Orlando in July 2015

March 1, 2015, 4:02 PM


We're family of 4 - 2A, 2C (11-B,4-G) visiting Florida between 1stJuly and 8th July.

We'll get 7 full days in Orlando and want to make the most of our stay visiting Theme parks.

We're most likely to do 4th of July at Sea World or LEGOLAND.

Can someone help us plan our visit to the Theme Parks?

Which ones are must do's? Given that we're visiting during the busiest time of the year...

We'd want to make reservations for Disney lunch/dinner. How much in advance do we need to do this?

Any and all help highly appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your time.

Replies (23)

March 1, 2015, 7:04 PM

If you are going to universal, you need the "park to park" in order to ride the Hogwarts express.

On the other hand, if its your first time in Orlando, it might be a good idea not to buy the "park hopper" at DisneyWorld.

Remember to download the app so you can use fastpass+.

March 1, 2015, 9:11 PM


Yes, it's our 1st time Orlando.

so what's "park to park" and whats 'park hopper'? Do we get to visit multiple parks on multiple days?

Sorry bit too new for us and right now we're just kind of getting information overload!

All we know for now is people telling us that its a hell of a time that we're visiting and should be prepared for great waiting times which is not so helpful!

We know that there will be queues and we never intended to do everything in the time span we have in the 1st place.

Yes, we'll have the app installed.

So would really appreciate some insider tips :)

Thanks for your time again...


March 3, 2015, 12:08 AM

Yes, when buying your tickets online you will have the option to to pay extra to be able to visit multiple parks per day. In universal they call it "park to park" and in disney they call it "park hopper". I would only buy it to universal in order to ride the hogwarts express but I would not buy it for disney.

In downtown Disney there is a very small "indoor interactive theme park" called disneyquest but its not that cool when compared to other orlando attractions.

If you stay at a hotel inside disneyworld you have free transportation from and to the airport (disney magic express). Once inside disneyworld, there are buses going to and from all disney places. On the other hand if you choose to stay in universal resort, you might get to skip most lines at universal parks.

March 3, 2015, 2:25 AM

Hi Enrique,

Thanks for the information. That's really great.

So would it be useful to split the days between Disney Resort and Universal resort so that we can take advantage of the guest services?

Or should we stay at Disney resort itself? and buy the Unlimited Express park to park ticket for Universal?

Now, since we're going in absolute peak times, would it be advisable to go during the Extra Magic Hours? How many rides are possible to achieve during magic hours?

for the Fastpass+ what would be the wait times?

At Universal, what would be the wait time even if we have Unlimited Express add-on?


March 3, 2015, 8:26 AM

I went to Universal in the summertime in 2010 when Wizarding World was just built and it was very busy but had a great relaxing time. A couple of the reasons why I chose to stay at Universal in one of the three on site hotels...
1) Royal Pacific, Hard Rock Hotel, Portifino Bay are all 4 star resorts connected to the two Universal parks by water taxi or a short walk. All three have unlimited express pass where you can skip the long lines in most rides and shows. That means that you can keep using express pass on the same ride over and over like Spider-Man (one of the best family rides anywhere) with a 5 - 10 minute wait on peak summer months. If you did not have that pass it would be a one to two hour wait.

2) The three resorts are priced less than or equal to the moderate hotels at Disney and Disney does not offer the same fast pass (fast pass plus where you schedule a time to go to a ride, show, and meet and greet and you can have only two or three a day) The Delux Resorts at Disney don't offer the same and are extremely high price.

3) The City Walk is a retail, dinning, fun experience in the Universal Property and can be reached by those three resorts by an easy walk or water taxi. It has an AMC movie theater, 36 hole brand new miniture golf that's themed to the 50's old horror sci fi, and many reasonable restaurants, and it's right across from the two universal parks.

In my opinion stay at one of the three resorts at universal and go to Disney a couple of days. You can still get the fast pass plus without staying on property at Disney. Also you can buy a Express Pass at universal for like $70 dollars plus the price of admission per day per person. Who would do that when you can have unlimited express and the benefits listed above staying at one of the three hotels.

Legoland I heard is fun for the kids and Sea World is good but not up to the par of Disney or Universal. Disney World is a great place to but spread out. You have to take a bus to each park and to the hotels on site unless your staying at the Delux Hotels then it's a monterail to two of the parks. Extended hours can be very busy because every on site and disney neighbor hotels have access and it's not really a benefit.

Also at Universal there is a new on site hotel Cabana Bay but does not have the unlimited express pass or water taxi access. I hope this helps.

March 3, 2015, 9:33 AM

Hello and welcome to Theme Park Insider.

You have to select your parks first before you can decide on a Hotel or Resort.
Consider your budget on this basis also. And if you will have a rental car or not…

We always get a rental car so we never stay onsite in Disney.
We like to stay at a Resort when visiting Orlando. Usually we stay at Sheraton resorts.. There are 2 main Sheraton’s – One on International drive and one on RT 535. Both are great.

Anyway Universal has two main parks – Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Disney has the 4 parks and 2 water parks.

SeaWorld does have a package deal for the park and Aquatica water park – my favorite water park… Of course all of this can be viewed on line.

Right now you can buy 2 days at Universal and get the 3rd day free… July will be busy so if you can afford Express pass then buy it.. If you stay at Universal Hotels – you get Express pass with it, I believe. Check or call them if you need to..

Disney allows you to lower your average cost per park per day by purchasing several days of tickets.

So here is an easy game plan: Select you Budget. Select the parks to visit.
Select Hotel based on the parks and rental car or not.

Don’t forget to visit Downtown Disney or plan a rest day. Your feet will thank you.

Come back to TPI and share everything.

March 3, 2015, 11:12 AM

I think it's smart to stay away from Disney and Universal on the Fourth. If you have elementary-aged children, Legoland is an excellent choice. But, given just one week in Orlando, it'd be tough to do four days at Disney (the minimum to see it on a first visit, I think), two days at Universal (ditto), and a day at Legoland, which is an hour's drive out of the way. You can do it, but it will require stamina. Personally, to save money and time, I'd either do Disney or a Universal/SeaWorld/Legoland combination for a one week's stay.

The Universal Orlando third day free deal must be bought be June 7 and the tickets must be used by June 20, so it wouldn't work for an early July visit.

March 3, 2015, 1:45 PM

Hello everyone,

Thanks for the valuable advice...Much appreciated..

We have a choice...

Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Sea World, LEGOLAND and Kennedy Space Centre..

My 11 year old boy is Lego crazy and has been saving money to buy some cool Lego which never even make it here to down under! So LEGOLAND is a must...He celebrates his b'day in August so this is like a b'day pressie in advance :)

At this moment We'll get 8 full days in Orlando and we're thinking of adding another couple days so that we don't rush too much.

We're not used to American side of driving so we're not renting a car and hence very much will be relying on public transport.

The only reason we want to split our stay at on-site hotels is to take advantage of the Early Magic Hours and Unlimited Express pass.

However in saying that, we'd like to know, what are the waiting times like even when you have Express pass or the fastpass+? If we get into the park early and stay late (whenever it's offered) how many rides can we possibly do?

Do the parades and shows also need a fastpass+?

As for the character dining, how do we book that? Do we get a one-on-one time with the character? well at least to take a photo??

We were considering All stars movies resort in Disney. When we looked at 4-day ticket and accommodation it actually comes out the same if we were to stay elsewhere (given the time we are visiting!).

Also when you take a 4-day ticket, can we visit the same park twice? or do we need multiday pass?? Coz we know might not even make it to Epcot and perhaps Hollywood studios.

I've kids in 2 different age groups (4-G,11-B) so we've to pick the common interest. My boy would be keen to see how movies are made but then, if there is so much to do and enjoy elsewhere, he wouldn't quite miss it...

We don't want to be competing against a huge crowd at the water parks, so we'd be quite happy to use the pool in the resort! The kids actually love to have their special space in pool.

We'd probably spend 1/2 day at Kennedy space Centre and Disney downtown when we're staying at Disney.

Does this sound logical at all? Do you think we'd be too optimistic in our plan? would 10 full days be somewhat good enough?

Once again thanks a million for such valuable advice...

I'll definitely write about our experience after our trip.

Thanks for your time

Edited: March 3, 2015, 4:20 PM

Magic Hours require a ticket with a minimum number of days. You should look that up.

"Also when you take a 4-day ticket, can we visit the same park twice? or do we need multiday pass??"

Yes on the same day and Yes on different days. Multiday pass is the same thing.

You should browse the Disney website first.

March 3, 2015, 6:38 PM

Thanks, yes I saw the site for tickets. Magic hours offered to all WDW hotels and select partner resorts guests only.

They require a valid resort ID and park ticket.

And yes, the 2/3/4/5/6/7/8...days tickets can be used to visit a park multiple times. As long as you don't buy the park hopper option you are restricted to one park only!

Wow! I might have a story by the end of my trip..

All good though as we're coming a long way!

Thanks everyone and please give me your feedback/response to my other queries


March 3, 2015, 7:12 PM

Hi Megha,

With an 11 year old boy and a four year old girl, I think Legoland is an excellent choice for the 4th, and I would focus more on Disney than Universal. Disney is much more child-friendly, especially for the 4 year old. So unless your 11 year old is really into thrills or Harry Potter, I think Disney is a better option if you feel you are too booked up.

If you have a fastpass or an express pass, your wait time will be minimal- 10 minutes TOPS. If you go early and stay late you should be able to ride pretty much everything any of the parks have to offer. The only one that could challenge you is Magic Kingdom, and even it is doable in a day.

You do not need a fastpass for the shows and parades, but you can get them if you want to. Honestly though, it is a waste of a fastpass. The shows load very quickly, and getting a decent spot for the fireworks or parades is not that hard to do.

If you go on the Disney website you can find the restaurants that offer character dining and book it there. Most of the restaurants have the characters come around to your table and meet with your kids for a little while. You can definitely take a picture with the characters when they come around. Some of the restaurants (like Cinderella's Royal Table and the Be Our Guest Restaurant have a separate room you meet the character in).

I would recommend the Be Our Guest Restaurant (get your reservation as early as you can, and know the Beast will only be their in the evening), Cinderella's Royal Table, or Crystal Palace (if you like Winnie the Pooh) at Magic Kingdom. And the Tusker House has a great character breakfast at Animal Kingdom. Garden Grill is good at Epcot, but I would recommend one of the restaurants on World Showcase instead.

Downtown Disney is undergoing a transformation right now, so the traffic is horrible, and there really is not much to do there currently. There is a lego store, but I think Legoland will satisfy your sons love of legos. I would recommend skipping Downtown Disney.

For ten full days, if you want to see Universal and Disney... this is what I would reccomend-
Legoland, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom/Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Kennedy Space Center (if this interests you), SeaWorld, 2 miscellaneous days.

You can either choose between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, or combine them if you get a park hopper. They are both considered half day parks and Animal Kingdom closes early, so you could go to Animal Kingdom in the morning and to Hollywood Studios in the evening (and see Fantasmic, a fantastic show).

The 2 extra days give you time to revisit, or relax at the hotel if you are worn out.

March 3, 2015, 7:38 PM

Hi Jack,

That's excellent.

You know when you mentioned 10 minutes wait times...Is that true for the time we are going?

We'll be there between 1st and 10th July!

So many sites mention a waiting of a min of 1 hour!

yes we're definitely looking at least 4 day in Disney and 2 days in Universal.

The kind of feedback we read from other sites, we thought of doing SeaWorld on 4th as they don't do great fireworks! and they don't have too many rides to compete against.

so that could be a bit relaxing and take out the stress of being into Disney/Universal.

I think we can miss out Epcot completely! I haven't even looked at the rides there since there is so much happening in the other 3 :)

yeah, but 2+ hour wait time sounds unrealistic... so I'm not sure the 10 min wait time is true for the peak holiday period...

Thanks for your input.

Edited: March 3, 2015, 8:19 PM

The 10 minute wait is if you use a fastpass or Express pass, not for standby. Your standby waits will be 30 minutes to 1 hour for minor rides, and 1 hour to 2 hours for the major attractions like Space Mountain. If you can use your three fastpasses on major attractions, you should still have plenty of time to get everything done at every park.

I wouldn't miss Epcot... it has two great attractions (test track and Soarin') and the World Showcase is one of the most unique things you'll ever do! Not to mention the food is superb and the fireworks show is my personal favorite. But if you can't fit it in, then it is not the end f the world.

Yes, I would do anything BUT Disney or Universal on the Fourth of July. Those parks will be insane...

March 3, 2015, 9:33 PM

so standby is like in general waiting for your turn, right?

As in when an attraction doesn't honor fastpass+ or express pass...

So if I have used a fastpass+ or express pass for a ride then I could just walk into the ride??

I'm sorry this is all very new to me and my family...


Edited: March 3, 2015, 10:42 PM

When you make your reservation (if your staying in a Disney hotel), you will be able to make up to three fastpass+ selections for each day you have a park ticket. You will pick an attraction, and a time slot (like 1:00-2:00 for example). For those three rides you pick, you will be allowed into a special line that is essentially a walk on if you show up within the time slot you picked. I believe, if you are staying at a Disney hotel, you can start making fastpass+ choices two months ahead of your visit days.

So Space Mountain, which may have a 2 hour stand-bye wait for people who do not have a fastpass, will be about a ten minute wait or less for people with a fastpass.

At Universal, your Express Pass will allow you a one time walk on for every ride in each of the parks except for the Harry Potter attractions (which will unfortunately be your longest waits). If you stay at a Universal hotel, you will be allowed into the parks 1 hour early when crowds will be substantially less.

In that same regard, Disney Hotel's have "extra magic hours" on select days where you can go early or stay late at a park.

These are the rides that can get really long wait times at Disney, so consider these when you make your fastpass selections...

Magic Kingdom- Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan's Flight

Epcot- Soarin', Test Track

Hollywood Studios- Rockin' Rollercoaster, Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror

Animal Kingdom- Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safari's, Dinosaur

No need to be sorry! I live in Florida and go to Disney all of the time. It can be somewhat overwhelming for people who have never been before. I am happy to help!

March 4, 2015, 10:24 AM

Correction Jack, if you stay at one of the three Universal on site hotels its unlimited express pass. Meaning that you can go in the express line for Spider-Man, Transformers, Despicable Me or most other rides or attractions as many times as you want. Only rides and attractions that they don't allow express are Harry Potter and the Forbidden Jorney, Escape From Grignots, Olivanders, and the train that goes between the two parks Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios.

The train is high capacity and usually a short wait. The Olivanders is a show where the wand picks the wizard and is in Hogsmead section at Islands of Adventure (IOA for short) and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando (UO for short). The show is a must for everyone and the performer usually picks a child to be the wizard in training. It's also best to do it in Diagon Alley because there is three show buildings so the wait time is less than at Hogsmead. The train connects the two and is like your riding with Harry and company from and to hogswarts castle.

My suggestion for shortest wait on these is go to univesal studios an hour early for staying at an on site hotel. Get to the Diagon Alley section, you have to go through a London facade at the end of park. Go on Escape from Gridnots and then Olivanders and then you can take the train to hogsmead and ride Forbidden Journey. The two rides might be to much for your little daughter but your son should love them. Oh did I mention you can see a fire breathing dragon in Diagon Alley or Make things magically happen with a interactive wand in store front windows in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmead. It's by far the most immersive and interactive sections of any theme park in the world.

Those get very busy during peak season so do them early while the general park guests are waiting to get in. After you do that go to the rest of the two parks and use your unlimited express pass as much as you want. Get the park to park option so you can use the interactive train.

Why I like Universal is is that no matter how busy it is if you stay at an on site hotel you never feel rushed. Dinner reservations are probably good idea at peak season for a top restaurant but not a must. Royal Pacific and Portofino Bay have outstanding family pools. I never stayed at Hard Rock Hotel so don't know on that one.

Disney is a great place to but you have to schedule everything in order to have a good time. You must make a reservation at popular sit down restuarants. You must go use your fast pass (which you only get three per day) at the specific time and everything else your waiting in the regular que. No matter how much you spend on a room it's always going to be on a schedule. Also the bus system at Disney is not the best transportation but for most of Disney World that's it if you don't have a car.

March 4, 2015, 12:24 PM

Wow that's such a comprehensive information! Thanks a tonssss...

We'll definitely stay at Universal as we have only 2 days there and would be great to do the exciting rides. My son is excited coz he can go with each of us while the daughter will need hang out elsewhere with another parent!

It's great that Universal hotel guests are allowed an hour early everyday which is consistent. Whereas for Disney the EMH are only specific days and for the time we are visiting the magic kingdom doesn't have any! Although I must say that all Disney parks are open till (very) late.

Do these EMH timings change closer to time or they are what they as of today (when you look ahead in calendar)?

If they are what they are then I'm not sure if staying at Disney on-site would make much difference!

As we'll be on a schedule ourselves, we'll have reservations made for everything before we leave the country!

So we could might as well stay off-site and be at the gate @ 8:30 am so we can get in first thing..

would that be logical?


Edited: March 4, 2015, 2:17 PM

You're over thinking your vacation. Sounds like you're getting stressed already. If you think you will be stressed, then don't go to Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld in one vacation. It is too much and too expensive.

EMH will not change. Once set, they don't change. I already doubt you will get up early enough to take advantage. It is really really early and you have 2 kids in tow. That means getting up at 6am, eating in transit, and arriving at the parks by 7:30am for early entry at 8am. You'll burn out by 2pm. Will you stay up to 9pm for fireworks? You'll come home by 12 midnight. Repeat.

March 4, 2015, 3:23 PM

Thanks Anon :-)

I'm not stressed. We have our tickets booked and we're doing the West coast along with Florida...We'll be away for @ 4weeks in US.

I'm not stressed or over working. But yes, definitely trying to gauge what it would be like given that we'll have young kids.

It would have been easier if we landed in Florida and then travelled West Coast but then flights from down under were exorbitant if we did that! So we had to make the hard decision to land in SF and then travel across...

Well, we have done theme parks before with 1 and then both kids, but that was elsewhere. Also when we went it was school holidays/peak times but we were amateurs + the distances weren't anything near to the US!

And complications of Express/fastpass stuff...This is all very new...

all of us are early risers anyway. So we wouldn't mind doing 2-3 early days in Florida leg of holiday. That's where staying on-site might be handy wherein we can indulge in a siesta.

If we can make it back in to the park that's great or else another day :-) I think we'd have plenty of time as we don't intend to do everything in our first visit anyways!

Thanks for dropping by and giving a reality check though, truly appreciated.
I'll also consider what others have been suggesting and that is really helping us plan ahead.

Thanks for your time everyone.

March 5, 2015, 1:23 PM

"EMH will not change. Once set, they don't change."

Generally they don't, but there are instances where they have tweaked the schedule about a month in advance (sometime dropping/adding a park or extending/reducing evening EMH at MK). They also modify parade/fireworks schedules about a month in advance (in the summer it usually means adding more showings based on resort occupancy). They slightly modified the EMH schedule for DAK and MK in September of last year before we visited in October (I distinctly remember, because we had to change 2 ADRs because of the EMH changes). I wouldn't expect changes to the schedule inside of 30 days, but I would take the current EMH schedule for the summer with a grain of salt. I would recommend making your ADRs now (and FP+ when able) with the current EMH schedule in mind, but take a look at the schedule again in June to make sure no changes were made.

March 5, 2015, 1:44 PM

Hi Russell,

Thanks for that. Yes, we'll finalize ADR this weekend. This is more so for the daughter coz she would prolly like to dine in style and would love to see her fav Disney character :-) She wants to dress up when she does that so we have to be sure of what we want to do.

Oh BTW something exciting happened on this side of the world...We had a local summer carnival night and Princess Anna and Elsa made a surprise visit and read a story!

My daughter was super excited and she had a wonderful time and quality one-on-one with them. She already declared that she has met Anna and Elsa so it's OK if she doesn't see them in America if they are busy :-)

What it means for us, is that we don't have to worry about getting a FP+ for this meet n greet.

We did our photos and all so it was super!

I just can't thank you all enough for taking the time and effort to make suggestions and help plan novices' like us to plan a vacation.


March 10, 2015, 3:48 PM

Hello everyone,

we have had to change our plans!

The son has a winter ski trip so had to postpone US trip to mid August. Be in Florida between 19-31 august now.

Good thing, I've got most of the favorite ADRs @ Akershus, Tusker, Mickey house, Fantasmic Dinner and even Be our Guest(only for myself and daughter though, husband and son happy to let us girls enjoy the fairytale dining)!

So quite pleased.

I do have a question around the times and transport which I might ask in another thread though.

Thanks again for all your valuable information.

March 10, 2015, 5:54 PM

Orlando Theme parks in July-Oppressive heat, Heavy traffic, huge crowds. Ive been going since the late 1980s and live in Florida. If your staying for 7 days you can spread out your vacation and take your time. Stay Hydrated and have fun!

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