An Inside Look at all things 3D Travel
Spring Into Safe Travel at Universal Orlando Resort
We did it. The 3D Travel Team did it. We visited Universal Orlando Resort as soon as it reopened and went back again and again and again. Why? To show you it's not only safe, it's still fun. And you know what? WE DID IT!
I'll tell you how. And how YOU can do it, too!
Yes, I've been booking travel with my team for over 15 years, but you know what? I 100%, absolutely completely rely on the experts on my team. No one can be great at everything and even in a normal year, planning a trip to any Central Florida theme park can be freakishly overwhelming - tickets, resorts, dining, front of the line, park hours, what's open, etc. But now......OH.MY.GOODNESS. Now it's a bit of a nightmare, keeping up with all the changes to keep us safe, accommodate requirements of local governments and make enough profit to stay open. Yep. I'm keeping it real. And I'm grateful for the decisions made that lead to keeping the gates open, particularly for Universal Orlando Resort. Why? It was an actual escape; a real vacation; it felt "normal" during the craziness of Covid.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with the actual planning. Besides depending on my team, what can you learn from me? My mistakes, of course - the constant gift I always have to give!
Spend Less on the room & pay more for food OR Spend more on the room & pay less for food?
I have a little bit of a regret here, and so of course I want to share it with you.
You see, way back when....over 10 years ago.... when our kids were recently diagnosed Celiac and we had to deal with the whole Gluten Free thing before people got better at it (something I am grateful for daily) we stayed in an onsite resort at Universal where we couldn't get anything to eat without spending $40+ a person. Any thing fast and casual? Nothing to eat there. Go big or go hungry - that's what happened. We didn't go hungry. Instead, we spent over $1000 more than we intended, and I'll be honest. It was a tough pill to swallow!
Things are definitely better all around - though, now that we've stayed in all the resorts in all room types, I have even stronger opinions about where you should stay for various dining wants, needs and concerns & I will chat endlessly about them both on here & in our Video Q&A series debuting in 2021 PLUS our Podcast, coming out next month....HEY! If you're reading this and I don't annoy you, guess what? You can see me online, hear me online & read me online. You're welcome.
So when it was time to hop over to Florida a few months ago and check things out, I looked into the answer to our dining that makes every trip better - Club Level/Concierge Service. I'll be honest (did you have any doubt?) 1) Those club level services at Universal are not all equal, and 2) The food offerings for dietary restrictions at Universal blow Disney's offerings out of the water. There. I said it.
It's honestly less expensive for us, depending on who is going, to stay club level and eat breakfast, pop in for evening yummies, etc. So, why didn't I do it for the last two trips? I was afraid - afraid that it wouldn't be the same. (I'm weak. Weak, I tell you.) I was scared to restrict my options. So I did spend less on the room & pay more for food. And the rooms are super fun when you spend less - we spent time at Surfside Inn & Suites and Cabana Bay Beach Resort. LOVE them both! But when I look back and think how much I needed it to be a vacation, there really just isn't a comparison to the level of service and food we get when we stay Club Level at Universal.
I share this, so maybe you won't make the same mistake & have the same regret I did. I don't know how much YOU need a vacation, but I'm at "I survived 2020" level need, so I thought....maybe you're there, too? Give yourself permission to do what you need to do to make it a respite. A retreat. A reminder of happiness.
Getting There (Is Air Safe?)
I had no idea they recirculated the air in planes so often. Until all this went down, I thought if someone passed gas 12 rows away, I was inhaling the particles. I had to make my brain go to other places when I traveled to deal with what I thought I knew, just so I wasn't constantly grossed out mid-flight.
I'm incredibly relieved.
It's been everywhere, but in case you missed it, they recirculate airplane air in and out of the cabin in seconds - ALL the air. Where are these filtration systems in our homes? Can you imagine how much healthier we would all be?
We've traveled enough since restrictions partially lifted to experience planes with so few people on them they had to redistribute us throughout the plane to a completely full flight where the middle seats were no longer blocked off. You CAN take your mask off to eat and drink, which means some people keep it off and eat and drink the whole flight. Of course, they do. Most don't, but some do. So, what should you do? Is air travel where you might catch Covid?
I don't know. I just don't know. I have to pray through each trip decision and then I rethink it so much, I leave the final vote to my husband & co-owner, David. Then I rest in his decision and go take my trip. So far, I haven't contracted Covid & the reality is, if I did I doubt I would ever know if it was from a trip or getting groceries. I just want you to know I'm so sorry you're going through this, too. Whatever decision you make, I support. We support. We'll be here if you travel now or if you wait for years. Either way, we care about you and your health.
We made it! We're There! What's it like?
So, here's the gift we received visiting Universal Orlando Resort the last few months. It felt very much like a normal Universal Vacation. Let's start with what's different, though, because I know that'll weigh into your decision about whether or not you'd like to visit.
Masks - You're wearing yours well, all the time. Put your nose in there, secure your chin, make sure it's layered. Nothing outside the box for a mask & your kids are wearing them, too. No exceptions.
Sanitizer - They're squirting you before you get on any attraction. And it's not a pleasant smell. And it leaves a film. It's best to make jokes about it and keep moving forward. If that's enough to keep you from going, you're going to be a negative Nancy anyway, and you should probably stay home and build up your emotional energy first. No shame if you're not ready.
Character greetings - you can't hug them. They've done a great job at creating character opportunities, including some we enjoyed more than the way it was before. And it felt like they were everywhere! I danced with King Julien. It was awesome.
Lines - they're spread out, which means they look much longer than they are. Hop in to a couple & you'll see what I mean. It's not a big deal, unless you let the size of the lines keep you from trying and get mad, then tell us about it when you get home. Why would anyone do that? Yet, we've had some people do it, so I'm including it. Try a couple of times & see how fast they go.
Mobile ordering - You'll be guided to a table, where you'll order your food & it will be brought to you. It's actually nice & if you have technology issues, they'll have a place for you to order.
Temp checks - self explanatory and mere seconds, though they do have a brilliant little touch where when you stay at your Universal Resort you get temped and banded with the color of the day & flash it everywhere else you go, including the parks.
Maid Service - they clean when you leave, not during your stay.
What's the Same
Everything else! Literally, everything else. Dining plan? You betcha! Park to Park? YES! While some resorts aren't open, they all have a comparable counterpart which is open. Attractions, quick service, table service, popcorn. It's all there. Overwhelmed? That's why we have this team.
We rode, laughed at shows, played and ate, ate, ate. I won't get into the attractions, dining and entertainment here - that's for another 100 posts. What I will tell you is you're never going to run out of things to do, watch and eat. For all ages.
I want to come up with a way to say this where you'll get how big this gift is, without comparing it to other vacation destinations that are struggling a bit more to keep the magic alive, and I'm not sure how, So I'll just tell you how I felt.
The truth is, I can't ride much at Universal, compared to some people. I get motion sickness really easily and they love their simulators. We went when I wasn't too keen on getting wet, so instead of being on rides all the livelong day, I spent full days exploring, riding what I could (Hagrid's is amazing!) and eating the fun food. I still had an incredible time.
Nearly everyone was kind. Covid stress is real & I am solidly giving grace to those who are struggling. Yes, even if they're employees. We are ALL in this together, friends. But I had hundreds of interactions and can't remember a single negative one, so I didn't even have to give grace. The chefs and waitstaff bent over backwards to guarantee successful meals. The staff at each hotel were careful to make sure we understood everything we needed to know. And while I didn't get maid service like I love, I did enter the cleanest rooms in hotel history & I didn't vacuum or scrub or feel the weight of what I was or wasn't doing, all the time.
I have visited other places recently and not everywhere gave me that ahhhh feeling, but Universal did.
So if you're on the fence, reach out and let me know what you're worried about. We'll answer it on our video Q&A series or in a blog post or in a podcast or all 3! And you never know. I may just reply, too! Interested in a quick complimentary price to see what you might want to book? Let me know & I'll set you up with that, too.
Be safe. Be Blessed. We'll get through this! Together.