Opened this past May, Universal Studio’s Volcano Bay™ is Orlando Florida’s newest water park. We recently visited in Florida’s Volcano Bay and were pleasantly surprised with how much fun our son with autism had. If fun in the Florida sun is in your vacation plans, heading over to Volcano Bay, should be on the top of your list. To help you plan your visit here are sixteen best tips for visiting Universal’s Volcano Bay with autism.
#1 Read Rules and Regulations Carefully
Like all theme parks and waterparks, this one has rules that visitors need to be aware of. Before buying your tickets scrutinize the rules and make sure that you and your family can follow them to avoid any disappointments.
Because of the unique configuration, this park does not offer any particular autism front of the line accommodations.With that said, their Tapu Tapu system that is similar to a fast pass works reasonably well.
For children depending on the ride, there is a 42 or 48-inch height requirement. As for adults, for safety, there may be some weight restrictions. Volcano Bay does have weight limits on some rides. Please understand, they are not singling you out, and they are not discriminating against you. These requirements both height and weight are for your personal safety, as well as those around you.
Also, be advised, due to the nature of the rides the employees may ask if you are a strong or weak swimmer. Asking this is to prevent weaker swimmers from having issues, on certain rides or water areas. Again; this is for everyone’s safety.
#2 Book Cabanas and Premium Seating in Advance
Shade is at a premium at Volcano Bay™. Meaning, if you do not reserve your cabana or premium seating in advance, chances are they will sell out. Cabanas start at the hefty price tag of $160 but are worth their weight in gold. The Florida sun and heat are brutal.
If you are wavering about doing that you should know that cabanas come equipped with a small mini-fridge stocked with cold water, fruit and snack baskets. Moreover, towels, comfortable lounge chairs, and locker service are included. There is even a concierge service that will deliver food and adult beverages.
A less expensive option is the Premium Seating. Though not quite as luxurious as the cabanas, it comes with e two padded lounge chairs. You will also have a moveable cover shade, as well as a locked security box. Premium seating also has an attendant for each area, that can help with your food and drinks.
#3 Bring your Towels
While at Volcano Bay, I would recommend bringing your towels. I say this because there is a charge to rent their towels. If you are from out of town, there are souvenir gift shops all over Orlando that you can purchase a souvenir towel. Not only will you have a towel for your day of fun, but also have a great souvenir to take home with you.
Bringing your towel can also help your family members with autism too. For instance, if they have a sensory challenge to scents, or textures by bringing your own, you can help prevent possible issues during your day of fun.
#4 Device Protection
Before heading to Volcano Bay™, make sure to protect all the electronic devices that you take are protected. Yes, there are lockers to rent, but with wet hands, you do not want to ruin your devices. I always use Zip-Lock baggies for my devices, which I keep in a locker. For those who want to have your cell phones with you, I would make sure that your cases are waterproof. Forgot your ziploc at home? no problem. The park sells protective pouches too.
Children, especially with autism, may need time to relax and unwind. Having a safe, waterproof device could help the child be able to calm down or regroup themselves. Keeping these devices safe from water needs to be a high priority.
#5 Personalize your Items
Always use a permanent marker to mark your items with your name. Towels, bags, even your sunscreen. At a water park like Volcano Bay™, it is easy to mistake your chairs or tables with someone else.Also personalizing your items, will help children/adults with autism, know what is theirs.
#6 Pack Water Shoes
Count on the flooring throughout the park to be slippery. After all, it is a water park. Moreover, the walkways have built in mini sprinklers that spray water continuously.So pack water shoes for everyone and teach your kids not to run while at Volcano Bay™.
#7 Take a Photo of Each Family Member
Should you and your children get lost from each other, make sure that you take a photograph of each family member on your way to Volcano Bay. You will want to be able to describe your child correctly, right down to the shoes they walked came in. Hair, bathing suits, clothes take pictures of it all. Note hair color, height, and weight for facilitating identification.
One thing I do, is I text my husband all the information. Doing so, allows a current copy to be on both of our phones should one break, battery dies, or we are in different areas of the park.
#8 Arrive Early
Considering Universal Studio’s Volcano Bay™ is a brand-new water park, it does experience an extremely high volume of visitors. Arriving early is essential to making sure that you can get into the park before they reach capacity. Some days the park reaches capacity as early as 10 am.Also arriving early will allow you to get settled and in line for your favorite rides. Be prepared; the lines will do get long, especially after 10 am.
When planning your parking situation, be prepared to walk. Visitors will have to either stay at Cabana Bay or park at Universal Studios and take a bus to Volcano Bay™.
Having any child especially those with autism, walking in comfortable shoes is going to be essential to starting your day off right.
#10 Get a Locker
Luckily, there are plenty of lockers for your personal belongings all over Volcano Bay™. They offer three different sizes that are available for the entire day. Lockers are an excellent way to lock up valuables such as cell phones, tablets, wallets, and purses.
#11 Using the TapuTapu™
The Tapu Tapu system is important for all visitors particularly families with autism. With this waterproof wrist device, you can use it to hold your place in Virtual Line™. While you are waiting for your turn on a ride, you can visit other areas of the park, without losing your space in line. Visitors can also use it to open lockers or link it to a credit card for purchases of food or souvenirs. The only real downside is that you need to return it by the end of your visit!
#12 There are Stairs to Climb!
One of the challenges that many don’t think about is climbing the park’s stairs. Most of the rides that have slides or tubes start up high.In fact, only half riders have ramps or elevators. parents need to prepare their kids ahead of time to the fact they will need to climb several flights of stairs to get to the top of each ride.
#13 Mark your Spot
While Volcano Bay ™, is not the biggest theme park, you could easily forget where your lounge chairs are located in the excitement of rides. Knowing and remembering where you are set up, will also help you find your belongings if you wear glasses or contacts. Items like glasses cannot be worn on rides, and contacts may hurt with the concentration of chlorine, so they may not be feasible for the day.
I forgot to mention, marking your spot and explaining it well to your children with autism could help them in the event they are lost. As much as we try and keep our eyes on our kids every second, it only takes a blink of an eye for a child to be lost. If the child can remember the area, the employees can help reunite the children with their families.\
#14 The Beach and Sensory Challenges
The sand is soft, and the ocean has waves, just like the real ocean. Here you and your family can experience both small and large waves. Therefore, keeping an eye on children, and weaker swimmers is a must.For kids with sensory challenges that have a low tolerance to sand, there are mini sprinklers throughout the park to wash the sand off fast.
#15 Food Options
Surprisingly this park only has three venues that serve versions of fast food. When we visited we didn’t see gluten free items on the menu so if your child is on a special diet you may want to bring along a few snacks. The best time to eat is during the off hours, which would be before 11 am, or after 2 pm.
#16 Service Dogs
They cannot go on rides, or in the water. If you do have a service dog, there are dog kennels that you can use while you go down the slides. There are also special areas for service dogs to do their business.
However, since the park is open year round I would recommend for families with autism to wait until some of the novelty of the park has worn off. The best times would be off season when school is in session and on weekdays when there are fewer guests.
Have you been to Universal Studio’s Volcano Bay™? If so what are some of your Volcano Bay™ tips that you would add?