Continuing on our saving money on your trip to Florida theme, today we're talking about theme parks. Apart from the flights, visiting theme parks in Orlando can be the most expensive part. There isn't really a way around this. Either you go to the parks or you don't. But it can get extremely confusing. Sorry if you're reading this and you already know, but for total beginners, here goes.
There are three park companies – Disney has a total of four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and EPCOT); Universal has two (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure) and Seaworld has 3 (Discovery Cove, Seaworld and Busch Gardens). On top of this there are also two Disney water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon), Seaworld has one (Aquatica) and Universal have one (Wet ‘n Wild). Still with me? Great.
The theme parks that you visit will depend on your interests, who you're traveling with and the length of your holiday. As we're only going for a week this time, and staying on Disney property next year for our honeymoon, we will just be doing Seaworld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica. The Disney parks may appeal to you, or you may like to do all of the parks.
Once you've decided which theme parks take your fancy then you've got to find the tickets. You can buy your tickets in three different ways.
1. Direct at the theme parks on the day of your visit. If you're only planning on visiting one park for one day then this is a cost effective way, but if you're planning more than one visit to each company's parks then this is the most expensive option. This also eats into your visit as the queues at the start of the day can be really long.
2. Online with a US based company. They have different tickets to the UK tickets, and one of the main features is Disney's Magic Your Way, where you can pretty much customise your tickets to suit your needs, including park hopping, a set number of days, etc. I've found this to be extremely confusing and would mean having my days planned well in advance.
3. Online with a UK based company. This is how I go about purchasing tickets as you get different tariffs than the US based companies. My favourite being the 7, 14 or 21 day ultimate Disney tickets, which include all 4 theme parks, both water parks and now includes a round of crazy gold every day if you so wish to partake! You can also get 14 day Universal tickets for both the parks and 14 day Seaworld tickets for 2 or 3 parks (depending on whether you want to do Discovery Cove or not). This means that your holiday can have some spontaneity to it, and if there's a park you're almost passing you can just pop in for your favourite ride or show. It also means that you can do half days at the parks without feeling guilty about having paid for a full day.
A 14 day Disney ticket for 2014 costs £260, making it just £18.50 a day if you visit every day. For comparison, a ticket to Alton Towers is £42 online. I've mentioned Florida Escapes above, and I cannot praise them enough. After extensive research they have been the cheapest company to book my theme park tickets with for three years running. Granted that at times it has only been by £5 or so, but they don't charge postage (or a credit card transaction fee). They're also really great if you have any questions or any problems. The staff have always been friendly both online and over the phone. They're also ATOL protected.