A Survival Guide: This is How We Spent 4 Days at Universal Orlando, With Two Kids, Multiple Face Masks- and Lived to Tell About It!

PREFACE: A friendly reminder to our readers, The Kingdom Insider is a judgment-free zone. If you choose to avoid theme parks because you have to wear a face mask, good for you. If I choose to bring my family to a theme park, and face masks aren’t an issue, good for us. I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my children, kindness counts. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but kindness to others while expressing your opinion is what matters. That being said, let’s talk kids, theme parks, face masks, and leaving our house for the first time in three months.
A site for sore eyes!

Prior to our Universal trip, my kids hadn’t been in a public place since March 15th. That was the day their school year abruptly ended, and everything changed from that moment on. Or as I like to call it, the day I accidentally earned my masters in homeschool teaching. By the way, 10 minutes into day 1 of “Mommy School,” I had gone through, what I thought was, at least 3 hours worth of activities. I also very quickly realized that real-life teachers are seriously under-paid, under-valued, and something has to be done about that (But for the sake of politics and this article, I’ll leave it at that…for now). Needless to say, we’ve been living the homeschool/quarantine life and up until last week, my boys had never seen anyone wearing a face mask. They also have never worn one themselves. But after months of quarantine, it was time to responsibly venture out of our bubble, and we made the decision to be at Universal Orlando the week they were reopening. Go big or go home, right?

Many of you are in the position my husband and I were in a few weeks ago, trying to decide if you should still take a family vacation this Summer. If you’re like me, I’m sure one of the biggest issues weighing on your mind is having to wear a face mask in the parks. So here it is, my survival guide. A personal account of making it through 4 days in a theme park, with 2 kids, several face masks, and how my husband and I lived to tell about it. Long story short, this is how my family got back to our “old normal,” by way of the new one.

Following social distancing guidelines never looked so cute!

It’s all about the set-up.

I could plot the most elaborate plan to get my kids to understand face masks, and want to wear them, but none of that would matter if I didn’t have a strong set-up. Any sense of weakness and my kids would instantly pick up on it. If you’re a parent reading this, I imagine you’re nodding your head in agreement, because you know how kids have this ornate ability to sniff out weakness like a hound dog on a fox’s tail.

I started by introducing face masks at home, a few weeks before our trip. But even before that, I made a promise to myself that I would never have a negative attitude towards face masks in front of my kids. They may not know everything there is to know about life, but they’re smart enough to know when I’m trying to pull a fast one over them. Obviously I hate wearing a mask, but my kids don’t know that. For my plan to work, they needed to see me happy and excited whenever I wore one. (Side note: For those of you reading this who aren’t parents, allow me to answer your question. Yes, a large part of parenting is mostly coming up with ways to out-smart your little minions. The circle of life is funny like that.)

COVID-19 is also openly discussed in our house. We adults often forget that the lives of our kids were also turned upside down, and overnight everything they once knew had completely changed. Needless to say, this pandemic has affected them tremendously, so we openly talk about “the virus” (that’s what we call it), a lot in our house. When they have meltdowns, it almost always ends with them telling me they’re mad at the virus. Or sometimes we’ll be in the car and from the back seat I’ll hear, “Mommy, do you want to know why I hate the virus?” I say yes and they’ll proceed to tell me. That being said, in the weeks leading up to our stay at Universal, I always included the topic of face masks in our virus conversations.

Relate Face Masks to something they’re familiar with.

I had built a solid, positive, foundation with my set-up, now I had to take it a step further and relate face masks to something they were familiar with and extremely interested in. Being that they’re 5 and 6-year-old boys, it took me all of two seconds to come up with the idea of relating masks to superheroes.

We discussed superheroes like Superman, Spiderman, Batman, and then real-life superheroes. I explained to them how the doctors, nurses, and other front line healthcare workers are the real-life heroes, who are working extra hard to protect us and make sure this virus goes away. I have to laugh, because this was the point of the conversation when my 5 year old chimed in and said, “So Mommy, what you’re telling me is the virus is a bad guy, like the Joker.” Right then and there, I realized that in their own little way, they understood. It didn’t take much convincing before my boys were all in, and once they thought a face mask made them a superhero, we were on our way to Hogwarts. I could practically taste the Butterbeer!

It’s all about the breaks. 

I could stand on my soapbox all day and talk about how the face masks were no problem for us, but the truth is, we wouldn’t have made it through day one without taking a mid-day break. If you take away just one thing from this article, let it be this, breaks will be your life line.

We were fortunate to be staying at the beautiful Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando. That in itself, was a wonderful experience and I would’ve been content just sitting by their pool all week. The best part about Sapphire Falls is its location, location, location! As with every hotel at Universal Orlando Resort, guests have the unique opportunity to stay right in the middle of all the action and adventure Universal is known for.

Less time waiting for and riding on transportation, equals more time in the parks. For guests staying at Sapphire Falls, Cabana Bay, Aventura, Hard Rock, and Portofino Bay, the theme parks are only a short walk or water taxi ride away. Universal still gives guests the option to use one of their shuttles, and they’re just as efficient too! We always chose the water taxi option, it was such a beautiful and relaxing ride to and from.

We’d make sure to be out of our room and in a park by the time it opened or within the first half-hour. From there, we’d spend about 3 to 3 and a half hours exploring and making memories, but once our kids hit that 3-hour mark, that was our cue to leave and take a much needed break. We’d hop aboard the water taxi, and make our way back to Sapphire Falls. From theme park to hotel room, we’re talking at most, 15 minutes.

Universal Orlando allows guests to remove their face masks when they’re eating. We enjoyed a laid back dinner at Margaritaville, and still practiced our social distancing! Tables were also spaced out throughout the restaurant.

I recognize that not everyone will have a hotel room to go back to during the day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a long break. If you decide to stay in the hotel, I suggest grabbing lunch or dinner and really stretching it out as much as you can. Universal permits guests to remove their face masks when they’re eating, and I would definitely take advantage of that in one of their numerous dining locations.

Guests also have the option to remove their face masks and relax in one of Universal Orlando’s U-Rest Areas. These locations provide an environment for guests to relax, while also following current social distancing guidelines.

The bottom line is, you know your kids, and you know when they’re at a breaking point. Why fight it? Take a break, remove the masks for a few, and have a drink. Hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere and you’re in a theme park with kids, after quarantining with them for 3 months- you’ve earned it!

The more masks, the merrier. 

I packed multiple face masks for myself, my husband, and our kids. They weren’t anything fancy, just your basic non-medical face mask. Some were handmade, and others were purchased from Target. The Target ones were made of t-shirt material and my kids loved them because they didn’t have elastic bands for around their ears. They wore masks with elastic bands but spent some time on the struggle bus with those. My kids had complete comfort in these masks from Target. I even went back after and purchased the adult-size ones. They’re also extremely low maintenance, and all you have to do is throw them in the wash.

Aside from the hygiene factor, I was happy to have multiple masks simply because as we wore them throughout the day, the masks began to stretch. The t-shirt material was great for comfort, but if it rained (as it usually does in the Florida Summer) or our face began to sweat from the sun, the masks would stretch out. I noticed more and more, my kids would keep pulling them up over their nose, that’s when I would exchange them out for a new one.

If you need a new mask, forgot yours, or are just looking for a unique souvenir (that you can actually use at home), Universal Orlando sells face masks in their hotels and theme parks! At $6 each or 3 for $15, you won’t find a better deal in any theme park, anywhere!

If you have questions on how to choose the right one, check out our article, “Face Masks- Tips for Safety and Comfort.”

Lowered expectations are a thing of beauty.

I feel like most people with children already know this, but I’ll say it anyway, just for good measure. If you decide to bring your family to any theme park this Summer, don’t expect to be going from park open to park close. It’s Summer time in Florida and it goes without saying, there’s no escaping the heat and humidity. This is where having a hotel to return to during the day, or taking a long lunch in a place where the air conditioning is pumping, will be extremely beneficial. Read the vibes your kids are putting out, and know your limits. You don’t have to push yourselves, but that’s the silver lining in all of this. We were forced to slow down and because of that, we were able to actually relax and enjoy every aspect of your vacation, including the gorgeous pool at Sapphire Falls. It was crazy how one minute I was smack dab in the middle of the action, and the next minute, I was poolside on island time. It doesn’t get much better than that.

We were at Universal from June 2-6th, which obviously isn’t the peak of heat and humidity in Florida’s Summer months. That being said, it was still extremely humid, and we certainly weren’t used to wearing our masks yet. But whether we were there in early June, mid-July, or August, I still wouldn’t change a thing with how I approached face masks with my children, and how we handled wearing them in the parks. Like I said before, mid-day breaks are EVERYTHING!

Making face masks look cool

Despite the current situation, and let’s not forget, things could be a lot worse, we still made the most of our time at Universal Orlando. I stand by what I said in my previous article, Universal gave us back what COVID-19 took away, the opportunity to make memories again with our children. Because if there’s one thing we parents know, it’s that they’ll only be this little for so long, and they won’t always believe they’re wands create magic when pointed at a window in a secret alley, known only to wizards.

Sure, I hate face masks, we all hate them. But if there’s one thing that’s stronger than my hatred for these annoying little pieces of fabric, it’s my love for being back in a theme park with my family. The smiles on my boys’ faces, and the joy in their laugh, radiated through those face masks, making it all worthwhile.

 

 

 

Kristi is the Media and PR Director for The Kingdom Insider. She's a lifelong Disney fan and grew up spending her family vacations at the Happiest Place on Earth. She resides in Florida with her husband and two boys, ages 4 and 6.