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Our Family Vacation: Universal Studios Orlando

23 May

I’ve been procrastinating on writing this post. Every time I go to upload the pictures and start typing, I find something else that I need to do. We had SUCH a wonderful time on our trip to Universal Studios that I don’t want to admit that it’s over. But… I do want to tell you all about it!

We took Jack to Disney World when he was three (you can read all about it here Disney World: What Worked and What Didn’t) and I remember saying back then that as soon as Jack was tall enough to ride the good rides, we were going to plan a trip for Universal Studios. Don’t get me wrong, Disney World was GREAT for a three year old, because Jack was a fanatic about Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Jake and the Pirates at that time.

However, now that he’s five years old… we knew Universal Studios would be a hit.

First off, he LOVES roller coasters and is tall enough to ride all but the super crazy ones that go upside-down. He is also super familiar with a ton of Universal characters, including: the Minions, Shrek, X-men, Spiderman, E.T., Dr. Seuss, the Transformers, Harry Potter, etc. Basically, every corner we turned around the park was a HOLY MOLY moment for him. Of course, Travis and I also love Universal Studios, so having Jack as excited about it as us was super fun! Oh, and he’s at that super cool age where he isn’t quite sure if the dinosaurs on the Jurassic Park ride are remote control or real.

Where we Stayed
We decided to stay at an on-site hotel, the Lowes Royal Pacific Resort, for a few reasons. Travis and I had stayed there 7 years ago and loved it. The hotel is beautiful, the pool is amazing and it is about a 10 minute walk to the parks. On our first visit, we decided that the perk of getting Express Passes was a total deal breaker for any return visits. The Express Pass lets you go into a separate short line for the majority of the rides, so we knew that if we ever came back with a kid that it would make the visit so much easier for all of us.

Returning to the Royal Pacific as a family was a great decision. They provided a shuttle service from the airport, so we didn’t have to worry about bringing a car seat. They have the pool and also a water park splash zone for kids, which Jack loved. Also, having those Express Passes means that we barely waited in any lines the entire time we were there. The only time we had to wait in a line longer than 5 minutes was for one of the newest Harry Potter rides. So yeah, it was a fantastic choice!

What we Did
We arrived in Florida on a Sunday evening, with just enough time to go to dinner and settle into our room. We didn’t bother waking up early to take advantage of the ‘early park hours’ we could do through our hotel. Instead, we lazed around each morning and had a light breakfast. On Monday, we spent the day at Universal Orlando. We petered out early and enjoyed some pool time that night.

We did make it a point to get Jack a wand at Ollivanders on our first day so that he could use it throughout our trip. He had been asking for one on a daily basis the entire month leading up to the trip, so he was so excited to pick one out for himself. He thought it was super cool how he could ‘use magic’ to make things happen in the windows around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.

Then, on Tuesday, we hit up Islands of Adventure. This is where Jack’s head exploded when he met his hero… Spiderman! Jack told him that he loved his ride and Spiderman pulled him in for a hug!

We also met the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2:

We stayed at the park a little later that night, but still didn’t shut the place down. We DID have an amazing dessert at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. Mine was the Marshmallow Crisp milkshake and it had vanilla ice cream, rice krispies and marshmallow fluff blended in it. It was topped with fresh whipped cream, a rice krispies treat and a super-sized marshmallow.

It was worth every calorie!

On Wednesday, we decided to dress for water rides and spent most of the day getting totally soaked. Jack could not stop laughing every time we ended up splashed so much we were wringing out our clothes. I left my phone in the room so that it wouldn’t get wet, so I don’t have any pictures at all. It was kind of nice being technology-free for a bit.

On our last day, Thursday, we hit up water rides in the morning and then came back to the room to change into dry clothes around lunchtime. After drying off and filling our bellies, we went back to the parks and closed them down that night. We actually ended up on a Harry Potter ride as park closed at 9:00 and as we walked out caught the fireworks presentation. It was the perfect ending to an absolutely phenomenal vacation!

Tips & Tricks

  • If you are planning to buy a wand, do it the first day so that you can get your money’s worth out of it. Also, for Jack we set expectations that the wand was his one treat… so he wasn’t begging for something every time we walked by a store.
  • Dress wisely. It was 90 – 95 degrees when we visited, so Travis and Jack wore wicking shirts each day with either swim trunks or cargo shorts. I stuck with easy dresses, or a combo of a swimsuit and skirt. We also slathered on SPF each morning before leaving our room and re-applied throughout the day.
  • Go as ‘hands free’ as possible. I had it down to a super small cross-body bag or fanny pack each day. I’ll do a post later this week on some shopping trips!
  • If you love something, go back! We ended up visiting CowFish for dinner two times on our trip, because it was so darn good. We also went by the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium twice. No regrets here!
  • Wear comfy shoes! We walked SO MUCH. I actually wore my FitBit so that I could track our steps and we did 3 miles (Sunday), 5.5 miles (Monday), 6.1 miles (Tuesday), 8.3 miles (Wednesday) and 9.7 miles (Thursday)!

So yeah, all in all we had a super wonderful trip and I wish I could hit rewind and do it all over again!

Are you a Universal Studios Orlando lover? What is your favorite part of the parks? Do you have any questions about our trip?

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Movie Talk: Cramming for our Universal Studios Trip

11 May

I mentioned that we had been watching a bunch of movies to get Jack ready for our trip to Universal Studios. We knew he’d have an awesome time on the rides – the kid is a roller coaster fanatic, just like his mommy – but we thought it would be even more fun if he was familiar with some of the characters that he’d see.

Well, RIGHT THIS MOMENT we are in Orlando (hopefully) running from ride to ride and screaming our heads off (in a good way)! So, I wanted to share with you some of the movies we watched before we left on our trip:

The ride: ET Adventure
The movie: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

I know ET has some scary parts, but it was rated PG so we decided to try it out. Jack really liked the little alien and now he will totally understand all the sights we see when we ride the ride!

The ride: Despicable Me Minion Mayham
The movies: Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2 and Minions

Credit: Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment.

 

We already loved all of the minions movies, so it wasn’t unpleasant to re-watch them all! We can’t wait to see the minions up close and personal when we ride their new ride. I’m crossing my fingers for a photo opp at some point in the park too!

The ride: Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
The movie: Spider-Man

I remember the Spider-Man ride being one of our favorites when Travis and I visited Universal Studios last time and I can basically guarantee that Jack is going to LOVE it too. He is super familiar with Spider-Man, as well as a bunch of other characters from the comic books, so we are hoping for some superhero sightings!

The ride: Everything in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The movies: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” Available on video and DVD from Warner Home Video. All rights reserved.

 

Jack is a little young for some of the more recent Harry Potter movies, but he really enjoyed the first two. He is super excited about seeing the castle and has already told me 10,783 times that he wants a wand. Me too, little dude. Me too.

So yeah, this is probably us right now riding the roller coasters:

Credit: Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment.

 

If you have any Universal Studios Orlando questions, let me know and I’ll make sure to answer them when I get home!

 

Disclaimer: I am a member of Netflix’s DVD.com Director’s program, which gives me free access to movies. If you sign up with my referral link, I may receive a referral reward. All images are courtesy of Netflix.com and the producing companies.

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Share your Universal Studios Orlando Tips!

18 Apr

You guys, I am totally counting down the days until our next vacation, which is coming up in May. Travis and I went to Universal Studios Orlando back in 2010, but this time will be even more awesome…

This time we are bringing our own 5 year old ‘thing 1’ with us, Jack! Also, when we last visited there was only one side to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and now there is EVEN MORE to see! So much excitement! So many exclamation points!

We’ve been preparing Jack by watching Harry Potter movies, in addition to familiarizing him with other characters that he will see at the parks. We can’t wait to see Spiderman, the Hulk, the Minions, Transformers, Curious George, Shrek and more. We already know that Jack is a rollercoaster fiend, just like his momma, so really it is up to Travis to be able to keep up with us!

We are staying right on property at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, so we will be able to walk over to the parks each day and we also got those ‘Universal Express’ unlimited ride passes so we can skip waiting in lines.

So, here’s where I’d love your help! Is there anything you think we absolutely shouldn’t miss? Do you have a restaurant or snack recommendation that we should be sure to add to our list? Anything you think we should know? Feel free to fill up my comments section with your tips!

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The Day I Forgot Jack’s Coat

13 Apr

A couple weeks ago, before the weather turned warm, Jack and I were doing our typical frantic rush off to school/work routine and I forgot his coat. I should say that WE forgot his coat, because neither of us grabbed it on the way out the door. But he’s 5, so I’ll take the blame for it this time.

It’s a 20 minute ride to school and when I go to unload Jack, I realize that there is no coat. It’s bright red, so it’s kind of hard to miss. However, I look all over the inside of the SUV as if the coat somehow balled itself up and shoved itself under a seat.

It’s cold. I mean, it’s not snowing or anything. But it is definitely cold enough that a kid needs his coat.

And here is where you can see what kind of mom I am.
I dropped him off at school without his coat.

Sure, I could have rearranged my entire morning so that I could drive back home for 20 minutes, drive 20 more minutes BACK to school to drop off the coat and then continue on my way to work.

I could do that.
Plenty of moms would have done that.
I mean, it’s my baby boy. I love him and want him to be warm and happy, right?

Just look at that adorable face!

I didn’t though. Because I think it is important for Jack to know that mommy has stuff to do. Mommy can’t drop everything because we forgot his coat. MOMMY is important too and her entire life doesn’t revolve around Jack and his needs.

So, Jack went to school without a coat. And I knew that they’d either give him a spare coat to wear or he’d just stay inside during outside play time.

And that’s okay too. Because maybe the next time we are running out of the house, Jack will be the one who grabs his coat.

Because as much as I love that cute little face, mommy has shit to do.

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