Cincinnati Family Magazine

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February 8, 2023

Mom Report: Universal Studio Tips and Tricks!

Mom reporter, Tina Pratt, gives 20 tips and tricks on how to make your Universal trip one to remember!

It was eight months in the making (see my previous post on delayed gratification), but we finally made our family trip to Universal Studios Florida. It was everything we had hoped for and then some! We spent four amazing days exploring parks. Here are my family’s tips and tricks for Universal:

  1. In all your travel excitement, don’t forget to book transportation to your hotel. For $100 more, my husband booked a private limo which got us instant transportation from the airport to our resort without a wait. It also made for a memorable start and finish to our trip.
  2. Stay at a resort hotel – We stayed at the Cabana Bay Resort which has a fun 50s vibe. When you stay at a resort hotel, you get an hour early entrance to Islands of Adventure Harry Potter. This gets you on the Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriph, and Olivander’s quickly before the lines start to form.
  3. Harry Potter fans? – Make one of your first stops Olivander’s! Let the wand choose the wizard, but keep an eye out on the wand box labels. The regular labels are regular wands ($36), but the ones with the gold labels ($52) provide an interactive experience throughout Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley. My witch and wizard enjoyed testing their magic skills.
  4. Tasty treats and food – Make time to try Butterbeer, pumpkin juice, and eat at The Leaky Cauldron and/or the Three Broomsticks.
  5. Save bucks for fun shops – There are many shops throughout the parks; you are strategically sent through gift shops at the end of each ride. We had our kids save their money for the last eight months so that anything they wanted to buy they could purchase with their own money, which reduced the “case of the gimmies.” My kids found that their favorite shop was Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.
  6. Prepare for sensitive ears – If your child is sensitive to sound, make sure to pack sound canceling headphones. Many rides had loud noises that startled my youngest, and of course, I didn’t bring any headphones for her.
  7. Prepare you littles for the ride – A lot of the rides have a 4-D feature which has a lot of water, heat and images flying at you. This was new for our youngest and sometimes scary. We found that if we told her to shut her eyes during those parts she enjoyed the rides a lot more.
  8. Grab a park map and cross off the rides as you go – It was fun for my kids to see where they have been and where they still wanted to go.
  9. Download the park app – It is a quick and easy way to see how long the waits are at each ride. However, we felt that we needed to double the posted time to get a more accurate wait.
  10. Strategically plan out using the Hogwarts express to travel back and forth between the parks – We found on the second day that after an hour at Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure from 8 – 9 a.m., we were ready to go to the Universal park and there was little to no wait for the train. Also, it makes you one of the first people to get into Diagon Alley and experience all the fun without the crowds.
  11. More weekday fun – We noticed that the crowds were considerably smaller Monday through Wednesday compared to the weekend. When we make a return trip we’ll try and reduce the time spent on the weekends and more on the weekdays to reduce the time spent in lines.
  12. Head out early and take breaks – For our family, we enjoyed getting to the park early and then heading back to the hotel after lunch once it got hot and busy.  This gave us an opportunity to relax or have fun at the pool and then head back to the park for some quick rides before dinner.
  13. Make dinner reservations – This allowed us to get right in and eat at our normal dinner time. Our family loved the steampunk vibe of the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. Dinner was delicious, and the dessert was phenomenal!
  14. Divide and conquer – Sister wasn’t tall enough to go on the Rip Ride Rocket with her brother, so I took her to see Shrek 4D (which she thought was hilarious!) while the boys hit the big rides.
  15. Document your memories – Go to Shutterbug and get a personalized DVD of your family “experiencing” Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley – a great way to look back on the fun memories.
  16. Universal VIP office is worth a quick visit – Celebrating a birthday, anniversary, wedding, etc.? Stop at the Universal VIP office before heading into the park to pick up a button for the occasion!
  17. Take a stroller – Although my youngest is 5, both of my kids averaged about 27,000 steps a day and needed an occasional break.
  18. Don’t waste time locking up your purse at every ride – Carry a fanny pack instead!  The first 45 minutes of locker time is free, but then you are charged after that. After day one, I gave my ID and tickets to my husband to carry which saved time.
  19. Get a fast pass – If you are going at a busy time of year, get the fast pass and jump the lines! You can wait until the day of to make the decision to buy them or not. We found that all four days we hardly waited in lines, so we held off buying them, but always kept them as an option.
  20. Have fun and take a lot of pictures – Universal is a trip you will not want to forget!
Loving the Butterbeer!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
More Harry Potter fun!

About the Author

Tina Pratt

Tina Pratt is the mom of two littles. She is a former PreK- 5 special education teacher that now works as a behavior coach. She enjoys being a tourist in her own town and finding ways to embed lessons into everyday fun!