Readers pick their top tips for visiting theme parks this summer

June 17, 2009, 10:38 AM · Looking for some great tips and advice for visiting theme parks this summer? The readers of have 'em for you.

If you've not visited our Tips page yet (or recently), that's where we vote on short items of advice that help you get more out of a visit to specific parks, or all parks in general. Anyone can submit a tip, or vote. You don't need to be a registered member of the site.

Tips are listed in order of popularity, with those receiving the highest net rating ("yes" votes minus "no" votes) at the top.

Here are the top tips in several categories...

Top tips applicable to all parks:

  1. Get to the park early to be sure you can get on your favorite rides before the park gets too crowded.
  2. Bring your own water bottles. It will save you time and money!
  3. Don't use lifts or other tricks to make your kids look taller than they are. Height and safety restrictions are there for a reason.
  4. Always work your way backwards through a park instead of stopping at the first attraction you get to. You will beat 60% of the crowds.
  5. If you're going to get an annual pass, add parking to at least one pass (if it isn't included already). It seems expensive at first, but at more than $10 a pop for parking at most parks, it pays off in the end.

Top Disney World tips:

  1. Call 407-WDW-DINE or visit up to 90 days before your visit to make your dining reservations.
  2. [Epcot] As soon as the park opens, go either to get a fastpass for Soarin' or Test Track ASAP
  3. [Disney's Hollywood Studios] If you're on hand for park opening and want to ride Rock 'n Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, make sure to get a FastPass for one of these before getting in line for the other.

Top Universal Orlando tips:

  1. If you stay in one of Universal's three on-site hotels, the Royal Pacific, the Hard Rock or the Portofino Bay, you get free front-of-the-line access to all Universal Orlando attractions.
  2. You can make advance dining reservations for Universal restaurants and character meals, including the Theme Park Insider Award-winning Mythos, by calling 407-224-4012.
  3. [Universal Studios Florida] On Men in Black, aim for the light at the top of the car on the other side of the track when you are turned face-to-face with it, and do not forget to hit the red button on your dashboard when it flashes and you are told to hit it.

Top Disneyland tips:

  1. If it is hot, or crowded, go sit in the Tiki Room... A great place to cool down and rest the feet.
  2. Riding the steam train to the Main Street station can be a great way to get out of the park when Main Street and the hub in front of the castle are packed during parades and fireworks.
  3. The best time to go to Disneyland is the week after Thanksgiving till the week before Christmas. It's themed for the holidays and has the lowest attendance!

We're always look for more tips, and more votes, so if you've got one better, click over and submit it!

Replies (4)

June 17, 2009 at 12:33 PM · NEVER assume crowd's are going to be light. As an Orlando resident people regularly asl, "which day is the least crowded to go to Disney?" I always respond "none!" It costs a healthy chunk of change to go through those turnstiles. ALWAYS assume the crowds are going to be heavy. and plan accordingly!
June 18, 2009 at 10:02 AM · I disagree with the "work backwards through a park" tip. By that logic at, say, The Magic Kingdom, you would ride Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and/or Space Mountain midday. Yeah, great tip.

I like TPI's "4-Hour Tours", but The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World tour book has the best tours, hands down. They actually designed a pretty complicated program that uses various algorithms, such as the loading capacity of an attraction, to find the best possible touring plan for each Orlando park. For their most efficient plan, they allot 2 days to The Magic Kingdom. On Day 1, Splash and Big Thunder Mountain are first on the list. On Day 2, Space Mountain is number one. If you do not get to the parks early and get on those attractions quickly, no "back-to-front" touring is going to save you.

June 18, 2009 at 4:11 PM · The 4-hour tours and the Unofficial tours take two different, and worthy approaches. With our 4-hour tours, you've got the option of a short trip... or if you wish to have a longer stay, you can get the must-do attractions out of the way first, so that you can relax and wander through the park, unscheduled, for the rest of the day.

But if you prefer to sked the whole trip, the Unofficial tours are great. That level of control isn't my style, but to each his own.

June 18, 2009 at 5:17 PM · Oh, I rarely follow their tours to a tee. I do a combo of TPI's and Unofficial Guide's touring plans. TPI's tours are just a little too short for my liking, but the Guide's tours include many marginal attractions. I usually just do as I feel, but when the crowds are heavy I tend to tour strategically.

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