This year is going to be Orlando travel heavy. I’m not complaining, of course. It’s one of my favorite cities to visit with its (typically) decent weather, proximity to the beach, and world class theme parks. Last week I traveled to Orlando that included a quick stay at the family friendly Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Studios Orlando.
I’ve got to admit this right off the bat: Disney World is great, but Universal Studios Orlando is coming on strong. From the expanding theme park offerings including Diagon Alley (OMGEEE y’all!) and Volcano Bay water park opening in 2017 to the immersive onsite resorts, Universal is becoming more than a day trip to many.
In fact, there are many reasons I’d give a trip to Universal the nod over Disney in Orlando. I’ll?cover my thoughts on that in the coming weeks. I’m becoming a Universal convert for sure- on both coasts! In fact, I just had this discussion when it came to Disneyland and Universal Hollywood. If you missed it, here are 6 reasons to visit Universal Hollywood over Disneyland.
I traveled to Universal with my friend and fellow travel agent, Julie. We are both seeing requests for information and travel to Universal, so before we send you, we wanted to go ourselves!
Family Friendly Cabana Bay Beach Resort
We chose the Cabana Bay Beach Resort as the hotel for a couple of reasons.
If I am bringing my family to Universal, a family suite is perfect since there are 6 of us. I needed to check this one out and see if it would work for my own family. We like room to spread out and having a kitchenette is ideal.
It’s also one of the Value properties, which means it’s going to be a more affordable option for most family travelers. We visited in October 2016, and the average cost for a family suite was $204 a night.
This hotel is retro themed and offers standard rooms in addition to the family suite options. There are two huge pools, a lazy river and a bowling alley on property, as well as dining options.
There’s even a Starbucks, for those of us in need of a little caffeine before we find our adrenaline!
Family Suites At Cabana Bay Beach Resort
The family room had space and storage for a family of 6. My kids and husband would be quite comfortable in these rooms for a theme park focused stay. If we were planning to hang around our room, it might be another story! But we are the theme park commando types, so the rooms are used for showering, snacking and sleeping.
The suites are about 430 square feet with two queen beds.
The couch is also a fold out bed and can comfortably sleep two children or one adult.
We would send our electronics-obsessed boys to sleep on the sofa. They would happily lay in bed and play on their phones, as long as the charging chord reached them! And it would, I checked.
And yes, wifi is included at this resort. Phew.
The theming in these rooms blew me away! The whole resort was like a page out of Mad Men or the Brady Bunch.
I loved it. Even the little touches in the room like our alarm clock and toiletries were faithful to the decades this resort represents.
Well played, Universal. Well played.
My biggest complaint about Disney value hotels are the linens. Both the sheets and the towels are thin and scratchy over there; Universal did not do this at their value option. The bed was one of the most comfortable hotel room beds I’ve slept in, and the towels were mid-grade, which was a pleasant surprise for me.
We didn’t use the kitchenette as our stay was only for one night, but a fridge, coffee maker, and microwave are present. The bar top and stools offer a convenient place for a quick snack or electronics charging station. USB charging ports can be found in this room as well.
Onsite Perks At Cabana Bay Beach Resort
Like all Universal properties, transportation to the parks is included with your stay. You can take a free shuttle bus or walk to the parks and City Walk.
Unlike the other resort choices, there is not a water taxi option direct to the resort. You can take a water taxi to Sapphire Falls Resort, however. It is located across the street from Cabana Bay and was just a short walk from lobby to lobby.
You are also eligible for early entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter by staying onsite.
We had a super early morning since the parks were open for us at 7 am. Ouch.
But we ended up being in the first 50 people entering Universal Studios that day and managed to ride Escape from Gringotts twice in a row without waiting. BEST. RIDE. EVER!
The early entry is significant because Cabana Bay Beach Resort guests do not receive complimentary Express Passes. #WhompWhomp
If Harry Potter experiences are important to you, then opt to stay onsite AND get up early. So worth it!
Families can get a lot for a little when it comes to your budget at this location, but Universal offers four other options if this isn’t quite your style.
If you are heading to Universal, I’m happy to help you choose which resort will best fit your family travel needs. Shoot me an email at email@example.com, and I’ll be glad to help you plan all the details!
Patty Holliday is a Marvel loving, Disney obsessed wife, and mother of four. She’s a travel agent specializing in Disney & Universal vacations- and loves a candid confession. Find her in Virginia (or anywhere frequent flyer miles or her trusty minivan takes her.)