Disney World vacation is a dream come true.  Families flock to this famous theme park to delight in meeting characters like Mickey Mouse and exploring iconic places likes Cinderella’s Castle.  If you’re looking to make this dream a reality we can help with some money-saving tips.  Follow our suggestions and you can visit Disney World Orlando without breaking your budget.

Disney World Orlando Statue IMG_1609_RSZ

1) Purchase a Park-Hopper Pass

If you know you’ll be spending the week at Disney, a Park Hopper Pass is your best option.  Currently, you can purchase a discount 4-day park hopper pass and receive two bonus days free!  That means you not only save on your ticket purchase but extend your time at Disney World to six full days.  The two days free promotion also applies to 5, 6, 7, and 8-day tickets. 

2) Stay-off Site

Sure, Disney World Resorts are a wonderful place to stay due to the extra amenities and park services they offer guests.  If they don’t quite fit into your budget, though, you can stay at Orlando resorts. Many are located just a few miles from Disney’s entrance for a half or even third of the price.  Some of our favorite Orlando lodging options located near Disney include WorldQuest Resort, Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort Hotel, and Star Island Resort.    Looking for a value-based property?  We recommend Hampton Inn Lake Buena Vista and Comfort Inn Maingate. A Disney World vacation will be still me incredible when you stay off-site, and you’ll save a bundle. 

3) Use FREE Disney Fastpasses

Disney Fastpasses are invaluable timesavers that are available at many of the theme park’s most popular rides.  And, let’s face it, the longer you wait in line for anything, the more money you are wasting.  So, make use of Disney’s Fastpasses. The easiest way to do so is by using a MagicBand. Disney Resort guest receive one free with their stay, while off-site guests can purchase one for $12.95. Plan the FastPasses you’d like to do before you go, and you’ll be sure to skip the lines while riding the best and newest rides. And don’t worry. If you don’t want to purchase a MagicBand, FastPasses are still available at kiosks outside of ride entrances. 

4) Pack a Snack

Theme park drinks and food can add up quickly when you are on a family vacation. Luckily, Disney World allows coolers smaller than 24″L x 15″W x 18″H. So, you can bring some snacks and pack a few water bottles that will help you stay hydrated. Also take advantage of the FREE hydration stations available at any location serving fountain drinks. You can get filtered water from any of these stations.

5) Save the Souvenirs for Later

Disney World souvenirs are available everywhere throughout Orlando and Kissimmee.  While at the park all of the shirts, stuffed animals, coffee mugs and mouse ears call out to you, saying “Buy me!”  The call becomes even louder if you’re traveling with kids.  If you can, hold out on your purchases until you can browse stores located off-site.  You’ll likely find many of the same souvenirs as you will in the park, but at a much cheaper price.  But, if you must walk away with a Disney souvenir from the park we say go for the Mouse Ears.  You can purchase a pair for around $14.

6) Eat Smarter

There are a lot of dining options available at the Disney theme parks.  Plan ahead by browsing our Disney dining guides, which will help with price points and menu listings.  Then, when you’re at the park order a la carte.  Most of the time everyone in your party doesn’t need the combo meal.  Split the fries and coke.  You’ll be impressed with how much you can save over several days at Disney by choosing your food purchase wisely.

Don’t miss the Disney World vacation experience because you think it may be out of your budget.  Plan ahead, book early and follow our tips and you can find ways to maximize your vacation value.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

On any given day, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is filled with muggles and wizards. No matter which group you align with, one thing is certain: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando will enchant you. Comprised of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, both sections of the Harry Potter-themed world put you inside the magic of this one-of-a-kind book and movie series. As a result, this has became one of the most visited areas of Universal Orlando Resort.

The Top 10 Must-Sees at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando:


Wizarding World of Harry Potter

1) Hogwarts

The trademark castle of the Harry Potter books and movies houses the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride and an elaborate queue with details like the Mirror of Erised, Dumbledore’s office, living portraits, mandrakes, levitating candles and more.  It’s the iconic centerpiece of Wizarding World, and the most photographed spot.  Be sure to get your photo in front of the castle, then prepare to “ooh” and “aww” at the outstanding ride inside.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

2) King’s Cross Station

For all you muggles who’ve always wanted to board the famous train centric to the Harry Potter stories, now’s your chance. Find the 9 3/4 platform, then travel on the iconic steam engine through the urban outskirts of London to the charming village of Hogsmeade, replicating one of the memorable elements of Harry Potter’s school life. Hogwarts Express connects Diagon Alley together with Hogsmeade, which means you can easily travel between both sections of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

3) Hogwarts Express

All aboard the Hogwarts Express! Billowing steam and an iconic whistle signal the arrival of the Hogwarts Express into Hogsmeade station, which travels back and forth from the Hogsmeade section of the park to Diagon Alley. Be sure to book a park-to-park ticket to enjoy all The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has to offer.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

4) Butterbeer Cart

Guests can taste the concoction made famous in the series. The recipe was created specifically for Universal Orlando and approved by author J.K. Rowling.  It’s a refreshing concoction that reminds me a bit of cream soda, but with an extra frothy foam.  Try it straight up or frozen.  I prefer straight up, but on hot days it’s hard to beat a frozen brew.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

5) Three Broomsticks

This restaurant serves British fare and features the multi-Muggle feast.  The rustic tavern is adorned with imaginative, striking elements creating a restaurant unlike any other. It’s perhaps the second best place – other than Hogwarts Castle – to immerse yourself in Harry Potter’s world. The Hogsmeade restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Come early to sample a true English breakfast or dine in the evening for a traditional fish and chips.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

6) Ollivanders

This wand shop, which features a which combines entertainment with retail, is the most popular shop at Hogsmeade. Magical effects aid a wand keeper in matching you with a mystical wand.  Pretend you’re a young wizard.  Then, marvel as magical effects aid a wand keeper in matching you with a mystical wand.  It’s the perfect souvenir for a loyal Harry Potter fan.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

7) Gringott’s Bank

In the shadow of the a massive fire-breathing dragon sits Gringotts Bank, the only bank of the wizarding world. Home to the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride, this grand building is made of white marble and is owner and operated by goblins. Walk through the same secret passageways as Potter as you explore the depths of Gringott’s Bank.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

8) Leaky Cauldron

For drinks and British dining, step inside this famous Diagon Alley pub–no magic password needed. Traditional food options include cottage pie, fish and chips, and bangers and mash. Wash it all down with a frothy Butterbeer as you admire the bewitching artwork on the walls.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

9) Wizarding Window Shopping

There are plenty of things to see at the Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley stores within The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Honeydukes Candy Store and Zonko’s, a joke shop, are not to be missed.  Both bring the stores from the books to life with intricate details found outside and in. Similarly, Diagon Alley stores Madam Malkin’s Rober For All Occasions and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes cast a spell on crowds.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

10) Dragon Challenge

Summon your courage as you accept the Dragon Challenge. Mount one of two dragons–an aggressive Chinese Fireball or a ferocious Hungarian Horntail. Each dragon twists and loops in an intertwining roller coaster chase across the sky. Each dragon offers a different experience, so brave both if you can!

Bonus: Owlery

This covered pavilion is a nice place to relax in the shade, sip a cool drink and marvel at the owls in the rafters. Take a break from the Orlando sun at the Owlery.  Then, visit the Owl Post, where you can mail letters from a Hogsmeade address.  How cool is that?  (I may or may not have sent one to myself!)

Double Bonus: Hippogriff

What Harry Potter fan hasn’t wanted to see a Hippogriff in real life?  The creature that is part horse, part eagle is located behind the Flight of the Hippogriff Coaster. When humans approach Hippogriffs, a proper etiquette must be maintained to avoid danger. Walk by Hagrid’s Hut, follow his instructions, then approach the Hippogriff. Snap a photo with the legendary creature before riding the family-friendly Flight of the Hippogriff coaster.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Universal Orlando Resort already has a resident wizard. Starting today, Universal Orlando Resort also has a king, the beastly King Kong.  Skull Island: Reign of Kong is now officially open after weeks of test rides, speculation and anticipation. Today Show host Al Roker was on hand to announce the grand opening, and give guests the inside scoop on the all-new attraction.

Skull Island Reign of Kong

You can find Skull Island: Reign of Kong at the Islands of Adventure section of Universal Orlando Resort, between Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park. The ride lasts 6-minutes, which is seriously long in theme park time. A massive 72-passenger ride vehicle also allows for faster queues and less waiting— a total bonus as waiting in the hot Orlando sun is never any fun.

Learn more about the story behind Skull Island:

The 3D ride journeys deep into a mysterious island, inhabited by prehistoric creatures and natives. Riders travel through temple ruins and island jungles as they fight for survival. The attack on riders, who are part of the 8th Wonder Expedition Company, leaves them in peril. Then, an even more enormous, earth-pounding presence arrives. King Kong – in the flesh. Will he be your salvation? Or will he destroy you? During the experience, riders come “face to face” with King Kong. Feel his breath sweep across your voice and your body tremble at his thunderous roar. As the gargantuan beasts fight for dominance, you will just fight to survive. Can you escape Skull Island? Only if King Kong lets you.

See what the encounter is really like with this behind-the-scenes video:

Skull Island: Reign of Kong is the largest addition to the Universal Orlando Resort since the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Universal Orlando Resort will continue to amaze guests as even more incredible attractions are planned over the next several years. “Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon” is scheduled to open in 2017, while “Fast & Furious – Supercharged” races into Universal Studios in 2017. That’s not all, though, as in 2017 you can live the carefree island life at Universal’s Volcano Bay. The all-new water theme park promises no standing in long lines, no wrestling with tubes and no waiting for the fun to begin. It’s set to be a tropical paradise just minutes away from thrills of Universal Orlando Resort.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Orlando to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.