Short Trip - Advice Needed!

My family had two huge trips to Disney in 2016 and 2019. I feel like all the rules for Disney travel have changed, as have our travel goals. I’m thinking of combining a trip to Disney and Universal with a trip to the 3 Florida national parks next year. So probably we’d set aside 5 full days for both Disney and Universal. For this trip, I’d like to be as budget-minded as possible, and we don’t need to see and do everything. Our priorities would be (1) doing all of the rides that are new since 2019 (the new Star Wars rides, Guardians of the Galaxy, Tron, etc); (2) doing the coasters and “thrill” rides; and (3) minimizing waiting in line. How would you design a trip on a budget with these priorities? Where would you stay? Does it make sense to budget for buying individual lightning lane passes? Do we need to stay on site to get those lightning lane passes? How would you organize your days? Would a 3 day park hopper at Disney plus 2 days at Universal make sense? I’m struggling to figure out where to begin, so any advice would be appreciated

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What time of year?

Presumably you’re including Everglades?

I would recommend staying on site - and since you want budget friendly - looking at the All Star resorts. From there, you would get access to buy the ILLs (ROTR, Tron, GOTG, FoP…and maybe SDMT?). If you want to minimize waits, I would plan for that expense (ranges from $10-$25 pp per ride). If you really want to save money, you will have to wait in line for those rides and could probably find a resort reasonably priced off site.

I would not buy G+ in your case, in an effort to save money and the only one you really want to go on is MFSR. That line is slow to build in the mornings.

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The trip would likely be either the 3rd week of April or mid-late June, 2024. We’d also be looking to spend 5-6 days doing Everglades, Dry Tortugas, and Biscayne national parks.

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We were at Everglades in mid-late June. Be advised that the mosquitoes are numerous. One of our group was especially favored by the mosquitoes. Despite wearing long pants, long sleeved shirt and two different repellents (natural and DEET) we wound up giving her benadryl to offset the effects of the bites. Walking with her afforded us very few bites as the skeeters barely noticed us.
Also, not much was going on at Everglades as it was the off season. We liked ranger led programs which were offered in winter. We did enjoy our Everglades time tho we didn’t do as much as we expected.

I don’t know what April would look like regarding mosquitos and availability of park activities.

This same family member was invisible to the mosquitoes at Assateague. Those skeeters liked a different family member. Thankfully the breezes helped when outside.

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This ticket combo sounds good. If by chance, you can skip Animal Kingdom you could cut out the park hoppers at Disney. I would definitely do a 2 day park hoppers for Universal though.

Technically, you do not have to stay onsite to buy the ILL but you do need to be in the parks (or it may be park open, not sure if it has changed). Onsite guests get first priority as they are able to book ILLs at 7am day of. Some ILLs run out before park opening. With a short trip, I would say staying onsite at an All-Stars (or even Pop if you can get a good deal) would be beneficial for the additional cost.
Now, if you are trying to keep the budget to an absolute minimum, you could forgo the ILLs and use early entry to get a lot accomplished with minimal wait times if you stay onsite.

I think once these details are ironed out, then you can go about planning each day.

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We did a spring break trip with just those 3 destinations in mind. It was great! But be aware that they are quite far apart. I was surprised, actually, by how much driving we had to do. You’ll probably need at least 2 different hotels for that portion of your trip, alone.
IIRC, Dry Tortugas was an early departure on the boat, and a dinnertime-ish return.
I would’ve liked more time in the Everglades just hiking and kayaking and doing that outdoor-stuff.
Biscayne is hard to do unless you have a boat or book a tour. (We did a tour, which, again, was excellent - but only one day)

I think the 3/2 day split is a good choice for Dis/Uni. And honestly, I’d skip AK if your priority is the new stuff. Have you been to Universal before? You might want to look at Premier resorts, there. It’s expensive but what I’m hearing is that those express passes will save you a ton of time. Just 1 night at a premier will get you 2 days of express.


We are planning a similar trip for May! We’ll start with flying to Key West for Dry Tortugas, then hit the Everglades, and then drive to Orlando. We’ll be stopping by to get our passports stamped at Biscayne Bay, take a quick look, then head to the theme parks. Then we’ll do 2 days UOR and 4 days WDW. Both destinations with hoppers and staying onsite. Where we differ from your trip is that we are not keeping costs to a minimum - we’re staying Premier/Deluxe for the onsite perks like express pass and Deluxe Evening Hrs.

Staying at a Value might be smart. They took away the nightly parking fee, so if you have a car you don’t have to worry about that extra fee, and you get Early Entry which will help with RD for the newer rides you are prioritizing.

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We were interested in Biscayne also but wound up taking it off the agenda. I can’t recall now if it was the lack of a tour or that the skeeter bites needed some healing time. Our trip was following the Florida coast which provided good times from the panhandle to Busch Gardens and Sanibel Island and then from Patrick AFB - camped there - up to Castillo de San Marcos. We did a quick day trip to Key West from wherever we were camping near Biscayne that included Fort Taylor. Always a kid pleaser. :blush:
The southern tip of Florida/Everglades wasn’t as much fun as we’d hoped.

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Yes! I don’t know if I could do Universal without Express Passes for at least part of the trip!

@2019planner This is an excellent strategy to save money!