Who: Family of 6 (4 kids, ages 12-17) enjoyed 4 days at Universal (and one at WDW). This was our second trip (first in 2017).
Getting There: Airport transfers to/from MCO via FLTours - highly recommend. On-time, kind, nice/clean car.
Hotel: Stayed at the Royal Pacific - two adjoining rooms with a view of the pool. Quiet, comfortable. Staff friendly, food good (but expensive like everything these days). Short walk to park and City Walk.
Although expensive, our rate included Universal Express passes for all six members of our party, which were critical for this trip.
Tickets!: I was able to purchase 3-day, park-park tickets with 2 free bonus days earlier this year, which allowed us to visit the park every day of our trip. We also had Universal Express from our hotel. This was key to ride as much as we did, but it also seemed on later days in our trip that most people had it…
Weather: Our last trip was in August so we were prepared for heat/humidity/thunderstorms - or so we thought. It seemed much warmer and humid than I remember - possibly because it only rained once. Locals said every year it seems warmer and more humid than the next.
Crowds: Touring Plans was right on the money at predictions - it was definitely at a 9 the whole trip. Lighter on Sunday, with increasing crowds M, W, and Th. It was packed with people, esp. Diagon Alley. Crowds eased a bit later in the day. We were so glad to have UE, which allowed us to ride everything we wanted multiple times (does not work for Hagrid or Velocicoaster).
The Parks!: They were just as great as 2017 - but with some excellent new additions. We are Harry Potter fans, so Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure was the #1 favorite all around. Fantastic theming, super fast, really fun - but the lines were always 70 minutes+ unless you can get to the park gate at 7 am (some of our party managed this once and were on in 20 minutes). But we all agreed it is worth that long of a wait! Gringotts is still fantastic and who doesn’t love Forbidden Journey (although it glitched several times during our rides). Our kids are also teens now and enjoyed the thrill rides Hulk was a huge favorite, and the new Velocicoaster was intense but also a huge hit. We also loved our old favorites, Race Through NY with Jimmy Fallon and Spiderman. Sad that Mummy is closed for refurb. Only ride we hated was The Fast and the Furious. No point, no fun.
Food: Recommend using Mobile Ordering on the Universal App. Enjoyed lunch at Leaky Cauldron (Mobile ordering required), frozen butterbeer in Diagon Alley, and our giant pink Lard Lad donut. Had lunch at Fast Food Blvd in Simpsons area twice. With high crowds, find a table first and place Mobile order for pickup. Typical theme park food, but they really do offer a wide range of options there (kids loved the curly fries). Also had a great lunch at Richter Burger in San Francisco. Plenty of seats even at noon. Food was good - have a full vegan “cheese” burger, too.
City Walk: We also enjoyed Voodoo Donuts one morning, Antojitos (Mexican) for dinner, and Margaritaville for dinner (try the watermelon margarita!)
Disney Day: We got a one-day Park Hopper and headed to WDW for one day. Took an Uber XL to Epcot. Epcot is big and concrete and like walking on the sun in the summer - there is little shade - bring an umbrella! The new Guardians of the Galaxy ride is amazing! But you must join the virtual queue to ride. I think this was the favorite ride of the trip. Kids also enjoyed Test Track, Soarin’, the new Ratatouille ride (though the line is SO long). Snacked our way through the pavilions and enjoyed some Dole whip before heading to Hollywood Studios (via the Skyliners) to see Galaxy’s Edge. Skyliners stopped working due to impending weather, so we were bussed from Caribbean Beach to HS. Rise of the Resistance is fantastic! Smuggler’s Run was also great fun, but the wait at the end of the night was awful (assuming the ride went down? it was like 75 minutes in the end, posted 40). Teens also rode Rock N Rollercoaster, which they said was intense but great. Took a Lyft back to hotel (somehow 1/5 price of Uber at 10 p.m. - so check both apps).
Overall: Wonderful trip with the whole family. We all agreed that Universal > WDW hands down. We pushed maybe a little too hard (all day every day). We probably should have taken a break/pool day We are tired and sore but have great memories. Yes, it was SO hot and SO expensive, but worth it! My kids love Universal and we plan to go back again!
Happy to answer any questions. Best of luck planning and enjoy your trips!