How To Make The Most Of Your Universal Studios Vacation

Where to Go, What To Eat, And Where To Stay

Universal Studios Vacation and Trip Review. Where To Go, Eat, and Stay

I went on my Universal Studios Vacation around the 4th of July for my son’s birthday and as you can guess it was expensive.  There are ways to make your Universal Studios Vacation more affordable, which if you read my blog I specialize in.

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However, Universal Studios is only going to be but so cheap and similar to my Time Square trip during New Year’s Eve (click to read) sometimes forking up the additional money is worth it because it makes things easier.  I did bundle my flight and hotel, which may have saved some money. But the trip was very expensive but worth every penny.  You will see my full review of my Universal Studio Vacation Below to see why I say that.


I do not think Orlando has Uber, so using Mears for transportation is ideal when coming from the airport.  We took the shuttle from the Airport to the Hotel.  But it took so long to wait for the shuttle and the shuttle had several other people to drop off before us, which took hours before we arrived at the hotel.

When leaving the hotel to go back to the airport we took Mears but opted for a private car over a shuttle.  Which was much better because it was private and we did not have to wait.  The price of a private luxury car was only about $7 more than a shuttle.  So it was well worth it.

I do feel like I saved some money in this area by not renting a car which would have cost a whole lot more.  Since I stayed on Universal there was no need for a call, which is what I mean by efficiency. I walked everywhere I went while at Universal.  I did not have to rent a car nor did I have to pay for parking when at Universal which can be quite pricey, because I was already on the resort.

Where to Stay.

We stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific Hotel.  This hotel is a four-star Universal Hotel with an Asian Pacific theme.  The hotel is a bit pricey.  Universal Studios does offer a cheaper hotel option. The cheapest being Cabana Bay (which does have some good onsite activities) and most recently added the Aventura Hotel which looks really nice. These hotels are cheaper, fun hotels, and do have their perks.  This is a really good option for those who are looking to save money but still want conveniences such as early admission and free transportation to the parks. They also have more expensive hotels as well.  This hotel was priced right in the middle and there are MORE perks that come with being at this hotel and it was worth the extra dollars per night in my opinion.

The Perks of this Hotel Are

  • The Express Pass:  The express pass allows you to get through the rides faster by skipping the line, and retails for $89. But the express pass is included in your stay at the Royal Pacific.

To me, this was the biggest perk because of this perk we were able to stay at the park less, get on most of the rides, and not stand in line as nearly as long.

  • Early Entry to The Park: There are some main attractions such as Harry Potter and Godzilla that do not allow an express pass and the lines can be crazy long.  So the hotel allows for all of its guests to get into the park one hour before it opens to the public so you can hit the popular rides, that do not accept an express pass before everyone else gets in.
  • City Walk: Staying at the Universal Hotel allows for you to get in free to many bars and clubs on city walk that usually require a cover charge.
  • Free Transportation:  Staying at the hotel allows you to get on a free shuttle or water taxi to and from the resort for free, which comes in handy. The water taxi runs fairly often and there is never a long wait.

The hotel also has onsite amenities such as restaurants and a luau on Saturday nights only.  A tip is to buy your luau tickets in advance because we waited too late and were unable to get tickets because the event was sold out AND had an extensive waiting list.

Where to Eat.

When eating at Universal Studio, expect to pay $24-$30 per person for food and that does not include drinks.  So if you have four people then your bill will be over $100.

Island’s Dining Room.

We ate at this restaurant twice during our trip. This restaurant was on-site at the hotel.  The first night we went here for dinner and got their buffet.  The buffet was the best!  It is more of a buffet bar where you go to the bar and choose all of the ingredients that you want to include in your stir fry.  This includes veggies, meats, noodles, rice, spices, and the chef mixes all the ingredients together right there in front of you.  You can go back as many times as you want AND the buffet includes a salad and soup bar as well.

The second time we ate at the restaurant was on July 3rd for my son’s birthday.  We had breakfast there and each Sunday they have a character breakfast.  The staff makes sure that each character comes around and pays each table attention, which was great for my son and my grandmother.  My grandmother was more into it over my 8-year-old son!  The buffet was also amazing.  They have a traditional breakfast, an omelet bar, and fresh fruit.Emeril’s Tchoup Cho

This is another on-site hotel. I am ashamed to admit that I have never heard of the restaurant or the owner.  Apparently, the owner was on top chef.  There are two Emeril’s one at the resort we stayed at and one at Universal City Walk.  I had mussels at the restaurant, which to me was not that good.  It was okay but it was not the best mussels that I had.  I felt like it needed to be seasoned a little bit more.  The dessert crème Brulee was pretty good though.

Jake’s American Bar

This was the last on-site hotel we ate at.  This hotel features live entertainment starting at around 8:30 pm.  Other than that the food is American-based.  I had the crab cake sandwich and sweet potato fries, which were pretty good.

Leaky Cauldron

After getting early admission to the park and getting on some of the rides, we ate at the Leaky Cauldron for breakfast which is Harry Potter-themed.  They do not have many breakfast options, but the breakfast options are good and feature a traditional American breakfast.  The prices for breakfast average around $16 per person.


Bubba Gump Shrimp At City Walk

This is a chain restaurant that I have seen but never ate at until now.  This place did not disappoint.  It was a fun environment.  We played Forrest Gump trivia (which I won because I have seen Forrest Gump like 20 times). We went there for dinner for my son’s birthday and the amazing thing is that they sing happy birthday and give you a cupcake which is rare to find in restaurants nowadays.  They had a variety of shrimp dishes and the food was very good. This restaurant was on Universal’s City Walk

The Parks

Universal Studio and Island Adventures

The parks were amazing especially since we had the express pass and early admission.  We were able to get on to most of the rides.  This is a bonus that I feel everyone should know about.  My grandfather was with us and he had a cane. Because of this, the family received a special express past that allowed us to skip the line on all the rides (even the ones that do not take express passes).  So that means we rarely waited in line for more than 10-15 minutes for any ride.

I thought it was good for Universal to offer additional passes to those who have a handicap, who are older or have those who have a cane. Also, the park offers scooter rentals for those who need to stay out of the heat or stay off their feet, which was an added bonus for my grandfather.  As far as the rides were concerned, my son was turning 8 and he was able to get on most of the rides, including his first REAL roller coaster that went upside down.

Rides that are good for the whole family:

  • Harry Potter (at both Universal Parks)
  • Godzilla
  • Transformers
  •  The Simpsons
  •  Spiderman
  •  Sea World
  •  The Minions

Sea world

Was a must needed relief because walking in Universal all day had my feet barking?  So we got the chance to sit down and watch some shows that is pretty much all we did at this park.  They had rides, but I really was not that interested.  It was more of a family day since my grandparents were with us AND it was hot and the show provided relief from the sun.

  • Shows To See
  • The Dolphins
  • Shamu
  • Sea Lions
  • The Pet Show

Universal was fun, but we did not get to do everything at Universal because it was hot and a lot of walking. I wore sandals the first day at the park trying to be cute and my feet were killing me.  So much so that I had to take Advil to relieve my foot pain.  So here are tips you need to survive at Universal especially in the summer.

  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes
  • Go inside the shops or cooling spots often to get out of the heat.
  • Sit down when needed, as there are many places to sit down.
  • If you are staying at an onsite hotel, if it gets too hot; take the bus or water taxi back to the hotel and rest.  You can always come back when the sun goes down.

All in all, it was a great trip.  An expensive trip, but sometimes you have to splurge.

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