“A year already” I thought as an acquaintance mentioned something in a Facebook group about the start of Universal’s Mardi Gras. We have almost hit the first anniversary of our big move to Orlando, which means the big decision of which annual passes to renew and which to toss aside is coming up in just a month or two. After a year of spending almost every weekend at the parks, here are my thoughts…
I’m definitely on team WDW when I have my mom jeans on! The crowds can get overwhelming so I never dare tackle Disney alone (I mean ratio of kids to adult is 3:1) but when the weekend hits and Mr. R is itching for an adventure there is no place more accommodating for our family as a whole as Walt Disney World.
There is an entire range of membership options as well as access to up to 4 theme parks plus to water parks depending on the size package you choose. So you can choose to just go to Epcot after 4 or have full on access to all the parks at any time with no black out dates, you have the power of choice when it comes to your budget. (Must have legit and double the valid proof of Florida Residence).
Of all of our passes we have definitely had far more occasion to use our Disney World Passes.
$13.49- $58.75 per person per month
Unlimited Access to Photo Pass
Free General Parking (50% off Upgraded Parking)
Food Discount (not applicable everywhere)
Family Friendly Rating:
Disney does prioritize the experience for ALL ages. Meaning that old and young alike can enjoy the majority of theme park rides through out the entire park. There are about 28 rides with no height requirement, that’s about 62% of Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot combined. Magic Kingdom is the most accommodating of all the parks. (I’m not even acknowledging Hollywood Studios as a park of its own until next fall.)
Mr. R is all about Universal, and though I find Disney more accommodating to families when it comes to seasonal events and date nights I am 100% on board with Universal! The ride experiences are more unique, and the scenery is incredibly immersive, pulling you into your favorite books or movies.
I was wowed by the Halloween and Christmastime decor and events, though the layout of Islands of Adventure definitely makes the viewing of the Harry Potter Show, or even navigating Hogsmeade at any given time of any day a complete and total gridlock of bodies.
$12.59-$23.72 per person per month
15% Discount on most anything
Express Rides after 4pm (one per attraction)
Family Friendly Rating:
Unless your children are over 34″ there is absolutely no rides for them. Furthermore there is only one ride in both parks that is 34″ making 40″ the next benchmark to shoot for. There are things other than rides for younger children such as a great Dr. Seuss story time in the morning and incredibly large and immersive play areas.
To be totally honest we have visited Sea World only once in the entire year of having an annual pass. Perhaps it was that we were out of our comfort zone, but we just had a difficult time navigating the park and finding rides all the children could enjoy together.
It was fun to see the sea life and a great way to end our Marine Life Homeschool Study Unit but at the end of the day the complicated ticketing system and extremely crowded and foreign layout proved less appealing when we had so many other amusement parks to choose from each weekend.
$14.58-$28.00 per person per month
Discounts on dining and retail
50% off day passes for guests
Family Friendly Rating:
Three out of twelve of the free rides in Sea World will allow younger toddlers. Though, to be honest, isn’t Sea World all about the experiences? From Dolphins to Orcas the little ones are entertained by more than rides at Sea World!
One of my favorite things about Legoland is also my least favorite part about Legoland. Ultimately Legoland is a park within a park within a park. Where there was once the original Cypress Botanical Gardens there was built a Six Flags which was then bought out by Merlin to transform into a LegoLand. This strange mix will most likely blend your “ooohs and awwws” with a few “what the #@&$’s”. Though Merlin seems to be slowly creating an immersive Lego experience, Six Flags is still very prevalent in rides and design. The Lego structures that are there have seemed to fade due to water and sun; though I can’t deny that I absolutely loved exploring the original botanical gardens more so than I did the entire Legoland park.
Lines are long, deceptively so at times. Express passes are out of this world expensive. And the park itself is at least an hour drive from town. The new Ninjago world is super awesome. I’m hoping that it is a sneak peek of what is to come over time, because that’s the sort of immersive Lego experience I was looking for. With the annual pass you do receive access to the Sea Life Aquarium, the Orlando eye, and Madam Tussads Wax museum on I Drive, though every time I’ve gone their system is so outdated there are issues with their machines reading our Awesomer passes. Then once inside there is nothing unique to these locations that cannot be found now in Wax Museums and Sea Life Aquariums that are popping up in every mall USA.
$99-$199 per person, per year
10% Retail/Dining Discount
Free Parking (Only with the more expensive plan)
$25 guest tickets
There are several play spaces, and 12 out of 33 rides have no height requirements. Duplo Valley even has two rides, a splash pad, and an indoor play space for little ones while another parent can accompany the bigger kids to indulge in the larger rides throughout the rest of the park.
The Crayola Experience
The Crayola Experience was the cheapest pass, and in the end was perhaps our most used pass of the year. Located right in the Florida Mall it is convenient to most anywhere in town, and convenient for mom and dad to visit when out and about running errands.
Their are great crafts that the kids can take home, two play areas, and a some very informative as well as wacky shows that both kids and parents will enjoy. No outside food and drinks, but there is a cafe as well as a snack bar in house.
$29.95 per person per year (or 4 for $99.95)
20% off food and retail
10% off Birthday Parties
Access to All Crayola Locations
There is literally something for everyone, hands down the easiest and most inspiring family outing in Orlando. Because of it’s perfect size and super friendly/helpful staff, I can manage a trip with all three kids on my very own. 😉