The family with Gru and a Minion from Despicable Me moive photo 20130823_100255_zps849ae645.jpgOur year of travel continues. This time we went to Universal Studios Orlando and the Family Forward Retreat. It was really a treat for us because we had never been to Universal Studios. Being a parent blogger I had the opportunity to learn about the Family Forward Retreat organized by the Mom It Forward team. They are a great bunch of ladies that went all out to make our time amazing.

The retreat was all about building strong families no matter what kind they are. We fit right in as a single parent family and showed how we too can be a Super Hero Family (the retreat theme).

On the Road to Universal Studios Orlando!

We got on the road for the 7-hour drive on Wednesday morning. I rented a car from Hertz rentals and had quite an interesting experience. I will tell you about that in another post. Despite the challenges we ended up with a 2-level upgrade through USAA’s member perks.

We drive down to Florida in the sporty 2013 Impala. I really enjoyed driving that car seeing as I’m a speed demon. Fortunately, I didn’t get any tickets. The ride was smooth but not very family friendly. It had the space but no cup holders in the back, uggghhh!

Loews Royal Pacific Resort

We survived and made it to the beautiful Royal Pacific Island Resort where we were to stay. Talk about beautiful! See the pictures below for evidence of the paradise we stayed in.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando

When we walked into the Royal Pacific Resort we were greeted by friendly faces from the valet to the front desk staff. The manager came out and personally said hello and assured us that we could come to him for anything we needed.

This was a massive property complete with a zen-like water garden off the lobby, plenty of shops, several restaurants that we splurged on. The breakfast buffet was heavenly. I think I like the large floor to ceiling windows that brought the outside in.

We stayed in a double bedroom that was comfortable. I can’t say our view was all that great because of the construction going on at the time. We honestly didn’t spend much time in the room because there was so much to do. It was our official crash pad. All in all I would definitely want to go back and I’m sure the kids would too.

Pre-Planning with a Budget

I made a budget for food and gas before our trip. Thanks to my convenient Bluebird card I was able to stay on track for the most part. I admit I did get a little wild with my spending, but the bulk of my expenses were safely tucked away on the card so I didn’t have to tap into my regular checking account.

Family Forward Fun

The first part of the trip was spent with the other families at the retreat. It was a very well organized event that incorporated every member of the family. I liked that my kids were just as much a part of the retreat as I was. I’ve gone to other conferences were they’ve had to basically fend for themselves or be bored waiting for me to finish my seminars. This family retreat was truly family focused.

There were family activities and crafts we could do together. It was fun to come up with unique ideas for our crafts. The presenters were very good and kept the kids’ attention for the most part.

I think the most fun thing we did together was the photo booth. We got to show our silly side in the pictures. Snap Photo Booth did an amazing job. We got to go through the booth two times so we had twice the fun.

 photo familymatters_zps9f2a59a2.jpg

We had our first chance to step into Universal Studios when we got an exclusive viewing of Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Island of Adventures. It threatened to rain but it held off long enough for us to taste the surprisingly delicious Butter Beer and interesting Hogwarts desserts at the Dessert Party.

 photo 20130821_211414_zps3250f9f1.jpg

One of the best parts of the trip was going to see The Blue Man Group. I have never been to a show like that before. I’ve wanted to see them for years but never got the chance until this trip. From start to finish all of our senses were engaged. We laughed, yelled, and danced. It was a booty-shaking party. The kids and I even got to take a picture with one of the Blue Men. It was interesting that they don’t even speak when they are not on stage. Maybe it’s all the blue paint, LOL!

The family with a member of the Blue Man Group photo at Universal Studios Orlando

The Family Forward Retreat is definitely one I would attend again. I felt closer to my kids and could feel they were happy and content to be there bonding with me and each other.

Here is a slide show of our entire trip. I believe Universal Studios Orlando is definitely the best attraction for older kids and adults hands down.

Have you been to Universal Studios Orlando before? What was your favorite ride?

The post sponsored in part by Bluebird by American Express