This spring break two friends and I were able to go to the happiest place on earth! For college students, Orlando amusement parks are definitely not the cheapest spring break options (especially when you just spent an entire semester abroad) but YOLO exists so you work it out. We had an amazing time and I am so happy we went through with the plans we had made to go.
So, on to my review and a few tips if you are planning on vacationing in Orlando anytime soon.
Where: Orlando, Florida
Why: Why not?? Disney is the happiest place in the world (confirmed) and we love Harry Potter. A lot of planning (I use that word loosely) went into this trip so I’m excited to dig right in and give you all the details of our preparations and the fun we had once we got there.
Transportation: No offense to my travel companions, but I trust 0 of us to drive all the way to Orlando, FL and then drive in Orlando traffic…just…no. So that meant we were flying. So while I wish Tinker Bell could have just sprinkled her pixie dust on us and we were off, it wasn’t quite so simple, or magical for that matter. We flew with Allegiant, which is a value airline I have used in the past to travel to Florida. They fly out of and into somewhat random airports which is a con. We flew into Orlando Sanford for example, not International, therefore we could not utilize the Disney shuttle. 😦 Allegiant is much cheaper than other airlines but they do add costs if you aren’t careful: you have to pay a small fee for your carry on (at that point, just check it, it’s not that much more!) and you have to pay to pick your seat. They randomly assign you so you won’t be able to sit with your pals but you will save about $26 round-trip (trust me, you’ll need it at Disney for DOLE WHIP).
We also used Happy Limo to get to and from the airport and our resort. We did a lot of research on the best and cheapest service and they aren’t too bad on the price, especially for a private car. Shuttles are very popular but you end up sitting on a bus for a long time as everyone else gets off before you do. We used the Disney buses other times to get to and from the parks, our resort, and Disney Springs. To get to Universal, we took an Uber that morning directly to the park. That evening we got an Uber to Disney Springs and then took the free bus back to the resort. That saved us about $10-15!
Lodging: We stayed onsite for several reasons! One, we didn’t drive so having the bus service is very helpful in getting around. Secondly, staying on-site gets you special privileges like ~Magic Hours~ which are in the morning or at night where only people staying at the resort can be at the park. Pretty cool! We stayed at Disney’s Pop Century Resort, which is one of the high end value resorts. The rooms were a little small and dated but let’s be real ladies, we don’t go to Disney to stay in our rooms.
Shopping: Souvenir’s galore! Our first night we ate dinner at the resort and were tricked into buying the $20 plastic cup. Basically you buy the cup and get unlimited refills the rest of your stay. I’m still not completely convinced it was worth it because we weren’t at the resort often enough to get my money’s worth of Diet Coke, lol. Besides that I did get a Hufflepuff pin for my bag, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans (duh), and a really cool K-2SO t-shirt.
Food: Mama was home with all the snacks a Disney and Universal. Churros, Mickey ice creams, maple popcorn (!!), Dole Whip Floats, Green Fishy Ale, Pumpkin pasties, and the list goes on. We got groceries the first night and therefore ate breakfast at the hotel and usually packed our lunch everyday (PB&J forever). We also ate at these restaurants:
Tony’s Town Square, at Magic Kingdom: We had reservations here the last night and it had really good Italian options, including gluten free pasta! However, not a lot of vegetarian options. But the pasta I did have was so delish. It’s on the pricier side but it was nice!
Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe, at Magic Kingdom: It’s a long story but me and Emma love Pecos Bill because it’s a book in Spanish that will take you on a wild adventure. So of course, Pecos Bill Cafe was a must and it was sooooo good! Lots of vegetarian options and you get unlimited toppings (read: GUAC). It’s also one of the cheaper dining options at Disney. 100% recommend!!
Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe, at Disney Springs: We were so hungry, tired and cold when we got to this restaurant we would have eaten anything they gave us. And we did because my pizza was completely burnt and I still ATE IT. And because I am a passive aggressive millennial, instead of complaining or asking for a new pizza, I ripped off all the burnt crust (most of the crust) and made a frown-y face with the pieces. Needless to say the pizza was free but we still gave our waitress a big tip. She was nice. Even after Molly spilled her Sprite all over me and the table. It had been a long day.
Parks: Since we were there for such a short amount of time, we had 3 single-park tickets for Disney World and a one day park-to-park ticket for Universal Studios Orlando Resort. Let’s get into it. (I have a lot to say.)
Animal Kingdom: This was our first park of the week, with Magic Hours that morning! We arrived a little bit before the park opened and we basically did everything the park had to offer. Apparently, AK is known for being a “half-day park,” we did not know this, lol. Still we made the best of it and had a great time. As soon as we got in, we headed straight to the Kilimanjaro Safaris. This was the right thing to do. There was no wait and it was morning so we got to see every animal out and about, even if they were still a little sleepy! I won’t go through every thing we did because this is already pretty long so I am going to rank the attractions like so:
- Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain: This is arguably Disney’s sole thrill ride and it is sooo fun. We had a FastPass+ but we also waited in line to ride it again because it was that fun!
- Primeval Whirl – I think we rode this one three times, lol. It is very funny and it surprised me at how intense it was! It very much looks like a kid ride but boy, it jerks ya around.
- Finding Nemo – The Musical – Soo pretty! Very Lion King broadway.
- DINOSAUR – Lol the best thing about this ride was the photo. See below.
Honorable mentions: It’s Tough to be a Bug! (SO many screaming kids it’s so funny, I love scaring kids); Kali River Rapids (you will get soaked!); TriceraTop Spin; meeting Pocahontas; and Festival of the Lion King. I also cannot wait for Pandora – World of Avatar to open this May!
Magic Kingdom: We spent two days here because this is what you think of when you think Disney. I love you, Magic Kingdom. Take me back. Crowds here, however, were much worse than Animal Kingdom but equal to the crowds at Universal. I am glad we did take two days here though because we got to do absolutely everything that we wanted to do, sometimes more than once. Again, I will rank my favorites:
- Space Mountain – I mean duh. We had two FastPass+ for this one and it was worth it each time. I think this is my favorite ride in all of Disney.
- Peter Pan’s Flight – Like Space Mountain, we had two FastPass+ which was also worth it. This ride is so pretty and nostalgic. This is the last ride we rode Thursday night before we left Friday. I wanted to cry. Maybe I did a little.
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic – I loved the music in this show! It was so cute.
- “it’s a small world” – It’s a classic! We also rode this one twice because it’s just so…Disney, ya know?
Honorable mentions: Astro Orbiter (rode twice); Big Thunder Mountain Railroad; Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (get the FastPass+!); Dumbo the Flying Elephant (FastPass+); Haunted Mansion; Mad Tea Party; The Magic Carpets of Aladdin; The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh; Swiss Family Treehouse; Under the Sea; PeopleMover (lol); Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress (listen, the song is catchy and that dog is SIXTY YEARS OLD!!!!).
My problems, because of course I have them: We waited three hours in line for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train….not worth it. We lost a piece of ourselves in that line and I think by the time we got on the ride we were pumping our fists into the air so vigorously everyone thought we were insane. Because we were at that point. We didn’t ride Splash Mountain, too cold 😦 Stitch’s Great Escape! don’t do it. Just don’t. Pirates of the Caribbean, kind of boring but Emma and Molly liked it. Monster, Inc. Laugh Floor, just not worth it either. We also never rode the Jungle Cruise, the line was too long and after the Mine Train…let’s just say some wires were loose. The Barnstormer…this stupid thing. We waited in line forever (not three hours) but still it lasted like five seconds, just not worth it.
We also stayed for the Wishes nighttime spectacular, which is the regular, run-of-the-mill finale for Magic Kingdom, fireworks and all. HOWEVER, we did not know about this until the last night but they have the Once Upon a Time show about an after the fireworks and in my opinion it is way COOLER and more enjoyable. They project your classic Disney stories onto Cinderella’s Castle, music and all. It was beautiful and I felt like a kid again and isn’t that why people go to Disney?
Universal Studios: Oh Universal, do we have beef…First off, my apologies for thinking you were so lame we could do everything we wanted to do in both parks in only one day. But that’s also on you for closing a 8PM. Who does that? Also, unlike Disney, you have to pay extra for even one ExpressPass. At Disney everyone gets 3 automatically! We didn’t know about this until we got there but if I could do it over, I would’ve shelled out the cash to get them so we wouldn’t have to wait in the lines as long as we did. We were so rushed the entire day and therefore super stressed. In the future, we will spend a lot longer here to fully enjoy it. That being said, the things we hit were from Harry Potter World, of course. The only rides we rode outside of HP was: the Caro-Seuss-el and the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. And that’s it, because we simply did not have time for anything else. So yes, if I could do it over: MORE THAN ONE DAY AT UNIVERSAL IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST. But Harry Potter World, both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, were so perfect!
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – This is seriously one of the coolest rides ever and the technology used to create it is honestly life changing. Disney needs more rides like this, for sure. We actually rode it twice, despite an hour+ wait each time. The second time we rode it has quite the story actually. So, picture us at Universal Studios. We had just waited in line for the Minions for two hours (basically). It was 6:30. Universal Studios closes at 9. Islands of Adventure, where Forbidden Journey is located, closes at 8. We decided we wanted to ride it again. We leave Minions, run to catch the Hogwarts Express (yes, that’s a thing), and get there…and all the workers were out front, turning people away…they had closed. We turn around, go back to where we were, run out of the park, run to Islands of Adventure, get in line to get in, run to Hogsmeade, and get in line in a matter of 30 minutes. Basically we all split up and zig-zagged through the crowds at crazy speeds. I thought we were going to die. Molly almost sprained her ankle. Emma’s blood sugar was dropping. It was the most exciting ride of all. haha jk, but it was pretty fun and makes for a good story! We made it just in time and had an amazing journey (see what I did there?)!
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – Like Forbidden Journey, this ride is very tech forward and was a lot of fun. Huge wait though but worth it!
- Hogwarts Express, King’s Cross Station – This train takes you between the two parks and it was so cool! It’s more than just a ride. It’s apparently different each way but…obviously we didn’t get to do that.
- Dragon Challenge – This is a good time to mention I hate roller coasters. Ya girl is a vegetarian and I know I ain’t getting the vitamins I need and I seriously almost passed out like twice…because we rode it twice, back to back. Since the dragons are “dueling” there are two different coaster options. They’re both terrible.
- Flight of the Hippogriff – Kid-friendly coaster, my kind of coaster. Very fun!
Also at Universal I met The Lorax, whom I love!
This week was seriously the best and I absolutely cannot wait to go back! I hope you’ve enjoyed my trip review (if you made it this far, it was pretty long). But I want to know: what are your favorite parts about these parks? Do you have any tips for my next trip down there, or some tips for others thinking about going? Let me know in the comments section. Thank you so much for reading and pass it along if you wish!
Meanwhile, I’ll be counting down the days until I can return to the Happiest Place on Earth. ❤︎
Have a magical day,