Cooking Travel

Disney, Baby!

May 27, 2018

Okay, I’m going to jump right into this whole blog thing, coming off of an amazing week-long trip to Orlando. I will get to properly introducing myself, soon, but while my trip is fresh in my mind, I want to share the “dos” and “don’ts” I discovered, while taking on one of the most magical (and overwhelming) places on Earth, with a 13-month old!

 

Disney Baby!

 

 

ORLANDO, COCOA BEACH & KENNEDY SPACE CENTER

 

We wanted to maximize our time in Orlando, so we decided to ease in to the trip with a beach day while getting to visit the famed Cocoa Beach. Once a popular tourist destination, and the setting for I Dream of Jeannie, today, Cocoa Beach is an easy place to position yourself close to the Kennedy Space Center while getting to feel the sand between your toes. So I hear. For us, we got to watch torrential rain from our hotel room, and we quickly discovered, Cocoa Beach is not where you want to be in the rain. We had a hard time finding nicer restaurants, and ended up in a couple strip malls of chain restaurants. We eventually had decent meals at Branos Italian Grill, and Madd Jack’s BarBQ Shack. The first day was literally a wash, and we hoped for sunnier skies on Sunday. 

 

Rain, Rain, Go Away

 

 

Sunday proved to be (slightly) less rainy, which made for the ability to walk through Kennedy Space Center and not totally get soaked. Kennedy Space Center is absolutely AMAZING. I consider it a must-do to anyone visiting the Orlando area, making it a great addition to a Disney trip for both kids and adults. The only downside for me was the food. It was not good, and not at all healthy. The choices for children were very disappointing, as well. My daughter had over-processed, fried, barely-recognizeable chicken, which ended up on the floor rather quickly.

 

The two big pieces of advice I have for Kennedy Space Center are 1) be aware of how much you will be outdoors visiting the Rocket Garden, or moving in between buildings, and dress accordingly, and 2) give yourself PLENTY of time. The Space Center is not something you can visit in a couple of hours. The Bus Tour alone can take that amount of time. It’s all worth it. 

 

So, if I were to do it over, I would skip Cocoa Beach, and visit Kennedy Space Center on Day One, with nothing else on the agenda. If I wanted downtime, I would spend it at our Disney Resort, which was pretty cool, rain or shine. 

 

Now, on to Disney. After the little tour of Florida’s Atlantic side, we headed back inland, to Disney. If you’re wondering about the logistics for that first leg, my husband, baby, and I, met up with my family at the Orlando airport. We rented an oversized SUV with Alamo, and drove straight to Cocoa Beach, stayed at the Hampton Inn (pass), and drove to Kennedy the next morning. We prepaid for parking and Space Center tickets which made everything go pretty smoothly. I chose Alamo for the rental car, because they have a Disney Car Care center right inside Disney World. Choosing a different location for drop-off made our life much easier. Having to go back to the airport and take the Magical Express to Disney would have been a waste of time, when vacation time is so precious. (That would have been the cheaper option, though, FYI.) 

 

Rainy Day at Kennedy Space Center

 

 

ANIMAL KINGDOM LODGE, DISNEY TRANSPORT & CAR SEATS

 

I received a text during the day with our room number, and a notification that it was ready. Since our Magic Bands were already in our possession, this meant we could bypass a physical check-in and head straight to our rooms. This is, by far, my favorite part about Disney. Their advanced experience integration and connected devices, speak to the planner in me. I was so impressed with the pre-trip itinerary tool, and then the ability to book, access, and purchase most things with the cute little red band on my wrist. On the flip-side, I have NO IDEA how people that do not plan get through Disney World. The best restaurants and rides filled up so far in advance, you really need to be on the ball. 

 

Now, while the computer integration was my favorite part about Disney, I have to say, the customer service was my least favorite. Every issue, every hiccup, was due to a live person. I’m not sure if the compound is now just too big for representatives to have the answers needed or feel comfortable with their systems, but there was A LOT of confusion. And a lot of bad attitudes. I’ll get more into that later.

 

Our hotel room was in Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village. We chose a two bedroom villa for six adults and one baby to have the ultimate family experience. Us parents LOVED this idea, as we could put our daughter to bed, and hang out with everyone in the common area, instead of reading books with tiny book lights from 7:00PM on, as we have had to do many times in the past.

 

So, we pulled into short-term parking at Kidani Village, and our baggage was loaded onto a luggage cart. Since there were seven of us, we had no problem bringing the baggage to the room ourselves, but the bellhop said that they were the only ones allowed to use the carts. That was fine, as they assured us the luggage would be right behind. 

 

Our first impression of the villa was shock, confusion, disappointment. One of the strongest pieces of advice I have, is to be very wary of Kidani Village. The layout of this hotel is truly unbelievable. It’s basically one long corridor, with the lobby in the center, and two arms of rooms branching out on either side. If your group is one of the unlucky chosen ones to be positioned at one of the complete ends of the resort, you are walking a quarter mile each way, to get to and from the lobby. This was the most unreasonable walk, within a hotel, I have ever experienced. Words do not do it justice. When you are carrying bags and your baby, after a long day at the park, and you are walking ten minutes within the hotel, just to get to your room, something is off. In Kidani’s case, the problem is making the lobby the center of the universe. If you want to go have a quick breakfast at the neighboring lodge’s restaurant, for example, it will take you at least fifteen minutes to get there, and you can see the building from your room! This is because you need to trek back to the lobby, then either follow the longer path to Jambo House, or take the transfer bus. I hope Kidani makes an additional path or bridge to Jambo, moving forward. Seriously, I am a city person with an active lifestyle, so walking is my thing. For me to find this so unreasonable makes me wonder how handicapped or elderly guests deal with this resort. Well, they probably move their rooms immediately, as we eventually did. 

 

The room location was not the only motivation for requesting a room change. I was completely disappointed with our Savanna view. After arriving at our villa, the first thing we did was sprint out to the balcony to see the African animals in all their glory. Unfortunately, all we saw were chain-link fences, and a huge building that houses the animals, off the Savanna. It felt like we had the behind-the-scenes view that was not so pretty. After splurging $700 to upgrade our view, it was all kind of feeling like a rip-off. After two days of barely seeing animals, and getting blisters from the hotel walkabout, I started googling and realized I was not alone with these Kidani frustrations. I also learned that there are two Savannas–Sunset and Pembe. We were eventually moved to an identical villa, closer to the lobby, with a Sunset view. We now had giraffes right outside our window! Our experience was starting to feel a little more magical. I do not really recommend Kidani as a resort, but if your are considering it, I highly recommend requesting a Sunset Savanna view and to be positioned close to the lobby!

 

Kidani Village's Sunset Savanna

 

 

But, back to that first day! After a few of our bubbles burst, I waited for our luggage, while my dad and sisters returned the car at Alamo. I began planning the logistics to get to our 6:15PM reservation at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. It was about 3:00PM, when we arrived. I immediately called down for our luggage, but got the Bell Desk voicemail. After trying a couple more times, I spoke to the Front Desk, and they passed the request for our baggage over to the luggage services team. The Front Desk then put me on hold to answer my question on how to get to Hoop-Dee-Doo, and what time we needed to leave. This was when I realized that the Front Desk staff doesn’t seem to know the answers to many questions off the top of their head. You get repeatedly put on looooooong holds while someone “looks into this for you.” At about 3:45PM, the woman came back and let me know that we should leave at 4:45PM to get there on time. 4:45! How it could take an hour and a half to get to a dinner within Disney World was so puzzling to me, but it put me straight in panic mode as we still didn’t have our luggage, my family was just arriving to the Disney Car Care center, and I hadn’t showered since the previous evening in Cocoa Beach! Not to mention my daughter was melting down for the snacks in my suitcase. I called my family, they chose to Uber back from Car Care ($), instead of waiting for the free shuttle, and I placed a second call to baggage. Got another voicemail message, was assured next by the Front Desk the bags were on their way, and then waited until 4:30PM. STILL NO BAGS. Eventually, Baggage Services picked up their phone and informed me that they never received my baggage request from the Front Desk. We eventually got our bags at around 5:00PM–my family beat the bags back from the rental place(!)–from a friendly man named Tipton. He offered a free taxi since we were no longer going to make the show in time with that 4:45PM suggested departure. He also offered us free Fast Passes for a day of our choosing. (We chose Wednesday, but the staff ended up messing this up, as well, and applied them for Monday. So, we got free passes for Monday, too. An annoying hiccup that worked in our favor.) We quickly got ready, and left by 5:35PM to arrive to the show just before they opened their doors. 

 

I understood that 4:45PM suggested departure time once I realized what a journey it was to get to the Fort Wilderness Campground’s Pioneer Hall! You actually need to take a bus to Fort Wilderness, get off at their main terminal, then take a smaller transfer bus through the site, to Pioneer Hall, deep within the grounds. We skipped the main part of this journey by taking the taxi, but that required some planning, as well. Since my daughter is 13-months old, and still in a rear-facing seat, we were unsure if the right car seat would be available in the cab. The Front Desk (after putting us on hold for a very long period of time) was able to tell us that taxis, Ubers, and Minnie Vans (by Lyft) were equipped with car seats, but they were unsure if they were of the rear-facing variety. We then waited for confirmation that the Fort Wilderness lobby would be able to hold our car seat for us, if we used ours for the taxi and then later for an Uber. The answer was yes, so that’s what we did. And, we were glad we did, as the cab only had front-facing seats. 

 

We decided to bring our own car seat all the way from New York City, by the way. It was the most economical, and despite the Britax being an awkward monstrosity, it was the best decision at the end of the day. For one, getting to the airport using a car service that includes a car seat, such as Kid Car, costs over $100, while the Uber was just $52. The car seat was free to check, and we were able to avoid the car seat charge of $20 in our rental car. We had a car seat for last minute cabs, like our Sunday dinner reservation, back to the Orlando airport, and again from LaGuardia to our home. It just made sense. We also purchased the Britax Car Seat Travel Bag, which has made our lives so much easier. The seat can be worn as a backpack, or wheeled, which makes lugging a 20 lb car seat much more manageable. Worth the $69.99 investment. 

 

So, with our car seat in tow, and my whole family, we made it to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, and, boy, was that fun. Seriously. The best night we had in Disney. My daughter LOVED it. She was dancing, laughing, banging a spoon on her high chair, getting serenaded by the performers, and indulging on a variety of foods. And us big kids were, too. All of the above, with some AMAZING BBQ and fried chicken, and, our drink of the entire trip, red sangria. It was an absolute blast. My husband and I snuck out a little early because the baby was already passed her 7:00 bedtime, but half of a show was worth it! Highly recommend. 

 

Hoop-Dee-Doo Magic!

 

 

THE DISNEY BABY & HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

 

Let me now tell you about my approach to Disney with my child. My child is a good sleeper. My husband and I have gone to great lengths to ensure this, taking a traditional sleep training approach, and seeing the value in routines. I believe a well-rested baby makes for a happy child and happy parents, so I didn’t want to push her during this trip. She is still on two naps a day and a 7:00-7:00 overnight sleep schedule, and I wanted to maintain this schedule as best I could. I don’t find stroller sleeping as valuable, so I tried my best to give her at least one nap in the dark, quiet hotel room. Therefore, our trip and this post is not about how to be at a park from open until close with a young child, and how to hit every ride. We dipped our toes in Disney, because that’s what worked best for our family. 

 

So, with that said, Monday morning was chill. The whole fam hung out with Kidani room service,  (I opted for the Quinoa Pancakes with Honey Yogurt multiple times that trip) and took advantage of the big dining table and highchair available. We took in the Savanna and had a low-pressure morning. My family headed to the park after breakfast, but my husband and I waited until after my baby’s 9:00-10:00AM nap. We eventually made our way to Hollywood Studios (my least favorite park in Disney), and took turns with my family watching the baby so we could enjoy some adult rides. Since we had such a big group, we didn’t have to use child swap rooms and options, but know that they are available so you can stay together as a family, and still have a great time in Disney. The star of Hollywood Studios is the Rock n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. It’s a wild, dark roller coaster that totally steals the show from the famed Tower of Terror. My daughter was able to come along for Muppet Vision 3D, but I need to point out how that attraction has NOT CHANGED since the mid-90s, when I last went to Disney. Some of these Disney rides and shows need some serious upgrades. Same went for our early dinner spot, the Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater. While it is still cool eating your meal drive-in style in car bench seats, and being able to have your toddler next to you in a booster, it was exactly how I remembered it. I think I was expecting some more believable night skies or car seats at this point in 2018. Regardless, we had a nice day, the baby only missed one nap, and was in bed for 7:00.

 

BOMA, EPCOT, DISNEY VISA & MEMORY MAKER PHOTO PASS

 

On Tuesday, we ventured next door to the other Animal Kingdom Lodge building, Jambo House, for a buffet breakfast at Boma. This is how we discovered that just because it was next door, didn’t mean it was close. After trying to find a shortcut, walking through a parking garage, and somehow ending back up at that dreaded lobby, we hopped on the bus to get to our reservation a few minutes late. The brunch was huge and delicious and would have tasted better if we were staying at Jambo House and got to forget about Kidani altogether. We got back to our room to once again hit that 9:00-10:00AM nap before meeting the family, this time at Epcot! Epcot is my second-to-last favorite (sorry), and mainly above Hollywood Studios because of the Around the World area of many different countries being represented by a scenic little pond. This area I especially enjoyed, having just moved from Europe, and being able to take pictures “back in England.” My sisters enjoyed this area, as they tried to accomplish the challenge of having a drink from each of the 11 different countries. I had two and felt wild. Soarin’ is one of my absolute favorite rides and it’s found at Epcot. It is so peaceful and euphoric–one i highly recommend. After a few others not worth talking about, we closed our day back Around the World with some tasty Mexican food at La Hacienda de San Angel. More delicious red sangria, followed by a baby in bed on time!

 

One little tip about Epcot and Disney in general, if you, or someone in your party, has a Disney Visa (my sister did in our case) there are some perks you can enjoy around the parks, such as 10% off select items. At Epcot, we found the character meet-and-greet area for Disney Visa cardholders. There, we got right in to have our own private moments with Pluto and MINNIE (my daughter’s absolute favorite), which included a 65-picture family photo shoot and autograph signings, with no one in front of us, or behind us in line! It was perfect. Now, another tip. Speaking of pictures. It is absolutely worth it to purchase the Disney Memory Maker. This one-time $200 purchase allows you access to ALL of your pictures taken at Disney. They try to charge you $20+ to purchase a single photo, so instead, we paid $200 for hundreds of photos and split it between all six of us. (I obviously made out really well since we brought my daughter to basically every photo station.) And there are photo stations for absolutely everything. Want a picture with Goofy? Step right up! Want a picture of your family with the Magic Kingdom in the background? Sure! Want a copy of your face when your stomach drops on Tower of Terror? Here you go! Totally worth it. I’ve downloaded all my pictures to my computer and now I can print them out on Walmart.com or Snapfish.com for reasonable prices, and upload them to all my social media platforms. 

 

 

 

MAGIC KINGDOM & CINDERELLA’S ROYAL TABLE

 

Magic Kingdom!

 

 

Now, Wednesday, that was a special day. My daughter didn’t get her morning nap because we were booked in for something very amazing at Magic Kingdom: The Breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table! Now, pay attention, as this tip is going to make an adorable experience an unforgettable one. This breakfast reservation is tough to get, and Cinderella’s Royal Table is the first location to fill up in all of Disney World, so plan in advance! And when you do, try to book a 9:15AM breakfast. This time is absolutely perfect, and I will tell you why. The park opens at 9:00AM. They allow visitors to come through, into the main area, in front of the Kingdom, but all of the individual park entrances are closed off to the public. They are not closed off, however, to those with dining reservations. We arrived at 8:40AM, and had a full glorious 20 minutes of wandering around a very quiet Magic Kingdom, and taking pictures (the professionals were out there ready to snap photos, too!), and taking it all in. Then, just at 9:00AM, the Opening Ceremony began. While hundreds of people watched from in front of the castle, we got to watch from inside, about 15 feet from the door that Mickey, Minnie, every character, every princess would exit out of. We watched from backstage and it was awesome. My daughter was so excited, danced in her little Snow White costume, and got a special wave and occasional high-five from all her favorites after the show. Then, the gates were opened and we hopped right inside for a very special breakfast! We met five Disney Princesses, had surprisingly delicious food–Beef Tenderloin and Eggs whaaaa–and made wishes with new, special, wand keepsakes. This adventure we saved for just Mommy, Daddy, and baby, and it was just perfect. Beware, this is a very high-priced breakfast, but considering the empty park, VIP view of the opening ceremony, and some pretty tasty food, it was worth it to us!

 

FAST PASS, MAGICAL EXPERIENCE PASSES & THE DISNEY APP

 

After that, we regrouped with the rest of our party, and enjoyed our three, free Magical Experience Passes from Sunday night’s luggage hiccup, as well as our Fast Passes that were already pre-booked on some pretty killer rides. The hottest day we had experienced was perfect for Splash Mountain. That ride remains in my top three at Disney. Other hits from the day include the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Dumbo (for an amazing experience with your little one), Pirates of the Caribbean (which is NOT baby friendly, even though it accommodates all ages. We didn’t bring our child on there, but we could see how someone would think it’s okay based on the rating), and of course, Space Mountain. My family couldn’t stop raving about that last one, but as they watched our baby, and my husband and I waited in the Fast Pass line, the ride went down and we all had to turn around. Space Mountain was unavailable for the rest of the day. We got, yet another, Magical Experience Pass, which didn’t really make up for missing one of the most iconic rides at Disney. But, let me take a moment to discuss the difference between these Magical Experience Passes and the traditional Fast Pass.

 

The Disney Fast Pass+ program is a pretty great thing. It allows every person with a park ticket to make three selections for rides where they want to skip the queue. It feels very fair. We had a little bit of an edge, though. We were able to make our selections 60 days early since we were staying at a Disney Resort, while non-resort visitors can only make selections 30 days in advance. This got us desirable times for all of the best rides, and we were able to avoid lines that can be 1-2 hours long! Once you use your daily Fast Pass+ allotment, you can continue booking individual Fast Passes for that day on kiosks around the park or on the amazing Disney app that I used all day long. The Disney App has a map of the park that helps you know where you are and where you’re going! You can book dining reservations and Fast Passes right from your phone, for every member linked to your reservation. This free download is well worth it. 

 

Now the Magical Experience Passes are even more amazing than having a Fast Pass+ booking. They’re essentially a Fast Pass that you can use anywhere, anytime, without a reservation. (There might be a couple of restrictions, but none that affected me.) They are basically given when the park or hotel messes up, and then tries to smooth it all over with these golden tickets. So, don’t count on these, focus on your Fast Passes, and make those bookings ASAP!

 

Baby's First Ride!

 

 

POOL TIME, STROLLERS & CUSTOMER SERVICE

 

After an early start, and missing both traditional naps, my daughter fell asleep in her stroller, which meant she missed her Little Mermaid ride, but sleep was more important. This brings me to a topic that a lot of people have questions about: strollers! Do you pack one? Do you rent one? Decisions, decisions. For me, it’s a no-brainer. I am so happy with my travel stroller that I will bring it with me every time. The Acro by Mamas & Papas is a compact travel stroller that folds small enough to go in an airplanes overhead bin. Even though, a stroller is included for most airline’s checked or gate-checked travel allowance, I always choose to stow it overhead, to protect it, and have it ready to use right off the plane. I’m not sure what stroller renters use at the airport? This stroller is light, compact, and has two very important features for busy days–it reclines nicely to accommodate a sleeping baby, and has a nice cover to provide lots of shade. Don’t worry, if you don’t have a travel stroller you love, there are plenty of stroller rental desks throughout Disney. 

 

That day seemed to only be getting hotter and sunnier for my little one, so we snuck out of the park around 2:30PM. This got us back to Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village in time for two glorious hours of pool time! That is something very difficult to experience at Disney with a baby! The pools unfortunately don’t open until 9:00AM, and by that time, the baby is either napping, or we’re headed to a park, and then, later, our nights end early. Disney Resorts have the coolest pools and water features, so carving out time to experience it all, is an absolute must. I loved swimming with my baby girl, testing out the water slide, and enjoying a Frose poolside, before dinner at Kidani Village’s Sanaa. 

 

Sanaa is the ground floor level, Indian restaurant, that looks right out onto the Savanna at Animal Kingdom Lodge. One little peeve about Disney restaurants, in general, their reservation times are not very firm. They expect you to be there right on time, but have no problem making you wait 20+ minutes past your reservation time for a table. Ours was at 5:25PM, but we didn’t get seated until 5:45PM, which is very frustrating when you have a starving child that doesn’t have the same level of patience as an adult would. Our meal was pretty good, but we were not impressed with our server. My dad and sister joined for drinks, and that really seemed to bother Michael. He was very short with us, and honestly put a damper on the whole dining experience. Oh well. At least we were in our hotel, close to my daughter’s crib, and got to stop by the fire pit for some last minute giraffe sightings before heading off to bed. My dad stayed in with our daughter that night so my siblings, husband and I could have a night out! We had even worse service at Jiko, over at Jambo House. We watched the rest of the siblings eat and we drank our dessert since we already ate during baby dining hours. But that service. Seriously, so bad. We were neglected the entire time by a man named Adam, who tried to joke his way out of each time he forgot about us. Plus the food was nothing to rave about. My sister thought the lavender butter tasted like suntan lotion. I liked the red sangria. That was our late night, that would call for another room service morning. 

 

The room service we ordered, the next morning, was not without more bad/confused customer service challenges. When we moved rooms the day before, the staff transferred the crib, but not the highchair. With our room service order, I requested a new highchair to be brought up. After about 20 minutes of our food sitting there, getting cold, I called again for the chair and was put on hold (no joke) for about 10 minutes. The woman came back on the line and apologized because they couldn’t seem to access a wheelchair. A wheelchair? My goodness. No a highchair, please. Another 20 minutes later, we were all seated down to a microwave re-heated meal. 

 

Before heading to the park that day, we had to check out. We gave our bags to the Bell Desk to retrieve later, and settled up a four-figure incidental bill. Coming off the highchair fiasco, I was surprised that the man completing the checkout didn’t ask me one basic question: “Did you enjoy your stay?” Nothing to that effect. I then asked to speak to the manager and spoke to a woman named Samantha. I recapped the many issues we experienced while staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and told her that I just thought it was important that I passed the feedback on. She was not apologetic. Not concerned. Just basically said okay, thanks, and walked away. I am still so amazed at how the magical land of Disney, the land that is supposed to hold the highest standards in customer care, fell flat in so many areas. As I mentioned prior, Animal Kingdom Lodge, will not be my first choice in the future. The Animal Kingdom park on the other hand…

 

ANIMAL KINGDOM 

 

Animal Kingdom was the only major park left for us, come Thursday, and it is, by far, my favorite. It holds the best rides in the most impressive setting. Most people you speak to will praise Avatar Flight of Passage as the most amazing ride of all time. And I agree. For this reason, you will not get a day of Fast Pass booking in the afternoon, you must BOOK AHEAD. The second your Fast Pass+ is available, BOOK IT. Otherwise, you’re standing in a line for hours. My other must-do at Animal Kingdom: Kilimanjaro Safaris. Not really a “ride” in the Disney sense, but an authentic safari that you can bring your child on! It was wild. The animals were beautiful and my daughter was so happy being face-to-face with a giraffe like the ones off our Kidani balcony and on her flash cards!  Also, try to cool yourself down on Kali River Rapids, or take a peaceful, kid-friendly ride on the Na’vi River Journey. We broke up our day at the Rainforest Cafe (the best one in the chain that I have ever been to), and finished up with enough time to get us back to the Kidani Village to pick up our luggage and go to our new hotel. Disney was done, it was time for Universal Studios!

 

Giraffes Everywhere!

 

Animal Kingdom's Kilimanjaro Safaris

 

DOUBLETREE HILTON & UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

 

Our Orlando tour wouldn’t be complete without a day at Universal Studios! We checked into the DoubleTree Hilton for an early night before our big day. I have to mention this hotel because I cannot recommend it enough. It’s spacious, clean–has everything you would expect from a DoubleTree, but the location is unbelievable. It’s called the DoubleTree Hilton at the Entrance to Universal Studious, because it is literally at the entrance to Universal Studios. It is the perfect location. No more bus queues, no more shuttles. Just a nice, healthy walk across the street and down their driveway. (There is a regular shuttle available for those not looking to walk.) This maximized our Friday park time when you take transport time out of the equation. Now, I think Universal is really well done. We purchased the Universal Studios Express Pass ($89.99) on top of our regular tickets, and that was well worth it, for us. We were in and out of every ride with minimal wait times. Their Express Pass requires zero forethought, compared to Disney’s Fast Pass, and does not limit you on the number of different rides you can go on. Having a baby meant I wanted to be in and out of each ride quickly, relieving the family member that was minding her. A couple highlights, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon (it felt like home!), E.T. Adventure (a heartwarming classic), and Shrek 4-D (to bring out the kid in you). The Universal Studios rides feel a lot longer than those at Disney. At the end of the day, I really feel like I got my money’s worth! Great rides that are actually longer than your wait times! What we wish we skipped: Men In Black Alien Attack. What we did skip: The Leaky Cauldron. We had planned on dining in the Harry Potter restaurant until we realized it was just a big seat-yourself, fried, fast food place. We walked nearby and had a great sit-down meal in “San Francisco” at Lombard’s Landing. What we wish we didn’t skip: Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. Next time, we will be adding a day to include Universal’s second park! On our way out, we had a great meal at the burger/sushi joint, Cowfish, with a gluttonous dessert of Voodoo Doughnuts. We went out with a bang, had a bunch more red sangrias, and slept like babies on our last night in Orlando!

 

Saturday, we had just enough time to take a few laps in the nice DoubleTree pool, and fuel up from the on-site Starbucks, before Ubering to the airport to head back to NYC! Our trip was complete. I realize this is a lot of information, but there are so many activities and elements to consider when making a full-on trip to Orlando, especially with a baby. Feel free to comment with any of your own tips or questions! X

 

Pool Time at the DoubleTree Hilton

 

 

 

 

 

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