Our Family Vacation: Universal Studios Orlando

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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4 thoughts on “Our Family Vacation: Universal Studios Orlando”

  1. I am headed to Orlando in 10 days with my husbands family and there is no plan! I’m freaking out a bit. It is all adults and one four year old (girl). This is my first trip there. We know we are going to Disney one day, but that is it. So I have some questions…would you suggest hitting a few of the parks multiple days or doing a new park each day? How long did Jack last? Was a break necessary in the middle of the day? We are not staying onsite, so I’m nervous about that.
    I’m also wondering about your attire. 🙂 Rides and dresses/skirts? Any issues? How did you deal with *ahem* inner thigh rub? Any packing suggestions? 🙂 Thanks!

    1. We started off sticking to one park each day and then after 2 days we did hit both in one day. That does add quite a bit of walking to your day, so with a 4 year old you might want to just do one per day to keep her from petering out.

      Yes, a break in the middle of the day is a great idea. Since you won’t be staying on site, I’d do a sit down lunch somewhere so that you can get out of the crowds and sun for a bit to re-energize!

      As for dresses and skirts on rides, I’m a huge fan of “skimmies”. You can buy them on Amazon and these are the exact ones I have and love: http://amzn.to/2rliAZs. They keep you covered in the case of a wardrobe malfunction, prevent any thigh rub, and are not super slimming/uncomfortable like spanx. I wore these the whole trip under everything. Even on days where I did a swimsuit with a skirt for water rides… I had skimmies underneath!

      Hope this helps!

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