If you’re planning a vacation to Orlando, Florida, you know it’s time for some fun at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando! These two titans have consistently set benchmarks in delivering chills, thrills, and more, and almost every child and adult has it on their bucket list.
If you have already started your internet deep dive to craft the perfect itinerary for Orlando (like we always do before each of our trips) the first thing that you will have noticed is the sheer enormity of these entertainment complexes! But don’t worry – all you need is a proper Orlando itinerary for Disney & Universal and a solid schedule to make the most of the attractions, rides, and sumptuous meals without skipping any of the crowd-pullers during your 5 days there.
What To Know
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Walt Disney World, commonly referred to as the happiest place on earth, is one of the largest amusement parks across the globe. It houses some exciting theme parks, namely Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and two other water parks. The only real competition that Disney World has in terms of popularity and impressive scale in Orlando is the Universal Orlando resort. Its three themed lands, Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay boast some great rides for the entire family.
You will notice that our Orlando 5-day itinerary recommends visiting Disney World first due to its size. But don’t worry, you’ll be able to experience the thrills of both parks in equal measure.
A major part of planning an Orlando vacation involves figuring out your options for stay and transportation. Both DisneyWorld and Universal Resort offer fabulous on-site accommodations with themed decor, recreation and pool areas, and all the amenities needed for a comfortable stay.
If you choose not to stay at the on-site hotels, you will have to figure out how you will get to and fro, especially since you want to cover two major parks in your 5-day itinerary for Orlando. Hotels usually offer free shuttles for guests so make sure you inquire at the reception and avail it for your commute. For more comfortable journeys, you can book cabs using Uber or Lyft, or even the popular Orlando brand, Mears Taxis.
Hop on to one of the I-RIDE trolleys that operate on I-Drive for an affordable ride to Universal Boulevard. Local buses are another option if you’re looking to save more for the parks. You will also find many car rental companies in the city but they come with the hassle of figuring out parking and managing the ride by yourself.
Once the transportation part of your Orlando itinerary is sorted, it’s time to decide how to keep your appetites satisfied during the trip. For breakfast, we recommend having a sumptuous meal at your hotel before you head out. This way you can start your exploration the minute the park opens. If an early meal is not for you and your little ones, consider packing and carrying breakfast with you. Yes, both parks allow you to carry your own food! For lunch and dinner, we have listed some popular restaurants to try out for each of the parks. Most of these places offer kid-friendly menus too, so that can be a relief if you have a fussy eater in the posse.
Lightning Lane and Express Pass
When hashing out the plan for your itinerary, don’t forget to check out the Park Hopper pass at Disney and Park-to-Park tickets at Universal – both allow you to visit more than one park in a day. Skip-the-line options are also offered at both parks; Genie+ and Lightning Lane Reservations at Disney World and Express Pass at Universal. While purchasing these additional tickets is optional, they sure do help cut down on long wait times and make it much easier for you to get the best of Orlando in 5 days!
Day 1 – Arrival in Orlando
After you arrive at the Theme Park capital of the world, head to your hotel, catch up on some sleep if you need to, or simply grab some lunch at the hotel and kick back by the poolside. We recommend you avoid planning a visit to any theme parks on the day you arrive. Chances of a delayed flight, bad weather, or even jet lag might mess up your Orlando trip plan, leaving most of the parks unexplored.
But don’t worry, there’s plenty to see in your vicinity on Day 1 of your trip. You can either head down to Disney Springs or you can visit CityWalk Orlando, by Universal. Both these spots are vibrant entertainment complexes, with food, music, and shopping options to get you in the vacation mood.
If you are hanging around Disney Springs till dinner time, you have over 50 delicious eateries to grab a hearty meal. Some options with raving reviews include The Daily Poutine, Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy, and T-Rex, a dino-themed restaurant that your kids will adore.
Dinner options at CityWalk are just as delicious and include a range of cuisines – from Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food to Vivo Italian Kitchen or even The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. Don’t forget to check out The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen with your kids for some sugar, spice, and everything nice!
Day 2 – Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom
After easing into your vacation mood, there’s not a moment to lose on Day 2. Start the day with a red carpet entry at Hollywood Studios where you and your family can experience the magic of your favorite movies. Speaking of magic, we recommend using Disney’s Park Hopper to visit Magic Kingdom right after 2pm and make the most of your Orlando trip itinerary without skipping any parks. This way, you can be at Cinderella’s Place at night-time to catch the Disney Enchantment spectacular.
Home to some of the most enchanting rides in the world, Disney’s theme parks are also home to the longest lines! Plan on arriving at around 8:30 to 9 a.m. so that you can ride your favorite attractions before the footfall increases.
Take your little ones to Toy Story Land and hop on the crowd-favorite Slinky Dog ride or the Alien Swirling Saucers ride. For a change of “space’” visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, one of the more famous attractions here. Fans are sure in for a treat in this “galaxy, far, far away”. Meet your favorite characters, get your hands on some Jedi robes and lightsabers or try out the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride.
If you still have some time before lunch, experience Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Rail and Lightning McQueen’s Racing Army rides. Or you can squeeze in some of the park’s exciting shows like Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage and Muppet*Vision 3D in Grand Avenue.
After a quick stop for a bite to eat, it’s time to bring the magic alive. Use your preferred mode of transport to head to Magic Kingdom, roughly 5 miles away from Hollywood studios. If you reach by 3 p.m., you will be just in time to witness the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade and catch a few glimpses of characters from Tangled, Peter Pan, and more on their vibrant floats.
Take a ride on Jungle Cruise, a fun whimsical river cruise with gags and jokes, and visit the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Explore Peter Pan’s Flight, a suspended dark ride that takes you into the world of the animated classic. Some must-try rides include Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain at Tomorrowland, and the Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square, a mildly frightening but fun ride to try with the older kids in the group.
If you are visiting with toddlers, Dumbo, Peter Pan, Astro Orbiter at Tomorrowland and The Barnstormer at Fantasyland are just some of the many rides you can enjoy.
Don’t forget to hang back for Disney’s Enchantment, a night-time celebration of fireworks, music, and dancing at the main stage of Cinderella Palace. Grab seats that are farthest away from the main stage so that you can get a complete view of the palace, lit up in all of its glory against a backdrop of the sparkling sky. It’s the perfect way to end the second day of your Orlando holiday itinerary.
For breakfast at Hollywood Studios, stop by the Trolley Car Café for coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Take your midday break at Woody’s Lunchbox where you can try some American classics, soda floats, mouthwatering sandwiches, and other Toy Story-themed specialties.
There’s no end to the delicious meals you can choose from at Magic Kingdom. If you reserve early enough, you can get a fairytale dining experience at the Royal Table inside the castle and enjoy a regal feast of assorted meats, cheeses, and delectable desserts.
Don’t worry if you are unable to secure a reservation here; Magic Kingdom has almost 30 eateries that cater to a variety of palettes. Check out The Diamond Horseshoe for some good ol’ BBQ along with a cold drink or Casey’s Corner if you’re a fan of hotdogs. Seafood is served best at Harbor House and Pecos Bill is known for its tacos and fajitas!
Day 3 – Animal Kingdom & EPCOT
A day’s dose of Disney World is never enough. Keep the thrilling adventures going on Day 3 by taking the family to Animal Kingdom, a mini-jungle complete with exotic animals, safaris, and tribal displays. Once you’ve had your share of fun outdoors, head to EPCOT, and discover Disney’s world of progress, technology, and culture.
It’s always handy to have The My Disney Experience App and Genie Plus when visiting Disney’s parks so that you can join virtual lines for certain rides. This allows you to secure a spot in lines without actually having to wait in it; a real blessing when traveling with infants and toddlers.
Opening time at Animal Kingdom is usually 8:00 a.m or 08.30., so try to start your day early if you comfortably want to cover both parks and not miss out on any major attractions. Kilimanjaro Safari will give you the chance to see giraffes and elephants lounging in the sun and big cats in their wild habitats at the African Lions and Asian Tigers section. A must-visit is the Affection Section where you and your kids can interact with friendly furries and spend time playing with them.
Animal Kingdom has over 30 rides, so you will have to prioritize the ones you absolutely want to try out. Expedition Everest is the perfect ride for the adrenaline junkies in your family. Kali River Rapids is a whitewater ride that will have you and your wee ones splashing around, so be sure to carry towels and a change of clothes. As Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi Journey are rides that people often flock to first, save them for mid-day and you might just have shorter wait lines than average.
After a well-deserved meal, make your way to EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow that celebrates the gearing advancements of mankind and cultural diversity. The park has several international pavilions on countries like China, the UK, Germany, Mexico, Japan, and more that are packed with magical attractions, themed food and drinks, and hair-raising rides.
Test Track lets you test a concept vehicle and maneuver through turns, corners, hills, and steep drops. Marvel fans can also check out the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind rollercoaster. Remember to use the Rider Switch option for rides that have a minimum age or height requirement. You can also just choose to rides like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Frozen Ever After which are suited for all ages.
Meet beloved animated characters like Alice, Belle, or Donald Duck in each of these pavilions or catch live shows based on your favorite Disney classics when you want a break. At night, Disney gives you the warmest farewell with Harmonious, another fireworks and lights display that will leave you dazzled and amazed.
Missed breakfast at the hotel? Grab a quick bite at Creature Comforts, Animal Kingdom’s very own Starbucks. Satisfy your mid-day cravings with some sandwiches and burgers at Rainforest Cafe or at Pizzafari, which has plant-based dishes on the menu.
If you decide to grab lunch at EPCOT instead, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the culturally diverse food options here. Embark on a taste tour through French, Italian, and even Asian cuisines at Connections Eatery. For a dining experience like no other, check out Space 220, where you’re seated in a spaceship 220 miles away from the Earth.
Day 4 – Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure
It’s time to head to Universal Resort for another day of exhilarating adventures and movie mania. After you make your way in, you’ll find yourself at CityWalk Orlando first with the entrances to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure on either side of it.
Whether you are squeezing the Universal resort trip in a 5-day Orlando itinerary or spacing it out over 10 days in Orlando, we recommend arriving at least an hour before opening time on the day of your visit. The earlier you start, the more you can explore.
Begin at Islands of Adventure and jump right into your beloved movie franchise worlds, from Harry Potter to the wild, wild Jurassic Park. Check out Hagird’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and ride with him through the Forbidden Forest, or try out the VelociCoaster, an adrenaline-fueled roller coaster through the raptor’s enclosure. These are some of the more popular rides with lines that increase as the day progresses, which is why it’s a good idea to cross them off your list first.
The tiny tots are sure to get a kick out of Seuss Landing, with the many familiar faces from Dr. Seuss’s creations scattered all throughout the area. Play areas and slower rides here can occupy young ones while the older ones get busy exploring Marvel Super Hero Island, home to award-winning dark rides, such as The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. Cool down in the afternoon sun with a few splashes at Toon Island’s river rafting rides, where you can join Popeye as he sets out to save Olive!
Spend some time in Harry Potter’s Wizarding World, or use your Park-to-Park admission and catch the Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley at Universal Studios for even more “Potter” magic. Let your childhood dream come true as you finally get your wand at Ollivander’s. Take a stroll through the magical shopping street and spot iconic attractions like Gringotts, complete with a dragon that spews actual fire!
Character encounters are common at Universal Studios, so keep your eyes out for the Transformers, Shrek, and the Minions. Speaking of which, stop by Minion Mayhem, where you and your family can join Gru and his mini accomplices on a ride that is fun for all ages.
Check out Revenge of the Mummy with your older kids and experience a rollercoaster ride through a tomb, with a mummy that is out to get you. Step into the underground vaults at Gringotts’ and join the ride with the heroic trio from the wizarding world as they try to break out of the bank.
The lights come out as witching hour approaches to make for the most picture-perfect backdrops as you stroll through the park or ride the train to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure.
Relish a hearty breakfast of sweet and savory treats at Croissant Moon Bakery or Cinnabon at Islands of Adventure. For lunch, head down to Three Broomsticks, grab some iconic butterbeer from the Wizarding World and sample some delicious British food.
If dinner also calls for some Potter favorites, visit Leaky Cauldron at Universal Studios for bangers and mash, fisherman’s pie, or fish and chips for the kids. Or maybe end your day with some familiar American-style dishes at Cletus’ Chicken Shack or Moe’s Tavern.
Day 5 – Volcano Bay
You better believe we saved the best for the last day of your Orlando travel plan! Volcano Bay is Universal’s water-themed park and is a perfect climax after days of thrills and excitement. To reach the park, arrive at Universal Orlando boulevard and take the designated bus to Volcano Bay. The park timings are set at 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the summer and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter, so plan your visit accordingly. And since it’s a day of getting drenched in all the fun, don’t forget to pack your sunscreen, change of clothes, towels, and other necessary items.
Volcano Bay is designed after a tropical volcanic island that highlights Polynesian culture and all the rides are named according to this theme. Spot the Krakatau volcano at the center of the park complete with Serpentine Slides that take you through the volcano. The daredevils among you can try the Ko’okiri Body Plunge, a 125-foot tube that drops you down the volcano into the refreshing pool below.
The little ones will have a blast at the play pool areas, which come with overhead sprinklers and water guns. For a more family-oriented experience, check out the Krakatau Aqua Coaster where you row a canoe through the rapids. If you simply want to relax while the little ones frolic around, you’ll find lounge chairs by the poolside. You can also choose to spring for an extravagant cabana that ensures privacy along with amazing amenities.
After all the walking and waiting in the other parks, Volcano Bay’s queueing process is a welcome change. As a part of the Tapu Tapu system, all visitors are given a wristband that can be used at the entrance of any ride to book their spot. Your Tapu Tapu will display the scheduled time, so instead of waiting around, you can either check out less-crowded rides or grab a bite to eat!
Dining options at Volcano Bay include all your favorite options with a Polynesian twist. The Kohola Reef Restaurant is one such spot you can go to surprise your tastebuds. For the best view, check out Whakawaiwai next to the park’s river and indulge in some Shrimp Mac n Cheese.
Children are sure to love The Feasting Frog Tacos, an eatery designed to look like a huge frog, and their drinks and tacos will fill your little one’s hungry tummy. They may not feel adventurous trying the the tuna tacos but there are plenty of kid versions too!
Take your time enjoying each one of them and pack in some final memories before heading back to the hotel for checkout. Traveling from downtown Orlando to the airport usually takes around 20-40 minutes, but make sure you account for some extra time in case you are met by traffic.
With the right game plan, you can experience all that Orlando’s popular amusement parks have to offer without rushing. If possible, plan your visit for weekdays so you can avoid the large crowds and spend more time doing things you love with your family!
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