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U.S Trip Advice

8 posts in this topic

Hi Fellow Theme Parkers!

The family & I have a Gold Coast trip coming up in August this year so looking forward to riding onthe DC Rivals for the first time however I am looking at taking the family over to the U.S sometime next year and just wondering what everyone's thoughts are around where to go and how to structure/plan the visit. Do we go to Disneyland, DisneyWorld, Universal Hollywood as well as Orlando?

At the moment it will be me, wife & daughter who will be 6. Potential to have my parents and in-laws come as well - once they find out we are going i'm sure they will want to tag along haha. Looking at going over for a good 3-4 week period and was thinking sometime in September. Is that a relatively good time to go from a peak/off-peak perspective and weather? I love pretty much any thrill ride so i'm up for anything. Obviously my daughter is not so much haha.

Just thought I would see what others have done/thinking of doing as i really am lost when it comes to where to go, best places to stay, how long it takes to get places, etc. So far, i believe it is roughly a 4 hour flight from west coast to east coast if we were going to do that? I am not even sure on cost either but if anyone has an idea on that too for accom, theme parks, flights from Sydney etc then that would also be helpful.

Thanks in advance all!

Edited by ShaneW

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First thing I would do would be to pick up a copy of The Unauthorised Guides to Disneyland and DisneyWorld(they also cover Universal and some other major parks). They’re also connected to Touring Plans, which have their own website for planning your park days and a YouTube channel.

Airline wise, a lot of them used to be hub and spoke, so you had to stop off at random places like Detroit and Philadelphia along the way. They’re usually cheap and cheerful, but don’t expect any extras. I suppose you should try and get a domestic airline that codeshares with your international flights.

I have stayed on property at DW, but a lot of people use shuttle transfers or stay in Anaheim when visiting DL.

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I can't speak for California (there's loads of parks there I'd love to do), nut for Florida September can be hit and miss with crowds. We found some days that were quiet with stuff like Hulk a walk-on and others crowded. A lot of schools seem to do trips to the parks at this time. I can only really speak for Universal parks in this though, although the few times I've been to Disney parks at this time they've been crowded - guess Disney doesn't do quiet (why hello 45 minute wait time for Everest).

Also, ensure that you do Busch Gardens too at the very least - you would be doing yourself a disservice otherwise. There's also SeaWorld and Aquatica, if you're bothered. SeaWorld has some good coasters and exhibits, and lots of fun animal rights issues.

Rent a car and villa. You'll thank me later. I've always found that villas aren't much more expensive than hotels, and hotels are basically a room with a bed and a bathroom. Also, the shuttles they provide to get to and from the parks can suck. We only got 4 hours at Animal Kingdom because they deemed being dropped off at Disney's transportation hub a successful AK drop-off, so we had to make our own way from there via Disney transport, and get back in time for the return shuttle. Public transport also sucks. Plus, you can go further afield (hint hint Busch Gardens, and do Clearwater Beach too, or Siesta Key - that place was nice).

Barring the odd hurricane (which we've had on one trip) you shouldn't go far wrong with the weather, though they can have wet spells. Again though, all this is for Florida only - it's been about 25 years since I did California.

Souvenir hunting, or just after a nice bit of shopping or somewhere to relax in the evening? We liked Disney Springs. Huge Disney shop, plus loads of shops and bars and restaurants and a cinema. I think that, if you can buy it in the parks, you're also supposed to be able to buy it there. Common sense applies - do shopping towards the end of your holiday so you know how much cash you have and what you want to get.

Both Florida and California will do you easily for 3 weeks. There will be parks you won't be able to cover in a single day, and you'll probably want to go back to some. If you're in California there's a few other parks you may want to check out (Knotts Berry Farm, Six Flags).

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Hi Shane, 

ive not been to LA so can’t really comment too much other than everyone I know who’s been has stayed in Anaheim.  I’ve done Orlando 5 times, the last time from Perth on Virgin/Delta during Sept/Oct school holidays. Virgin were great but Delta was a flying bus.  I’m told nearly all of the US domestic carriers are the same.

As for Orlando, last time we stayed off site but literally on the southern entrance of WDW.  5 mins to Epcot, DHS & AK.  10 mins to MK.  The main benefit of this was we could have a mid afternoon rest/swim and go back later.  This was a massive plus for the MK as it’s impossible to navigate from 1-5pm.  I’m not sure what you’re budget or hotel expectations are, but we paid $83 a night and had free breakfast, free wifi and a free shuttle bus to WDW.  The savings compared to staying at WDW meant we had a ton more spending money. (The wife and kids went nuts in the outlet malls). 

Now from the POV of a six year old girl, most parks are quite suitable.  I’d probably skip Islands of Adventure and Kennedy Space Centre.  Also, if you’re looking to possibly save on park tickets, just to Disney and maybe SeaWorld.  There’s nothing wrong with Universal but it’s probably a bit more suited to an older visitor.  EPCOT is another park suited to older visitors but kids can ride everything.

As for avoiding the queues, try to hit every park 20 minutes before opening.  The crowds don’t arrive for about an hour after opening so you can get a good three or four of the big attractions quite line free.  When it gets busy, consider two plans.  Firstly consider what 3 fast passes you’re going to book and when.  At the MK, we booked our fast passes for early afternoon as everything had a massive line on it.  Secondly, when early afternoon comes, consider going back to the hotel for a rest/swim and return around 5pm when the prams and wheelchairs start to leave.  Alternatively, leave the big attractions alone and go for the theatre shows.  At MK, things like the hall of presidents, Philharmagic and the Main Street cinema.  The 25 minute rests will re charge you.  

As for water parks, I’ve not done Volcano Bay but thinking about your daughter, I’d probably lean towards Blizzard Beach.  Aquatica and Typhoon Lagoon are both great but B.B. seems to have more going on for those under 5 ft.  Again, if you’re on a budget, you may be able to buy a WDW combined parks and water park ticket and do B.B. & TL.  We bought a 12 day combo ticket and used the water parks as rest days camping out by the wave pools.   

If you decide to stay onsite, consider carefully if you really want the WDW dining plan.  It’s now $US 69 pp per day and many people on the WDW forum are questioning if it’s no longer value for money.  

Anyway, I could go on forever.  If you want to know any more, leave a comment and I’ll try to answer if I can.

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In terms of return flights to and from the US they can be as cheap as $800 and as much as $2000.

In terms of flights from LA to Orlando, around $200-$300 return from memory....Have a look on Google Flights to compare (Though Southwest Airlines doesn't seem to show up)

You can get direct LA to Orlando flights, or have a short 1hr connection somewhere like Dallas, which isn't too much of an odd routing.

In terms of parks, LA has 5 majors, and it depends on what your interests are.

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are both must dos. A 3 day park hopper should allow you to see everything you want to.

Just up the road is Knotts Berry Farm, with a good mix of thrill and family rides and a couple of nice dark rides. A day is enough.

Universal Studios is definitely a must do ..The studio tour of Course, but the Harry Potter and Transformers rides are worth the price alone.A day is enough, and you can fork out for a VIP pass to skip the lines, but I think it's unnecessary.


Finally, Six Flags Magic Mountain is around 100km north of Disneyland, and has the biggest collection of roller coasters in the world, with just about every type represented.....flying, flipping, floorless, stand up, launched, racing, wooden....If you like rides like DC Rivals and Superman Escape, youll get something out of Magic Mountain (But the 6 yo might not)

One day is enough, but pay extra and get a Gold or better flash pass, which lets you jump the lines, and is probably worth it for this park.


Going in September is past the peak, but all Parks in  LA and Orlando will be open daily.

Theme parks In other parts of the country they might only be open weekends.

Edited by Gazza
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On 4/2/2018 at 11:47 PM, Gazza said:

Universal Studios is definitely a must do ..The studio tour of Course, but the Harry Potter and Transformers rides are worth the price alone.A day is enough, and you can fork out for a VIP pass to skip the lines, but I think it's unnecessary.

I was there yesterday, most queues were 60 minutes and Harry Potter was 2 and a half hours.

I did the VIP tour and had unlimited front of line, well worth the money. 

The additional tour benefits and our tour guide were amazing and so was the included VIP buffet lunch.

The motion rides made me sick. I prefer the Singapore versions of Mummy and Jurassic Park.

The park for me was mainly all about the studio tour and VIP is definitely the way to go IMO

We are staying in Downtown LA - caught the red line metro train there - was about an hour door to door. Short walk to a Universal Shuttle when you get to Universal City station or you can walk up the massive hill to the entrance if you like.

Uber home was about 20 minutes. The park was open to 10pm last night.

There are also shops, cinemas and restaurants and an iFly outside the park in Universal City which can soak up some time and $$

Edited by grrofunger
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thanks all for your suggestions so far. I am so torn between which parks to do and which ones are better. Being our first trip over to the U.S i am not sure if doing LA/Hollywood as well as New York & Florida is wise especially with a 6 year old so travelling isn't high on her wish list once we are over there i guess HAHA

What makes it harder is everything i read has pros and cons for both Disneyland and Disneyworld and also both the Universal Parks....

Edited by ShaneW

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I went to the US last year, and did the same trip.

TLDR version:

Onsite hotels are great, but offsite isn't too bad either.

Ask hotels about shuttle between theme-parks

Rent a car in orlando

plan your day as best you can (at the very least plan the 'must do' rides)


Stayed at a motel near Disney Anaheim, a short walk form the front gate. The accommodation wasn't 5 star, but they did have a pool (and a crap breakfast).

Then got a shuttle from the Motel to another hotel near universal (the shuttle went to universal, but the driver very nicely dropped us at the hotel, also walking distance to the hotel (although the hill was a killer and I don't recommend the walk).

As for Orlando, we staid at a hotel  about 10 minutes drive from Universal and a bit longer (really can't remember but not too bad) from Disney, and just just drove and parked.  We had no problems at all with parking etc.

As a previous poster suggested get the guides, and plan the big attractions, when we hit Disney Orlando, we went straight to Frozen at open, about a 40 minute wait, by the time we left the ride, it was up to 90 minutes and when we looped back later it was hovering at two hours.

This was in march ish... I have done some of them in September-October previously and found the crowds pretty similar.

It will be almost impossible to avoid a long queue/crowd, so be prepared to wait for the more popular rides/attractions

The VIP tour of Universal in LA is fantastic, and I loved it, but it is very pricey. The food (breakfast & lunch) is excellent though, and unlimited fast pass, free water, no need to pay for a locker (the guide will watch your bags, and your kids if they can't/wont go on the ride), the extra stops on the the backlot tour and the air-conditioned bus are all great reasons. I will also suggest, if they are waiting for a show to go in (we had a 20 minute wait before the doors opened) maybe look at using that time to go on another ride, or look at something nearby, we took the time to go on the Simpsons ride and still made it back for the show.


there are pros and cons to all the parks, but that is true with every park everywhere, if you only do LA you will want to do Orlando and vice versa (been there).  My ultimate suggestion, is pick what's important, eg: is anyone in your crew a huge Harry Potter fan? or Frozen? or huge fans of the Cars movies? or a lover of films?  and use this to inform your decision. The first time I went I really wanted to do the Jaws ride, so had to go to Orlando for Universal (and loved it).

If you go to Islands of Adventure, spend some $$ on the water canons near ripsaw falls, aim for the people that are un-prepared, you will laugh, people near you will laugh and join in, and the people on the rafts will laugh (they always did with us) when they get soaked by a water spray after they thought they were home and dry [insert evil laugh]


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