Every year our whole family takes a vacation together for the 4th of July. This year we chose to go to Orlando! As Annual Passholders at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, it just made sense to hit both theme parks while we were down there. So our week consisted of going to Universal Studio’s Volcano Bay, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, and all 4 Walt Disney World parks. We had a BUSY vacation! We did have two “chill days” when we just went to the pool at our hotel, or to the outlet malls in Orlando, but for the most part we had an extremely action packed week.
We left our home Friday evening to make the 8 hour drive to Orlando. This was the longest road trip we’ve taken so far with our daughter, who was 8 months old at the time, and she did SO good! We actually stopped at a Sonic to grab dinner on the way and she held her bottle by herself for the first time! Once we got to the hotel in Orlando, at around 3 am, we unpacked all of our stuff and got ready for bed so we could hit the parks in the morning! Let me tell you, waking a baby up in the middle of the night and then expecting her to go right back to sleep, was probably our biggest mistake of the trip. It took 2 hours to get her settled down enough to fall back asleep, so momma and daddy could finally get some rest.
We woke up bright and early Saturday morning and headed for Volcano Bay! Our hotel was not actually on Universal or Disney property but it was only about a 5 minute drive from either park. Once you get to the parking area for Volcano Bay, you then have to take a short bus ride to the actual water park. We were lucky enough to book a cabana ahead of time, and it was SO worth it! They had a fridge stocked with water bottles, a fruit and pastry tray, our own personal waiter, and a special menu from the grill nearby just for cabana guests. Volcano Bay uses a virtual line system so instead of physically standing in line, you scan the bracelet they give you at whatever ride you want to ride and it then gives you a designated time to come back and ride. The cabana actually had a computer inside that allowed you to pick which rides you wanted to wait in line for and then added them to your bracelet, without having to physically go out to the ride to scan! The park is also vey beautiful an well designed. They had a nice sized baby splash area for B, and they also had a huge obstacle type pool area for dad! Unfortunately, the rest of our party did not make it down in time like they planned, so my husband and I didn’t actually ride any of the slides, but we had lots of fun playing with B in the baby area. I would definitely recommend going to Volcano Bay if you ever get the chance!
The next day we went to Universal Studios. Our entire party had arrived by that morning, so we were able to ride some of the big rollercoasters while Mimi and Papa watched baby B. I HIGHLY recommend getting the Studios Express Unlimited passes, especially if you’re going to the park during a high traffic time. We were able to ride almost everything in the park and never waited in line for more than 20 minutes. Definitely worth the extra $90. And there is no id system with the passes, so even though we only bought 3, all 5 members of our party were able to use them!
We decided to split the 4 Disney parks up over 2 days, so our first Disney day we chose to go to Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Being Annual Passholders we were able to get into the park an hour early, so we hit the Tower of Terror before the line got too backed up! Hollywood Studios was great for B because that’s where all of the Disney Junior characters reside. She was able to meet and get her picture taken with Doc McStuffins, Sophia the First, and Buzz Lightyear! We even bought her a little autograph book that has a spot for a picture next to each autograph. I can’t wait to put it together for her! By the time we got to Epcot it was hot. Like super hot. I was starting to worry about B, so we spent 20 bucks to buy her a cooling towel to bring her temperature down some. She loved it, and I loved that it cooled my baby off. There really wasn’t too much for us to do in Epcot (you can’t drink around the world with a baby) but we did eat at a wonderful Japanese restaurant
The next day (this is Tuesday July 3rd for anyone trying to keep track) we decided to “rest” and just go shopping. We left B at the room with Mimi and Papa because she wasn’t feeling too good from all the heat, and my husband and I went to the outlet malls. For those who don’t know my husband, he LOVES to shop. Way more than I do. Which is really backwards, but it works out to my advantage most of the time. The outlet malls had some really awesome sales going on so we were actually able to get a few people checked off our Christmas list! One thing I did NOT enjoy about the mall was the parking. I had just purchased a new SUV about a month before our trip and I usually try to park as far away from other vehicles as possible. We weren’t able to find any lone parking spaces, however we were able to park in the back of the lot next to a curb. But it didn’t matter. When we came out to the car after our shopping spree I had a nice shiny white dent in the passenger door of my navy blue 4Runner. Broke. My. Heart. The parking lot was monitored by security but there was no point in pursuing it because it’s not like they could actually do anything even IF they found the culprit.
On July 4th we planned to go to Animal Kingdom and then Magic Kingdom. We figured Magic Kingdom would have the best fireworks show in all of Orlando and we were right! We started the day by visiting the new World of Avatar which was absolutely incredible. Unfortunately, the lines at Disney World during the 4th of July are INSANE so we were only able to ride one ride (and that took about 4 hours since we had to split our group in half). Next time you go to Disney, absolutely make sure to ride the Avatar Flight of Passage. It was an incredible ride! When we finished in the Animal Kingdom we made our way over to Cinderella’s castle. Magic Kingdom was, of course, so crowded we could barely move. As soon as it started getting dark people were lining the streets to get a good view of the fireworks show, and then the rain came. It stormed for probably an hour, and we were hoping that would clear the park out, but no. Everyone stayed and crammed into whatever open shops they could find. Once the fireworks were cleared to start and we found a decent place to stand and watch them, it was all worth
The next day we were back at Universal Studios to conquer the Islands of Adventure and Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You definitely have to get the frozen butter beer at Harry Potter. It’s delicious. Thanks to our express passes we were able to ride almost every ride at both parks. Mom and Dad loved the rollercoasters and baby B loved meeting the dinosaurs on the Jurassic Park themed street. If you watch MTV and are a fan of The Real World and The Challenge, then you’ll be jealous to hear that most of the cast from the current Challenge show was actually at Universal the same time that we were, and we even ran into a few of them! We ate lunch at an Irish pub inside the park that actually had pretty good food, and I got an amazing root beer float at one of the soda stands.
On Friday, which was our last day of vacation, we decided to just hang out at the hotel pool all day. This was baby B’s second time in a swimming pool and she HATED it. Her first time swimming she laughed and played the entire time. This time, I have no idea what happened. I think maybe the water was too cold for her liking, but she cried the entire time we had her in the water. And what’s even worse, she screamed during every single bath for about a week after this experience. Once we got her out of the water and playing on the pool chair everything was good again, and we were all able to have a relaxing day to recover from our action packed vacation!