To break it down here is what I did:
· I priced 5 night/6 Day vacations for a family of four (2 adults, 2 children- ages 3 and 6)
· I priced the same week, Sept. 7-12, 2014 at all three major Orlando theme parks.
· I priced the “value” resort at each of the three, Sea World, Disney World and Universal Studios
· I included 4 day tickets in each package
Here is what the breakdown looks like:
Universal Studios Resort
Cabana Bay Resort- Standard Room
4 Day Park to Park Tickets (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure)
Early Admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Complimentary Transportation to Universal Studios, City Walk and Islands of Adventure
Sea World Orlando
Residence Inn- Sea World/Orlando
1 Bedroom Suite
Admission to Sea World and Aquatica (unlimited admission for 14 days from first day of use)
Free All Day Dining Deal
Complimentary shuttle service to/from Sea World and Aquatica
Pop Century Resort
Fastpass+ picks at 60 days in advance
4 Day Park Tickets- Admission for one day to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios
Early Entry and Extra Magic Hours to select parks at night
Transfers to/from Orlando Intl Airport
Complimentary Transportation on Disney Property
All right, so you are probably totally dead wrong on my top three values- I would stack them this way-
1. Sea World/Aquatica Package
2. Disney World Package
3. Universal Studios Package
Before anyone starts throwing things let take a look at what is and is not included with these deals.
First, the Sea World deal
-Includes Free Dining at the Parks
-Parking is free at the resort
-Early Entry is included for guests
-Reserved seating for shows is included
-Front of the line passes are included for Sea World
-The Residence Inn has a free breakfast
-Complimentary shuttle service between Sea World, Aquatica (and even, gasp, Universal) and your hotel
So what’s Not Included? Transfers to/from the airport are not included in this package. Also, I am not sure you could really spend five days at the two parks but you definitely could do two days at Sea World and a full day at Aquatica. That is three days of a six-day trip. So I think you will have to spend some money on some other activity, whatever you choose, in Orlando. Which leads to the next issue with this package- If you choose to pay for transfers between the hotel and airport on non-park days you will have to use taxis (my choice would be to just rent a car) to get to anywhere not within walking distance of the hotel. There has been some building around Sea World and there are places to eat. However, without a car you would be limited.
All in all I think the Sea World package is an excellent value for families. There is plenty to do with children of all ages at Sea World. In addition the reserved seating and front of the line access are BIG perks in my book. I think that you will have to spend additional money with this package but considering the difference in prices I still think you could come out ahead with this package.
Second, Disney World Package
-Includes transfers to/from Orlando Intl Airport
-Parking is free for resort guests
-Early Entry/Extra Hours at Night are included
-Complimentary transportation within Disney World is included.
People are probably shaking their heads- questioning my sanity, picking the Disney package as the number two value. But there are reasons. One- with Disney you are getting four parks. FOUR. Not two, four. Something to keep you plenty busy on a six-day vacation. Second, on non-park days there is plenty to do on Disney property so you would not need a rental car. Third, the pool at Pop Century is nice- nicer than the pool at Residence Inn. Fourth, early entry to the parks means entry to some of the most popular rides at the parks. (Not one world within a park) Fifth, Disney Parks have a lot to offer for people with kids under 10. Shows are age appropriate, no covering your children’s eyes at Disney Shows. Parades and fireworks occur somewhere every day on property. And any other company in Orlando cannot match the sheer number of attractions for people who are under 10. Sixth, there are over 200 restaurants on Disney property. You will find something to eat here, without a taxi, without having to leave property. Finally, even though you are booked at a value resort at Disney you can use and make Fastpass+ reservations as part of your package.
Finally, the Universal Studios Package
I have to admit; I was shocked by the pricing for this one (I originally thought this would be the top value). One, the Cabana Bay Resort is the value at Universal Studios. Resort guests have to pay to park at the hotel, $10/night. Resort guests are also required to pay for front of the line access. You get four day Park-to-Park Tickets, which means you, can bounce between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure for your four days of park entry. There are two parks here. So you will be visiting the same two parks for four days. (Do you see what I am getting at?) Also, you will have to pay for transfers between the airport and universal or rent a car (and with renting a car you have to pay for parking- so for 6 nights you can automatically add $60 to this package price in addition to having pay for a car rental). Finally, dining options at Universal are limited to the parks, the other resorts (there are three other resorts on property) or City Walk. So, I think you could eat without a problem for 5 nights while at Universal. But I also think that you would really have to research what was available and if you wanted to do that. Having the car would give you the freedom to eat elsewhere. I think by the time you pay for a car or transfers, the Universal version of Fastpass and parking the difference between the Universal package and the Disney package ($433) will be nonexistent.
And for me having the four parks versus two is a better value. Having early entry to the attractions that matter to my small children matters. Having over 200 choices for restaurants matters to me. In addition, being able to select attractions for Fastpass+ choices 60 days out matters to me. If my five year old wants to see Anna and Elsa I can schedule that. I cannot do that at Universal. In fact, I have to pay extra for it because Cabana Bay is considered a value.
I am not bashing Universal. I happen to think the value is greater at both Sea World and Disney. If my family, or my clients are going to spend $1000, $2000 or more on a vacation I want to make sure they are getting the most for their time and money. Looking at the inclusions for each package, and what’s not included, is a good way to see exactly what your money is getting. I think families need to decide what matters most to them and decide. But to make those decisions I think people need to be able to make informed decisions. Here it is, what is included in your package and what is not.