On a recent whirlwind trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, my teen daughter insisted that I and my queasy stomach accompany her on every ride. She made it clear, as only teenage girls can, that I Would Be the World’s Worst Parent if I didn’t.
So I did. Here are my Survival Tips:
#1– Take Gravol.
If pulling G’s while spinning like a top just isn’t your thing, take Dramamine, Gravol, or an equivalent anti-nausea drug. (Keep in mind I’m a private pilot, not a doctor). I shot up into the stratosphere on Doctor Doom’s Fearfall, had my intestines plastered to my cranium during the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster, and plummeted from several skyscrapers while battling Decepticons on the Transformers 3D ride, all WITHOUT vomiting… but only because I took Gravol. I took it first thing and drank lots of water throughout the day, (it’s a dehydrating sort of drug), which leads me to tip #2….
- Bring your own water bottle
Drinks are fearfully expensive in the park. There are water fountains with potable water everywhere, though. Having our own water bottles to refill for free saved us at least $25 for the day.
- Bring snacks.
We brought a couple of apples, & carrot & celery sticks with Ranch dip (from Safeway). Munching on them in line-ups helped combat nausea (see tip #1). Food in the park is insanely expensive and limited largely to fries & burgers. We weren’t able to go the whole day without a sit-down meal, but bringing a plethora of snacks saved us at least $40. Keep in mind that your backpack can’t be too big (see tip #4…)
- Bring small backpacks only.
For many of the rides, you must check your bags into tiny lockers each the size of a cake box. We had a backpack that would only fit after much determined shoving and quick door-slamming. Two small backpacks would’ve been better. There were lines for the rides and lines for the lockers, so cutting down your fight-to-get-your-bag-in-a-locker would’ve made our day easier.
- Go during `value season’ (off-season)
We went in early November during off-season and waited an average of only 10 minutes at each ride. Yay! The longest we had to wait was 30 minutes for a show we don’t recommend (Poseidon’s Fury). Seeing the cordoned off waiting areas for each ride–some the size of small parking lots– gave every indication that the wait time is hideously close to 1-2 hours per ride during peak times. Two of the more popular rides are in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, and we waited only 10 minutes for each. Which brings us to…
- Arrive early.
We arrived at Universal Studios right at opening hour, ignored all the tantalizing rides in the front of the park, and headed STRAIGHT to one of the two Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas (at the back). This paid off hugely. We experienced the skin-dimpling magic of wandering Diagon Alley, going on the Wizarding World rides, and taking the “Hogswort Express” to Hogsmeade without the choking hordes of people that later clogged these popular sections. Teen insisted we go back later in the day for souvenir shopping and the crowds were horrific, even off-season.
- Plan your attack.
Every souvenir booth and food stall has free maps of the parks. The “2-Park Guide Map” lays out what is where and describes each ride. Maps are also available online. During the line-up for our first ride, we laid out a giddy plan for the whole day & largely stuck to it, enjoying both the Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios in just one day.
In no particular order, the Teen’s top 4 favorite rides:
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
In no particular order, the Mom’s top 4 favorite rides:
- Flight of the Hippogriff
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott’s
- Jurassic Park River Adventure
- Skull Island: Reign of Kong