One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.
Since I was a little girl, the drive from Miami to Orlando has always been an exciting one for me. Home to some of the nation’s best theme parks, water parks and the largest number of hotels of any city on Earth, the possibilities always seemed endless less than 200 miles away. So, when I learned that I won two tickets to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures from the local news station and saw a $49.50 Orlando hotel deal from Travelzoo, the memories of my childhood came rushing in, and I couldn’t possibly resist.
Although theme parks can be chaotic even in the tail-end of summer, here’s a few tips and tricks for saving money and time to make the most of your experience:
- Arrive early: Although the parks technically don’t open until 9 a.m., they usually open the gates 15-20 minutes early. If you’re one of the first people there, you can make a beeline for the high-traffic rides and get them out of the way first. For example, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is known to have rides with wait times of more than three hours. Going there first gave us a huge head start, and we were in and out of that island in less than half an hour.
- Take advantage of hotel shuttles: Our resort (along with most every hotel in the International Drive area) offers free scheduled shuttles to the parks every single day. Parking can cost upwards of $16 per day, so be sure to ask your concierge for pick-up and drop-off times. This luxury can save a ton of time and money, preserving your pre-park peace of mind.
- Go solo: Single rider lines are available at almost every attraction, cutting wait times to an average of five minutes or less. (Single riders = the people that fill in empty spots on rides ... like if a family of three people go in one row that can accommodate four, you’ll fill the extra seat). At the entrance of each ride, look for a sign marked “single rider” or ask a member of the park staff where to find that entrance.
- Bring your own H2O: Theme parks are notorious for charging an arm and a leg for some of life’s necessities. Don’t fall into the $4 water trap. Although it might be an inconvenience to lug an extra three water bottles around in your backpack, the average cost of a 24-pack is $3.99, making the effective cost of each bottle $0.16. The parks sell water for an average of $4, so the money you save by bringing your own can pay for your lunch or two Duff Beers in Simpsons land.
All in all, be sure to prioritize your to-do list and be prepared to have your world rocked. And if you do end up having to wait at certain rides, remember that it’s all part of the fun, helping to build the mystery and bring your anticipation to new heights.