Nothing in Orlando is even close to 2 cents so this post is a bargain. I may sound a bit crochety in this post but please don’t mistake it for dislike of theme parks or regret that we visited. I am frugal. A tight wad. Maybe even cheap. So I am a foreigner in this land of the hemorrhaging wallet and will share some of my thoughts from our visit. We had a blast in Orlando and the kids were overjoyed to do the parks so I’m happy we were able to share the experience as a family.
They get you even coming into the city on the toll roads…and I’m pulling 2 extra axles so my price is double. Welcome to Orlando! We were totally stoked to score a VERY reasonably priced campground in close proximity to Universal and Disney World…this would be our only bargain and we were grateful for it.
Disney World Magic Kingdom
Like a herd of cattle going to slaughter we all lined up in our vehicles to pay the $20 to park. We lined up to get on a tram which took us to our choice of lines: monorail, ferry or bus. We took the bus which takes you to the security line and after a successful security check you get to the line at the front gate. This is all good practice for all the standing in lines you’ll do the rest of the day. Now, we did score 2 Thunder Mountain rides and one Splash Mountain ride that had zero lines, but that was a start-of-the-day anomaly. Steph and Caden wrote some good posts about our day at Disney World that you should read for all the fun details.
We hit all the highlights of the park and saved some dough by bringing a picnic lunch. For dinner though we splurged and went to a restaurant that was marked with a single ‘$’ icon meaning it was less expensive than the others. However, we were still able to unload $50 for pretty basic food.
At Disneyland in California we had a very memorable viewing of Fantasia (ask me about it sometime) and so my hopes were set pretty high for the night show at Disney World. The crowd of people is insane and you have to stake out your territory early and defend it like a wild dog. Everyone is sitting and waiting. Everyone can see the Magic Castle. But for some reason, when the show starts someone stands up. So the people behind them have to stand up and so on and so on until we are all standing up. Now none of the kids can see so moms and dads start hoisting their little ones up on their shoulders. This makes it hard for even the adults to see. But the show was really great. They project video onto the castle. To make it look right they must predistort the video so that when it lands on the distorted shape of the castle it looks correct. The things they did in that show were pretty stinking cool. They wrapped it all up with a stellar fireworks display. After reversing all the steps we did to enter the park we got home late and exhausted but with smiles on our faces. See, that’s the magic of Disney: getting you to willingly hand over large quantities of cash to them with a smile on your face!
Universal Orlando Island of Adventure
On their way to a day of princess hunting at the Magic Kingdom (you can read about that here and here), Steph and Brielle dropped us boys off at Universal Orlando well before they opened. We went to buy our ticket and the lady asked how many days we wanted and we said “one please”. She rang it up and it was way more than I expected. She had rung up a 2 park pass. I explained that we just wanted a single park pass for Islands of Adventure. She said they don’t promote, advertise or recommend just a single park ticket. “Of course you don’t, but you do sell them and that is what I will be purchasing”. She said “Well, you will only be able to look at the Hogwarts Express. You will not be able to let your boys ride on it and they will miss 50% of Harry Potter world and the park.” Is this lady trying to guilt me into dropping an extra $150 right now? Clearly she does not know who she is dealing with. The boys and I were fully aware that there were two parks and that we would only be doing one. The boys researched them both and picked the one they wanted. After much mental preparation and prying loose of my own purse strings I came into this knowing what I was going to spend. The quickest way to lose a sale on me is to try to sell me something.
With that behind us we took our spot first in line at the entry gate. Caden and Dacen both describe the park in a lot of detail so I’ll just add a few comments. I know nothing about Harry Potter but Hosmeade was really well done and the boys were over the moon excited about it. The Forbidden Journey ride was spectacular and so was the Dragon Challenge. The latter is a roller coaster where you cannot have ANYTHING in your pockets because you spend a large portion of the ride upside down. It was an extremely thrilling ride. But when I got off the ride I could tell it fooled my inner ear. The boys went and did it again but I had to sit it out. Am I getting too old? Later I gave it another try (there are 2 different coasters) but same thing happened to me. This really bummed me out because I love roller coasters. We also did a couple of the rides where you get wet. What I did not realize is that you get SOAKED…like torrential downpour soaked. Had I realized this I would have (a) worn quick drying clothes and (b) brought a couple ziplock bags for phone, wallet and camera. They have human dryers you can use but at $5 a pop we let mother nature do the work. We had so much fun together…a very memorable day.
I believe the ticket price at the parks is probably fair given the complexity of running such a business. What surprises me though is that so many people are willing and able to pay this price for a visit. And that much of what they have paid for is the privilege to stand in a line and spend even more money. I count myself pretty lucky to have come out of the Orlando theme parks with just paying for tickets, parking and 1 meal each day. I watched people gnawing on $14 turkey legs, throwing back $5 drinks, carrying $20 stuffed animals, wielding $11 toy swords, standing in $5 human dryers, waving $40 Harry Potter wands and wearing $110 Harry Potter robes (LOTS of people were wearing these heavy black things in the heat of the Florida sun…they have gone completely nuts IMHO…but I wear shorts year round in Colorado so I guess I’m nuts too). I realized that where my biggest expense was the ticket, many people (perhaps even most people) spend more inside the park than they do to get in. I’m not saying its wrong to do that, just noting that it is different than the way I operate.
Like I said before, I’m sure glad we got to enjoy these parks as a family and I know it will be something we all remember for a very long time. We are blessed to have the means to be able to treat ourselves to such an outting and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.