I made it a surprising number of years on this planet without ever realizing that themed matching family shirts during amusement park vacations was a thing.
Sure, I’d seen families in color-coded shirts before. But I had always assumed it was for practical purposes, like quickly spotting each other in a crowd.
And I’d seen special occasion shirts like Johnson Family Reunion or some random wedding party.
Fun, I suppose, if that’s your kind of thing.
They’ve got short-sleeve and long-sleeve options as well as several others not overly practical for Florida.
Seriously, unless you go to one of the theme parks in late December or January do you need the custom family hoodie?
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They also have tank tops, which are almost as impractical as hoodies. If I’m going to be out there riding the Velocicoaster, I want something a little more substantial than a tank top, you know?
Frankly, being a rugged iconoclast, matching shirts for the squad would never really have been my kind of thing. Wearing the same five T-shirts thousands of guys just like me bought at generic retailers around the country? That’s good and normal. Matching with my kids like we’re about to form a family band? Not for me.
In fact, here are the questions I ask myself prior to embarking on a Florida vacation:
- Will it be comfortable?
- Is it clean?
- Will it be practical for the Florida heat?
- Can it get wet and dry quickly?
- Does it have any bad words on it?
Other than those key questions, I’ve never really put that much thought into our family vacation wear.
But luckily, my wife put in enough thought for all of us.
This is why, recently, we had matching shirts for every day of our week-long vacation.
Star Wars. Marvel. Mickey. Harry Potter. I can’t remember them all but she had a friend in the custom T-shirt game who made shirts for all of us.
I was more than a little dumbfounded. Again, I had no idea that this was a THING. But friends, believe me, it is a THING.
Having gone through the T-shirt vacation phenomenon once, I have been much more in tune with what others are wearing on subsequent vacations.
In fact, as we plan our next family trip, I’ve decided to take one for the team and have been on the lookout for something officially licensed we can wear one of the days. I’ll repeat that for those in the back … one of the days.
But family vacation T-shirts are a wormhole you don’t want to fall into.
Where to buy officially licensed Universal shirts
After a quick Google search, I was lost in a seemingly bottomless hole of custom-made shirts on Etsy and dozens of other sites. Harry Potter, Disney, Star Wars, Fast & Furious, Jurassic World, Monsters, Marvel and much, much more.
It is a dizzying array.
But I didn’t want something custom. I wanted something official. Something Universal Orlando approved. Something that was likely to be significantly more expensive.
Why? I thought that would be cool. Maybe some exclusive offers with free shipping.
But it turns out it’s very difficult to suss out what family T-shirt options are available at Universal Studios Hollywood until you are in the park.
And the confoundingly frustrating Universal official site isn’t going to help much with it.
Why, after all, would you bother to order your shirts before you arrive in the park, wash them and break them in? Everyone knows it’s much better to wear a t-shirt unwashed or worn straight off the rack.
Machine wash? That’s for pansies.
But if you want Universal official gear, that’s the only real way to do it.
But the question remains, what should we go with?
Here are some options available within the park:
1. Minion shirts
Let’s start with one of the few options available both in-park and online on Universal’s website: Minion shirts.
If you’ve ever dreamed about forming your own army of Minions, here’s your chance.
“Despicable Me” fans can now Minion-ize themselves with a collection of bright yellow shirts, hoodies and even bibs featuring a variety of faces and expressions.
A wider selection is available in-park than what you see online, but if you’re looking for something to pre-purchase that isn’t going to smell like a theme park the day you buy it, this may be a solid option.
2. Thing apparel from Seuss Landing
Universal may be getting completely swamped in the online family vacation T-shirt racket, but in the park, if you want to mix and match your squad for maximum matchiness, get thee to the land of Seuss.
Here you will find a variety of Thing shirts worthy of families across America. Thing 1, Thing 2, Thing 3, and Thing 4.
No siblings? There are “Only Thing” shirts.
And more specifically, there are “This Thing is my Brother” and “This Thing is my Sister” shirts.
There are sparkly, glittery Thing shirts. There are Thing shirts for mothers to wear celebrating the Thinginess of their baby in utero. Thing hats, Thing hoodies and Thing keychains can also be purchased.
In fact, there are even Thing shirts for your dog or any other dog-sized pet. Universal has the Thing market on lockdown, son.
Let Etsy run up with some knockoff Thing merch and Universal’s gonna go the mattresses. Believe that.
3. Marvel Alterniverse Store
You can also make your way to this inexplicably poorly named store.
After some research, however, I learned that Alterniverse was briefly a label for the Marvel “What If” stories. While that may be true, the name is so bad I hope they fired whoever came up with it and then went to their parents’ house and slapped their momma right on the mouth.
The Avengers family shirt game isn’t as robust as the Thing … well, Thing. I suspect because it’s cuter to dress up little kids than the big ones who might start to think matching with mom and dad isn’t the coolest thing in the world.
Still, there are “Mommy is my Super Hero” and “Daddy is my Super Hero” shirts. As well as “Super Mom” and “Super Dad” T-shirts.
Those also come in white tank tops that while appropriately cool, again, seem extremely flimsy for any serious amusement park action.
4. Hogwarts house apparel and robes
I think a good half of the internet is devoted to off-brand matching Harry Potter T-shirts. But, if you want something official, you can kind of bluff your way through.
There are plenty of House themed shirts available inside the park.
You could all be Ravenclaws or Hufflepuffs or members of Gryffindor. You could mix and match. This is especially great if one of your kids is kind of a butt head; you can get them Slytherin stuff and really drive those anti-social leanings home.
You could also get a second mortgage and buy official Harry Potter robes for the family which is great and the same thing boxers do when they have to drop a lot of weight fast to make a fight. Would it be neat? Yes. Would some of your party be pulled into The Veil like Sirius Black? Also yes.
What I am amazed Universal hasn’t done is customizable Quidditch-themed shirts. “I used to be a Seeker but then I found my wife … she’s a keeper.” Seriously, just like the Things, families could get matching shirts by position and personality. It would be huge.
I would also think a series of Weasley shirts for larger families would go like gangbusters but I may be semi-delirious right now.
After that? We get a little barren on official family vacation theme park shirts.
Here are some options that Universal isn’t capitalizing on:
Fast & The Furious
You would think the franchise with the slogan Family Forever would have some matching family vacation shirts. You’d be wrong. There is a gray T-shirt with a skull on the back that says Family Forever, but I’m not sure that it strikes quite the right tone or is available in children’s sizes.
They do have an adorable onesie that says “Don’t Grow up Too Fast” but it’s not available in adult sizes so that’s out.
It seems so easy. Just Thing it out. Mom or Dad is Optimus Prime – the kids can be a variety of matching Autobots or Decepticons. How hard is that Universal?
There is, of course, a wide variety of Transformers merch to choose from. Why isn’t some of it customizable for pre-order? Who knows? They do have an Optimus Prime hoodie that, I believe, comes with a guaranteed heatstroke within 3 hours of purchase or your money back.
Dinos are like Raymond, everyone loves them. Why aren’t there matching dino shirts for the family? Dad’s the tyrannosaurus, Mom could be a pterodactyl and the kids, raptors. Who says no to that? Plus dad gets to walk around all day pretending he has short, useless arms. That’s fun for the whole family
Same thing with Universal Monsters. Who doesn’t want a My Mommy is a Mummy shirt? My Dad’s a bad Vlad? Come on. These things just write themselves.
Is your family planning a family shirt-themed vacation to Universal? Let us know in the comments.