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Surviving Orlando theme parks
A big kid's guide to surviving Orlando's theme parks
“Well, this is an interesting choice for a bachelorette party.” Those were the words that I heard constantly throughout our weekend in Orlando. And yes, a bachelorette party in a land of preteens and parents might not be high on many brides’ lists of party destinations, but it was a trip that I had been wanting to take with my girlfriends for years. While Orlando is home to activities for all ages, we had our eyes set on the powerhouse twins: Disney World and Universal Studios.
The truth was inescapable. We were no longer the spry and agile bodies of our youth. All of us being in our mid-twenties, we knew that we had to fend for ourselves. This wasn’t a family vacation. We didn’t have our parents to pack us fruit snacks, pump us with water, and hoist us on their shoulders when our feet failed us. We were in charge of our own theme park destiny.
I can state with pride that we spent a total of 14 hours at both Disney World and Universal Studios respectively. The only casualties were a few blistered feet and fun-induced fatigue. While I think that we did a lot of things right, there are a few things I would do differently if given the chance. Below I’ve listed a few key elements to insure that you have the best day you can at the most magical place on earth.
The smartest thing we did on our trips to the parks was to bring our own water bottles. We would freeze them the night before so that they were nice and cool for the first few hours of the day. Bringing our own bottles kept us from spending the three dollars it would have cost us for a bottle in the park and we were able to refill them for free at the nearby water fountains.
The look of hydration and elation
Dehydration can make any trip turn sour and we made sure to drink at least a bottle of water every hour. It helps to refill your bottle before you get in line for a ride so that you’re not dying if you find yourself waiting for an eternity.
Viewfinder Tip: Most theme parks will give you a free cup of refillable ice water upon your request. Just ask for it when ordering your snack or meal.
The right footwear will either make or break your theme park experience. This is one of those times that function outweighs fashion. I made the mistake of thinking my pretty strapped sandals would do the job. I was wrong. While they looked adorable, by the end of the day my feet felt like they were in the seventh circle of hell.
Comfort should come first and foremost. If you plan on riding any of the roller coasters, make sure that your footwear will remain on your feet with straps or laces (make duct tape a last resort). Extreme water rides can leave you with soggy shoes and socks so it’s worth considering a comfortable pair of sandals. Just make sure that whatever footwear you bring is broken in so that you aren’t nursing blisters the day after.
As a woman, I’m used to lugging around a big purse filled with anything and everything I could possibly need. The only problem is that in most theme parks, anything that won’t fit in your pocket is prohibited from going on a ride with you, especially a roller coaster. We watched countless riders outlast the long wait for the ride only to get to the front and be told they had to go back and store their belongings in a locker. Talk about a buzzkill.
To avoid shelling out more money for a locker and being separated from our belongings, we each brought along a small wristlet wallet that had enough room for our cell phones, debit cards, and cash. These were easily stashable in our pockets and were great for walking around the park.
Decepticons scare even the big kids
If the wristlet is still too cumbersome for you, wear a pair of pants or shorts with buttoned or zippered pockets. That way you’ll be able to carry the essentials without worrying about losing them to the twists and turns of the coaster. I would also strongly recommend packing a small ziplock bag with you. That way if you ride any of the water rides you can simply stick your cell phone in the bag and not have to worry about it succumbing to a watery grave.
Whether you’re with kids or experiencing the magic of Orlando with your adult friends, don’t take yourself too seriously. Yes, my girlfriends and I were about twice the age of most of the parks’ guests (and probably twice as ecstatic), but we didn’t let that stop us from having a good time. We dressed up in our Harry Potter-themed outfits, wore them with pride, and found that people really enjoyed them. In some cases we were even able to skip the lines and I received many congratulations on my engagement from visitors and park workers alike. So strap on those Mickey ears, grab a churro, and enjoy the magic of Disney.
What is your favorite theme park?
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Chris and Tawny have had articles and videos published on USA TODAY TRAVEL, BBC Travel, Matador Network, as well as appeared as guest stars on TLC Asia's Fun Taiwan television series. When not on the road, you can find Chris and Tawny nestled in their home in Tacoma, Washington fueling up on coffee and cat cuddles while planning their future adventures. You can follow their travels on their blog, Instagram, and YouTube