So you’re a loyal Disney fan. Dole whips, Mickey ears, talking constantly to your uninterested co-workers about plans for your next Walt Disney World vacation. We got it. At the same time, perhaps its Harry Potter, or maybe your children are fans of the Minions or Transformers, but you’ve been thinking about somehow incorporating Universal Orlando into your next Disney World vacation. But something has held you back, perhaps its the impression that it is too much effort or too time consuming to attempt to do both resorts in one vacation. Well, for the past two years my family and I decided to plan some vacation time at Universal Orlando into our Disney World vacation, with varying degrees of success. Here are the results:
First, this is not a how-to guide on everything that you would need to take into account or a guide on how to save money doing a split stay. Rather, it’s meant merely to discuss some important aspects of doing the split stay and my experiences doing it.
- Transportation – If you are renting a car or if you drive down, you can skip to number 2 — you already have your answer. If not, you have a simple first step: how am I going to get from Disney to Universal? On our trip, we invested no time or forethought into this part. We packed up our bags, went down to the lobby, and told the front desk we needed a taxi for four adults and two children. Within 5 minutes a Suburban was out front and we were loaded in. The cost for transportation to Portofino Bay was approximately $50 and took about a half hour. I am sure that if you put in a little more effort, or if you have a small party, you may be able to do a little better prearranging a car service or using a car service app such as Uber. However, even without any planning at all the transportation was simple and easy.
- Day Splits – How many days should I stay at each destination? On our trip we stayed from Wednesday to Sunday at Disney World and then from Sunday to Tuesday at Universal Studios. Our children were ages 5 and 3 at the time of the trip and we found the split worked well. Universal Studios is significantly smaller than Disney World and has a higher percentage of rides aimed at older children, teenagers and adults. While we did not get to do all the attractions at Universal Studios, we didn’t feel that we had missed out on that much, with only one full day and two half days.
- Where to stay first – If you are a family with children, you probably noticed that by the end of your vacation, energy levels are much lower and as is scientifically proven, tantrum levels are elevated. This is why I felt Universal Orlando at the end of the trip was better. The parks are smaller, which means less walking and less transportation time. Additionally, the days are also shorter at Universal. We were there in February and park hours ended at 7 or 8 p.m. There were no late nights and no temptation to try to “tough it out” and keep tired children out for fireworks at 9 p.m.
- Value – Let’s call this the “bang for the buck” category. How should you allocate your budget so that you will get the best return on your money. Surprisingly, the answer to this question was quiet easily Universal Studios. Portifino Bay is a fantastic resort. I found the rooms at Portifino Bay significantly larger than my room at the Beach Club and it cost significantly less per night. On top of that, as a guest at Portifino Bay you receive Univeral’s Express Pass free. This Pass allows you to skip to the front of the line for many of the popular attractions at Universal, and is a massive time saver.
Our overall experience was that the split stay was a success. We enjoyed our stays at both resorts and found that the things which may have seemed daunting — the transportation, the packing and switching hotel rooms mid trip — were actually quite simple. If you have been wanting to do a split stay but have been hesitant, or perhaps you have never considered doing one, you should. It was an excellent experience and well worth doing.
In the next article, I’ll discuss my most recent Disney vacation, which included a one day trip to Universal Studios. This was not as much of a rousing success, but you’ll have to come back for that story.