When planning a vacation in Orlando, Florida, it’s hard to imagine one without a visit to a theme park.
As a Gold EarMarked Disney Travel Agency and a U-Preferred Universal Studios Travel Agency, we’re here to say that we love both properties and all of the incredible experiences, thrills, and amenities each has to offer.
So – whether you’re trying to decide which property to visit or how to plan a trip to Disney World and Universal Studios, we’re here to help you make the most of your next magical vacation.
What’s The Difference Between Disney World and Universal Studios?
As one of our awesome Vacationeers (that’s what we call our travel agents) shared…
“Harry Potter is at Universal. Mickey Mouse is at Disney World.
These are separate parks.” – Jen Allen
So…there you have it. The definitive guide to all things Orlando. 😉
Just kidding, of course. There’s lots more to know and we’re here to help you sift through it all.
So let’s start with what’s available at each property then help you plan your ideal vacation to one, the other, or both!
Disney World Parks vs Universal Studios Parks
At Disney World, you’ll find 4 main parks:
- Magic Kingdom, featuring classic Disney attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Space Mountain and the newest addition: TRON Lightcycle Run
- EPCOT, featuring World Showcase where you can explore the cultures and cuisines from countries around the world and enjoy thrilling attractions like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, and Soarin’ Around The World
- Hollywood Studios, featuring the immersive worlds of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land
- Animal Kingdom, featuring the thrills of Pandora – The World Of Avatar and Expedition Everest, and animal-centric activities like the Kilimanjaro Safaris, Gorilla Falls Exploration Trails, and Maharajah Jungle Trek
At Universal Studios, you’ll find 2 main parks, with a 3rd epic park coming online in 2025:
- Universal Studios Florida, featuring classic Universal rides like The Simpson’s Ride and E.T. Adventure, and thrilling and magical additions like Revenge of the Mummy and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott’s
- Islands of Adventure, featuring more thrills with rollercoasters like the Jurassic World VelociCoaster, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, and the Incredible Hulk Coaster, alongside even more Harry Potter-themed adventures like Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- [Upcoming] Epic Universe, slated to open in 2025, which will feature Super Nintendo World (which is already online at Universal Studios Hollywood) and is rumored to include another Harry Potter area in the style of the Ministry of Magic, How To Train Your Dragon themed area, and a Classic Monsters themed area as well.
Each property also features water parks, dining & shopping experiences, and numerous resorts for you to explore.
Walt Disney World Amenities
Disney World Water Parks
Disney World Dining & Shopping
Disney World Hotels & Resorts
Disney World vs Universal Studios: Special Events
There are numerous special events to choose from throughout the year at both Universal Studios and Disney properties.
Disney is known for EPCOT festivals – like the International Food & Wine Festival and International Flower & Garden Festival, Magic Kingdom holiday parties – like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, as well as numerous runDisney races that are offered throughout the year.
At Universal Studios, one special event reigns supreme: Halloween Horror Nights.
If you’re looking for the scariest ticket in town, this is it. These specially ticketed events feature custom-themed haunted houses that change year-to-year and feature your favorite horror characters.
Think: Chucky, Mike Myers, demagorgons, etc.
For a hair-raising good time, plan your Universal trip itinerary accordingly as Halloween Horror Nights is available on select nights September 1st-October 31st each year.
Plan A Trip To Disney World and Universal Studios
How Far Is Universal Studios from Disney World?
Universal Studios Orlando and Disney World are not that far from each other. It takes only about 20 minutes to travel between them.
So, if you’d like to visit both properties, you absolutely can!
Directions from Disney World to Universal Studios
Directions from Universal Studios to Disney World
Traveling Between Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando
While transportation at each respective property is highly reliable, you’ll want to think ahead for your “off-property” park day.
“For groups of adults or families with children who do not need car seats I would recommend a ride share. It’s quick and easy to book. For families with smaller children I would recommend a car service that can provide car seats. A rental car is also a great option. With your own car you have the ability to explore more of Orlando!” – Katie Neu
Unless you’re traveling with very small children, it’s easiest and most flexible to use car services like Lyft or Uber to get from your Disney resort to Universal park or from your Universal resort to the Disney World park you plan to visit that day.
As our travel agent Morgan Kline recommends…
“If you’re going to stay on property at one location and rideshare to the other, I recommend having Uber and Lyft set up so you have options both on availability and pricing!”
If you have younger travelers with you, you’ll want to make sure everyone has the proper car seats or boosters to keep them safe.
To accomplish this, you can plan to rent a car and drive yourself to your “off-property” park.
Or, if you prefer not to drive, book a car service in advance that can ensure your children will be in safe car seats for the ride to and from the park.
If you book your Disney World and Universal vacation with an Ear To There Travel Vacationeer, we make a reservation with one of our trusted, reliable travel partners for you in advance – all at no extra cost to you!
Our amazing travel planning is included in our booking services…and it’s all fee-free for you!
How Many Days Should You Stay in Orlando If You Plan To Visit Both Disney World And Universal Studios Florida?
Our travel agent, Morgan, has great advice on this front…
“I like to do the base ticket for WDW and dedicate one day entirely to one park. I will get Genie+ depending on the park to make good use of my time! I like the park-to-park tickets at Universal and recommend this to any of my Harry Potter fans because then you can go to both parts of the Wizarding World and ride the Hogwarts Express both ways. However, you can make any amount of time work, you just need realistic expectations of what you can accomplish in the time you have. Time is so valuable at Disney and Universal!”
With regard to the pacing of the trip, Jen concurs…
WDW: 4-day park hopper
Universal: 2-day park-to-park for two parks
The reality is that – with so much to see and do – you could spend literal weeks on property at Universal and Disney World and still not experience everything each has to offer.
To make sure everyone in your party gets everything they want out of your next Orlando experience, be sure to check in with each party member and have them name their one must-do in each park you’ll be visiting.
Setting expectations early and ensuring that everyone gets a little bit of what they want will help make the memories of your Orlando vacation even more magical.
Disney World vs Universal Studios: Where To Stay
This is your vacation, so you get to choose! Our agents come in with split agendas on this one.
Our travel agent Katie Neu recommends…
“For my ideal trip, I would move hotels mid-trip. Both Universal Studios Florida and Walt Disney World give their onsite guests perks, like extended park hours and complimentary transportation to the parks. I wouldn’t want to miss out on those benefits – and, possibly, hotel and ticket packages when they’re available.”
Do you hate to pack? Then Jen Allen’s advice is for you…
“I hate packing, so pick a hotel and go with that property. If a guest is a Hard Rock Member, I’d recommend staying at Universal. If they are an Annual Passholder or Disney Vacation Club member, then staying at Walt Disney World is likely the better bet. If they are not sure, they can always ask their Vacationeer to price out both options (for free!) then pick the property that best fits their vacation vision and budget.”
Ready for a vacation? Let’s go to Orlando!
Ready to plan your next Orlando vacation?
Our travel quotes are free and no-obligation and, unlike many of our fellow Universal and Disney travel agencies, we do not charge travel planning fees.
Let us help you make the most of your next magical vacation – at no cost to you!