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Disney Vs. Universal

 Ah, the age old question. Which is the better park - Disney or Universal? 


I got bombarded with this question in my Instagram DM's while on our trip, so I thought it would be a fun to do a post noting the distinct differences that stood out between the two. Since we did both sets of parks in the same week, the differences stuck out more than perhaps they would had we separated them out by entirely different trips. 

So, let's get into it!

The Apps.

Each park has it's own app which makes things a breeze to keep organized and all together in one space. However, the Disney app is far and away the better app between the two. From the moment we booked our trip, the Disney app had all of our information stored with easy access, from the dates of our stay, our resort information, our dining reservations, and park reservations. Everything was right there and streamlined for us. Universal resort accommodations are never loaded onto the app - they are an entirely different thing, so we were only able to access our tickets via the Universal app. Disney had the one-up in that everything in our itinerary was right there on our app with absolutely no confusion. 

Both apps were extremely useful as far as maps and ride wait times went. I still have the apps on my phone and randomly check the wait times on my favorite rides just for kicks.

On the Disney app you could pre-order your food for Quick Service meals and then just walk up and pick it up. That was certainly a perk! Also, when a ride snapped your photo it was automatically sent over to your app. I loved that feature. 

At Disney you solely use your app for everything - as your room key, park ticket, you even link your credit or debit card to it. But we went ahead and purchased the magic bands so we didn't have to fumble for our phones. The magic bands were connected to our app so we just scanned it for entrance into our room and to the parks. Also if you wanted to buy something, you just swiped your magic band. We missed the magic bands so much when we went to Universal and had to use an actual room key and cash!


Disney wins this one.

The Staff.

This one stood out to us majorly. Hands down, Disney staff is the superior staff. I say that because everyone there went out of their way to make things "magical" for everyone. They were kind, gracious, helpful, and just overall genuinely wonderful to us as guests. If there was a problem they went out of their way to fix it, and the people running the rides were cheerful and upbeat, wishing us a magical day and all the happy greetings and salutations. 

Universal staff was not. They just seemed more like people their doing their job, if that makes sense. We did have a handful of male employees in Harry Potter World fist bump little Ezra and comment on his "superior" House (Hufflepuff), and his face lit up every time. That made an impression on this momma, too. But in the main areas of the Universal parks, we ran across several disgruntled employees. We commented several times that "they would never!" at Disney. 

Simply put - things like this are what sets Disney apart from the rest. I love the emphasis they put on HAPPY!

Disney wins this one.

Food Service.

Disney takes their restaurant reservation system to the next level. I will say they have everything down to a science, having to book your dining reservations 60 days out. I still can't decide if that's a good or a bad thing. It's sort of frustrating because reservations fill up so quick. I feel like people just book all the reservations they could ever want (and more than they need) and then when they get closer to the dates of their trip they cancel and just keep what they want. But in doing this, so many other people miss out on getting a reservation. You can keep checking every day to see if something opens up, but who has time to do that? It's sort of a stressor, but I don't know a better way for them to do it. My best advice is to research the restaurants and book them as soon as they open up for you.

All Universal restaurants are first come, first serve. And we never had a problem getting in to any of them. I did book reservations for two of them, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Mythos, several months out, but I think it's just because I was in panic mode because of Disney's reservation system. I did not need to do that, but it was nice to have a couple things already booked and ready for us. The regular reservation system seemed to work perfect and makes things way less of a frenzy.


To order Quick Service meals at Disney you must use the app. At Universal you just stand in line and wait your turn.

Universal wins this one for me.


Again, Disney has this one down to a science. Their bus transits were flawless and plentiful - we never waited more than 5 minutes for a bus to take us to and from the parks. 

At Universal, our resort was literally so close to the parks that it was a quick 5 minute walk. There was also river boat transportation that we used when we were too tired to walk, and that was a lifesaver. 


Both parks have an excellent transportation system and we never encountered any sort of flaw in either of them. We never took a Universal bus, since it wasn't needed for where we stayed.

Ride Protocol.

Disney rides are, in a word, easy. You can take your bag/backpack onto every ride there, there are no phone restrictions, and they have those rides so streamlined that they have you on and off of there in the quickest transition. I've never seen anything like it. Because it's so seamless, they're able to get loads of people on and off rides in a matter of minutes. 


Universal wasn't like that. For so many rides, we had to check our bags into lockers, phones had to go in the lockers, and everything just ran so much slower. For some rides (like Velocicoaster) the lockers were free, but some of the rides you had to pay $2 to store your stuff just for the duration of the ride. If you left it in there to ride some more rides, they just kept charging you. 

Universal had Express Passes free with our stay on property, so that was a game changer as far as rides were concerned. Disney has put their fast pass service on hold due to Covid, so we had to wait in line for every single ride. Even at that, Disney's fast pass system wasn't as good as Universal's. 

Disney gets a point for how they run their rides.

Universal gets a point for the Express Pass. 


If you want thrill rides, Universal is your park. The coasters are massive, unbelievably fast, take riveting twists and turns and are great for the thrill-seekers. The rides in Harry Potter World are unmatched, in my opinion. They are the best combination of experience and ride and you hop off truly feeling like you've just come back from a different world.


Disney rides are classic. What I love about them is that everyone can ride most of them. There are certainly thrill rides in the parks, and they are an absolute blast, but there just aren't as many of the coasters as there are at Universal. The best part of Disney rides is that you can bring a family ranging from babies to the elderly and disabled and everyone has the opportunity to ride so many things. 

Something else I noticed was that inside the queues for the rides, Universal had the Air Conditioning on such full blast that at some points I was actually cold. That was a welcome relief in the Florida heat and humidity! There were several rides at Disney that I commented how hot it was inside. So Universal had the one up on the AC situation.

I can't pick who wins the rides portion because I love the distinct difference in both. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a thrill and other times I want to sit back and enjoy the wonder and nostalgia of the Disney rides. 

It's a tie.

Overall Vibe.

We noticed a stark difference after having been at Disney in the overall vibe at Universal. I can't really explain it properly as it was more of a "feeling", but Disney vibes are just immaculate. It was spic and span, and we saw staff cleaning everywhere we went. We were even in line for Peter Pan and a kind old Disney gent was vigorously scraping gum off of a cement wall. There were happy families everywhere - couples holding hands, children on their dads shoulders, babies sleeping in their strollers, kids laughing - people together and truly having the time of their lives. The Disney music and smells only add to the charm. 


We heard a lot of profanity at Universal and it seems like so many of the people at the park that day chose to wear shirts with bad words on them. It could have just been a coincidence, and of course you can't control the crowds, but Disney just felt more family oriented and clean.

So when asked which one I prefer, it's hard to say because for this trip I truly am so happy that we were able to do both of them. I would not have changed one day of it! We honestly had the perfect time at both sets of parks. However, now that we've done Universal and have seen all the Harry Potter stuff, I don't really need to go back.* But I would choose to go back to Disney time and again, because ultimately I'm a Disney girl at heart. I would love to spend a week at Disney sometime doing all four of their parks! 

If you've never been to either of them, and you're asking which one to do - I don't even know what to recommend. Both sets of parks are truly INCREDIBLE and each have such unique offerings. From Star Wars to Harry Potter and the Hollywood film charm to fairytale nostalgia - I have to say PICK BOTH! I would highly recommend doing half the week at Disney and half the week at Universal all day every day. And if you have the Express Pass, you don't need more than 2 days in Universal Studios. You can knock it all out easy. You could easily spend an entire week in Disney and still not see it all.  

*(We will be returning to Universal, however, when they're finished installing the new NINTENDO portion they are working on. But that won't be ready for another 4 years. My kids are beyond excited!)


Here's one more tip - if you have a child who is a bit more apprehensive about rides, I suggest starting at Magic Kingdom and working your way up. Magic Kingdom has rides everyone can ride. (I remember going when the kids were babies and I held 1 year old Ezra on my lap for so many rides!) Hollywood Studios has more thrill rides. And then Universal has tons of thrill rides. So if you start your week out with the easy parks and work your way up, your little one will likely be riding all the things by the time you hit Universal. I never thought in a million years that Ezra would ride something like Velocicoaster - but by the end of the week he felt like he could do anything - so he rode it and loved it. A major highlight for me was riding everything together as a family and I don't know if that would have been the case had we started the week at Universal.  

I really hope my perspective helps some of you who are planning upcoming trips. If there are any questions I haven't answered, feel free to comment or shoot me a message on Instagram (

Next I'm going to share my list of MUST-HAVES that you need to bring to survive the parks! Get ready!

Check out my Disney Recap here!

Check out my Universal Recap here!

I am a modern day homemaker with a passion for family, cooking, celebrating, decorating, travel, and memory making! The Lord has blessed me with the desires of my heart in my husband and our two sons. We recently built our dream home and cultivating a loving and happy haven for my family is where I find so much joy.


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