How far in advance should I book UOR? What stuff should I know first?


#1

I’ve finished planning my family’s first WDW trip and started looking at 2019/2020 vacation plans. My wife is a huge Harry Potter fan and I’m thinking of surprising her with a weekend trip in Oct 2019 for our anniversary.

I made the mistake of booking WDW before I knew much about it, and as a result made a few mistakes. I’d like to be more prepared for UOR.

So my questions are:

  1. How far in advance do I need to be planning this trip? Does UOR have anything comparable to Disney’s insane 180-day-in-advance ADR meal planning?

  2. Are there specific things I’ll get locked out of if I wait too long, or upcoming changes I should be aware of before committing to a date?

  3. Is there anything specific that you’d tell a UOR newbie before they book a trip, that might not be super obvious after doing the basic research?

Would likely fly down Friday night, spend Saturday and Sunday in the park, and then fly back late Sunday or Monday.

Any and all pointers welcome. Thanks!


#2

When the HP area first opened Universal sold a vacation package which gave us early access to the area during the soft opening. Maybe they will do the same for the new ride which is expected to open in 2019. Universal were really good about allowing us to upgrade our package. So maybe think about buying directly from Universal.


#3

No, very relaxed.


#4

Book one of the onsite hotels which give Express passes.


#5

I’d say keep your eyes open for ticket specials. Right now they are running a buy 2 days get 2 days free. We had only planned on going for 2 days, but this special means we can also go into the parks on our arrival evening. :slight_smile: They do specials like this from time to time.


#6

I am actually on a trip with my wife now that was a surprise for her 40th. We stayed at Universal’s version of a delux and received the Universal Express pass. It’s worth it’s weight in gold. We slept in, never waited more than 10-15 minutes for a ride. A couple things to consider in October.

  • Halloween Horror Nights takes place most Wed-Sun nights. Check the schedule. This has Universal (main park) close early at 5:00 pm. If you don’t plan to do HHN, you can hop over to UIA and they have been open until 8:00 PM. (Get a park to park ticket)
  • Halloween Horror Night was a blast for my wife and I. If you like Halloween and haunted houses, it could be fun. However I would have gone nuts if I didn’t also purchase an express pass for HHN too. It was 2 hour waits at 3 of the houses on a Thursday night. We never waited more than 25.
  • Boat service from our hotel to the gates has been great. We are at Portofino which is beautiful, but a farther walk. The boat never made us wait more than 10.
  • Dining is real easy. Reservations can be made most places online with zomato or whatever it’s called. However if you stay on property you get preferred walk up seating at most places. Toothsome Chocolate Emporium was a 1.25 wait, but we said we were staying on site and they knocked the wait to 20 min.

That’s all I have. But I hope you do it and have fun.


#7

Oh, to answer your main question, I booked about a month out. Had a little trouble with delux hotel room availability but not too bad. The rest was easy. No FP, no ADR. No real planning. No need for a TP with ExP.


#8

Now that you have already booked WDW, you will be shocked at how simple it is to handle UOR. The only thing I see as being at all pressing is, because you are going in October, hotels do tend to fill up with people who will be going to Halloween Horror Nights. I would suggest getting your hotel booked once you’ve walked in your dates, but it will be nothing like the insanity of WDW.

Outside of HHN, October is actually a more low attendance month, so crowds at the parks during the day won’t be that bad. However, if you want this trip to be as stress-free as possible, I would highly suggest staying at one of the on-site deluxe resorts which offer free Express Pass as part of your hotel booking. You will literally not have to worry about planning any of your touring if you have this pass. I still like to do TPs because I find them fun, I’d like to see where the general crowds will be, but then I get to the park and basically ignore them.

Dining reservations outside of City Walk are typically not necessary, except for possibly Myhtos. Any reservations you do choose to make don’t need to be made more than about 10 days in advance, and can be made on the Open Table website.

There is one recommendation that I would make to you. If your wife is a huge Harry Potter fan, and you are planning on vacationing on the weekend, you may want to consider moving your trip to November. As mentioned above, Halloween Horror Nights results in UOR closing early every Wednesday through Sunday night. Because of this, you don’t get to experience Diagon Alley in the dark, which, in my opinion as a fellow Harry Potter fan, is absolutely amazing. I have actually decided that I will not vacation there in October any longer because it is not worth that loss. I would rather travel at another time and be able to have those evening hours in Diagon Alley.


#9

Thanks for that recommendation.

She also loves Halloween, so this presents a bit of a conundrum :slight_smile: I’ll have to do a bit of research here to figure out if HHN is worth losing Diagon Alley at night. Time to start asking some innocuous, veiled questions…

Or alternatively, we could stay Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights. We could travel in on Saturday and do HHN, then make Sunday and Monday all about HP (including Diagon Alley Monday night). That would complicate the childcare logistics by adding an extra school day that we’d need help with but might be worth it.

In any case, thanks everyone for the replies. Sounds like the deluxe resorts + EP is the way to go, and I’m glad to hear the planning and booking process should be simpler than WDW. Because holy crap that was an endeavor and half!


#10

I was doing more research on this and according to https://orlandoinformer.com/universal/halloween-horror-nights/, Diagon Alley “will be accessible to guests during the scare fest, allowing visitors to ride Gringotts and check out all of the various wizarding shops”.

Does that mean we could experience it, at the extra cost of a HHN ticket? I’d be more inclined to stay Fri, Sat, Sun nights and just buy two HHN tickets (Diagon one night, haunted stuff the next) than stay Sat, Sun, Mon nights.


#11

Diagon Alley is definitely open if you attend HHN and was pretty empty when we went at about 10:30PM. If you plan to go to HHN, plan some time at DA.

As far as the crowds. This week we were in the parks Wed-Sat. Lines even for the major attractions were not more that 1hr. Most less than 45. However for a 2 day trip, to get the most done I’d still try to stay at a delux. Weekend crowd levels still approach 6-7 and with HHN closing most rides at 5 even with HHN tickets, you might not get it all done without EP.


#12

Rather than buy 2 HHN tickets, I’d but one night with EP. it would be a little more, but you will get all houses done by 11:00 and have a few hours to spend in DA at night. You will avoid 2 hr lines at several houses.

We went on a Thursday. Had all houses done and scare zones as well as the show, plus 1.5 hours in DA and were in bed by 12:30. That was without rushing. We still could have stayed till 2:00 if we wanted but really had seen it all.


#13

Yes, if you plan on attending HHN, and you will have the option to be in Diagon Alley the entire time. If your wife loves both Halloween and Harry Potter, then October is definitely the time to go!


#14

hands down stay at one of the deluxe resorts (portofino bay, hard rock or royal pacific) to get the Express pass. It’s awesome and makes the vacation carefree. Make sure you get a park to park ticket so you can ride the Hogwarts express b/w the hogshead in IOA and diagon alley in Universal.
Have fun! city walk is also fun with lots of bars and restaurants. it’s so easy compared to WDW. just walk around and enjoy. I can’t speak to HHN b/c we had my 12 year old and 9 year old with us and we didn’t do that event.


#15

I just returned from a week in Orlando. Did three days at UOR. 2 in IOA/US AND 1 day at Volcano Bay. The express passes with our stay at royal pacific were fantastic! Made the park touring simple. Did one day at Magic Kingdom for Halloween party following our universal days. I love Disney. But the chaos and planning required really stands out after visiting universal. So. Stay on site at least one night for express passes. Make sure to have park to park for the train. If you like water parks. Volcano bay is really nice and a lot of fun.


#16

I would not miss HHN. It’s fantastic. My wife and I aren’t big haunted house fans, but we loved the houses at HHN.

If you can fit it in the budget, stay at Portofino Bay, Hard Rock or Royal Pacific for the Express Passes. I have stayed at Portofino Bay and Hard Rock. For adults only, I prefer Portofino Bay (with kids, I prefer Hard Rock due to the shorter walk to the parks).

For dining, I would highly recommend Cowfish at Citiwalk. Great burgers and sushi and amazing milkshakes. I really like Mythos for lunch in Islands of Adventure, but others seem to have more mixed reviews.

Overall, Universal is a blast (with a much simpler planning process)! I’m going WDW for my next Orlando trip (with kids), but if it were just me and my wife, we would go to Universal.