Last month I wrote about 10 of our favorite family experiences there. And it was hard to narrow it down to 10, because there are hundreds really! We’ve been there for six years in a row – ever since Des was a one-year-old. And I know we will be going for years to come, and we’re so excited to head back to try their new family-friendly roller coaster as well! I have grown to love their amazing rides – each one is like a feast for the senses. I’ll never know how they make such amazing rides (and foods, beverages, treats, souvenirs) but I just like to go, sit back, and enjoy the ride. Well, maybe not sit back. I tracked us at over 20,000 steps during our day at the parks. Universal Orlando Resort is a MUST for your family vacation.
7 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Trip to Universal Orlando:
1 – Stay overnight on property in one of the Universal Orlando Resort hotels. The six on-site hotels at Universal Orlando Resort are: Universal’s Aventura Hotel, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and Hard Rock Hotel. There are incredible perks when you stay onsite, such as free shuttle transportation to all the parks, as well as specific entrance times, and Express or Unlimited Express Passes, depending on where you stay. You’ll also get to try their amazing restaurants and amenities. Plus, you’ll have a view!
How long to go:
2 – Plan for more than one day, if possible. The first year, we went two days but not in a row. For the next few years, we only went one day and felt like we were missing out. Considering that there are three parks – Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay – it may just do to have three days there – one day at each park. With two kids, and the fact that we often go with family and friends, we need ample time to cover EVERYTHING we want to do. And that’s a LOT. It’s better to see everything in a more leisurely way, and give yourself plenty of time.
Do your homework, but allow room for changes:
3 – Make a schedule, but be flexible too. Our first stop is always Ollivander’s ever since we had that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on our first trip. We were one of the first 25 let into the wand shop and Scarlet was chosen to get her own wand! That said, there is a lot of fun to be had and you want to know exactly what’s happening, with the knowledge that most showtimes (save the castle lights at dusk) repeat many times during the day. Here’s the schedule we used to get an idea of character visits and meets, shows, fireworks, lights, etc. Ultimately, we saw everything we wanted without stress.
Get your wizard on!
4 – Begin and end your day at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As I mentioned before, you can get that rare chance to either get chosen for a wand, or just enjoy the wand show – also fun – but it’s a great time to wander around Diagon Alley before it gets too crowded. You can see (and feel and hear) the dragon breathe fire a few times, do wand tricks, enjoy ice cream, and visit the shops. Other than a stop at Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade around lunchtime, we usually travel other parts of the park until the end of the day. And then Hogsmeade is emptier and we can ride the great rides then.
Another perk is to see The Nighttime Lights At Hogwarts™ Castle. Special note: you will need a park to park ticket because Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios Florida and Hogsmeade is in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
5 – Figure out what kind of tickets you need, based on what you want to see, how long you have, where you’re staying, etc. As I said above, Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios Florida and Hogsmeade is in Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The two parks are connected by the Hogwarts Express and you can also walk from one park to another – but will have to have the right ticket to do so. There are also tickets to shorten your wait on line.
Universal Express tickets allow you go on a special, shorter line for participating attractions, and Universal Express Unlimited tickets allow you to do the same – but for as many times as you want with participating attractions. There’s also Volcano Bay Express passes. Depending on the weather, amount of time you have, patience of your loved ones, and more, you may opt for a special kind of ticket.
What works best for you?
6 – Plan your trip at the right time of year for you. Living out in the country like I do, I think every day there is crowded but people in Orlando think otherwise. There are times of year in which it’s much lighter. Think like September or early December or right after the holidays in January into February. I avoid going in summer personally, because of crowds and heat. Another fun time to go is during Halloween and Christmas celebrations. It may be crowded but also a once in a lifetime thing to see. Definitely do your research as to what best works for you with attractions, decorations, crowds, weather, etc.
Do your homework!
7 – Prepare for your trip beforehand. Book your tickets online if you can, arrive to the parks early, decide beforehand to have a souvenir plan or budget, and pack lightly but intelligently. Certain rides won’t allow backpacks, but most do. There’s always stroller parking and there are paid lockers to store personal items. There are single rider lines as well as “Child Swap” if you have a young child and don’t want to wait on line twice as long for adults to take turns on rides.
Most of all, have fun!
Lastly, for some fun background info, Universal Orlando Resort is comprised of three fabulous parks – Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay. There’s also an entertainment complex – Universal CityWalk – and it gets bigger every year! We love to walk around there. And, there are six on-site hotels at Universal Orlando Resort – Universal’s Aventura Hotel, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and Hard Rock Hotel. This is literally our perfect family vacation!