General First Time Planning Questions

Hi!

My husband and I are planning on visiting Universal 3/28-3/31. We are flying in early and flying out late to maximize our park time. We will have an express pass on 3/31 and have purchased the Harry Potter package. We are staying at Cabana Bay.

I have a few questions that I’ve not been able to find on forums, blogs, etc. It is possible my questions are a little overly specific as I am used to the high level of planning that goes into a WDW trip.

We booked 4 days because friends told us 2 days were plenty, and we wanted to take our time and have some relaxation during our trip also. We are primarily going to enjoy Harry Potter things, and I want 1 day of just immersing ourself in an HP bubble. Now that I’m in the planning process I’m fearful that my touring plans aren’t realistic and we may be really running hard to ride everything. On all 4 touring plans every ride is a walk on, or under 30 minute wait. What is a more realistic expectation for this? Will we be able to reasonably both relax, and hit mother majority of attractions in 4 days?

The second question is about tickets. We have already purchased tickets. I’m seeing mixed reports. Do we carry our paper ticket all day for 4 days? Is there a digital option? Or is there a plastic card I can get somewhere?

Also, are there robes available at shutter buttons during COVID?

And finally, any tips or pointers I may have missed?

Regarding tickets, while i have never tried this, it looks like there is an option to scan your tickets in the Universal app. It will be added to wallet. However, keep in mind that you will need your ticket to open and close lockers for rides. That is why you see many people with tickets on lanyards. Some rides don’t allow cell phones in pockets so keep that in mind.

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How late do you plan on staying the 31st? I don’t know if it’s possible but it may be better to change it to a day you won’t have to leave earlier than park close.
We spent 5 days in 2018 and had a full day of HP. Did early entry at Studios and rope dropped in the area, ate, spent about an hour shopping. Rested at the hotel for a couple hours while waits shortened, hopped to Islands for Harry Potter area and rides, rode round trip on the train to make it back for the nightly show. The remaining days we split doing the rest of the parks attractions/shows. And a half Volcano Bay day.
And is this the day you also plan to use the express? Those are reasonable times if so.

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We did everything in one day with express pass. No resting though. Four days with rests should be plenty IMO.

We don’t enjoy water parks, so we are skipping Volcano Bay. So it sounds like our stay should be enough.

We fly out at 8pm on 3/31. My husband booked the trip as a surprise, but it may be worth seeing if we can change the dates on the EP. His train of thought had been to use it on the last day to catch anything we missed.

I have made touring plans that cover:
Sunday - UO for the day of our arrival (planning to see maybe half) and then enjoying CityWalk at night

Monday - EE at UO and doing only Potter the whole day

Tuesday - starting at IOA and hitting both parks if we have time

Wednesday - anything we missed or want to repeat.

I am struggling because I don’t feel our touring plans are reflecting accurate wait times.

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I have seen other people on this forum having similar problems with wait times. For our school districts, the time you are there is during spring break, so I would anticipate that there will be heavy crowds. If it is showing you that things are often a walk-on all day without Express Pass, I would say that that is inaccurate. Can you share the touring plans, or at least one of them, so that we can look at them and give you some more input?

Also, as a huge Harry Potter fan myself I always take one day and devote it entirely to all things Harry Potter. You will have a fantastic time!

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I have tried to share our plans below (my first time doing this). I am aware of the spring break, so that makes me extra wary about what to expect. The unknown is killing me, I tend to be an over planner! Ultimately I am ok not seeing everything, but also just want to make sure I know what my expectations should be.

Sunday (our arrival day) - I made this plan with plans to possibly play it by ear since we are arriving that day, I also hope to enjoy a dinner at CityWalk and possibly some pool time at night if it’s warm enough. https://touringplans.com/plans/4242883

Monday (the HP day) - in my dream work I want to be totally immersed in HP part 1 https://touringplans.com/plans/4242883 part 2 https://touringplans.com/plans/4243009

Tuesday - we would like to not do EA this day and take it a little slower, with possibly taking a mid afternoon pool break https://touringplans.com/plans/4246035

Wednesday - no touring plan this day, but will have EP. We hope to see anything we may have missed and do any repeats. We will need to leave universal by 6:30 pm to have time to catch our flight.

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I’d suggest two changes to your plans.

Crowded times are magnified in the HP areas. So, I’d avoid HP during the middle of the day. Do HP during EA and leave that area when the crowds become unbearable. Then come back to the HP area late afternoon when the crowds lessen. When the HP is wall-to-wall people, it is much harder to enjoy the area because you can’t even see most of the theming below people height. Since you are into HP I’d do that all four days.

I’d switch your EP day to day 3 so that you can get full use of it.

Our first trip, during a low crowd time, we threw out the touring plans and did this for our first four days . We were there for a week. HP first and last, like I suggested. Then we targeted one half of one of the parks in between. You will have EP one day so that wouldn’t precisely work for you.

The train will have obscene wait times. Because they can only seat one party in each car. If that is true, plan on doing the train both ways on you EP day.

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oh wow! Ok, this is really good feedback.

I have been really stuck on wanting to fully immerse myself, but I do suppose that will not be super enjoyable if I am in wall to wall people and unable to see a lot of the theming.

I agree with what @shawthorne44 says. But I also understand wanting a day of full HP immersion. Maybe you could play it by ear. Maybe shoot for seeing the shows when it gets crowded if you can snag a decent seat. Have a snack while you’re watching the show. If it gets to be too much, you can venture out.

And for some reason it won’t let me see your plans. Do you have them marked as public?

The HP shows are pretty neat. The warbeck show and the puppet show have more than one version.
For getting into the HP restaurants there is a long line. It is worthwhile. But, plan on going in at an odd time. The problem is the socially distancing means that they aren’t using all the tables and they have to bring the food to you. So everyone takes longer to eat

When I purchased tickets, I received a PDF with all our tickets on. I then cut them out and laminated. These worked great for the lockers and train. Usually worked fine at the gates, until we had one fussy team member tell us that we cut the bottom of our tickets off and she refused to scan. That’s when you can bring the mobile ticket up to scan, or use the UOR app and your digital tickets will be on there also to scan.

For some reason no, UOR has me quite perplexed with their ticket habits.

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We were at Three Broomsticks last week. Instead of leaving some tables empty, it appears that they removed tables. With tables spread out a little and not as many people, it was great because it wasn’t as loud. I also loved the service of bringing out the food which was fast, and they also clean up when you are done.

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Awesome. In August it was miserable. I’ve seen complaints online, but now that you mention it I haven’t seen anything recently.

One of our first post-lockdown restaurant visits was in an old Victorian. It was great. Remember Victorians have a ton of small rooms All they did was shove the middle table next to a wall, and everyone was at least 10 feet apart. It felt so normal, it was nice.

We have an upcoming trip with a family that has never been, and I know they will want to eat in those restaurants. I am happy to hear that they changed things. Probably added more employees.

Question, I guess you tip now?

Yeah it was great, much more relaxed. It will be interesting post covid if everything goes back to the old way or if they keep some changes.

When we were at our table I actually said to DW “So do we need to give a tip now?”

But we never felt like we had to tip, and I’m thinking most people didn’t. We did not have a specific server and there wasn’t anyone that came around to refill drinks. And of course we had already put our order in well before we arrived so no one needed to take our order.

After you are shown to a table you open the app and put in your table number. Drinks came out in a couple minutes and then food came out in a few minutes after that.

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We purchased the HP package so we have reservations. I am starting to worry that maybe that’s hindering more than helping.

I thought I did. Let me try again.

I’m such an over planner, this whole unknown is killing me :rofl:

If anyone is interested, here are the changed we’ve made.

We are trying to contact universal and have our EP moved to Tuesday if our Sunday- Wednesday stay. If successful I used the historical crowds calendar to make a rough touring plan that will be:

Sunday - arrive at hotel by 9 and drop bags. Begin trying for a virtual Hagrids. Head over to US and hit transformers, mummy, and ET. Maybe Bourne. Ear lunch then head back to hotel to officially check in (around 3). Then rest/swim until 6:30ish. We hope to shop and eat at city walk before going to Ollivander’s and a quick HP walk through at Diagon Alley.

Monday - in park by 6:30 am, planning to hit Diagon alley/Gringott’s first. Then sight seeing. By 8 start trying for Hagrid’s. Enjoy a show or other sights until our 9:30 breakfast reservation. After breakfast head to Hogwarts express. We hope to ride the forbidden journey, and sight see before heading back to hotel around 3:30 for a rest. We have plans to return to Hogsmeade around 6:30 to ridge flight of the hippogriff and to do more sight seeing. Dinner at the Hog’s Head. And with any luck Hagrids at some point. When we’ve had our fill we will turn in for the night.

Wednesday - in Islands by 6:30 for an EA Hagrid’s. Then sight seeing until 8. We plan to use our EP for any ride repeats before our 9:30 breakfast reservation. We will then catch the hogwarts express back to US and hit the ground running to ride rides, with an afternoon break. After break finish out our EP day at islands.

Thursday - later start, play the morning by ear and hit any possible repeats. We have a 10 at shutter buttons. Afterwards we hope to catch shows or anything we want to repeat or missed. We are toying with returning to the pool until we have to leave for our evening flight.

Thanks for everyone’s input!

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This is great! I have a personal laminator so this will be easy to pull off.

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No, I think the reservation will be helpful. Some people without reservations have had their mobile order breakfasts cancelled because there wasn’t enough capacity.

Some people also say that they only like the breakfast food in the HP restaurants, and then others say that it is a bland generic American breakfast. I suspect the dispute there is whether bland generic American is a good thing or not.