Universal Orlando

RMmom

Member
I know, I know...they are the other parks BUT this year the 4 of us have gotten into HP as a family. We read the books together, watch the movies and I have now got the younger 2 really into Harry Potter. We have been to Universal 2x but it was before the 2nd half opened up. I am thinking about splurging next year and getting us there for 3-4 days and then doing a MNSSHP to get our Disney fix.
If I am thinking about going end of August or September, do I need to stay on property to get that added time in HP? We have never stayed on property at WDW and have always been fine. I assume the same with Universal...we would have 3-4 days to explore it all.

Any tips, tricks, advice, best websites to follow, books to buy, etc would be appreciated.

Thanks!


family update for those that read along during our last trip report (pre and post included)
Divorced for over a year. Ex has made zero contact with kids in over a year. we are doing well.
 

carrie

Member
I prefer to stay on site at that time of year to get express passes, but I also only spend 2 days there. If you have 3-4 days, you should be able to get everything done in both parks without express passes. There are only a few HP rides, everything else in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley is shows, casting spells with your interactive wands, eating, and shopping. If you google "Orlando informer" you will find a great website with tips and tricks for the parks.

Carrie
 
D

Deleted member 832

Guest
We never go to Universal without Express Passes, no matter what time of year. They always save time. We stay in one of the 3 resorts that include them with the cost of the room. It's never been less to stay in a lower priced hotel and buy them. It's usually as cheap to get a Season Annual Pass as it is to get a a 3 or 4 day ticket. As long as there are no concerts when you are going, it shouldn't be blocked out but check your dates. Once you have an annual pass you can book rooms on site at a pretty hefty discount.
 

tiggr88

prefers quisp over quake
There are two main considerations

Early Entry- Is typically available for anyone staying at any of the on-site UO resorts as well as to several off-site partner hotels if you book through the Universal website. Not sure if you get the perk if you book direct with any of those hotels.


Express Pass - Staying at the three premier on-site hotels gets you express pass for everyone in the room included in the hotel rate. That includes:

Portofino Bay
Hard Rock Hotel
Royal pacific


It may be worth the extra dollars for the room to get the express pass included. You can use this unlimited express pass for all rides other than Hagrid.

I believe others have recommended a planning site (Orlando Informer? ) before but I'm not sure. Surprisingly, the Disboards have some very knowledgeable people and information, including AP resort rates when they come out.

Don't rule out an AP or two for your group. If you are going to buy a 4 day pass, an upgrade to an AP may not be that much more money and may pay off on the same trip with the hotel discounts and merchandise/food discounts. This would also come in handy if you decide to take a Disney vacation in the future and want to spend just a day or two at Universal. It would be pretty cost prohibitive for a one day pass but the upgrade to an AP may be relatively inexpensive as long as it wouldn't be during black out dates.

If you are looking at tickets, please remember that in order to ride the Hogwarts Express (and you will want to ride it in both directions) you need a park to park pass.

The two Universal parks are close and walkable (in addition to using the Hogwarts Express). Staying at one of the three premier hotels would allow you to walk to and from the hotels and parks (especially HRH and RPH). The end of August and September are really hot. Being able to take a short break without requiring a lot of transportation time is noce, especially since the hours are shorter at Universal than Disney.

Since the crowds should be relatively light, you might decide to skip the perks and stay off-site. many do. I have found that the convenience and perks of the on-site "premier" hotels to be worth the money even during this time for both the express pass, time (no need to transport to the Universal parking lot or uber/lyft drop-offs and then get to the parks and ability to take breaks with shorter hours and less commute time to be more valuable than being on-site at Disney. There are many that stay off-site and prefer it as well.

Either way, have fun
 

MrFredricksen

Active member
We went end of Aug in 2018. Stayed on site. Express pass was amazing. We had 5 days and it was way too much, even with a day of doing the water parks. With the extra hour and the express pass we were done with everything so fast. So much of it was motion simulator rides that we really didn't like. We did the few things we liked multiple times and often found ourselves wandering around trying to find something to do.
Stay on site, give yourself 2 days (3 if you want to push it) and then go to Disney.
 

cboyer

Active member
We go every year, and two days is plenty if you are staying onsite and have express pass. Three days if you don't have express pass. We usually stay at the Royal Pacific and it is worth it to us. We get to walk to the parks, get in an hour early and get the unlimited express pass.

The Harry Potter section is really really neat, Hope you guys have a great time.
 

nolarookie

Well-known member
I would advise getting park to park tickets if you are primarily interested in the Harry Potter stuff so you can ride the Hogwarts Express between the parks. Orlando Informer is a good website for Universal info. Enjoy!
 

smwisc

Member
We went to Universal two summers ago and loved it - here's my TR if you are interested (including a post on on-site vs off-site): https://www.easywdw.com/forums/showthread.php?37474-Universal-and-more-trip-report-August-8-14/page2&highlight=universal

We are a dedicated off-site family for Disney, but we stayed onsite for part of this trip, and absolutely loved the convenience of Express Pass. Your crowds should be lower, so it may not be necessary, but being able to go with so little planning is great. Part of the difference is that there isn't as much good information out there on how to beat the crowds at UO - Orlando Informer has some good stuff, as does the DisBoards, but there's no Josh! Personally, with 3-4 days in September, I'd be on the fence, maybe considering just one night onsite for the EP benefits.

I'm also a fan of longer stays - we had the equivalent of about 5 park days including US, IOA, and VB, and I didn't think it was too much. So 3-4 days sounds perfect to me - gives you time to relax, explore, re-ride favorites, etc.
 
There is just my personally experience/advice culled over four trips to Universal Orlando Resort. We stayed off-property twice (Dec 1998 and Nov 2011) and on-property twice (Aug 2015 and Oct 2017).

I would stay on property just because it is more fun and convenient. Loved starting out my morning on the water taxis.

But realistically for your dates, you do not need the Early Entry or the Express Press. So no, you do not need to stay on-site.

You also don't need three to four days for Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Two days should do it, one for each park, especially at that time of year. (although I would get Park to Park tickets for the Horgwarts Express).

So I would do two Universal day, one down day and one Disney.

Enjoy, it is blow away amazing! When you walk in, just stand there and look. It doesn't matter which if it Hogsmeade or Diagon Ally, just stand there and look. You will never have that experience again. Yes , I am talking about you and your experience, not your kids. After all how can you share the magic of that experience, if you didn't have that experience (please, ignore the snow on the rooftops).

(I so want to say I am sorry for your family situation but my brain keeps screaming 'better off)
 

nolarookie

Well-known member
The last time we went to Universal we stayed at Cabana Bay, you get early entry there but not express pass. We loved it and didn’t miss having express passes during 4th of July week. We stayed in a family suite, which I thought was a great deal, the bathrooms are huge and separated out so 3-4 people can be getting ready at the time. There are also little kitchenettes that are stocked with plastic plates, cups, and utensils. The pools are great—lazy river!! With 3-4 days, I’d go to Volcano Bay also. If you stay at Cabana Bay, you’ll have early access to Volcano Bay. They probably will have deals on 3 park tickets during that time of year.
 

beachta1

Well-known member
Another one to recommend staying on property! I stayed at Royal Pacific and Cabana Bay and loved them both!

With the express pass, since its not timed like the FP, the waits can be longer. We did Escape from Gringotts with the Express Pass and still waited over 30 minutes. Not that FP is ever perfect, but just be aware that it won't put you like right at the front.

I read 1-2 of the HP books and watched the first few movies before I went to UO for my first time in March. I LOVED everything Harry Potter there and thought the lands were extremely well done. If you guys are HP people for real, you're going to LOVE it.

Also, I'm sorry to hear about your exhusband not talking to you and your kids. How incredibly awful.
 

RMmom

Member
I am thinking about staying off property, doing 3-4 days.... and if we can't get on everything buying 1 day of express passes at the gate. Then, doing a MNSSHP and exploring resorts/disney springs. I can't afford to do both brands during a trip. I have to penny pinch and use xmas gift money to pull this off. can't wait to tell the kids on xmas morning. thanks for all of your thoughts/help. :)
 

bnoble

he's right
I would skip MNSSHP. That's $90/pp or so that you could put towards an onsite stay or express passes. When I go to Orlando, it is either to do Disney, or do Not Disney. I never mix the two. During the years we went to Not Disney, we still had great vacations.
 

nolarookie

Well-known member
I would skip MNSSHP. That's $90/pp or so that you could put towards an onsite stay or express passes. When I go to Orlando, it is either to do Disney, or do Not Disney. I never mix the two. During the years we went to Not Disney, we still had great vacations.
I agree with this, although we did both one time when we had APs for Universal. Universal is a lot of fun. City Walk has a lot to offer for restaurants and entertainment. I wouldn’t shut out staying onsite-unless it’s budget, but even then Universal has value resorts that are actually a pretty good value. I would forgo the Halloween party at MK and use the money for Volcano Bay tickets.
 

RMmom

Member
we will be there for over a week..... 4 days at 1, 1 day at another.... it works for us and is worth the expense to have 1 night at MK.
we aren't water park people. We won't be back for several years and we LOVE halloween at MK...so it is a no brainer to work in some Disney while enjoying HP. this will probably be only trip to HP/Universal....next trip will be full on WDW again. This is our 3rd trip to Universal...both were done on dual WDW/Universal trips in years past....when we had the income to do both in a week and have 2 days at one and 6 days at the other.....this will be first trip that is 90% Universal and a bit of WDW. We will stay off-site....we love multi-bedrooms, multi-bathrooms, laundry, private pool, private hot-tub all for $150/night. Having so much time at Universal in September...I have 0 doubts that we will be able to do everything over and over. If that isn't the case, I will buy express pass for a day to insure that.
 

RMmom

Member
sooooo.....I am considering one of the 3 hotels to get express passes. The hotel is only 1600. for the week. we have never stayed on property at WDW bc we like the space of a house to ourselves, private pool and laundry services..... so I would be changing our Orlando vacation style in a huge way staying in a one bedroom, one bathroom hotel room. I thought about doing a few days at the hotel and then a few days in a house....just don't know if that would turn into a huge hassle. if we did this, I would get a rental car and have that sitting there while in hotel but then needed for rental house and our MNSSHP night. We are still planning on going in September. I just can't make up my mind on where to stay :)
 

nolarookie

Well-known member
We’ve stayed at both Royal Pacific and Hard Rock. I think the room at Hard Rock was a little bigger and it was closer to US if you plan on walking there a lot. We enjoyed both, although I liked Cabana Bay, with no EP, better.
 

smwisc

Member
sooooo.....I am considering one of the 3 hotels to get express passes. The hotel is only 1600. for the week. we have never stayed on property at WDW bc we like the space of a house to ourselves, private pool and laundry services..... so I would be changing our Orlando vacation style in a huge way staying in a one bedroom, one bathroom hotel room. I thought about doing a few days at the hotel and then a few days in a house....just don't know if that would turn into a huge hassle. if we did this, I would get a rental car and have that sitting there while in hotel but then needed for rental house and our MNSSHP night. We are still planning on going in September. I just can't make up my mind on where to stay :)
We did an off-site/on-site split stay when we went, and it worked out well. It's a reasonable way to balance the (very significant) advantage of EP with the (also significant) advantage of having more space. Especially if you think you might buy EP one day, you're probably better off with one or two nights at one of the hotels. We stayed at RP and it was very nice - it's a short walk to IOA and short boat ride (or slightly longer walk) to US.
 

nolarookie

Well-known member
I just reread your original post, if you’re only doing the Halloween party at Disney, I’d probably stay onsite at universal and just Uber or Lyft to the contemporary resort for your MNSSHP night. I get what you mean about having the extra space, I was a big fan of renting condos, but the EP resorts at universal are super nice.
 
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