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Making a Trip to Universal with a Tween and Teen Magical

Universal-boysWe recently took our tween and teenage sons to Florida and spent several days at Universal Studios. We bought wands at Ollivanders, rode the Hogwarts Express, tried Butterbeer -- only the teenager actually drank it, wholy moly is that stuff sweet -- battled with Optimus Prime and escaped The Mummy. A dream family vacation, right? It was, except they complained. They complained so much I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and start screaming at the top of my lungs at least once every day of our vacation. Here are a few things I’d do differently the next time around.

  1. The Single Rider Line. They will beg you to buy Fast Passes. Do not do it! At around $80 per person (prices seems to vary) you are sure to regret it when your Visa bill comes in. Our boys were infuriated watching people stroll past us while we stood watching the minutes tick by. This wasn’t so bad on rides where we didn’t have to store our belongings in lockers because they would play on their iPods. However, waiting for the water and roller coaster rides was painful. When they finally accepted we weren’t budging on the Fast Passes, they started begging us to use the Single Rider Line. My husband and I weren’t keen on the idea of splitting up at first. We’d saved for a year for this vacation and it was family together time, damn it! But if you’re kids are big enough to ride without an adult and you’re not planning on buying a family photo from the ride, it’s a pretty good idea. You still stand in line together, but for minutes rather than hours, and get on the ride within minutes of each other. Not all rides have Single Rider Lines, but it’s usually the really popular ones with the long lines that do.

  2. Make everyone memorize the locker number. After several days of nonstop fun, your brain is going to start turning to mush. There are many wet or action packed rides that advise or require storing your belongings in a locker. Often in a situation where I want to make a note of something I might forget later, I take a picture or make a note on my phone. This is something you can’t do when you are storing your phone inside the locker for safe keeping. After one such ride, we spent fifteen minutes with a rather annoyed staff member insisting we had stowed our belongings in one particular section when we were actually in the next section over. Our children were thoroughly annoyed we were not fulfilling our parental responsibilities of complete omniscience. Make everyone memorize the locker number so you’re not that family.

  3. Pack sugar. Everyone knows park food is expensive and that water is worth its weight in gold once you enter the gates. Every day I packed water, sandwiches, protein bars and other snacks. Every day we ate and drank all of it. You’re only allowed to carry in so much food, so there wasn’t room for too much more. However, I was trying to be healthy on top of being cost conscious. I should have packed bags of candy on top of everything else. The last thing you want to be dealing with while standing in line for over an hour is a teen or tween on a sugar crash.

  4. Always pack the flip flops. If you are spending an entire day walking around a park, it’s probably advisable to do that in sneakers rather than flip flops. However, few things are worse than walking around in wet socks and sneakers following a particularly drenching ride. If you happen to have a teenage boy that is coming off of two weeks at camp, this will be the final straw to him developing trench foot. Said teenage boy now owns a lovely second pair of $30 flip flops.

  5. Always say yes to ridiculous, free fun. One night as we were walking out of the park, we bought ice cream and were lingering in the promenade. There was a fountain area with a grid of spouts that shot up from the ground at different intervals. The boys started trying to time it so they could walk all the way across without getting wet. I could have stopped them. I knew they were going to get soaked. But I let them. They danced and jumped around the spurts of water and laughed their fool heads off without a care or complaint to be heard.Making a Trip to Universal with a Tween and Teen Magical



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