Navigating Universal Studios with a Big Family

Navigating Universal Studios with a Big Family | Houston Moms Blog

Universal Studios was the perfect vacation destination for our family of 7 this summer. My five kids range in age from 18 months to 12 years old. Before our trip, I made sure to read up on tips and studied the park’s map since I was still quite nervous about traveling with a toddler. My husband is more of a “let’s show up and see what happens” type of parent, and I’m more of the “I don’t want any surprises so let me plan as much as I can to be prepared” kind of mom. If you’re like me, then I hope my list of 10 tips will help your family have as magical a time at Universal Studios as my family did this summer.

  1. Stay at a Universal resort if you can. You can find a list of the resorts on their website and they vary in price ranges. The higher end resorts offer free Express Passes for their guests at the park. The lower end ones like the one that we stayed at didn’t offer free Express Passes but we did have access to the park an hour before it opened to the public {this is important for later}. We stayed at the Cabana Bay Resort and it was the only resort that we could book one room for our family of 7 for a very affordable price. We enjoyed their large pool areas, arcade, bowling alley, dining choices, Starbucks, Universal Studios Gift Shop, free character photo opportunities, and fast shuttle services to the theme park. Remember to pack your own floats for the lazy river or be prepared to shell out some money because they do not have tubes for you to use. They run about $6 each for the small ones.
  2. Don’t purchase the Express Pass unless you plan to ride every single ride or if you plan to be at the park for 2 days or more. I was nagging my husband that we needed to get the Express Pass for the kids because I read that the lines were extremely long and that it was worth it. Yes, it sucked when we saw people skipping to the front of the line but I just couldn’t afford to purchase an Express Pass for my whole family. It would’ve been an additional $600.00+ per day on top of our park tickets. So here is where that extra hour access to the theme park came in handy! In that extra hour, you can probably squeeze in at least 2-3 rides/attractions. I had my kids pre-select their must ride attractions and we went there first. Since we opted not to buy the Express Pass, we did purchase a five-day park-to-park pass. We were worried about navigating the park with a toddler since she may only last a few hours in the hot summer heat. So we figured a five-day pass utilizing that early hour access would ensure that we will get to see the whole park and ride all the rides we wanted with no pressure to rush.

    Navigating Universal Studios with a Big Family | Houston Moms Blog

  3. Get the Park-to-Park pass if you want to ride the Hogwarts Train. If you’re a huge Harry Potter fan it would be disappointing to miss out on the train ride. Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are amazing and you can spend most of your day there. Plan to eat at The Three Broomsticks or The Leaky Cauldron for lunch. The wait time can be long so eat an early lunch to beat the rush…this goes for the rest of the theme park as well.
  4. Bring a refillable water container like your Yeti cup to keep the water icy cold. The staff at the concession stands and restaurants in the park are so nice about filling up your drink cup with free ice and water throughout the park. This was a huge lifesaver for my family and I’ve never seen my kids guzzle so much water in a day. You can purchase a refillable cup for $15.99 at the theme park but I really didn’t want my kids loading up on sugary drinks that would be available to them if I purchased one of those cups.
  5. Pack snacks for the kids to munch on throughout the day. The park will allow snacks but not picnic meals. I had a backpack full of dry cereal, fruits, chips, goldfish, etc. for them to nibble on between rides.
  6. Bring a pair of flip-flops for the kids to wear on the wet rides, sunscreen, and a towel to dry off. It’s so hot outside that they dried off quickly in the sun, but wet sneakers are no joy to wear all day. The baby and I would find the splash pads to cool off while the older kids rode the rides.
  7. Use their child-swap option so that both parents can ride the attraction and not have to miss out. The baby and I got to walk through the whole attraction with the family and right before they got onto the ride, we got to sit in an air conditioned room and wait for them. Once they finished, my hubby met me in the child-swap room and I got to ride the ride with my kids {a huge plus for the kids if they wanted to ride it more than once}.
  8. Look for Universal related themed shirts like Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Marvel superheroes, Transformers, Simpsons, and Dr. Seuss before your trip. They will make for great family photos. You can also custom order your family shirts or make some using the freezer paper method.
  9. Bring Dramamine or Tylenol with you to the park in case you get motion sickness from the rides. I got so sick from riding the Men in Black ride on my first day that I barely made it out of the park and back to my hotel to lay down. My sweet husband took the older kids back to the park later that evening and I stayed back with the baby. If you are super sensitive to motion sickness like I am, maybe it’s best to sit the 3-D rides out.
  10. Lastly, have FUN! The park is a lot cooler and less crowded late afternoon and early evening hours. If you don’t want to deal with the crowds this is the best time to be there. My whole family enjoyed our time at Universal Studios. We didn’t think that we could possibly do five days at the park, but we did and were so glad that we took that route. The baby is much to young to remember the trip, but the older kids were the perfect age range for Universal Studios. They rode most of the rides and Harry Potter World really knocked their socks off.

We can’t wait to take the whole family to Disney World in a few years. My kids were talking about road tripping to other theme parks in the U.S in the meantime. Which theme park is your family’s favorite place to visit?    

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