My younger sister turned forty on May 13th this year. I told her we should do something fun for her birthday, so we choose Orlando. We were there five days and five nights and we were armed with a four-day pass for Universal Studios and a five-day pass for Disney World. In the end we only used two days of the Universal pass (but it was a buy two days get two days so no big loss), but we did manage to go to the Disney Parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot) on all five days. With the five day pass we had the luxury of only spending a few hours there if we wanted.
I won’t go into a lot of details about out trip since I’m writing this blog post so late. I will say that I was in rollercoaster heaven. Some of my favorites were Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios, Incredible Hulk and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom, Mission: Space at Epcot and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios. I also thoroughly enjoyed Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom. The animals were just beautiful. And, after all these years, I finally did a drop ride…Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios. I LOVED it…I honestly thought I’d be scared shitless, but I didn’t mind it at all. My sister on the other hand may never do a ride like that again. She sometimes gets motion-sick and we had just got off of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. It probably wasn’t the best idea for her to do those rides back-to-back, but she got it confused with Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom…oops…big difference.
Two of my biggest disappointments were Star Tours at Hollywood Studios and Soaring at Epcot. The weekend we were there was opening weekend for the NEW Star Tours. For me, it seemed dated and kind of anticlimactic. Soaring was a disappointment on a couple of levels. First, we waited in line for several hours. We got there late and at one point they announced that everyone might not get on the ride before the park closed. My sister insisted on waiting. Don’t get me wrong…I normally LOVE Soaring, but I’ve only ridden it at California Adventure. My biggest disappointment for the one at Epcot is that it was EXACTLY the same ride as California. I understand having a soaring ride over California when you are in California, but then shouldn’t the ride in Florida soar over Florida???
The weather was nice, but the humidity was a real drag. I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how people can stand to be damp constantly. Our room smelled of mildew every day and all our clothes were damp. We had one freakish storm come in. We were headed out of Hollywood Studios to catch our shuttle and the skies opened up! It only took us about two minutes getting soaking wet to decide we’d rather pay for a taxi back to our hotel than stand in line with everyone else. Luckily that only happened once the entire trip.
- If you have some cushion in your budget stay at a Disney hotel. The convenience of being able to go back-and-forth to your room is worth a lot.
- Use single rider lines any time you can, even if you are not there by yourself. It can make a huge difference and we usually got on a ride within minutes or seconds of each other.
- If you don’t stay at the park, make sure you clearly understand your hotel’s FREE shuttle service. We assumed the bus ran constantly…it does not and it really limited us a lot. And, maybe even plan ahead to see if there is public transportation near your hotel that goes to the parks.
- Get park hopper multi-day passes. They give you even more flexibility and if you are there for more than one day it’s totally worth it.
- Ride water rides right before you are headed back to your room. You might think it’s because of the cold…nope…nothing dries in Orlando when the humidity is high. You’ll feel yucky all day and the hand driers in the restrooms only help a little bit.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate…always have a water bottle with you.
- Don’t carry a bag if you can avoid it. I draped my camera around my neck and got a lanyard that would hold money, credit card, park passes, and even a small bag that could wrap around my camera if it started raining. It’s totally worth it so you don’t have to wait in the bag/purse check line.
- Enjoy the leisurely rides. Rides like the train that go around the park might not be overly exciting, but the lines are short and it’s a great opportunity to sit down for a while. You are on your feet a lot. A slow paced ride is a great cure.
- Were comfortable shoes!
- Have fun and act like a kid…you are never too old to enjoy amusement parks.
- My biggest frustration this trip was lenses. I have an 18-55 and a 55-200. I couldn’t justify taking both with me each day so it was a constant internal debate. For Animal Kingdom I took the 55-200 because I knew we’d see animals and they might be far away. Turns out they weren’t too far away, but still the lens made for some great shots. It didn’t work well for much else that day. I really, really want a street lens. Since that trip I’ve found one that is an 18-200. On one hand it seems silly to spend a lot (and I mean a lot) of money on a lens when you already have two that will do the job, but I suspect it will save me a lot of frustration in the future.
- Using a plastic bag to protect my camera on wet rides and when the sudden rain showers would appear was very useful. I might even consider taking one of my very small dray sacks next time.