Due to a busy travel schedule that took me to Washington D.C for a good cause with We Belong Together (Women for Common Sense Immigration Reform), I was forced to miss the grand opening of the Transformers: The Ride-3D at Universal Studios Orlando theme park. However, last week I had the opportunity to experience the entire park with my family. The fact that we live just a 2-hour drive away made it that much easier to visit! As a work-at-home mom, I’m thrilled when I can share with my kiddos the perks of my job, and here is the summary of our trip, plus a few pointers to make your experience even better than ours!
PREPPING FOR YOUR TRIP
As I’ve mentioned in other Florida theme-park posts, an absolute must is to stop at a dollar store or drugstore and arm yourself with cheap rain ponchos for the whole family, especially if you are visiting in the summer, when thunderstorms are a daily occurrence. You can stash them in a backpack or daypack—you won’t regret it. They’re also great for some of the water-rides where you will be splashed!
Plan where you are going to stay and find the best deals online. Vacation packages are often more reasonable than if you buy tickets and accommodations separately. Florida residents get an even better break.
Before you head out, look at the Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure theme-park website and choose the rides you’d like to experience. This is especially important when traveling with kids, as many of the rides have height restrictions. My 9-year old cried at least 3 times when she realized she didn’t make the mark for certain roller-coasters. Luckily we deflected her disappointment by taking her on 3D rides such as Spiderman, the Simpsons, Shrek and Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey. In the meantime my eldest, 12, and I enjoyed the rollercoasters: Hulk, Dragon Challenge and The Revenge of the Mummy. Springfield, especially The Simpsons and Moe’s Tavern was a big hit with the whole fam.
PERKS OF STAYING ONSITE
We stayed in one of three on-site resorts, the Loews Royal Pacific, where on our first evening, the adults were able to hit the gym and then relax at the Sushi bar while the kids enjoyed the lagoon-style pool. A poolside movie before a late dinner at one of the restaurants capped off the day. Staying at one of the resorts offers perks such as onsite coupons—we took advantage of the bargain on an adult dinner/free kiddie dinner, and also the one-day free pass to the gymnasium.
Other perks include having early park admission to the two theme parks, so you can make it to the Harry Potter Ride and the brand new Transformers: The Ride-3D before the rest of the public comes in. But that does involve getting up at 6am to be in the park by 7! Also, you automatically get a fastpass for every member of the family, which helps you skip the regular lines to most rides. As the day progressed, some of the lines were one and two hours long! The fast pass usually cuts the wait in half, or even more. In addition, you can use your hotel key as a charge card in the parks—in most stores and eateries. But I suggest limiting that perk to the adults’ cards!
You can also just walk to the parks, take a water shuttle or even a bike-cab to and from the fun back to the hotel. If your time is limited to one day, I suggest starting early at one park, then going back to rest at the resort and hitting the next park until closing time, as we did. If you have more than one day, then take your time at each facility. Don’t push the kids to do more than they can take. Theme parks can be exhilarating, but also exhausting if you don’t factor in some down time.
Read Related: Mamiverse Guide to Legoland Florida
PLANNING YOUR RIDES
Consider the preferences of your family before you enter the gates of each park. In our party of five, the two men (dad and a 10-year old boy) appreciate calmer rides, while the two girls, 12 and 9, and I prefer a good thrill. At times we split up, so that we all got what we wanted without having to wait on the others.
I suggest you all keep your smartphones handy so that in the event of separation you can locate one another easily. Staff is very nice and once my when eldest and I were lost without our belongings, they let us place calls from their phones. There are also guest service locations where they will assist you if you in these cases. Don’t worry about where to stash your phone when going on a ride. There are lockers right next to each and every ride that doesn’t allow for you to carry loose objects. Best of all? They are mostly free. And they open and close with your digital signature—your fingerprint—which makes it a breeze to store your belongings.
Both parks were a big hit with the whole family, although we especially loved Harry Potter and Hogwarts, Springfield and Disaster Ride, which we all enjoyed together. We never made it to Transformers: The Ride-3D or Despicable Me, as the lines were literally hours long and they didn’t take fast pass access. But, that gives us a reason to want to return!
Have you visited Universal Orlando? What are your tips for other parents wanting to go?
Disclaimer: Universal Orlando provided the writer with day passes and accommodation for her family. She was not asked to nor compensated for writing this post. Opinions are her own.