When our clients think about a theme park vacation in Orlando, they rarely consider the word 'relaxation' to be part of that equation. But, I am here to tell you, a vacation at Universal Orlando can be just that, relaxing! Below we have five key points going into great detail why you can truly enjoy your family time when visiting Universal and also relax at the same time!
1. The convenience here is huge! Almost all of Univeral's hotels offer very pretty walking paths that can take you from one hotel to another or to CityWalk, Universal Studios Florida, or Islands of Adventure. At night the walking paths are well lit. Another neat benefit of staying at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Aventura Hotel, and Sapphire Falls Resort is that these hotels also offer a dedicated walking path straight to Volcano Bay. Water taxis are also available at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. Taking a water taxi in the morning is a great way to start your day, it is relaxing with beautiful scenery. The water taxi takes you straight from the hotel to Universal CityWalk where you can then walk over to Universal’s Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios Florida. There is also complimentary shuttle bus service from Endless Summer as well as all of the other resorts.
2. One of our favorite stress-free benefits of staying on Universal Orlando property is the complimentary Universal Express Unlimited Pass your traveling party gets when staying at one of their three Premier properties, Loews Portifino Bay, Hard Rock, and Loews Royal Pacific. While the Express Unlimited Pass is free to those guests staying in one of the above mentioned resorts, don't you worry, you can still purchase it as an add on to any ticket purchase whether your staying on property or not. This pass is worth its weight in gold, especially during peak traveling seasons and the summer when it is extremely hot out. This feature allows you to pretty much skip the stand by line and walk right onto the attraction! (Disclaimer - Hagrids is not one of those attractions available yet with Express Pass) I love being able to know that there is no type of planning we need to do to make a specific ride we may want to do, and have the ability to just enjoy ourselves and allow the magic to happen spontaneously, not because we have over scheduled ourselves.
3. Their flexible dining options! There is no need to worry or stress about making dining reservations months in advance when you are visiting Universal Orlando. You can always walk up to almost any restaurant and never wait more than maybe 30 minutes at the most. Plus guests staying at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Hotel and Hard Rock Hotel receive priority seating at select restaurants. (Disclaimer- this is subject to change and availability may be limited during peak times or some weekends). We also love their great dining plans. Unlike other Orlando area vacations, Universal Orlando's dining plan offers the flexibility of tailoring it to whatever guests need it. Your whole traveling party is not required to have it in order to participate in the dining plan.
4. They allow pool hopping! Guests staying in Prime Value, Preferred and Premier hotels can pool hop simply by showing their room keys at other resort pools. As we chatted above, guests can walk to other resorts by utilizing those walking paths or take boat/bus transportation between resorts. The only resort that does not offer pool hopping is the Endless Summer value hotels Dockside and Surfside Suites. They also offer complimentary swim diapers, pool noodles, sunscreen and ice water at many of their pools. Each pool offers a unique experience. We totally recommend allowing an extra day or two of your vacation completely dedicated strictly to enjoying pool hopping.
5. Volcano Bay, Volcano Bay, Volcano Bay! This is probably the most relaxing water park you will ever visit with a vast array of slides and attractions. Volcano Bay tackles the inconveniences of carrying tubes and waiting in long lines by completely eliminating them by utilizing their ground breaking technology called TapuTapu. It is an interactive bracelet that you'll receive when you enter the park, it is free and required to wear (you will give it back at the end of the day when you leave). How does it work? You will see the current wait time when you arrive at a ride and you will just touch your TapuTapu on the totem pole if you want to get "on line" virtually. After doing this you are free to grab a cocktail, something to eat or hang out in the lazy river or wave pool while your waiting for your TapuTapu to alert you when it's time to ride. You can also take shots at special photo spots and get photos taken automatically on select attractions. The bracelet will also open and lock your lockers with a tap, and you can even use it to pay for food, drinks and merchandise.
Depending on when you are reading this blog, some of the amenities and activities we discussed may be temporarily closed due to the pandemic, but we hope to see them re-open in the future. Please make sure to check with your Starstuff Travel Planner to confirm any of the information and updates you may be interested in. To book your next Universal Orlando vacation reach out to a planner by clicking here!
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6/24/2020 0 Comments
Our Orlando Rental Home Vacation
This year we decided to rent a home in Kissimmee, FL for part of our vacation. We rented a 6 bedroom 4.5 bath home in a gated community. The process was so easy! I was able to check-in online prior to arrival and 24 hours before my check-in date I was provided with the lock code for the door as well as instructions on how to check-out.
The home I rented was located in the Windsor at Westside community. The community features a club house with a huge resort style pool. The pool also has a kids splash park with a water slide and a lazy river! There is also a restaurant named Tu Casa as well as a bar with delicious libations! Music is played by the pool-side to help you really get into that vacation mode! Additionally, there is an indoor fitness center (which was closed due to Covid-19 with plans to reopen soon), volleyball court and multi-purpose sports courts. They had a lovely walking trail located around the lake, which was very peaceful.
Upon arrival, we entered through the main gate where we were greeted by a very friendly employee. I provided my confirmation number, address to the rental home, and my drivers license to the guard and he gave me a pass to keep on my dash. Check-in time is 4pm so the line at the gate can become very long at that time. Once you have the pass, you can use the other entrances by calling the guard house and showing your pass. Depending on the size of the home you are staying in, will determine how many cars you may have. The home I stayed in sleeps 15 so we were allowed to have up to 5 cars.
The home is two stories. On the first floor is the kitchen, living area, dining area, garage (converted into a game room with Air-Conditioning), laundry room with a washer and dryer, one half bath, and a Master suite (King Bed) with an attached bathroom that has access to the pool.
Upstairs was a huge loft with a wrap around couch and TV, and 5 bedrooms. The bedrooms included another Master Suite (King Bed) with an attached bathroom, an adorable Mickey Mouse theme bedroom with a Twin over Double Bunkbed, an Avengers themed bedroom with two twin beds. In between those two bedrooms was bathroom. Then there was another Mickey themed room with two double beds and the last bedroom with a King Size bed. In between these two last bedrooms was another bathroom. Additionally, all the bedrooms had TV’s with cable TV. There were closets (with hangers) in each room and a very large storage closet in the loft area. All of the bedrooms also had dressers.
The kitchen was stocked well with plates, cups, silverware, pots and pans. There were plenty of mixing bowls, pitchers, and plenty of cooking utensils. They did provide 1 roll of paper towels, a small amount of dishwasher powder and laundry powder. All of the toilets had 1 extra roll of toilet paper as well. They also provided 1 trash bag. The trash is picked up each day - you place your trash bag inside the bench outside of the front door each morning. There was also a broom and vacuum in a closet if you needed to clean up any spills/messes.
The home also had a screened-in private pool with a hot tub, an outside eating area, and pool loungers. There were lots of towels and I loved being able to wash the towels if we needed more! The house had plenty of space and would be great for large families or multi-generation families. It also gives your family lots of flexibility with your vacation styles. If you have family members that don’t want to go to the theme parks in the hot Florida sun, then they can stay home and relax by the pool.
The home is located only about 15-25 minutes from all of the Orlando Attractions (theme parks, shopping, and other recreational activities). There were plenty of grocery stores and restaurants within just a few minutes drive from this property. The house was spotlessly clean and my children are really missing the pool now that we are back home.
To learn more about renting a vacation home or to book your next magical stay, reach out to Jennifer McCann at JMcCann@Starstufftravel.com and visit her Facebook page by clicking here.
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6/18/2020 0 Comments
Our Time At Universal Orlando
Last week my family and I spent four days at Universal Orlando Resort. We arrived at Loews Royal Pacific Resort and headed inside. Upon entering the hotel we had our temperature checked and received our wristband for that day. These team members were wearing face masks and face shields. If you had previously had your temperature checked that day and received the corresponding colored wristband you did not need to have your temperature checked again. We then headed to the front desk to check-in. There we found plenty of social distancing markers on the ground to ensure you a safe distance in line. The front desk, concierge, bell services all had plexiglass installed to ensure safety for all. The elevators had hand-sanitizer (on each floor) and signs posted advising only one travel party per elevator. Daily room-service has been suspended, however, you were able to call for any amenities you may need - towels, trash bags, etc. The restaurants were serving the same limited menu and all tables were social distanced from each other.
Now let's head over to the parks….
Being that we were staying at Loews Royal Pacific we hopped on to the Water Taxi to CityWalk. The Water Taxi’s were clearly marked with signs notating which benches were open for seating. As you walk towards the parks entrance (either Universal or Islands of Adventure) there is a team member using a PA system reminding guests of Universal’s required face masks policy and also informing guests where to locate the U-rest areas.
Upon entering the parks guests hold up their ticket and the team member will scan with a handheld scanner. There were plenty of markers on the ground so guests knew where to stand to encourage social distancing. The lines for rides all had markings on the floor for where to stand. Each guest is given hand-sanitizer before entering the ride vehicle (you must use their hand sanitizer) and if it is a 3D ride the glasses will be given to you at that same time. All ride vehicles are social distanced as well by either a whole row of seats between parties or your own ride vehicle. I witnessed a guest take their mask off during the ride and at the end of the ride the team members took the ride vehicle out of rotation to sanitize. Each park has U- rest areas - outdoor spaces in which you can remove your mask. You can stay as long as you like and relax with reminders to remain a safe distance from other guests. Overall, I was highly impressed with their procedures.
Universals Mobile App was very helpful during our stay. You can view their safety guidelines, get a virtual line pass for select rides, mobile order food, and check wait times. Let’s talk about my experience ordering food - it was super easy. When we were ready to eat - I just hopped on the app, chose my restaurant, made my food/drink selections and paid for it. Once I got to the restaurant and was seated I just clicked the button to prepare my food and it was brought to my table. All of the quick service restaurants had team members at the entrance seat you at a table, you will also be required to use hand sanitizer at the entrance, another team member would come by and get your order number from your mobile order, then deliver you food for you. They would also get refills and anything else you might need. Team Members were also located at the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines and they would wipe down the machines after each guest.
Universal Orlando Resort has gone to great lengths to ensure their safety procedures are completely guest/team member focused, easy to follow, and enforced with the upmost respect. I am so happy to say that we felt incredibly safe, relaxed and had a very enjoyable time. As a parent of elementary school aged children I was concerned about the required face mask policy. I was worried that it would be more stressful for me to try to get my children keep their masks on, it would be uncomfortable for them, and I wasn’t sure if it would even be worth it. However, it was the complete opposite - my children kept their masks on without a single reminder from me. They never complained about the masks. That was also my experience witnessing other children throughout the parks. I was also not looking forward to wearing the mask as an adult. Florida is hot enough. But wearing the mask made no difference - I hardly knew it was even there. All Team Members were wearing their masks and I witnessed them giving gentle reminders to guests if they were not wearing the masks correctly. The crowd levels were very low with plenty of space to allow for social distancing. I sat back and watched to see if guests were following the procedures Universal Orlando has in place and I am so pleased to say that guests were following them. Guests and team members were very respectful with ensuring a safe distance between parties.
Hats off to Universal Orlando Resort for a job well done!
To learn more about Universal Orlando or to book your next vacation, reach out to Jennifer McCann at JMcCann@Starstufftravel.com and 'LIKE' her on FB by clicking HERE.
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6/14/2020 0 Comments
Disney's Yacht Club Resort
Disney's Yacht Club Resort is a nautically themed resort in the Epcot area of Walt Disney World. The resort opened up on November 5th, 1990 with around 630 rooms. Located adjacent to it's sister resort, The Beach Club, these two resorts offer different color schemes and slightly different theming. Walking into the Yacht Club you will find a very stately atmosphere with Nantucket theming and colors of navy blue, dark colored wood, leather and even an antique globe. It sits on Crescent lake and is positioned across from Disney's Boardwalk Resort. One of it's many positive qualities is that it is actually walking distance to Epcot, Hollywood Studios and mini golf. If you are not interested in walking to those parks the resort does offer water taxi service. Since it connects to the Boardwalk area you also have access to the many different food options and nightly entertainment.
Another popular reason many guests are drawn to the Yacht Club is because a majority of their rooms sleep a family of five. With different bedding configuration such as two queen beds and one day bed, one queen bed along with one twin size sleeper chair and one day bed and many other options, this resort seems the perfect fit for those larger families.
Although there are a handful of restaurants that the Yacht and Beach Club share within their two resorts, the two sitdown restaurants in the actual resort itself are the Yachtsman Steakhouse and Ale & Compass. The Yachtsman Steakhouse is an exclusive dining experience that focuses on high quality grain fed beef. If you are a foodie and love a good steak, this is the place for you. You actually can watch the butcher hand cut steaks in the dry-aging room. Ale & Compass focuses on classic seafood dishes that are perfect for you seafood lovers. While Yacht Club offers a few additional lounges and quick service establishments, you can also easily walk to the adjacent Beach Club resort for additional sitdown and quick service dining.
Another reason many families are drawn to this resort is for Stormalong Bay, the pool that both Yacht and Beach Club share. A portion of the pool is about two feet deep with a complete sand bottom that has no hard concrete at all. There are also sand dunes in places where you can sit and build sand castles making this the perfect pool for parents with little kids. There are even sand toys sold in the gift shop. There is also a lazy river that, that before the pandemic, had tubes and noodles up for the grabs. Near the lazy river area there are also water falls and two hot tubes area. There is also a super neat water slide that looks just like a shipwreck with a near by walk up bar for those frosty poolside beverages. You can also easily access Beaches and Cream from the pool area. This is the fun dessert shop in the sister resort, Beach Club. One of my personal favorite things about the pool is that they offer men and women lockers/dressing rooms. When we have a late flight we hang out at the pool all day before showering and heading to the airport.
The Yacht Club resort has many fun family activities offered daily such as Movies Under The Stars, Pirate Adventure Cruises, motorized boat rentals, campfire activities and more. While these recreational activities listed are all pre-Covid I am sure at some point they will make a comeback to the resort. You will want your Starstuff Travel Planner to confirm that the activity you are looking to participate in is still scheduled for your trip arrival.
If this sounds like the resort for you, reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner today for more information by clicking here!
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