Our little family had the opportunity recently to go on a trip and we hastily researched, splurged and booked our week long summer vacation to Orlando. The main attraction was going to be Universal Studio’s new water park Volcano Bay. Of course on a first visit, and a last minute one at that, you likely won’t think of everything you’ll need to get the most bang for your buck. I’d like to share with you what it was like visiting this park with a toddler, what you need to know before you shell out all that money, and my tips for getting the most out of your visit.
Why Universal’s Water Park instead of Sea World or Disney?
First off, is there anything Orlando doesn’t have? Multiple Disney parks, Universal Parks, Sea World parks, fishing, shopping, a zoo, a botanical garden, an aquarium, restaurants, and resorts are just a few of the highlights. If you can’t find something in Orlando, you probably don’t need it.
That said, with so many parks and water parks to choose from, why Volcano Bay? (It is the most expensive water park!)
- We liked the Polynesian theme at Volcano Bay. It made us feel like we were going to Hawaii for a day.
- Disney World is very busy in the summer and with limited fast passes the amount of attractions we can visit are also very limited.
- Summer temps in Florida are high making a water park more appealing.
- For an extra $15-20 (on average) on an admission ticket (compared to other water parks in the area) you’ll have little to no lines/wait times and spend more time in the water having fun.
- There is ample water fun for the whole family.
- Sea World’s Aquatica had the best price point and was a good contender- VB seemed to have more for us.
- Parking and getting into the park was a BREEZE compared to every other park I’ve visited! Huge win for anyone traveling with small children!
Our Experience Doing Volcano Bay with a Three Year Old
Doing Volcano Bay with a three year old who is under 42 inches means we only saved $5 on her ticket compared to our adult tickets, there were many attractions she was too short for and not mentally ready to try yet, and yet we never got bored. With a complementary life jacket (or you could bring your own) we could take her with us in:
- The wave pool / beach
- The slower lazy river
- Several children’s pools and splash areas
- The small slides
We went from one thing to another all day from 9:40am to 4pm and never waited in a line. We didn’t even use our tapu tapu watches (more on that below) but that is another tool to add ease to the visit. There are just so many open areas to enjoy that don’t require lines. Though we didn’t take advantage of every attraction, we had a great time.
What you need to know before you get there and tips to make the most of your visit
- Height restrictions: If you have an adventurous child, you’ll want to know before hand how many rides they are tall enough to enjoy. Similarly, if you have bigger kids that want to ride the little rides with siblings, they may be too tall.
- Be ready to take advantage of the tapu tapu watch. You’ll receive one to use for the day and will return it before you exit, but to get the most out of it, take your smart phone with you and have the universal app downloaded with credit card info already in place. It would not be fun to try and figure it all out when you get to the park so have those things done the day before and then get your watch synced when you get there. You can lock your valuables in one of the lockers if you rent it (We paid $12). Another option for your phone is a light waterproof case with a strap like this one. What’s awesome and convenient about this tapu tapu watch is that you can use it to save you a virtual spot in line for rides while you rest or hang out in an open pool or you can use it to buy drinks and snacks throughout the day without having to carry your money around.
- Have enough adults in your party to take turns watching children and going on the big rides. This wasn’t a priority for us but it’s a good idea if you want to maximize what you get out your visit.
- Pictures! There are photo op areas throughout the park if you know where to find them. You can scan your tapu tapu, look up, and get pictures. Many park visitors used a case for their smartphones to take pictures which I would also like to try to make things much lighter for traveling with kids and getting lots of pictures!
- A sarong is a must have accessory. At the end of the day we were ready to get back to our car, to the hotel, and hit the shower. I loved having a sarong to wrap like a dress for exiting the park. It folds up so small and light yet provides ample coverage over a swimsuit!
We really enjoyed our visit to Universal’s Volcano Bay with our toddler. The ticket price is a pretty high, the wait times are low, and there are plenty of attractions for little ones and adults. It’s a good idea to go with extra adults who can take turns supervising little ones while you go on the big slides. The tapu tapu watch is a great tool if you download the Universal App before hand and remember to bring your phone to the park to sync Credit Card info for buying drinks and snacks with the watch. Be prepared for extra fees such as for locker and towel rentals, refreshments, souvenirs and pictures. You can save a little on your investment with preparation and buying a few accessories online before you get there.