Making Memories At Universal Orlando Resort

This is my final post sharing our holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I’m ending on a big one! You’ve read all about the amazing accommodation, The Royal Pacific Resort and benefits of staying onsight. And I’ve written about how to do Universal with a preschooler now here’s everything you ever wanted to know about all three of their theme parks and City Walk. Starting with the newest, Volcano Bay. A water park with gumption!

Volcano Bay

Bearing in mind the boys and I are total water babies when it comes to holidays, you can pretty much guarantee that most of our time will be taken up in water of some sort, so spending the day swimming, splashing and on the thrills and spills of the water rides kicked off our break perfectly.

As with all the theme parks, staying in a Universal Orlando resort meant we had free transport to all the parks. While Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida were only a 10 minutes walk or water taxi ride from our hotel, Volcano Bay was a short bus ride away, or the Shrek bus as the youngest called it.

Now I need you to think of the downside of water parks;  endless queues at the rides right? Only Volcano Bay has tackled that problem by supplying all their guests with a TapuTapu a waterproof watch-like device which holds your place in a virtual line for one attraction at a time.

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

Volcano Bay

Once inside, we headed to the lockers and changing rooms then found a spot to camp down on the beach area. With free loungers and life vests you only need a towel really, you can also pay for everything via their app so you can leave your valuables locked away. the boys and I headed straight into the water where the mighty Krakatau volcano is the centrepiece. It’s the hub of the park with various water slides, sand, wave machines, it really gives a holiday vibe of a Pacific isle rather than a water park.

The eldest teen soon disappeared, never to be seen for a couple of hours as he went on as many solo rides as he could (and possibly avoid babysitting duties?!) So the rest of us took a walk around the park which caters for all ages. We all rode the lazy river, an all-ages ride in rubber rings through gentle rapids and waterfalls. But the bulk of our time ended up in the kiddies splash areas and trying to prize the 3-year old away from the rides and splash areas was nigh on impossible. He loved having the independence of going down the slides himself.

Universal Studios Florida

Day 2 was all about getting up close and personal with the characters from our favourite movies, we started with a very intense day zipping through queues with the fast pass which you get automatically as a guest staying in a Universal Resort hotel and is well worth the upgrade if you aren’t.

Here, we got to dance with the minions in Despicable Me after a 3D ride helping Gru and the girls. One thing which I loved about all the rides was even the queues were entertaining and interactive.

We were lucky to  spend one of the days with fellow blogger Cornish Mum Steph and her family, which meant the boys were able to go on all the major rides and I got to see their faces when they got off; beams which were impossible to fake or hide summed it up.

During our post theme park chat they both decided that the Hollywood RipRide Rocket was their favourite, while I could’ve spent all my time in Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. Your senses go into overdrive here as you take everything. Even the shop windows come alive, and the giant fire-breathing dragon was something else, our little preschooler still talks about it now.

Even more amazing is the ride on the Hogwarts Express between theme parks, everything is so real it’s hard not to imagine you’re heading off to a term at Hogwarts as you look out of the window. I could harp on about how breathtaking this area is all day, and how amazing Butter Beer tastes. But it really is something you need to experience yourself. Although I did managed to capture a snippet of the ride on camera.

While the boys got their kicks on the roller coasters, there was no hanging around waiting for me luckily, with all various shows and street performances going on all around. I even got to join in with a singing contest (not sure I could call it singing, more shouting) with a group of cappella singers on the streets of New York.( I live streamed this on Instagram so you may have caught it?)

Best part of this park for me was walking through the different themed city areas of London, Hollywood and New York, the rides here are only a small part of the whole experience.

Islands of Adventure

Our days of getting up close a personal to all the movies and movie stars didn’t end in Universal Studios as we soon found out at Islands of Adventure! I’d say the teenagers probably prefer this park out of the 3 with it’s ultimate rollercoaster The Incredible Hulk, full on experience at Skull Island and my favourote, Harry Potters Forbidden Journey.

Along with even more of Harry Potter, you also get to see Marvel characters come to life on the streets of Marvel Super Hero Island. It was here that my 3 year old got a meet and greet with his idol Spiderman, a total heart-melting moment seeing him totally in the superhero zone.

Even walking around the Jurassic Park area was an experience, right down to the fossils embedded in the walkways and dinosaurs hiding in the bushes. The older kids got their water ride fix here while the youngest and I took a slower aerial view of the park on a Pteradon Fliers and ran around Camp Jurassic.

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

CityWalk

You can’t reach Universal Studios or Islands Of Adventure without passing through City walk, and  although not a theme park per say, it was pure entertainment with its many bars, clubs and shops.It was great to see the security and bag checks at every entrance. It’s sad that this is the type of world we live in now, where you need extra levels of security to feel safe and be able to relax at big public areas like this. Nonetheless, I felt much happier having to go through this each time we visited.

We dined out in the new Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savoury Feast Kitchen, The NBC Sports Bar, The CowFish and The Hard Rock Cafe. Food was utterly amazing, with a good choice for all of us, including me as a vegetarian and portion sizes – wow! We left every restaurant with a carry home of some sort. Special mention has to be the milkshakes in The Toothsome Emporium, probably not the best choice of drinks for the teens as they struggled to make a dent in their meals.

You can order child’s meals in all the restaurants we went to at a fairly decent price, not sure I’d call them child portions mind! They’d have been fine for me to be honest.

Universal Resort Orlando In a Nutshell….

Totally and utterly amazeballs for all ages and all genders. The quality exceeded our expectations and left us speechless on many occasions. Go prepared with your camera, comfy shoes (wear trainers, it’s a lot of walking!) and get there early. My best advice is to start at the back of the park and get the big rides done asap then plan the rest of your day taking your time and don’t rush around from one area to the next. There are so many hidden extras and doing your research on the internet really helps. Little things like how to get the interactive cauldren to move in Diagon Alley, to spotting Kreacher the House Elf peaking through the window as well as the real-life characters popping up everywhere.

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

This was one of those holidays which we hope to do again one day, but even if we don’t, the memories we made will last a lifetime and for anyone wondering if it’s do able as a single parent, or with children of any age or gender.

 It totally is. 

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

Universal Citywalk at Night

Disclaimer

This is a collaborative post between Mumsnet Bloggers Network and Universal Resort Orlando

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STAYING AT THE LOEWS ROYAL PACIFIC RESORT, ORLANDO.

Imagine traveling abroad on a (nearly) 9-hour flight, navigating your way around a sort of familiar airport, relaxing for 20 minutes in a luxurious airport transfer and stepping out to a hotel lobby that sparks the simple words “wow.” Well, I did that, along with my 3, 13 and 17-year-old sons and the hotel I’m talking about was the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando Resort.

Staff at the front, helping you unload your luggage and giving you that typical American warm welcome was a hint of things to come and if I’m honest, being on site on the Universal Resorts, I was kinda expecting a more well, gimicky, kid theme. Oh, how wrong was I!


It soon became apparent that not only was I to experience a taste of Floridian life, I also got a sampler of a South Seas Pacific holiday. think palm trees, elephant statues, colorful Balinese umbrellas and reflection pools, along with a distinct floral scent filled the air. All senses were in overdrive!


Checking into the vast, dark wood reception area, while the boys tucked into the complimentary lemon water, we were given with our room keys (which also acted as fast pass and early entry to Universal theme parks) as well as our flower lei leis. For a moment my fuzzy, jet-lagged brain toyed with the thought we’d ended up at the wrong hotel, maybe even the wrong country. But I liked what I saw so was in no need to question it!


Plus, it soon became apparent that this was just what we would need to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy theme parks nearby.

Facilities at The Royal Pacific

It depends on what your expectations are for a holiday, but for 2 teenagers and a 3-year-old, high light of the whole stay was and always is, the swimming pool. With free use of towels and chair covers, we set up base here as soon as we’d unpacked. I liked that the whole swimming pool area is gated off too, no chance of my lively little one darting off for an unexpected swim!


Once we found our spot, my favourite being in the sanded area where there was a very gentle slope into the pool, the boys were off! It’s safe to say that some of my best and happiest moments on this holiday were watching my 3 play together here. The younger 2 often went straight to the Royal Bali Sea interactive water play area, while the eldest chilled in the hot tub,(jealous me? Yep, big time!) but they regularly regrouped to mess about in the pool, watch movies or play water polo and with the Despicable Me beach balls provided. moments like these were priceless. It’s not often the 4 of us get to relax and have fun like this, I had total proud mum moments every time!

When I needed some chill time, the kid’s pool was the perfect spot. Gated off from the main area, it was shallow enough for my 3-year-old to play on his own while I read a book on the (very nearby) lounger especially with the bonus of a sandy area complete with toys. As a single parent holidaying without back up childcare, it was just what I needed, and while the thought of escaping off to the gym or the spa would have been my ideal time out, this was a much welcome 2nd choice.

There are several restaurants onsite too, we had pizzas at Jake’s American Bar and nachos poolside. Staff comes round regularly while you’re chilling by the pool, checking if you need anything. Being waited on hand and foot was simply divine and the food portion sizes were something else. Considering I have 2 teenagers with very big appetites, 1 nachos snack dish was enough for us all, with leftovers.

Being part of the Universal Resort, you also get complimentary water taxis to Universal City Walk which is where you access the theme parks. It’s a very gentle 5-minute ride, just what you need after a busy day, saying that, I really liked the walk to and from the hotel to City Walk. Either way, you go through security every time, there was never a moment I didn’t feel safe here.

 

There is also a small beach style area away from the swimming pool, using the same waterway that the water taxis travel. We never made it here on our stay, in an ideal world, we’d have had a couple more days to chill at the hotel and break our theme park days up a little. But the real beauty of staying on site, at a Universal Resort hotel, is that you can come and go as you please. When we’d burnt out at the theme parks, we simply headed back to recharge at the hotel. It was total escapism.

 

To stay on site at The Royal Pacific Hotel or not?

Not having to worry about parking was a huge plus, considering the type of holiday it was, with the thrills and spills of Islands of Adventure and all the experiences at Universal Studios, 10 minutes after leaving City Walk, you were on a quiet, relaxing stroll or ride back to your hotel. I can’t tell you enough just how much easier this was. It’s not the first time I’ve been to Orlando, my first visit we stayed offsite in Lake Beuna Vista and did car hire. This was by far much more convenient and although we didn’t have time on this break to get out and about, not having the stress of parking, and driving in another country meant it was a total stress-free break.

In a nutshell…..

Beds you can sink into after a long day, complimentary water delivered to your door every evening, quality restaurants on site, a gym, spa, arcade, kids club (sadly my 3-year-old was just too young to try.) evening outdoor movies played by the pool you can even bob away in the water while watching, or simply stretch out on a lounger. There was everything we needed for a luxurious break, without having to sacrifice a thing simply because it was a family holiday.

So did we enjoy our stay?

I don’t want to go home

– Ky age 13

I want to go back to our holiday home

– Ronnie age 3 ( every day since we got back)

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Part 1 of our holiday – Visiting Universal Resorts with a Preschooler is here if you’d like to read more 

Disclaimer

This was part of a collaboration between Mumsnet Bloggers Network  and Universal Orlando Resort

 

 

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Safari Tent Glamping At Crealy Meadows, Devon

Many years ago I had the idea that camping was the way to go to guarantee precious family time and bag a cheap summer school holiday break. And it was, of sorts. What I didn’t bargain on was gale force winds and rain resulting in one of the most scariest holiday experiences ever and put an end to my brief encounter to sleeping under canvas. But not one to be defeated, I thought I’d give it another go, only this time as a glamper, not a camper, staying in a safari tent at Crealy Meadows, just outside of Exeter in my home county of Devon.

I still craved the peace and tranquility which camping had to offer; no TV, reconnecting as a family and my kids getting as much fresh air and escapism from their iPads, iPhones and games consoles. Yet I didn’t fancy splashing out on all the camping paraphernalia needed for a tent holiday, just incase my second attempt became my final.

Glamping was the perfect answer.

And here’s how we got on;

safari tent glamping at Crealy Meadows

Checking into Crealy Meadows

Driving up to the main Crealy entrance you carry past the theme park on to a large, well maintained reception area, first impressions were fantastic. As we checked in, I had my first taste on the 5 star staff service which seemed to be a common theme throughout the whole park, not just in Crealy Meadows but the theme park too. You get vehicular access to Crealy Meadows via a key coded gate, both to get in a out, security felt a high priority on the site.

Accommodation

We were located in the African Experience section of the campsite, in a quiet and well placed cul d sac of safari tents. Life sized animal scattered the area giving a fun feel. There’s parking for 2 vehicles directly to the front which makes unloading a breeze and also gave you extra privacy from the tents and other guests, without being too obstructive. Each tent has a small, fenced decked area with rattan tables and chairs and french doors giving you access to the inside.

Inside you have a double futon, solid wood table and 6 chairs and a kitchen area. You’re greeted by the smell of the real wood furniture and the aroma of the wood burning stove, a real surprise as I braced myself for the waft of damp canvas!

There’s also a fully stocked kitchen complete with fridge, Belfast sink, kettle, washing up bowl, crockery and cutlery. All we needed was a tea towel, dish cloth and washing up liquid, This meant no late night shower block runs for teeth brushing and drinks, plus less packing. Bliss.

safari tent glamping at Crealy Meadows

We had 2 separate bedroom, each with a solid wood double bed and bunk beds. The kids room was huge and you could easily accommodate a travel cot. There was also a double cabin bed with doors either side making it full enclosed and separated the living room area from the bunk bed room, the space underneath was also a great spot for storing suitcases. The chest of drawers in the double bedroom was ample enough for all our clothes.

 

 

We had 2 separate bedroom, each with a solid wood double bed and bunk beds. The kids room was huge and you could easily accommodate a travel cot. There was also a double cabin bed with doors which made it full enclosed and which separated the living space from the bunk bed room, the space underneath was also a great spot for storing suitcases. The chest of drawers in the double bedroom was ample enough for all our clothes.

safari tent glamping at Crealy Meadows

There a huge leather bean bag which was perfect for chilling on outside after a busy day. We were so lucky with the weather that we made the most of being outside by bbqing our evening meals. Don’t panic if the forecast isn’t great though, there’s heating in the main living area and one of the bedrooms. Although I doubt you’ll need it as the wood burning stove kicks out some heat and the tents are insulated so we didn’t feel the cold at all!

safari tent glamping at Crealy Meadows

Facilities at Crealy Meadows

A very short walk from our tent, and still within our sight when sat on the deck, is a small enclosed play area which was perfect for the younger members (3 & 4 years) of our party. There’s also a larger one for the older kids and with plenty of space to the front and sides of our tent so they could play frisbee and set up a mini tennis area.

The shower blocks were amazing. With under floor heating, makes them toasty warm and each shower cubicle is cleverly designed so you can easily accommodate a parent and couple of children. You have 2 hooks, a bench and sectioned off shower area. There’s also a large communal mirrored area. Music is played though day and night too which was a really nice touch.

safari tent glamping at Crealy Meadows

We had complimentary tickets to the adjoining Crealy Park which was also where the evening entertainment was held. The small onsite shop stocked all the basics and we managed to buy enough from here for our impromptu bbq. Meals are also available in the main park day and night, (although being a vegetarian, I didn’t find much choice for me) this meant we didn’t end up leaving the whole Crealy resort for our long weekend. (tip, if you need to pop out for food which you can’t buy in the shop, Greendale Farm shop is 10 minutes up the road and has a much greater choice.)

The older kids loved playing in the late indoor play area in the evening while the adults sat and watched the younger kids joining in with the disco and games. After 3 nights and 2 full on park days, sleep was never an issue, quite the opposite. With the tent being so dark, it was a 9.30am wake up the first morning!

So it’s safe to say I’m a total glamping convert, especially as it only took an hour to pack up the car and no stressful tent dissembling!

safari tent glamping at Crealy Meadows

What to bring

A potty if you’ve got small children for late night toilet runs.

small lamp for the bedrooms, they get very dark at night & the main light doesn’t feed through

a torch

tea towel

dish cloth

crocs or flip flops for quick toilet / shower block runs

hairdryer or 20p’s to use the shower block hair dryers

outdoor / camping light

disposable BBQ

duvets and pillows (and covers)

shopper bag for shower trips

cards and board games (you can hire them from the shop too)

Disclaimer

We enjoyed a complementary stay in return for sharing our stay. 

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Slowing Down the pace on a cycle holiday

Bike riding has always been one of our favourite family activities, even with a toddler in tow, it’s a case of strap them in the trailer and off we go! From Center Parcs breaks where we spend the whole time biking around the village to day trips exploring  Holden Forest on 2 wheels and more recently, and my local cycle path favourite, a long leisurely ride from Darts Farm in Topsham, along the coast and stopping in Exmouth.

It’s only part of stretch of family friendly cycle routes in Devon, I prefer to keep off the main roads as much as possible as it takes all the stress out of keeping the kids safe and is nearly all on the flat, give or take a couple of hills. I don’t mind getting off and pushing my bike here as it gives you a chance to meander though the pretty village of Lympstone as well as have a gawp at the stunning houses and see how the other half lives. There’s also a couple of pubs along the route as well as a local shop where we stopped for an ice-cream.

Living in a hilly village, I don’t get to use a bike as much as I like, as much as it’s easier going down, it takes just as long to ride coming up and that’s without a toddler on the back so the only chance I get is when I’ve planned a day out and hired bikes or on holidays. Which is exactly why I would consider taking a biking holiday like those offered by the Slow-Holiday company, Inntravel, where they plan all their biking holiday routes carefully.

Just imagine being able to take in the scenery at a much slower pace, they make sure their tried and tested routes as enjoyable with quiet roads and country lanes wherever possible.The Topsham to Exmouth route would fit their bill perfectly. I’d need that reassurance when exploring another country on a bike

With detailed maps and route notes I’d feel suitably prepared they even transport luggage ahead to your hotel. <cough, cough,> (British Airways couldn’t even manage that for us!)  To top it off, as these bike holidays are for individuals, not groups, you can take your pick of the routes suggested each day and cycle at entirely your own pace.

I’m thinking Tuscany……. vineyards…….sunsets……bliss!

slowing down the holiday pace with a cycle holiday

 

Disclosure

This post is in collaboration with Inntravel

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As promised, here’s part 2 of my review of our stay at Perdepera Beach Resort in Sardinia with Mark Warner. (If you missed part 1, read all about the accommodation and restaurant here )  

What sets a Mark Warner aside from other travel companies are the activities for all the family. Our break had group sailing and windsurfing lessons, mountain bike, tennis, sea kayak and paddle board hire,as well as half day childcare and evening childcare and kids club sessions all included. And there’s one word which goes above ALL those activities and that’s quality.

There are no half measures on a Mark Warner holiday, especially when it comes to the the staff, everyone we met seemed to love their job and that radiated into how friendly, helpful and happy they were. For a mum who’s never used kids clubs on holiday before, I needed to be sure that my children were in capable hands but it soon became clear, from the quality of the rooms to the manner and friendliness of the Mark Warner nannies, that I had no reason to worry.

We’d booked morning sessions for Ronnie which ran from 9.30 – 12.30 am, with a programme of organised activities including bubble play, fun pool sessions (where all kids wore float suits and sun hats) beach sessions where tried mini on-shore sailing & playing on the paddle board or in the waves, as well as crafts, play time and singing and dancing. Phew!

In the afternoons, when he wasn’t booked in but spotted Phee, his Mark Warner kids club nanny, in the pool he tried to joining in. A sure sign he loved the kids club sessions, I’d say. What I really liked though was that the childcare team would stop and talk to him even when they saw him around the complex. (watch my video below if you want to see the cutest stage performance of the Mini’s which proceeded a presentation to conclude their week)

As for Ky, my awkward and shy teenager, the kids club was the making of the holiday for him. Initially he was very reluctant to join in but I explained that everyone was in the same boat; not knowing anyone and persuaded to give it a try. His had the opportunity to join in with as many or as few sessions as he wanted throughout the day. The schedule of activities would be listed on a board outside the kids club hut so he knew exactly what was on and where to go. It took just that first one session for him to make friends and end up having his best holiday ever.

From beach rounders, group games involving water fights, pool games and sailing sessions, he was spoilt for choice. And when the kids club finished, he was off with his new co host of Mark Warner teens and tweens. The complex is compact so quite safe leaving this age group to roam free. It probably explains why he was so tired in the morning and ate more than I though humanly possible. He made new friends which he’s still in touch with and more importantly, some of the best holiday memories money couldn’t buy.

I don’t want to go home and if we do I want to come back here for every holiday from now on

were his exact words!

the stunning beach at Perdepera beach resort in Sardinia
The evening childcare was a bonus too. After taking the kids to an early dinner at 5.30, it was back to the room to change Ronnie into his pj’s then back out to watch a movie with his new friends at 7.30,   The room was kitted out with mini camping beds and sleeping bags as well as the sofa area for movie time, and when he was tired he’d settle down and go to sleep. All under the watchful eye of British trained nannies and opposite the restaurant, so we were nearby if he was upset.

This was another 1st for me, although Ronnie’s stayed at his Dads and my mum’s plenty of times, he’s never had a babysitter but I soon realised it was a much nicer way for him to spend his evening rather than sat still in a restaurant for a couple of hours!

And finally, it wasn’t all about the kids. I got to try out some activities too. Unfortunately we missed a couple of days due to the chaos of British Airways IT failures, so I didn’t get to do everything on my list. But that just gives me a reason to start saving for another Mark Warner holiday!

I did, however, get to try windsurfing under the patient guidance of Maddie, my instructor, albeit in very choppy waters which meant I spent more time in the water than on the board. Sea kayaking on a calmer day was absolute bliss and (SUP) paddle boarding was a lot harder than it looks, but just as fun. Next time I would love to make use of the mountain bikes available and see a little more of the island while learning to sail is my number 1 priority. We met a couple who were keen sailors and had stayed in other Mark Warner resorts but found that Sardinia had perfect sailing conditions. The winds were stronger in the afternoon and calmer in the morning so for a newbie like myself, that would be the best time to learn.


As well as windsurfing and sailing tuition, there were also organised group sea kayak adventures, catamaran tasters or you can pay extra for 1-1 sailing sessions. For the days when you’re feeling a little less energetic, Perdepera Beach Resort has a chic, adult only pool with jets and a tranquil decking area or you can book a treatment in the mini spa

 

And if you’re really lucky and British Airways manage to lose everyone’s luggage, you get to spend the morning in a local shop buying essentials! Joking aside, I should  say a huge thanks to Mark Warner and Colette, our resort manager, for making the best of a difficult situation and going above and beyond their duty in helping us to enjoy our holiday after being stuck at Heathrow for 2 days during the British Airways IT failure. It didn’t go un noticed and was hugely appreciated not just by myself but other guests we spoke to.

the stunning beach at Perdepera beach resort in Sardinia

And if you want to see more, here’s a whistle-stop tour of the complex;

Disclaimer

This is a collaborative post but all words and photography are my own unless otherwise stated.

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