Universal with Kids

I get this question a lot “is Universal good for kids” and the answer is YES! I can see why people ask that question because a lot of people feel like its geared more to older kids and I can see that as well. I visited Universal back in September with my 3 year old and I’m here to tell you this is one vacation he’s constantly talking about or asking to go back. We haven’t traveled since September due to being pregnant with twins but since they have arrived you can bet we have already made plans and can’t wait to get traveling again. My husband and son will be taking a father/son trip to Universal this fall and they both are making their lists to what to hit first.

One of my favorite areas of Universal that is geared a lot towards kids and even adults, especially if you grew up with Dr. Seuss is Seuss Landing. This is located in the Islands of Adventure side of Universal. I feel like I have been morphed into one of the story books when I walk through this area. It is very nostalgic for me and even my 3 year old. There are so many attractions here that are kid friendly. They even have a restaurant that hosts a Character Breakfast with the Grinch.

Who loves Super Heroes? Well I don’t know a child who isn’t into superheroes boys or girls. Super Hero Island is perfect for that! You never know who you will run into while you are roaming the streets, could be Spidey could be Captain America you just never know. You will find several attractions and dining options in this area as well. If you have big kids and adults who are into thrill rides then The Hulk will be perfect for you. I am to chicken to take on Hulk but my husband loved it. So the hulk isn’t for little ones but head down the street and take a ride with Spider-Man. This is 3-D attraction that most kids can ride.

My son is a huge dinosaur lover and so he absolutely loves the Jurassic Park area. I love this part of the park as well. I guess its because I grew up with the first Jurassic Park movie and so when I enter those gates I get goosebumps from just the excitement. There is a fun ride for kids in the Camp Jurassic area. This was one of my son’s favorite rides along with the Jurassic Park water ride. Now, the new Velocicoaster just recently opened but I suggest not taking little kids on that one. There of course is a minimum height you must be before you can ride. But there are some many other fun things to do while you are in Jurassic Park. We loved meeting Blue the Raptor. This was such an entertaining, probably more for me. Seeing the reactions from my husband and son when Blue came up and was interacting with them. I will not admit there could have been some laughter coming from me.

Of course you can’t overlook Harry Potter. Now I will admit I am not a huge Harry Potter fan but I really enjoy those areas of the park. I know a lot of kids who are into reading the books and they enjoy this part a lot. My son really enjoys the wands and using the magical wands.

When you head over into the Universal Studios area I feel like there may be more things for kids to do as far as rides and attractions. From the Minions to ET, these are a lot of 3-D and slow moving rides. My son did ride pretty much everything over in the Studios side.

So don’t think you can’t go and enjoy a fun time at Universal if you have kids because it definitely one of the best trips we have been on as a family. Reach out to one of the agents here and we would love to get you a complimentary quote for your family.

Is Club Level Worth It???

Earlier this summer I stayed for the first time at Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel. To make this trip extra special, we decided to try out Club Level and I can’t wait to tell you all the things I loved about this experience!

Beauty and Tranquility

Portofino Bay is themed after the fishing village of Portofino, Italy and it is as quaint as its namesake. Everywhere you look at this resort, you see something to admire. There are little terraces and alcoves and courtyards to explore all over the property and they are wonderful places to sit down with a nice book and a cup of coffee! Of all the Universal onsite hotels (and I’ve now stayed at all of them) I think that Portofino Bay is by far the most picturesque.

Great Perks and Amenities

Portofino Bay is more than a pretty face! This resort offers so much included in the price of your stay. You get unlimited express pass, which allows you to skip the standby lines at most rides and attractions (with valid park admission). This perk enables you to spend less time waiting around and more time having fun! Portofino Bay is also within walking distance of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, but if you would prefer not to walk there is convenient, complimentary water taxi service which can have you at the parks in minutes. There’s also a great fitness center, excellent dining options, and awesome pools!

Plenty of Space

Portofino Bay has the largest standard rooms of any of the onsite Universal hotels. The Club Level rooms are even larger than the standard rooms and I have to say that I LOVED having that little bit of extra space. Also, the bathrooms at Portofino Bay are very spacious and well laid out. There are double sinks with a large countertop, a good sized walk-in shower, and a separate water closet. Our room also had a nice desk area which came in handy for me when I was working for my clients.

Club Level

I have been spoiled by Club Level and now I don’t know if I can ever go back! As I mentioned above, Club Level rooms are larger than standard rooms and they also have a great location close to transportation and the pools. Staying Club Level also gets you access to the exclusive Club Lounge, where continental breakfast, afternoon snacks, evening hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and beverages are served. The continental breakfasts we enjoyed were hearty offerings such as breakfast sandwiches and wraps along with pastries, cereal, and oatmeal. Afternoon snacks included potato chips, chips and salsa, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Evening hors d’oeuvres were filling enough to serve as dinner. For example, we enjoyed grilled chicken breast, Spanish style rice, steamed green beans, and zucchini. For dessert, we had cannoli, cookies, tiramisu, and cheesecake. I genuinely believe that our family saved money staying Club Level because we weren’t spending as much money on meals and snacks in the parks. We had breakfast in the Club Lounge, went to the parks, came back for a break and enjoyed some snacks in the lounge, went back to the parks, and then came back to the lounge in the evening for dinner and dessert.

The Bottom Line

I greatly enjoyed my stay at Portofino Bay: so much so that it is now my favorite onsite resort at Universal Orlando. I’ve been lucky enough to stay at all 8 onsite properties and I love them all for different reasons, but I don’t think you can beat the charm, amenities, convenience, and value of Portofino Bay. If you’d like to get a quote for your family to stay at this beautiful property, fill out our quote form on the homepage. And remember: it’s the same price to book your vacation with one of our agents as it is to book it directly through Universal, but when you book with us you get our concierge level vacation planning service completely free of charge!

Loews Portofino Bay

Check out that view! Wouldn’t you swear you were sitting in Portofino, Italy enjoying a day by the water? Think again! Located in the heart of bustling Universal Orlando, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is a picturesque resort where you can unwind and relax.

Portofino Bay is a premier, onsite Universal resort. This means that you have Unlimited Express Passes included for each person in your party during your stay! This is an incredible perk and such a timesaver, especially during busy times in the parks. Guests also receive early park admission, resort-wide charging privileges, and priority seating at restaurants. Portofino Bay is very convenient to all three parks and CityWalk, which are accessible via complimentary water taxi. There is also a walking path from the hotel over to CityWalk making it very easy to access.

This resort has approximately 750 guestrooms, ranging from standard options to suites. All accommodations have Italian style furniture with marble accents, consistent with Portofino Bay’s theme. Standard rooms are available with two queen beds or one king. Rooms with two queens can accommodate up to 5 with a rollaway bed! There are garden views available, or for an extra cost you can reserve a room overlooking the gorgeous bay. These rooms also feature large bathrooms, complete with marble countertops, dual sinks, and a large tub/shower combination. Deluxe rooms are another option for families that want some more square footage with their accommodations (490-square-feet as opposed to a standard room’s 450). 

Looking to indulge even further with your accommodations? I highly recommend booking one of Portofino Bay’s Club Level rooms or suites. These accommodations include personalized concierge service and nightly turndown service. As a Club Level guest, you also have access to the exclusive Portofino Club Lounge. Here you can enjoy complimentary continental breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres, along with drinks and snacks throughout the day. 

Loews Portofino Bay is home to a variety of suites, including Despicable Me Kids’ Suites! In these suites, parents have their own master bedroom with a king sized bed and bathroom. Meanwhile, the kids have their own Minion themed oasis, with two twin beds (with the option for an additional rollaway). These are the ultimate family accommodations!

Keeping with the Italian theme, this hotel has no shortage of wonderful dining options. Mama Della’s Ristorante serves quintessential Italian fare, and everyone is treated like family. It is important to note that as of this blog post, Mama Della’s Ristorante is currently closed but expected to reopen soon. Looking for a more elegant meal? Bice Ristorante serves Northern Italian cuisine, including fresh pasta made daily. Trattoria del Porto is a casual, family-friendly option for breakfast or dinner, where indoor and outdoor dining is available. I love dining here and looking out over the harbor! Sal’s Market Deli is an excellent quick service option that serves homemade pizza, sandwiches, salads, and more. I recommend ordering your food to go and eating out by the water! The Thirsty Fish and Bar American are two spots for adults to unwind and grab a beverage. No Portofino Bay vacation is complete without a stop at the Gelateria where you can get delicious gelato, yummy milkshakes, and more. Want to dine from the comfort of your room or suite? Room service is available.

There is no shortage of swimming options at Portofino Bay. You have not one, not two, but THREE swimming pools to choose from! The Beach Pool is perfect for the entire family. There is a Roman aqueduct themed slide, sandy beach to play on, as well as a smaller pool for younger kiddos. At the Villa Pool, you can experience elevated amenities, including upgraded chairs and cabanas for rent. The Hillside Pool is the quietest option, where you can relax and enjoy the serene surroundings. To really indulge, definitely visit the Mandara Spa. The spa features 16 treatment rooms, a hydro-therapy pool, steam rooms, a full-service hair salon, and a full-service fitness center!

One of my favorite things to do at this resort is to take a stroll around the Harbor Piazza. It has beautiful cobblestone walkways and views of the water. The area truly transports you to Italy! The resort also has some great shopping options, including Alta Moda, Le Memories de Portofino, L’ancora, and the Universal Studios Store.

Are you ready to experience the beauty that is Loews Portofino Bay and all of the amenities that come along with staying here? Contact me today for a free quote!

Interested in a FREE quote? Contact me today!

Lauren.Gigliello@MarvelousMouseTravels.com

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Volcano Bay Reopening Date!

Are you longing to relax on Waturi Beach? Well in ONE WEEK you’ll be able to!

Volcano Bay is reopening from their seasonal closure on Saturday, February 27, 2021! If you have been driving down Interstate 4 and seeing the volcano wishing you could visit again, your wait will soon be over!

From enjoying the TapuTapu system to relaxing in a private cabana, it will all be back very soon!

If you need a place to stay while visiting, why not stay within walking distance at a resort that has its own private entrance into Volcano Bay? That’s exactly what you’ll find at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which has rooms that overlook Volcano Bay. To see an inside look at those rooms and an overview of that resort, watch this video:

So contact your Marvelous Mouse Travels agent today, to book your fantastic day at Volcano Bay!

Want a free quote from Ginger? Contact her here.

Universal’s Water Taxi

Did you know Universal Resorts have a Water Taxi that takes you straight to City Walk?

They sure do! The water taxi is available at the Top 3 Premier Resorts and Loew’s Sapphire Falls Resort. This is an incredible way to get to the middle of the excitement of your vacation.

Royal Pacific, Hard Rock, Portofino Bay and Sapphire Falls each has their own location to catch the taxi to head over to the parks. At the end of the day this is a great way to rest your feet and enjoy the scenery while you head back to your resort.

During the pandemic Universal has taken great measures to keep everyone safe even when on the Water Taxi. Each family is assigned a seat number to sit in and the rows are marked off every other row to keep every one socially distanced. We felt totally safe when we road the taxi to and from the parks.

So the next time you think about taking an Epic Vacation to Universal Orlando be sure to stay at one of the resorts that offers the Water Taxi option!

Ultimate Guide to the Best Photo Spots: Wizarding World of Harry Potter Edition

If you’re anything like my family, when you go on vacation, pictures are a must! Our family likes to find places to grab amazing shots. Today, we are starting a series of the BEST photo spots around Universal Studios. We are going to begin our journey in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Who here is a fellow “Potterhead?” Go ahead…tell us your Hogwarts House in the comments! (Proud Hufflepuff, here!) The first time I explored Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I was amazed! There is so much to do there and so many fun places to find, especially for photos! Let’s start in Diagon Alley, shall we?

First Photo Spot: Gringott’s Bank

Grab your wand, your butterbeer, your robe, or whatever you have, and stand on the steps of the Gringott’s Bank and under the Dragon! This is an amazing spot to grab a photo!

*Pro Tip: try to time the photo just right for the dragon to breath fire!

Second Photo Spot: Hagrid’s Motorbike

Hargrid’s Motorbike is parked out side of Gringott’s Bank for a fun alley shot! Check out how amazing this photo spot is!

*Pro Tip: Book with a Marvelous Mouse Travel Agent for Early Park Admission to get amazing photos without the crowds!

Third Photo Spot: Ollivander’s Wand Shop

If you have an opportunity to purchase a wand from Ollivander’s or bring one from home, stop outside of the shop for an amazing photo opportunity!

My husband purchased a wand from Ollivanders on our last trip! Love how this photo turned out!

Fourth Photo Spot: The Hogwarts Express

The next spot on our journey is going to take us to the King’s Cross Station/Hogsmeade Station. Be sure to pause in front of the train when you get to the station for an amazing photo!

King’s Cross Station: Just before loading the Hogwart’s Express!

Moving right on over to Hogsmeade!

Fifth Photo Spot: Hogwart’s Castle

Any photo around Hogwart’s Castle is amazing, but my favorite spot to take a photo is when you are exiting Hogsmeade and heading to Jurassic Park! There is a bridge between the two lands, and if you stop on the bridge, you get a perfect, people free shot!

My favorite view!

Sixth Photo Spot: The Butterbeer Cart

After you get your butterbeer, make sure to head over to the butterbeer cart for a photo! Usually the carts are open, but you can still pose next to them for a quick photo! We lucked into this photo with the cart being closed!

Frozen Butterbeer is the BEST!

Final Photo Spot: Posing with Butterbeer

Our last spot, is not so much a spot, but rather a suggestion! Did you even buy a butterbeer if you didn’t post a picture with it? Find an empty area or a wall nearby and pose with your butterbeer! These photos always turn out so cute!

A wall we found in Diagon Alley!

These are just a few of my favorite photo spots around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. There are so many other places to grab photos in these two areas!

I hope you follow along over the next few months as we continue our series on the best photo spots around Universal Studios.

As always, if you are interested in a FREE quote to Universal Studios, I would love to help you!

You can reach out by emailing me or messaging me on Facebook!

Katie.Eadie@MarvelousMouseTravels.com

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What Are Express Passes? Are They Worth Purchasing?

Purchasing an Express Pass is one of my top tips to anyone visiting the parks at Universal Orlando. Just what is an Express Pass and how does it work? Let me explain.

Express Passes allow you to experience more, while waiting in line less! With rides, you will enter a special queue, different from the standby line. While it is important to note that this is not “front-of-the-line” access, most waits are only a maximum of 5-10 minutes. Some of the popular attractions can have a longer wait than that, but it will almost always be considerably less than the standby line. When using an Express Pass to see a show, it’s important to arrive prior to the standby line being let into the theater (which is usually about 15 minutes prior to showtime). Those with Express Passes are able to enter prior to the standby line, ensuring that you’ll get the best seating available. Be sure to keep your Express Pass handy while in the parks, as a team member will scan it upon arriving at each attraction’s entrance.

Express Passes are convenient for every type of traveler. If you only have one day to hit the parks and want to get the most out of your visit, Express Passes are a must! These passes will ensure that you are able to ride the attractions that are high on your priority list without wasting such a large chunk of the day waiting in long lines. They are also perfect for families with young children who don’t have the patience to wait very long in lines. Having young children myself, I know that we are certainly going to be utilizing these on our upcoming vacation. Are you just someone who is planning on spending several days in the parks, wanting to experience as much as possible during your time? The Express Pass is worth every penny, especially during busier times of year that have extended wait times.

Express Passes are a separate cost from your park admission ticket, and are priced per day. Universal Express gives you access to skip the standby line one time per participating ride. Universal Express Unlimited gives you access to skip the standby lines an unlimited number of times per participating ride. The Express and Express Unlimited are able to be purchased as 1-park or 2-park passes, and can be used at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Volcano Bay has a separate pass available for purchase that allows you to bypass the virtual lines there.  Attractions that do not have Express Pass access are Pteranodon Flyers at Islands of Adventure, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and Fievel’s Playland at Universal Studios, and Ko’okiri Body Plunge and Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides at Volcano Bay. I highly recommend purchasing Express Passes ahead of time, as these do have limited inventory and can sell out.

A HUGE perk of staying onsite at a Universal Orlando premier hotel is that you get Express Unlimited Passes complimentary for every day of your stay! Not only do you get the benefit of staying at world class hotels and being close to the parks, but you don’t have to purchase these passes on your own. Premier hotels include Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, and Hard Rock Hotel. If you stay at an onsite hotel that is not in the premier category, you can choose to add Express Passes to your vacation package to have your vacation components bundled together. 

As you can see, there are multiple options for Express Passes and you may be debating which is right for you. We can help with that! Feel free to fill out a quote request form and we can assist with booking any components of your Universal Orlando vacation.

Interested in a FREE quote? Contact me today!

Lauren.Gigliello@MarvelousMouseTravels.com

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Five Unique Shops at Universal Orlando Resort

If you’re anything like me, you LOVE shopping! Shopping takes on a new level of excitement while on vacation and I always enjoy finding fun and unique purchases to take home as memories from my trip. Universal Orlando Resort has tons of shops to choose from- whether at the parks, resorts or CityWalk. In no particular order, here are my five favorite shops to be sure to hit while on vacation.

Islands of Adventure Trading Company

Located in the Port of Entry at (you guessed it!) Islands of Adventure, this store is filled with souvenirs for everyone in your group. Islands of Adventure Trading Company has the best variety of merchandise in the park- from apparel to gifts to toys and more. This store is huge, and features items from many Universal brands including Harry Potter, Marvel, and more. You can also pick up Universal Orlando Resort gear here. I love the details in this store, like the giant dinosaur skeleton on the ceiling. If you’re staying on site, you can even have your merchandise sent directly to your hotel! This is a perk available at shops around Universal Orlando.

Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes

I LOVE this store and always find such neat gifts. Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes is located in Diagon Alley in Universal Studios. Run by pranksters Fred and George Weasley, Harry Potter fans shopping here will feel like they stepped inside of the movie. I love browsing around this store, and there are so many things to choose from between magical tricks, toys, and jokes. Be sure to check out the ceiling where you can see fireworks exploding “outside” of the shop! I recommend stopping by Gringotts Money Exchange prior to shopping to get the full Harry Potter experience. Here, you can exchange your US currency for Gringotts bank notes in $10 or $20 denominations. These bank notes can be used for purchases throughout both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. This is just another part of the immersive experience that you can have visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! 


SpongeBob StorePants

Located in Universal Studios, this interactive gift shop is a fun place to pop in and cool off from the hot Florida sun. There is SpongeBob merchandise abound, such as apparel, plush toys, hats, mugs, and more. I especially like all of the areas designed for kids to explore, including a replica of SpongeBob’s pineapple house! The interactive areas make this gift shop stand out from others, making it a fun shopping experience.

Mythical Metals

Mythical Metals located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure is the perfect place to stop if you are looking for a one-of-a-kind memory from your vacation. You are able to customize your own bronze, silver, or gold medallion with the symbols of your choice, and a skill artisan will create it right before your eyes! It is a neat experience and it is especially exciting to be able to create your medallion to your liking. I enjoy creating a new medallion on each trip to add to my collection- they make for great memories!

Owl Post

Situated in the heart of Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Owl Post is a unique shop that is a must-do for Harry Potter lovers! Inside, you’ll be able to find stationary, quills, seals, ink, official Wizarding World of Harry Potter stamps, and more. You can even purchase your own personal owl! I love being able to send postcards from here, because you are able to get a special Hogsmeade postmark on your piece of mail. 

There are so many other fun shops to browse and these are just some of my favorites. Be sure to comment with your favorite store at Universal Orlando…I would love to hear your thoughts! 

Interested in a FREE quote? Contact me today!

Lauren.Gigliello@MarvelousMouseTravels.com

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