Insider Tips for a Universal Orlando Vacation

In May, I got the chance to take a Universal Orlando vacation with some fellow AAA travel agents and… it was a blast! I can’t wait to go back! From thrilling coasters and virtual reality rides to nostalgic attractions and dining, Universal packs in the fun! First timers who feel a little confused and overwhelmed might benefit from distinguishing the two parks from each other: Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.

Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios Florida seeks to take guests through the screen into their favorite TV shows and movies. Islands of Adventure dives deep into the pages of your favorite written adventures, both books and graphic novels. My favorite experience was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It spreads across both the parks (since both the books and movies were sensational successes) and transports you into the epic story of the wizarding community. You can go shopping in Diagon Alley, hang out with Harry, Hermoine and Ron in the Hogwarts Castle, and out-fly a dragon. You can ride the Hogwarts Express, get a butterbeer in The Leaky Cauldron, or fly on a Hippogriff. It’s a dream come true for Muggles!

Not as into Harry Potter as I am? You’ll still enjoy exhilarating rides like The Incredible Hulk and Rip, Ride, Rock-It. You’ll enjoy fantastic shopping throughout the parks and at City Walk. Nighttime fireworks shows will dazzle and amaze you. Don’t forget to visit the newest park: Universal’s Volcano Bay!

Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay

Think beyond your typical water park; Volcano Bay delivers for everyone! Cabanas are available for those just wanting relaxation, while thrill-seekers will be over the moon riding Krakatau™ Aqua Coaster, TeAwa The Fearless River™, Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides™, and much more! The best part is the technology of the TapuTapu™ wearable which allows you to virtually “wait in line” so you don’t have to spend hours standing around waiting to have fun. And don’t forget about the delicious eats and drinks available exclusively at Universal’s Volcano Bay (mango BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, island BBQ chicken pizza, poke poke bowl, and countless cold or frozen drinks and cocktails—just to name a few).

Don’t take my word for it; book your Universal Orlando vacation today and have an adventure you’ll never forget!

Tips for your Universal Orlando vacation:

  1. Make sure to book with your AAA travel agent to get the best offers and promotions, including a $50 activity credit with most packages, and access to your AAA discounts throughout the parks.
  2. If it rains, don’t worry! There’s plenty to do indoors. Race Through New York With Jimmy Fallon; ride Revenge of the Mummy, a thrilling indoor coaster; catch a movie on the big screen at City Walk; experience the multi-media, audience-inclusive affair that is Blue Man Group.
  3. Consider doing a VIP tour the first day. It includes your Express Unlimited, as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Plus, it’s a great way to get oriented with the parks, or to personalize your experience to be exactly what you want.
  4. If you don’t have at least 2 days to spend in the parks, it’s worth the extra cost to purchase the Express Unlimited, or stay at a resort that includes it.
  5. TRY THE BUTTERBEER! In all its forms, if possible! (Cold, frozen, warm, ice cream).
  6. Even if you don’t want to stay on-property, you could still do a package at one of the many “Universal Partner” hotels, with shuttles to and from the parks.
  7. There are so many yummy things to try at Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and City Walk! Simplify things with a dining plan, which you can customize with however many days you want.
  8. Universal and Disney combination trips are a great idea if you have time, or just want a taste of each! Utilize Universal’s “Take 2” shuttle to make getting to and from the airport and Disney easy!

Ready to book your Universal Orlando vacation? Visit your local AAA store, or check out

Helen Mayfield is a travel consultant in our Member Contact Center.

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