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  • Writer's pictureDani

Best Friend Family Vacation - Part 2 - The Parks

Back again with part 2 of our Best Friend Family Vacation series. You can hop over to part 1 by clicking here. Today we are talking about fun in the Universal theme parks with some handy tips for super hot days! We spent two days at Universal and one day at Islands of Adventure. Bob and his family spent additional time at Islands of Adventure. My first piece of advice especially when visiting the parks with a large group - have a game plan. We made lists of what everyone wanted to do and made sure to prioritize the top things for everyone.

One of the top things on all of our lists was Hagrid's Motorbike. I have to be honest, I was nervous about this one, I'm not a thrill ride type of girl and this is just on the border of what I can handle but it was AMAZING! Here is another tip, staying at a Universal Resort we had the added benefit of all being able to get into the park for early hours (Tamy and I also have this with our annual pass) I definitely recommend taking advantage of early hours for a ride like Hagrid's that generates a very long line all day long. We waited about 45 minutes and by the time the park actually opened at 9 we were finished with this ride as well as Forbidden Journey.

Early hours also helps in getting those photos that are harder to get as the park gets crowded throughout the day and for those of us with wands (me and the kids) it gave us a chance to cast spells and have a good time. Another tip, if you are getting to the park for early hours we strongly recommend heading back to the hotel in the afternoon for a break, a break from the heat, a break from walking, just a break! Then you get head back to the park in the late afternoon/early evening and close down the park. This is especially handy if you plan to stay for nighttime activities like the Hogwarts light show.

Universal has the option for purchasing refillable cups. I definitely recommend them for long days in the park. The cups are $17.99 to purchase and then about $10 to activate on other days. There are Coca Cola machines all over the park where you have the option to refill with sports drinks and lots of soda. You can refill cups with ice and water whether you activate it or not. The only draw back to the cups is that they were not useful at the resort - you have to buy a different cup for that. It annoyed me slightly but as annual passholders these cups will come in handy for sure and was really important for us during this trip since it was so hot. Staying hydrated is important!

Taking advantage of photo ops when the adventurous set were on the thrill rides was my favorite part of this trip. Piper is not into rides that go upside down either but that didn't stop us from taking photos while her parents rode!

I absolutely recommend taking advantage of all the great photo spots. It's one of the things Tamy and I have noticed about these parks - they are very photogenic and they pay a lot of attention to detail.

Part of the fun of Best Friend Family Vacation was the research that everyone did, particularly Raiden and Sawyer - they watched a ton of YouTube videos on the parks which inspired Tamy to watch videos and helped us learn park secrets! Shannon told us about going inside the back of the Knight Bus and the kids loved calling the Ministry of Magic. Tamy spent time looking for Easter Eggs in windows all over the park. Adding these little activities is a great way to make the parks more fun!

I've talked before about the Jurassic World Tribute Store at Universal and it is worth repeating. We hit this store while the rest of the family went on the Mummy and I'm super glad we did. It is now closed making way for the next great store which I'm super excited about.

Ok let's wrap up with a list of my top tips for long days in the park:

  1. Stay hydrated - whether you purchase the refillable cups or bring a water bottle to refill or keep purchasing bottles of water, staying hydrated is important, you don't want anyone getting sick or passing out.

  2. Have a game plan - know which rides you absolutely can't miss and then take advantage of extra hours if you can to make those happen quickly.

  3. Take breaks - It is ok to take breaks, either in a restaurant or back at the hotel, hang out by the pool or take a nap just give yourself a break.

  4. Cooling towels - Trust me these work and help.

  5. Make sure you eat! - We will have more on vacation food in the next segment but sort out where and when you want to eat.

I loved spending multiple days in the parks, I love the memories we made and the time we all spent together. It was so much fun and I loved the ease of staying nearby and getting to ride stuff I may normally miss. My favorite experience was definitely Hagrid's where my ten year old godson took care of me and it won't surprise you at all that I loved the eating we did so stay tuned for next time where the focus will be food! What is your favorite Universal attraction/activity? Share in the comments below!

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Gabrielle Cohen
Gabrielle Cohen
Aug 15, 2021

Thank you for sharing parts of your amazing vaca and the great tips! I’ve been considering cooking towels and now I’m 100% sold.

Aug 16, 2021
Replying to

I have several that they have given out at the finish line of Disney races so that is what we used.

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