Help! Which parks to go to on a tight budget!


Earning My Ears
Apr 4, 2001
We are going to WDW in June, and we are driving from NC. Check in time is at 4:00 (staying at HI Nikki Bird anyone stayed there?) So that first day is pretty much gone. We have a 4 yr old and a 12 yr old and would like to see as much as we can in 4 days. Plan on doing MK and AK, kids would like to go to Universal too. (both parks) My question is: what parks are a must... and what can we leave out. Thought about getting a 4 day hopper pass and trying to squeeze in as much as possible, but wondering if the extra cost is worth it and if there are any of the parks you could do in less than one day. Also, with the deal on the one park tickets (where you can get the $5 - $10) discount when you purchase another day, that would be a huge savings if we did something like that(anyone know if this is just for the same park or can you go to a different one.) We want this to be a trip for the kids, this is our first trip to WDW and want to make it enjoyable! Also anyone see Arabian Nights? Is it worth going to? Saw a similar one at Myrtle beach (Dixie Stampede) loved it! Any help and suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
A few thoughts for you....

Disney alone has 4 parks, plus 3 water parks. Universal has 2. You cannot possibly see all of this in 4 days.

The 4 day hopper pass you mentioned is strictly for Disney. This would allow you entrance to the 4 main parks (MK, AK, Epcot & MGM) and you could hop between parks so you could visit more than one park in the same day. This would not get you entrance to Universal. These passes run about $204 for an adult, a little less for your 4 year old. You could easily do all 4 days at Disney and still not see everything. And that doesn't even mention Universal.

The bounce back passes are available for 2 or 3 days. Basically, it is like purchasing 1 day, 1 park passes, but you buy 2 or 3 days worth up front and get a slight discount on each additional day you buy. A 1 day pass is $51 for an adult. A 2 day bounce back is $96 (so you save $5), and a 3 day is $136 (so you save $15). These are 1 day/1 park tickets. You cannot hop from park to park in the same day.

We do strictly Disney so I can't help you on the Universal ticket pricing. Someone else can jump in on that.

Hi! I would say that if you only want to spend 2 days at Disney, I would still do the 4-day passes. We've been able to do both Animal Kingdom and MGM in 1/2 days. You could always do AK in the am and MK in the pm one day and MGM in the am and EPCOT in the pm the other day. As said above, Universal has separate 2-day passes.

If you have AAA, you can get discount passes to both Universal and WDW.

We also did Arabian Nights in 1997 last minute with a discount coupon. We enjoyed this show a lot. The food was okay. However, if you are on a tight budget and have seen a similar show at home, then I would skip it. I believe the cost was $40/pp in 1997 so I'm sure it's gone up since then.

I would also check out for budget planning!

Let me know if you need anymore help!


9/86 - Polynesian
11/97 - Hyatt Orlando
3/99 - Dixie Landings
11/00 - All Star Movies
Okay, let's see if I can help you. You have 4 days and you want to see Universal and some of Disney-never happen. You can do the parks, but you will miss major chunks of them. If that's okay with you, not a problem then. Magic Kingdom is a at least one day, 2 is much better. AK is one day, but if your kids are big animal lovers, maybe more. I might rethink Universal with a 4 year old, there are a lot of height requirements. Islands of Adventures, in particular, has very little for small kids. The 12 yr old would probably love it, if he is into thrill rides. If the family does not do thrill rides overall, I would rethink the universal plan. Keeping the cost is not easy, the bounce back passes may work for you, but is does eliminate parkhopping. We stayed at Nikki Bird last year, nothing fancy, but passable. There is a small fridge and microwave in the room-we had a standard room, not a kidsuite. Very close to Disney, first exit off of 192 was for Disney. Good luck with your plans
Thanks for the info! I know we wont get to see it all but, just wondered if like Epcot and MGM were worth it. Ordered videos from both Universal and Disney and the kids seem like they would enjoy Universal, so thought maybe we could skip MGM. Through a kids eyes is Epcot worth it? I mean compared to the other parks. My kids ages are far apart in age so it will really be hard to please everyone. Older one hasnt really been to a park before so she says she wants to go on all the scary rides but.....? The younger one is pretty good with character stuff, doesnt get scared easily. I thought the 4 day pass might be better too, just in case we had time to go to more than one park a day. We dont plan on any water parks this year. Thanks again!

MGM is worth it if you like shows and want to do the Tower of Terror, and of course Fantasmic. Some of the shows at MGM are the Hunchback of Notre Dame (not to be missed) Bear in the Big Blue House (only early in the day), Beauty and the Beast, Doug Live (good take on cartoon show with live actors), Muppet Show, Movie Tours, Indiana Jones, Backlot Tour, and I am sure I am forgetting some!!! Most shows last at least 15 to 30 minutes.

Epcot is good to see lots of sidewalk strolling shows, the rides are: Woders of Life - Body Wars, Honey I shrunk the audience, Ride Living with the Land, Living Seas, Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, Cranium Command, and of course Test Track. Then you have the experience of all the different countries in the World Showcase, Tapestry of Nations parade, and Illuminations. This is one of my families favorite parks It is a little more laid back. But if you have done your homework and know where things are then it is really great.

I have never been to Universal. We are going for 9 days in June and except for Sea World the rest of the time will be at Disney. And I am sure we will not see it all this time either. Have a great time!

Animal Kingdom is definitely no more than one day, even if it is crowded.
As for what kids would like, I would rank the parks as follows:
1) Magic Kingdom
2) Universal Studios
3) Islands of Adventure (if they can handle thrill rides)
4) MGM
5) Animal Kingdom
6) Epcot

Of course this is just my subjective opinion.
For us, the Disney parks can not be replaced by any other experience. I can't help with the ticket thing, and it looks like you already have lots of information provided. However, we have done Universal twice and IOA once. I can actually say that I don't recommend it for the younger one. The older one, if she is experienced in thrill rides, then maybe...but what would the little one do?

We were just talking about this the other day...Disney is a family park, a park that the family can literally do together. There are few rides that the entire family will not be able to experience together. There are a few thrill rides, but most of them are simply amazing. You are literally transported to another time and place. You don't find that anywhere else.

Our time alotments are different than yours would be because we usually spend at least a week, sometimes 2, and spend almost all of it at Disney. But, if we were going for 4 days here's our breakdown:

AK - 1 morning, 1 evening
MK - 1 morning, 1 evening, possibly one other visit
Epcot - 1 evening, possibly 1 morning
MGM, 2 mornings, 1 evening

MGM is my kids favorite park. It is always the park they choose to return to if we get a bonus day that we hadn't planned on.

Hi! We just returned a couple of weeks ago. We did MK, AK, Epcot, & MGM. We had scheduled IOA, but decided to forget it and just have a day of rest (beach, minigolf, etc.). We have 1 child, 4.

Here is my recommendation: Buy 4-day WDW park hoppers and forget Universal. Yes, I'm sure it is great. If your older child has not done thrill rides before, she really will not be disappointed at all in the ones she can do at Disney. MGM: Tower of Terror, RockNRoller Coaster; MK: Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain; Epcot: Test Track. There are also other somewhat thrills: Splash Mtn., Alien Encounter, Star Wars (?), and Dinosaur. Personally, I would not buy a 1-day ticket to Animal Kingdom. While we didn't do everything there, we did all we wanted in 3 hours. We could have done everything we wanted in 2-3 more hours. So, if you had park hoppers, you could spend the morning and afternoon there, and spend the entire evening elsewhere. Just my opinion....


Disneyland 1982
Aug. 1983, May 1985, May 1987, Oct. 1996
Polynesian July 1999
March 2001--Buena Vista Suites
When we visit WDW, we usually get 5 day park hoppers and spend our days this way: MK in the morning and finish up the day at EPCOT. The next day we do MGM in the morning and finish up the day at EPCOT. We've never been to AK and don't really want to go. We usually have days left over which is great for our next trip.

Then on to the Universal parks. We usually buy 3-day tickets and have a day left over for our next trip. A trip to Orlando would not be the same without both parks. We spend a day at US and a day at IOA. There is really enough for us to do there, especially for our kids, ages 2 and 4, that we spend a whole day.

Conceivably you could fit all of the parks you want to visit in four action packed days, but it will be a hectic schedule. (Day 1, MK morning and EPCOT evening, Day 2, AK morning and MGM evening, Day 3, US, Day 4 IOA) That's what we usually do -- try to fit in as much as we possibly can -- but we've been there several times before.
I am not sure about this year, but last year Universal Studios offered early entrance on their 2 or 3 day passes. You were able to enter the park at least 2 hours early. Was able to ride all the major rides and get out before the crowds hit. For me, universal studios offers a lot of unique rides that WDW doesn't offer.
I agree with the post that says to blow off Universal. Four days is not nearly enough to see everything at WDW. If you have never been to WDW there will be a million attractive possibilities. You don't say when you're going, but I assume it's a school holiday. That means enough crowds that there will be some time spent just getting into attractions. We've done Universal once and I didn't feel they had a handle on crowd and traffic control the way Disney does.

I've taken my son several times beginning when he was seven , all the way through age 17. There has been something for him there at every age. By the way, his favorite has been Epcot - we can spend several days there.

I would say the 4-day Hopper is the way to go.
This is the wrong board for this advice but if the kids HAVE THEIR HEARTS SET ON UNIVERSAL you may want to blow of Disney this trip. Four days isn't enough for both but a 2-3 days is enough for Universal. You could also do a water park or Sea World.
WOW!! Thanks for all the great information! I knew this was the site to get all the great tips! This is exactly the info I needed to help plan our trip! I went to WDW back in '77 when I was a kid. Only the one park back then...easier to plan a trip then! Have I decided what to do yet.....NOOOOOOOO!! But with all the tips and pointers it will make it alot easier! Thanks again.:)
I very much agree that if the kids definitely want to do Universal instead of a particular Disney park, then they will probably have more fun and enjoy themselves a great deal.

I have been to Universal before and they have many rides, shows, and attractions that children find appealing such as Nickelodeon studios or the Hanna-Barberra ride among many other things. I think they will have a blast there.

I think that Sea World would be great too if your children are interested in sea life; the Shamu, dolphin, and sea lion shows are a hit. Also, since Sea world is a relatively small park in size compared to the others, you should be able to pretty much see most things in one day with no problem.

I hope you enjoy your vacation.


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