There are several things I learned while there or wish I had known before I went to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  Here are the Top Twelve:

1. Most any day, an Express Pass is necessary. 

   This is especially true if you have young children whose capacity for waiting is limited.  Several days the wait would have been 30-60 minutes on a lot of rides.

2. Staying at a Universal property hotel gives all in the room a key card.  This card is your express pass. 

   When you consider that an express pass is $50.00 a day per person, the cost of the hotel room looks a lot better!  We got a stay four and play more package that gave us the room, 2 7day passes, and a card key for all to be an express pass. 

3. Take a lanyard to hang around your neck and hold your ticket and room card.

   There is a reason that most every shop in the park sells these.  You have to show your room card/express pass at every ride, so you are constantly pulling this out of your pocket. 

4. If you stay at one of the property hotels, you can purchase souvenirs and have them sent to your room.

   If you are not staying on property, you can still make purchases and have them sent to wait for you at the park exit.  Either way, no need to carry this stuff around.  You have to ask for this though, because the shops did not automatically offer this. 

5. The parks have a meal deal that is relatively inexpensive. 

     For around $20 per day, an adult can eat as much as they want at designated restaurants.  I think kids were about $10.  There were stands all through the park selling this deal.  We did not do this deal because we planned to eat in our rooms.  We took a cooler and kept milk, sandwich fixings, etc. in our room.  We carried waters in one backpack and juice coolers.  About the only thing we bought in the park was the occasional large, soft pretzel. 

6. Free lockers that use your fingerprint are available at the rides where you cannot carry anything on.

   There are also large lockers at the front of the park that you can rent for the day.  Good for putting sandwiches in an insulated cooler or anything else you want handy, but don’t want to go to the room to get.

7. The best ticket deal is done online and you must purchase it 2 days in advance.

     Go online to Universal’s official site.  For $90, your ticket is good for both parks for seven days.  You can park hop as much as you want.  The seven day count begins the first day you use it.  When you get to the park, you will see the electronic ticketing and you can pick up your ticket.  YOU MUST HAVE YOUR CONFIRMATION NUMBER FROM THE PURCHASE.

8. Tickets can not be transferred from person-to-person. 

   Unless it is a very busy day, you will be keyed to your ticket by a fingerprint.  So, don’t plan on switching off tickets or giving them to someone else to use any days you didn’t use. 

9. If you stay on property, talk to the concierge frequently. 

     If you are going to eat at a restaurant or or go anywhere, ask for information, they will frequently give you discount coupons or priority seating cards. 

10. Wal-Mart sells neck coolers and they really work!

     I found these bandanas hanging near sporting goods.  You soak them in cool water for about three minutes and tie them around your neck.  Yes, they look dorky, but they work.  They only problem is that out of the five I bought, one of them didn’t have a good seam and so it leaked the little beads and felt slimey. 

11. The Pteranodon ride in Islands of Adventure does not have an express line. 

     If your kids want to ride this, go there first at the park’s opening.  Even at closing, the lines for this were long.  Wait times were up to 60 minutes. 

12.  Have fun above all and save the souvenirs to the end!

     Don’t wear yourself out.  Go back to your rooms, take a nap.  Spend time at a pool.  Don’t exhaust yourself at the parks.  And handle the munchkins’ shopping requests by setting a limit and waiting till the last day.  Even my fourteen-year-old changed her mind multiple times until the last day.  Bring home a good souvenir and fun memories.

I really am enjoying this vacation.  I just think that this post needs that initial disclaimer. 

I have this little problem with motion sickness.  Okay, it is a big problem.  At least when it comes to amusement park rides.  I get car sick too, but usually only if I am focusing on small details or trying to read something. 

Until this vacation, my most memorable motion sick moment was when my younger daughter was about three and we were on a half-day fishing boat expedition in Florida.  While the rest of my family was enjoying the fishing, my daughter and I sat on the outside bench, mid-boat, while I periodically ran to the rail to heave. 

Okay, not a pretty picture.  But what made it memorable was the woman sitting beside me who felt she had the perfect captive audience to question about adoption issues.  For those of you who don’t know me, my younger daughter is Chinese.  So, in between trips to the rail, I get asked things like this:

What happened to her real parents?

How did she learn to speak English? ( No, I’m not making that up)

Don’t the Chinese (Insert any inappropriate comment in front of a three-year-old here)?

Okay, maybe that is still my most memorable motion sick moment.  I really don’t know why I didn’t just redirect my heaving at that point.  I am older now and over being that nice….

But, back to now.  My dear one really enjoyed the Hulk roller coaster.  Really.  So, despite my motion sick moments, ones that included even the Jimmy Neutron ride, he urged my to try it.  After all, it didn’t go backwards like the Mummy, a move guaranteed to make me nauseous.  He saw my fear, not of nausea, but of the whole upside down thing.  “It is the smoothest coaster I’ve ever been on,” he cajoled.  “You’ll like it.”

Famous last words. 

I thought about my first post on this blog and the whole idea of taking risks.  Surely, I could overcome my fear and ride a roller coaster that turns me upside down.  Finally, after many urgings, a “puppy-dog” face, and a slight guilt over my published status stating I was going to take risks, I agreed.

He was right about the smoothest coaster part.  It is an awesome coaster.

He was WAY wrong about the motion sick factor. 


I have now ridden the Hulk. 

I will never ride the Hulk again.

After all, in some sense I have ridden it twice: THE FIRST and THE LAST TIME.


Jonah 2:10

And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry [land].