a little florida get-away...including some tips for Universal Orlando

Last week I snuck off to Florida with my daughter for a little mother-daughter holiday. It was so great to spend some one-on-one time with her. I remember doing the same with my mom and treasure those memories.

We spent about four days languishing on the beach at a hotel I used to go to as a child. It's old-school Florida style. You know the kind, on one of those stretches of the gulf that are full of low-rise motels and hotels which have been there forever. It's perfectly kitschy. 

This is what we woke up to every morning. Breakfast on our balcony overlooking the beach. I booked a room with a kitchen so we could stock up on healthy snacks and breakfast essentials. It is a great way to travel with kids. You don't have to worry about finding restaurants for every meal. 

A highlight for Isabella was a dolphin watching boat trip we took. We saw an amazing number of dolphins that day including a baby dolphin swimming with her mama!

Then we headed up to Orlando to meet up with my son who was on an epic holiday to Disney World with my brother and my sister-in-law. He had such an amazing time. Great memories :)

We joined them for a day at Universal Orlando. The kids are HUGE Harry Potter fans so we spent most of our time exploring The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley which just opened this past summer.

It was incredibly realistic and it was easy to get swept up into the whole Harry Potter experience. The attention to detail was pretty amazing. 

The kids visited Ollivander's to purchase their wizard wands and Julian got picked for the wand experience. So fun! If your kids buy the interactive wands they can practice their wizard skills throughout the park where kids (or grown-ups) can wave their wands, recite a spell and try to make magic happen. It's marketing genius.

If you go, make sure you buy the park-to-park pass. This allows you to take the Hogwarts Express between the parks. It's incredible. You board the train at King's Cross Station and travel to Hogsmeade's Station (or vice versa). It's more expensive but I think it's worth it if you want to get the full Harry Potter experience. 

We only spent a day here but I think you could easily budget for two days if you want to catch all the rides and experiences throughout the park (not just Harry Potter). 

We also purchased the Unlimited Express Pass ahead of time. I would say it is worth the extra expense in not having to wait to get on rides. However, check the details because there are some rides in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade where the Express Pass isn't valid. Another tip about purchasing tickets online is to select the Will-Call Kiosk to pick up your tickets. I was told it avoids waiting in long line-ups to get your tickets and it was for us. We pretty much sailed right through.

Although you can stay at a park resort we stayed outside the park at the Crowne Plaza Orlando (Universal) and I found it to be convenient. We had a car so we just drove to the park. We could have taken a shuttle but I found the schedule inconvenient. Parking was reasonable by my big city standards at $17 for the day. Staying out of the park will save you money but it's also worth looking into the park resorts because sometimes they have deals that include park tickets.

We all loved Universal Orlando but the crowd favorite was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter especially Diagon Alley.

If you have any questions about our experience at Universal Orlando let me know. I know I had lots of questions prior to planning this park experience.

So that was our little trip south :)


  1. Looks like a wonderful trip! Memories made for sure.


Thanks so much for your comments!