Universal trip - thoughts?

JAMJAM

Member
Despite my wishes to return to Disney this year, I was outvoted by DW, DS11, and DS7, and we are doing a short trip to Universal as a part of our summer trip to the gulf coast this year.

Here is the plan:
- going mid August, likely staying Monday-Tuesday or Tuesday-Wednesday
- staying 2 nights at Royal Pacific (2nd choice Hard Rock, 3rd choice Portofino, cost and distance to parks conscious - my only win in the negotiation was that on-site and Universal Express passes are a must on this short trip)
- 2-day, 2-park, park-to-park tickets
- plan is to take a morning flight, be in Orlando by 11, at the hotel by 1, in one of the parks by 2.

So this gives us a half day on the first travel day, and a full day the next day. We leave whenever we get up on day 3 and drive to Tampa (unless our flight really gets delayed, that means day 3 will be park day 2, and a late arrival at the beach). Questions I am hoping you can help with:

1. How early do we have to book? Should I get on this now or do I have a few months to set plans?
2. With Universal Express pass, will we have enough time in 1.5 days to hit almost most of the big attractions? We move pretty fast...and plan on doing a pretty full day when we arrive (day 2 will definitely have pool time in the afternoon)
3. Is the extra $250 for the four of us worth it for the park-to-park option? I know we need it for Hogwarts express, I am not sure we will use it day one...and so it seems like a big cost for 1 ride (who am I kidding, I probably won't leave it out, but I would like thoughts here).
4. Hours have not been posted for Early Park admission in August yet...not sure which park we do first, but I was planning on Islands of Adventure day 1 (it has more that appeals to us, with Marvel and Jurassic as well as Harry Potter, so we can hit what we miss here day 2). What is rope drop like for Hagrids during Early Park Admission, and the day there is no early park admission?
5. I am too much of a planner...like most on this board I know pretty much exactly what I will be doing at what time on each day of my Disney trip. Am I crazy to just wing it with Universal Express passes, and just work clockwise/counterclockwise, other than the rope drop for Hagrid's?

Any guidance is appreciated!
 

tiggr88

prefers quisp over quake
Orlando Informer and the DIsboards have some pretty good advice and tips for Universal. The Dis is especially helpful on hotel prices and discounts to watch for.

1. How early do we have to book? Should I get on this now or do I have a few months to set plans?

If you mean booking the hotel , the advice is probably the same as Disney. If you see something now just book it and look for any discounts that come out later. Just book a reservation that allows for cancellation. You may want to consider getting at least one AP as the AP discounts can be nice, especially mid to later August. Combined with the merch and dining discounts it may (probably) pay for itself.

2. With Universal Express pass, will we have enough time in 1.5 days to hit almost most of the big attractions? We move pretty fast...and plan on doing a pretty full day when we arrive (day 2 will definitely have pool time in the afternoon)

Yes you should, although I don't know how much pool time you can fit in addition. The park hours are not usually as long as Disney's although being able to easily walk back to the hotel will help. The challenge will be RD'ing Hagrids on at least one day. It will also come down to how much time you want to spend taking in the atmosphere of the two HP sections. The stores and experiences can take some time as well as making time for a frozen butterbeer. If they are working, you may want to spend some time on the spells using the interactive wands as well.

3. Is the extra $250 for the four of us worth it for the park-to-park option? I know we need it for Hogwarts express, I am not sure we will use it day one...and so it seems like a big cost for 1 ride (who am I kidding, I probably won't leave it out, but I would like thoughts here).

You probably won't need it unless you want to ride the train. If you are going as HP fans I believe it really is a must do though. Just watching the train pull into the station is a highlight. Not sure if your 1/2 day is the first or second day, but if the first is it possible to add the park to park on just the second day? I forget how the pricing works on the Universal tickets.


4. Hours have not been posted for Early Park admission in August yet...not sure which park we do first, but I was planning on Islands of Adventure day 1 (it has more that appeals to us, with Marvel and Jurassic as well as Harry Potter, so we can hit what we miss here day 2). What is rope drop like for Hagrids during Early Park Admission, and the day there is no early park admission?

I'm not sure if they've done Hagrid's with IOA as early admission. You should check OI and Disborads for info on what the wait is like and then monitor again as you get closer.

5. I am too much of a planner...like most on this board I know pretty much exactly what I will be doing at what time on each day of my Disney trip. Am I crazy to just wing it with Universal Express passes, and just work clockwise/counterclockwise, other than the rope drop for Hagrid's?

No, this is doable. Universal with express pass is much easier and relaxing to plan for and tour than Disney. Just remember that if you go during a busy time you may find some waits even with the express pass. You might still want to consider prioritizing certain rides. Also, the water rides at IOA will get you soaked, so plan for that as well, especially if you want to change clothes or wear/bring a bathing suit. We usually have 2 or 3 full days and plan for a morning or afternoon where we just concentrate on those rides back to back a few times and then head back to the hotel for a break and a change. That may not be an option depending upon the park hours and how long you have. If time permits, taking a break in the middle of the day is not a bad strategy in August anyway. If you do, I would plan for the water rides as the last thing on your way out for a break.

Hope that helps.
 

amk3

Member
#1: Book now. Get the APH link from disboard's APH thread, change the dates to the dates you are visiting and bookmark that link with the correct dates, then start checking for lower rates in April.
#5: If you were going for 2.5 days you don't need a plan with Express. Trying to fit as much as possible into 1.5 days, you will want a plan.

I can't comment on whether that's enough time or how you should plan your 1.5 days until I hear the level of Harry Potter commitment. Do you want to ride the rides & check out the area? Or is this trip because your young man has turned 11 and needs to visit Diagon Alley to prepare for his first year at Hogwarts and you need time for not just the rides but also for the wand to choose the wizard & to make the experience immersive?
 

nolarookie

Well-known member
I like doing park to park. Hogwarts Express is really cool. it’s one of my favorite attractions, and I’m a very casual Harry Potter fan. I think one and a half to two park days is good.
 

JAMJAM

Member
Thanks everyone for the feedback, very helpful. I think overall we will be okay. DS11 is a HP fan, so that will be a focus...but only as much as Marvel will be a focus for DS7. I think we will be disappointed if we face huge waits for Hagrid's, as we are not willing to do more than an hour...but if we miss it there is always another trip. I will take everyone's advice, and watch for a trip report in September!
 

beachta1

Well-known member
Thanks everyone for the feedback, very helpful. I think overall we will be okay. DS11 is a HP fan, so that will be a focus...but only as much as Marvel will be a focus for DS7. I think we will be disappointed if we face huge waits for Hagrid's, as we are not willing to do more than an hour...but if we miss it there is always another trip. I will take everyone's advice, and watch for a trip report in September!
I'm headed back to Universal in May and can't wait for Hagrids!! I'll def be RDing really early to avoid long waits during the heat of the day. I have to see how early the buses run from Cabana Bay so I can beat the crowds.
 

kgillen

Member
I'm headed back to Universal in May and can't wait for Hagrids!! I'll def be RDing really early to avoid long waits during the heat of the day. I have to see how early the buses run from Cabana Bay so I can beat the crowds.
Just got back from doing 2-days at Universal before a family b-day party in Tampa. Hagrid's was AWESOME!!
 

kgillen

Member
Thanks everyone for the feedback, very helpful. I think overall we will be okay. DS11 is a HP fan, so that will be a focus...but only as much as Marvel will be a focus for DS7. I think we will be disappointed if we face huge waits for Hagrid's, as we are not willing to do more than an hour...but if we miss it there is always another trip. I will take everyone's advice, and watch for a trip report in September!
Have a great trip! We just did two days at Universal (01/28, 01/29). Hagrid wait times seemed to be consistently at 60-90 minutes from shortly after RD until closing. They were allowing single riders intermittently but if you showed up with three or more you were forced to ride standby. DS15 and DD13 who are casual HP fans rode single rider on our first day. Me, DS8, DS15, and DD13 got in standby line to a 90 minute posted wait (becuase we are not going to be back to US/UIOS anytime soon). We were on the ride in somewhere between 60-90 minutes. It was worth every minute we waited. That ride is incredible!!
 

puffyjj

Member
I am a universal newbie but I think the seasonal pass would make a lot of sense for your family especially since there aren’t any blackout dates for it in August. I’d book your hotel now and keep searching closer to your date for annual pass discounts which are significant but seem to be released closer to those dates. Some folks had recommended Orlando Insider for touring plans, however, they hadn’t been updated to include the Fast and the Furious ride so I’m not sure how much weight to give them. I have enjoyed the universal part of www.mousehacking.com although I agree you won’t have to be too concerned about a plan with express pass. Best wishes for a great trip!
 
We are headed there for one day on March 1st after 4 days at Disney World. I'll let you know what I learn! We have a fairly aggressive 1 day park to park plan and I hope we can get it all done. We are staying at the Portifino which will give us early access to USF that day. I'm not quite sure how to plan since we also want to get Hagrids and Forbidden Journey done early in the morning.

Do we skip out on the early entry (8am) to USF and just head straight to the 9 am RD @ IOA to try to get Hagrids and FJ done? I can't imagine it would work to enter USF early at 8 am, ride a few rides and then ride the Hogwarts express over to IOA to make the 9 am open? Anyone have any experience with this?
 

tiggr88

prefers quisp over quake
You should check the hogwarts express schedule. I believe it didn’t use to start running until the opening of the second park so you would be way behind. I also believe they let people into the park before official open just like Disney so you would definitely be behind them.

Your best bet would probably be to RD Hagrids since it gets long waits and doesn’t have express pass and then use Express pass on the rest of the rides. Even RDing Hagrids means being at the park early to be at the front of the crowd. I haven’t been on yet but I suspect 60 minutes before park opens like a Disney headliner.

Orlando informer or other touring plans may have better advise for what time to be at IOA for Hagrids RD.
 
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