Thinking of staying at a Universal Orlando hotel? There’s never been a better time! With a wide range of perks like Early Park Admission and free transportation at Universal’s eight on-site hotels, there’s something for everyone! Universal hotels are divided into four pricing tiers: Value, Prime Value, Preferred, and Premier. Below, we provide our picks for the top Universal hotels in each category.
Benefits of Staying at a Universal Hotel
Universal provides great benefits for staying at an on-property hotel. One of the best perks is Early Park Admission, which allows you to enter Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure up to one hour before general admission and enjoy a select number of attractions. You can also enter Volcano Bay up to 30 minutes early. Rides available during Early Park Admission rotate regularly, so check out an updated list of available attractions before you arrive.
Every Universal Resort offers complimentary transportation, although most resorts (all except Endless Summer Resort) are within walking distance of the parks. Shuttles are available at every on-property resort, and several offer water taxis.
Merchandise delivery is another convenient benefit for Universal hotel guests. You can arrange to deliver your in-park or CityWalk purchases to your Universal hotel the next day.
Now that we’ve covered the perks of staying at a Universal hotel, here are the top picks for Universal hotels in each category.
Endless Summer Resort: Dockside Inn & Suites
Endless Summer Resort is made up of two sister hotels, Dockside Inn & Suites and Surfside Inn & Suites. These two resorts offer affordable accommodations for families with a host of activities and are a short distance away from the theme parks. Both resorts offer similar amenities, so you can’t go wrong with either one. However, Dockside is larger and offers more dining and entertainment options. Dockside also has two pools, including one with a sand beach. Can’t decide between Dockside or Surfside? No worries. All Endless Summer Resort guests can enjoy the amenities and activities at both hotels.
Prime Value Resort
Cabana Bay Beach Resort
Universal’s largest hotel is an excellent choice for families and groups. Its bright, retro theming gives the resort a fun vibe and takes you back to the iconic beach hotels of the 50s and 60s. Everyone in the family will love the vast amount of activities at the resort, from the lazy river, sand beach pools, and the bowling alley. There are also family-friendly dining options, like the Bayliner Diner and Galaxy Bowl Restaurant. Some rooms offer fantastic views of Volcano Bay. The connected walking trail to the water park provides a convenient way to splish and splash all day. Cabana Bay’s family suites can sleep up to six guests, making them an ideal choice for families! For those who’d enjoy a bit more space and an amazing view, there are also Volcano Bay View 2-Bedroom Suites that sleep eight guests.
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
Universal’s only preferred-level resort offers well-priced rooms with the amenities of a higher-tiered resort. One of the resort’s key amenities is the 16,000-square-foot pool, the largest one at Universal. The pool area features a beach, splash area, and a waterslide. Spend the day at the resort for a relaxing tropical feel as the kids play pool games like water balloon tosses around the pool deck. Rent a cabana for added luxury and comfort!
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel Rounding out our list is Universal’s first and most luxurious resort, Portofino Bay. Replicating a famous waterfront village in the Italian Riviera, this resort combines the beauty and romance of Europe with the thrills and excitement of being a short water taxi ride away from Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Portofino Bay rooms are some of the largest on property, averaging 450 square feet each. The resort also offers several suite categories, three pools, and the most dining locations of any Universal resort. There is also a salon and spa on site.
Plus, as a premier Universal Resort guest, you’ll receive complimentary Universal Express Unlimited passes for each night of your stay. This allows you to save time in the parks and skip the lines as much as you want!
Universal Vacations—Planned with Just Add Magic Travel®
Now’s the time to visit Universal Orlando! Get a quote for your Universal vacation here. Have questions about your trip? Contact Just Add Magic Travel today! For more tips and tricks for planning Universal vacations, check out our blog, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
Spring break is one of the most popular times to visit theme parks like Disney and Universal, and it’s easy to see why. Typically dry weather with low humidity and mild temperatures makes Orlando a great place to escape wintery weather and trade it for sunny skies. Plus, with the kids out of school for a whole week, it’s a great time to go on an adventure with your family. Spring break season in Orlando typically starts at the beginning of March and runs through Easter. Here are some tips to maximize your Disney or Universal spring break vacation during this busy season.
Check the Weather
The weather in Florida is typically gorgeous this time of year, with sunny skies and highs in the 70s and 80s. However, the occasional cold snap is possible, ushered in by rainy days, overcast weather, and daily highs in the 50s or 60s. Make sure you double-check the weather before you leave and pack a pair of jeans, so you don’t get stuck freezing in shorts during an all-day excursion to the parks.
Skip the Lines
Spring break is a busy time to visit Orlando theme parks, and you’ll see this reflected in the standby wait times for most attractions. Take full advantage of your time by utilizing services that allow you to skip attraction lines, such as Genie+ at Walt Disney World and Express Passes at Universal Orlando. The extra expense of these services will be well worth the price of being able to practically walk onto most rides.
Get Extra Time at Parks: Stay on Property
Disney and Universal offer early theme park entry for resort guests staying on property. It’s one of the best perks of staying at a Disney or Universal hotel. Get a head start and be one of the first in line for popular attractions with long wait times.
Walt Disney World Resort guests can enter any of the four theme parks up to 30 minutes early every day of their stay. Deluxe Resort guests can enjoy Extended Evening Hours and spend up to two additional hours at Magic Kingdom or EPCOT on select evenings.
Universal Resort guests can enter Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios up to one hour early each day and ride select attractions. The list of attractions available during Early Park Admission rotates every few weeks and includes some of the most popular rides at the park. View a list of current Early Park Admission attractions here.
Taking advantage of these early-morning entry perks can make a massive difference in the number of attractions you can ride before the parks get busy later in the morning. If you find it hard to get up early, consider taking a midday break to compensate.
Mobile Order Food
Ordering your meals and snacks with mobile ordering is one of the simplest and best ways to save time at Disney or Universal. Mobile ordering is available through the My Disney Experience or Universal Orlando apps, making it easy and convenient to order food and select a time to have it ready. You can pick an arrival window to order a meal in advance, so you’ll spend less time stressing about when and where to eat. You’ll receive a notification when your order is ready for pickup. Then, head to the dedicated mobile ordering station to get your meal—skipping the regular order lines inside. Mobile ordering is available at a wide range of quick-service restaurants and snack kiosks throughout the theme parks. Before arrival, take some time to get familiar with your options, so you know how it works.
Schedule a Resort Day
Taking a day off from visiting the theme parks to enjoy your resort is a great way to re-energize your group mid-trip. It allows everyone to take a breather and rest, minimizing overstimulation and tiredness throughout your vacation. There are plenty of activities for you to stay busy at a Disney or Universal resort, from pools, splash pads, paddle boats, horseback riding, fishing, tennis, shows, and outdoor movies. If you want to venture outside your resort, take advantage of mini golf courses, boat rides to and from other resorts, or go on a Disney Skyliner joyride. Plus, you can enjoy the shops, eateries, and entertainment at Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk. Everyone will be well-rested and ready to hit the ground running on your next park day!
Vacation Planning with Just Add Magic Travel®
Spring break is a great time to visit Orlando, and with these few helpful tips, you can ensure your family has an unforgettable vacation. For more advice for planning theme park vacations, check out the blog. Looking ahead to plan next year’s spring break vacation? Get a free quote for your trip today!
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Virgin Voyages, a new cruise line from the Virgin Group (founded by billionaire Richard Branson), is making waves and revolutionizing how people think of cruising. Virgin Voyages is the world’s first adults-only cruise line, specifically catering to guests 18 and over (however, sailors over 21 will have the most fun). Since its first sailing in 2021, Virgin Voyages has continuously set itself apart from traditional cruises. Here’s what you need to know about one of the cruise industry’s newest fleets.
Virgin Voyages Ships
Although the cruise line is only two years old, the fleet has launched three ships (with another in production) sailing around the world. Each vessel features a “super yacht,” sleek design, invoking an elegant and luxurious vibe. Every ship offers a similar design, features, and offerings, giving you the best Virgin experience wherever you sail.
The cruise line’s first ship had its inaugural sailing in August 2021 and has wowed cruisers ever since. It was awarded Best New Cruise Ship by Cruise Critic and other awards such as Best New Cruise Line from U.S. News. Scarlet Lady sails out of Port Miami for Caribbean cruises.
The second ship of the fleet spends its summers in Europe and sails in the Caribbean during the winter. Its home port is Barcelona, Spain.
With a home port in Athens, Greece, this ship takes sailors on unforgettable getaways in the South Pacific, including Australia.
The newest addition to the Virgin fleet will join the crew by the end of 2023. It will offer several improvements and will sail transatlantic voyages.
What’s Included with Virgin Voyages Adults Only Cruises?
One of the stand-out features of Virgin Voyages cruises are the complimentary amenities. Unlike many other cruise lines, all food is included with your cruise fare. You can eat at any of the 20+ dining locations on board at any time—there are no upcharges for specialty dining. Guests also have the ultimate dining flexibility with no structured dining times or a central dining hall. It’s best to book reservations at your most desired restaurants ahead of time to ensure you get a table. There are tons of dining options to choose from, from an upscale seafood and steak chophouse to vegetarian and juice bars. Exciting venues include a test kitchen, where an on-site chef transforms a list of ingredients into a meal from scratch. The Galley is a food court that offers a variety of meals and snacks day and night. Other dining options include Mexican fare at Pink Agave and traditional Italian favorites at Extra Virgin. Basic drinks are also included, like sparkling and still water, teas, coffee, and soft drinks. For an additional fee, you can add on a premium beverage package that includes alcohol and cocktails.
WiFi is also free onboard, and guests are encouraged to utilize the Virgin Voyages app for ship updates, excursions, onboard entertainment, and itineraries throughout their cruise.
Virgin Voyages emphasizes health and wellness, providing complimentary group fitness classes such as yoga, HIIT, cycling, and meditation. There’s also a full-scale athletic center and facilities like a basketball court and an on-deck boxing ring.
Since Virgin Voyages is an adults-only cruise line, it has a lively, energetic atmosphere that is brought to light brilliantly with the entertainment offerings on board. There are several bars and lounges, including a karaoke bar and a gaming/movie lounge. Music lovers can listen to rare tracks at Voyage Vinyl, with personal listening stations filled with curated albums from upcoming artists. There is also a multi-story nightclub called The Manor. DJs can be found at several locations on board— even in the thermal room of the ship’s spa. Virgin Voyages also flips classic theatrical shows found on many cruise lines on its head. Instead, the Red Room is a transformational theater venue that can morph into four different configurations, such as a traditional stage, a catwalk, and a dance floor. This allows for entertainment to change each night. Innovative shows are produced by immersive troupes like the 7 Fingers circus company and Phantom Folktales. From flash mobs to interactive dance parties, Virgin Voyages creates a party vibe night and day.
Virgin Voyages sail to over 100 destinations worldwide, including the Caribbean, Europe, and the South Pacific. Virgin Voyages offers the most itineraries to the Caribbean, with stops in places like Costa Maya, Cozumel, Playa Del Carmen, St. Croix, and the Dominican Republic. Every Caribbean sailing also includes a visit to The Beach Club at Bimini, the cruise line’s exclusive destination in the Bahamas. There, you’ll find a relaxing beach (complete with complimentary loungers, umbrellas, and daybeds), two pools, three bars, and nightly entertainment.
European itineraries stop in luxurious locations such as Barcelona, France, and Italy. South Pacific destinations include Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania.
Virgin Voyages boasts that 93% of all staterooms have ocean views, and 86% have balconies. The modern accommodations have many advanced technological features, like color-changing mood lights, automatic blinds, and ample charging stations. Another innovation for Virgin Voyages is the implementation of the “seabed,” a bed that converts into a sofa to leave more gathering space during the day. There are four primary room categories: Sea Terraces, which include balconies; Sea Views, with ocean-view portholes; Insider rooms, specifically designed for solo sailors; and RockStar Quarters, the onboard suites. Suite guests get early restaurant and entertainment access, express embarkation, and a free drink from the full in-room bar. RockStar Quarters also include a team that will help you unpack and even dry your swimsuit overnight.
Virgin Voyages include a full spa with a hydrotherapy pool, mud and salt rooms, quartz beds, and a thermal suite. There’s also a barber shop and beauty bar offering blowouts and hairstyling. Squid Ink is the first-ever tattoo shop at sea and can be found on every Virgin Voyages ship.
Sail the Virgin Way —Plan your Cruise with Just Add Magic Travel®!
Ready to experience Virgin Voyage’s adults-only cruises? Let Just Add Magic Travel find the perfect cruise to celebrate a milestone anniversary, bachelorette or bachelor party, graduation celebration, girl’s trip, or any other occasion. Virgin Voyages offers a fantastic cruising experience for adults of any age. It’s great for experienced cruisers looking for a different type of cruise!
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Genie+ is an add-on service that allows guests to skip the standby lines at many popular attractions at Disney theme parks. Since it first premiered at Walt Disney World and Disneyland in October 2021, Genie+ has become an integral part of planning a Disney vacation, whether you choose to utilize the service or not. Below, we discuss how Genie+ works, what’s included, and whether it’s a worthwhile expense to budget for during your Disney vacation.
How Genie+ Works
With Genie+, you make reservations to enter an attraction’s Lightning Lane entrance (the faster, non-standby line). After selecting the ride you’d like to reserve, you’re given the next available one-hour arrival window to return to the ride. All guests can make their first reservation starting at 7 am each day. You can make your second selection two hours after the park opens (typically between 10 and 11 am on most days). You can make additional reservations one at a time once you scan into the Lightning Lane for a previous reservation or two hours after you’ve made a reservation (whichever comes first). You check into each attraction by entering the Lighting Lane and tapping the Mickey Mouse-shaped scanners using your smartphone or MagicBand. Genie+ works when park hopping, and you can now modify reservations.
Attractions Included with Genie+
There are 40 Genie+ attractions available across all four theme parks at Walt Disney World and 19 at Disneyland. Attractions change from time to time. Currently, Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World leads the way with the most rides available with the Genie+ service. Some of the attractions included in Genie + are:
Walt Disney World
Attractions like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Avatar Flight of Passage aren’t included with Genie+. If you want to skip the standby line for these rides, you will need to purchase access to the Lighting Lane individually, which you can do with or without buying Genie+.
Genie+ is an add-on service that must be purchased for each member of your party. Just like theme park tickets, pricing varies by day and demand. Prices start at $15 per person at Walt Disney World and $25 per person at Disneyland.
Other Genie+ Features
The main benefit of Genie+ is the ability to skip the standby line and experience many park attractions while saving time. However, there are a few other features of Genie+ you’ll want to take advantage of (they’re a great way to pass the time in standby queues and while waiting for shows, parades, and fireworks). PhotoPass AR filters allow you to “genie-fy” yourself or transform into some of your favorite Disney characters. Some filters are only available in specific locations at the parks, so it’s a fun scavenger hunt to find them all. Non-location-based filters can be used up to 45 days after your Genie+ purchase. At Disneyland, you get unlimited PhotoPass digital downloads for the day you purchase Genie+. Audio guides also give you some behind-the-scenes looks and fun facts about the parks.
How to Purchase Genie+
At Walt Disney World, Genie+ must be purchased the day you want to use it through the My Disney Experience app. You can buy Genie+ starting at midnight at make your first ride reservation at 7 am. Genie+ is subject to availability, so it may be beneficial to purchase it earlier in the day to ensure you can get it. Once you’re in the My Disney Experience app, select “My Disney Genie Day” from the dashboard. Then hit the “My Day” tab, and tap “Get Disney Genie+ for Today.”
At Disneyland, Genie+ can be added to vacation packages.
Is Genie+ Worth It?
Yes! Purchasing this service is worth its value in the amount of time you’ll save standing in line to experience popular attractions, especially if you’re visiting during peak times. The ability to skip the lines gives you more opportunities to enjoy everything the parks have to offer without spending half your day waiting in standby queues.
Disney Vacation Planning with Just Add Magic Travel®
Take the stress out of planning your Disney vacation with Just Add Magic Travel. Although Genie+ is a service you must purchase the day you plan to use it, I can provide helpful tips and guide you on how to get the most out of Genie+ so you’re ready to go on your selected park day. If you have any questions about how this service works and whether it’s right for you, contact me today. I’m happy to help! Ready to plan your next magical vacation? Get a free quote for your trip here.
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Say Aloha to Aulani
Does wintery, chilly weather have you dreaming of a tropical paradise? You’ve come to the right place. Curl up with a blanket and some hot chocolate as we daydream about warm ocean breezes and lush tropical landscapes by deep diving into Aulani, Disney’s Resort and Spa in Hawaii!
Aulani is located on the leeward side of O’ahu in the Ko Olina beach area, a short drive from Honolulu. Aulani sits on 21 acres of beachfront property, nestled between lush tropical gardens and majestic mountains. The resort opened in 2011 and has been one of the most sought-after Disney destinations worldwide. “Aulani” means “messenger of a chief” in Hawaiian. The resort embodies the character and culture of the islands in every detail.
Aulani offers spacious accommodations for families, groups, and couples. A standard room sleeps four people and includes either two queen beds or one king and one queen sleeper sofa. One-bedroom suites feature a living area and one and a half bathrooms. The luxurious two-bedroom suites offer nearly 2,000 square feet of living space, with three bathrooms, two bedrooms, and a guaranteed ocean view. Aulani also has one, two, and three-bedroom Villas which offer homey touches like kitchenettes and in-room washers/dryers.
Each room type offers multiple views, so you can enjoy breathtaking scenery from your window or private balcony. Views include ocean, poolside gardens, island gardens, partial ocean, and standard.
Aulani offers two full-service restaurants, several lounges, and multiple quick-service eateries on-site. Here’s an overview of the available dining options:
`AMA ’AMA provides contemporary island fare with a four-course, prix-fixe menu for dinner. This oceanfront eatery is the perfect place to watch a Hawaiian sunset while savoring the fresh flavors of the island.
Makahiki—Bounty of the Islands
As the other table-service restaurant at Aulani, Makahiki offers breakfast and dinner in a family-friendly environment day and night. The kids will love dining with their favorite Disney characters during the daily themed character breakfast, which includes a three-course meal. Dinner is also a preset three-course meal featuring chef-designed dishes that infuse fresh ingredients.
The resort has several lounges where adults can enjoy drinks, island-inspired cocktails, small plates, and appetizers. Off The Hook is an open-air lounge offering Hawaiian appetizers and beverages overlooking the beach. The`Ōlelo Room is an adult-centered hangout that features a variety of beer, wine, liquor, and cocktails.
Ulu Cafe offers a variety of carryout meals and grab-n-go items, including poke bowls and snacks. It’s a perfect lunch spot! There are also snack kiosks that dot the resort, serving frozen treats, snacks, and cocktails.
The bountiful amenities offered at Aulani are where the resort shines. From traditional Hawaiian classes like lei-making and hula dancing to golf and watersports like snorkeling and paddle boarding, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Pools & Water fun
Waikolohe Valley is the resort’s primary pool and play area, featuring 8,000 square feet of wet family fun. Waikolohe Stream is a lazy river that encompasses the resort, complete with a tube slide that plunks you down into the middle of the action. There is also a thrilling body slide located at Waikolohe Pool, the largest pool on the property. In addition, there are four whirlpools, an infinity-edge pool, and an adult-only quiet pool. The little ones will have a great time splishing and splashing at two splash areas. One of these areas, Menehune Bridge, is themed after Hawaii’s legendary Menehune, or “little people,” who are believed to live in the deep forests within the island.
One of the best add-on experiences at Aulani is snorkeling at Rainbow Reef, Aulani’s private lagoon. It’s filled with thousands of tropical fish, which you get to see up close in a way you’ve never experienced before.
Aulani’s award-winning beach sits on one of Ko Olina’s man-made lagoons, offering a tranquil and peaceful place for people of all ages to enjoy a refreshing dip in the ocean. Beach umbrellas, lounge chairs, sand toys, and boogie boards are included with your stay.
If you want to get pampered on your vacation, check out Aulani’s full-service spa and salon. It features a hydrotherapy garden, facial treatments, massages, and even family treatments so everyone can join in.
KA WA’A Luau
One can’t-miss experience at Aulani is KA WA’A, a nightly luau. This three-hour dinner experience allows you to explore the history and wonder of the Hawaiian islands with performances by local dancers and artists. The event includes an authentic Hawaiian buffet meal featuring prime rib, seafood, and other local delicacies.
Character Meet & Greets
Other exciting entertainment includes various Disney character meet and greets throughout the resort. See Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Pluto, and Daisy decked out in their best vacation attire. They make appearances randomly throughout the resort and at poolside parties at Waikolohe Valley. Lilo, Stitch, Duffy, and Moana are also known to stop by. There are a few premium character interaction experiences at the resort, such as Kakamora Chaos with Moana, where you’ll learn how to play authentic Hawaiian games, and an exclusive “Surf’s Up” themed pool party.
Aunty’s Beach House is the ultimate kid hangout at the resort. At this drop-off activity center, kids 5 to 12 years old can participate in various activities and entertainment made just for them. Tweens and teens also get areas where they can relax, with teen-only pool parties, sunset music celebrations, and the North Shore Beach Zone. There is also a game room for kids of all ages.
The Adventure of a lifetime Awaits at Aulani— Book with Just Add Magic Travel®
If you’re looking for a new way to experience a Disney destination, Aulani offers a different type of dream vacation that goes far beyond the theme parks. Explore the Hawaiian islands and rest assured you’re in excellent hands with Disney’s commitment to service and resort quality. Get a free quote for your unforgettable Hawaiian vacation today!
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Disney After Hours is a separately ticketed nighttime event at Walt Disney World. Disney After Hours began in 2016 and rose in popularity once Disney parks reopened after the pandemic closures. Since then, Disney After Hours has offered guests a unique way to experience the parks with minimal crowds on select nights during the year. Curious about what it’s like and whether you should join in on the nighttime fun during your Disney vacation? Read this guide to learn more!
Owner of Just Add Magic Travel