A "Second in a Childhood" Family Trip (Universal then Disney)

About us
A family and traveling party of 7, hailing from the Boston area. This is our second family trip to WDW, the previous being in late Jan 2020, the last trip we did before COVID lockdowns. Our family consists of Me, DW, DS13, DS11, DD9, DS6 and DFiL (mostly referred to in this post and IRL as “dad”). This is definitely a splurge vacation for us as we do prioritize staying on site and love being able to walk to a couple parks. We need a lot of space with 7 people and love the flexibility of having a kitchen, full fridge and laundry that a villa provides, and had booked direct via Disney on a 25% room only discount which came out cheaper than renting points via DVC rental store (which we’d used back in 2020) and with much better cancellation policies which we’ve valuing more after COVID. I expect we’ll return to WDW in 3-5 years but not before that given the other vacations we want to do as a family (and cost).

Saturday, April 15 – Arrival and Universal (both parks)
The previous evening I’d driven my three older kids from Boston to Newark as flight prices from Boston to Orlando were outrageous and we saved over $1,000 a ticket by flying to/from Newark. It was rather painful with Friday traffic but we played some YouTube videos teaching the kids about Universal to pass the time and made it to a nearby airport hotel.

Our day started early with a 3:45 a.m. wake up to catch the 4 a.m. hotel shuttle for our 5:25 a.m. flight. Everything went remarkably smoothly each step of the way. Our kids are really excellent travelers.
We got a Lyft to Royal Pacific Resort where there was no line at check in and our room was ready for us at 8:50 am! We had a great room in tower 2 on the same floor and about 3 doors down from the lobby. We’d requested Tower 1 for proximity to the walking trail but it was so quick to enter and exit our room to the lobby that we were thrilled with this room, and getting it so early so we didn’t have to deal with luggage services.

After a little freshening up and preparing for a hot day, we arrived at USF by 9:30, and rode mummy as our first ride. DD9 did not like at all, but the boys said it was best thing they’ve ever rode! We followed this up with Gringotts which DD9 was okay with but didn’t want to reride promptly, and the boys loved. We were ahead of my rough schedule so we all got butterbeer and had fun in Diagon Alley.

We then rode transformers and caught the Bourne stunt spectacular show. I probably liked Bourne best of all, but everybody found this really exciting and the time in A/C was much appreciated. We then grabbed lunch at the Simpsons food court, and the kids were watching the cartoons while we ate typical theme park fare. The burger line was much longer than the others so we focused on chicken and seafood and got food very quickly. The boys were excited to try an intense roller coaster so we split up with the boys riding Rip Ride Rockit while DD9 and I chatted with the knight bus driver (hilarious!), explored Knockturn Alley and found a place to relax in the shade.

DS13 had forgotten to bring his phone but DS11 had one of the AirTags I had bought for this trip (DD9 had one too) so I felt comfortable with them splitting up. We then took the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmeade. Asking how to find Platform 9 ¾ from the cast member outside King’s Cross station was very entertaining! Upon arriving, the boys did Forbidden Journey while DD9 and I tried to ride Hippogriff. It was about 2 p.m. so peak theme park time and neither the express nor standby queue was moving well at all and so we bailed after 10 min in the express queue, feeling like we had at least 20 more to go. It was a good thing because the boys had just gotten out of their ride at that time (with virtually no wait in the FJ express queue). In the heat of the afternoon we rode Jurassic Park River Adventure and then walked back to hotel for nap / quiet time and pool time. The three kids had a great time playing together at the pool and I was so happy to see them having fun together!

After getting dressed, we then walked to Mythos for our dinner reservation at 6. The food was yummy and the venue amazing!

We then did Poseidon’s Fury after that as rain was coming and DS11 had played Poseidon in a school play the previous year. We found the show very enjoyable, though I can understand why a standing walk-through attraction is being phased out. The skies opened up a bit as we were getting out and there was thunder and lightning. Hagrid’s was closed and didn’t reopen that night; our goal was to ride as the last ride of our day but we had to shelf that plan. Hulk was also closed and had been all afternoon, so DS11 was starting to get anxious he might not get to ride it (it was the ride at Universal he was most exited to ride given the 7 inversions). We then did High in the Sky in Seuss Landing and sent the boys off to ride Spider-Man while DD9 and I did Cat in the Hat and the Caro-Seuss-El. It was awesome to have this 1:1 time with her today, while also letting the older boys have more freedom. She liked both of these rides a lot; she’s growing up so fast but still loved the carousel!

I got a call from DS13 and the boys wanted to do Reign of Kong next so I encouraged them to do so but 15 min later when I’d seen they’d walked from Spiderman back to Mythos I thought something was up – they’d gone the wrong way! I directed them the right way while DD9 and I went home. The boys regret the ride as it wasn’t great and they also got a bit lost trying to find their way home. They probably walked close to an extra mile on an already exhausting day. But it was a great day overall and folks were asleep in minutes from their heads hitting the pillow!


Sounds like a great first day!

My DD16 (almost 17) still appreciates a carousel. Well, for that matter, so do I! :blush:

Looking forward to reading more!


Great trip report! Thanks for sharing! I’m looking forward to seeing more.


Amazing arrival day at Universal! Sounds like your boys got a good, safe taste of freedom including navigating the parks on their own. Love that. And Seuss landing! And Wizarding World of Harry Potter! You hit up lots of great highlights! Thanks for sharing & can’t wait to keep following along.


Thanks! I don’t see my daughter outgrowing this either, and I’ll gladly spend time on anything she wants to ride (and frequently I did, as my older boys paired up to do thrill rides).


Thanks! Although it was a very long day (3:45 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. with 3 of the 4 of us getting a 45 min mid-afternoon nap in), we certainly squeezed a lot into it! With just over a day and a half at Universal before our week at Disney, we had a lot we wanted to fit in. Express passes helped a ton.


Sunday, April 16 – Universal (both parks) and evening at Hollywood Studios
We got up to rope drop Hagrid’s. We were at park gates by 7:30 in a good position. It’s definitely less civilized than Disney though! Unfortunately we learned Hagrid’s was closed as we entered the queue but as it was our only chance we got in line anyway. A more experienced couple told us we were about 15-20 min from the front (at the entrance to the 2nd last room). And we had a place to sit thankfully. But after a couple announcements apologizing for “an extended delay” and seeing others behind us start to leave, we decided at 8:40 to bail so we would still get some benefit from early entry. The boys went to VelociCoaster for two walk ins (both express) while DD9 bought a wand (Hermione’s) and she did all the spells in Hogsmeade. She and a couple of her closest friends from school are really into magic so I just knew she’d love the spellcasting.

We then ordered breakfast from 3 broomsticks which arrived just as the boys got back from their rides. It was about 9:45 a.m. at this point so I went back to the room to check out and stash our bags (stopping for a few pics in Seuss Landing) while the kids took the Hogwarts Express back to Diagon Alley for spells, Knockturn alley, knight bus, etc.

I had made it clear that they had to stick together and do whatever DD9 wanted so was disappointed to learn later that the boys had been pressuring DD9 to ride Gringotts (which she wasn’t up for). I also decided to take the boat from RPR to CityWalk which seemed like a good idea but ended up taking probably 15 minutes longer than had I walked. We met up by mummy so the boys did that and then RRR while DD9 and I watched the Latin dancers for a couple songs. I was impressed there was some diversity in the couples, as with 6 couples there were 4 male/female, 1 female/female and 1 male/male. Representation matters! They were very talented and high energy.

DD9 and I then rode Minions and Jimmy Fallon. Minions broke down while we were on it so the boys got in another ride on each of mummy and RRR. After that, we ate another lunch at Simpsons and then caught the 1 p.m. Hollywood horror make-up show. Everyone loved it, especially the reference to “this isn’t Disney, we don’t need to be nice to kids here”.

We were running a bit short on time at this point but the Hulk had opened and DS11 really wanted to ride that (but DS13 did not, as he thought the 7 inversions would be too much for him). So we walked to IoA for DS11 and I to ride while DD9 and DS13 rode cat in the hat (a conciliatory gesture on my older son’s part for pressuring her to ride Gringotts earlier in the day). In the middle of another warm afternoon, we then all rode JPRA for our last ride at Universal and then headed back to our hotel to grab our bags and catch a Lyft to the Boardwalk. Despite a rough start with nearly an hour wasted queueing for Hagrid’s, it was a great 2/3 of a day at Universal.

Online check-in had come through for us at Boardwalk and we were assigned rooms 4114 and 4112, a 1BR connected to a studio. This was slightly worse than the previous trip where we had the same room combo in the same building but on the first floor (we prioritize ease of getting to/from room over view) but we were thrilled overall. Disney not guaranteeing connecting rooms is quite frustrating as if connecting rooms hadn’t come through it would have been a big damper on the trip given sleeping accommodations for the 7 of us (and frankly not worth paying the premium over two normal hotel rooms at Swan that I also had reserved up until 10 days before the trip). So I breathed a sign of relief.

We all got organized, including unpacking our suitcases, and the grocery delivery. DW was about 30 minutes behind us as she had to return the rental car and shower (as she and DS6 had spent Friday at KSC, the past two days at Legoland including time this afternoon at Legoland’s water park). After getting everybody organized, we walked to Hollywood Studios where I’d been stacking LL since 7 a.m. (Note that unless indicated otherwise, assume all rides were done in a LL). And Mickeys Runaway Railway had broken down in a previous LL time so we had a golden ticket to everything but Slinky and Tower of Terror!

We entered the park around 5:40 and rode Slinky (which DS6 had been looking forward to riding for three years, and was DD9’s favorite ride from the previous trip – it didn’t disappoint!), then TSMM, then Millennium Falcon, stopping for photos at a couple places along the way. And I loved that after tons of thrill rides on Mummy, Rip Ride Rockit, VelociCoaster and others at Universal my two older boys still had a blast on Slinky Dog Dash, as you can see from their faces!

We then all ate at docking bay 7. Over dinner, we made the call that we’d prioritize rides over Fantasmic! as wait times were low and the kids still had tons of energy. We were headed to Tower of Terror but saw that Rise was down to a 20 min standby wait which I thought was unheard of (and it was only 8 or 8:15 p.m. at this point) so we jumped on it. It was a walk on to the first preshow! What a crazy contrast this was with our last trip in Jan 2020 where we’d gotten to the park before 6 a.m. to be tapped in for a “roll the dice” chance to get a Boarding Group at 7 a.m.!

At that point we split up with the older boys and DW and I riding Tower while dad and the younger kids did ASS. We then all met up at MMRR. It was a fun ride for all, and so amazing how much dark ride technology has evolved! It was late and everyone was tired but dad wanted ice cream – he’d flown in from Boston first thing in the morning and hadn’t eaten all day except for the dinner at DB7 and kids never turn down ice cream! So we headed back via friendship boats to Boardwalk ice cream. It was a nice end to the eve but we definitely pushed too far and should have skipped ice cream for the kids as it delayed bedtime by about an hour which we paid for with energy levels the next afternoon!

This was officially the busiest theme park day we’d ever had!! But amazing to see how much we could get done in one evening at Hollywood Studios with a good LL stacking strategy and low crowds (we later learned via Thrill-Data that this was the lowest crowd day at DHS since October 2021!). And we were happy to be connected as a full family after several fun days apart.


Your family is too cute!

What a great day!


Loving your report! Thanks for sharing.

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Bummer about Hagrid’s but you did amazing finishing out UOR & then had a fabulous evening at DHS! I am in awe of your kids’ stamina these long days!

Ok, so what did DS13 think of Velocicoaster? Me, DH, DS11 and DD10 all LOVED Hulk and could’ve spent the whole night doing it over & over in single rider if we didn’t have our two younger kids with us. VC I liked it & want to try it again but I definitely couldn’t do it again on repeat like I would’ve for Hulk. I wasn’t a huge fan of a couple of the inversations on VC (one of the last ones right as you approach the water AND the super long one that they advertise as 2 seconds was just a bit longer than I was comfortable doing). So in my mind VC has the “worse” inversions. Hulk is just pure fast fun.

Yay! Good on him (and you for facilitating that).

You have a lovely family & loving the reunification at HS!! And grandpa is right, ice cream is always on the vacation agenda. But I’m sorry it pushed things out so late as to cause problems the next day.


DS13 loved VelociCoaster. They both did it back-to-back (with only a brief return to the locker to call me to ask if that’s okay - I’m thrilled they did it) and never a mention of motion sickness or fear. I bet he would have been fine on Hulk but I think he had in his mind that 7 inversions was just too many and he wouldn’t enjoy it. But I liked it - not that I was dying to re-ride immediately – so I expect he would have too. But I’m glad he spent time with his younger sister instead doing what she wanted to do…

Oh and to preview day 3, you’ll see that we drained the stamina well on this day and adrenaline only takes you so far so we had to take a slower pace. But it all worked out well.


I get this. This was probably my problem with not being willing to do Velocicoaster again quite right away. The whole hanging upside down for so long without shoulder restraints and then again so close to the water messed with me. Now that I’ve been back from vacation a month, I think I’m ready to think about getting on Velocicoaster again HA! But right after it, I was like, no thanks, I’m done.

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What a great start to your trip!

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Monday, April 17 – Magic Kingdom day 1 and Extended Evening hours at Epcot

We woke up to a wet morning with a forecast of rain through 10 a.m. It took me a little longer than expected to get DW’s phone set up for Genie+, but I managed to get a LL for Jungle Cruise at 9 a.m. as well as an ILL for Seven Dwarves Mine Train for near lunch time. We decided not to focus on Tron this day, knowing we were coming back another day to MK. Despite a late night, none of the kids were really able to sleep in so by 7:15 or so everybody was up.

Predictably and fortunately, the LL for JC at 9 converted to a golden ticket given the weather. Every ride except Space Mountain was included. While having breakfast and a relaxing start in the room, there was lots of debate about when to go to the park. I was grateful to have brought ponchos which DW had made fun of on the last trip. Around 9:30 a.m. we headed to the bus and were in the park by 10.

There was some discomfort with ponchos (I hadn’t brought enough kid-sized ones) so we bought two Disney kid size on Main St. Almost as soon as we put the new ones on, the rain eased and we all got to Big Thunder Mountain which everybody loved.

From there we went to Pirates and the rain seemed over after that ride. Dad didn’t want to brave the rain so he’d stuck behind in the room but after I called him he started on his way. The rest of us rode Haunted Mansion next and it was raining again by the time we got out. By then DS11’s wet shoes were really bothering him so we went to lunch at Columbia Harbor House, with no problem finding a big table and food for everybody to enjoy. Dad arrived then (having brought DS11’s sandals) and we finished our meal.

After lunch and with the rain over for good, we all rode 7DMT which was practically a walk-on in the LL and a hit for everybody but my dad who said it was too much for him and he closed his eyes the whole time (though our ride photo might indicate otherwise).

After HM, I’d gotten a good LL for Space Mountain so the 3 boys and I headed there while the others did Winnie the Pooh followed by It’s a Small World. The older two boys and I had done Space 6 times in our 2020 trip but this was a first time for DS6 and he loved it!

We then checked out the Tron area and then did People mover, while the others walked over so we could all ride Buzz together. The family decided we liked TSMM much better than Buzz, and I think some of it is that it’s much harder to tell what you’re hitting with Buzz and also the score discrepancies tend to be much wider – knowing where the 100K points are, I routinely scored 400-650K points while my wife had 2700 points the one time she rode it! That said, DS6 enjoyed being able to steer the ship while his grandpa focused on hitting targets.

We headed to JC then (had gotten another LL) and we all had a blast with Skipper Molly. We had a good debate about our favorite joke (mine is the Schweitzer Falls named after Dr. Alfred Falls). From there it was nearly time for the 2nd parade so we headed to the porch of Peco Bill’s to watch, arriving about 2:40 and getting a good spot for our family to sit on the ledge but with nobody in front of us. Dad got a bit lost doing the shortcut to Frontierland, so I headed out to find him by Aladdin.

In this wait and lead up to the parade yesterday’s amazing but exhausting day caught up with 3 of the kiddos. We had a debate about strategy and what to do next – I think DW and I hoped we could manage a schedule of mid-afternoon naps so we can enjoy the parks in the evening but DS11 just can’t nap in the afternoon so we decided we needed to get kids to bed at a decent hour and forego the later park time. DS11 (who hadn’t napped on Saturday) was particularly beat so he and DW went home then while the rest of us rode the railroad from Main St. to Frontierland and then did BTMR once more to use up our multi-experience pass. We had dinner at trattoria on boardwalk, outside as the day has turned beautiful, then ice cream then bed! We got a golden ticket from Mickeys which was expiring that day and I used chat to convert it to Epcot for our next day but it wasn’t for any decent rides (i.e. not even Soarin’) and we didn’t end up using it at all the next day. I was able to multi-task while on chat so I didn’t feel like it was a waste of time, but I decided better to visit guest services with any future issues than use chat again (though we never had future issues that required a guest services visit).

We had the kids in bed and settled by 8:50 with dad happy to watch them, so DW and I headed over to Epcot for extended evening hours. We headed straight to Soarin’, though enjoying the nighttime sights as we did and seeing the topiaries for the first time. We didn’t wait at all for the ride, and it was DW’s first time as she’d missed it each time we’d done it on the previous trip. But we both loved it. I asked if she wanted to go again but she was happy with just the one ride for now, knowing we’d hit it again tomorrow. From there we had the idea to just walk around the World showcase but hadn’t realized that from China to Morocco was blocked off. So we walked back slowly from Norway towards France. I considered having us do Remy’s which was posting a 5 minute wait, but I knew we’d get to it later and we were both happy to walk back home by then. We clearly didn’t optimize rides during this quiet time but it was very nice to have a little over an hour just hanging out and enjoying the park with my wife. She’s much more of a “just enjoy the vibe and scenery” theme park visitor than I am, but I could totally appreciate it too.

All in all, the day started wet and we had to course correct around 3:15 given fatigue but it worked out great. We pretty much knocked out everything we wanted to do in Magic Kingdom except Tron for DS13, DS11 and I, Tom Sawyer Island and repeats of rides. And an hour or so of 1:1 time with my wife in a near-empty Epcot was a great, mellow wrap up to the day.


Tuesday, April 18 – Epcot Day 1

I’d gotten a LL for TT at 7 a.m. and BG17 and ILL for GoTG (for the 3 of us riding it). It was a very nice day weather-wise and folks were decidedly better rested so we decided to rope drop Epcot, entered at 8:15 (for 9 a.m. regular start) and walked straight to Remy’s from IG. We had about an 11 min wait. Everybody loved it! We then washed up and had breakfast at Les Halles. From there, DS13, DS9 and I headed over to do GotG and TT.

The GotG VQ took 13 min at about 9:30 a.m. and we were thrilled to see the main queue as it’s very well done and humorous.

There was a breakdown about 1/3 of the way through the 2nd preshow with Terry Crews though, which was a little immersion-breaking. They didn’t restart it, just moved us through an emergency exit door into the queue once the requisite time had passed. We loved the ride, rode in the back, had “I Ran” which we thought fit the ride really well. I don’t love intense coasters – I only did Hulk so my son didn’t have to ride alone – but I loved this one. Intense but very smooth is better than bumpy with less intensity for me!

The boys loved TT (it was our first time, as it was under refurbishment in Jan 2020) and it just inspired so much talking and thinking about cool car designs and different design tradeoffs. We called our first creation “The Terran Terror” given it’s beastly appearance and how polluting it is with a 15 efficiency score. What they’d design next time became one of the most frequent and engaging topics of conversations.

Meanwhile the others took their time in France, and strolled in a leisurely way towards the Land pavilion. They also explored the butterfly garden which was perhaps “the best thing I’ve ever done in Disney” according to DW and got similar high praise from dad.

We then all met up and rode Soarin’ which we all loved from our previous trip. We waited to ride in B1 and everybody was very happy. DW thinks this one of the most relaxing experiences ever, and has her Apple watch as proof because her heart beat lowers below 50 beats per minute on this ride!

At that point, we grabbed quick snacks of pineapple and watermelon at Seasons and then split up again with DS13, DS11 and I returning for our ILL of GotG and the others riding LwtL (also a wife fave). We breezed to the preshows in the LL and had noticed a much longer VQ as we were walking through. This time the 2nd preshow worked just fine – the plot of the coaster made a whole lot more sense now!

After we got through the preshow and could see the loading area, things ground to a very slow pace. Only one of the two loading areas was running, so things were moving much more slowly. I was getting nervous about our Space 220 reservation, while also seeing a couple with a VIP guide right ahead of us and calculating the cost of this delay to their very expensive day! (but judging by the wife’s ring and bracelet they were probably not so fussed about it). I heard via liner chat that there was a 2 hr 30 min wait in VQ during this time and later in the afternoon. I encouraged DW to ride Journey into the Imagination which they did, as they were done with LwtL at this point. And we made it out with 10 min to spare for our 1:00 lunch, so took a couple pics by GotG and then checked in at Space 220.

DW and her group made it to Space 220 just in time. The lunch was amazing; we loved the immersion and everybody was very happy with the food too. However, the cost was more than twice any other meal we had (except for our character brunch, which was about 30% cheaper) and this was without any alcohol consumed. But it was definitely the culinary experience highlight of the trip and everybody enjoyed seeing the various scenes of space, the cast member immersion, and tasty food. Outside the restaurant and Mission Space ride it was neat to see the astronaut quotes too. One was from Barbara Morgan who DS6 and DW had given the astronaut talk at KSC the previous Friday when they were there!

After lunch, we stopped for a quick family photo – if not clear by now, I’m inclined to try to get a photo nearly every time we see a PhotoPass photographer. As the person who normally takes family photos, it’s great to have photographers around the park to do this!

We then started our “tasting around the world” quest. I was stuffed but we focused on getting one sampling of food to share just as a simple challenge and nice chance to make sure we didn’t rush from country to country. In the walk to Mexico we realized how intense the mid-afternoon heat in Florida could be, at about 86-87 degrees and humid. Cooling towels helped (highly recommend as an easy Amazon purchase for anybody coming to Florida between March and Oct). We shared churros in Mexico and rode the Gran Fiesta Tour more for the A/C break than excitement about the ride.

In Norway we went into the Norse god building which DS11 particularly enjoyed, and then split a school bread and a kringla which we all loved (esp. the school bread). Next up was China where we made it just as the doors were closing for Reflections of China. After the movie we each ate one potsticker.

We had a Remy LL that we’d booked after Soarin’ and needed to start picking up the pace as we were coming up against its 119 minute grace period. So Germany was a bit more rushed but we caught the tail end of the Groovin’ Alps percussion performance and scarfed down a pretzel and strudel. We then headed straight to Remy’s which we enjoyed just as much the 2nd time through. We then hung out (adults) and swam (kids) at the Boardwalk pool, had a very light dinner back in the room and headed to bed.


Great picture of the slide!


Thanks! Maybe a little less Boardwalk thematic, but much improved compared to the creepy clown, right?


Have to say I like both versions!! :blush:

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This is what it’s all about :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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This photo is precious!!!