I might be repeating some things, but sometimes the information bears repeating.
Stay on property. -- I know these hotels are very expensive, easily triple the amount you would pay at an off site hotel, but currently, you have a couple of advantages:
- Express Pass -- This is VERY advantageous during the busy times of the year, namely when school is out of session, forcing parents to take their kiddos on vacation during peak holiday season. If you go during peak season, these passes are so worth it. Many of the large rides will have wait times of 60-120 minutes, while the Express Pass will dramatically shorten the wait time as you will be prioritized before any of the standby patrons. The price of the Express Pass varies depending on the typical attendance need.
- Very busy holiday season = very costly Express Pass. During peak season, it could cost upwards of $120 per person for a 2-park unlimited Express Pass, multiply that by the members of your party. . . let's say 3 = $360 you would pay ON TOP OF YOUR PARK ADMISSION. Whereas, if you stay at one of the three big onsite properties, paying around $400-500/room, but you have FREE Express Passes, then it's a better overall deal than staying off site at a cheaper hotel where you have to pay for the Express Pass plus parking!
- Now, the Express Pass won't get you into every show or on every ride, but it does work for the majority of the attractions, with the exception of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Ollivander's Wand Shop Show. BUT this brings me to my next advantage,
- Early Entry -- Yep, if you stay in the on site hotels you are given early entry into both theme parks. The parks vary as to the days they open early. During peak season, both parks opened early on the weekend, but one or the other on the weekdays. Plan accordingly.
- The reason you want the early entry is to get into line for Harry Potter or Ollivander's. . . or in the case of a new ride, for example: TRANSFORMERS. True, you are fighting everyone else for a place in line, but no matter how many people there are, you still beat the hideous crowds during the middle of the day waiting in a two hour line.
- Marking off the Harry Potter section of the map before the rush at 10 AM is wonderful for those of us who hate crowds. You can also make a reservation for breakfast at the Three Broomsticks, but I would advise you to ride the ride first, simply because eating first will put you right back into the crowded lines.
- Transportation to the parks --There are boats that take you back and forth to City Walk, which is on the opposite side of the lagoon from the theme parks. Again you have to hoof it about 5 minutes to even get to the park gate. The Hard Rock Hotel is the closest hotel to the parks, so if you want to walk, stay there. Though we did walk from the Portofino Bay hotel, and it wasn't that bad of a walk-- 15 minutes winding through some gorgeous gardens -- BUT you need to take into account that you will be walking and standing much of the day. If you aren't in very good health or shape, then you might want to take the boat. They also have rickshaw bikes. The peddlers work for tips, so be generous, especially if you pack the rickshaw full of people.
- Soft Openings -- Many times if you get to the gate 15 minutes prior to the park opening, you will be let in. BUT that is simply to allow you to walk to the attraction you want to ride. The rides will not start until the true park opening.
This is the warning sign for the Harry Potter ride
- Virtually every single ride will post some sort of health warnings. If you are . . . blah, blah, blah, . . . do not ride this ride. This sort of statement is used to 'legally' cover themselves. Since I'm not a lawyer, I do not know if these warnings really work. Probably, if you, with various health issues, knowingly go on a ride that states it can cause X, and you ride it, resulting in X issues, then you are a moron. Whether or not you can collect money from your injuries is unknown.
- I could probably be considered a moron because I knowingly rode many, many rides that stated do not ride this ride if you have neck or back issues.
- BUT in my defense, I had previously ridden all the rides--other than TRANSFORMERS--many, many times in the past 10 years.
- I knew what to expect from each ride.
- Respect the signs. If you are unsure, then ask a trusted loved one to ride the ride and report back to you, or ask a cast member. Sometimes they can help you decide simply by stating if it is or isn't like another ride you've already ridden. For example: Spiderman is very similar to Transformers, which is similar to The Simpsons in terms of ride car and movement.
- Some of the rides have an intense G-force, while other rides will jerk the car you are riding around. Some rides have lap bars--causing issues with pregnant or obese people, while other rides have shoulder bars, which prevents obese or those who are too short to ride.
- Since I had neck issues, I made sure that I made a point to keep my head against the back of the ride for support, literally pushing myself back into the seat. It kept my head from bobbling around.
- Believe it or not, the rollercoasters were the least of my worries. Rollercoasters have high backs for support, and they push you back into the seats.
- The worst ride for me at UF, with my neck issue, was The Cat in the Hat. You got it. A kiddie ride hurt my neck more than any other ride.