Standard Luggage Carry-On and Daily BAckpack

Standard Luggage Carry-On Travel Backpack

Have you ever found yourself eager to travel but looking for ways to minimize the cost? A great travel tip I’ve been following for years now is to pack no more than a carry-on. Checking Luggage is a thing of the past; hidden luggage fees can really add up and put you over your travel budget. The Standard Luggage Carry- On travel backpack has helped me to completely eradicate the fees and hassles that go along with checking bags.


All About Our Baggage

In the last year that I’ve enjoyed this backpack’s company we have taken a number of weekend trips to Lake Placid, New York for endless outdoor shenanigans, to Killington, Vermont to ski the east, and for a long weekend in Nashville. It has also accompanied me on a flight from New York to the Dominican Republic for 6 beautiful days at the beach. Upon our arrival in Punta Cana, I unpacked the contents of my bag and one of my travel companions was shocked,

“I can’t believe how much you fit in there”,

and quite frankly, I couldn’t believe it either. I was able to fit 6 bathing suits, 7 outfits (dresses, shorts, tanks, and rompers), toiletries, sandals, accessories, sneakers, and workout clothing effortlessly.

Benefits of A Nomadic Backpack


It’s carry-on-sized — 21.5” x 13.5” x 7.5” when zipped and 21.5” x 13.5” x 9.5” when expanded (the expansion zipper, just like the one you’d find on a regular suitcase, is CLUTCH).

No more baggage fees — I’ve only taken one flight with this bag thus far, but I did not have to pay money to check it! However, it was gate checked on a small aircraft flight. I will be traveling via airplane again with it in May and I’ll let you know how it goes.  

It’s a front-loading backpack — AMAZING. You no longer need to reach around the contents of your bag blindly; this is one of my favorite parts of any large backpack I own and a deal-breaker for this traveler!

Theft-deterrent — Not theft-proof; no backpack, suitcase, duffel or any other type of luggage is 100% theft-proof but that being said there are always ways to minimize theft of your belongings. The zipper to the main compartment of the Standard Luggage Carry-On backpack is lockable and there is only one way to get into the main compartment of the bag (great not only for the in-between but the hostel and/or couch stays too!).

Standard Luggage Carry-On Dimensions

  • Bag dimensions: 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 in when zipped and 21.5 x 13.5 x 9.5 when expanded
  • Volume: 35L zipped and 45L when expanded
  • Weight: 3.7 pounds
  • Laptop Pocket: Fits 15.6″ laptops and 15″ MacBook Pro

Travel Backpack Features

The Standard Luggage Carry-on takes on a rectangle shape, similar to a suitcase, which allows for more packing space than you might expect. With 10 different compartments, you will easily be neat and organized. Adjustable, comfortable, and convenient,  this pack will not let you down.


A very sturdy and water-resistant exterior of 1680 denier high tenacity ballistic nylon leaves you peace of mind when shoving your pack into overhead compartments, under airline seats, or leaving it for a gate check. However, I would try your best to not pull the zippers by the leather decorative attachments.


The backpack straps and handles although well-padded, are not the most comfortable I’ve experienced, however, they’re extra adjustable. One of the many great features of this pack is that the shoulder straps easily zip away for storage or to convert your bag into an over the shoulder satchel or duffel with the use of a strong side handle. With so many removable straps the options allow you to carry your bag however it is most comfortable for you. There is also a strap on the back that allows it to be easily attached to rolling luggage.


With 10 compartments total, your organization should be top-notch.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 1 zippered side pocket — unzip for a water bottle or leave zipped for small storage
  • 2 medium-sized accessory/front pocket — store a pair of shoes, a book or other accessories
  • 1 large main compartment — storage for all your clothes and whatever else you might need to fit inside
  • 1 back compartment that houses a laptop sleeve (removable) and two mesh zipper compartments
  • 3 zippered pockets (internal) — two small zippered pockets, one mesh and one nylon on the opening flap. One full zip compartment the size of the opening flap.
  • Expandable Zip which adds 10L (didn’t use it for all the stuff below!)


The front-loading main zipper compartment allows for easy access to all of your belongings; with the help of the other interior compartments, this backpack allows for great organization which is the key to a stress-free trip to me! There are two compression straps to help you create space. Standard Luggage also sells two different sets of packing cubes that fit the main compartment perfectly; one set doubles as a day pack once you arrive at your destination. Although I haven’t used these packing cubes, they seem like a no brainer for the organized traveler!  


Orange and Teal accents are sent along with the bag. Dress your zippers, luggage tag, and Standard Luggage Logo up in either color or mix and match for a fun bright look! The design of the bag and the exterior fabric of the pack is inviting to pins and patches as well although I’ve yet to personalize.

Fitting a weekend’s worth of Snowboarding gear into any bag is no joke; the Standard Luggage Carry-on Backpack impressed me yet again!

Don’t Travel With Checked Luggage Again

Packing this bag is easy and I haven’t had a single problem with space yet. My only negative comment is simply that the exterior pockets are a bit stiff but have already become more malleable and easy to pack with one use; I look forward to using it in the future. The pack comes with a video ‘manual’ explaining how to convert all of the straps; be sure to watch this to get the most out of your packs features. This is a great product, with a lifetime warranty, that I would suggest to anyone looking to travel a little lighter and more conveniently!

Check out Standard Luggage’s Daily Backpack if you’re looking for a great personal item for your future flights.

I love rollercoasters, and Cedar Point is known as the rollercoaster capital of the world. I need to make the absolute most of my time in the park so that I can enjoy all of my favorite thrills as many times as possible. Use these 9 Cedar Point tips and tricks to Make the most of your time at Cedar Point and have a thrilling day at the rollercoaster capital of the world! At the end of this post, I will share with you my complete Cedar Point Travel Guide.

Cedar Point Park Sign Lit Up at Night with American Flag in background

Download the Park App.

The app can tell you about rides that are down for maintenance, wait times for your favorite attractions lines’, and provide deals on snacks and meals. It provides a map of the park as well as the times that certain attractions run and when eateries open and close. I know I ate two funnel cakes for the price of one because I found the deal on this app! Connect to the park wifi and turn your phone on airplane mode to save battery at the park.

Funpix Photo Pass.

If you like photo memories of your adventures I suggest investing in a photo pass. For $29.99 you have access to unlimited digital downloads. We had an awesome time reliving our day by looking back at our photos. Terrifying expressions, smiles, and straight giddy glee stared back at us when we went through the day’s photos. It allows us to recall one of the best days of our summer over and over again!  

Cedar Point Fast Lane Passes.

Fast Lane Passes are a MUST for thrill rides on a busy day. In the time it took a group to ride Steel Vengeance once (3 hours in line for the front row!), I had ridden it three times. Once in the front row, once in the second row and once in the very back of the last train. We were able to ride Maverick 4 times in a half-hour with our fast lane passes. It really allowed us to make the most of our time there and ride ALL the coasters multiple times. Be sure to select the Fast Lane Plus if you’re looking to ride the park’s top thrill rides (Steel Vengeance, Valravn, Maverick, Top Thrill Dragster, and Gatekeeper!)


Beat the Heat.

Is it sweltering outside? Are you really hot? Check out the Garter Saloon for air conditioning, cold drinks, and generally, good country music! Seriously, this is a lifesaver of a spot to cool off on a hot summer day. Hopping on the Shoot the Rapids, Thunder Canyon, or Snake River Falls might cool you off for a minute or two and leave your clothes wet enough to help drop your body temperature over time. A lot of the restaurants have air conditioning as well, so cool off during mealtime!

Secure your Belongings.

There are lockers throughout the park, but to keep your most important belongings on you I suggest investing in a running waist pack with a zipper compartment. I’m able to store my ID’s, money, car key, and phone flush to my body AND SECURE all day long. Please do NOT try and keep your phone in your hands or pockets on a ride. We were actually held up on a train, waiting to enter the station, because someone had their phone in their hand and it flew back and knocked out a rider behind them. It gashed the side of their face open and EMS had to come and not only perform first aid on the rider (who then needed to continue on to the hospital) but also clean the car of their blood before we could continue.

There’s Nothing Like Night riding.

I suggest riding all the coasters at night as well! It’s fun to see the park lit up and if you’re lucky enough to travel here on July 4th you will have two extra hours in the park AND awesome fireworks. If you do ride at night, don’t waste your time waiting for the front seat; the bugs are AWFUL and they’ll just end up splattered all over your face. Although, it is funny to get off the ride and find one in your companion’s teeth…  

Check the Park Hours.

Review the calendar. There are days when the park isn’t open to the public, or when it has limited hours. There are ALSO dates where the park is open for extra hours; on July 4th, the park was open until midnight. The park remains open for two extra hours for light up the point which gives you two extra hours of coaster riding!

girl turning and smiling with wooden roller coaster beams in the background

Start at the Back of the Park

As soon as those gates open head straight to the back of the park. Lines for Steel Vengence, Millenium Force, and Maverick will almost always be lengthy, however, you’ll find them more manageable in the morning hours. With Fast Passes, you’ll fly thought these lines if you head to them first thing upon arrival!

Stay On Location

Staying in a Cedar Point Resort property affords you a number of perks, For one, you receive complimentary parking for the length of your stay! You’re also walking distance from the parks for your hour early access to over 20 rides and attractions. The extra hour matters.

Thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies need to visit the roller coaster capital of the world. Using these Cedar Point Tips and Tricks to make the most of your adventure is key! Follow my Cedar Point Travel Guide to prepare for a day of thrills.

Easily maneuver through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter With this Travel Guide

If you awaited your Hogwarts Acceptance Letter in your pre-teens with fervor, you can’t miss this. Live out your wildest dreams -and biggest childhood letdown- at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. In this guide, I’ll be sharing everything you need to know about Universal Orlando’s’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter. At the end of this post, I’ll be sharing 7 tips for your Wizarding World of Harry Potter interactive wand, an absolute must for all visitors.

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Diagon Alley Banner

A Tour of Diagon Alley, London

Universal’s Wizarding World left no detail out in creating Diagon Alley. This cobblestoned shopping area located in London, England behind a pub called the Leaky Cauldron, is the center of wizarding London. Inside the alley is an assortment of restaurants, shops, shows, and rides.

View of shops down Diagon Alley
Diagon Alley

What Rides are at Diagon Alley?

Diagon Alley is an impressive impersonation of your favorite books and movies. The interactive spells and shops are what really make this spot, however, there are two phenomenal rides here for your enjoyment as well.

Escape From Gringotts

Escape from Gringotts is a 3D/4D motion simulated thrill ride. First, you will need to store any of your belongings in a locker. Thrill rides require you store loose items in a locker before boarding. The standard lockers are free for a pre-stated amount of time; this time is based on the current wait time and duration of the ride with a large cushion. Large lockers cost $2 ($3 for every additional half-hour, with a max at $20) and can be opened, closed, and charged via your park ticket.

Wait in the queue among goblins hard at work in the marble lobby of Gringotts. Upon being briefed, you will travel deep down underground to board your mine cart. The entire experience is absolutely mind-blowing in so many ways. They did a phenomenal job designing the multi-dimensional thrill ride. With a fast pass, we waited between 25 and 30 minutes each of the three times we rode this ride; without a fast pass, you could be waiting anywhere between 50 and 80 minutes.  

The Hogwarts Express, Kings Cross Station

From this park, you can ride the Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross Station to Hogsmeade. In order to do this, you need a park to park pass. Join the queue at Kings Cross station and watch as those waiting ahead of you enter platform 9 and ¾. Each time the train pulled into the station, mine and my brother smiles stretched a few miles wide! Onboard, you’ll see characters and creatures featured in the films. Be sure to ride in both directions because the experience is different each time!

Universal’s Wizarding World’s Diagon Alley Shops

 All items on the Hogwarts supply list can be bought at Diagon Alley. I suggest coming prepared and all decked out in your best Potter garb, however, if there’s anything you forgot, you can find an authentic replica here.

Gringotts Money Exchange

Here you will find an animatronic goblin that will explain wizard money to you. You can get a refresher course on how many sickles to a galleon, etc. OR you can ask the goblin anything you’d like – try to be patient as you wait for his response. While you are here, you may turn your muggle money into paper wizard money that can be used within Diagon Alley, however, you do not have to.

Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions

This shop has a large selection of Hogwarts house robes, costumes, and accessories. Although I was not about to rock a robe in the 80-degree weather (I hate the heat!), there are so many awesome opportunities to dress just like your wizarding friends in this shop. Make sure to check yourself out in the antique mirror – it talks!

Ollivander’s Wand Shop

The maker of fine wands since 382 B.C. Step into this small, dusty shop -after watching a wand choosing ceremony of course- and find yourself in awe of the wand boxes stacked up to the ceiling. An interactive wand, which I highly suggest, will cost you $55 at a minimum; choose your wand based off of your favorite character, or your very own personality traits. If you’re looking for specific information on Spellcasting with your interactive wand, look no further than these 7 tips!

Brother and Sister standing in front of Ollivanders wand shop with their new wands!
Wands at Ollivanders

Shutter Buttons

Commemorate your vacation with an interactive memento at Shutterbutton’s. You’ll be guided through 12 iconic locations in either Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley. With a little bit of acting, you’ll have created a DVD photo album in a collectible Shutterbutton’s tin for you to cherish forever.  

Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes

I love this joke shop! It’s colorful, fun, and bound to make you giggle. Don’t miss the dazzling display of never-ending fireworks exploding at the ceiling as you shop with your mind on mischief.  Find some of Fred and George’s most popular creations in this shop!  Magical jokes, tricks, and toys including Pygmy Puffs, U-No-Poo pills, Skiving Snack boxes, and Puking Pastilles line the shelves. You’ll also find Sneakoscopes, Bombtastic Bombs, Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, Decoy Detonators, Extendable Ears, and more.

While you’re shopping, don’t forget to take into consideration package pickup and delivery. You can often purchase your items and pick them up on your way out of the park; items can also be shipped to your home or straight to your hotel room. 

Colorful staircase of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes
Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes

Diagon Alley Live Shows!

Ollivander’s Interactive Wand Choosing Ceremony

This short, intimate experience happens every couple of minutes at Ollivanders Wand Shop. Pile into a room and watch as a wand keeper walks an individual, chosen by them, through a number of spells. Each will go wrong until the proper wand chooses its wizard! At the end of the ceremony, you will exit into the shop so that you can purchase your interactive wand.

Improve your chances of being chosen for this experience by wearing event pins (I’m celebrating _______) and being decked out in your Harry Potter gear (but not a wand). Be warned, this show takes place in a dimly lit room where spells go wrong, loudly, until they go right! It can definitely be frightening for small children. You are able to leave in the middle of a show.

Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees

Sway and groove to the dulcet tones of Molly Weasley’s favorite, the singing sensation of the wizarding world, Celestina Warbeck! Sway and groove to never-before-heard songs including ‘A Cauldron Full Of Hot, Strong Love’, and ‘You Charmed The Heart Right Out Of Me’.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard 

Gather ‘round for a trunk show performed by the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts. Watch as they retell the famous tales of Beedle the Bard, a 15th-century author of wizarding fairytales, through stylized scenic pieces, props, and puppetry.

Everything you Need to Eat and Drink in Diagon Alley

The Leaky Cauldron

Just like the books suggest this pub-style inn provides a decent meal in a casual setting. Make sure you look for the wanted posters of Sirius Black during your meal. Don’t forget to notice the actual leaky cauldron in the fireplace as well!

The Leaky Cauldron is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! You order and pay at a cashier who will give you a table number. You then take this number to the seating area and staff will direct you to a table. Your food will be brought out to you when it is ready. The cottage pie is a family favorite and the Beef, Lamb & Guinness Stew is hearty and delicious. Most people rave about the Toad in the Hole dinner, and I really wish we would have tried it! Butterbeer potted cream is a must for dessert. 

Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour

If you’re a solid fan of both Potter and ice cream, you probably remember Harry spending a lot of time at this Diagon Alley ice cream spot before school started in The Prisoner of Azkaban. Now is your chance to have some soft-serve or hard ice cream on a hot day. Or it could be a cold day, realistically, any day is a good day for ice cream. Hardpack top flavors include Clotted Cream, salted caramel blondie, and earl gray and lavender.

The Fountain of Fair Fortune

This shop sells non-alcoholic wizarding drinks such as Butterbeer, Pumpkin Juice, and Otter Fizzy Orange Juice. These are classics from the books that you simply need to try!

The Hopping Pot

The local watering hole if you know what I mean. Aside from Butterbeer – which is a must- , you can try exclusive Diagon Alley drinks like Tongue Tying Lemon Squash, Otter’s Fizzy Orange Juice, Peachtree Fizzing Tea, Fishy Green Ale, and the Wizard’s Brew and Dragon Scale beers. You can also find small snacks here as well!

The Hopping Pot Storefront
The Hopping Pot

Diagon Alley Universal Tips

  • Late at night, right before the park closes is perfect for photos down the alley.
  • Certain merchandise is only available in Diagon Alley. If you see something you want in Diagon Alley, buy it because it might not be available in Hogsmeade.
  • Make sure you explore all of Diagon Alley, taking a wrong turn down Knockturn alley for some dark magic might just be the highlight of your experience. 
  • Take a photo with the Knight Bus and its driver, watch the windows of Grimmauld Place, and call the ministry of magic from the phone booth before you enter into Diagon Alley.  
  •  If you aren’t sure how much time you are going to need and what corresponding ticket package to purchase, you can upgrade your tickets in the parks any time before closing. So if you purchase a 2-day pass, but find you need another day, simply upgrade your tickets while in the resort and you will still get the discounted multi-day rate.

Hogsmeade Banner

Explore Hogsmeade Village

Spend your day in the picturesque little village of Hogsmeade. The cottages and shops mirror the wizarding village near Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where the Hogwarts Express train station is located. Appreciate every detail of the thousand-year-old shops, eat some of the best food in the parks, and ride one of my absolute favorite rides ever. 

girl with wand in front of hogwarts castle in wizarding world of harry potter  florida
Feelin Witchy in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Hogsmeade Rides and Attractions

Hogsmeade is home to several Harry Potter themed rides as it was the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal’s Islands of Adventure houses a majority of the Harry Potter-themed rides.

Hagrid’s Magical Motorbike Adventure

Hagrid’s Magical Motorbike Adventure is an absolute masterpiece of a ride. This epic new (June 2019) addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will fly you beyond the grounds of Hogwarts Castle, deep into the Forbidden Forest, twisting you through towering trees, rubble, and past magical creatures. You will have a massive smile plastered on your face for the entirety of the adventure.

You need to get to the park before the gates open and head to this line first. Due to the nature of the ride, it has had a rough opening with technical difficulties shutting it down – often halfway through the day. The opportunity to secure belongings in a free locker is available at the ride’s true entrance. Currently, the line begins in the lost continent due to the number of people who beeline for this queue as soon as the park opens. Staff members are really amazing about allowing a member of your party to leave and use the restroom or grab a snack while you wait. Have a plan for who will ride the motorbike and who will ride in the sidecar. You board the coaster on a moving platform which helps to keep everything flowing. Hold on tight and expect the unexpected.

Motorbike or Sidecar?

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey 

You will be required to secure your belongings in a free locker located at the base of the castle before entering the queue. Walk through the halls of Hogwarts Castle as you are welcomed, as a muggle, to attend a lecture on the history of magic. Harry, Ron, and Hermione will distract you from your destination where you will then experience moving and talking photos and the sorting hat. From here you’ll wait patiently to board your flying bench.

The motion-based dark ride begins with a sprinkling of Floo Powder from Hermione before taking off through the grounds of Hogwarts to a Quidditch match. After being chased by a dragon, you will find yourself in the forbidden forest riders descend into a set of the Forbidden Forest, where you will encounter Aragog and the Whomping Willow which will take a swing at you, conveniently knocking you onto the Quidditch pitch. Get in on the action of the game until dementors ruin the fun and send all witches and wizards scrambling to safety. With the help of Harry, your ride will end by flying back to Hogwarts where you will exit your bench.

view of Hogwarts Castle
Hogwarts Castle

Flight of the Hippogriff 

A junior rollercoaster located in Hogsmeade that takes you on a Hippogriff’s journey. A Hippogriff has the front legs, head, and wings of an eagle and a backside of a horse. This is a family-friendly roller coaster that spirals and dives around Hagrids living space.

Hogwarts Express

The Hogwarts Express also leaves from Hogsmeade and travels to Kings Cross in Universal Studios (Park-To-Park Ticket Required). In Hogsmeade, you can take a photo with the engine and conductors before or after riding. Remember that the ride is different in each direction so don’t just travel one way and say it’s over; experience familiar characters and creatures from the books and films. Once you arrive in London, at Kings Cross Station, pop around the corner to the secret entryway into Diagon Alley and keep the Potter magic alive.

Hogsmeade Village Shops

The quaint, snowy village of Hogsmeade is meant for shopping! Everything is true to character and just perfectly Potter.

Dervish and Banges 

Dervish and Banges sells all the items that wizards and witches will need before starting school at Hogwarts. Supplies including quidditch equipment, school robes, sweaters, ties, journals, and stationery items, can be found here. 

Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods

Located at the base of Hogwarts, Filch is selling all of the items he’s confiscated from students over the years to unsuspecting muggles. Here you can find Hogwarts related merchandise, books, movies, and special collectibles. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride photos can be viewed and purchased inside Filch’s as well.


A mini Ollivanders is present in Hogsmeade for those who may only be traveling to one park. Although I’m glad Universal thought about their guests in the light, I still suggest the true Ollivanders in Diagon Alley if you do have the option. 

Owlery/ Owl Post

The Owl Post sells a variety of writing implements, stationary, and stamps from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Missing your family and friends back at home? Mail your loved ones a postcard or letter. By dropping them into the post box at the Owlery, you are ensuring they will be delivered with a true authentic Hogsmeade postmark on it.


I was drooling the entire weekend waiting to come in here! If you have a sweet tooth, you must stop by Honeydukes for the greatest chocolates, fudge, and candies in the Wizarding World. Don’t leave without buying Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans for those Harry Potter lovers at home.

Hogsmeade Live Shows

There are several live shows available for your viewing pleasure in Hogsmeade Village.

Triwizard Spirit Rally

This is an awesome display of martial arts and dancing. This demonstration. Staged right in an alcove near the Flight of the Hippogriff brings together the students of Beauxbatons Academy of Magic and the Durmstrang Institute. The Triwizard Spirit Rally showcases a group of three men performing martial arts-type moves and a group of four women performing rhythmic gymnastics moves with ribbons. The performance lasts about 6 minutes; although it is fun and exciting, especially for true Harry Potter fans, I wouldn’t go out of my way to attend this show – however, if you’re walking by, definitely stop and watch.   

Frog Choir

The Frog Choir includes a group of 4 singers. The witches and wizards sing three or four a cappella wizarding-related songs, including “Hedwig’s Theme” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” The ten-minute show is followed by a photo op. Cute if you’re passing by, but not something I would make it my mission to attend. There is so much to do in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that this is simply not at the top of my list.

The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts

A show I would definitely go out of my way to witness. On select nights, watch in awe from Hogsmeade village as a dazzling spectacle of music and lights are cast against the majestic backdrop of the castle. The later the showing, the less crowded the viewing area will be and the better the lights! There truly isn’t a more enchanting way to end a magical day. 

Best Food and Drinks in Hogsmeade

Hogsmeade doesn’t have very many food options, but the restaurant they do have is one of the absolute bests in the park.

Three Broomsticks

Three Broomsticks is wonderfully themed and provides one of the freshest and tastiest dining experiences in the park. This dimly lit, rustic tavern provides a reprieve from the Florida Sun and family-friendly dining experience. When you enter, you head straight to a cashier. At the cashier, you will order everything for your whole party. 

The menu offers English pub fare, such as fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, Cornish pasties, and a “Great Feast Platter”. A children’s menu is available as well. I ordered the Cornish Pasties and Garden Salad which included flakey pastry pies filled with ground beef, vegetables, and potatoes, served with a side salad and choice of dressing. I really enjoyed my meal and it was quite cheap at $9.99. My parents had no complaints about the Smoked Turkey Leg and Shepards Pie as well.   

After ordering you’ll be directed to another counter to pick up your food. From here you’re free to choose your seat; if it is exceptionally busy, a cast member will guide you to an open table. The large back patio is definitely the best spot to dine! Don’t forget to order your Butterbeer or the famous strawberry and peanut butter ice cream. 

It doesn’t look like much, but those pasties were delicious!

Hogs Head Pub

It offers a selection of beers, the most prominent being the exclusive Hog’s Head, which can’t be purchased anywhere else. Hogs Head Pub also offers specialty drinks, wine, spirits, and mixed drinks for Muggles and wizards who are of age.

Don’t Miss These Universal Harry Potter Tips

Universal Studios is an amazing park packed with a ton of great experiences.  It would be an absolute shame to miss any of them! Here are my top two, out of 11 Universal Orlando Tips for First Timers.

Universal Express Pass

I love the Universal Express Pass and honestly, I invest in express passes at nearly every Amusement Park I travel to. If I’m spending money to be there already, I want to ride everything and I want to ride it multiple times if I do so desire. The Express Pass will help you out on Escape from Gringotts, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, The Hogwarts Express, and Flight of the Hippogriff. Hagrid’s Magical Motorbike Adventure does have the queue for an express line, so I do foresee it being available in the future. For now, because the ride is so brand-spanking-new, it’s fair that everyone has an equal opportunity to ride! 

Universal Photo Pass

I love a good unlimited photo pass opportunity. What better way to remember your vacation than by photos alongside your favorite characters and on your most memorable rides? Universal offers multiple packages each including unlimited digital downloads, discounts photo gift products throughout the parks, and free prints. 

We had a ton of fun with our Photo Pass on rides and at photo spots throughout the park. Don’t miss a single opportunity!

Universal Orlando

Park Entrance Photos)

E.T.’s Toy Closet & Photo Spot

Meet SpongeBob SquarePants and Friends

MEN IN BLACK™ Alien Attack

Revenge of the Mummy

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

Meet Shrek, Donkey, and Friends


Roaming Universal Studios Florida characters, where applicable

Back to the Future Automated Photo Capture in KidZone

Despicable Me Super Silly Stuff Store Photo Op

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts In-Queue Photo Op

The Dark Room

Universal’s Islands of Adventure

DeFotos Expedition Photography (Park Entrance Photos)

Spider-Man appearing at the Marvel Alterniverse Store

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

The Incredible Hulk Coaster

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls

Jurassic Park River Adventure

T-Rex Automated Photo Capture in Jurassic Park

Raptor Encounter Photo Op in Jurassic Park

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

The High In The Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride! In-Queue Photo Op

Roaming Islands of Adventure Characters, where available

The Grinch Seasonal Photo Op

Back To Top!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Infographic Guide

WWOHP by Kaitlyn Fortier

Winter Hiking: A Beginners Guide


Do you love to hike but live somewhere that gets cold and snowy in the winter months? Don’t let cold weather dull your shine, get outside! There is so much beauty to be found in winter hiking as long as you’re prepared for the temperatures and the terrain. In this post, I’ll share 9 tips that will help get you out on the trail tomorrow. I will also share how I pack my pack and what I’m wearing to stay warm, dry, and comfortable while winter hiking.

Read to the bottom for $20 off my favorite outdoor gear brand!


Reasons to hike in the ‘snowy’ winter:

  1. IMG_9710
    Trails are often desolate; few people want to brave the cold temperatures or own the proper gear to do so so you’ll often have a normally busy trail to yourself.
  2. Snow and freezing temperatures vastly change your favorite trails making them seem almost brand new. Your senses are surprised by new smells and sights on the same ‘old’ trails you’re used to! But be warned, the trail might not be as easy to follow so be sure to brush up on your navigation skills.
  3. In the winter months, your phobia of bugs and/or fear of animals on the trail is pretty much diminished! Enjoy the lack of bug spray, bear spray and bug bites at the end of your hike.

Top Tips for Winter Hiking:

Layering is key when winter hiking.

Layer your clothing; you want to be warm without sweating too profusely. Once your clothing is wet its ability to retain heat becomes impaired.

A Snowy winter hiking trip
A Snowy Winter Hiking View

Allow yourself appropriate timeframes

Hiking and Snowshoeing require similar effort (unless you’re breaking trail that is!), however, snowshoeing will take you longer. Please allow yourself more time to hike a trail in the snowy, winter months! Plan small for your first couple of winter adventures to see what speed you generally move at; it’s only up from here!

Plan Ahead and Prepare

Try and plan to be at your highest point at the warmest and/or clearest point in the day depending on your priorities! Take into account all landforms; bodies of water can be tough if they’re not fully frozen. Remember and prepare for the sun to set earlier in winter as well.

Just below the summit of Lake Placid 9er, Hurricane Mountain

Appropriate Equipment is Vital

As always, with any kind of wilderness adventure, please make sure you are appropriately equipped in both gear and knowledge! Look into taking a wilderness first aid course or at a minimum read up on proper winter first aid needs.

Follow All LNT Principles

Do not destroy the trail. Continue to follow LNT principles and be sure to utilize snowshoes or cross country skis where appropriate to refrain from post-holing and making the trail dangerous for other hikers (and especially cross country skiers)!

Snack Storage is Important

Store snacks close to your core to prevent them from freezing and to ensure you are able to consume them when you’re in need of energy. You may not feel hungry, but cold temperatures and breaking trail through the snow requires a lot of energy; make sure you are appropriately equipped with enough snacks!

Water Freezes

Store your waterbottles lid-side-down in your pack. This will just change ‘the top’ which is likely to freeze first. Having a wide mouth opening and filling your water bottle with warm water before departure also help prevent water from freezing.

Cold Water Bottle during Winter Hiking

The Cold is Draining

The cold causes batteries to die faster. Keep this in mind if you plan on using your phone, a headlamp, or a camera. I suggest utilizing a paper map and never relying on your cellphone, no matter the temperature. Make sure you bring extra batteries for your headlamp as well!

Warm Drinks Bring Life!

Pack a thermos full of hot cocoa, coffee, or tea! A great insulated bottle should keep this warm for a few hours. Warm yourself up from the inside out with a simple sip.


Winter Hiking Gear.

  • Cotopaxi TARAK 20L OR Gregory Zulu
  • First Aid Kit
  • Hand Warmers/ Foot Warmers
  • Water (64oz.)
  • Snacks
  • Extra Hat
  • Extra Gloves
  • Spare Socks
  • Packable Down Coat
  • Tissues
  • Essentials (Fire Starter, Emergency Blanket, Compass, Headlamp w/ extra batteries, Knife, etc.)
  • Microspikes
  • Duct Tape
  • Camp Blanket

Women’s Winter Hiking Clothes.


Specific styles linked!

Some of my favorite brands for outdoor winter apparel include Eddie Bauer  (if you’re a teacher enjoy 15% off with proof), Columbia Sportswear, Patagonia, and Cotopaxi.

View from Summit of Saranac 6er St. Regis
Summit of St. Regis, Saranac 6er

Visit Cotopaxi’s website and use $20 towards fair trade certified goods today using this link!


Universal Florida is a great amusement park for the whole family, but are there enough children rides? The big kids have tons of awesome thrill rides to keep them busy while the youngins have kid-friendly rides to experience and characters to meet! In this post, I’ll be sharing 15 attractions you and your favorite little ones will LOVE. At the end of this post, I will share 11 tips for improving your Universal Studios Orlando Rides experience.

15 Great Universal Rides for Children

Find joy in the smiles that these rides will bring to your child’s face.

Play Areas

Universal features several play areas that will keep your children occupied for hours. Young dinosaur lovers should explore Camp Jurassic, a multi-level prehistoric playground full of mammoth-sized fun. The Jurassic Park Discovery Center is right next door if you have any interest in the specifics of our planet’s prehistoric past. The Curious George goes to Town playground has a ball room, splash pad, and tons of toddler activities for inquisitive little ones. I suggest saving this for the end of your day because your kids won’t want to leave!

The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!

Kid Friendly
Minimum Height 36″

Wind your way, high in the sky, through the imaginative buildings of Seuss Landing. Two different tracks mean two different Seuss stories; one continues the story of the Sneetches, while the other takes you through the ABCs of your other favorite Seuss stories. Enjoy this unique view of the park, as you travel through Seuss Landing, enjoying many of your favorite Seuss creatures while listening to your favorite stories. 

Shrek 4D

Kid Friendly

Shrek 4-D is a mini-movie between Shrek and Shrek 2. See, hear and feel the story unfold from your seat with your OgreVision glasses! Experience a funny, multisensory adventure for the whole family. Be prepared to SHAKE on this ride if you sit in the interactive seating.

 Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl

Kid Friendly
Under 48″: Supervising Companion Required

Although many small children won’t know the aliens from The Simpsons, they’re still aliens and what kid isn’t fascinated by extraterrestrials!? Pilot your very own flying saucer and fry Springfield citizens with lasers as you circle one of the animated alien fiends. The jokes will have you laughing alongside your children in the Simpson world of Springfield. 

Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster

Kid Friendly
Minimum Height 36″
Under 48″: Supervising Companion Required

Ease first-timers into the world of roller coasters with the wacky woody the woodpecker. This kid-friendly coaster spins through a nut factory filled with silly puns and corny jokes to break the ice! No daredevil drops here, just tons of fun and smiles for everyone. 

Pteranodon Flyers

Kid Friendly
Minimum Height 36″
Under 48″: Supervising Companion Required

Take flight with your little ones beneath the 10-foot wings of a Pteranodon, on this high-flying gliding coaster. The seat swings gently from side to side and there are no sudden or scary movements, making it perfect for guests who aren’t quite ready for big kid thrills. You will be soaring above the tretops with your legs danlging though, so if you fear heights – be prepared.

One Fish Two Fish

Kid Friendly
Under 48″: Supervising Companion Required

I’m a huge fan of Dr. Suess and love Seuss Landing in general, but this ride is extra fun. The fish hold 1-3 riders each and you control whether the fish flies up or down. Fountains squirt water in time to a musical rhyme. Listen carefully to the song. If you want to stay dry while riding, follow the song precisely; halfway through they instruct you to do the opposite of what they say. My brother and I had fun fighting for the joystick throughout our rides because I was adamant about staying dry and he thought it would be hysterical to soak us. I won!

Storm Force Acceleration

Kid Friendly
Under 48″: Supervising Companion Required

Professor Xavier and Storm have a plan that just might save the X-men and they need your help. Help Storm harness enough thunder and lightning by spinning the wheel as fast as you can so she can blast Magneto into oblivion. Spin and laugh until you puke on this hyped-up version of the teacups. This is another great opportunity to escape the Florida sun by riding a ride that puts a temporary roof over your head.


Kid Friendly
Under 48″: Supervising Companion Required

Climb aboard this creative cast of Seuss creations! You and your kiddos will love being able to animate your character as well – pull on the reigns to make their ears wiggle or their eyes blink. Ride on the back of a fun character, or on the bench seating that is also available. This Seuss twist on a classic amusement park ride is an absolute blast and a must-ride while you’re exploring Universal Studios Florida.

Race Through New York Featuring Jimmy Fallon

Motion Simulation
Minimum Height 40″

Although the little ones might not get the Saturday Night live references and humor, they’ll definitely love this race through NYC! The waiting area is incredibly kid-friendly, featuring numerous games and Hashtag the Panda. You will collect your tickets as you enter – when the waiting room turns your color, that means its time to ride! Once you hop into your seat, you’ll zoom through, below, and above New York City in a fun-filled race against Jimmy Fallon.

Hogwarts Express

Under 48″: Supervising Companion Required

Part-to-Park Admission Ticket Required

Climb aboard the Hogwarts Express, from Kings Station or Hogsmeade, and travel between parks. Experience the thrill of walking through Platform 9 ¾ before you watch the British countryside pass by your window; the trip is different in both directions, so make sure you travel to and from each location! Although labeled as a thrill ride, there is nothing frightening about the trip. IT is THRILLING to experience the Hogwarts Express just as Harry, Ron, and Hermoine did as they traveled to and from Hogwarts!

The Cat in the Hat

Kid Friendly
Minimum Height 36″
Under 48″: Supervising Companion Required

Ride through the pages of a beloved Dr. Seuss classic, The Cat in the Hat, on your couch car. Spin and twirl through the house as Thing one and Thing two make quite a mess. Race to clean up as the cautious Mr. Krinklebein reminds you that at any minute, Mother will be home! This kid-friendly motion simulator will be a family hit. 

E.T. Adventure

Kid Friendly, Motion Simulator
Minimum Height 34″
Under 48″: Supervising Companion Required

I hope this classic never goes away. It’s such a fun ride that the whole family can enjoy. On this dark ride, you’ll board your flying bicycle with E.T. in tow. This thrilling, albeit gentle, ride sends you soaring above the city to save E.T.’s home planet. This magical planet full of wondrous otherworldly creatures will leave everyone talking about this original 1990 attraction. Be sure to listen for E.T.’s personal thanks at the end of your flight! It made my brother’s day to be thanked by E.T. himself. Make sure you sit in the same order you hand over your ‘passports’ in.  

Men in Black Alien Attack

Motion Simulation
Minimum Height 42″
Under 48″: Supervising Companion Required

Save New York from an Alien epidemic! This is a family favorite for so many reasons. As an agent trainee, you’ll learn to have a steady hand on your laser gun to zap 120 different species of aliens to earn points. The more points you get, the closer you’ll be to becoming a full-fledged Men in Black. Make it a family competition to see who can score the most points. Naturally, my dad, the retired police officer, came in first.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

Motion Simulation
Minimum Height 40″

I just absolutely LOVE this ride. It’s listed under my 13 best rides at Universal Florida as well under more of the ‘thrill ride’ category, although it is definitely appropriate for riders of all ages. It’s a 3D motion simulator (with a stationary seat option) that takes you on a heartfelt adventure through Gru’s lab. It’s able to make it into both categories because of its design and its storyline; it’s that good. Enjoy the minions and the girls on this spectacular ride!

Best Universal Rides For Children

These rides are bound to get the whole family smiling while serving the needs of your younger riders! Here are 11 ways to make the most of your Universal Orlando experience. Stay on-site to earn early entry into the parks, and utilize the resort WiFi and Universal App to see wait times and use the virtual line program. Go see the entire list of tips for improving your Universal Florida stay.

When traveling to Universal Studios Orlando, your time is of the essence. Sometimes you have to pick and choose which rides you have the time for. I love thrill rides and prefer to not waste my time on rides that don’t excite me, but sometimes it’s so hard to know which attractions deserve my attention. This list of 13 best rides at Universal Florida will help you spend your hard-earned time and money on the attractions that have the wow-factor you’re looking for. 

13 Best Rides at Universal Florida

Hang on tight as your favorite characters burst through the screen and take you for a ride. I’m a huge thrill ride seeker, and because of this, we chose to stay on the Orlando Resort so we could enjoy fast passes to all of the rides.

The Simpsons Ride

Motion Simulator
Minimum Height 40″

Crash Through Krustyland on this virtual reality rollercoaster ride. The pre-show and queue areas will leave you feeling like you stepped right into Springfield. Go on an absolutely wild adventure with the whole gang as you wreck the clown’s low-budget theme park. If you are someone who feels a little queasy after motion simulation, be prepared for this one.

 The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

Minimum Height 40″

One of the original motion-based 3D dark rides at Universal Florida, and still a popular attraction! This is one of the first rides I ever remember riding at Universal Studios Florida at least 15 years ago. Join the world-famous web-slinger on a journey soaring above the streets of the city. Be prepared for everything as you and Spidey save the Statue of Liberty.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Minimum Height 48”

Walking through Hogwarts Castle is an adventure in itself! Everything is just like the books/movies; even the pictures blink, and move, and talk to you. I can promise you that this attraction is unlike anything you’ve ever ridden before. On this ride, you’ll experience an airborne Quidditch match and alarmingly close encounters with Death Eaters as you tip, twist, and turn on a flying bench. 

Make the most of your Universal Florida experience by doing The Wizarding World of Harry Potter right. Explore Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley with your interactive wand in hand for additional park thrills.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Thrill Ride
Minimum Height 36″

One of two rides at Universal Orlando that use immersion tunnel technology to simulate movement through an adventure. Honestly, this ride is incredibly realistic, therefore, making it slightly terrifying! You will have to brave the dangers of a mysterious island where prehistoric predators and fearsome creatures attack your vehicle from all sides. Luckily, the one who reigns is quick to save the day. 

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls

Water Ride
Minimum Height 44”

This log flume ride at Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida is one of the park’s original rides from 1999. Riders will most definitely get wet on this ride and I suggest rocking a poncho if you would like any part of you to stay even remotely dry. The log flume winds its way through a number of animatronics and short dips before it plummets 75 feet over a heart-stopping drop. The final drop alone earns Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls a spot on the top 5 rides at universal studios Orlando list. The storyline features characters spun off from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle television show and is actually quite funny if you really listen.

The Incredible Hulk

Thrill Ride
Minimum Height 54″

This launched roller coaster took me for a wild ride on my very first Incredible Hulk experience back in the early 2000s. As a rider, you’ve been bravely volunteered to be a test subject for a science experiment based on Dr. Bruce Banner’s research. Once you’re catapulted out of the tunnel, you’ll be propelled upside down into a weightless zero-gravity roll, continuously racing faster and faster down the track.

Transformers: The Ride

3D and 4D
Minimum Height 40″

Become a freedom fighter and save the earth from Megatron on Transformers: The Ride 3D. Once you board your N*E*S*T* vehicle you’ll join Optimus Prime and Bumblebee in an ultra-immersive thrill ride that blurs the line between fiction and reality. Fight to keep the AllSpark out of Megatron’s hands in an explosive battle between the Autobots and Decepticons. The Autobots are counting on you, roll out.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

Motion Simulation
Minimum Height 40″

I love, love, love, loved Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. While you snake through the queue pay attention to the overhead monitors as they bring you up to speed on the storyline. This fun ride has a storyline that will definitely tug on your heartstrings a little.  This motion simulated ride will take you into Gru’s lab where you will be turned into a minion recruit! From here you’ll experience and all-too-realistic adventure with Gru, his daughters, and some minions. To end the ride, you’ll exit and have the opportunity to take a photo with a real minion! 

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

Thrill Ride
Minimum Height 51″

Strap in and choose your tune of choice as you climb at a 90-degree angle toward the 167-foot first drop of this steel coaster. Adrenaline pumping and music thumping, you’ll be sure to feel the rush of this thrill ride. After your blistering 65 mph ride, you can choose to relive your ride with a photo or a music video of your adventure. 

Doctor Doom’s Fearfall

Thrill Ride
Minimum Height 52″ 

Help one of Marvel’s supreme super villains test out his new invention. His plan is to collect your fear during your stay at Universal Florida to use as a weapon against the Fantastic Four. With an initial launch stronger than a 747 and acceleration faster than a space shuttle, Dr. Doom is going to get his wish. Blast off 185 feet into the sky before gravity pulls you, screaming, back down toward the earth.

Revenge Of The Mummy

Thrill Ride
Minimum Height 48”

For many people, my step-mom included, this ride should have the number 1 spot at Universal Studios Orlando. I personally feel as though there are two rides that out-do even this thrilling coaster! This psychological thrill ride combines a dark ride with impressive animatronics, special effects, and a roller coaster. This ride might be indoors, but its launch style coaster will carry you through swarms of insects, warrior mummies, and fire so intense you’ll feel the heat. 

Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts

Motion Simulation Thrill Ride with a 3D/4D Experience
Minimum Height 42″

Walk through the Gringotts bank and travel deep down to the underground tunnels. Journey on this multi-dimensional thrill ride through the cavernous passageways of Gringotts. On this indoor steel roller coaster, you’ll encounter Harry, Ron, and Hermoine while you evade the wrath of Voldemort, Bellatrix, and other mythical creatures through the subterranean vaults of Gringotts. Make sure you hold on, for it’s a wild ride! Universal really did it right here when they combined a roller coaster, with a 3D/4D motion simulated experience. It is one of my favorite rides I have ever been on.

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

Thrill Ride
Minimum Height 48”

This is an epic new ride in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Fly away into the wilds of the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid as your guide. Twist and turn through seven launches, which are more launches than any other roller coaster in the world. It is also only the second coaster in the United States to feature a vertical drop track. At nearly a mile in length, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is currently the longest roller coaster in Florida. Unfortunately, this is one of the most unreliable in the entire theme park industry due to its frequent downtimes. I suggest hitting this ride first thing in the morning and be prepared to wait at least two hours to ride. Bring snacks for the wait and know that the ride is worth the wait.

Universal Florida Rides…

There are endless thrills to be had at Universal Studios. These 13 best rides at Universal Florida should be at the top of your list! Make sure you have the time to ride them all with these 11 tips.