Planning Your Universal Orlando Family Vacation

Universal Orlando Globe

Family vacations are something we look forward to all year.  In order to make it a smooth and fun trip, I recommend researching ahead of time to ensure a smooth and fun trip!  Here are some tips I recommend checking out before visiting Universal Orlando!

Universal Orlando Globe


There are a variety of options when it comes to choosing what type of ticket you’d like (and when Volcano Bay opens at the end of May, there will be even more!).  If you are planning to hop between parks, I highly recommend purchasing the Park-to-Park ticket which allows you to visit both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios in the same day.  It’s not that much more expensive and the parks are within walking distance of each other.  This was a perfect option for us as we’ve been there a few times and had a plan all figured out as to how we were going to navigate the parks and get to the rides we wanted to experience.

Before you make your purchase, I also recommend checking out the available packages.  If you stay at one of the three resort hotels, you can gain early access and Express passes depending on the deal.

Universal Orlando Hamburger and Dana
I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today


I would highly recommend purchasing Express™ Passes.  I know it is an added cost in addition to the entry ticket, but it is SO worth it!  There are two types of Express™ Passes:

  • Unlimited: This pass allows you to skip the regular lines an unlimited amount of times.  This version is great if you plan on riding a few rides multiple times, like my kids who love Spiderman and the Hulk.
  • Express™ Add-On Ticket: this pass allows you to skip the regular lines one time per ride.  This pass is great if you plan on riding each ride once and moving on to the next stop!

Pricing for the Express passes vary, based on the number of parks you’re going to visit, etc.


Universal Orlando Popeye

I always like to travel light when it comes to visiting amusement parks – who wants to  lug around a heavy bag, right?  I’m not one to get a locker, which is available at the Universal parks, so I pack strategically.

  • Sunscreen: a MUST.  Even if it is cloudy out, the sun’s rays are still beaming through the clouds.  Don’t be fooled and don’t forget to reapply either!
  • Poncho: I grabbed some at my local collar store, as you never know when it’s going to rain.  You can watch the weather all you’d like, but Florida weather can be finicky at times, especially in the summer.
  • Clothing: Last time we visited, we knew we were going to do both parks in one day, so we dressed accordingly.  We started at Islands of Adventure, since this park has the bulk of the water rides.  The boys dressed in comfy shorts and a t-shirt until we got to Popeye’s Barge, and then switched into their bathing suits, swim shorts, and flip flops.
  • Plastic bags: Grocery bags will do…these are for putting the wet clothes in after the boys changed back into their street clothes.


Universal Studios Hulk

It’s important to check out the height requirements for each of the parks before going.  When the boys were younger, we knew they’d want to ride ALL of the rides, so researching saved us saved us from a lot of crying.  We prepped them ahead of time, getting them psyched for the rides they COULD ride and minimized the rides they were still a bit small for.  If my husband wanted to ride one of the “minimized” rides, I’d take them to one of their rides while he hopped on his, and we’d meet up afterwards.


I highly recommend purchasing one of the souvenir refillable drink cups at the beginning of the day.  One cup was $15 (if you purchase more than one, there is a discount) BUT you can refill it as many times as you want throughout the day, at BOTH parks.  What’s even cooler, is that it is self-serve (although there are restaurants and other vendors that will refill for you) via the super cool Coca Cola Freestyle machines.  You could spend all day trying to figure out which of the 100’s of drinks to choose.

I don’t know if you want to tell the kids, but it also allows you unlimited Icees – we kept that tidbit of advice under wraps for a bit so as not to over-sugar them!

I am a huge popcorn lover so I also indulged in the refillable popcorn bucket.  I believe it was about $7, and refills were under $2 each.

Food options are endless.  You can eat at one of the many restaurants and cafes throughout the parks.  We opted for Mythos, inside the Islands of Adventure park and it was phenomenal!  The interior was designed to feel like a cavern, the food was top notch, and our waiter was so exceptionally nice and helpful.

Universal Orlando Mythos Pizza
N’s Pizza

Universal Orlando Mythos Risotto

In the past, in between park hopping, we’ve also dined at CityWalk.  There are so many different restaurants to choose from, as well as cute shops to check out – all central between the two parks.  If you go to Universal without kiddos or have a babysitter, I highly recommend checking out the nightlife!  There are bars, a club and a lot of amazing concerts are scheduled throughout the year.


You can self park in the huge parking garage (with “preferred” self parking options available) or valet.


Definitely download the official app (available in iTunes and Google Play) as it was a huge help for us getting around the park, finding out the wait times, and finding the nearest bathrooms.

Universal Orlando Seuss Landing
Seuss Landing is so much fun for everyone…I love the carousel!
Universal Orlando Harry Potter
This was the first time we went on the Harry Potter ride and it was AWESOME! Go there super early in your visit to hopefully avoid insanely long lines!

Of course this goes without saying, but be sure to check the park hours, to better help plan out your day.



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