In case you didn’t know, theme parks aren’t just for kids anymore. Universal Orlando Resort is the perfect spot for a girls weekend, especially if your friends are geeks like mine. Between the rides, the food and drinks, and the hotels, you and your squad are sure to have a blast, whether it’s for a bachelorette weekend or an old fashioned vacation. You won’t be the only adults there! This weekend brought together my sister Sammi, her best friend Liza, and I, all coming from different states for this fun reunion. For a guide to the logistics of rides and getting around the parks, visit our sister site, ThisIsMySouth.com in the coming weeks.
Go during the low season if possible.
The spring and summer are crazy busy in the parks, especially since the weather in Orlando stays mostly warm year-round. You’ll also find better deals on airfare and hotels during this time. For example, I flew on Spirit for $97 from Atlanta round-trip! And the average high temperatures are in the 80s so I ended up wearing a sweater over my shorts but took it off by lunchtime.
Fly for cheap.
Dozens of budget carriers fly into the Orlando airport. We each flew a different one, including Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant. If you’re flying into Orlando, keep in mind that there’s Orlando International Airport, the main airport, and Orlando Sanford Airport, where budget carriers like Allegiant fly into. Uber and Lyft don’t officially operate from the airport, but we were able to pick up a towncar Uber from the “express pickup” area of the airport. Super Shuttle is another option for getting around as is Mears Taxi. Keep in mind that Sanford Airport is closer to an hour away from the parks. You can also rent a car, but you don’t really need to for just a weekend.
Book an onsite hotel if you want to maximize your park time.
If you stay offsite, you can pay much less with similar amenities and still get a shuttle to the parks. But if you’re staying at one of Universal’s five on-site properties (soon to be six!), you get an extra hour in the parks before the general public arrives. If you, like me, are short on time, this benefit is worth the higher room rate. We stayed at Cabana Bay, which has a pool, restaurants, and easy access to the parks. The midcentury modern-inspired hotel deserves its own post for its bowling alley and design.
Upgrade your tickets with fast passes.
During busy times at the park, you’ll be glad to have the option of skipping the line. But keep in mind that they don’t apply to specific rides, in particular those in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The time you save can mean more rides! The park also has its own app to tell you ride wait times. Make a plan in advance with online or printed map. If you’re only there for the weekend, you will want to spend the full day at both parks, riding the Hogwarts Express between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. You’ll need a park hopper pass to go between them, which may not be worth it just for the train, depending on your interests.
Dress as a group.
We each wore our Hogwarts house sweaters, purchased on sale at Hot Topic, but if you’re not massive Harry Potter fans like us, there’s always Minions, Dr. Seuss characters, and your favorite super heroes! Peruse Pinterest for some creative and easy ideas. We saw a handful of groups and bridal parties that made their own t-shirts for the weekend. It’s a fun way to celebrate and also helps you stick together and find one another in the crowds.
Shop around for souvenirs.
If you’re a Harry Potter geek like my friends and I are, get sorted into your house on Pottermore before you go. Then you can dress in your house colors or purchase souvenirs. Speaking of which, you can buy most items, namely robes and fan gear, cheaper online before you go. Save the pricier purchases, like wands and robes, for when you get there. And make sure you have a lanyard for your pass! I also found that the prices for souvenirs were all the same, whether you bought in the parks, at the gift shop in the hotel, or in the airport shop.
When can I go back?!
Universal Orlando Resort provided us with tickets, express passes, and a media rate on our stay.