HR or SF, Rock Royalty, & Express pass questions

We are going down to Universal for 4 nights in the 1st week of May, crowds are expected to be at a level 2. Using our Military discount we can get a killer deal for a room at the Hard Rock or we can save about one nights stay worth of $$ (25% savings!) and stay at Sapphire falls instead.

Being that this is our first time back to Universal with a now toddler, I’m a little nervous. I’m thinking the wait for most of the attractions might be a little less painful if we have express passes which is why I’m torn between HR and Sapphire Falls at all really. I wonder if expresses passes will still be necessary/would really make a difference with the currently projected crowd level. Thoughts? Anyone been there on a 2 or 3 day who can speak from experience?

Also before anyone says it, yes I do know hard rock is closer to the parks but I don’t really care all that much as long as I’m staying somewhere with a water taxi that’s easily accessible :grin:

Saving money is always good, but not at the cost of my soul if it means being stuck in a 40 minute line with a fussy toddler who Is bored and wants to get down and run everywhere :joy: so, any input here at all is appreciated.

Second, if we do stay at HR we’ll probably upgrade to club level/rock royalty. Our first day in will be an R&R day and we’ll be coming in around 8 or 9am. Does anyone know if you can access the club lounge if you check in early? Any experience here? I feel like our first day in is probably when we’d get the most out of it.

Thanks for your thoughts and input!!

I haven’t been to Universal and will be going for the first time with my family (12 of us, actually) and in all my research it seems that the Express Pass isn’t necessarily worth it unless you know the ride is covered. I realize this might be a common sense type thing, but when I was looking into it, a lot weren’t! I’ve also been using my app and opening it about everyday to see the wait times on the rides we are most interested in at different times of day to give me a better idea. How old is your toddler? There will only be certain rides they can ride on, so I’d take that into account too before paying the extra fee. If you’re getting there right when they open, it might not be worth it either since you can just run to the ride you want right then?

Hope it’s a good trip!

I have done 2 visits to universal over the last few years. Both times we did 4 plus days over Easter. One we did onsite with xp and one offsite no xp. family is 2 adults and kids aging from 7-13 at time of visit. From our experience the main difference was that we could do rides over and over again before moving on. With planning and using single rider lines and child swap ( fantastic you all queue together and then there is an air conditioned waiting room with water fountains and tv etc) then as long as you are happy doing each ride once you should be ok w/o express pass.
As stated there are about 6 rides/ shows that don’t use express pass inc wwohp. When we visit again we will stay mostly offsite and do low wait rides, wwohp and shows etc. We will then do 1-2 nights onsite with xpass so kids can ride RRR and Hulk until they are ill, while I have a Duff or 2 in the shade.

Thanks for the reply. That’s actually a really good idea to check the app for wait times,I think I’ll do that too! I guess I could find an upcoming 2 day and then keep an eye on everything. Our toddler will be 15 months old when we get there in may so we know he can’t ride anything, but we also have an 8 year old who meets the 54" ride requirements so for us its still a worth while trip :).

When we were there last year when our LO was 6 months old it was easy peasy, just threw him in the baby carrier, took turns wearing him with dad and the child swap was a dream. Super easy and efficient and our then 7 year old got to ride everything twice! However, some of the standby lines were long (we were at Cabana bay for 4 nights last year in a family suite, nice but no Express Pass) and while we didn’t mind standing in line with an infant who was soothed with bouncing or nursing, its a whole different ball game with an antsy toddler lol. Thanks again for the idea about the app! Hope you and your family have a great trip as well.

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Thanks for the reply! Haha, I love your idea about the Duff while the kids go crazy… that could be me at the end of the day while the husband and older son have at it lol. Great idea with the split stay, I never considered that actually but it might be the best of both worlds for us, Not sure if the savings would be worth the hassle of moving all of the baby’s stuff though (vacationing is a whole new game with the addition of our LO!. Either way we definitely want to be on site for early entry to the WWOHP. I’m thinking maybe with early entry and the crowds being so low we might be not miss the Express Passes. Ahh, decisions decisions. Thanks again for your input! For the heck of it i’ll let you guys know what we ended up with and how it all goes afterwards :slight_smile:

We stayed at Cabana bay from 2/6-2/10 M-F and I don’t recall the UOR CL but WDW was a 4-6 at the time (we did WDW 2/2-2/5). We primarily stayed on property to get the hour early entry as all of the websites were in agreement that HP lands were generally slammed. My wife enjoys the HP series, although the girls (10 and 13) and I are not fanatical about but it seemed like we had to have that early hour. I was attending a convention that week and as it turned out we never entered the parks before 4pm. We were able to walk on all of the rides including HP (which looks amazing at sunset)…yes hulk, spider man, kong, Jurassic, simpsons. Our longest waits were for the Seuss in the sky people mover thing and Rip ride rocket. The thing with Rip ride and Minions is it is the first thing everyone sees when they enter and leave Studios so it usually had 20-30 minute wait while Mummy was a walk on. From my experience I would use early entry to queue up to ride Rip and Minions and do the HP at the end of the day…maybe two of the four mornings? If the CL is predicted to be low then express is probably not worth it and it is not good for the HP rides.


Totally agree about evenings being a lot quieter than during the day. Gringotts had a 10 minute wait which wasn’t a wait but the time it takes to walk through to the main ride.

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We stayed at HR a few weeks ago and the crowd levels we a 2/3 all days we were at Universal. With the express pass, we pretty much walked on to every ride it is accepted at. I think the maximum time we had to wait for a ride that had a vehicle was 2 vehicles and then we were on the third one. We were able to do absolutely every ride we wanted to get on all 3 days. The express pass was awesome… and for our family worth every penny of staying at HR.

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Perfect. You all have been a great help. I was actually able to snag a room at the Royal Pacific which was previously sold out of Military bookings… so I got the best of both worlds! A good bit of savings and the express passes. Sounds like it will be a walk in the park (pun intended :wink: ) since the crowds will be so low. Thanks again everyone.

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