Waldorf Astoria Orlando
Waldorf Astoria Orlando

By Eileen Ogintz

Spring is one of the busiest times in Orlando which happens to be not only the theme park capitol of the world but the most visited city in the country. Orlando attracted 59 million visitors in 2013, setting an all time record for a U.S. city.

What does that mean for your family?  You have to plan smart, especially if you are visiting during prime Spring Break and summer weeks.  (A tip: There will be fewer people and you might get a better deal if you can visit after spring breaks are over and before summer vacations start.)

Here’s how to make the most of your time:

  • Take virtual tours with the kids of the parks you plan to visit and decide the “must see” attractions. Make sure everyone in the family has a say in the itinerary.  Books like my Kid’s Guide to Orlando and Birnbaum’s 2015 Walt Disney World for Kids  can help.
  • The Kid's Guide to OrlandoWith Disney’s new technology you can pre-book attractions and experiences; at Universal Orlando you can bypass lines when you are staying at on-site hotels—and get in early to the always-crowded Harry Potter attractions.
  • If your time is short, consider upgrading to tickets that allow you to skip the lines or opt for a VIP Tour. (Here’s what I wrote about that experience at Universal Orlando.)
  • Make dinner (and character breakfast or lunch) reservations in advance. You can always change them!
  • Bring snacks and reusable water bottles. You can avoid more lines—and snack healthier!
  • Look at the benefits of buying multi-day tickets. See if you can get a discount through your employer, AAA or a company like Undercover Tourist.
  • Be prepared to divide and conquer if the kids’ are different ages—and have different agendas. Just make sure you have designated meeting places. (For all those old enough to have a smartphone, download an app like LIFE360 or WAVE that enables you to keep track of your group.
  • Have a “what if you get lost” discussion with the kids. Make sure they know your name (not “Mommy or Daddy”) your cell number and where you are staying. (For younger kids, put a card with the information in their pocket.)  Make sure they know if they are lost to  only approach a park employee in uniform to ask for help.
  • Plan a souvenir strategy in advance. How much can each child spend? Do they want one big souvenir or small things like stickers or pins to add to a collection?
  • Plan meals so you don’t have to eat out three times a day. Maybe you can have a quick breakfast in your hotel room or condo or take-out dinner by the pool.
  • Be prepared that the most anticipated attractions may not please everyone.

Most important, walk away if a child decided they don’t want to experience that attraction. There is always next time.