My family and I have been to Universal Hollywood, but we have never been to Universal Orlando. We decided to surprise my son with a “before school starts” trip for him and a friend. My son was excited because he has a December birthday and none of his friends have been able to travel with him in the past due to football and family get togethers.
As a travel agent, I was excited to experience the theme parks with two adventurous teenagers and one senior citizen. Yes, we made my mother go too. She was a little apprehensive about going because she is not a roller coaster rider. The theme park package I put together for all of us was as follows: (3-park) 4-day park to park promo tickets, 1-day express pass for Universal Studios, 1-day express pass for Universal Islands of Adventure, (3 day) Quick Service Dining, and Round-Trip Universal’s SuperStar Shuttle. I also reserved us breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron. For those of you that are not aware of the parks at Universal Orlando, they have 3: Universal Studios, Universal Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay.
We reserved a family suite and standard room at Universal’s Cabana Bay Resort. This resort has walking access to Volcano Bay. I have a lot of clients say they are not interested in purchasing a water park ticket. Since the promo ticket I selected included the waterpark, my crew took advantage of the option. Volcano Bay was the boys’ absolute favorite park of the three. They went everyday and sometimes twice a day. I do have to say Volcano Bay has the best lazy rivers! Remember, towels cost extra at Volcano Bay, so you may want to consider throwing a beach towel in your suitcase.
Cabana Bay had a lot to offer families. We ate most of our meals at the resort. They had a main cafeteria area that served pizza and pasta, sandwiches, salads, American fare, and world cuisine. It also has Grab-n-Go options too. Families could also purchase s’more kits in the cafeteria and roast them outside over the fire pits. The resort also had activity stations that offered ping pong, lazy river, bowling alley, and swimming pools.
Regarding wait times, the shuttle service from the resort to the parks was amazing. We never had to wait for a bus to arrive or depart. I like that the theme parks are so close together, left for Islands of Adventure and right for Universal Studios. Unfortunately, we did have to wait for about an hour to check-in to the resort. I think Disney World has them beat with online, contactless check-in. We all enjoyed the express passes. Even though we had the ability to go to all three parks in the same day, we planned one park a day with an express park pass for that day and then took advantage of the park access to Volcano Bay in the afternoon.
Dining was not easy for us. I highly recommend making online dining reservations well in advance because we were unable to eat at the popular restaurants around the parks. We all agreed that the dining plan was not worth it. We did not eat all our snack allotments. One staff member informed me that the meal plans were being discontinued very soon. She also stated that the unlimited beverage cups will continue.
I did not like having to carry all the different tickets with me in the parks. If we compare Universal to Disney, I love the ease of Disney’s Magic Bands. Each member in the group had to carry a daily base theme park ticket, an Express Pass ticket, dining plan ticket, and room key. I know why Universal sells so many lanyards! They come in very handy. I hope Universal develops a comparable app to Disney’s MyDisneyExperience.
At the City Walk, we all enjoyed goofy golf at Hollywood Drive-In Golf. The course we chose to play was the horror themed course. They have another course that is themed around the sci-fi movies of the 1950s. I highly recommend allowing some time to tee off!
Here is a list of everyone’s 3 favorites:
Will: Jurassic World VelociCoaster, The Incredible Hulk Coaster, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
Mav: Jurassic World VelociCoaster, The Incredible Hulk Coaster, Transformers: The Ride-3D
Barry: Jurassic World VelociCoaster, The Simpsons Ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Nana: Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, Transformers: The Ride-3D, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Amy: Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Here is a list of our favorite parks in order from favorite to least:
Will: Volcano Bay, Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios
Mav: Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, Universal Studios
Barry: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay
Amy: Universal Studios, Volcano Bay, Islands of Adventure
Nana: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Nana doesn’t do waterparks!
In my opinion, Universal Orlando is great for kids ages 10-year-old and older. It is a great place for thrill seekers and those loving action and adventure movies. There is very limited availability for kids under a certain height and age. Would mind family go back? ABSOLUTELY!