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[Practical Travel Guide] Disney parks in Orlando (USA): Top Attractions, where to stay, Fast Pass: Road trip in Florida #5

So, it’s already been a week that we are on our Road trip in Florida (read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4). There are about ten amusement parks in all in Orlando but we decided to spend only 3 days: 2 at Disney and 1 at Universal.

Being very tired, we didn’t prepare much for these magical days, apart from buying the tickets in advance. And we’re wrong to come in “I’m living in the moment” mode because there’s a lot of planning to do, especially when you spend so little time in Orlando.

Don’t make the same mistakes we did. In this guide, we share some tips to help you get the most out of it.

Which Disney parks to choose?

There are a total of 4 Disney theme parks in Orlando :

  • Magic Kingdom: it’s the main park with the big castle all that => recommended
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom: immersion in the Avatar universe => recommended even if we didn’t.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios : the one in Paris is a copy of this one.
  • Epcot : a kind of American-style Futuroscope

And two water parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon
  • Blizzard Beach

We chose to go first to Disney’s Hollywood Studios
and then Magic Kingdom because they both have incredible shows at night. Honestly, if Magic Kingdom is a must-see, I don’t think Hollywood Studios is a considered/justified decision because there are far too many attractions in common with the one in Paris. The big plus of Hollywood Studios vs. the one in Paris is the Toy Story part, very nicely decorated.

We recommend :

  • Magic Kingdom: because the magic of Disney, and the two evening shows are really worth it
  • Animal Kingdom: for the Avatar universe

Which days to choose?

Even if the Disney parks, especially Magic Kingdom, are still crowded, there will surely be a little less in the middle of the week . On the WE, we are surely entitled to the locals who have a year subscription in addition.

The program

This is where you have to be careful because as Halloween approaches (starting in August loool), many parties are devoted to Halloween and you have to pay extra to attend. So pay attention to the opening hours, on Halloween days the Magic Kingdom park will be closed earlier => come another day.

Evening shows

As far as shows are concerned, I find that the Disney World mobile app isn’t up to date. When you arrive on site, you have to take the paper program, to have the precise schedules of all the shows, parades …

Even if the place is huge, it is always necessary to come 30 to 45 minutes in advance to choose a good place, whatever the park.

Happily Ever After

The show Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom is really great, you can’t miss it (I even saw adults shedding tears, the magic of Disney!). 45 minutes later, if the paper program tells you Once Upon a Time, stay there in front of the castle instead of going home, because the second show will take place and it won’t necessarily be marked on the app.

The Fantasmic! show at Hollywood Studios is very good, but it’s not worth spending all day here just for the show, because Animal Kingdom next door is more worth it.

How much does it cost?

Mid-August 2019, we paid $117/person/day + 6.5% tax for one day with access to ONE park.

There are combined tickets: Parc Hopper to access 2 parks per day (more expensive) but we already have plenty to do with only one park. Moreover the Disney complex is gigantic, to pass from one park to the other will take you 30 minutes. The Hopper Park is especially useful when you want to spend a day in a park and attend the evening show of the other park.

There are tickets allowing access only from noon (the park is open at 9am): Mid-Day Magic Ticket, for $70/person/day.

If you do several parks, it is more interesting to buy multiple day tickets. No need to use it consecutively. E.g. if you buy the 2-day pass, you have 4 days to use it.

Where to buy the tickets?

We got them directly from the official website: https: //

In August in any case, whether purchased 2 weeks in advance or the day before, the prices have not changed, and the tickets aren’t sold out.

AttentionIf you purchase the tickets online from Florida, the rates displayed may be for Florida residents. When purchasing, please make sure that the “Florida residents” box isn’t checked.

What about hotel combos + entrance tickets?

We’ve done the simulation all over the place, but it’s not worth it. It’s better to buy the tickets separately, and book the hotel separately. The hotels offered in the combined tickets belong to Disney and are more expensive than what you can find next door. Many hotels in the area, which aren’t Disney resorts, still offer free shuttles to Disney (and Universal) parks.

Which hotel do you recommend?

JB and I took a long time to choose a hotel. Florida is infested with bed bugs, and even Disney resorts are concerned.

The only correct hotel, not too expensive, without bed chips, with shuttle that we found (we spent 4 nights there in total), is Best Western Orlando Convention Center Hotel (Booking link) 88$ per room for 4 people. Breakfast and shuttle to the parks included.

If you have a doubt about the presence or not of bed bugs in a specific hotel, type its name + bed bugs on Google, or visit this site

Beware, in the United States, there are many hidden fees. At the time of booking, be aware of the taxes and service charges to be paid in addition. This is often the case with Disney resorts.

Without being in a Disney hotel, we were still entitled to that every day at breakfast:

Is it necessary to come by car or with the hotel shuttle?

It depends on the schedules of the shuttles proposed. Our hotel proposed a shuttle dropping us off in Epcot. From Epcot, we could take a shuttle from Disney to one of its parks.

This allows us to arrive at the park around 8:15 am (the opening is at 9 am), and that suits us. If we came by car, we would have had to pay 25$ more for the parking. Between the parking lot and the park, it takes 30 minutes (waiting, moving…). You can opt for a parking lot closer to the park but you will have to pay 50$.

If the shuttle schedule suits you, we recommend you to come by shuttle, in the morning as well as in the evening, there is much less waiting (because even to go to the parking lot, you have to queue).

What to bring?

  • Sunscreen, hat and glasses
  • A poncho (or an umbrella) because it rains a lot in Florida
  • Mosquito repellent for the evening
  • A bottle of water (that you can refill at the fountains, in front of the toilets)

All this can be bought on the spot but for a lot more money of course.

What should NOT be brought?

There is a search at the entrance of the parks so all this will be discovered soon enough:

  • Selfie stick
  • Alcoholic beverages (even if the park sells them)
  • Flags, banners
  • Weapons, drugs
  • etc.

Do I have to exchange my tickets purchased online?


Yes, at the ticket offices at the entrance (and there is never anyone there). We were given a badger card (to enter, for the fast passes). If you are interested, you can even buy the Magic Band, a bracelet in the shape of Mickey. Register this bracelet with your credit card number to be able to pay everywhere with it.


Learning that we were visiting the park for the first time, we also got the “1st Visit” badge (free of charge). If it’s your birthday, ask for the “Happy Birthday” badge, the Disney employees will wish you all day long hihihi.

How to reduce the number of queues?

  • Coming before the opening of the park. You can enter inside the park and depending on the chosen park, it is possible to line up in front of an attraction even before it opens
  • By taking Fast Passes (more info below)
  • By choosing the“Single Rider” queue: it’s free. But you will have to sit where there is free space. You can be a couple or a group, but by queuing in this queue, you agree to do the attractions while being separated from each other. On the other hand, you can save a LOT of time. Only some attractions offer the Single Rider line.

Can we take Fast-pass?

Yes, these Fast Passes are free (unlike Universal Studios) and you can request 3 per day and per person. They allow you to make a given attraction on a specific time slot through a special queue much faster.

Note: Some blogs indicate that once you have used all 3, you can book more for the day but I was not able to do so via the app

If you have a Fast-pass, you are assigned a schedule and you have one hour to use it.

You need to download the Disney World application, create a Disney account, enter the reservation number. If it’s too complicated for you, there are machines on site for that, but there are far fewer machines than at the parks in Paris.

Fast Passes can be booked 30 days in advance (60 if you stay at a Disney resort). In our case, we booked the day before and the top attractions were obviously full until late at night. Don’t do like us, book your Fast Pass as soon as possible.

What happens if I took a Fast pass for a closed/temporarily closed attraction?

It happened to us twice: the attraction for which we took a Fast Pass is closed.

First case: you have already scanned your Fast pass and as it rains (very often in Florida) and it is a roller coaster, the attraction is suspended/closed for an indefinite time. Before leaving the attraction, hand your card (or Magic band) to an employee. He will “pay back” your Fast pass by turning it into a Multiple Experiences Fastpass and you can use it at any time for a variety of attractions (including the closed one you are currently waiting in line for).

Second case: you have not yet scanned your Fast pass. In this case, 10 minutes after the closing of your attraction, your Fast pass will be automatically transformed into a Multiple Experiences Fastpass and you can use it at any time for a variety of attractions

Differences between Disneyland Paris vs. Orlando?

Walt Disney and Mickey, hand in hand
  1. For Magic Kingdom & Hollywood Studios, there are still many similar attractions. In general, attractions of the same name will have almost the same wrinkles (except Space Mountain here which is very different and softer than in Paris). But I have a feeling that the wrinkles are a bit longer here than in Paris ?
  2. Then, parks like Animal Kingdom and Epcot have a lot of attractions that don’t exist yet in Paris.
  3. There are attractions referring to shows known by Americans like The Muppet Show… but less known to us. Also, there’s a Native American corner here that isn’t present in Paris; and two Ariel attractions that are nice but not much more (and very different from Tokyo DisneySea)
  4. The big plus of Hollywood Studios vs. the one in Paris is the Toy Story part, very nicely decorated.
  5. As people consume more and pay more for the pictures, the characters are more available and more numerous to take pictures.
  6. The shows are much more grandiose. Typically the American-style show is a real eye-catcher.
  7. Alligators swarm the lakes in Florida, even at Disney so don’t leave your children unsupervised

What if I don’t understand English?

The shows are only in English unfortunately, not even in Spanish, even though many immigrants speak Spanish in Florida.

For communication within the park with other employees, or at the restaurant, I recommend that you use a translation application such as Google translate. Wifi is free and provided to the parks.

The top attractions of each park

Magic Kingdom Park

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: often out of order, the tail forms even before the opening of the park. If you can secure a Fast Pass, it’s better
  • Splash Mountain: beware you might get a little wet, but it’s very very fun
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: a nice ride, but it’s almost the same as in Paris – but with a lot of Johnny Depp look-alikes
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: looks a lot like Paris but less violent
  • Peter Pan’s Flight: not understood why there is so much tail for a not so top attraction
  • Haunted Mansion: basically not so different than the one in Paris but fans find it much better

Not to be missed: the two evening shows

Animal Kingdom Park

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • Kilimanjaro Safari: a real safari
  • Kali River Rapids : beware you may get a little wet
  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain


  • Frozen Ever After
  • Soarin’ Around The World: flight simulator
  • Test Track
  • Mission Space

Epcot’s evening show moves up in the rankings

Disney’s Hollywood studios

This park has a lot more shows than wrinkles:

  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run: new attraction, a lot of anticipation
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror : more violent than the one in Paris
  • Rock’n’Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith: to be done just before or after the Tower of Terror, it’s next door
  • Toy Story Mania!: a nice dark wrinkle, but it’s mostly the decoration that’s cool
  • The Indiana Jones Show

Not to be missed: the two evening shows

Why do people get their pictures taken by photographers all the time?

Because there is a not very expensive package (PhotoPass, around 60$/day) allowing to download all the pictures taken by the cameras, but also professional photographers. So families take full advantage of it, since they only need one account for all.

At the end of each attraction, you will see your photo on the screen, just scan your card to have this photo displayed on your Disney account.

During the meetings with the characters, Disney employees can help you take a picture of yourself with your smartphone, free of charge. We didn’t pay for the photo pack, but we can still view them on our account with a big “Disney PhotoPass” imprint. Objectively, the photographers are doing a great job, the photos are great!

Photo displayed on the Disney account if not purchased

Where to eat at Disney in Orlando?

The day will be long and tiring, I recommend you to have a good breakfast at your hotel, which is usually served very early.

On site, the Disney app is really cool and allows you to order fast food on your cell phone and pick up your order to avoid the queue (payment is also made online, however). If you don’t have 3G/4G to order, the Wifi of the park is free (although not very fast).

I found it quicker to opt for fast food rather than a restaurant because we barely have the time in a day to do the attractions that interest us. But if you opt for a restaurant, the reservation can be done via the app as well (you have to enter your credit card number). The Top restaurants full long in advance are : Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table and Ohana

even fast food is too well decorated

Even for fast food (not good either), you have to count 35$ for two. It’s not too expensive because outside the park, the price will be exactly the same.

There are a lot of tables inside (with air conditioning) and outside (without air conditioning but equipped with parasol), you will always find a table to sit on.

Most visitors do not come with their picnic/sandwich. Americans are very consumerist, they seem to buy things on the spot rather than bring things to eat. But no one will forbid you to eat your own sandwich.

Why are there a lot of overdressed little princesses in the park?

Because next to the big castle, there is a makeover service for princesses between 3 and 12 years old. I don’t know the rates, but the results are bluffing. Their bun is perfect, the dress too, the little princesses are well pampered and seem to be delighted.

Getting out of the park

After the evening show, you will leave the park with thousands of other spectators. Many stay in Disney resorts so from Magic Kingdom, they will opt for the monorail, or the boat. But it is faster to take the bus (shuttle), there will be less waiting (even to go to the parking, take the bus).

Or you can take the opportunity to go shopping. The stores are open until 1 hour after the park closes. You can shop quietly while waiting for the crowd to dissipate. Anyway, despite the crowd, transportation is very well organized and efficient.

To know more about it

To learn more about Magic Kingdom & Hollywood Studios, I invite you to watch our vlog

Our next article in Florida, it’s this way

This article is part of our series of Road Trip in FloridaYou can find all other travel books here:

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