Enjoy a sneak peek in our Wizarding World of Harry Potter Family Vacation! We’ll share trip tips and peeks into the magical world to help you!
I’m sure Universal Studios is just awesome, but I have to be honest with you up front. We were going for Harry Potter. The rest of Universal would be a bonus, but we were definitely going on this trip for Harry Potter.
Our whole trip started months ago with our surprise reveal to the kids! You can check it out here.
Preparing for a trip to Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter took a lot of planning. I used a variety of sources which you can find listed here. My number one go-to site was definitely OrlandoInformer.com.
One quick travel tip: This is not unique, by far, but it definitely came in handy. After five days away, I could tell you the general area of where we parked, but no more. So taking a photo of our parking area sign and having it on my phone’s camera meant that I could go the whole week and not even try to remember.
Read more: A Quick Review of Universal Studios Cabana Bay Resort
Our Trip Details
- Travel: We flew American Airlines – they had the best price with the fewest stops in the time frame we needed, though they were not the cheapest.
- Accommodation: We stayed at Cabana Bay Resort – the budget-friendly option to stay on the Universal Resort and reap the benefit of early admission, rides to the park (a shuttle, not the boats across the lagoon), and a family suite with kitchenette. We could have stayed off-resort for less, but we’d have to arrange rides or rent a car, not get the early entry, and paying garage fees every day which is about $20/day now. Well worth staying on property at this one for the budget-minded. Click here to see a video tour of our room.
- Dates: December 7 – 11, 2015 (an excellent week to go). December 7th was our travel day, 8-11 were park days, and we went home on the afternoon of the 11th. We went on a second trip in 2017 during very early February, and it was definitely more crowded.
- Tickets: 3 day park-hopper with an additional 4th day tacked on at a later date because we were offered $20 tickets for the last day and we grabbed them. We scheduled that last morning/lunch time to meet up with husband’s local friends if we needed the extra time, but $20 tickets couldn’t be passed up!
- Transport: We used which got a big thumbs up!! We were late getting down to our car because of issues, which threw them off schedule a little, but our driver was super accommodating and came back to the hotel to take us to the grocery store to stock up on groceries, even though he didn’t have to.
- Our planned schedule:
Day 1 – Travel
Day 2 – Wizarding World Highlights (all major attractions and ride plus whatever else we could fit in with our travel guide); tour rest of park he took us to.
Day 3 – Wizarding World in depth
Day 4 – All the rest of Universal/Islands of Adventure
Day 5 – Wizarding World favorite spots and travel home.
- The Weather – nights were cool and day times were warm – 80’s each day, unexpectedly warm. It rained on Wednesday early A.M., but not the rest of the time we were there. It really was perfect park weather.
- The Crowds – crowds were remarkably light in our eyes. We never had to wait more than 20 min. for any ride other than the Gringotts ride on Tuesday afternoon (which shut down due to malfunction and they never got to ride that day). Friday became much busier because of the weekend crowds. It still wasn’t bad, but it was noticeably different.
Travel and Arrival – Day 1
Our kids hadn’t flown in about 11 years and didn’t really remember anything of that trip, so this was like their first trip!
Arrival at MCO – Orlando – a beautiful sunset!
Arrival at Orlando International Airport (MCO)
We used a car service to get from MCO to Cabana Bay Beach Resort. There are no free shuttles which was a shocker to us because we missed that fact, initially, and had to scramble at the last minute to secure a ride. We were late getting to the car because we were near the back of the plane, I had to make a bathroom stop with a long line. But our driver was gracious, even though it was throwing him off schedule. We agreed to let him drop us off, take care of the following fare, then come back to the hotel to get us to take us to the grocery store to get supplies and deliver us to the hotel again. It wasn’t a normal trip for him, and we tipped him well for the inconvenience and his willingness to work it out with us.
• READ: How to get to Universal Orlando Resorts from the airport (coming soon)
It was Christmastime and everything was already decorated in 50’s future-chic and the kids loved it!
Arriving at Cabana Bay Beach Resort
The hotel was SO much bigger than we’d imagined. We’d seen tons of photos and watched videos, but it is massive. Check-in was a breeze.
TIP: Look at a layout of the resort head of time. If you are staying in the towers, get an idea of where you want to stay. You might be asked where you’d like to be if the hotel isn’t full, and you can choose an area. We said we didn’t really care, ended up at the end of the hallway at the furthest point from the shuttle ride to the parks. It made for a VERY long walk at the end of each day when we just wanted to be done walking.
Our family suite. The other half of the room not pictured has a small kitchenette (with sink, fridge, microwave, coffee maker and breakfast bar), bathroom and closet. There are 2 Queen sized beds and a pull-out full bed (which was firm) and comfortably fit the 4 of us. The screen door which pulls shut to close off the two rooms works well!
• More information: Our review of Cabana Bay Beach Resort @ Universal Studios: Orlando (coming soon)
After running around and checking out the room, putting away the groceries, and prepping for our early morning, we crashed.
Click on any of the links below to be taken to more of the trip. We wanted to make the story easy to load on your computer or phone, so broke it up by days of travel: