By Soarin’ Diva
I know what you are thinking…wait a minute! Isn’t this the Tips From the DISNEY Diva page? Why am I seeing a review and giveaway for a book about Universal Orlando? This is hard to believe, especially for huge Walt Disney World fans such as myself, but there is another amazing theme park very close to the Disney parks called Universal Orlando. I confess, I have never been yet, but one of my sons has and, though he loves Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando holds a special place in his heart as well.
My husband has always wanted to go to Universal Orlando, but we have held out to this date. The reason we haven’t gone is because, honestly, I can be a bit of a wimp when it comes to riding what my imagination calls extreme coasters. Our money probably wouldn’t be well spent if I went, but didn’t ride anything. We also don’t know anything about Universal Orlando, nothing about the rides and attraction, resorts or anything. There’s a great tool out there, though, that is going to help us a lot in deciding if Universal Orlando is actually something that we should experience or not. To learn more about the subject, we turned to our family’s favorite expert in the touring field, The Unofficial Guide. Ever since we discovered what a valuable asset the guide books from The Unofficial Guide are, we have faithfully purchased one every year. The writes for the guide books go to their destinations often throughout the year and are experts on their subjects. As a matter of fact, the author of The Unofficial Guide Universal Orlando 2019 is a Seth Kubersky, who used to be employed by Universal Orlando and has decades of expert knowledge based on in-depth research. Every new attraction that opens is covered in detail and you can guarantee that each year, the books are as up to date as possible, with 2019’s including important news on the huge expansion (including NEW theme parks) coming to Universal Orlando!
With all of this said, let’s get started on my review of The Unofficial Guide Universal Orlando 2019. All of the guide books feature “parts” instead of chapters, so with The Unofficial Guide Universal Orlando, the book is divided into ten parts, each part is dedicated to filling the reader in on extremely valuable information.
Part One: Planning Before You Leave Home – As a semi-pro for planning my Walt Disney World trips, I pretty much know everything I need to do before I leave. I’m totally clueless for planning a trip to Universal Orlando, however, so I’m very thankful for Part One of this guide book. What I love about Part One is the fact all the addresses and phone numbers that you could possibly need are one of the first things listed. You can’t plan a vacation without needing to make some important calls to book your resort, meals or tickets, right? Unofficial Guide has you covered for this! It also informs the reader of great web sites to turn to for questions you may have, what to expect for different seasons, park hours, various prices of tickets, discounts that can be found, behind the scenes tours, in-depth details about Universal Express and even what to expect at rope drop for attractions. Part One is jam-packed with so much information for a Universal newbie like me, it actually makes me feel comfortable stepping out of my Disney vacation comfort zone and planning a Universal vacation.
Part Two: Accommodations – Well, if you are planning a vacation, you need somewhere to stay, right? Part Two is an extremely in-depth look into all of the resorts on Universal property, as well as off-site resorts. It gives key details into everything the resorts have to offer, such as kid zones, dining, swimming pools, business centers and more. It also lists the Universal Orlando Resort policies, which is something I recommend everyone staying on-site make themselves familiar with. It explains how to find discounts, make your reservations, policies for cancellations, pets and smoking. There are great profiles about the on-site resorts with tons of details. The best thing about Part Two is the comparison charts between the 30 best hotel values and the charts of how both on-site and off-site hotels compare with each other for quality and cost.
Part Three: Arriving and Getting Around – This is full of great maps, directions, info about shuttles and trollys, parking and more. For someone who is Universal Orlando challenged like me, this is extremely valuable information!
Part Four: Bare Necessities – Things come up on vacation, things we sometimes don’t expect. This part of the book is to help prepare you before hand if possible. The very first words of Part Four deal with money. Lost your cash somewhere or just plain forgot it? This features a section listing where the ATM’s are located around Universal Orlando. It also tells you where you can exchange currency, which credit cards are accepted and even how much sales tax will be charged during your visit. This is where you can learn how to handle those unexpected closures of attractions, where to report lost and found items and where you can grab some Aspirin for that stress headache you developed when you ran out of cash. The best part of this section is the detailed information for special needs guests, from dietary restrictions to those who have larger physical restrictions.
Part Five: Universal Orlando With Kids – Wait…there are kids who go to Universal Orlando? Well I guess it’s a good thing there’s an entire section devoted to those kids in this book! Here is where you can find out which characters they can meet, and what the kids can expect from that meeting. There’s a lot of great info on stroller availability and rentals and what to do if, heaven forbid, a child gets separated from their family and lost. A great aspect of this part, in my opinion, is the Small-Child Fright-Potential Table. Wow, if my youngest son was still small, this would be an invaluable section for me. It is so detailed in noise level, light level, motion sensitivity, and more of the darker and scarier aspects.
Part Six: Dining and Shopping at Universal Orlando – Food allergies, character meals, quick service, drinks, popcorn, full service, ice cream and the world-famous Butter Beer. It’s ALL here in this section. There are ratings for each on-property dining hole as well as info for dining off-site.
Part Seven: Universal Studios Florida – The first thing I noticed about this section was the detailed park map. I’m a very visual person, so this is a key element for me. Now I can find my way over to Transformers: The Ride – 3-D with no problem! This is where you can orient yourself with the park before you go. It lists all the attractions you will find at Universal Orlando as well as the special events (like Halloween Horror Nights) and live shows. It even explains how to create your Universal Orlando touring plan.
Part Eight: Universal’s Islands of Adventure: This section is dedicated to…wait for it…Universal’s Islands of Adventure, a second Universal theme park. Apparently, as a scary coaster fraidy cat, this is the section I needed to read the most. This section gives details on all the rides, such as soak level, nausea inducing an my least favorite thing of all, loops (I’m always afraid I’m going to be stuck upside down on a loop, shudder.) There are also a ton of great details on what is probably the most popular thing at Universal Orlando, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.
Part Nine: Universal’s Volcano Bay – If you or the kids are in to water parks, the information on Universal’s Volcano bay in this section for you! Of course there are details such as height restrictions for each attraction, duration of rides, where to rent your locker to keep your goodies dry and safe and a touring plan section.
Part Ten: Universal Orlando CityWalk – Okay, what? I know I know virtually nothing about Universal Orlando, but I have literally never heard of CityWalk. At least I can learn about it in The Unofficial Guide Universal Orlando 2019. The Walt Disney World gal in me can compare Universal CityWalk to Disney Springs. This section of the book explains the admission price, parking, great dining, clubs, entertainment and shopping at Universal CityWalk. Stop…you had me at dining!
So in a nutshell, this is just a bit of what is featured in The Unofficial Guide Universal Orlando 2019. I honestly don’t think I could properly plan a Universal vacation without this amazing tool. There are probably more details than I will ever need featured in this guidebook. I love all the maps featured and really love utilizing the touring plans from The Unofficial Guide. As I stated before, my family doesn’t plan a vacation without The Unofficial Guide helping us via their guidebooks.
If you are thinking about trying Universal Orlando for your next family vacation, but aren’t sure where to start, all you have to do is contact our recommended travel agent, Patricia at All Dreams for Travel, and she can do all the work for you. Best of all, all of her services are FREE, all you have to do is click here to request a quote!
GIVEAWAY: Would you like to win a copy of this Unofficial Guide for yourself?? Great news, we’ve partnered with the Unofficial Guides to offer one lucky Tips from the Disney Divas and Devos reader a copy of their own Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2019!
First, you will need to sign up for the Unofficial Guide newsletter here.
Second, you will need to like Tips from the Disney Diva on Facebook
You will use the Rafflecopter link below to confirm your entries – additional entries are available, but the two mentioned above are mandatory to enter.
You will need to “LIKE” each of the Facebook entries for those to count. All entries will be verified. The winner will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond. The contest ends on Wednesday, January 16. GOOD LUCK!
**Disclaimer: All photo’s were provided to me by Liliane Opsomer from The Unofficial Guide series, if you want to share any of these photo’s, please credit the photographer, Liliane Opsomer. Lilliane Opsomer from The Unofficial Guide series provided me a complimentary copy of The Unofficial Guide Universal Orlando 2019 to review. She graciously allowed Tips from the Disney Divas and Devos to give away another Unofficial Guide book to our readers. I received no other compensation for my review, and opinions are completely my own.