Living in Orlando we are spoiled when it comes to looking for a weekend activity or staycation. Our backyard is filled with costumed characters, spectacular dining experiences, the beach, Broadway level shows, and rides for every taste level. Since moving to Orlando my family of five has taken full advantage. 

This year we decided to gift our kids Universal Orlando passes for Christmas. Let’s be honest…these were a gift for ourselves as well. We have learned a few tips and tricks since activating our passes, so I’ve compiled a list of our best advice when visiting Universal Orlando!

A Primer for Visiting Universal Orlando with Little OnesFood

I have a system when planning for a day at an amusement park. It has gotten us through long days at tons of different parks. 

Step 1 – Eat breakfast at home, or at least in the car on the way to the park. There are options at City Walk and in the parks to eat, but it is seriously a waste of valuable ride time to take advantage of them unless you arrive exceptionally early. 

Step 2 – Pack snacks and a water bottle. These are awesome for passing the time in long lines or if you are trying to eat meals during non-peak times {btw you should always do this}. My favorite snacks to throw in my backpack are packs of crackers, granola bars, mixed nuts, and if I’m feeling nice some cookies. With water fountains all over the place and kiosks that allow you to fill your bottle with water it is easy not to spend money on drinks.

Step 3 – Share meals. The portions in the park are good sized…especially when paired with your snack arsenal. we bought 2 hot dogs and 2 fries from Blondies and it fed my family of 5 because we had our snack crackers as a side!

Make a Plan

Very rarely does my family wander into a theme park without some sort of a plan…even if that plan is to only walk around and people watch! This is one of our FAVORITE plans during the busy holiday, spring break, and summer seasons. Sure, we usually duck into a show or hop in line for a short wait, but those are just icing on the cake!

We are getting ready to institute a new system on our next visit – each family member writes down 1-2 rides/attractions that they want to accomplish on our visit and we finish that list before moving on to other rides. This will help ensure that everyone gets to do something that they want and keeps them in a good mood. 

Know Your Kiddo’s Height

There is nothing sadder than a tiny person walking up to a ride only to find that they aren’t tall enough to ride {this happened to us on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey}. Thankfully Universal has the most amazing Child Swap system I have ever seen! 

Each ride that has a height requirement allows the whole family to go through line together and when you get to the front the child and waiting adult hang out in the child swap ROOM right by the loading area. When the first rider is done, the adults switch and the second rider basically walks right onto the ride! It is a simple and safe system that prevents families from having to find each other after the ride or even have to put their bags/phones/etc in a locker. 


Speaking of lockers…

The FREE locker areas near each ride that requires them is very busy and cramped. If at all possible I advise only one person per party entering this area. I have seen groups of 5 adults stand in line to retrieve one bag from one locker and it is very frustrating.

Kids’ Areas

Universal Orlando Resort has a section that is focused on kids at each park, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

At Universal Studios, there are play and splash areas accompanied by some milder rides and characters familiar to the toddler and pre-school set {Barney, Fievel, and Curious George} – but beware they may be closing soon to make way for the new Nintendo Land expansion! Don’t be upset about it though, because Islands of Adventure actually has a few more areas focused on children. Seuss Landing is a personal favorite with the Cat in the Hat ride, reminding me a lot of a certain ride about a silly old bear at the park down the road and the most entertaining street performing Whos! IOA also has a fun Jurassic Park outdoor play area, Discovery Center complete with hatching dinos, and a Popeye and Olive Oil play ship! 

Harry Potter

Whether your kids know anything about Harry Potter or not I can promise you they are going to ask for wizard robes and a wand before your trip is over! Take time to explore the sights and shops in both Diagon Alley (Universal Studios) and Hogsmeade (IOA) and catch a few of the shows like the Frog Choir and Tales of Beetle the Bard. 

Bonus: Taking the Hogwarts Express between parks might NOT be the quickest way between parks, but it is the most fun. Be sure and take the train both ways because it is different. My family prefers the trip from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley. 

Bad Weather

It’s Orlando and storms happen. Universal seems to have planned for it better than other parks when it comes to ride queues. Most lines are either inside or at least covered so should a storm pop up, hop in a line and you will be just fine…or lean into it and hit a water ride!  

Florida Resident Perks

Again, living in Florida {especially Central Florida} has it’s perks with being so close to the parks…and most of the parks give you discounts!! Be sure when you are grabbing your tickets or annual passes to get the Florida Resident rates! A lot of the Annual Pass packages include food and merchandise discounts, free parking, and hotel discounts! 

Be sure and check out our Guide to Theme Parks for more useful info!
Guide to Theme Parks in Orlando


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