- Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
- What to take to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
We love coming to Universal. We love coasters. We love Harry Potter. This is our place. We come enough that I’m routinely asked for tips, so I thought start sharing a few here starting with what to take and what not to take.
Every person in your group should carry a drawstring backpack (like this)
Let me explain this. Many families are inclined to just carry one single bag that everyone jams their stuff into. And that can work. But that ends up with one huge bag that one person has to haul around. On top of that, anytime someone wants something from the bag, then you have to stop and dig it out. If you have four sweatshirts in the bag, it’s almost impossible to find anything. It can really slow down the group. Plus, it’s hard to get those big backpacks into the lockers. Every person, kids included, should have their own bag. They are cheap, small, and lightweight. Then if anyone needs something, they can get it. My entire family are converts to carrying their own bags.
Here’s what goes into the bag:
- a light sweatshirt – it can be chilly in the morning and the evenings. On top of that, they keep those restaurants really cold (I would say they do that intentionally to keep people from staying too long, but that’s only my assumption). If you have a sweatshirt, you don’t have to rush through your meal because you are freezing.
- a rain poncho – it rains a lot here. There is nothing worse to me than walking around soaking wet for hours. Plus, wearing a poncho on some of the water rides will keep you from getting too wet (although it’s fairly useless on Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges.) They sell ponchos in the parks, but they are pricey. I buy them at the drugstore before we leave.
- bandaids – we have never come to Universal where we haven’t needed bandaids for one reason or another. Either a scraped knee, a hang nail, or more commonly blistered heels.
- their magic wand – if you go to Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade and get a wand (I strongly recommend the Ollivander’s experience), then you can cast spells. My kids both have wands. If you put all the wands in the bag, then every time a kid wants a wand you have to dig it out. So much more convenient if they have it in their own bag.
- a snack or two – kids get hungry. It gets expensive to buy snacks at the park. Give everyone a couple of snacks in their bag. A granola bar (not chocolate, it’ll melt) or snack size goldfish or other cracker. DO NOT bag up your own snacks in ziploc bags. If one of those bags break you have a crumbly mess all over your bag. I learned this the hard way. Bring sealed up snacks!
- their own device – if the kids are bringing their phones or iPods, they should put them in their own bag. It’s easy to get cranky when your kid are constantly asking you to give them their device or asking you to hold it. In fact, that’s true of everything on this list.
- park map – even if you know the park well, it’s nice to have it to reference when you are walking around or waiting in line. And yes, everyone should have their own copy! That way they can pull it out whenever they want and if one gets destroyed, you have spares.
Optional items in the bag:
- a backup battery for devices – nice to have if you start to run low. Make it a small one though, pocket-sized so you aren’t weighing your bag down.
- Tylenol or ibuprofen – sometimes bouncing around on those rides can give you a headache.
- a water bottle – It’s heavy and can make the bag uncomfortable to carry, especially for smaller kids. And, if the bottle leaks it can make a mess. (Now imagine a broken ziploc bag of goldfish with a leaky water bottle…) It’s nice to have a refillable water bottle for when you’re thirsty, but I personally find the weight and leak possibility to make it not worthwhile. There are plenty of water fountains in the parks.
The other upside to everyone having their own bag is that if they buy souvenirs, they can all carry it themselves. (Although I totally recommend window shopping until the last day to avoid having to carry stuff around, unless you are staying on property and can have your purchases sent straight to the hotel.)