How do you ride the big rides when you’ve got littles that aren’t tall enough? Who has major FOMO when it comes to this sort of thing? I know I do! I want to be able to ride ALL the things.
I get asked this question ALL. THE. TIME.
I personally have children ranging from 2 to 13. This is a real challenge when it comes to traveling. Finding accommodations for families of 5 that aren’t astronomical is hard (but doable) sometimes, among other things. One thing that isn’t a problem, is doing all of the things that interest our wide age range of travelers, to include getting to ride all of the rides, small or big.
Universal Parks does this right with their ‘child swap’ option and ‘family rooms’ at most of their attractions and really accommodates families or groups of people that are traveling with all ages of people.
What is a ‘family room’? Well, it is a room set off to the side of the attraction that allows for families with small children or others that are unable to ride to wait comfortably in the ‘family room’.
This past September was my first time to utilize a ‘family room’ at Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. When we rope dropped this ride (because this part is a must for Hagrid’s - ask me how you can get Early Entry), we were all able to join the queue and wait. Once we got to the front of the line, we were split into two groups: one with my husband and my 13 year old daughter and one with myself and my two younger children that are not quite tall enough for riding Hagrid’s.
My two littles and I stepped a few feet over to step into the ‘family room’. We entered the ‘family room’ at 8:08AM. This little room had several benches for sitting, a folding changing table, and a TV with one of the Harry Potter movies playing. We used this time to rest in the air conditioning, get a snack, apply sunscreen, and change a diaper.
Just a few short minutes later, my husband and eldest returned and she and I headed out to ride the ride while my husband waited with the littles. We exited the ‘family room’ and were back outside by 8:33AM and on our way over to Velocicoaster, where we also used the ‘family room’.
There are some MAJOR pros to the way Universal does their ‘family rooms’.
You’re not waiting out in the heat (or cold if you were just there the first weekend of January like us) with most attractions.
You’re all together. This is huge for me with my littles. I have help while we are all waiting together because we all know toddlers can be a handful sometimes. We can entertain each other and someone else can hold her for a little bit while my arms get a break.
You don’t miss out on the queues like other parks in the area. With some other parks, you do not wait together in the ride queue. Your first group waits in the queue, while the ones not riding the first time find something else to do. Then, when your first group returns, your second group will enter a lane that jumps you to the front of the line meaning you’re missing some of the best decor of the ride.
Universal does not state that they limit how many people can go on the second ride and the most I’ve seen go are four. Some other parks only allow the second adult and one other person to ride the second time, but for me personally, I was able to take both of my older children on Transformers the second time while my husband waited with our youngest, meaning my two older children got to ride it twice in a row.
A few things to think about when doing ‘child swap’ at Universal:
You cannot bring your stroller into the queue with you, so don’t forget to grab and valuables or the diaper bag!
There are no restrooms in the ‘family rooms’, so plan accordingly.
Some of the rooms can be dark and have been reported to be a little ‘scary’ maybe for children that might be spooked easily. In that case, ask for a paper ‘child swap’ pass to use later so that you can return later.
As you can see, the ‘family rooms’ and ‘child swap’ feature at Universal Parks helps families to enjoy their time without someone feeling like they’re missing out. A few of my favorites include Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon, Transformers: The 3D Ride, Velocicoaster, and Fast & Furious - Supercharged has a track with toys that the kids can even play with! Jimmy Fallon has great benches for a little one to take a nap and Fast & Furious has a super cool design after the new VooDoo Doughnuts at CityWalk. It even has a toy track the kids can play with!
Now that you know that there are options with families of small children or others that cannot ride some of the rides, which ‘child swap’ room will you use first? How does this change your vacation vibe? I know that once I learned about these rooms, it made our family’s vacations much easier and stress free… and no more FOMO!
Jennifer Chappell is an award winning Vacation Specialist with Coasters & Castles Travel, LLC certified in Universal Parks, among many other destinations. She and her family enjoy Universal Parks at least once a year. Jennifer focuses on family vacations and how to navigate those with young children and teenage children. Jennifer enjoys traveling with her family across the nation and to the Caribbean with her husband.
Follow her travels on the pages listed below or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.