Tips for a Fun Family Vacation

  • Bring along a kit with heavy paper, scissors, and stickers. At the end of each day have the kids make themselves a page with memories collected from that day to put into a scrapbook at the end of the trip.
  • A vacation does not have to be to distant locales. My family spent great summers never leaving the state by taking mini-trips around the state throughout the vacation months. Take advantage of historical sites, national parks and other places of interest close to home.
  • If you find that the kids are getting restless don’t hesitate to stop early and save whatever activity you missed for another time. Sometimes just getting to the hotel room and maybe taking a dip in the pool is all that is needed to get everyone in the mood for continued site-seeing the next day.
  • When brainstorming and planning activities, each family member has to be honest in their opinions but also open-minded to the opinions of the rest of the group.
  • If you are traveling with two or more families with children, you can “tag team” some activities so someone is not stuck with all of the children under age five. Usually, half of each couple stayed behind to help in the babysitting effort while the other half went off. Other times you can split the groups up differently so couples could go together.
  • If you are staying in a condo with a kitchen, you can plan alternate eating meals out and in. After four or five days often people become tired of eating out all the time. Pre-planning when to eat out and what meals to prepare when eating in (and who will prepare them) will help you figure out before the trip which meals you can prepare quickly and what everyone wants to eat.
  • If you are flying, it’s important to know before you leave the total number of pieces of luggage you have. That includes check through, carry-on and unique sized (like car seats or strollers). You should also know the breakdown of numbers for pieces checking through, carry-on and extras like car seats. Luggage check-in can be crazy. Knowing how many and which pieces ahead of time keeps the chaos to a minimum.
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How to Plan a Universal Studios Vacation in Orlando

by Barb Nefer, Demand Media

The Universal Studios Orlando theme park is part of the Universal Orlando Resort, which also includes three hotels, the CityWalk entertainment district, and a second theme park, Islands of Adventure. You can easily spend two or more days exploring the parks and CityWalk, especially when special events are happening. You will get the most out of your visit if you plan thoroughly.

Step 1

Choose the dates of your Universal Studios vacation. You may be locked into certain dates because of your personal schedule. Otherwise, you can choose based on factors like low crowds or special events. For example, Universal has several events each year such as Mardi Gras and Halloween Horror Nights. Both theme parks tend to be more crowded during those periods, but many people plan their dates to be able to attend them. If your plan is to avoid the crowds, you may wish to visit just before school starts or just before it lets out for the year, as the crowds are lowest at those times. January also tends to be slow.

Step 2

Choose between an on-site or off-site hotel. Off-site accommodations are cheaper, but on-site properties have several advantages. You won’t have to drive to the theme parks and pay for parking or rely on a shuttle; the Universal hotels provide guests with boat transportation and walking paths. On-site hotel guests also have unlimited access to an express line for most rides at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, which can be very useful if you’re visiting in the summer or during a special event.

Step 3

Compare package deals before purchasing your transportation, hotel and tickets separately. Universal offers a variety of package deals, some of which are centered around the resort’s special events. Work with a travel agent if you don’t want to do the research yourself. Using an agent will not cost any more than making the booking yourself because agents are paid through a commission provided by Universal.

Step 4

Create a priority list for the attractions at Universal Studios. This will help you use your time efficiently. If you plan to ride the most popular thrill rides, like the Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster, Revenge of the Mummy or the Simpsons ride, plan to hit them early in the day. This will not be as critical if you are staying at an on-site hotel and have unlimited express line access. Universal Studios also lets on-site guests enter early on certain days.

Step 5

Plan to spend time at CityWalk after Universal Studio closes or to take a mid-day break. CityWalk offers a change of pace from rushing around the crowded theme park. You can browse in the shops, have a meal or see a movie.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use the Universal Studios Meal Deal if your family members eat a lot and you want to plan your meal budget. The Meal Deal allows each person to eat all day at select locations in the theme park for a set price.