Visiting Universal Orlando Resort with a big family means big meals, big rides, and big fun! However, planning a trip for the whole family can come with its challenges. I have 4 kids that vary in ages from 14-20 years old, and they all have a different level of interest and taste when it comes to vacations.
It is always very hard to plan a trip to keep everyone happy! Not to mention, we generally always travel to Disney when we have a chance, so selling the family on Universal was a little bit of a chore! The best thing I ever did was use a travel advisor to plan my trip! I had no idea where to start, and thankfully Key to the World Travel had us covered!
Day 1: Check-in at Hotel and Universal’s Islands of Adventure
There are many awful things to come from the pandemic, but mobile check-in is by far, an upgrade. We checked into Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn & Suites the night before check-in and just went to the Vacation Planning Center to get our park tickets. Our luggage was dropped off at Luggage Services and we were ready to go. We would get a text message about an hour later to tell us our two-bedroom suite was ready. However, I did make a pitstop at Starbucks… There is one right in the lobby of Dockside!
The shuttle bus to CityWalk is just a couple of steps outside the hotel lobby, and we waited maybe 3 minutes.
Once we got to CityWalk we made our way to Voodoo Donuts to get everyone a little morning snack. Getting a donut the size of your face is always a great way to start the day. After we consumed our sugar rush, off to Islands of Adventure we went! Straight to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade! Our whole family loves the Harry Potter books so this was exciting and the first place they wanted to see.
I have been many times, but my eyes still light up when I see… the Butterbeer cart! lol Just kidding, The castle takes my breath away every single time.
We made sure we got into the virtual queue for Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, and then went over to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. That was one of the tips our Travel Advisor gave us before we went. It saved us a lot of waiting by using those virtual queues. It wasn’t quite time for us to ride Hagrids when we finished Forbidden Journey, so we grabbed some Butterbeer and took bathroom breaks. Just as we all finished our Butterbeer, our return time was called for Hagrids!
That ride is wild and super fast! My kids loved it! We can’t wait to ride it again! If you’re a Harry Potter fan and love a good thrill, this is for you! I would also like to note that it does go very fast, but not so fast that it was too scary.
The next stop on our adventure was Jurassic World! We were so excited to see the new Velocicoaster was up and running. It wasn’t open to the public quite yet, (opens June 10th) but they were doing “rehearsals” that allowed you the opportunity to ride. Only 2 of our brood was up for this ride. If you’re looking for a thrill ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat, this is it and we’d give it a 10/10. We were given the opportunity to immediately ride it again but opted to take a break to compose ourselves.
Take a look at just a couple of the pics we took:
After the Velocicoaster we decided to do something a little less nightmare-inducing. And this actually turned into one of our (unexpectedly) favorite attractions this day, the Raptor Encounter in Jurassic Park. Yes, it was cool to see Blue, one of the park’s favorite Velociraptors. However, the “Raptor wrangler” stole the show. She was so funny I snorted. I also jumped every single time the Raptor lunged at a guest. Thankfully, there were no sudden movements in our group and we survived our photo-taking expedition!
When we got hungry, we decided to try Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. It is a tavern-like sit-down restaurant that lets you get out of the sun, catch your breath, and have some delicious, hearty food. So yummy! Plus, Harry Potter fans will love the attention to detail. With a big family, The Great Feast is a TON of food and could be a money saver. Not everyone in my family eats the same items, though, so we each ordered individual meals and everything was super tasty.
The attractions we were able to get on today:
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Hogwarts Express
- Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster
- Skull Island: Reign of Kong
- Jurassic World VelociCoaster (opening June 10, 2021!!)
- Raptor Encounter
- Jurassic Park River Adventure
- The Cat in the Hat
Day 2: Universal Studios Florida
After a good night’s sleep for everyone, we were ready for a full day at the theme parks. We started each day at Pier 8 Market at Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites. I have found a solid, filling breakfast can eliminate hours of “hangriness” while we are walking through the theme park. With so many choices in their market-style cafe, everyone got what they wanted. Go for the family chicken-and-waffle bucket for a unique meal. It’s quick, too, which is important because there’s no time to waste.
We jumped on the shuttle bus waiting outside the resort’s front door and were at the park within 10 minutes. With the help of the super useful Universal Orlando Resort App, we were able to get the Virtual Line experience for Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon as soon as we arrived. The app has wait times, an interactive map, menus, ride restrictions, and park hours. You can use the app to place mobile food and drink orders, too! Our Universal Express Passes helped us breeze through the lines at Shrek 4-D, Fast & Furious – Supercharged and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem while we waited for our time to be in an Empire state of mind.
After a busy morning hopping from ride to ride, we had a seat in Mel’s Drive-In and enjoyed the AC and the food I don’t always let myself eat. Burgers, fries, and shakes…oh my! Plus, we were able to refill our Coca-Cola Freestyle Souvenir Cups here.
Tip from our Travel Advisor: Thanks to the Early Park Admission we had through staying at a Universal hotel, we were able to start each day as early as we wanted (which, given varying ages in the group, varied in times each day).
Like many larger families, we have to split up occasionally to make everybody happy. The thrill-seeking kids experienced Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, while the others were happy to spend time immersed in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. I have never heard, “Mom, LOOK!” so many times!
The roller-coaster-riders in my crew then opted for multiple rides on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit(partly for the soundtrack), while my younger ones were delighted to stay in Diagon Alley to see a wand choose a wizard at Ollivanders wand shop and listen to Celestina Warbeck & the Banshees perform. The interactive wizarding wand provided hours of fun, with each child getting to try the spells. I found it was important to meet the kids where they were and let them have their own kind of fun whenever possible.
After everyone was all theme-parked out, we hit CityWalk for a fun dinner at Antojitos Authentic Mexican. It was so good and the vibe there is energetic and fun. We loved the nachos!. They also had a band playing while we ate which gave it an even better vibe.
Our Top Attractions Not to Miss at Universal Studios Florida:
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
- E.T. Adventure
- Shrek 4-D
- Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster
- MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack
- The Simpsons Ride
- Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
- Fast & Furious – Supercharged
Day 3: Universal’s Volcano Bay and CityWalk
After obsessively refreshing the weather apps on our phones, we headed to Volcano Bay on an overcast, slightly cool day. I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to enjoy all the water attractions, however, luck was on our side. The clouds parted, the sun came out and we were able to have a fabulous day at Volcano Bay.
One of the best decisions we made(thanks to the suggestion of our Travel Advisor) was to snag one of the luxury cabanas overlooking Waturi Beach. With comfortable seating, a dedicated server, and a small refrigerator full of water, it was the perfect home base for us. I enjoyed the cabana’s complimentary fruit plate with my husband while the kids went off to explore. They came back at intervals throughout the day, usually when they were hungry.
The kids spent the day ping-ponging between the Krakatau Aqua Coaster, the lazy-river-like Kopiko Wai Winding River, and splashing in the waves at Waturi Beach. My 12-year-old even tried the Ko’okiri Body Plunge which has an electrifying 70-degree drop through a trapdoor. I did not join him on this hair-raising adventure.
For lunch, we ordered food brought to our cabana. Nothing is easier than that! We enjoyed the varied selections at our disposal and ordered pizza, chicken tenders, conch fritters, and a quinoa edamame burger.
We left Volcano Bay at closing time and headed to the hotel for a quick shower and change. We then set out to the dinner I was most excited about: The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen at CityWalk. I had been salivating over this menu and looking longingly at this wacky and whimsically-built restaurant every time we walked past. It did not disappoint. The Wild Mushroom Chicken Risotto was rich and creamy and the desserts were downright dreamy. Bring your appetite and your elastic pants. And Birthday Cake sundae, I’m coming for you next time!
Tip: Make a reservation for The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen as soon as you can. We were able to snag a last-minute table the day before. If you can’t get a table, you can order some of the delicious desserts from the take-away Foundry area of the restaurant.
Since we were practically rolling out the door from dinner, we rolled right over to Hollywood Drive-In Golf. The kids loved playing mini-golf at night with LED lighting and fun, bright colors. There was a celebratory-like atmosphere, perfect for an entertaining night out. Enjoying one of the two 18-hole courses (or both!) is a great way to extend your night with the kids.
Our Top Attractions at Volcano Bay
- Relaxing at Waturi Beach wave pool
- Krakatau Aqua Coaster
- TeAwa The Fearless River and Kopiko Wai Winding River
- Maku of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides and Puihi of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
- Ohno or Ohyah Drop Slides
- Ko’okiri Body Plunge
Our Top Options at CityWalk
- Antojitos Authentic Mexican
- The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen
- The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
- Voodoo Doughnut
- Hard Rock Cafe Orlando
- Universal Cinemark/Hollywood Drive-In Golf
Day 4: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
Today is the day to do all the things we wanted to do at the theme parks but had not done yet. We tried out the new food trucks that are randomly parked throughout the parks. They have a bunch of menu items that are usually exclusive to Mardi Gras or other festivals. Our travel advisor told us they would be out all summer as an added place to grab a bite! The line was non-existent and the food was so good!
Also, we spent more time walking through The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley(with the interactive wand, of course) and took the Hogwarts Express train to travel over to Hogsmeade. My kids have little experience with trains so the realistic components intrigued them.
We ended the day in Marvel Super Hero Island in Islands of Adventure. The kids rode The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk Coaster again and again. Just walking through the streets of this area makes you feel like you stepped into a Marvel comic book.
It was an especially hot day in the theme parks, so we decided to call it a day and head to the pool at the resort. You can see the pool from our room! It is so big and the kids didn’t want to leave!
While the kids were in the pool I grabbed a bunch of food from Pier 8 Market. Whatever they weren’t able to finish we were able to reheat in our room kitchenette or save leftovers for later. I’m also grateful our travel advisor talked us into upgrading to this suite that sleeps up to 6. If you have more than 2 kids, you know finding connecting rooms is difficult and expensive. We stayed in a 2-bedroom suite with a Queen-Sized bed in a room with a door, and two more queen-sized beds just outside of it. It was honestly delightful to be able to spread out and relax.
Conclusion: Big families can do it all at Universal Orlando.
No matter what size of family you have, Universal Orlando can work for you. We spent four days having fun, relaxing, and making memories that will last a lifetime. The best tool we had in our back pocket was our travel advisor. She was able to tell us everything we needed and planned our days for us. She knew how to get around long lines, how to save time, how to save money, where to eat, the best times to visit the parks, and so much more. The information we gained was invaluable. With the new covid policies, we had no idea where to start!
Are you considering a trip? This is a great time to plan your perfect vacation! Having a travel advisor means someone there to have your back in any occurrence. There is no additional cost to you and you have peace of mind knowing that your vacation is in good hands.
Contact our friends at Key to the World Travel® for a free, no-obligation quote for your next trip. Click here. If you love following along for the most up to date park information and news, follow us on Instagram too: @themeparkprofessor