive. Take the next two days and do Sea World and maybe a water park like Wet N Wild. Or you can drive over to Tampa and do Busch Gardens, or go the other way and check out Cape Canaveral....ya might learn sumthin. For the water parks, Wet N Wild is the name, but its always crowded and its rather small. Typhoon Lagoon is a bit more suited for large crowds and has a bit more to do, you wont feel like you're walking ontop of people. Busch Gardens has a nice little water park called Adventure Island that is a nice slow paced place....but not a whole lot of stuff that you wont find at every other waterpark in the country. But a reservation at a Universal hotel is probably the best choice.....central location, and good access to the Universal Parks. For hotel information check out universalorlando.com The themeing, the layout and the price, you just get more for your money with them.
There, that wasnt too Pro-Universal was it Dennis?

From Scott Seal
Posted July 6, 2006 at 3:43 PM
Disney is the place to be. Universal is nice, but it's not a four day event. Like the first responder said, Disney is four park and two water parks. There's more to do there than you'd really be able to do in a week, and WAY MORE to do than is possible inside of two days.

You'll still enjoy Universal, but you'll get a better balance, I promise.

As for hotels, I don't know how much you want to spend, but if it's over $150 a night, Disney is going to win out, hands down.

Check out Disneyworld.com and surf the whole site. If it doesn't convince you, there are some great fan sites on line.

From Mark Walker
Posted July 7, 2006 at 1:37 AM
Universal has always been better than Disney, but I'll honestly say that their is more to do at Disney.

From Tara Phillips
Posted July 7, 2006 at 1:43 AM
Thanks so much for all your input. After hours online, this is what we've decided: 4 nights 3 days @ WDW resort, and 2 days/nights @ Universal resort, then home. Any opinions on Disney's "dining" option? It's $126+ a day for a fam of 4. Is it worth it? I'm fine with McD's for $35 a day when on vacation, but are we "trapped" in the City of Disney?

What about the transporation thing from WDW to USF? Shuttle, taxi or rent a car? My husband's nickname is "wrong-way-Randy" if that tells you anything.

Would love to do more while in Orlando, just not enough time. ...

From Mark Walker
Posted July 7, 2006 at 1:43 AM
Sea World and Wet 'n Wild are other spare choices if you decide to visit them.

From Scott Seal
Posted July 7, 2006 at 5:13 AM
Yes, you're trapped inside the city of Disney. They pretty much designed it that way.

There are several counter service restaraunts in every park where you get get away with $15 or less per person...and there are snack stations etc. which have fresh fruits, vegetables, drinks...

As for the dining option, I'm not real sure. What does it entail? How many meals for how many people? Where are you eating?

Transportation wise, renting a car is obviously going to offer you the most mobility, the problem is that for three of those days, you won't need it. If you're staying on property at Disney, transportation is taken care of. In addition to the monorails and boats, there are also Disney buses, which run from every place on the property to every other place on the property pretty much continuously. So, i f you're going to rent a car, you could save some money by picking it up after your Disney vacation, and before Universal.

A little advice: If you've got three days at Disney, and with there being four parks, skip Animal Kingdom. It's GREAT park, but if I had to cut one, it's be that. Epcot, MGM, and the Magic Kingdom will be more than enough fun for you.

When are you going, anyway?

From Gareth H
Posted July 7, 2006 at 7:51 AM
Yep, Skip Animal Kingdom and take a day out at Busch Gardens instead! Much nicer!

From Jake Countiss
Posted July 7, 2006 at 8:30 AM
Renting a car would be wise. I would do Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM Studios, Both Universal Parks for this day (Can be done) Busch Gardens Tampa, and for the last day Blizzard Beach.

Busch Gardens is better than Animal Kingdom because they have better rides than AK and their is a lot of them. Also more animal rides. Try to find a show on the travel channel on Disney. It could be very helpful for you.

The meal ticket plan could be helpful unless your family dosent have to eat at a table service restaurant.

From Randy Scott
Posted July 7, 2006 at 3:30 PM
I am assuming that your trip to Orlando will be some time this summer before school starts back up in Oregon. Oregonians are not equipped for summer in Orlando. You are not used to the heat or humidity that you will encounter. I guarantee that you will encounter at least 95 degrees and 80 percent humidity every day during your stay. Your plan for doing both places and the advise you have received is way too ambitious. You are about to embark on something akin to the Baatan Death March of WWII fame. Believe me, I am from Michigan and our first trip to Orlando was based on advice from Floridians. They mean well, but they are not from Oregon or Michigan. The heat and humidty of summer in Florida will suck the life out of you. There is no way you can do Universal's two parks and WDW's 4 parks in six days and come away with an enjoyable experience. It just can't be done. Many have tried, few have won.

This is my advice and plan for your stay:

1. Call Tiffany Town cars 1-888-838-2161 . They will pick you up at the airport and take you to Universal Orlando's Royal Pacific. Make sure you tell them that you are going to stay at WDW and you want the 30 minute shopping stop.
2. Stay at Royal Pacific for 3 nights.
3. The first day you get to RP enjoy the pool and go to City Walk for dinner.
4. The next morning you go to Islands of Adventure for the day.
5. The next day you go to Universal Studios. Come back to RP and enjoy the pool and eat dinner at City Walk again.
6. Tiffany Town Cars picks you up in the early morning and takes you to the Caribbean Beach Resort at WDW. Check in and go to Blizzard Beach Water Park. Eat dinner at the food court and enjoy your private island pool.
7. Pick a park with the early opening and go to it. Come back to CBR for a swim and go to the park with the late Extra Magic hours.
8. Pick the park with the early opening and come back to CBR for a swim in the afternoon and choose a place for dinner in a park with the Extra Magic hours.
9. Tiffany Town Cars picks you up at the CBR and take you to the airport.

Your first and last day are for traveling. If I shorted you a day then repeat step 8 at WDW. This will give you optimum park time without killing you. This is still ambitious, but reakistic.

Tiffany Town Cars are awesome and way cheaper than a rental car. Just do a Google search and they will hook you up. The reason for the 30 minute grocery stop is for you to stock up on Breakfast snacks (beer and wine too!). We save $40 a day by eating our favorite breakfast snacks in-room. Donuts, Little Debbies, oatmeal made with hot water from the coffee pot etc...

Royal Pacific is awesome. It has the largest outdoor heated pool in Orlando,plus you can use your room key for head of line rides through-out both parks. CBR is also good for those who will spend most of their time in the parks. Staying inside WDW gives you automatic access to transportation and Extra Magic Hours at all parks.

ENJOY!!!!!!!

From Erik Yates
Posted July 7, 2006 at 8:39 PM
Even inside disney, a car rental is preferred. Its not so hard to find directions as there are signs pointing you every step of the way, that I have to give it to disney. You will incurr a little more on the parking costs at the park, but you wont have to wait. My biggest complaint about the disney transportation.
Portofino Bay has the larger pool of the three Universal hotels, by the way. And there are three pools as well.....

From Anthony Murphy
Posted July 7, 2006 at 8:46 PM
Well put Erik!

The car thing is true, but if I am not mistaken, if you stay at a Disney Resort and have a rental car, you have a placard that allows you not to have to pay for parking for the entire time you are staying at a Disney resort.


What it cheap and not care too much about the room? Try Pop Century!

From Erik Yates
Posted July 8, 2006 at 6:23 AM
I have no clue about the parking, being an AP holder we dont pay for it anyway, unless we want the super duper preffered parking.
And I'll give everyone more to do at disney. But as far as rooms, you really cant beat Universals hotels. I used to swear by disney, and they do have some cheaper rooms, but if you want to spoil yourself a little and live in the lap of luxury....you'll spend a heck of a lot more per night at disney than you will at Universal. Because it is so huge, Portofino Bay always has a room available, and if you get it in advanced, or the day before....any time after or before will raise the price.....but you can get them fairly cheap.
The only hotel I will throw Universals under the bus for is the AK lodge. We got a savannah room for $199 a night in the heart of October. We woke up to a weird sound the next morning, a giraffe licking the glass. Talk about surreal. The rest of the hotel is gorgeous and all in all it compares with the Hard Rock hotel. Anything other than that you get way up in price with disney, and you dont get that much room for your money. I know the whole purpose of a room is a place to rest your rump at the end of the day, but if you're going to do just that stay at a little dive on 192 just outside the gates. Last weekend we did just that and stayed at a place for 25 bucks. It wasnt terrible, but it wasnt luxurious either. You just have to look at what your needs are going to be.

From Gareth H
Posted July 8, 2006 at 8:24 AM
"giraffe licking the glass"

Brilliant

From Chris Walton
Posted July 9, 2006 at 4:37 PM
Wow Erik, only $199 for AK Lodge Savannah Room, was it the pass-holder discount? I'm sure it also helped that it wasn't peak season.

From Erik Yates
Posted July 9, 2006 at 6:59 PM
It was a FLA resident discount....and I'm not sure about that...The very next weekend at Nick hotel it was about 300 a night....thank goodness for b-days.

From Anthony Murphy
Posted July 10, 2006 at 11:04 AM
Ah, the AK Lodge Savanna room......... very nice, but very expensive! I would say that it is worth it, but my family never usually has much of a stict budget at Disney World. If you can splurge, go ahead!

Erik brings up a big point that Disney really wants FL residents to come to their parks and resorts. Now, I think I understand the discount for resorts (who would want to spend money if they could sleep at home?), but why such a discount for tickets? Is there just not a interest in Disney World from the general FL residents? Im curious Erik!

From Erik Yates
Posted July 10, 2006 at 1:54 PM
Because us folks here in Florida is poor, Anthony. The price of housing, gas, hotels, everything goes up signifigantly but the wages dont. Disney has done this for years and its helped to bring in people. Besides, if you look at ticket sales, its not really that big of a discount, and its not really that big a part of their sales.
Universal however, gives BIG discounts on their rooms to FL residents, and to AP holders. A one day two park ticket will cost you just about 80 bucks normally, but for AP holders its only 64. And the hotels...forget it. Regular price on 4th of July was somewhere in the hood of $300 for Portofino Bay. Florida Resident rate was about 189. They use this as a way to get the florida residents to take spur of the moment vacations, and it works. I havent taken a week long vacation in over 5 years.

From Gareth H
Posted July 11, 2006 at 8:15 AM
Shame Erik.. Well look at it this way, living in Florida is like one big vacation that never ends :-)

Where else in the world can you drive a short distance and do pretty much whatever you want to do...

Universal - The best, and only theme park with a Jaws ride in the USofA (See what I did there).

Disney - Home of 4 parks, 2 water parks, that sports place and the downtown thingy...

SeaWorld - Home of the Shamu family Inc. and the new waterpark coming in about 2008

Busch gardens - Home of that old man on the tele, and some excellent coasters to boot.

Kennedy Space Centre - One of a kind in the world

Need I go on????

Florida rocks, except for the hurricanes and nasty spider's... And British tourists (Only kidding)

That is all

From Erik Yates
Posted July 11, 2006 at 4:08 PM
I love to travel Gareth....but the fact that it takes 5 hours to get out of FL, only to get you into GA....well, thats a bit depressing seeing that I usually only get about 4 days off at once, and again, am too poor to fly anywhere.
How many times can you see all the parks...and I mean all the parks....See every city, and have all the fun the sunshine state has to offer? I've had enough....those British tourists are worse than mosquitoes! j/k

From Gareth H
Posted July 11, 2006 at 4:36 PM
Yeah, those pesky british tourists, especially the ones who end up moving here...


....Wait a minute, thats what I did .........


Florida is grand though.. Lots to do. Have yet to travel outside of this state but I will get around to it, if only to do the other parks.
I hear a lot of good things about the ones in Cali and then theres the ones in Ohio.

One day......

From Erik Yates
Posted July 12, 2006 at 3:24 PM
Cali and Ohio are beautiful states with awesome parks. Georgia isnt bad either, Atlanta has one of the best Aquariums in the world with four huge whale sharks.....breath taking....
But lets get back on topic.
Universal all the way, do disney another day.

From Gareth H
Posted July 12, 2006 at 5:07 PM
Agreed. Leave Disney to the GrandParents

From Anthony Murphy
Posted July 13, 2006 at 7:37 AM
Like me Erik and Garth? (I have found you! LOL)


I know that you are trying to get me flustered over here, but I really do not care!

In all honesty, there is not enough things in Universal to do for Four days! I kid you not, for the past four times that we have gone to Universal Orlando, we have been able to do EVERYTHING in the parks in ONE DAY.

Now I am not saying that you shouldn't go to Univesal at all. It offers some really great attractions! However, two days is more than enough for Universal Orlando!

Try a little of Disney!

From Gareth H
Posted July 13, 2006 at 7:42 AM
Anthingy, its Gareth, not Garth.... Like you?? I love you baby....

I admit, I love Disney. Damn you all , you caught me out..... I'm just too poor to go there!!

From Anthony Murphy
Posted July 14, 2006 at 7:07 AM
I love you too Gareth.....

Anyway, I thought you were trying to get a response out from me! Good job doing it!

From Gareth H
Posted July 14, 2006 at 9:49 AM
Its all good, one big happy themeparkinsider family here...

So whos going to the parks this weekend???

From Erik Yates
Posted July 14, 2006 at 2:03 PM
I should be going to beloved Universal tomorrow morning.

From Anthony Murphy
Posted July 15, 2006 at 9:07 AM
I live too far away :(


I was just at Disney World a month ago (big suprise I know).

From Gareth H
Posted July 15, 2006 at 9:29 AM
Wet'n'wild tonight (Late night opening), Universal tomorrow!!

From Erik Yates
Posted July 15, 2006 at 3:39 PM
Just got back from Universal....they opened the doors at 8:30 and it was dead. Hit the studios at 11:00 and got through most of everything with about a 20 min wait. Not too bad. By the time we left though, it was getting crowded...the 360 show is a big hit.

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