Looking for a fun mini trip with your partner after kids? Consider visiting Universal Orlando and spend some time acting like kids again! Check out our kid-free Universal Vacation recap on where we stayed and played!
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My husband, Derek, and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary this past September. It wasn’t the day I planned since he woke up with our family’s first and (knock on wood) still only case of Covid and I quarantined him in our bedroom for the next 5 days. Lucky for us we already had a 10th anniversary vacation trip planned for January and today I’m sharing the recap of that Orlando Vacation sans kids.
Yep this would our first trip in 10 years without the kids since our honeymoon! Until this, we had only been away together 2 separate nights over the 10 years, both being for weddings (oddly enough, both for the same family). We were determined to have a good time and I’m happy to report we succeeded!
Where We Stayed in Orlando
Hyatt House Hotel – Since this trip was only 4 days long we didn’t want to have to rent a car (which we typically do on Orlando Vacations to Disney). We stayed at this cute Hyatt House Hotel which was clean and spacious.
They served a free continental breakfast and offered a free shuttle to the park at three morning times and three evening times. We took the shuttle some days and also walked the 25 minute walk to the parks other days, and both options were totally fine. There was a pool out back (which we never got to hang out) and a fire area near the bar where we enjoyed a drink one night.
Where We Played
Universal Orlando is made of up of 3 different parks – Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, (dry adventure parks) and Volcano Bay (water park). We did the dry parks only on this trip since we were kid free.
Islands of Adventure – This park is larger and filled with more larger roller coasters and thrill rides. It’s doable to see most things in one day, but we did it in two.
Our favorite rides at Islands of Adventure:
- Jurassic World Velocicoaster – This new roller coaster has lots of twists, turns, high rise shoots and upside-over-the-water loops. That’s the one pictured above that was going over us in this shot. We rode this twice!
- Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventures – This was a unique new ride where you ride on either a motorbike, holding onto the handles, or in the sidecar. We rode this twice so we could both experience a seat spot. The wait time was listed as 75 minutes both times were on line and both times it was only an hour. I won’t spoil any surprises on the ride, since there are some things you can’t see from any viewing areas while on line, but I’ll say the wait was totally worth it! Tip: When you get into the first room which presents a little video play about the ride given by Hagrid, move to the front left of the room to watch it so you’re first in line in the next room when it empties out.
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – If you ever wondered what it was like to ride a broomstick in a quidditch match, this ride will tell ya. This simulation style ride is full of more HP-isms and is fun whether you’re into the books/movies or not.
- Skull Island: Reign of Kong – When on this ride you are placed in a truck that rides around to different 2D interactive screens. You’ll meet Kong along the way!
Universal Studios Florida – This is a smaller park which is mostly filled with simulation style rides and interactive shows. It’s doable to see it all in one day or even see the highlights in a half day if you’re doing a park hopper.
Our favorite rides/shows at Universal Studios
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – This ride has lots of disorienting placements and action (in a fun way!) and takes place in the Gringotts bank. Like all new rides, the line walking in is full of lots of little rooms to view more scenes to fit the theme, in this case, Harry Potter.
- The Simpsons Ride – The whole Simpsons area is full of great nostalgia for us 40 somethings and I highly recommend walking through to see your favorite characters from this iconic show. The ride is a simulation style driving through Krustyland. Derek also enjoyed some chicken tacos at Bumblee’s taco truck.
- The Bourne Stuntacular – I’m not sure how to exactly describe this to sound cool but you’ll sit in a theater and watch this interactive show that includes a large curved screen and interactive sets that move around during the show. There are lots of changes in orientation and scale to create cool illusions while the live actor is doing stunts.
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – Who wouldn’t love a fun simulation style theater room ride full of fart noises and bananas? If you’re a fan of any part of the Minions franchise, then you’ll enjoy this one.
- Men in Black Alien Attack – This ride could certainly use some updates (including the whole theme related to this 1994 movie!) but it’s the only one in the park with an interactive shooting game, which is fun to compete with your partner. (For the record, I won the one time we rode it.)
- Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show – This show has one horror makeup expert hosting a live audience show and pulls a volunteer to feature a cool makeup technique. It’s entertaining enough to visit once and included plenty of laughs from the improv by the hosts.
Things To Note
- Ticket offers: We took advantage of a deal which offered us 2 free days when buying 2 days at Universal. We ended up doing 2 days at Islands of Adventure and one at Universal Studios during our 3 active park days. Volcano Bay is a water park that we skipped since we didn’t have any kids with us and we obviously didn’t use the 4th day in our package, but it still made it worth it.
- Express Passes: Honestly, since we were without kids, waiting in line was no big deal. At the time of our trip (end of January) there were not real long lines to speak of and the 2 that we did wait on were excluded from the passes!
- Harry Potter: Both Island of Adventure and Universal Studios include a portion of the Harry Potter theme. Hogsmeade is in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios. You can only ride the Hogwarts Express railroad ride between the two parks when getting a park hopper (which we didn’t get in our package) so I can’t speak on that ride.
- Lockers: FREE small lockers are included (and often required to be used) when riding larger motion rides in both these parks. You can open/close them using your park ticket. We were easily able to fit our phones, wallet, my small cross body bag, wireless charger, sunglasses and a closed cap water bottle. They also offer larger lockers for backpacks for $2/per use.
- App up: Download the Universal Studios app so you’re easily able to access a map and see active wait times for rides or if there are closures.
Tips to Deal with Mom Guilt
- Trust the caregivers – Honestly I didn’t have any worries about going on this trip because we left our very capable and well behaved kids with my parents. My parents have been on plenty of vacations with us to know their routines and moods so I hoped they didn’t run into anything different than the usual things. We also planned this trip as a Sunday – Wednesday so the girls were mostly in school while we were away so not much downtime to be sad!
- Leave daily messages or gifts – I packaged us little goodies (new book, new activity book and a small treat) for them to open each morning we were gone along with a hand written note. It was just a small way they could see we thought of them while we were away and it was something for them to look forward to when they woke up.
- Bring home presents – We picked up some Chocolate Frogs from the Harry Potter section of the park which was a welcome treat for these girls who recently read/watched the first Harry Potter film. (For price reference, in January 2023 these sold for $3/$35 so Grammie got one too)