My daughter and I could spend every vacation at a theme park. We love the rides, the shopping and the frenzy! However, my husband and son do not share our passion. We have managed a handful of Disney trips as a family, some more successful than others. The kids and I also have season passes to our almost local theme park and its sister water park, but our time inside those parks is always brief.
Despite all the signs pointing towards a relaxing beach vacation, I had to plan a trip to Universal Orlando one recent summer. Here’s the most important stuff I learned for helping my theme park adverse loved ones have a great vacation:
#1 – DO stay on-site at Universal Orlando so you can use unlimited Express Passes. DON’T ask them to wait in lines over 15 minutes. Come back or pick another attraction.
#2 – DO plan to take midday breaks. DON’T try to squeeze in “one more ride” as the heat index soars. Get out so you can get them back in later!
#3 – DO give them as much time as they need at the pool. DON’T rush the relaxation. Be prepared to settle in and let them decompress.
#4 – DO feed them regularly. DON’T confuse hot food for packaged snacks. “Real” food makes a real difference.
#5 – DO have a plan of attack (cue Orlando Informer touring plans); pouring over a map mid-park is not an option. DON’T schedule every second though. Be willing to go with their flow.
#6 – DO let them sleep in, at least once. DON’T get offended by their mood on the mornings you make them get up for Early Park Admission.
#7 – DO appreciate that they are building memories with you. DON’T let their occasional mood swings ruin your fun.
By following these pointers, my husband and son enjoyed our Universal Orlando vacation almost as much as my daughter and I. In fact, my son said a few days after we returned that we need to go back; these are words I’ve never heard him say about any other theme park!
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Learning from experience
I really think avoiding lines by utilizing the Express Pass system was a lifesaver. No one’s mood is improved by long waits, and for those who don’t like theme parks to begin with, line waiting is like rubbing salt in the wound. We were able to move from ride to ride with efficiency with our Express Passes, staving off impatience.
It’s also important to know show times and be sure to arrive just before seating begins, and be prepared to skip shows if the natives are getting restless. While we really enjoyed the Animal Actors on Location at Universal Studios Florida and Poseidon’s Fury at Islands of Adventure, we didn’t catch any other shows because my guys just were not interested enough in the content to endure the wait.
In retrospect the long pool breaks were the best part of our vacation. The teenagers had a chance to burn off some energy while my husband and I took the opportunity to put our feet up and relax. After a morning of tearing up the pavement at the parks, cool water and a friendly wait-staff made for a the perfect change of pace!
For my family, food can make or break a vacation — or any day at home. The idea that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach definitely holds true in my family. So the multitude of great restaurants and the pool bar grills throughout Universal Orlando made it easy to keep them well fed. Taking advantage of poolside service meant less time sitting in a restaurant and more time playing for them and relaxing for us. It was also a great way to make the most of our time: instead of sitting for an hour in a cramped booth, we lounged under umbrellas and played beach volleyball. When the food arrived it was promptly consumed and the fun resumed in the blink of an eye.
For our theme park adverse loved ones, avoiding lines, lengthy afternoon breaks and great food made the trip feel more like vacation and less like torture. Add to this Universal Orlando’s smaller overall size (compared to Walt Disney World), on-site luxury hotels and multitude of great restaurants, and you have all you need for a relaxing theme park vacation.
– Kerri C
Editor’s note: Thanks again, Kerri, for a great post. For our readers, Kerri has been a prolific writer in our OI Share program and, in addition to this post, she has also contributed one other article, which I entirely consider a must-read:
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