When I received the invitation to visit Universal Orlando and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I though of my 10-year-old niece Journey. Despite her name and an aunt that travels frequently (me!), Journey hasn’t had the opportunity to travel anywhere. When I invited her, her excitement was infectious, but I didn’t realize how many firsts Journey would experience on this trip. That made my trip even that more remarkable.
First airplane trip
A friendly Frontier Airlines’ flight attendant even introduced her to the pilot. My niece’s comment, “It doesn’t seem real up here” as she looked out the window through the clouds to the patchwork ground far below. She did comment that her tummy acted like a roller coaster when we first took off.
First ‘gator sighting
When my friends Rick and Bob so graciously agreed to pick us up at the airport, they suggested a stop at Lone Cabbage Fish Camp. It’s a rustic, swamp side restaurant and bar where we had a close encounter with a gator, dozens of gator sightings while riding an airboat road back into the swamps. Touristy cheesy, but oh so perfect for a 10-year-old and her aunt.
Once we arrived near the ocean, Journey was chomping at the bit as we leisurely walked closer and closer toward the waves. With an encouraging nod from me, she kicked her shoes off and literally ran barefoot through the soft sand at Coco Beach into the salt waters of the Atlantic. The waves splashed up onto her for the first time, and she giggled while I snapped a thousand photos for her mom.
Really. Journey had never overnighted in a hotel before until we checked into the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando. She loved the rock ‘n roll style, examining the different musician’s instruments on display. Journey even became a rock star when we checked in by jumping on her very first hotel bed. The next morning, I caught Journey making her bed, lining her stuffed animals against the pillows. She didn’t realize that a maid cleaned our room every day. When I told her, she laughed. The next day she messed up her bed and grinned, telling me not to worry “her maid” would make her bed.
First theme park
What kid doesn’t have a theme park on their bucket list? We arrived a day early in Orlando so that we could detour Disney’s Magical Kingdom for a series of firsts for Journey: Disney,
First VIP experience
Forget about lines. Journey’s Universal Orlando theme park experience was a VIP Tour. Red carpet experience on the way with our two guides. We “vacationed” like a superstar during our behind the scenes tour to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. No lines, inside information – it was the best of all worlds! Of course when you say at any one of the three on-site hotels (Hard Rock, Loews Portofino Bay or Loews Royal Pacific) you also gain access to the Universal Express Pass Plus by simply using your room key!
More on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal Orlando on future blogs.
There’s so many other firsts for Journey that I thought I’d let her tell her own story. She will be guest blogging about her experience at www.TravelingInHeels.com. I’ll add the direct links as soon as possible!
Read more about Universal Orlando by other Traveling Moms: