Fun in the Sun {Thankful Thursdays 05.26.2016}

I blinked, and somewhere along the way May has flown by. There’s much for which to be thankful. We spent a few days in Orlando, at Universal Studios, celebrating the girls’ birthdays, and while the time seemed fleeting, the memories will last a lifetime. That sounds so corny, and clichéd as I reread my own words, but it really is true.

Watching Isabella’s face come alive, and a bit of her kid-like wonder return as we entered the Wizarding World of Harry Potter left me all ferklempt. Harry’s story shares a special place in our family; I’ll just leave it at that before I get all teary-eyed, as I did when we first slipped through the corridor that led us into Hogsmeade.

If you’ve been contemplating a trip to Universal, then my advice is just do it. You won’t regret it. After a few trips to Disney, I found it to be a much more manageable experience, both time-wise, and financially. In fact, I was down right surprised at how much less expensive everything cost at Universal, both from a park and hotel perspective. Skip Universal’s site, and book your hotel directly through the hotel’s website. I found it to be less expensive this way.

Where the magic begins...

Where the magic begins…

We stayed at the Loews Portofino Bay, which allowed us to the skip the lines at most, but not all of the attractions. This didn’t apply to Harry Potter, but staying at the hotel also gained us early entry one hour before the general admission opening time. Now that was invaluable, and we used that extra, less crowded time, to enjoy all things Harry Potter.

A room with a view.

Loews Portofino Bay at Universal Studios | a room with a view.

As we say farewell to May, another birthday under our belts, I wanted to share some photos of our much-needed getaway. I can’t wait to go back, and will undoubtedly stay at Loews Portofino Bay again. The hotel was very peaceful, and we absolutely loved the pool. Ask for a room by the beach pool, and don’t shell out the extra bucks for a canal view—it isn’t worth it in my opinion. Same goes for the club level, which costs an additional $100 per day. The food just wasn’t worth it—they should take a lesson from Disney’s club level service. As a matter of fact, don’t expect much from the food on-site; in general it was just okay, though we had phenomenal desserts from room service one night.

Room service sweet treats to celebrate the birthday girls. They were all delish!

Room service sweet treats to celebrate the birthday girls. They were all delish!

I imagine better food might be had at City Walk, but we were too tired to venture there after hot days, clocking many miles at the park. Also, this doesn’t apply to Butter Beer. Holy cow, people. I’m a total convert (and if you must ask, I still can’t decide between regular and frozen).

Taste testing salt & vinegar crisps and Butter Beer!

Taste testing salt & vinegar crisps and Butter Beer!

One last note about park tickets, I was able to buy mine using American Express Membership Rewards—figured that would be helpful in case there are other rewards programs that allow you to use points, miles, etc. to buy tickets. So glad I checked into it out of curiosity! I’ll post a few videos in coming weeks, too, which really bring the whole experience to life.

Loews Portofino Bay | Universal Studios Orlando

Loews Portofino Bay | Pool, cabana, cocktail—I need more days like this one!

And if you’re heading on a road trip, as we are this weekend (hello, North Carolina), then you’ll want to download one of my dear friend’s new podcasts to add some happy to your drive time. Little Known Facts is a wonderful new podcast, sharing intimate behind the scenes talks with some of your favorite celebrities, including John Slattery (Mad Men), Cynthia Nixon, and B.D. Wong. It reminds me of my other friend Kristen’s Coffee Talk series on Snapchat (soon to be a podcast, too). Okay, friends. I hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend! Click here to download Little Known Facts, and don’t forget to rate and review it when you’re done listening.

Missing my partner crime when I wear this shirt.

Missing my partner crime when I wear this shirt.


  • Joan

    Was so happy to read your TBT today. I am over the moon that you all enjoyed it. Maybe someday I’ll get to have the same experience. xo

  • Marta

    Hi Jen,
    Sounds like such a great getaway, glad you had such an amazing time! My mom and I are taking my boys to Disney this summer – haven’t been in 30+ years!! – so if you have any pointers for me, I’d love it! Hoping to make some very special memories, too. If you have a chance before you head north, would love to do coffee again : ) – Marta

  • Jennie

    Hi! I’d love to meet for coffee before I move. So glad you chimed in here. We can chat about Disney.

  • Renee

    We were there the week after you! My kids are younger, so we left them with MomMom. How old is your youngest? We want to bring the kids back, but aren’t sure what age is too young. Obviously we want her tall enough to go on all the rides, but I also want her old enough not to be scared. Was your younger ok with it all? Forbideen Journey and Gringotts especially?

  • Jennie

    My little one is 8 years old, but on the taller side, so she was able to go on all but two of the rides. She also loves scary things—she doesn’t take after her mama! I was more scared on some of the rides.