Ultimate Family Guide to Florida's Theme Parks

Planning a family trip to the theme parks in Orlando, Florida, can be as daunting as exciting. With so many attractions, it's crucial to have a strategy to make the most out of your visit. Whether it's your first time or a seasoned visitor, these ten tips will fill your family trip with fun, magic, and unforgettable memories.

Research and Plan Ahead

Embarking on a journey to Orlando's world-famous theme parks requires more than excitement; it demands careful planning and research. Before your family adventure begins, delve into the details of each park. Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld have unique layouts and attractions. Please familiarize yourself with the parks' maps available online and download their official apps for real-time information on ride wait times, show schedules, and dining options. This preliminary research helps in crafting a daily itinerary tailored to your family's interests and maximizes your time spent in these enchanting worlds.

Planning extends to more than just the day's agenda. Consider purchasing your tickets online ahead of your trip. This foresight often offers discounts and avoids the lengthy queues at the gate, giving your family a head start on your adventure. Look into special events or seasonal shows that might be happening during your visit. These unique experiences can add extra excitement to your trip, and knowing about them beforehand ensures you won't miss out on any hidden gems. With a well-researched plan, your family will confidently and efficiently explore the wonders of Orlando's theme parks.

Stay in a Headstrong Vacation Homes Property

Choosing Headstrong Vacation Homes at Reunion Resort for your stay in Orlando offers a unique blend of luxury, comfort, and convenience, making it an ideal choice for families and groups seeking an exceptional vacation experience. Nestled within the sprawling Reunion Resort, these homes provide a private, upscale living space and access to a range of exclusive amenities. We design each villa with elegance and relaxation in mind, featuring spacious layouts, modern decor, and all the comforts of home, including fully-equipped kitchens, private bedrooms, and living areas. Children will love the themed rooms in all our properties, allowing the magic from the theme parks to continue even after you return from the parks. Many of these properties also boast private pools, game rooms, and outdoor seating areas, perfect for unwinding after a day at the theme parks or for days spent lounging in the Florida sun.

Featured properties

The location of Headstrong Vacation Homes within Reunion Resort is a significant advantage. Guests can access the resort's three signature golf courses, designed by legends Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus, making it a golfer's paradise. For families, the resort offers a water park, ten swimming pools, and a kid's club, ensuring entertainment for all ages. The resort's proximity to Orlando's major theme parks - just a short drive away - allows easy exploration of the area's top attractions. Guests can enjoy the tranquillity and privacy of a vacation home while being close to the excitement of Disney World, Universal Studios, and other Orlando attractions. The combination of luxury accommodations, exclusive amenities, and a prime location makes Headstrong Vacation Homes at Reunion Resort an unparalleled choice for those seeking an unforgettable Orlando vacation.


Mastering Genie+ at Disney parks and the Express Pass at Universal Studios is crucial for a seamless and enjoyable theme park experience. These systems dramatically reduce your waiting time for popular attractions, allowing you and your family to maximize your day. With Genie+ at Disney, you can reserve access to select attractions, entertainment, and character greetings up to 30 days (or 60 days in advance for Disney Resort guests), effectively planning your day around these scheduled times. Universal's Express Pass, while a separate purchase, offers a similar advantage, allowing guests to skip the regular lines at most attractions. It's essential to prioritize these passes for the most popular rides, which typically have the most extended wait times. By strategically scheduling your Genie+ selections and using the Express Pass effectively, you can easily navigate the parks, ensuring you hit all the must-see attractions without lengthy waits.

In addition to strategic scheduling, it's also essential to understand the nuances of these systems to leverage their benefits entirely. Disney's Genie+ allows you to make three reservations in advance, and once you have used these initial selections or their times have passed, you can make additional selections one at a time via the app or in-park kiosks. This rolling option can be a great way to keep momentum, especially during the busier afternoon and evening hours. At Universal, consider the type of Express Pass that best suits your family's needs - a one-time per-ride pass or an unlimited-use pass. Remember that during peak seasons and busier days, an Express Pass can be a game changer in experiencing as many attractions as possible. By fully understanding and utilizing Genie+ and Express Pass, your family can effortlessly navigate through the parks, spending less time in lines and more time creating unforgettable memories.


Incorporating rest and downtime into your theme park itinerary is as important as planning which attractions to visit. Theme parks, with their excitement and scale, can be overwhelming, especially for younger children or those not accustomed to extensive walking and Florida's warm climate. To ensure everyone stays energized and enjoys the experience to the fullest, schedule breaks throughout the day. These can be a leisurely lunch, relaxing in a shaded area, or enjoying some quieter attractions that offer a chance to sit and unwind. These quiet periods are also perfect for families with small children to let them nap in strollers, refreshing them for more adventures later in the day. It's important to listen to your body and take these moments to recharge, making your theme park experience more enjoyable and sustainable.

Don't underestimate the benefit of returning to your accommodation for a midday break. A break can be incredibly revitalizing during the hotter months or after a few consecutive days of park hopping. A short nap, a dip in the hotel pool, or simply a break from the crowds can make a huge difference in your overall energy levels and mood. This strategy also allows you to return to the parks in the evening feeling refreshed, often when the temperatures are cooler, and the ambiance of the parks changes with nightfall entertainment and spectaculars.


Packing smartly for a day at the theme parks is vital to ensuring your family's comfort and enjoyment. The essentials for a successful day include comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and sturdy footwear, as you'll be on your feet for most of the day. Florida's weather can be unpredictable, so include lightweight rain ponchos or umbrellas to stay dry during sudden showers. Sun protection is vital – pack sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses to guard against the intense Florida sun. Additionally, consider bringing a change of clothes or at least extra socks, especially if you plan on enjoying water rides. For those with small children, a well-equipped diaper bag, including snacks and possibly a change of clothes, is essential. Also, a refillable water bottle for each family member is a must to stay hydrated throughout the day without constantly purchasing bottled water.

Equally important is packing efficiently to avoid carrying too much. Most theme parks restrict the size of bags brought in, and large bags can be cumbersome to carry around all day. Opt for a comfortable, lightweight backpack or a crossbody bag that can hold all your essentials without being too bulky. Consider packing collapsible water bottles to save space and bringing snacks like granola bars or fruit snacks that don't require refrigeration and are easy to eat on the go. If someone in your group has a smartphone, download the theme park's app to keep maps, show times, and other information at your fingertips, reducing the need for physical copies. By packing smartly, you prepare your family for a full day of adventure without being weighed down by unnecessary items, allowing everyone to focus on the fun and excitement of the theme park experience.


The Child Swap and Rider Switch services offered at theme parks like Universal Studios and Disney World are invaluable for families with young children or members who cannot ride certain attractions. Understanding and utilizing these services can significantly enhance your theme park experience. Child Swap (Universal) and Rider Switch (Disney) allow family members to enjoy the thrill of the more intense rides without queueing multiple times. Here's how it works: if a child is too tiny or unwilling to go on a ride, one parent can stay with them while the rest of the family enjoys the ride. Then, without waiting in the main line again, the other parent can swap places to ride while the first parent stays with the child. This system ensures that no one misses out on the fun and keeps wait times minimal.

It's essential to communicate with the staff at the entrance of each ride where you intend to use Child Swap or Rider Switch. They will guide you through their specific process, which typically involves waiting in a designated area. While waiting, this can be an excellent opportunity for a parent to have one-on-one time with their child, whether enjoying a snack, exploring a nearby less intense attraction, or simply taking a break. Remember, these services make your theme park visit more enjoyable and stress-free. Don't hesitate to use them whenever they fit your family's needs. By effectively using Child Swap and Rider Switch, you ensure that every family member gets the most out of their theme park experience, keeping the adventure enjoyable for thrill-seekers and little ones alike.


Exploring lesser-known attractions at Orlando's theme parks can be a delightful escape from the bustling crowds and long wait times often associated with the more famous rides and shows. These hidden gems provide unique experiences and are usually accompanied by shorter lines, allowing you and your family to enjoy more attractions throughout the day. Beyond the headline-stealing roller coasters and character meet-and-greets, each park houses a variety of under-the-radar attractions.

Seeking out these less popular attractions allows one to slow down and appreciate the intricate details and storytelling in every aspect of the theme parks. It's a chance to escape the rush and fully immerse yourself in the magical worlds created. This approach to exploring the parks can be particularly beneficial during peak hours when the more popular attractions have longer wait times. Use this time to wander into an overlooked exhibit or catch a live street performance. These experiences often lead to unique, memorable moments that encapsulate the magic of a theme park visit. Including lesser-known attractions in your itinerary makes your family's theme park adventure a more comprehensive and fulfilling experience dotted with unexpected joys and discoveries.


Amid the thrilling rides and attractions, it's easy to overlook the spectacular parades and shows that are integral to the theme park experience in Orlando. These performances are not just visually stunning and entertaining. Still, they also provide a much-needed respite for you and your family. Disney's famous parades and Universal's dazzling shows are renowned for their high production values, featuring beloved characters, intricate floats, and captivating music. They are perfect opportunities to take a break, sit down, or find a comfortable spot to stand and immerse yourself in the magic. These shows and parades often occur at specific times throughout the day, so planning and including them in your itinerary is beneficial.

Parades and shows are often themed around holidays, seasons, or special events, offering unique experiences each time you visit. Disney's nighttime spectaculars, like fireworks over Cinderella's Castle or Universal's cinematic celebrations, provide awe-inspiring endings to your day at the park. For families with children, these performances are a delightful way to engage kids who might need a break from the physical demands of the park. Additionally, catching these shows can be a strategic move during peak times when ride lines are longest. While many guests are busy with the headline attractions, you can enjoy relatively quieter viewing areas and a captivating entertainment experience. Incorporating these shows and parades into your theme park visit enriches your experience, ensuring you capture all aspects of the vibrant and diverse entertainment.


Establishing a designated meeting spot within each theme park you visit is a simple yet crucial step in your family's theme park strategy. In the excitement and bustle of a theme park, it's surprisingly easy to become separated, especially in large crowds or during events like parades and shows. Choosing a specific, easily recognizable location as your meeting point provides a safe and straightforward solution for regrouping should anyone in your party get lost or separated. This spot should be well-known and distinctive, such as in front of a landmark statue, a central park icon, or a uniquely themed area that is simple for all family members to remember and locate. Informing everyone, including children, of this predetermined spot and reiterating its importance can give you peace of mind, ensuring that even during the theme park excitement, your family has a fail-safe plan for reuniting.

Taking the time to familiarize your family with the layout of the park and the location of your meeting spot can be a valuable part of your planning process. During your initial walk through the park, identify and point out the meeting spot to everyone. For added safety, especially for children, consider providing a contact card or bracelet with your phone number and the meeting spot location. With smartphones, you can also use location-sharing apps as a backup. However, having a non-tech-reliant plan is important, as phones can run out of battery or lose signal. Setting up and reinforcing this simple yet effective strategy ensures a smoother, worry-free theme park experience, allowing everyone in your group to explore confidently, knowing there's a set plan for staying connected.


Embracing flexibility during your theme park visit is key to creating a delightful and memorable family experience. While having a plan is essential, being too rigid can lead to unnecessary stress, especially when dealing with unpredictable weather changes, ride maintenance, or varying wait times. Approaching the day with a flexible mindset allows you to adapt to these situations gracefully, turning potential setbacks into new opportunities. For instance, if a desired ride is temporarily closed, consider exploring a nearby attraction you had yet to initially plan on visiting, or take the chance to enjoy a spontaneous character meet-and-greet. This adaptability reduces frustration and opens the door to unexpected joys and discoveries that might become the highlight of your trip.

A successful theme park visit lies in the shared joy and quality time with your family. Sometimes, the best moments arise from unplanned experiences - a surprise street performance, a spontaneous ice cream break, or simply soaking in the park's ambiance. Remember to pause and appreciate these moments. Let your children's interests and energy levels guide part of the day; their excitement upon discovering something new can be contagious and lead to cherished family memories. Balancing planning with flexibility ensures a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere for everyone.


Visiting Florida's theme parks is a dream for many families. With these tips, you can navigate the parks like a pro, ensuring a trip filled with joy, adventure, and lasting memories. Prepare to embark on a thrilling journey through the magical world of Orlando's theme parks!