10 Tips for Surviving Universal Orlando with Little Ones


I have always known that Universal Orlando existed, but was told that I should wait until my kids were old enough to enjoy it. Well, being a kid at heart myself, I didn't want to wait! I HAD to see Hogwarts and the land of Harry Potter. I HAD to visit Jurassic Park and take pictures with dinosaurs! So, my family and I joined the Family Forward Retreat sponsored by Universal Orlando last year when my kids were 1 and 5. We had so much fun that we could not wait to go back. We were lucky enough to return and participate in this year's Family Forward Retreat as well. While parts of this event were sponsored, I was not compensated, and all opinions are my own.Universal OrlandoDuring each trip, we experienced the parks and all they had to offer for 3 days. This included a behind the scenes VIP tour (which I highly recommend)! With two small children (ages 2 and 6 this trip), our needs differed from families with older kids and teenagers. Here are the top 10 things I learned from our trips about surviving the parks with little ones. Hopefully this will help you plan and prepare so that you can bring your own little ones, and still leave with your sanity and fun memories beyond your wildest dreams!
1. Rent a Stroller:
We rented a stroller from Simple Stroller two years in a row and were more than pleased. Why rent if you have one at home? Reasons to Rent a Stroller Before Heading to Universal Orlando:
  • Save Space: This is obvious if you are flying; but if you are driving, why take up valuable trunk space?
  • Accessories: Not everyone has a rain cover or parent console for their stroller. In Orlando, a rain cover is a must! You can't predict the weather, so having one on hand just in case is a life saver. Soaking wet kids=potential disaster (mine hate being wet unless they are in the pool, yours might not mind it).
  • Insurance Policies: Spend the extra few dollars to insure your rental stroller against theft or damage. If you bring your own stroller and something happens to it, you are out a stroller. A rental company will help you get another one for your trip.
  • Avoid Whining: Even if your children don't typically need a stroller at home (5/6 year olds), they are going to be walking a lot more in the parks and will get tired. You will appreciate not having to carry or drag them when they need a break.
Universal Orlando
2. Take Advantage of Child Swaps:
Universal  Studios went above and beyond any theme park I have ever visited, and came up with an answer for families with children. Larger roller coasters obviously have height restrictions that keep children from riding. The majority of the rides with taller height restrictions offer child swaps. This is an area where an adult can wait with younger children and swap out with the other adult for their turn, without having to go to the back of the line. Thankfully, these areas are all indoors and in air conditioning with seating. Some of them even have a movie playing, to distract you from the wait! Take notes other theme parks, this is the way to go!
Universal Orlando
3. Get out of the heat (go indoors):
Universal offers many indoor rides, exhibits, and shops where you can get out of the sun and heat. You might even be able to catch a movie at your hotel, like we did when we visited the Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Take advantage of these options to break up the day.
4. Check Heights Beforehand:
This will save a lot of heartache if you have kids who just barely meet the cutoff for certain rides. Staff members throughout the park have measuring sticks and will be happy to assist you. If you know what their heights are at the beginning, you can steer them towards rides that are appropriate for them and explain to them up front that there are certain rides that will have to wait until they are taller. Also, remind them and yourself that the height requirements are for safety reasons.
5. Bring Snacks and Water:
You are allowed to bring snacks and drinks into the park. Make sure you have healthy choices for the little ones in between meals. You want to keep them hydrated with small amounts throughout the day, especially if it is hot. My kids get angry when they are hungry (we call it "hangry"), so we made sure to give them small snacks throughout the day to avoid aggravating their cranky sides. Of course, you can always buy snacks in the park but you may want to budget yourself!
6. Take Lots of Potty Breaks:
When little ones are having fun, they don't always think to stop and take potty breaks. There are many bathroom locations around the park, make sure you use them throughout the day. I especially recommend taking a bathroom break right before getting in line for a ride. We had an unfortunate accident after waiting in line for the Pteradon Flyers for 15 minutes and could not make it to the bathroom in time.
Universal Orlando
Photo by Melinda Jae Photography
7. Bring a Change of Clothes:
In conjunction with tip #6, make sure you bring extra clothes just in case there is an accident. Whether it is a bathroom accident, food spill, or just a child who gets irritable when they are sweaty and/or wet; it is better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
8. It's Not a Marathon:
You do not have to stay at the Universal Orlando parks all day. I recommend getting there first thing in the morning when the lines and temperatures are at their lowest, then head back to your hotel for lunch/nap time. If your kids don't take naps, head to the pool and take a refreshing dip. Make your way back to the parks in the evening to finish what you missed earlier. This will also help you avoid the peak busy times of the day and you will get to see the park in a different way with the fireworks show and riding some rides in the dusk lighting. 14199164_10102443078528091_245447986643074518_n
9. Manage Expectations/Make Lemonade: 
Something is not going to go as planned. There will be bad weather, lines will be long, a favorite character won't be available for pictures, or a number of other things could go wrong. Lead by example and show your kids that you can have fun no matter what obstacles you face. Remember the old saying that "when life throws you lemons, make lemonade." Dance in the rain, sing songs in line, keep a smile on your face, have back up plans. Your kids are looking to  you to see how they should respond to negative situations. We had several rain storms and even a Hurricane looming with a Tornado warning, but we hung out inside and had a great time. 14233167_10102443084670781_6223406444479313219_n
10. Take Pictures:
Kids grow and change so quickly, you want to capture the memories from your trip. Candid photos are the best, because you get to see their reactions and excitement. When you are waiting in line, or trapped in the hotel during a rain storm, you can look back at those pictures with the kids and talk about them. The problems from the trip will fade away when it is over, you will always have the happy memories and pictures you take.
Did you love this information? Would you add anything else?
Make sure to share this article and like It's a Meaningful Life on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for even more! Thank you to Melinda Johnson at Melinda Jae Photography for some of the wonderful photos that documented our trip. If not for her, I probably wouldn't have gotten out from behind the camera and in the pictures!

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33 thoughts on “10 Tips for Surviving Universal Orlando with Little Ones

  • September 15, 2016 at 10:01 am
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    I almost went to Universal with my little ones this summer, but it was too overwhelming after 3 straight days of Disney! Next time with these tips, it might work out for us.

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    • September 15, 2016 at 10:40 am
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      It definitely is important to take breaks. If you are doing Disney and Universal, I would take a day off from the parks in between and spend it at the hotel hanging out. No need to go back to back. Definitely well worth the visit!

      Reply
  • September 15, 2016 at 1:33 pm
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    Great info! We’ve never been but I want to go soon!

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    • September 15, 2016 at 1:43 pm
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      You will have a great time. So many awesome rides and fun characters. Your son will especially love the Marvel Universe!

      Reply
  • September 15, 2016 at 3:13 pm
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    You’re showing it’s possible… amazing. Hope you guys had fun, looks like a blast!

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    • September 15, 2016 at 3:38 pm
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      It definitely is Erica, and without a lot of stress if you plan ahead. We made so many memories and really bonded.

      Reply
  • September 15, 2016 at 3:44 pm
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    #9 is key! I don’t have kids yet but in any situation making lemonade is the way you have to work when you are in uncharted territory!

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  • September 15, 2016 at 4:42 pm
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    I haven’t been to Universal yet. 🙁 We (my family) NEED to get a visit in SOON. We’d love to see the Wizarding World.
    Great tips!

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  • September 15, 2016 at 9:03 pm
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    I heard about the child swaps from a friend. I think that is an ingenious idea and all theme parks should have it!

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    • September 16, 2016 at 2:05 am
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      I agree! It seems like such a simple idea but they are so helpful.

      Reply
  • September 16, 2016 at 12:13 am
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    Such good ideas for making sure you have a pleasant an uneventful trip that everyone involved enjoys…

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  • September 16, 2016 at 1:50 am
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    I have not taken the kids yet but love knowing about the child swap. We would definitely have to do that with our youngest.

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    • September 16, 2016 at 2:04 am
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      It definitely helps so one parent doesn’t get stuck with the kids while the other one rides all of the rides. Both parents get a turn and the kids stay happy!

      Reply
  • September 16, 2016 at 1:53 am
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    Are you kidding me with the child swap? That is simply brilliant! that happens so often, it’s cool that they recognized it and found a solution!

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    • September 16, 2016 at 2:03 am
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      I know! It is such a great idea, all parks need to follow suit. It makes the experience so much easier for parents.

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  • September 16, 2016 at 4:06 am
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    I always tend to race, race, race when I got to theme parks so I appreciated the tip to slow down and enjoy the day! Thanks

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  • September 16, 2016 at 4:47 am
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    These are great tips. I haven’t heard of the child swap before. I think this is a brilliant idea.

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  • September 16, 2016 at 6:59 am
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    Even though I’m not a parent, I really enjoyed your post as someone who frequents Universal every year- I’m glad to see they’re doing their part to make things as easy and enjoyable for the whole family! Also my friends and I have always wondered what a child swap was – now I know lol. Excellent idea too.

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  • September 16, 2016 at 8:49 am
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    universal is definitely something that we want to do but I have to be honest, my little guy really puts me off haha he’s a maniac and I’m not sure I could cope, although I might consider it now with these tips

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  • September 16, 2016 at 9:58 am
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    So great to know that they’ll enjoy Universal too! I love going to Disney with my toddler.

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  • September 16, 2016 at 2:51 pm
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    I love these tips!!! Universal is such a fun place to take the kids to and see them explore the exhibits and rides.

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  • September 16, 2016 at 3:58 pm
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    These are really great tips! We’re planning a trip to Universal Studios in LA for next summer.

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  • September 16, 2016 at 7:28 pm
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    Great tips! A stroller, snacks and water were essential when we visited last fall. My toddler had a blast despite the heat and we can’t wait to return next year.

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  • September 17, 2016 at 12:10 am
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    Great tips!!! I lived in Orlando for many years and I would always tell people the parks don’t have to be that bad with little ones as long as you plan things out and are prepared for everything!

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  • September 17, 2016 at 2:32 am
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    I want to take the kids there so badly! I’m waiting for them to be old enough to remember and truly get the full experience! These are some awesome tips and I’m definitely going to be thinking about this! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  • September 17, 2016 at 1:02 pm
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    Oh, this is very helpful. I am planning on a similar trip in our country and hope it turns well.

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    • December 11, 2016 at 5:25 am
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      I hope your trip was great!

      Reply
  • September 17, 2016 at 11:08 pm
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    I love the tip about renting a stroller! We had a stroller stolen at Disney once and it was awful.

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    • December 11, 2016 at 5:25 am
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      That is terrible! Not very magical of someone to steal a stroller and add stress to another family’s vacation

      Reply
  • September 19, 2016 at 5:39 pm
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    We have always wanted to go to Universal! I love that you have given these tips how to go with kids.

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    • December 11, 2016 at 5:24 am
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      You won’t be sorry, it is a fun time for the whole family

      Reply
  • September 21, 2016 at 2:55 am
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    I would love to go to Universal Studios!!! My kids are both older but I think some of these tips would still come in handy.

    Reply

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