My cousin, Morgan, and I took a trip to Universal Studios™ last weekend. Neither of us have visited Universal in quite some time and neither of us planned our adventures ourselves in the past. As the older cousin, it really fell on me to plan this entire adventure from flights to hotel to park tickets to dining and more. Let’s get started!
I am going to start with the hotel. For more information on flights to Orlando/airlines I prefer, please click here. When planning your trip, take a look at Universal’s website to see ticket pricing. The prices will help you get a better understanding of how busy the park will be. Typically, the more expensive the ticket, the busier the season.
Where to Stay:
For our trip to Universal, it was crucial that the hotel had a shuttle service to and from the park. When planning a Disney vacation, this is easy as all Disney resorts provide transportation from the airport to the resort to the parks and back. The Universal hotels were quite pricey for the amenities, so we opted for a hotel nearby with a shuttle to universal.
We flew into Orlando on Saturday night, took a Lyft to our hotel, and checked in around 1 AM. Due to snow in NJ, our flight was delayed 45 minutes. Morgan and I stayed at the Westgake Lakes Resort and Spa. After speaking with the front desk reservations agent, our room was upgraded to a suite with firework views! We were pleasantly surprised to have a kitchen, living area, bedroom with jacuzzi tub, and nice bathroom.
Purchasing Park Tickets:
We purchased our tickets in advanced online. There are quite a few deals available online. Be sure to check out Groupon and AAA to view pricing. We only attended the park one day during our short trip, so we really could not take advantage of the discounted rates on multi-day tickets.
Let me break down the tickets for you.
When purchasing tickets to Universal, take note of the pricing online. Ticket prices fluctuate depending on the season, amount of visitors, and dates.
Universal Orlando Resort has three main parks:
- Universal’s Volcano Bay™ (Water park)
- Universal Studios Orlando™
- Islands of Adventure™
I strongly dislike waterparks, so we skipped this one. Morgan and I purchased the 2-Park Park-to-Park Ticket which allowed us access to Universal Studios Orlando and Island of Adventure in one day. The tickets were priced at $177 for Sunday, but with taxes, our one day two park, park to park ticket came out to around $188.00.
We really based our trip on the Harry Potter section of Universal. If you want to see all of the Harry Potter World, then you need to select this ticket. If you only want to see half/do not want to ride the Hogwarts Express train, then you can select one park per day. If you are interested in cutting your wait times for rides, you can purchase a special option for around $100 more to receive access to the front of the lines. Worth it? In my opinion, it is not worth it as we barely had any waits on our park day!
Morgan and I set an alarm for 7:00 AM on Sunday morning, and headed to the shuttle with about 4 hours of sleep. We wanted to make the most of our time at the park, especially with the steep ticket price! The resort shuttle was on time, and we boarded the bus and headed to Universal.
We arrived at the park for opening at 9:00 AM. To our surprise, it was not a busy day and the wait times were fairly low. We did not see a wait for over an hour anywhere! We started the day by riding the KONG ride, rode almost all of the rides, enjoyed lunch, and finished our day with the HULK ride.
While in the parks, Morgan and I enjoyed Starbucks coffee and quick service lunch. Park days require a lot of walking and moving and grooving to get everything done! As usual, theme park food and drink prices are high. I paid $5.50 for a water bottle! We found a great deal in Simpson’s section of the park. Two tacos and chips for about $10. To save money on food, purchase from a quick service during the day. To unwind after the long park day, Morgan and I enjoyed dinner at Bob Marley A Tribute to Freedom℠ restaurant at Unviersal’s Citywalk™. No wait time for this restaurant and the food was great! We both enjoyed delicious jerk chicken dishes and the red wine really hit the spot!
On Monday, we enjoyed lunch at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen™. There was no wait for lunch and the food was tasty! We both enjoyed Brussels sprouts for an appetizer and full salads for lunch. The characters made an appearance, and we had a great time.
Voodoo Doughnut was on my radar for this trip! Morgan and I both sampled two doughnuts each…and all delicious! My personal favorite was the original as the cake doughnuts were a bit heavy for my liking. Overall, I totally understand the hype around this place! SO GOOD!
Here are some MUST PACK items for your adventure to the parks:
- Small Camera to capture the memories
- Cell phone in charging case! I can not stress this enough. If you are using your phone for pictures or while waiting in line, you may want to bring a charging case. My cousin’s phone died halfway through the day.
- Tissues, allergy medicine, Advil, eye drops: My allergies really acted up as the Florida air was windy and full of pollen during our trip.
- Wallet with ID and credit card for quick purchasing.
- Purchase park tickets ONLINE ahead of time. Review discounted websites such as Groupon for extra deals!
- Look for a hotel/resort with a shuttle service to and from the park. Ask for a shuttle schedule upon arrival as the shuttle may only run a few times a day.
- Start the day EARLY and hit up all the rides! They are so fun! We basically walked on our first ride of the day.
- Enjoy quick service food to save moola.
- Research restaurants and must-do dining ahead of time.
Have FUN! Act like a kid! That is the entire point of these amusement parks! 😉
**This post was written based on personal experiences and does not reflect the views of anyone but myself. Please use these tips and tricks at your own discretion.**