In early March we spent a week enjoying an Orlando family vacation. Orlando is my happy place because I love theme parks. I love the excellent entertainment and attractions. I always end up packing a lot of fun into the trip and this visit was no different. Our Orlando Florida vacation itinerary included 3 hotel stays, relaxed at 3 pools and visited 3 theme parks. It was busy but as always our Orlando family vacation was full of fun, excitement and quality family time.
This trip was a little different then most Orlando trips I plan. Typically I spend months planning and deciding. This year I purchased our flight 2.5 months before we left. We were not planning on an Orlando winter trip but the flight was an incredible deal and it made our decision easy! We flew roundtrip for the 5 of us for under $800. After the flight was booked I began to plan our Orlando itinerary.
To get the best deal on flights, be flexible with your arrival/departure cities and dates. We live in Rochester but ended up flying out of Buffalo. We also flew into Fort Lauderdale and out of Orlando. It may seem like extra work to research but it saved us so much money. I typically fly Southwest because bags fly free and you can change your flight without the fees.
I ended up changing my flight 3 times to find the best day and time for my family to fly. This was easy and made planning our trip much easier. Our Orlando Florida vacation included visits to LEGOLAND Florida and Universal Orlando Resort. With our flights all set up we were ready to spend 6 nights/7 days in Orlando, Florida!
We had an early flight into Fort Lauderdale and had our rental car by 10:00am. We stopped at a friends house for brunch before making our way to Winter Haven, FL. Winter Haven is home to LEGOLAND Florida Resort. My kids love LEGOLAND and we had reservations at the LEGOLAND Hotel in the Knight Room.
The drive from Fort Lauderdale to Winter Haven was about 3 hours but it was worth the extra driving for the money saved on flight. We had an early morning so the kids used the drive to take a nap.
We checked into the LEGOLAND Hotel around 4:00pm. Our room was ready and I made reservaitons for an evening Master Builder class as well as our breakfast at BRICKS in the morning. We were disappointed to learn that the Master Builder class was full except for 2 spots at the last class. We reserved the spots and hoped they could fit all three of the kids. Read more about our LEGOLAND Hotel stay and why I think it is the best for families.
After checking in we ordered a pizza from Hungry Howie’s down the street and got ready to enjoy some pool time. Last time we visited we didn’t have a chance to enjoy the pool. This year the kids loved it. There are floating bricks to play with and the pool is heated!! That is a bonus for me. I’m not a big pool person and the air was cold in the evening, but the pool was lovely. It was a great way to wind down after a long day and we were in bed by 8:30pm for an early morning at the park.
Our breakfast at Bricks was between 7:30am-8:00am. If you have been a reader here you know that I like to get my theme park days started early. My biggest reason is to avoid lines and enjoy the parks when it is quiet and has less crowds. By doing this we are often the first to ride on our favorite attractions.
We ate breakfast, checked-out of our hotel room, packed the car and arrived in line for park open around 9:15am. LEGOLAND park opens at 9:30 for on-site hotel guests. This is a great perk and really helpful on busy days! LEGOLAND has a great park for the 5-12 year old crowd. I would say 6-8 years old is the sweet spot.
My daughter is 9 and she was looking for more thrills. Project X, a roller coaster, was under refurbishment so we were unable to ride it. We still really enjoyed our day. For our full day and all my tips check out Your First Visit to LEGOLAND Florida. We finished our day at LEGOLAND around 4:00pm and got on the road towards Orlando for our next hotel.
We drove from Winter Haven to Orlando in about an hour. The traffic on I-4 can be a challenge but it was moving along pretty nice. I-4 has exits to the Disney and Universal theme parks. I partnered up with Lake Buena Vista Village Resort & Spa for our next stop. I was really excited for our stay because I have heard great things about it.
I checked us in and we were ready to explore our room. At this point the kids had fallen asleep so they were a little tired but once they got moving again they were ready to go! Our room was a 2-bedroom suite. It had a full kitchen, 2 bathrooms, and a washer/dryer in the unit. It was nice to stretch out and enjoy the space. As a family of 5, hotels are often a tight fit but this room was great! Read my full review of Lake Buena Vista Village Resort & Spa.
After a long day at LEGOLAND we were ready to relax. We ordered food from Frankie Farrell’s Pub. This is an Irish pub and is on-site at the resort. The suite had a dining table and we enjoyed our dinner in our room. Then it was time to unpack and off to bed for an early morning at Universal Studios.
We left our resort for the 20 minute drive to Universal Studios. If you are visiting Universal Orlando you park in one central parking lot and walk to the entrance to the park. We were spending the day at Universal Studios and entered CityWalk and took the path to the right. We arrived very early because we needed to pick up our theme park passes. This took much less time than I anticipated and we were first at the gate. Park opening was at 9:00am and it was 8:15am.
This part is always difficult for kids. They are so excited and it is hard to sit and wait. I always try to pack snacks and make it fun but it is usually a little crazy. The best you can do as a parent is try to distract them as long as possible.
Usually a Universal team member will engage with the kids and ask them where they are from. Anything to pass the time is welcomed. I always arrive early despite this because the entire day is better. In my opinion a short hour of annoyance is better than spending the day waiting in long lines.
Arriving early allowed us to ride everything before we left the park around 2:00 to have some pool time. We knew we wanted to spend some time relaxing on our third day. Also Lake Buena Vista has an awesome pirate themed pool area that we didn’t want to miss. We left Universal ready for the pool and did another pizza night in the room.
This was our last evening at Lake Buena Vista Resort and we wanted to make it count. The pool was great and I also took the relaxing evening to get our laundry done. I know doing laundry on vacation is not very relaxing but the convenience is great. It was nice to pack our bags for our next resort and have everything clean and ready for the last few days of our vacation.
We did an early check-out and early check-in at our next resort to take advantage of on-site perks at Universal Orlando. Universal Orlando Resort offers Early Admission to on-site resort guests on specific days and at specific parks. It is also for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter only. The day we visited was early admission to Islands of Adventure.
It was our first visit to Universal Orlando and we read the first Harry Potter book to prepare. The Wizarding World is amazing and it is worth early arrival. If you are not planning on riding the attractions it is still worth exploring the area when crowds are low. Especially during the busy season and weekends.
We checked in early to Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Be sure to give yourself time to check-in. Even at 7:30 there was a line at the check-in desk. At check-in we were given keys to use for early admission and parked our car. At Cabana Bay you take the 5 minute bus ride to Universal Orlando. Overall this was about a 30 minute process.
The buses were a pleasant surprise because I really had no idea what to expect. I was very happy with the amount of buses and the timing. The longest we ever waited was about 10 minutes and that was once. Typically it was under 5 minutes or a bus was there when we arrived. I would recommend the buses as a great way to get around Universal Orlando.
We arrived at Islands of Adventure ready to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Universal Team Members do check to see if you have a hotel key as you are making your way through the park. After Harry Potter we enjoyed the rest of the park. We loved all the characters at Universal. I wrote a post about my favorite characters to meet at Universal Orlando Resort.
We received a text that our resort room was ready so we left Islands of Adventure to get settled and ready for dinner. Universal has a walking path from CityWalk to Cabana Bay. It is about a 15-30 minute walk. This time completely depends on the people in your group. My kids are 9, 6, and 4.
It was our first vacation without a stroller. My kids were fine but it took us longer then I expected. It was not the worst, but it was a lot of walking after a day at the park. We decided to use the buses for the rest of our stay. That being said only you know your family and if we had a stroller I would consider taking the path.
Our room number was texted to us and because we had our hotel key we walked to our room. Cabana Bay Beach Resort is retro themed and it is awesome. I really enjoyed this resort and hope to stay again during our next visit. A huge perk for us is the rooms fit 6 and it is budget friendly. There are two beds and a pull out couch. My son even got creative and put two chairs together to make his own bed!!
After settling into the room we got ready to go to our dinner. On this day of our vacation we had an opportunity to try the new CityWalk restaurant Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen. This is the place with the amazing milkshakes. Toothsome Chocolate Emporium does not currently accept reservations. I would suggest and early dinner or a late lunch to avoid the lines. We really enjoyed the meal and the ambiance. If you are thinking of visiting, we all loved it. The food is great and I found the prices reasonable. Read more about why I think you should visit Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen on your next visit to Orlando.
To pack it all in we left Toothsome and headed over to Universal Studios for the Mardi Gras parade. This is a seasonal event that has beads and parade floats. We have lots of beads and the kids thought it was so fun! We also rode a few rides after the parade when crowds were low. To visit both parks in one day you need to have a park-to-park ticket. You can read about Universal Orlando ticket options here.
This was our last day at Universal Studios and we wanted to hit all our favorites. We started early, went back to Cabana Bay Resort in the afternoon for some pool time and then went back to the park. We had a chance to ride our favorites a few more times and enjoyed a few attractions we missed on our first visit.
We also took advantage of the pool at Cabana Bay Beach. They have a water slide that my kids loved and we could have stayed all day. I have to admit for dinner we did another day of pizza in the room. This might sound crazy but as a larger family it makes more sense to save on food. We try to do quick and easy meals where we can and splurge on other things like park tickets.
For the evening we returned to Universal Studios but used the parade time to ride our favorite attractions. Of course this meant Gringotts at Diagon Alley. We rode it 2 times with only a 5-10 minute wait. During our visit this ride had wait times up to 120 minutes so it was awesome to be able to ride so quickly!
Islands of Adventure was our last park of the vacation. I love both parks but this park has Seuss Landing which makes me smile every time I visit. We arrived for early admission again and if you follow any of my advice purchase your Butter Beer now! Butter Beer is a non-alcoholic beverage at Islands of Adventure. You can have it frozen, hot, or cold. I picked frozen and it was good but very sweet. It is like a butterscotch slushie. I also had zero wait to purchase and was able to get a fun picture in front of Hogwarts.
Once the park gets busy it is difficult to get pictures taken without crowds behind you. Islands of Adventure has some of the best photo-ops at Universal. From Dr. Seuss to Marvel and Harry Potter there is something for everyone.
After a busy week the kids were ready to relax so we left the park and enjoyed hotel time and pool time. It was a nice way to wrap up our vacation. Thankfully we were all so tired that we didn’t mind going to bed super early to compensate that it was daylight saving time and we had to catch a 6:00am flight.
We were up at 3:00am and off to catch our early flight. It was a quiet drive and we were all exhausted but we had an incredible time enjoying Orlando. As always I was already planning our next visit and am counting down the days until we visit again.
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