Having written about our trip to the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter here, some of you may be saying, “okay girl, but be real . . . I have heard it’s not all magic.” So true. As any of you who have been to theme parks know, there is planning involved and as I said in my prior post — oops! — we didn’t do any. So here is a little of the practical side to consider when planning your trip.
For those planning to make the trek, I would consider the following.
- Buy your tickets in advance! This is my number one piece of advice. I had some sticker shock at the tickets that cost even more than Disney, which is not cheap. Well over a thousand dollars for two days for a family of five (it was nearly as much for one day). And that was without any of the extras like “express” lines, tickets for the Hogwarts train between the Harry Potter worlds at the two parks, and a variety of other upsell options. By buying in advance you may get some savings and, more importantly, psychological benefits! You’ll avoid the ticket line, saving up your line stamina for rides and attractions. And you can put some mental distance between the pain of backing up the Brinks truck and your theme park fun time. No need to sully day one with a ticket buying experience like haggling with a used car dealer.
- Fill up your water bottles. It’s Florida and it’s hot and humid! There are soda stations everywhere with water taps but you can’t use them unless you buy a cup that the machine recognizes. The only place to fill a water bottle is at the water fountain by the restroom. (Seriously Universal? How about some water bottle filling stations for free like those offered in most public parks.)
- Factor in souvenirs. The Potter world swag is amazing. A lot of care and creativity has gone into fidelity to the books. But it’s not cheap. I raised an eyebrow at a magic wand that cost over $40, and $50 for the “interactive” one that lets you do spells in the park. But realistically your kids are going to want them (and they are cool) so best to budget it in.
- Bring a lunch and snacks. You can bring in food and I found it worked great to do that. To their credit Universal offers many more and better food options than Disney (and alcohol!) but it’s pricey and another line to stand in with the large crowds. And having snacks on hand was a sanity saver in long lines. They have free lockers to check backpacks if you can’t take them on rides, which is a big help.
We definitely had a great time and I would recommend the experience to anyone, especially if you have a Harry Potter fan at home. And there is much more to the parks than Harry Potter for fans of the other Universal properties like The Simpsons, Transformers, Despicable Me, a bunch of super heroes, even old school stuff like King Kong, Popeye and Betty Boop. The most obscure was probably the Gasoline Alley attraction. For your kids you can explain, “there used to be these things called ‘newspapers’ and they used to have a section call ‘‘the comics’ . . . or maybe just forget it! Ha!
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