How many days in each Disney vs Universal?

Wasn’t sure what forum to ask this question. My husband and I are taking our 13 and 11 year old to Orlando for spring break and neither of us have been. We’re arriving Sunday and leaving Sunday and are trying to make our plans and are a bit overwhelmed as we’re only familiar with Disneyland. Kids are active and love rides and don’t care much for the dining/character experience. We’re thinking 2 days at Disney and 2 days at Universal allowing us a day to do the beach and a day to enjoy the resort. Can you hit most big events at both parks if planned and fastpassed well with 2 days in each? Can you do Volcano bay in a half of one of the Universal days? Need to purchase tickets soon!

I think you could do Universal in two days and maybe some Volcano Bay but I do not think you could do much at 4 Disney Parks in two days- even with park hoppers .

We were in WDW with kids around the same age as yours for the first time this past fall and easily spent 5 days in the 4 parks (MK, AK, HS, and EPCOT) and still did not see or experience it all! We were in Disneyland a few years back and spent 3 days there between the two parks and felt like we saw it all. WDW seems to be on an entire different realm as far as advance planning and time to allocate to see it.

We are planning a first time trip to Universal for this coming year and are planning on 3 days. 2 days going park to park to experience HP as well as the rest and then 1 day for VB and finish up that evening anything we missed our first 2 days. So far it seems as if this is more on par with our Disneyland experience.

Hope that helps some with the planning. Good luck!

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If you’ve only got four park days scheduled, you going to have to make some choices. What choices you make depend on the interests of you and your family. Oh, and how rich you are.

I’m 48 and I like rides. I think the rides at Universal are, on average, better — in the sense of being more thrilling — than the ones at Disney. That being said, there is an extent to which many of them are basically the same ride: motion simulators of varying sophistication with 3D movies. Some are breathtaking — Spider-Man and Kong, for example. (Though Kong is visually quite intense and scary — too much for an 11 year old?). Then you’ve got some pretty intense rollercoasters and water rides. Finally Harry Potter — visually impressive, but I was disappointed by the rides and the food.

The great thing to me about Universal is how easy it is — provided you buy Express Passes. That vastly cuts down waiting and you can do what you want, when you want, with minimal planning required. That’s what I do. I have an eight day trip (six full days, two half days) and I’m allocating two of them to Universal. I’ll be re-riding a lot of what I rode last summer, plus trying out ones I didn’t have time to do last time.

I didn’t go to Volcano Bay — I’ve seen horrifying reviews (check out TripAdvisor) — and I’m not planning on going there this summer.

The important thing about WDW is that there are four parks — to which you’ve currently allocated two days. You’re going to have to be real selective.

But also, there’s no such thing as an Express Pass at WDW — there’s the Fast Pass system. It’s free, but it gives you restricted choices.

Again, if you’ve got money you can do the Ultimate Day of Thrills (seven hours from 8am) and the Ultimate Night of Adventure (four hours from 5pm). The first covers the top thrill rides at Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. The second covers the top rides at Animal Kingdom.

What kind of rides are you looking for? Probably the best ride in the whole of WDW is Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom. But it can be difficult to get a Fast Pass for, and the lines are very long if you don’t have one — can you afford to waste the time? Animal Kingdom also offers Everest and Dinosaur as headline rides.

Magic Kingdom has rides of all kinds, the headliners being the “mountains” — Big Thunder, Splash and Space. A lot of people go nuts for Seven Dwarves Mine Train but, again, it’s difficult to get Fast Passes for and I found it a bit underwhelming — it’s more aimed at kids than adults (or even teens?)

Disney Hollywood Studios has Tower of Terror, Rock’n’Roller Coaster and Star Tours as headline rides. Plus, depending when you’re going, Toy Story Land may be open. That will have Toy Story Manic Mania (which is an existing ride that’s being incorporated into the new area), a new roller coaster, and one other ride. But it’ll likely be ram-packed with people as it’s new.

Epcot has Soarin’, Test Track, Mission Space as headline rides. But you can’t Fast Pass both Soarin’ and Test Track. So more choices, or queuing.

I think you need to ask: (i) how much are you willing to spend (ii) how likely are you to go back (iii) what are you priorities.

Extra cash will help you make efficient use of time. Going back soon-ish will mean you can rule out a whole load of stuff with the promise of doing it next time.

Two days at Universal is sensible. If you’re definitely doing Volcano Bay and a resort day, then that’s two days at WDW. I’d do Magic Kingdom and either one other (I’d choose Hollywood Studios), or two others and do half days at each.

Animal Kingdom is great, but Fast Passes are hard to get for the best ride. I personally think the rides at Hollywood Studios are better than the ones at Epcot, but ignore Toy Story Land this time round.

So last year we had five days in Orlando and spent 3 at Disney and 2 at Universal.

I honestly think you only really need one (long) day at Universal – the food is nowhere near as good, and the two parks are so much smaller / don’t have as much detail that you’ll want to absorb. That said, the person I was traveling with does NOT like roller coasters, so there was a fair amount we skipped. If you get Express Passes, you basically won’t wait in line at all. The rides are pretty cool and definitely more ~thrilling~ than at WDW, but fair warning – if you have motion sickness, a lot of them will bother you. (I kept my eyes closed for most of Minions, Spider-Man, and Kong. :nauseated_face: ) The Mummy ride was pretty awesome though, as is Men in Black. Harry Potter World is pretty neat – but also pretty small. We more than saw everything there in less than a day.

As for planning your days at Disney – you’ll probably have to pick two (maybe three) parks, and skip the fourth. There’s just no way to fit it all into two days. We were able to do most of AK (with a super early morning to see FoP) and HS in one day, but I also feel like we ended up running through the parks with blinders on, in my quest to get through the entire Touring Plans Death March of Fun™. Next time I’m going to let us wander a bit more slowly so we can absorb all the magical details of the parks.

(We’re going back to Disney this year and I’m having trouble fitting everything into five days!)


Hi Monica- I think you are not allocating enough time to Disney World, especially if you haven’t been there. I would suggest cutting out the resort day (take afternoon breaks to experience pool area each day) and put that extra day back onto the Disney side.

I agree with whomever suggested one day for Universal, like Profmatt said - most of the rides are exactly the same just different characters (for example Spider-man and Transformers are the EXACT SAME RIDE - spider-man is better though). If you stay at one of the Universal Deluxe Resorts for a night (Royal Pacific, Hard Rock, Portofino) you get great free unlimited express passes that work for almost every ride - this will allow you to experience both Universal parks in a single day. Then you can transfer that extra Universal day you had planned back to Disney World.

This will give you 4 days at Disney, 1 beach day and 1 Universal day. This is doable, you will still have to make some choices in Disney (you can’t do everything in any of the parks in a single day), but you will not leave feeling like you missed out on anything major.

Just my opinion from many trips to Universal and Disney, hope it works out and no matter what you choose to do, Orlando is a fantastic vacation spot you will have a fantastic time!

To minimc some of prior comments. Disney World is called WORLD for a reason. TONS to do. However with everything, anything - it all comes down to perspective.

First off Universal.
Do NOT discount Universal - it is awesome - and dare I say I now like it better than WDW and think it is a much better value. My kids were 10 and 13 when we went and they now like it more than WDW as well. I would give yourself 2 days at Universal and would suggest STAYING there as well and take advantage of the Express Pass. It will make your life much easier - especially during Spring Break.

WDW - you can easily spend 2 wks there and not see anything. So 2 days is a bit light, especially for your first trip. So I would also suggest more than 2 days. However at this point - Hollywood Studios - in a word SUCKS so I would skip that. Animal Kingdom is cool - but if I had to - I would skip it as well if pressed for time. So in a pinch that does give you a day at Magic Kingdom and a day at EPCOT. Some will say kids won’t like EPCOT - but my kids have always liked it and it is SO different from any other type of theme park that it is well worth a day. I MAY suggest forgoing the beach and spending more time on site. Perhaps another day at a park mixed with some fun down time at a pool.

Good luck!! No matter what - you will have a great time. You will NOT be able to see everything - so don’t even try. Have fun and if you like something - put it in the “lets do again next time” folder.

Get your tickets from Unvercover Tourist. You will save $$. I may suggest missing Volcano Bay unless you really want to do a water park. I may also suggest skipping the beach as well as the back and forth etc will not necessarily be relaxing. You may have more fun at your resort and be less stressed

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2 days at Universal, staying onsite so that you can access express passes. This will give you the opportunity to enjoy much of both parks and Wizarding World without rushing and can also include a midday break if you feel like it. Resorts onsite are very close to parks, making it easy to go back and have a rest/swim. Rushing is something you will regret when you get home. 2 days will be enough time to make great memories without being crazy rushed.

Disney - I would do no less than 6 days. We did 9 days (coming from Australia), and it truly is ‘a world’, with so much to see and do. If you choose to have a break in your day, it takes time to get to and from resorts to parks, and while it is all part of the experience, time is the issue. Animal Kingdom is a very large park, as is Epcot. Feet get very tired, as there is a lot of walking to do. I say this because we are a fairly fit family, and all suffered with tired, sore feet. No regrets, totally worth it, but some extra ‘break time’ is something I will always put at the top of my list for a future trip. You want to enjoy, and you need time to take it all in.

Also, the weather can slow you down. It was so hot and humid when we went in Sept/Oct 2016, that we were doing things slower than planned. Even with 9 days at WDW, I really didn’t get any time spent by the pool at all…only one swim. I need to re-do my holiday so that I can S L O W it down and take it all in properly.

If it were me, I would say you need 2 days for MK, 2 days for EP, 1 day for HS, and 1 day for AK. That being said, when we were there, we went back to each park twice (morning visit, and afternoon/evening visits)… I planned this in order to not feel rushed, but still came home feeling like I spent a lot of time stressing about seeing as much as we could. There is also Disney Springs to visit, which is lovely, and outlet stores etc… :slight_smile: Like I said, its a “WORLD”.

Going to go against what people normally say and tell you to avoid Magic Kingdom. With the kids your age, they are going to want thrill rides, and MK doesn’t have much of that.

I think with 2 day hoppers and a good plan, you can hit the highlights at the other three parks, then spend two days at Universal.