Thanksgiving is over, December is upon you and just like that it’s time to get ready for your trip to Universal Studios in Orlando! You’ve finally made it! The trip you’ve been anticipating is next week and you’re ready to start packing—but wait a second, how exactly do you prepare for Central Florida’s theme parks? How in the world do you even know what to pack?
After all, there is so much to do in one day and the only thing that is predictable about Orlando’s weather is that it is unpredictable.
So in this article, I’m going to help you get your suitcase and your vacation plans settled so you can unequivocally know everything you need to know about packing for Universal Studios Orlando (especially in December).
What Does Universal Studios Look Like in December?
You’ve chosen to come in December and what a great time to visit! You have probably already got your days set but in case you haven’t, there are great resources you can utilize that will help you narrow down which days of the month are best to avoid the biggest crowds.
I always enjoy fall and winter season in Orlando because the weather is cooler and there is even more glitz and glamour added to the experience. While Halloween is my preferred season at Universal Studios Orlando, Holiday time in Central Florida is truly magical and compares to none.
Massive balloons are brought out and blown up for our Thanksgiving Day Parade brought to you by Macy’s where Santa himself rides his sleigh and stops to light up our 6 story Christmas tree. You get to see all your favorite characters dressed in their finest, ready to celebrate the festivities and bring in the new year.
The Grinch even comes to life in Seuss Landing during our longest running holiday event, Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular. And I can’t begin to express the feeling of walking through Hogsmeade with a warm Butterbeer and seeing Hogwarts dressed up for the most beautiful time of the year.
What to Wear to Universal Studios
You pull your suitcase out of the back of the closet and begin to go through options for packing but you realize something: how do I pack for a vacation to Florida in December?
Well, my number one piece of advice is to check your weather conditions constantly, starting a few weeks prior to your arrival date to Universal Studios in Orlando. Save your packing until the last possible minute because the weather will change several times even before you arrive. Unfortunately, central Florida can be very fickle so here are some things to throw in your suitcase that can make or break a vacation in Florida during the end of the year.
The first item in any theme park vacationer’s suitcase is sunscreen. You can be living under a rock and still know that Florida is a very sunny state no matter the time of year. What is great about December to January is there are a lot of days when a long sleeve t-shirt is very comfortable to wear, saving you from having to apply so much sunscreen, but this item will be your best friend throughout your stay.
The trick for this time of year is packing for both cold and hot weather without your bag being too heavy for the airline. Your ideal attire would include a comfortable pair of pants, a long sleeve t-shirt, the best walking shoes you can find, and a hat…always wear a hat (as mentioned above, this is a VERY sunny state).
This more relaxed outfit can get you through the day but for the early mornings/late evenings, you’ll want a light jacket to protect you from the chill. The best jackets are insulated type windbreakers that are water resistant to help keep you heated when the sun is down and act as a raincoat in case it decides to rain. These jackets also take up the least amount of room but tend to have ample pocket space which is great for all the smaller items you may bring along.
Speaking of smaller items. So many of our attractions require you to store a bag, however there are only a few that you’ll need to completely empty your pockets for. Because of this, I advise packing some type of small satchel or fanny pack or sling backpack that can carry a few credit cards, your ID and tickets. Especially for those who do not come with pockets to store things, this little pack can save 2 hours out of your day helping to avoid the locker storage areas when getting on an attraction.
There are a few items that are good for this time of year that aren’t imperative but sure help you along during your day. A small blanket can be great for the end of the day parade watching or for resting to snack. My family also used them for additional warmth when it was particularly windy.
An extra pair of socks if you plan on braving the water rides during this month. Because of the combination of humidity and cool weather, your socks will never get dry, and you’ll be walking around with cold feet, so it helps to have a backup pair to change into later.
Accessories like scarves and gloves are good to leave at home. If you end up needing them during the day/night, they work as fun souvenirs, offer easy and cute family photos throughout the day and when it is cold, they are readily available even at the register.
And just for fun, I always like to encourage families to pick one day and come in all matching shirts. The Grinch loves to see every member of the family wearing his face when he gets to meet you (and only a little resentful that the smallest one is wearing a Cindy Lou Who shirt) and they’re perfect for all the photo ops around the parks and attraction photos as they’re automatically a holiday card to send home!
The most important thing when packing though is to pack for comfort. There is so much to do and see so be sure to dress for a long day and a LOT of walking.
Traveling with Kids to Universal Studios
When packing for Universal Studios Orlando as it pertains to children, I always say “if you can get by without a stroller, your life will be much easier.” Small breaks throughout the day can help the little ones maintain some energy and you’ll have a much easier time with less on your hands.
When bringing in family with nieces and nephews, my biggest struggle with theme park attractions is their stroller parking situation so I would avoid it if you are able. Of course, many families travel with them and there are some great practices to make the day run smoothly if you do have strollers.
First tip and most important, do not rely on your stroller to be your locker. People have things snatched frequently so please take all valuables with you. The best part about attractions at Universal Studios is a lot of them have lockers right next to the entrance for you to safely lock up valuables while on the ride.
Another piece of advice for bigger families: arrive at the park early to grab quick breakfast and get a game plan together. You can check out the maps to make a plan on finding places you can park your stroller that are centrally located in an area and figuring out which rides are best for those in your group.
Most don’t realize you can leave your stroller for a few hours even at any given attraction so utilize those areas as a temporary storage for your stroller while you all go enjoy that portion of the park. Take advantage of the entire area while you’re there without having to bother moving your stroller every time you go to a new attraction.
Here are a few great, centrally located stroller parking spots in Universal Studios and Island of Adventure:
1) In Universal Studios, E.T. Adventure’s stroller parking is just to the left of the entrance and is a great spot to hit the entire Kidzone area which includes character shows with meet and greets, 2 playgrounds (one with a water slide!) and the Animal Actors on Location live animal show that is sure to please the entire group.
2) The Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon has great covered stroller parking. It is in the corner of the New York Area and is great for the music plaza which is near Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, The Shrek meet and greet area (you can talk with Donkey!) and Transformers the Ride: 3D.
3) If you’re heading into Diagon Alley, I would suggest parking your stroller at the Fast & Furious: Supercharged attraction first. There is only one spot in all Diagon Alley for prams and motored wheelchairs so this area is always very tight and packed, to avoid this, you can park your stroller at the attraction right before you get to London and come back for it once you’ve hit all the shops in Diagon Alley and are ready to get on the Hogwarts express at Kings Cross Station.
4) Over in Islands of Adventure, you’ll get off at Hogsmeade station and I would immediately take a left and get your pram parked in The Lost Continent area before heading into Hogsmeade itself. Just like Diagon Alley, this part of the Wizarding World is also very tight and very busy and much much MUCH easier to navigate without a stroller in hand. You can get the entire area done then head back to the stroller and towards Seuss Landing.
5) This whimsical area is the BEST pit stop for the smallest of the crew. Seuss Landing is extremely kid friendly, so stroller parking is in several places and there are a lot of little rides, games, and characters to meet while the big kids keep going into the Marvel area and enjoy some of our more thrilling attractions.
Once done in these areas, the entire family can head straight for Skull Island: Reign of Kong. Here is a small stroller parking area that is quieter and is central to our Toon Lagoon area with the water rides and our Jurassic Park area, again giving you ride options for everyone in your crew. The best part about this location is you’ll end right next to Thunder Falls restaurant which has fantastic quick service food to fill you up and get you through the remainder of the evening and onto the nighttime shows!
Bringing a Bag to the Parks
We have a lot of attractions that are bag friendly, however bigger bags are harder to accommodate so are held in lockers during your ride. If you are bringing a bigger bag with supplies for the little ones during day, I would suggest using one of the lockers that are located at the front entrances of the park.
Many of our attractions are small bag friendly or no bags at all and while they all provide lockers for you to store your things, occasionally the line to get a locker is just as long as the line to get on the ride, doubling your wait time. Bigger items of lesser value can even be kept in the stroller you may have already parked in a that neutral area.
Traveling with small ones also means you’ll be in and out of gift shops, constantly tempted by the insane number of incredible souvenirs to take home. When the smallest in the group come running up with big items like a giant T-Rex action figure, don’t stress about carrying this around all day! All our gift shops can assist with delivering any purchases you make to the front of the park so you can grab it when you leave.
One sneaky trick I’ve learned: if there is something in my bag, I know I won’t need anymore during the day, I’ll toss it in my gift shop bag with my new souvenir and they’ll take the extra weight from me, ready to be picked up on my way out!
Best Snacks to Take to Universal Studios Orlando
Universal Studios in Orlando is known for some of the top rated theme park food in the world, so while there, you will want to sample many of the options we have to choose from. Popcorn and Cotton Candy area easy and can satisfy the hunger while you’re walking to the next attraction however, there are a few good snacks to include in your bag to avoid the sugar crash or greasy stomachache from loading up on too much junk.
Best practices for a full day at the theme park are to pick one big meal and have little snacks throughout the day. Utilizing a sit-down service or even quick service restaurants more than once can potentially cut your day in half so focusing on one big meal and small snacks during the day can help save you time to do more things.
Based on where the family wants to eat, plan your day around that one meal and pack these great snack items in your bag to help keep your energy going.
1) Almonds/Nuts are a perfect boost of energy and light enough in your stomach so you can safely continue riding the bigger thrill rides. I like to bring small packs with me in the queue so I can have this little snack while waiting to ride the attraction.
2) Universal is working hard on adding many food items for those with dietary restrictions, however the quick stops are limited so I always like to bring a few simple PB&J sandwiches with me as a backup. These are items that can be easily obtained and stored in any hotel room and are great lunch time snacks for when you’re enjoying a rest stop while watching one of the many street-shows we have. Grab a bag of chips and a soda from the gift shops to avoid the snack stands and you’ve got a full lunch with no time wasted!
3) Universal does well with having many options but theme parks don’t focus their energy on the healthier food choices, so it is always good to pack some fruit or veggie options to assist your digestive system while on vacation. Go-Go Squeeze apple sauce packets or baby carrots are great things that can be eaten quickly and stored safely no matter the situation.
4) You may not be aware, but you can bring bottled water into our theme park! I can’t stress this enough! There is no need to continue purchasing water bottles throughout the day. All our quick service stops and even Starbucks will give you a free cup of water that you can use to refill your water bottle. Staying hydrated at a central Florida theme park is just as important as having sunscreen so bring a reusable water bottle with you to keep on hand.
Universal Holiday Events and What to Pack
The holidays offer an amazing list of events and specials for our guests during the month of December. Sing along with the Whos during our Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, search for Earl the Squirrel in our 6 story Christmas tree and then pop into the Tribute store where a creative team spends weeks planning the décor to enchant you as you walk through shopping for holiday souvenirs.
There are a ton of things to choose from but here are my top 3 must dos for December at Universal Studios and little items to pack or bring with you in order to get the most out of each experience.
Meet and Greet with the Grinch! This is the only time of year where our Grinch comes to life! Stop by Suess Landing with a treat for Max.
Despite the Grinch’s grumpy attitude, he’s a softy when it comes to his best buddy Max so he’ll be tickled green when you show up with a who-liday surprise for him (he may even get a little jealous).
The Thanksgiving Day Parade brought to you by Macy’s is a perfect way to cap off one of your days at our theme parks. Pack a light blanket to sit on or wrap up in while you enjoy one of the delicious holiday snacks we have to offer as the balloons float by. The best spots to watch are right by the Christmas tree where you can watch as Santa lights it up at the end of the parade.
The number one thing to see during the holidays is “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts” light show right there in front of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in our Hogsmeade area of Islands of Adventure. Grab a warm butterbeer and your favorite Hogwarts house scarf and you’ll have a perfect holiday card photo with a backdrop you’ll never forget!
The holidays are a magical time of year and there is so much more to see so allow yourself time to get it all in. Packing for Universal Studios Orlandois a difficult task because of the sporadic weather conditions especially but being prepared is easy and will ensure a fantastic visit for your family.
Most importantly, pace yourself and enjoy the views. There are so many hidden details to our parks that with so much going on, you pass these details by without a notice. Enjoy each area and take the time to see all the work our creative team has put into theming the area just for you. You’ve prepared yourself fully, you’ve packed all the right things and you’ve got a game plan for your schedule, now relax and have some fun! And Happy Who-lidays!!
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