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Kelly’s Disney World and Universal trip with a toddler – PREP 407

Kelly’s Disney World and Universal trip with a toddler – PREP 407

Kelly, her husband, and their 2-year-old son spent two weeks in Central Florida. They split their trip between Pop Century at Disney World, then Cabana Bay at Universal Orlando, and finally back to Disney with a few days at Port Orleans French Quarter.

She shares tips for enjoying Universal Orlando with a toddler, good places to work remotely both in and out of the parks, and a wealth of information about traveling with an energetic 2-year-old.

Post trip begins: 47 minutes

The Basics

Kelly, her husband, and their 2 year old son took a 2 week trip to Orlando. They planned to take this trip just to Universal over Spring Break because their son’s childcare is closed. They booked their stay at Universal Studios via credit card points at Cabana Bay

After they booked their hotels, they watched the flight prices and they wouldn’t go below $1,000 per person. That caused them to extend their trip to make the most of their flights. 

They are staying at Universal for this length of time because they were able to book their hotel on points. They originally purchased 4 day park tickets that include the water park but upgraded them while they were there.

They are flying out of Boston on April 9 and flying back on April 24. Their split stay includes nights at:

Originally Kelly’s husband would be working the majority of the Disney portion of their trip. However, that changed once they arrived and he ended up joining them in the parks more than they originally planned.

Arrival (April 9)

Kelly and her family had a bumpy flight at 8:30 p.m. and didn’t land until about 11:45 p.m. It was a bit confusing to find their bags and then get to their transportation. 

They booked Cast and Crew for their transportation for the trip. Kelly booked them for their airport to Disney and then between Disney and Universal. Kelly says she was really happy with their experience. 

They didn’t arrive to Pop Century until about 1 a.m. and were able to go right to their room. They were in the 50s section and had a great location. They were very close to the skyliner and had a great view. 

They brought their own pack ‘n play with them. It is a Guava Lotus pack n play and a Slumber Pod. By the time they were unpacked and in their room, it was after 3 a.m. before they were asleep. 

Hollywood Studios (April 10)

Originally Kelly’s husband was going to work from the resort and not get tickets. However, he decided to get an annual pass this morning! 

He bought one while she activated hers that she’d previously purchased online. They were able to get his park reservations booked as well. Kelly says it was likely faster to purchase online and activate in person, but it wasn’t a difficult process to purchase her husband’s in person. 

After getting their annual passes, they went to the Lightning McQueen experience. Kelly’s son loved it and she teared up because it was so magical. 

Their next stop was Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. There was almost no line and they were able to ride easily before stopping for some snacks. They found a quiet spot by the pond and dinosaur before getting on the skyliner and going back to their room for nap time. 

Kelly got an order delivered from Target for sunscreen and a few things. It was very easy. 

After nap time, they got back on the skyliner and went to Hollywood Studios again. They had another very quick wait for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Then they went into Toy Story Land for the first time! 

They did Toy Story Mania and it was not a win for Kelly’s son. He cried and didn’t like it, but he got a slinky dog toy on his way out and was thrilled.

They waited about 5 minutes for Alien Swirling Saucers and he really liked that. While they were in line, Kelly mobile ordered Woody’s Lunchbox for dinner. They had trouble finding a table, but just used the stroller as a stroller.

After that, they did Alien Swirling Saucers before heading back to their room for bed. After they got their son to bed, Kelly’s husband went out to Magic Kingdom that night alone. Kelly went to bed at 9:30 p.m. which was great. 

Magic Kingdom (April 11)

Kelly’s son was up at 6 a.m. and they were out the door by 7:30 a.m. They realized that getting to early entry about 5 minutes after it started, they didn’t have any waits.

They used early entry as an opportunity to ride what Kelly’s son wanted to ride, which are the less popular rides. They initially intended to ride Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin but it wasn’t open at 8:30 a.m. 

Next they tried to ride the PeopleMover, which was also down. So they went to Tomorrowland Speedway and got on there. Kelly thought this would be a big hit with her son, but he wasn’t excited about the bumping. 

They did do the Tomorrowland Speedway driver’s license. It is $7 in a photo booth and takes a few minutes, but Kelly said it was very cute.

They did Mad Tea Party next and then Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh without much wait. Kelly notes that you can buy a Roo stuffed animal in the gift shop after the ride. 

After stopping for some snacks at the Friar’s Nook, they got in line to meet Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. They were about 5th in line which was great because he was able to watch other people meet the characters and see how it worked.

Kelly’s husband went to Cosmic Ray’s to get some work done while Kelly and her son went on rides. They had no wait for it’s a small world and Peter Pan’s Flight and stopped for snacks at Gaston’s Tavern. Kelly’s husband met up with them at this point.

They went to the Baby Care Center next and Kelly says it is so nice. They left the park and were back at their room by 12:15 p.m. Kelly’s husband got them lunch at Art of Animation. She says the chicken with spinach was delicious. 

It was loud this afternoon due to the storms and Kelly was grateful for their sound machine. Kelly’s husband got some work done while her son napped. 

He woke up around 4 p.m. and they took the skyliner to Epcot. They only had 45 minutes before their dinner reservation so they did Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along and it was very fun. 

After that, they went over to the Beach Club for their 5:15 p.m. Beaches and Cream reservation for dinner. The weather at this point was gorgeous. Kelly’s husband took their son back to the resort to go to bed and she went to Epcot. 

Kelly got herself an individual lightning lane for Cosmic Rewind and loved it. Then she went to Soarin’ before going to Test Track and got through the single rider line very quickly. 

Kelly was able to get a snack and drink before hopping on the skyliner. She was able to watch the fireworks from the skyliner, which was lovely. 

Epcot (April 12)

Kelly’s son woke up not feeling great, so they gave him some medicine and took it slower. They canceled their Hoop Dee Doo Revue reservation. 

They got virtual queue 19 for Cosmic Rewind. They had no wait at all and were able to walk through the World Showcase. Kelly’s husband did Cosmic Rewind while she and her son did Journey of Water. It was wonderful and she really recommends doing that when it isn’t crowded. 

They went to Nemo and Friends next and because it was dark it was scary for him. Kelly does note that the glow sticks that can be worn as a necklace were a win. They wandered around the aquarium and met up with her husband. 

They walked over to the Mexico pavilion and met Donald with a short wait. It was really cute. Then they went on Gran Fiesta Tour which is their family favorite. 

Originally they hadn’t planned to do Frozen Ever After because Kelly’s son hadn’t seen the movie. However, he liked a Frozen short on the resort TV so they did that and he liked it. 

They went over to the Africa section of the World Showcase. Kelly’s husband was able to work and take calls while they walked around the World Showcase. 

Kelly and son watching the drummers

They tried to meet Mickey and Minnie but Kelly’s son wasn’t into it. He also wasn’t into Journey into Imagination and opted to leave Epcot. Kelly’s husband got some work done and Kelly read her book at the computer pool while their son napped. 

Because they’d canceled their dinner reservation they didn’t have plans for this evening. Kelly’s son wanted to go to the Nemo playground. They tried the Nemo playground at Art of Animation but that’s not what he was thinking. 

Kelly tried to see if it was the Seas at Epcot but there were big crowds to get to Epcot and opted to go to Hollywood Studios. They went on Alien Swirling Saucers before going to the Riviera

They mobile ordered food and played around outside. Kelly isn’t the biggest fan of Primo Piatto but it was a beautiful space to eat outside.

Kelly’s husband went to AbracadaBar that night while she packed up their room.  

Move to Universal (April 13)

Kelly’s husband took their son to Art of Animation to allow her to pack up. They were picked up at 9:30 a.m. and it took about 35 minutes to get to Cabana Bay

They had a pool view inside hallway family suite room. It was very large and spacious. It was nice to have a full-size fridge and a split bathroom. The room was fairly loud and they were grateful for the sound machine. 

They got into their room around 1 p.m. and got their son down for his nap closer to 2 p.m. That night they just had a slow evening and got dinner from the food court in their hotel. 

There is a guest services desk in the hotel. They were able to convert 4 day, 3 park, park to park tickets to their lowest tier annual pass for $100 for both of them. This ended up giving them two additional days! 

Islands of Adventure (April 14)

With their Annual Passes, they were ready to use them! They went into Islands of Adventure to do the Dr. Seuss Land. 

Kelly and her family in Seussland

They walked through the garden walk and it was about 15 minutes to get to the entrance of Islands of Adventure. It was cooler today so they opted to change their plans and not pool hot today. 

The only rides that were opened for early entry were VelociCoaster and Harry Potter. These weren’t appropriate for Kelly’s son, so they just waited for Dr. Seuss Land to open. 

At 8:55 a.m. they got on the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train queue. There was no wait at all. They did One Fish Two Fish and Kelly recommended one of the Two Fish cars so that you can ride together! 

Their next stop was the Cat in the Hat dark ride. When they got off they wandered through the gift shop and then went on the carousel. They went to One Fish Two Fish before stopping at the I ran the Zoo playground.

Kelly notes that there is a splash pad toward the back of the playground. This was a very well-themed area and Kelly says it was really nice. Around 11 a.m. they went back to their resort. 

They tried to take a water taxi and realized it was not stroller-friendly. It was really nice and they didn’t need to fold up the stroller, which was nice. 

On their way back to their room, they asked at the front desk about how to pool hop with other resorts. They were told that they just needed to pick up a card from the front desk to use at that resort. 

They went back to the room for Kelly’s son’s nap. She read outside while her husband stayed in the room. Once he woke up, they went to Sapphire Falls for their pool. 

The pool was really wonderful for toddlers because the middle section is zero entry and perfect for Kelly’s son. After swimming for about an hour, they grabbed dinner at Sapphire Falls. 

Kelly brought their son back to the room to get him to sleep. Her husband rushed out to get to the parks before they closed. He got in line for VelociCoaster just as it was closing and was able to ride. 

Islands of Adventure (April 15)

They took the garden path into Islands of Adventure for early entry again. They weren’t sure what to do so they got Butter Beers before regrouping. They got in line for Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley.

They were within the first 40 people in line but were not on the first train. It was convenient because you can leave your stroller on the platform and it will be on the other platform when you arrive. Be sure to take what you need from your stroller when you get on the train.

When they got over there, Escape from Gringotts had a 15 minute posted wait time. Initially Kelly got in line but when she was about halfway through the line, her husband called her and opted to get in ride with her.

The child-swap option in Universal includes waiting in line together, one adult rides, and they switch off very close to getting on the ride.

After Kelly rode, her husband rode and they were ready to go back outside. They stopped at Twirl ‘and’n’ Hurl and Kelly rode with her son.

She had packed their swimsuits in the stroller so they took the water taxi to Portofino Bay to go swimming. Unfortunately, there is a lot of construction on this resort.

It took them some time to find the front desk to get their pass for the pool. Once they finally found the concierge, they were told that the main pool was closed. They went to the villa pool and it was fine.

There was a really nice locker room near this pool, which made pool hopping and going straight from the park very easy. They got lunch from the pool bar and went to the water taxi to get back to their resort.

While Kelly’s son napped, she did some laundry. When her son woke up, they did the lazy river at their resort. It was really nice and took about 10 minutes to float the whole thing.

They did not have as many life vests at the pool at Universal as they do at Disney Resorts. Kelly said they purchased water wings for her son because it was so difficult to find them.

They had dinner at the other pool court yard. It was Greek themed and they enjoyed that.

They all went back to the room and Kelly’s son went to bed. She folded laundry and they went to sleep.

Islands of Adventure (April 16)

Because the parks closed so early, they opted to have adult time by doing early entry. This morning Kelly set an alarm, and went to early entry while her husband got their son ready.

She went immediately to Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and was on and off in about 20 minutes. It was amazing.

When she got off, she met her son and husband. Together they rode his first rollercoaster: Flight of the Hippogriff. It was only 8:40 a.m. so they decided to do rider swap for Forbidden Journey.

They went over to the Jurassic play area. It was geared toward older kids but there was still plenty for Kelly’s son to do. They picked up some food from a stand and it was delicious.

At this point, Kelly realized that they didn’t have their diaper bag. Her husband went to the baby care center at the front of the park and got them for free. They also sell diapers at the gift shops.

They went to the Jurassic Park River Adventure. Kelly went first and then switched with her husband. Her son was ready to ride rides so they went on a few in Seuss land.

They walked back to their resort. It was very hot but they took the garden path. They had lunch in the resort. While her son napped, her husband went to ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. He did the single rider line but said it wasn’t shorter and was more boring than the regular line.

Kelly’s Birthday (April 17)

Everyone slept in until 7:30 a.m. and they got up to get ready. They did early entry at Volcano Bay, which was 9:30 a.m. They got there around 9:15 a.m. and there were about 200 people ahead of them.

Kelly notes that you should take towels from your resort pool because the towels at Volcano Bay are not free.

While the line was chaotic, once the gates opened, everything was fine. Kelly’s husband went ahead to get them a lounge chair near the children’s area.

They had the perfect spot in the shade and were thankful to get there early. They did the Krakatau Aqua Coaster and Kelly really enjoyed it.

They got delicious food for lunch at the water park. The pulled pork was really delicious.

All three of them went on the lazy river today. No one stopped Kelly from bringing their son with them but she later learned that he did not meet the height requirement.

They did bring their stroller but said that it would be better to skip the stroller at the water park if you can. At this point, they went back to their resort for nap time.

After nap time, they got on a bus to get to City Walk. They had a dinner reservation at 5:15 p.m. at Margaritaville. They only waited a short time thanks to their reservations.

They had great food and enjoyed it very much. There were balloon artists on stilts, which were really incredible. It was a really great meal and a good walk back to their resort.

Universal Studios (April 18)

They went through security at Islands of Adventure because of early entry. They went to Hogwarts Express and were on the first train over to Universal Studios.

They started at Transformers 3D and they did rider swap. Then they did the Revenge of the Mummy and Kelly was able to use the single rider line to get right on without a wait.

Then they went to Minion Blast. This is a standing ride like Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin. There is no height requirement but you cannot hold a child and they must be able to stand still on their dot.

They went over to E.T. and really liked it. This ride has a 36″ height requirement and Kelly’s son is just over 36″.

Kelly and her son did E.T. again while her son did the Simpson’s ride. By 11 a.m. the only thing left on Kelly’s list was to ride Men in Black.

They decided to do an early lunch at Leaky Cauldron. They mobile ordered as they walked over, which was great. On their way out, they got ice cream cones to enjoy as they walked out of the park.

On their way to the resort, they did some shopping on their way to get some air conditioning on the way to the bus back to their resort.

Their dinner this evening was at 5:15 p.m. at Mythos. Kelly really liked this a lot. She was able to get the reservation through the Universal app. It was a hot night, so they went on the carousel on their way out, but that was all they did.

Volcano Bay (April 19)

They arrived just a little bit earlier today and were through the gates to get their perfect spot again. The lazy river opened at 10 a.m. and this is when Kelly discovered that her son was not tall enough. He was so sad.

They went to the reef pool because her son really wanted to be in a pool. They walked around using their water park bands to interact with different elements around the water park.

They switched turns going on TeAwa The Fearless River, which was amazing according to Kelly. They had another delicious lunch of water park food.

They went back to the resort for Kelly’s son to nap. She packed up and her husband took a car to the Character Warehouse. They got some fun things.

Kelly’s son had a longer nap so they canceled their 5:15 p.m. dinner reservation Bigfire. She instead made a reservation at Sapphire Falls at Amista Cookhouse. They had an incredible meal and it was a great end to this portion of their trip.

Back to Disney (April 20)

Kelly wanted to try and ride TRON that evening so she set an alarm for 6:55 a.m. She missed out on the boarding group and ended up purchasing the individual lightning lane for 9:25 p.m.

After they finished packing, they met their driver to get back to Disney. It took almost an hour because there was a lot of traffic on the way back.

They arrived to Port Orleans French Quarter and their room was ready at 10:30 a.m. It was on the first floor, which was great.

Kelly really loved this resort, but she will not let go of having skyliner access. She liked that there was so much space for a pack ‘n’ play in this room.

After picking up their luggage from Bell Services, they saw a proposal on their way back to their room. They also realized that Kelly’s husband’s phone had some damage and they needed to get a new phone.

He ordered his phone on Kelly’s phone through Apple and it was delivered to their resort. This took up some of their day that they were not expecting.

They ordered food from Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory. They said that the mobile order menu doesn’t have as many options as in person.

Kelly took a ride to the Disney Character Warehouse near Disney and it was cute, but because it was Saturday, it was very crowded. When Kelly got back, her son was awake again and they went to the playground.

After the playground, they waited for a boat for 10 minutes and there wasn’t a boat going to Disney Springs. Kelly couldn’t wait anymore and took a bus to Disney Springs in just a few minutes.

They did some shopping and used mobile checkout. The Annual Pass discount is automatically applied and it was so easy! They also did some pin training before getting dinner at Eet. It was delicious and the bread service was delicious. You can bring your stroller into the restaurant.

After dinner, they took the boat back to their resort. You are able to bring your stroller right onto the boat without folding it down. They got back to the room and Kelly left immediately to get to Magic Kingdom for Happily Ever After.

Kelly arrived just in time to catch the show right on Main Street. She says it was absolutely amazing and beautiful. After the fireworks, she went into the park against the crowds leaving.

She went to TRON for her 9:25 p.m. lightning lane. She waited a bit longer because she wanted the front row, which was wonderful.

Then she went on PeopleMover and Aladdin’s Carpet Ride. Kelly says this is the best ride to go on at night. She was able to ride over and over.

Pirates of the Caribbean had just come back up, so she went on that without a wait. She went to Big Thunder Mountain and rode that with very little wait.

She had hot dog nuggets while watching the castle around 11 p.m. She went back to the resort and that was the end of her day.

Magic Kingdom (April 21)

They woke up at 6:55 a.m. and got group 18 for TRON. They took a bus to Magic Kingdom and arrived around 8:40 a.m. This was a perfect time for them to arrive.

Kelly and family at the Castle

They went right to it’s a small world first and got a snack. Kelly’s husband went to TRON. Once Barnstormer was open, they rode that several times in a row. Then they walked right on Dumbo.

Kelly and her son were able to ride Dumbo several times in a row as well. The play area wasn’t open yet and they were waiting for her husband to return from TRON.

Kelly’s husband met back up with them and they met all of the characters at Pete’s Silly Sideshow. They had automated photopass photographers, which are not great.

They got a marshmallow treat on their way out and hopped on the train. They took the stroller with them on the train and Kelly notes that you have to break it down and put it on the row with you.

When they got back, they did Enchanted Tales with Belle. This was really sweet and the cast members were great. When this was over, they went to the bus to have lunch in the room.

Kelly stayed in the room while her son napped and her husband went to Disney Springs. He tried to get Gideon’s but the line was long and it was very hot. He did some shopping and came back to the resort.

Kelly and son at Port Orleans French Quarter pool

They spent the evening at the resort. They went to the pool and had a blast. Her son loved the slide.

They got s’mores at the resort and enjoyed the evening. It was a great day.

Epcot (April 22)

Kelly’s husband had to work today so it was just Kelly and her son today. They were going to go to Magic Kingdom but opted to switch it to Epcot.

They took the bus to Epcot and Kelly notes that she missed the skyliner. She is not a big fan of the buses. They went to Spaceship Earth and Kelly’s son pushed the Spanish button before she could stop him.

They went to Frozen Ever After on their way to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and he did not like either at all. They took some photos outside in France and he loved that.

After that they went to the butterfly garden. This was wonderful and Kelly notes that she could bring the stroller inside, which made it easy.

Their next stop was the playground by Creations. It is designed for 2-5 year olds, which was perfect for Kelly’s son. They spent a while there and it was great.

Then Kelly mobile ordered lunch from Connections Cafe. This was difficult because she had to get the food, push the stroller, and she couldn’t find a table. It was challenging.

After lunch, Kelly took the bus back to the resort. She told her son that he needed to hold the fence at the bus, which kept him from running while she was folding the stroller.

Kelly’s husband had worked in line at Gideon’s so that he could get them cookies. She really loved the Chocolate Chip Cookies.

They had 5 p.m. dinner reservations at Sanaa but after looking at the price for a Minnie Van, Kelly opted to cancel it and got a 6 p.m. reservation for Roundup Rodeo.

They took the bus to Hollywood Studios and went on Alien Swirling Saucers after doing some shopping. They waited about 20 minutes for a table at Roundup Rodeo.

They were seated in the back behind Bo Peep and while the view wasn’t great, it was quieter. The food was really good and Kelly enjoyed it.

After dinner, they went back to the resort and went to bed.

Animal Kingdom (April 23)

Kelly’s husband was able to join them for Early Entry because it was so early. They arrived around 7:40 a.m. and went right to Na’vi River Journey. Their next stop was to walk back to Africa, which was so beautiful that early in the morning.

Kelly and her son on the Safari

There wasn’t a wait for the Safari so they did that twice in a row. Kelly’s son really enjoyed this. Kelly’s husband went to Nomad Lounge to get some work done. Kelly took her son to Boneyard to play.

He loved playing in the Boneyard. They played for about 40 minutes and Kelly took him to Triceratop Spin. After that he was trying to get to things he can’t get to and was filled with rage. She put him in a carrier and took him to see music.

Kelly's son on the rope bridge

He stayed and listened to the band and dancing and they had a blast. The crowd was really into it as well. They went shopping and Kelly forgot about lunch. They ended up at Pizzafari. Kelly notes that the gnocci was not good.

They went back to the resort for nap time, did some swimming, before finally getting beignets. She wasn’t impressed with the boozy beignets but loved the classic beignets.

It was a gorgeous night so they walked over to Port Orleans Riverside and looked around there. They went back to the room and got ready for bed.

Departure (April 24)

They will be picked up by Cast and Crew around 10 a.m. This gave them time for Mickey waffles and time at the playground before heading to the airport.

They didn’t have any issues on their travel home.

Tips for traveling with a toddler:

  • Kelly suggests getting a good travel stroller. They have the ErgoBaby Metro Stroller and loves it.
  • Bring a sound machine even if you do not use one at home.
  • Gogo Squeeze Yogurt Pouches – these are shelf stable
  • Personalized Temporary Tattoos if your child is a runner and you are worried about them running away from them.
  • Consider a leash for a child that might run.

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