I'm occasionally asked to plan a vacation for a couple or even a single person, but the majority of my clients are families. One thing I hear over and over when getting to know a client's likes/dislikes, expectations, and desires is, "It's all for the kids." Most people enjoy Orlando's theme parks, some more than others of course, but there's no question that parents plan theme park trips with their kids in mind. We do a lot of assuming based on past experiences but these theme parks are different than your neighborhood carnival or local Six Flags. There are also lots of reviews and diatribes by adults (like me!), but let's do something a little crazy and actually get a kid's perspective. Not just any kid. A kid who has been to Disney and Universal more than most, one who has been experiencing them since she was 3 ... my kid. For the first time ever, I sat down and interviewed my nearly eleven year old daughter about her vacation experiences and what insights she can offer to families planning magical, possibly once-in-a-lifetime trips for their kids. Here's what she said ...
J: What is your earliest memory of Disney?
H: "Meeting Ariel, my favorite princess. She was so nice and it was just really special. I was so excited!"
J: How about Universal?
H: "Definitely getting my interactive wand in the wand choosing experience at Ollivander's."
J: What is your favorite restaurant at Universal?
H: "Three Broomsticks because it looks JUST like the movie and the butter beer is AMAZING. Nothing compares to butter beer,. There should be a National Butter Beer Day, but every week."
J: What is your favorite "extra" experience at Disney?
H: "After Hours because it was really fun to hang out with my Mom, just the two of us, and it felt like being a VIP because it was so empty."
J: What's your favorite resort at Universal?
H: "Hard Rock because the smell [in the lobby] is heavenly and it's just really, really cool. The memorabilia from favorite artists like Carry Underwood is really awesome."
J: What's the best pool out of all the Disney resorts?
H: "Art of Animation or Beach Club. It's a tie. At Art of Animation you can hear music under the water and it's just really pretty and a fun theme, but I love the sandy bottom at Beach Club. It's like being in the ocean but without the fish."
J: Overall, do you prefer Disney or Universal resorts?
H: "Universal because the actual rooms are more themed and decked out. Disney has great lobbies and stuff, and I love their resorts too, but the decor at Universal is even more true to the themes."
J: What's your favorite water park in Orlando?
H: "Volcano Bay hands down because of Krakatau Aqua Coaster -awesome! - and it's really pretty. Great wave pool too - it's huge."
J: What's your favorite theme park in Orlando?
H: "I've gotta go with Universal Studios for Diagon Alley because I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. It's amazing."
J: Do you prefer buffet, family-style, or entree-based meals?
H: "Definitely buffet - lots of options and you can eat as much as you want of things you really like."
J: What's your favorite end of night show?
H: "Star Wars Galactic Spectacular because it's really cool, and I really like Star Wars. But everyone should see all the shows at least once."
J: Are they worth staying up for?
J: What ages do you think are best for Universal Studios?
H: "Probably 8 and up."
J: How about Disney?
H: "3 and up."
J: What do you love most about Magic Kingdom?
H: "The castle because it's magical, whimsical, and really pretty."
J: What makes Disney magical?
H: "They bring all the amazing magical movies to life in the parks. It's really fun to hang out with your family and maybe friends there."
J: What would be the optimal number of days to spend at the parks?
H: "At least 5 days at Disney but 6 would be better. You need at least 2 days at Magic Kingdom. 4-5 days at Universal to really enjoy all three parks, especially if you're a Harry Potter fan."
J: Do you need rest days?
H: "If kids are young then yes. At my age, you don't have to but it's nice to have time at the pool most of the days. I love the pools, especially when it's really hot."
J: Do you think you could spend too many days at either resort - so long that you'd get bored?
H: "No. They're always changing things and adding new things so no matter how many times you've been, something is going to be different. And there are things to do at the resorts (activities, movies, volleyball), the water parks, other parks like SeaWorld, mini golf, and the pool. Winter Summerland golf at Disney is so cute and so unique. It's a lot of fun and most people miss it because they spend so much time at the parks. We spent two whole weeks there once and I never got bored at all."
J: Do you prefer to be at the parks early or late?
H: "Late! The temps are cooler and it just feels like a party, especially when the crowds get smaller. It's just a cool vibe during the really late hours."
J: What's your favorite souvenir?
H: "My charm bracelet because I wished really hard on my magic gem and it just appeared in my room when we got back. To this day I don't know how that happened."
J: Any general advice for families planning Orlando trips for kids?
H: "To really appreciate Universal, kids need to know or be a fan of thing there - whether it's superheroes, Harry Potter, the Simpsons, whatever. Then it's really amazing because it's like walking into the movie sometimes. It's really a lot about the themes. Little kids shouldn't ride Forbidden Journey even if they're big enough because it's scary. And if you think your kid might be scared of a ride, don't put them on it. It's not fun for them or anyone else. Just wait til they're ready on their own."
For additional nuggets of kid wisdom, visit today's post in our Facebook group, Magical Vacations by Jenn & Nicolette.