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Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice

alpengeistno3

Posted:
11/9/11 at
9:37:56 PM

Hey guys,
I need some expert advice here. My friend and I are trying to plan a Thanksgiving trip down to Orlando. She is going to Disney Tuesday and Wednesday. I can't leave work until Tuesday, so I was considering going to Universal or Sea World for 1/2 a day, then Disney on Wednesday with them.

Thursday, we were thinking about Busch Tampa Bay (it's Thanksgiving day, how busy can they be?)

Friday, we planned to do Universal (she only wants to do one day, but I plan to do 2 since I have been to Disney 3 times and never been to IOA or US.

Saturday, I have a 7:00 PM flight so I was going to go to Sea World (we are staying in the Sea World hotel, so we get free Qwick Queue which should make any crowds a moot point, I hope.) She has an earlier flight so she will still go, but fly out earlier.

My questions
1. Did I pick a good itinerary for not getting "ZONKED" crowd wise during the busy Thanksgiving weekend? (I am still shaking off the chills of going to Universal on Friday.) Which Universal Park would be the smartest one to do on Black Friday (I bet she is going to want to go to IOA, but maybe I can talk sense into her that Studios would be the better choice.)

2. What is the best way to go about tickets? I looked into the Orlando flex pass, but it doesn't include Disney, which is a KILLER when only booking 2 days or less.

Thanks in advance and I can't wait to finally add some new parks (been to Orlando 3 times and never been anywhere except Disney :(

Paul

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by RobLec RobLec Profile at 11/9/11 11:34:32 PM

There are no deals on Disney tickets. Best you can do is buy multi-day tickets so the per-day cost is lower, but for two days you're pretty much stuck with $90 per day. You'd be better off just doing Universal for two days. We bought ours thru AAA and saved a few dollars but it's still pricey.

All the parks down here are usually packed the entire week of Thanksgiving. We've been in Orlando since last weekend and the parks are much more crowded this year compared to a couple years ago.

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by frontrow frontrow Profile at 11/10/11 7:29:46 AM

My favorite 3 parks in Orlando are:
1) Busch Gardens
2) Islands of Adventure
3) Sea World
I would make those parks a priority. You could get by with a half day at Sea World, but you'll need a whole day at Busch Gardens and Islands of Adventure. Have fun, can't wait for your TR.

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by Overbanked Overbanked Profile at 11/10/11 9:49:49 AM

> My favorite 3 parks in Orlando are:
> 1) Busch Gardens

I wouldn't classify #1 as an Orlando area theme park as it's in Tampa; Fair enough if you're talking the Central Florida area.

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by mugen828 mugen828 Profile at 11/10/11 10:40:27 AM

Disney is more of a place you should go if you have 4-5 days as there is much to see and do.

I'd go to Universal/IOA but I would imagine it would be crowded. It's pricey to get in but in my honest opinion with the way the parks look, and the quickness of the ride que times, it's worth the extra money to get in.

Plus IOA/Universal has more coasters than Disney. Hollywood Rip Ride and Rocket, The Mummy, Dueling Dragons, and The incredible Hulk.

Kraken and Manta are both good rides as well, but located at Sea World.

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by sparky sparky Profile at 11/10/11 10:55:22 AM

Paul, regardless of itinerary, I must unfortunately warn you that Thanksgiving week is the second busiest week of the year at the Central Florida theme parks- only behind Christmas Week, so be prepared for monster crowds.

Regardless of which park you are visiting on which day, get there well before opening, and at the Uni parks or Sea World/Busch Gardens be sure to get Quick Queue (I saw you had Sea World covered so that will be a good way to get around the 2 hour waits for Manta).

If you end up at WDW at all, collect as many Fastpasses as you can early on in the day (getting a new one as soon as you are eligible) and then use them later that afternoon/evening (there is no limit as to when you can return as long as it is after the minimum return time).

The only other week that rivals Thanksgiving and Christmas for density of crowds is Easter, but that time of year is warmer and you have the waterparks to help absorb some of the crowds. The Fall/Winter holiday season is a great time to visit the waterparks as people are typically in waterpark mode, but the theme parks are crazy crowded.

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by Eric_Gieszl Eric_Gieszl Profile at 11/10/11 11:59:07 AM

Return period policy for Disney's FastPass may be changed before Thanksgiving, so beware.

Unfortunately, the parks are all going to be packed. The crowds start the Saturday before Thanksgiving and I have been there this week several times before.

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by Coaster316 at 11/10/11 12:27:13 PM

How about the week after Thanksgiving? Better?

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by Eric_Gieszl Eric_Gieszl Profile at 11/10/11 6:43:16 PM

Week after is much better. The first two weeks of December, especially the weekdays, are slow for Orlando. However, the exception is all Saturdays at Magic Kingdom. My busiest day ever at Magic Kingdom and EPCOT was a Saturday a few years back in early December. It was super crowded!

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by alpengeistno3 at 11/10/11 8:51:34 PM

Thanks for all the advice guys. I'm looking into the Orlando Flex ticket packages that Eric suggested a while back. Combo tickets for Uni and Busch seem to be the cheapest route. I may pass on Disney altogether (like I said, I've been 3 times on different week long band trips and have seen all of the place I wanted to see the last 2 times.) She has her family who is really set on Disney and they are coming down a day ahead of me, so I may just let them "bond" while I do some personal exploring in the other parks.

I wish I could go another day, but this is their family vacation. I'm just a 3rd wheel. At least this time, I have some freedom to go somewhere OTHER THAN DISNEY :)

Anyone have more ticket advice? Do I have to be a member of AAA to get discount tickets from them?

Paul

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by RobLec RobLec Profile at 11/10/11 10:44:00 PM

> Do I have to be a member of AAA to get discount tickets from them?

Yes - you have to enter your membership number on the ticket website.

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by Eric_Gieszl Eric_Gieszl Profile at 11/11/11 11:17:41 AM

> I'm looking into the
> Orlando Flex ticket packages that Eric suggested a while
> back.

I've rarely suggested the Orlando Flex Ticket. I've never purchased one myself and that includes for trips where I've stayed for nearly two weeks. Until Universal raised their prices that ticket was always overpriced. Unless you are staying longer and visiting the parks it covers more it is not a good deal for you.

For your stay I would probably purchase the following:

SeaWorld 1-day/Busch Gardens 1-day ticket - $99.99 (tax not included)

http://www.seaworld.com/

Universal Orlando 2-day Park-to-Park $143.42 (tax included)

http://tickets.ultimaterollercoaster.com/4429_attraction-tickets_a996.html?ticketID=3849

You'll pay $243.41 (plus tax for SeaWorld). The Orlando Flex Ticket that includes Busch Gardens can be found for about $300 (including tax).

If you want flexibility you can upgrade to the SeaWorld/Busch Gardens length of stay ticket valid for unlimited admission to either park for 14-days for $114.99. That makes your total price $258.41 plus tax for SeaWorld.

You can save the sale & attraction tax for SeaWorld purchasing tickets here.

http://tickets.ultimaterollercoaster.com/4429_ticket-list.html?locationID=m12&locationSearch=&attractionName=&attractionCategoryID=&submit=Search

That's my advice. All of the above is assuming you're going to Disney for one day. I'm cautious about many discount ticket vendors in Orlando. You choose poorly and you might end up with a pair of handcuffs around your wrists.

* This Post Has Been Modified *

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by alpengeistno3 at 11/11/11 6:27:22 PM

You're right, Eric. I read you post wrong in the archives. You did say you didn't use it.

Those links you sent look great. Don't think I can beat the Busch/Sea World Combo ticket for $99.99.

I found Universal Tickets here for $139

http://www.orlandofuntickets.com/Universal-Studios-Park-To-Park/

Seems legit, but the shipping details seem "squirrelly" (seems to be additional charges for shipping, so if I can use your link and avoid that, sounds like the better deal as well.

I'm ready to drop out of Disney. The best I could do is go on my fly-in day, but it would cost me that day at Universal and I would need to double up both new to me parks on Friday. Since the only "new" to me ride at Disney is the refurbed Space Mountain and both IOA and Studios are new parks for me, it seems a no brainer to tell my friend I will meet up with her Wednesday or Thursday when they somewhere other than Disney.)

How important do you guys think the "hopper" option is for Universal, especially for a first-time visitor? I focus really hard to not be bored when I went to Disney and had to do Animal Kingdom without hoppers (the teacher in charge didn't want to add them. I was ready to go by 3:00.) I know IOA will have plenty to do for a full day and I think Studios, with the addition of Rip-Ride-Rockit and Mummy does as well. The two park base tickets are $116.50 on the "Funtickets" site, but I see I can get almost the same deal on the other site.

One more question. Transportation. I was reading the Sea World website and they say they have a shuttle to Busch Tampa. Since we are staying in the Hilton right outside of Sea World, will this shuttle leave in time to get to Tampa by park opening? Do you book a time or does it leave on the hour, half-hour, etc? Or should I just be safe and get a car for the day?

Paul

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by Eric_Gieszl Eric_Gieszl Profile at 11/11/11 7:35:26 PM

I know Orlando Fun Tickets, but their 2-day, Park-to-Park Universal Ticket is $153.59 after tax, plus shipping unless you do the pick-up option.

I sell the same Universal Orlando 2-Day Park-to-Park Ticket for $145.42 and it's a print-at-home E-Ticket. Go straight to the gate, no shipping charge or pick-up hassle. The 2-day base ticket (admission to one park, each day) is $124.78, so the park hopping option is $20.64 ($10.32/day).

You should note the SeaWorld/Busch Gardens combo ticket (one-day each park) via SeaWorld.com is $106.74 after tax.

However, you can buy the upgraded SeaWorld/Busch Gardens 2-Park Length of Stay Ticket good for unlimited admission to both parks for 14-days for $116.99. It's also a print-at-home E-Ticket too.

If you're skipping Disney you'll probably want that extra day either at Universal or SeaWorld. The Universal 3-day park-to-park is $161.18.

I really like park hopping at Universal. Like Disneyland Resort in California the parks in Orlando are next to each other with each entry plaza being just a short walk across CityWalk. Park hopping at Disney in Orlando is a pain and especially without a car.

The shuttle service to Busch Gardens makes up to three stops depending on demand and arrives as late as 11:30 a.m. It costs $10 per person. I don't know about the return time. I would rent a car and personally, I think a car rental is a must in Orlando, but others will disagree.

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by RobLec RobLec Profile at 11/11/11 8:27:22 PM

> I really like park hopping at Universal. Like Disneyland
> Resort in California the parks in Orlando are next to each
> other with each entry plaza being just a short walk across
> CityWalk. Park hopping at Disney in Orlando is a pain and
> especially without a car.

I always buy park hopping for Universal and never buy park hopping for Disney. Today we went to IOA primarily for HP but the park was crazy busy (turns out it was a "special" day for Potter fan because of the DVD release day) so we hopped over to USF and rode Mummy several times then left happy. In the case of Disney, we go to one park until we're tired or otherwise "done" then leave and return to one of their other parks the next day.

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by sparky sparky Profile at 11/11/11 8:31:26 PM

> Week after is much better. The first two weeks of December,
> especially the weekdays, are slow for Orlando. However, the
> exception is all Saturdays at Magic Kingdom. My busiest day
> ever at Magic Kingdom and EPCOT was a Saturday a few years
> back in early December. It was super crowded!

I think I remember that day :)

I also think I remember having my wife with me that day when she was 7 months preggo, to the point that we took an abandoned wheelchair we found at the TTC prior to boarding the ferry and pushed her around MK that evening.

Wasn't that the night MK was open til 1AM and the monorail got stuck?

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by Cyclone_Phil Cyclone_Phil Profile at 11/11/11 9:53:44 PM

Have fun Paul!
I don't know if you need any advice on what to do at the parks [which to start with], but for BGT: start with Cheetah Hunt first thing in the morning and then take the skyride to Congo for Kumba and work your way around the park [for the coasters] counter clockwise [not counting the timbuktu area].

The HP island at IOA has been problematic for me. I end up either going via the lost continent area and have to walk over the bridge to get back to the Jurassic park area or go thru Marvel and cartoon lagoon to JP to get to HP island. SO all i can say is good luck. But I'd still start with the HP ride [single rider line and make sure you don't carry any bags as that will take up time] and then head to 'Dragon chase' and work your way back counter clockwise. If you have a good day [not too crowded], you could finish IOA in half a day and can head over to Universal studios.
=
As for Disney: for me it is a pita to use their bus and monorail systems. However, since I basically ride only the major thrill rides, I can cover 3 out of the 4 parks: Epcot/Animal Kingdom, Hollwood studios, Magic Kingdom [but provided one of the parks closes late like 11pm - which is in the summer, dunno about thanksgiving].

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by RobLec RobLec Profile at 11/11/11 11:16:57 PM

> Today we went to IOA primarily for HP but the park was crazy busy
> (turns out it was a "special" day for Potter fan because of
> the DVD release day) so we hopped over to USF and rode
> Mummy several times then left happy.

Turns out the Today show was broadcasting from IOA today...
http://www.wesh.com/themeparks/29743182/detail.html

Guess I should watch more news before planning a vacation!

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by Cyclone_Phil Cyclone_Phil Profile at 11/12/11 12:02:12 AM

I usually find out about stuff from the news after I go to the park. Fortunately this year I didn't go to IOA [went the year before] and only found out then about the then postponing of the 'dueling dragons'. I'm still unhappy about the 'permanent' ending the dueling aspect of the ride.

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by alpengeistno3 at 11/12/11 12:30:09 AM

Hmmm, cutting out the House of Mouse does me an extra day to play with. Me, being a Busch Gardens fan, would instantly say "BGT" for the extra day, but crowd wise, maybe Universal would need the 3rd day. If for no other reasons, the crowds are probably going to be worse there.

Anyone know if they offer upgrade deals at the gate (add on days for the discounted price)? That way, I could keep the extra day in my back pocket if Friday is really bad (though I have pretty much made up my mind that I am going to Sea World on Saturday if for no other reason than the proximity to the hotel and the free qwick queue.)

I'll probably just do the 3 day Universal Hopper and 2 day Busch/Sea World ticket (as good as Kraken and Manta probably are, I think my day on Saturday will be enough that it won't warrant hopping from BGT or Universal to do another day.)

Paul

Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by Eric_Gieszl Eric_Gieszl Profile at 11/12/11 12:37:51 AM

It was the night the park was open until 1:00 am and the Monorail got stuck. I'm thankful Space Mountain reopened within minutes of park closing and I didn't get on a Monorail instead.

I'm not sure about changing your tickets. They'll upgrade you to an annual pass. I know that for certain. I do know one thing. Any discount you receive will be wiped out by the upgrade. The park will take the face value of the upgraded ticket price and subtract the price you actually paid to come up with the difference.

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Re: Thanksgiving Orlando trip advice by GoYanks34 GoYanks34 Profile at 11/12/11 5:45:45 PM

I agree with the others - get a hopper for IOA/USO. Even though I've been to both a few times so I know what I want to do and I'm in and out - it really gives you so much more flexibility. And they are SO close that you can easily "hop" back and forth. Especially if you're getting a 3 day pass.

I'd pass on Disney too. I have been there 4 times in Orlando and 2 times in CA. The last time I went to Epcot while at a convention in Orlando in 2005 I was SO bored. Still love the laser show at the end of the night but it was way too much "been there, done that" and I wish I had gone to a different park. I also did IOA/USO that same trip and had a blast, even though I've been to both several times. Disney just gets old.

I'm SO jealous! I wish I was at BGA (or is it BGT?) on Sheikra instead of sitting with the family eating turkey!!! Hope you have an awesome time!

Jen