Planning a trip to Universal Orlando Resort? Justin and I recently visited, and we learned a few things during our adventure. For this reason, I want to share my experiences and tips for a great vacation!
Where to Stay
We stayed at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. We planned to meet up with my sister and nieces in Orlando; therefore, we chose to reserve one of their Family Suites. The prices are pretty reasonable for this hotel, and the resort is within walking distance to the parks.
In our room, we had two queen beds, a pull out couch, and a small kitchenette area. Our suite was pretty spacious, and it worked well for all of us. In addition, I also liked that the toilet, sink, and shower were separate from each other. This is very practical for families.
This hotel offers great amenities, and there is something for everyone in the family. The property has two pool areas with a lazy river, a water slide, and even a splash pad. I love that they offer “sandy beaches” for lounging. There are even fire pits and lawn games by the pools. In the main building of the hotel, there are plenty of activities–such as bowling, arcade games, a fitness center, etc–and dining options (including Starbucks!).
If you’ll be there for a while, or even just plan to enjoy the pools, I’d definitely suggest bringing a tube and some snacks!
When to Go
We flew to Florida on August 22nd and returned home a few days later. I have heard that the weekends before and after Labor Day are great for theme parks. Based on my experiences, I’d say that these rumors are accurate! I would definitely visit around this time again.
Even though we went to the parks on a Saturday, we had minimal encounters with crowds and lines. There is a trade off, because Florida is very hot and humid in August.
Theme Parks and Tips
There are 3 theme parks within Universal Orlando Resort: Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. We chose to purchase a single day ticket with access to Universal and Islands. On this trip, we didn’t upgrade our tickets for additional perks. Even though I usually recommend purchasing the MaxPass at Disneyland, I didn’t feel like we needed the Universal Express Pass.
Universal Studios Florida
By staying on the property, guests are able to access Universal an hour early. We arrived promptly at 8 am to start our day. While I didn’t expect every attraction to be open, I was pretty disappointed to find out that most weren’t. For this reason, we explored the park/shops and rode the only ride (Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts) that was operating. If you’ve purchased a wand, this is a good time to practice some spells.
I mainly wanted to visit Universal to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The land is separated, though. Diagon Alley is in Universal, while Hogsmeade and Hogwarts are located in Islands. I think that this is a bit odd, but it’s a great strategy to get those Harry Potter fans to pay for both parks.
Because we were already in Universal, we decided to stay there for the morning. We didn’t wait longer than 20 minutes for any of the rides. Once we were finished, we took the Hogwarts Express over to Islands of Adventure. While I liked Universal, I was a little dissatisfied in the lack of variety there. A lot of their rides incorporated CGI; so, I left feeling dizzy and nauseous.
My recommendations? Bring your over the counter medications and don’t eat any churros before going on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster.
Islands of Adventure
After our ride on the Hogwarts Express, we were in Islands of Adventure before we knew it. This lead us right into the Hogsmeade area of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was early afternoon, and we started feeling pretty warm at this point; therefore, we decided to stop for some Butterbeer.
There are two kinds of Butterbeer to choose from: regular or frozen. I recommend trying both! I definitely preferred the frozen, though. It was incredibly refreshing! I didn’t think that I would like it.
Where to Eat
After our quick break, we rode a few rides and then decided to stop for some lunch. We chose to eat at the Three Broomsticks. Let me tell you, this restaurant did not disappoint.
We ordered The Great Feast Platter for four. This meal included chicken and ribs for the main courses as well as salad, potatoes, corn on the cob, and a veggie mix for the sides. It was plenty of food for five of us, and we even had a bit left over. In addition, even though the price seems steep at $60, it is incredibly economical for a group. This is, hands down, the best and healthiest meal that I have EVER had at a theme park.
Once we were finished with lunch, we headed back out to the rides. At this point in the afternoon, I was nervous for the wait times. We used the Universal app to help plan out the rest of our day. Even though some of the estimates were listed at 45 minutes or more, we only waited 20-25 minutes (at the most) for everything that we rode.
Full disclosure: if you decide to go on Popeye & Bluto Bilge-Rat Barges or Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, you will get wet. Some of the employees tried to be silly by telling us otherwise. They even moved our seat assignments! Honestly, it didn’t really matter, because we were all soaked anyway. It felt nice to cool off, though.
Navigating the New Ride
All day, we watched Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure on the app, and we never saw the wait time drop below 2 hours. Before we left the parks for the night, we decided to try our luck in the single rider’s line. Even though the employees attempted to discourage us from doing this (by saying the wait was going to be longer or that they frequently close the line), we continued on anyway.
It worked out, because all five of us rode within 25 minutes. Let me say, this is definitely my favorite ride within the resort! What a great way to end an amazing day.
Have you been to Universal Orlando Resort? Do you have any tips for next time? Let me know in the comments! 🙂