Help? First time USF & I am struggling to make a plan!

I have read and watched Universal tips/threads/videos/podcasts. I still cannot make a plan to save my life. I’m finding it daunting to commit to anything. (Thanks Covid - so much was canceled that I am scared to jinx anything with plans.)

I have seen many many times that at USF, you don’t have to plan. Having a tentative plan is important to help DD12 (& DH to some extent) manage expectations.

We drive straight thru from Northern Michigan, leaving after work on 7/22, checking in late on 7/23.

Split stay:
7/23-26 Cabana Bay Exterior Poolview Family Suite
7/26-29 Royal Pacific Standard Queen

About us: Me & DH, DD15 & DD12

DD 15 is an HP super-fan. She’s read the series at least 15 times, all the fan-fiction and had 2 different HP themed bedrooms. She also loves Marvel & movies in general. She is also a vegetarian if that plays into restaurant recommendations.

DD12 has little interest in HP or any other movies really. She also has ADHD, so emotional regulation can be an issue (along with the more typical symptoms), she’s also hysterical and full of energy and life.

DH hates crowds and people, but we’ve realized we have a minimum of 3 summers left with DD15, so he’s being a good sport. I am going in with very low expectations of him participating all day and I’m happy to let him go back to the hotel as needed. He is a great guy, just he would rather be on a boat in the middle of a lake than be at a theme park.

I’m perfect. :joy::stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Haha! Maybe out of shape, the eternal optimist, but crowds doesn’t bother me, and I want to make all of us happy.

On Sun 7/24, I plan on letting him sleep in/catch up, while the girls and I hit the pool, maybe VB during the day. Tentatively, we will eat an early dinner/late lunch (3-4pm location TBD) and then head in to follow HP’s journey (DA, Gringotts, a few stores, HE, then maybe the castle light show or Hagrids depending on wait).

After that, I have nothing.

I am happy to do rope drops. I am planning on everyone trying all rides. I already have Dramamine and Bonine packed. We have 3 park tickets, so we’d like to do VB. (Restaurants that interest me so far: Toothsome, Cowfish, Mythos & Louies. Also the crepe stand & the tot place in Seussland)

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. Any tips/plan suggestions are welcomed.


Honestly, with that many days, you really have nothing to worry about. Especially since you’ll have Express Pass access during your Royal Pacific stay.

So, you don’t need to fret. DO take advantage of early entry, however, on days you want to do WWoHP. The place (in both parks) can get crazy crowded by lunch time, so it is nice to take advantage of the the early morning time period when the crowds are lighter. By noon, I’d leave WWoHP and head to other parts of the parks, or even back to your hotel for a swim.

Despite what you usually see, there really are a lot of opportunities to get away from crowds at both parks if you take the time to find them.

When we’ve done 4 days at the parks, we’ve had more than enough time (even without Express pass) to get through everything we wanted (sometimes multiple times), and be done by 3:00 in the afternoon each day.

Having said that, you are going during a busier time than we’ve gone…so the additional time you have there will be a definitely plus to keeping it more relaxed.


How many park days do you have tickets for? Are you going in every day or taking some as just resort days?

Thank you Ryan! That is reassuring!

We have 5 day tickets. I am planning on going in for all 5 days, if only for a few hours.

DD15 is lobbying for us to leave her in WWOHP & the 3 of us tour elsewhere in the same park. :grimacing: She has a phone & is super responsible, but it makes me nervous still. She doesn’t want to be rushed around stores or anywhere.


So, it sounds like you’ll have 3 days with Express Pass (26th-28th). I’m not sure how you go about accessing the Express Pass on your check-in day. You may have to head to Royal Pacific before going to the parks.

On those days, you can pretty much go to whatever you want with minimal lines. There is a ton to see in WWOHP. If you aren’t comfortable leaving DD15 completely on her own, there would be plenty for the rest of you to look at/explore while she takes her time. Don’t miss the ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s!

I would probably plan to hit Volcano Bay on the days when you are at Cabana Bay with maybe short trips into the other parks then concentrate on them while you are at Royal Pacific.

As @ryan1 said, I think you will find that with 5 days you won’t be missing anything!


I sincerely hope your 15yo hasn’t read all the fan fiction because some of it is filthy! I would have no worries at all leaving a teenager with a phone in the parks on their own. But the HP areas aren’t huge.


I go to Universal Orlando Resort (UOR) as often as I can. July is going to be the busiest month of the summer. However, with that many days & Express Pass (UXP) on some of them, you’ll be fine.

You do get the UXP on your check-in day and check-out dates. If you can, go over to Royal Pacific as early as possible & get your room keys. The room key is your ticket to Early Park Admission (EPA). You can go as early as 6am to get the room key - if you are Rope Dropping that day. (The room won’t be ready, but they understand you are there just to get the key)

I have one suggestion… If Dad can take the rest of the crew around for a couple hours one morning, you can take your HP loving DD15 into WWOHP for spells and all the little HP Easter eggs and fun there!

Louie’s is the only “restaurant” on your list that I’d not bother with. It’s just quick service pizza. It’s nothing special. If you want pizza try Red Oven in CityWalk.

I love Universal & answering questions about it so ask as many as you want!!!

The biggest tip I have is how easy it is to get around. Don’t stress about transportation in anyway. My wife is a lot like your husband. She’d rather be reading a book. She gets frustrated at WDW because it’s such a chore to go anywhere.

She can, literally, be anywhere at UOR and be back in our hotel room in about 20 - 25 minutes. That’s for all the hotels. For some it’s even faster because they’re closer to CityWalk and/or use the water taxis. The size of Universal is more like Disneyland than WDW. (UOR actually based their design off of Disneyland) It’s so much easier getting around.

This is great advice!!! The best perk about CB is it’s location to VB. It has it’s own private walking entrance / gate. You can come & go in minutes. It’s almost wasteful to not go to VB if you are staying at Cabana Bay.


We don’t hear this very often. Awesome vacation plans


If I were to go back and with your hotel stays, I’d do VB early entry every morning you were in CB. Then I’d do early entry on the other park(s) when you were at RP. When you are at CB, I’d leave VB late morning and stop off at the hotel and rest. Then go to the other parks and stay away from HP until say 4 pm because of the crowds. For general plans in the dry parks I’d just pick a park/direction and explore along that path.

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I basically came here to say this! You’re going in July so it will be hot – You should have plenty of time to do everything you want & take pool breaks as well. Make restaurant reservations for dinners.
Cowfish is our favorite at Citywalk. Sounds like a great trip. Enjoy!

I’d take plenty of time on the 24th and 25th for Volcano Bay and to pool hop at other resorts. Save most of the attractions for after that when you have Express Pass.

Here is a great Diagon Alley shop location map for DD 15. Print out and she can study it! :laughing:



Do some of my scavenger hunt items if lines are long:

But you need zero plan when you have express. Do what you want when you want (except VelociCoaster and Hagrids which I’d do very early in the AM or right before close or both for nighttime rides which are better).

In my experience, the parks don’t feel crowded until 11am. This was even the case Monday. Hogsmeade felt alright at 930-1030am and then come 11am your dodging people in the walkways (someone should make a video game of what’s it’s like to keep your party together in a crowded theme park like Frogger).


But it’s really the truth at Universal if you have Express. Disney pay attention!


Or without. We’ve never had nor needed Express Pass.


I would say all your restaurants choices are solid except maybe Louie’s. But if you’re getting something simple you’ll be fine.

I like Leaky Cauldron better than Louie’s. It’s my fave quick service in the park.

Without though you do need a plan. You’re not just gonna go ride Gringotts at 1pm. With, you ride what you want when you want (except VC and Hagrids)


Thanks for sharing your Scavenger Hunt! I actually thought about it earlier because I know how much DD15 HP Super Fan would love all the WWOHP secrets.


For next week it is priced at $250+ per person per day. We are 9. I am not paying that kind of money, no way. Liner strategies will have to do! :blush:

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