I’m not sure it gets any better than being able to see your child’s eyes light up when you fulfill their childhood dream.
Many thanks to Mom it Forward and Universal Studios for making this #FamilyForward vacation a vacation to remember. It was full of #UniversalMoments.
My time does fly! I can’t believe our Universal Studios Orlando vacation was almost two months ago. We want to know if it is time to go back yet. When we booked our first true vacation we had no idea that our lives would be taking a whole new road. With that road looming ahead of us our vacation came at a perfect time.
It was a time when we were overwhelmed with life and huge decisions and we needed that break away to just ‘be’ as a family. I can’t share what that big fork in the road is yet, but rest assured, when I can, I’ll tell you all right away.
Today I’m sharing 10 Universal Moments that made our lifetime memories.
Emeril’s Orlando – As some of you would already know, my oldest is a huge Emeril fan. He is always excited when I tell him, “Go find something in your Emeril cookbook that you want to make next week.” I have to have a week’s notice so the ingredients can go on the grocery list. He never chooses the recipes that have ingredients we always have. What could be better than making an Emeril recipe? Going to an Emeril restaurant.
We discovered Emeril’s Tchoup Chop restaurant on the way to checking in for our Family Forward vacation. Our oldest was incredibly disappointed when we said we couldn’t visit it, especially since we walked by it multiple times a day. Little did he know that we weren’t visiting it because we had lunch reservations to Emeril’s Orlando. Everyone said Emeril’s Orlando was the best meal. Ever. We enjoyed every bite of our meal and no one left hungry.
Frugal Traveler Tip: Make lunch reservations to save a little money and get in to your restaurant of choice easier.
Blue Man Group – Wow! Just wow! My middle child isn’t a fan of mascots and characters in disguise so he was a little worried about this show. He had little reason to be. He loved it as much as the rest of us and the Blue Man Group had us enthralled the whole time. I highly recommend seeing one of their shows at least once in your life.
Frugal Traveler Note: The best souvenir is an autograph or picture with the cast. Take a plastic baggie or tape for any autographs as the blue paint doesn’t dry.
A “Simpson Doughnut” – What’s not to love about a doughnut that’s almost as big as your head? We all shared an iconic pink sprinkled Lard Boy doughnut. They taste as good as they look and they were freshly made.
Frugal Traveler Note: rather than planning for everyone to get their “own of everything”, share some of the treats that you can’t miss. You will go into budget and sugar overload otherwise.
Despicable Me – One of my favorite kid movies is Despicable Me. If you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for? We loved the opportunity to meet the characters at our Family Forward Welcome Dinner and rode the Minion ride a few too many times.
By that, I mean we got caught in a torrential downpour the last day because we “rode one more time”. It was worth it, even though we did need to retrieve our bags from the bag check and change in the fitness center lockers after walking 20 minutes in rain.
Savvy Traveler Note: Water taxis are shut down when lightening is sighted in the area. Pack lightweight rain jackets or ponchos EVERY DAY! Spontaneous rain storms happen almost every afternoon/evening.
Transformer’s Ride – There’s nothing like being inside a favorite action movie. “Meeting” Bumble Bee face to face several times was pretty awesome. We recommend having nervous kids take off their 3D glasses for a less stress ride. They might find they even enjoy it when they try it that way.
Frugal Traveler Tip: You are going to want to skimp and not get the Universal Express Pass. Get it. It will be well worth your money as you will waste less time in lines and dealing with cranky impatient children.
Loew’s Royal Pacific Room and Staff – The staff was fantastic from start to finish, with our housekeeper even sliding a note under our door the morning we were leaving to wish us a safe trip home. The resort has almost every amenity and dining option you could need and is just a water taxi ride away from CityWalk, which has everything else you could need.
Frugal Traveler Tip: The poolside bar has excellent food and drinks. The nachos were a family favorite for evening munchies and a great price point.
Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor – Buried in Diagon Alley is the best little ice cream shop – Butter Beer Ice Cream in a cone, please. While you are there make sure to ride Escape from Gringotts. There is no express line for this one so get there early.
Frugal Traveler Tip: You may be tempted to skip over this ice cream parlor as an overpriced tourist trap. Don’t. Let everyone have the smallest size and enjoy! The ice cream is worth it.
Flight of the Hippogriff – ride it again and again and again. This roller coaster is perfect even for the “under height” and scared of roller coasters among us. Our kids rode it again and again.
Savvy Traveler Note: If Harry Potter World opens early, we recommend being there when it does and taking the Hogwarts Express between the two. Get those rides done first thing and move on to the rest of the parks.
Vivo Italian Kitchen – Love Italian food? Vivo Italian Kitchen is beautifully decorated and serves freshly made pasta every day. We loved the squid ink seafood dish.
Frugal Traveler Tip: Skip the kids meals and order an appetizer and several adult meals to split for the best experience. Then order 2 desserts to share instead of one for each person. You won’t save a lot of money but you will get to enjoy a variety of foods that are well worth the final bill.
Seuss Landing – What’s not to love about Dr. Seuss? Seuss Landing was like stepping into a book. Definitely one of my favorite sections of the park when we needed something low key and still fun.
Savvy Traveler Tip: Start at Seuss Landing with younger children but end here with middle aged children. Perfect way to start the day for littles and perfect way to end the day for tired older
children, ahem, parents.
There is so much more fun to be had at Universal Studios in Orlando than we could ever cover. We were a little worried about how much we would get out of the rides since we aren’t huge roller coaster fans and haven’t seen or read Harry Potter. We had little to be worried about as we filled every day with so much fun. Between the rides, food, and memories we can’t wait to go back.