Toymanswife
Toymanswife Reader
10/7/21 10:01 p.m.

So I have never been to Universal. Kid 2 is turning 30 and invited me, Kid 3 and gf and Kid 4 to go.  I have looked at hotels until my eyes are crosses. I figured that there might be some great ideas here. Where do you suggest we stay that can sleep 5? We are planning December 9th thru the 12th. We want to get a two park pass but even those aren't straightforward. Regular pass for 2 parks for 3 days... or cheaper opion but only one park per day or adding fast passes.... ugh. Help!

mtn
mtn MegaDork
10/7/21 10:21 p.m.

Things may have changed since covid...

 

I am a huge Harry Potter need, so when we went my main objective was the Harry Potter section. To experience all of the HP part, you need tickets to both parks, so get dual tickets on the day(s) you decide to do that.

The HP section, and possibly some others(?) open an hour early if you get an early access pass, but you need to stay with an Universal hotel/resort/affiliate and book through Universal. 
 

The butter beer is amazing. Seriously an insanely tasty beverage. 

wake74
wake74 Reader
10/8/21 9:15 a.m.

There are advantages to paying (getting violated?) and staying with park owned properties. The costs are high and some cases I would rank them no better than a roadside motel, just with nicer branding. Obviously Disney does have some high end properties as well. 
 

The real value in Orlando is to rent a nearby condo for dirt cheap. There are literally thousands of  new condos that rent for cheap cheap money within 15 minutes of the parks. 3-4 bed / bath units with a kitchen for a fraction of the resort prices. 
 

But you do lose the convenience and early access perks. 

mtn
mtn MegaDork
10/8/21 10:48 a.m.
wake74 said:

There are advantages to paying (getting violated?) and staying with park owned properties. The costs are high and some cases I would rank them no better than a roadside motel, just with nicer branding. Obviously Disney does have some high end properties as well. 
 

The real value in Orlando is to rent a nearby condo for dirt cheap. There are literally thousands of  new condos that rent for cheap cheap money within 15 minutes of the parks. 3-4 bed / bath units with a kitchen for a fraction of the resort prices. 
 

But you do lose the convenience and early access perks. 

The one we stayed at was, quite literally, a motel. It was nice, but it was a motel.

 

mtn
mtn MegaDork
10/8/21 11:53 a.m.

Since nobody else seems to be responding, I'll throw in more of what I remember. I did an insane amount of planning for 1 day at Disney and 1 day at Universal.

  • Start browsing https://www.reddit.com/r/UniversalOrlando/. There is a ton of good information there. 
  • One of the best things about staying in one of their properties (which may not be their property, but is affiliated with them) is that you can jump on a free shuttle there and back.
  • I can't remember if the shuttle runs this early, but we got up and went to the Awful Waffle first thing via Uber or Lyft, then we got to Universal literally as the security opened. Were the first ones there. We do not regret that at all. 
    • The worst drivers I have ever experienced are the Uber and Lyft drivers in Orlando
  • For Early Admission, keep checking here to see what is going to be open: https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/early-park-admission. They'll update it closer to the time. We got 3 rides on one of the Harry Potter rides, in an hour, as well as breakfast at either the Leaky Cauldron or the Three Broomsticks. This was the only thing that we planned: Get there early, run directly to the ride we were going on, and repeat until the line got too long. 
  • They have their version of the fastpass (express pass?). If the budget allows, it is worth it, at least for 1 day. At that point with 5 people, it may well be worth it to stay in a Premier hotel,  because I think it is included. 
  • Since you're there multiple days, have one day without any plan whatsoever. If it were me going for 4 days, I'd have an express pass every day and do this:
    • 1 day in Harry Potter with a specific plan
    • 1 day in the rest of the park with a specific plan
    • 1 day of Harry Potter without a plan, just doing whatever there is to do
    • 1 day in the rest of the park without a plan
  • Bring a fanny pack - every single person needs one. You won't be allowed a backpack on any ride, and some rides your fanny pack isn't even allowed. 
  • Fanny packs should have Aleve, external battery bank with a 4 inch cord, granola bar(s) or raisins, a PBJ or two, and sunglasses. Optionally, a water bottle - don't throw it away when empty. Water is free, but you have to ask for it. Free ice too. Note that while Disney would let you bring in Thanksgiving Dinner, Universal says snacks only. Make them high in protein.
  • Get comfortable with the idea of lighting thousands of dollars on fire and watching them burn. 
  • Most rides will have a single rider line. Take it. With 5 people, worst case, you'll have to wait 10 minutes for the rest of your group to finish the ride. It will save you significant time.  I don't know how/if this worked in conjunction with the express pass.
  • It will be getting legitimately crowded by 10AM. So try to get your "I need to do this!" stuff out early. 

 

If I remember anything else, I'll pass it along. 

llysgennad
llysgennad Reader
10/8/21 2:47 p.m.

Everything mtn said.

We went 2 years ago. We stayed at a Universal property (https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/places-to-stay/loews-portofino-bay-hotel), even though it was crazy $$. The perks are so worth it (basically the price of the hotel for 4 of us), especially the boat ride from hotel to park and back anytime you want. The included express pass is golden. Unlimited line jumping, basically. We almost felt bad, it was so easy. Wait times without it will kill your day. The big coasters don't let you take ANYTHING in, but the lockers are semi-convenient. But don't underestimate how long the ride lines will be, we saw multiple people lose their stored stuff because they didn't make it back in time (pay by the half hour?). I think Hulk was the worst. The new Veloci-coaster will be bad if crowds are big.

Harry Potter stuff can easily take a day at each park, but if you want to ride the train you have to have both tickets. Station was cooler than the train ride, honestly. Get a wand if you have kids in your group, there are magic things to do everywhere. The light show at Hogwarts at dark is really cool. Hagrid's motorcycle ride was a blast!

The park is much bigger than it seems. Walking takes forever to get from one area to another. The app is really useful.

We liked it better than Disney World, even though we did a day in each park there. Nothing against the mouse, just more our style.

llysgennad
llysgennad Reader
10/8/21 2:50 p.m.
mtn said:
  • Since you're there multiple days, have one day without any plan whatsoever. If it were me going for 4 days, I'd have an express pass every day and do this:
    • 1 day in Harry Potter with a specific plan
    • 1 day in the rest of the park with a specific plan
    • 1 day of Harry Potter without a plan, just doing whatever there is to do
    • 1 day in the rest of the park without a plan
  • Get comfortable with the idea of lighting thousands of dollars on fire and watching them burn. 

Good plan.

Money. Lots. We averaged $1017 per day. And we tried to save money when we could.

pinchvalve (Forum Supporter)
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/8/21 2:51 p.m.

Can't wait to read through this, we are changing our usual Disney Trip to Universal next time.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
10/8/21 3:01 p.m.

I don't know all the tips and tricks, but definitely stay on property. The random perks/early entry/shuttles/parking/etc. make it nearly a wash price-wise and way more relaxing. 

paddygarcia
paddygarcia Reader
10/8/21 3:03 p.m.
mtn said:

 

  • Fanny packs should have Aleve

Full bottles if you intend to ride the Incredible Hulk. Hol-eeee cow, that was the most brutal coaster I've ever done.

Regardless of how you feel at the end, walk out proud past the rows of teens sitting with their heads between their knees :-)

92dxman
92dxman SuperDork
10/8/21 5:51 p.m.

Friend of mine just was in Universal and said beers are $9 a bottle. He consumed more butter beer as a result.

OHSCrifle
OHSCrifle UltraDork
10/8/21 6:56 p.m.
llysgennad said:

....

The big coasters don't let you take ANYTHING in, but the lockers are semi-convenient. But don't underestimate how long the ride lines will be, we saw multiple people lose their stored stuff because they didn't make it back in time (pay by the half hour?).

....what the WHAT? Do they have a "storage wars" style auction while you are stuck in line?

 

 

llysgennad
llysgennad Reader
10/8/21 9:22 p.m.
paddygarcia said:
mtn said:

 

  • Fanny packs should have Aleve

Full bottles if you intend to ride the Incredible Hulk. Hol-eeee cow, that was the most brutal coaster I've ever done.

Regardless of how you feel at the end, walk out proud past the rows of teens sitting with their heads between their knees :-)

We loved it. Rode it probably 5 times in a row. (Express pass, took less than hour)

llysgennad
llysgennad Reader
10/8/21 9:25 p.m.

In reply to OHSCrifle :

I don't know, honestly. I assume there is a way to claim it somewhere, but it wasn't obvious. But the lockers were cleaned out when needed and time expired..

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