Considering taking your little muggles to Florida? Be sure to check out these Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips when planning your family vacation to Hogsmeade (Universal Studios Florida) and Diagon Alley (Universal's Islands of Adventure)! A big thanks to Universal Orlando Resort for helping sponsor this experience.
With each turn, my girls move further ahead. I increase my pace, taking longer strides to keep up. Employees are waving a fast-paced line of excited early entry visitors forward with hand gestures and smiles. Each time we are asked to flash our hotel card and Universal day pass at a checkpoint, the excitement builds.
My daughter yells from over her shoulder as she speeds on, "Are we almost there?"
When they see the arches leading into Hogsmeade and the Hogwarts Express, they start running, yelling, and erratically pointing.
I have to admit; this 40-year-old kid nearly ran too.
Young kids tend to run EVERYWHERE when they're excited. My girls were twelve and thirteen when we visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter; this is a habit tween and teens fall away from as they get older. So, it was an unforgettable moment, watching the inner child take charge as we entered Hogsmeade for the first time.
It is important to remember that we all have magic inside us." — J.K. Rowling
Below you will find fifteen Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips (Skip ahead — READ THE 15 TIPS NOW) for helping ensure you have an awesome vacation with your family. Before we jump into travel tips, let's talk about three simple opportunities available to parents for making this trip stress-free.
We've all seen that parent and cringed. You know the one, the parent who paid good money to take their kids on an amazing vacation to "make family memories," yet is somehow standing there yelling at their child. It can happen to the best of us.
Don't be that parent on this trip — you can control many of the factors leading up to that dreadful moment if you are strategic when planning your trip.
My top piece of parent-to-parent advice, stay on-site when visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you've got avid Harry Potter fans, you're going to want to make your trip to Universal Studios Florida a two-day adventure. There is not an official Harry Potter World Hotel, but there are a variety of family-friendly Universal Studios resorts (each with a unique set of benefits).
Here are the Universal Studio resort perks that will keep you cool and collect on your Harry Potter trip:
Fast, Reliable & Safe Shuttle Buses
Universal Orlando hotels and resorts have multiple shuttle buses (and water taxies!) constantly going to-and-from the CityWalk leading to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Skip the car rental on your Harry Potter trip.
Skip guessing which lane you need to be in with GPS.
Skip trying to find a parking spot. Skip the stress.
While the rotation is officially every 20-minutes, there are multiple shuttle buses running that schedule simultaneously. We never waited more than five minutes as we came and went during our Harry Potter vacation.
Universal Orlando Early Park Admission
Enjoy Universal Orlando early entry when you stay on-site during your vacation. Your family gets to head into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter a full hour before it opens to the general public with your Universal's Islands of Adventure tickets. It is a wonderful way to kickstart the day!
Universal Express Unlimited
Skip lines and make the most of your time at Universal Express Unlimited Pass. If you're planning to take off of work to travel, fly or drive to Universal Orlando, and spend the money to take your kids to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter... go the extra step with an Express Pass. I cannot help but think of this Jim Rohn quote:
Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time."
Invest in your park experience. Our family went with the 2-Park Universal Express Unlimited Combo. This pass allows your family to jump back and forth between Hogsmeade (located within Universal's Islands of Adventure) and Diagon Alley (located within Universal Studios Flordia).
Every time we entered the designated Universal Express Pass ride entrance and skipped the long line, I was thankful for our choice to "invest in time." The wait was always brief, it kept the kids patient, and we were able to go on a ton of rides with ease. In my opinion, they should call it the Universal Studios Front of the Line Pass. It. Was. Awesome.
Looking for Universal hotels with Express Pass? Check out this overview on-site resort hotels. There's a Universal hotel for every style and budget. I found this comparison chart to be extremely helpful. Take a look at all the fun places you can stay:
Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort mid-century modern decor is fantastic. Can we stay "retro fun" or what? When making your final hotel decision, be sure to cross-compare perks and pricing between the "Prime Value" Universal Studio hotels and the "Preferred On-Site" options. Only the "Preferred On-Site" and "Premier On-Site" choices come with complimentary Universal Express Unlimited passes for your family.
Ok, enough about hotels, tickets, express passes and logistics.
There's only one thing more precious than our time and that's who we spend it on . — Leo Christopher
15 Wizarding World of Harry Potter Tips
Below are fifteen parent-to-parent travel tips I want to share with you after our family's Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter trip. There are a variety of planning apps and itinerary tools out there, but I often find those too restrictive. I believe as long as you have a few solid insider tips, you can enjoy a flexible and stress-free vacation.
1 — The required ride lockers are modest, so bring a small travel-sized backpack to the park each day.
The rides located in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (and throughout all of Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure) are interactive, and most require you to check your belongings in park lockers. The park lockers are free for the duration of your ride and are at ride entrances. While the lockers are deep, the height and width are modest. If you bring a small travel-sized backpack to carry your family's things, you'll be able to conveniently pull the bag in-and-out from one ride to the next.
DAY ONE — Hogsmeade (Universal Studio's Island of Adventure)
2 — Kickstart the day with a grab-and-go breakfast.
You want to take advantage of early entry and be at the park at 8am. By the time you factor in getting ready (sunscreen, a travel backpack, and wrangling kids), allow time for taking the shuttle, walking through CityWalk and Universal's Islands of Adventure... you're talking a fairly early morning wake-up.
Skip having a big breakfast; instead, do a grab and go. Ensure the kiddos have a little protein and you have some coffee before starting the day. Our girls did fresh fruit with Greek yogurt in a to-do cup, while I did Starbucks.
3 — Take advantage of early entry to Hogsmeade.
If you stay on site, as recommended above, your family gets to take advantage of early entry which means you get to head into Hogsmeade (located in Universal's Islands of Adventure) a full hour before the general public with early park admission. Be sure to adjust your morning schedule to arrive at the park entrance before 8am. Give yourself and your family plenty of padding to ensure you don't find yourself yelling, "Hurry up!" or "Let's go!"
HEADS-UP: You will need to show your Universal Orlando hotel card and your Universal's Islands of Adventure tickets to take advantage of early entry, so make sure you have them before leaving the hotel!
4 — Go to Ollivanders for your Harry Potter interactive wand BEFORE getting in line at the Hogwarts Castle.
Whether you're planning on buying a Harry Potter interactive wand or not, the experience at Ollivanders Maker of Fine Wands is pretty amazing. After you've had a few moments to soak in all the awesomeness of Hogsmeade, get in line at Ollivanders. You'll enter the shop with a small group and find thousands of boxes of wands stacked to the ceiling. Ollivander himself explains that within each small box, a wand is waiting to choose its wizard.
Your instinct may be to head straight for the Hogwarts Castle to experience Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but you'll want to stop at Ollivanders first. The store only allows twenty (or so) people in at eight-minute intervals, so the line grows quickly. This experience is NOT part of the Universal Express Unlimited program, so be sure to head to Ollivanders before doing anything else in Hogsmeade.
5 — Skip the long line at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey with your Universal Express Unlimited pass.
After you have your interactive wand from Ollivanders in-hand, your family can easily skip the line building up at Hogwarts Castle with your Universal's Islands of Adventure fast pass. Even with early entry, the wait time for this epic ride can be long. We flashed our Universal's Islands of Adventure fast pass (AKA: Officially known as Universal Express Unlimited Passes) at the entrance of the ride and were directed down a special designated corridor.
When the corridor reconnected with the main line, we walked past well over a hundred people. After waiting at the loading dock behind a few other families with the Universal Express Pass, we got right onto the ride. It. Is. Awesome.
Every time we used the Universal Express Unlimited pass I thought of this quote:
Time is more value than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time." — Jim Rohn
We were able to experience so much more with less frustration because of the Universal Orlando express pass. I highly recommend it.
6 — Grab a breakfast snack and Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks.
It's mid-morning now, and because you did a grab-go-breakfast, you'll probably hear, "I'm hungry," from the kids. Take a moment to re-charge from the excitement; stop by the Three Broomsticks for a snack and Butterbeer. Our family enjoyed two breakfast entrees between the four of us, experimenting with some British fare and traditional American pancakes.
7 — Try the "Pick One Thing" approach at Universal's Islands of Adventure for a stress-free afternoon.
Over breakfast at the Three Broomsticks, take a moment to look at the full ride list with the kids. Have each family member pick one thing that he or she simply MUST do to “make” the afternoon at Universal's Islands of Adventure awesome.
There are so many things to do at Universal Orlando. Rather than trying to hit EVERYTHING, focus on the rides or experiences that will bring your family the most joy.
What makes me laugh about this approach to family travel is that my daughters’ one thing choices are often inexpensive, simple things like getting ice cream. Visiting Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlor was at the top of my daughter's list.
HEADS-UP: You may be tempted to head over to Diagon Alley in the afternoon using your Universal Park-to-Park pass. I highly recommend you leave something for your kids to look forward to on Day Two of your Harry Potter trip. Plus, there are fewer muggles in Diagon Alley in the early morning. Save that adventure and excitement!
Let your kids (no matter what their age) pick "one thing" for the afternoon at Universal's Islands of Adventure.
8 — Don't get in line for The Flight of the Hippogriff until after 9am.
There are two rides open in Hogsmeade during early entry: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and The Flight of the Hippogriff. You've already got your wand from Ollivanders, stormed Hogwarts castle, and are now enjoying a snack at The Three Broomsticks. Feel free to take your time with your "pick one" discussion because your Universal Express Unlimited pass isn't valid at The Flight of the Hippogriff until after 9am.
In other words, you can get in the regular line at 8:35am and wait for thirty-minutes, or you pop right to the front of the line at 9am with your Universal Express Unlimited pass. Skip the wait and enjoy that Butterbeer with your family instead.
9 — Head to The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar on the Universal CityWalk 20-minutes before Islands of Adventure closes for the day.
After enjoying your day at Islands of Adventure, think FORWARD to dinner. The restaurants on the Universal CityWalk get flooded with people as the two parks close their gates. Be proactive. Either make reservations or leave the park twenty-minutes early and skip the restaurant waits. We asked multiple Universal Studios employees the best place for a family dinner on the CityWalk, and the answer was always enthusiastically The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar.
I admit I was hesitant about the recommendation. It was a blast. You've got to give Burgushi a try! It is a classic cheeseburger served up sushi style (all the fixins' in a thin wrap). They describe it as a "cutting-edge fusion of sandwiches made sushi style." The Rice Crispy Treat Milkshake is a must-share dessert too!
DAY TWO — Diagon Alley (Universal Studios Flordia)
10 — Have your wands ready!
Early entry is only available at Universal's Islands of Adventure, so even though you're heading to Diagon Alley over in the Universal Studios Florida park, you'll still kickoff the day with an hour in Hogsmeade.
Come ready to cast spells with your Harry Potter interactive wands. Today is about taking things slow and embracing the magic of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. While other people are waiting in line at Ollivanders or for the rides during early entry, your kids will be reciting spells (without waiting in line) throughout Hogsmeade.
11 — Take your posed Wizarding World of Harry Potter photos during early entry.
Your kids will gladly pose for photos in Hogsmeade if you are patient and wait to take them on day two of your adventure during the early entry hour.
Yes, you want a photo of your kids in front of the Hogwarts Express at the entrance to Hogsmeade. Yes, you want a picture of them in front of the gigantic, life-sized Hogwarts Castle too. But don't be that parent who forces their kid to stand still and pose every two-minutes while they're entering Hogsmeade for the first time, it is a recipe for disaster. Take candid shots instead and let them embrace the magic as they enter the park for the first time.
Save posed photos for your second day of your Harry Potter trip. Your kids will be relaxed, and you can ask them to pose for classic photos without issue. Enjoy the open space (fewer people during early entry) and take advantage of peak lighting.
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HEADS-UP: It isn't uncommon to have a mid-day sprinkle. If you have light raincoats, pack them!
12 — Get on the Hogwarts Express in Hogsmeade right at 9am to ride over to Diagon Alley (located in Universal Studios Flordia).
Your Universal Express Unlimited pass is valid for use on the Hogwarts Express at 9am. In other words, you can get in line for the train to Diagon Alley at 8:20am and wait in the standard line for 40-minutes, or you can show up at 9am with your Universal Express Unlimited pass at head directly the train. (Again, I like to call it the Universal Studios front of the line pass. So helpful.)
HEADS-UP: During early entry on Day Two your Express Unlimited pass becomes a nice asset — with a standard Universal Express Pass you can only get in the fastpass line one time, while with a Universal Express Unlimited pass you can enjoy a ride multiple times. In other words, you can ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey again on Day Two you can skip ahead to the front of the line again!
13 — Follow that massive fire-breathing dragon straight to Gringotts Bank.
Once you exit Kings Cross Station, pass the purple Knight Bus, and enter Diagon Alley you'll want to head straight towards Gringotts Bank. The line for the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride grows quickly, so go here first!
This is the only ride out of EVERYTHING we went on at Universal Orlando (inside-and-out of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter) where we had an extended wait with our Universal Express Unlimited pass. That being said, the wait didn't stop us from going on the ride THREE TIMES. It. Was. Epic.
14 — Give your witch or wizard plenty of time to explore Diagon Alley and it's hidden treasures (don't miss Knockturn Alley and Borgin & Burkes!)
Diagon Alley is full of hidden treasures. Once you've visited Gringotts Bank, be prepared to give your kids plenty of time to experience Diagon Alley. Find a park bench in the section of Diagon Alley, if your kids are older, let them explore and wander with their interactive wands. Stumbling into Knockturn Alley will surely be a highlight of the day!
15 — Experience dessert (and get dinner too!) at the Chocolate Emporium on Universal CityWalk.
As you enter Universal's Islands of Adventure, you cannot ignore the towering smokestacks, cogs, and gizmos of The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. This full-service restaurant, bar, and confectionary serves an all-day brunch menu that is beyond enticing after a day in Diagon Alley and Universal Studios Florida.
Share a few entrees and save room so you can EXPERIENCE dessert. The Universal Orlando site explains, the chefs at The Chocolate Emporium "create culinary alchemy with gourmet chocolates and one-of-a-kind desserts, ranging from artisanal milkshakes to sumptuous sundaes." While waiting for your entrees to arrive, the kids can watch chefs creating massive sundaes through a window in the restaurant lobby. Your little muggles are sure to enjoy the entire experience. It is a wonderful way to conclude your Harry Potter adventure.
BONUS TIP — Schedule time for "UnBusy" moments at the pool and hotel.
When I think back upon the vacations, I took to Florida as a kid, what brings me the most joy are the simple and slow things we did on vacation.
- Swimming with Dad at the hotel pool
- Enjoying the warmth of the tropical sun at breakfast
- Snuggling with Mom in the hotel room while watching TV
Be sure to schedule time for these priceless "UnBusy" moments on your trip too. When you incorporate a bit of slow time into your vacation schedule it helps everyone keep their cool — you get to catch your breath and stop yourself from morphing into that parent, while they get to swim at the pool and the enjoy the best version of you.
Want to compare the Universal hotel and resort pools? Check out this overview on-site resort hotels. There's a Universal hotel for every style and budget. I found this comparison chart to be extremely helpful. Take a look at all the family-friendly options:
If you have any question about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips above, please don't hesitate to ask questions in the comments. Our two little muggles had an amazing time on our trip to Universal Orlando Resort, and we hope you will too.
Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, tickets, gift, discount or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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