I think it's time to give Universal another shot. What should I know?

I’ve been to Universal 3 times If I recall correctly. First trip was 1996. Great memories including my DD7 @ the time (now 32) being picked to be on one of the game shows in Nickelodeon Studios. Next trip was in 2008 with both DD’s and both sets of grandparents. (Great memories for sure) E.T. was my Mom’s favorite ride, Jaws was a big hit with the family, as was Kong and Earthquake ride IIRC. Last trip was in 2013. Horrible experience. Everything from poor customer service, dirty parks, extremely long waits for everything, and a meltdown from youngest DD made it just a horrible trip. Probably why we’ve never been back since.

Its been strictly Disney since 2013. However, I’d like to give Universal another shot. Mainly because I’m really not thrilled with Disney lately. Things like no trams, APR hassles, no hopping til 2pm, No parades (unless I want to fork over $200pp for an abbreviated version of MVMCP), No Fantasmic!, (I mean c’mon, what’s the hold up there) no DME come 2022, and dare I mention the elimination of FPP and the introduction of G+, LL, and iLL just to name a few. I’m not giving up on Disney. I’m sure I’ll be back there soon enough but I think it’s time to explore the other theme park option available in central Florida again.

So where do I start? What do I need to know? Where do I stay? How much are tickets? Do I need express pass? 1 park per day or add the park to park experience? How long of a trip to experience it all? How far in advance should I be planning? Is the cost much cheaper than Disney? Best times to go? Best places to eat? What to avoid? Volcano Bay worth it? (We love a good water park) Do I need to watch Harry Potter to get the full experience? (Never watched it, lol), I need to know everything. OK I don’t necessarily need to know everything but I’d like to know as much as possible.

Any comments welcome.


A good start is to check out some basic TP articles:


Be sure to put some shows on your radar:


Definitely park to park ticket so you can be flexible and ride Hogwarts Express. At least 4 days including Volcano Bay (which you don’t want to miss). You should probably watch at least one or two Harry Potters.


Disney should be paying attention. All the stuff you mention (and other things you don’t buy that have been mentioned by others) is leading some their most loyal to look elsewhere, to give “the others” another chance. It’s just terrible… I hope they’re here in this forum reading posts like yours and that someone cares.


I agree w/ this, it will help w/ appreciation of the immersion. But start w/ the first one… don’t skip ahead.


If you are going in the next couple of months you do not want a 3 park pass (the water parks in Orlando have been closing due to cold).

I would buy a two park ticket and then consider upgrading to an annual pass while there if you like it.

(Note if you wanted to commit now, many have monthly payments for all guests). Above are 2 park prices.


I am going to take a couple of @Jadesfire21’s links from the Universal chat:

AP resort pricing (you can book and then get the AP) Loews Portofino Bay Hotel

Her spreadsheet to upgrade


If you don’t feel like reading a bunch of stuff I’d recommend these two YT channels

And Rick’s Flix… (no preview available)



It’s a terrible awful place and people should stay away. Have fun! :laughing:


You guys are awesome. I have days of reading material ahead for sure. I’m actually a little excited to dive in. I also watched the first Harry Potter last night and I enjoyed it.


Commenting solely to do a lazy follow.
We haven’t been to UOR since about 1999 or 2000 with my sister and nephews when we were pre-kids.
I am thinking of the same thing next year.


Ok lets break this down lol

  1. My articles linked by @bebe80 are a great place to start and get familiar with the resort. Also pick up the UG to UOR 2022 which drops in early December.
  2. I suggest picking out a handful of restaurants you are interested in and learn about each land’s offerings and make a touring plans.
  3. Are you a “we enjoy everything at the resorts” sort of people or a “we just want a place to sleep and maybe eat/drink we’ll be in the parks” people?
    4 - 8) See my articles
  4. A UOR trip can be just as expensive as a WDW trip or more OR it can be a small fraction of a trip. Your biggest factor will be your resort and where you eat.
  5. Very similar to Disney attendance patterns but with an additional note that September - late October are more busy due to their Halloween even, Halloween Horror Nights.
  6. See my articles
  7. See this article This Not That – Universal Orlando Dining – TouringPlans.com Blog
  8. If you love water parks then VB is definitely worth a one-day trip.
  9. You don’t need to watch it but I think being familiar with the characters and settings helps. The lands/movies take place in different movies so make sure to watch Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Half Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows Pt 1 & 2 if you want to watch the movies.

Also, since you love water parks, you might want to look at Cabana Bay, which is a short walk to the water park. Walking the other direction you can catch a boat ride to the parks.
If I were planning a trip during water park weather, I’d start the trip at Royal Pacific, since I love the hotel and it has express passes. Then I’d move to Cabana Bay. I’d make the reservations through a TP travel agent and tell them I’d like to be switched to the passholder rates when they came out.

While at Royal Pacific, I’d maximize the use of the express passes and rides-rides-rides. Then after the move to Cabana Bay, I’d do mornings at the water park walk back to the hotel, shower etc relax then go to the dry parks concentrating on the theming, non-express pass rides/attractions, and favorites.

The reason for mornings at the water parks is because the Virtual Queue waits start really low and get longer. Also, you CAN stack your reservations. The rule is that you can only be virtually waiting in one line. After the time is up, you can come back any time. You don’t have to use your previous virtual queues before you get in another virtual line. This means that you can start at the most popular and amazing water ride, Krataoa at early entry it will be “Ride Now”, when it starts to give a time you tap your band and move on to the next most popular ride. If it is Ride Now, you ride it, if not you wait until Krataoa says Ride Anytime, then tap into that ride’s virtual queue and move onto the next. Keep doing that until you run out of rides or the wait times become long. You now have a reservation for every ride you are interested in, and can get in the lines whenever you feel like it. I recommend going back to Krakatoa, using that reservation, and then getting another virtual queue for it hoping that maybe you can ride again before you leave. Also, 5 minutes left to wait is treated as “Ride now”. That is because people tapping in at the same time, can get that much time difference in their wait time.


I will second Cabana Bay Resort. Here is a great article on it:


Where do I stay?

My first choice is Hard Rock Hotel but any of the Deluxe Hotels come with EP and it’s highly worth it. When you consider paying less for another hotel and then adding the cost of EP separately you save a tremendous amount of money staying Deluxe and getting the included EP. This would include Lowes Royal Pacific and Loews Portofino. If you don’t go HRH I prefer Portofino as a hotel but Royal Pacific is a shorter walk.

Do I need express pass?

I am biased as I hate lines and I love the flexibility of being able to ride what I want when I want so for me this a resounding YES.

1 park per day or add the park to park experience?

Park to Park ticket is a must in order for you to ride Hogwarts Express which you MUST do. It’s a fantastic experience. Also since the parks are so close you really will use that Park to Park with much more ease than at WDW

How long of a trip to experience it all?

Minimally 2 full days (so 3 nights) but if you want to take it easy and catch all the street entertainment (some of it like the stage shows in Diagon Alley are highly worth it) then 3 full days. If you want to do Volcano Bay which I recommend then add a day for that.

How far in advance should I be planning?

Since they don’t do park reservations and hotel guests are guaranteed a spot then as long as you stay on site you don’t have to plan as far ahead as WDW but I will say that the rooms do start to sell out. You look a month ahead and there may be no Deluxe rooms available depending on when you are going.

Is the cost much cheaper than Disney?

Yes, I think it is cheaper depending on how you travel.

Best times to go?

I honestly love their Christmas season and their Halloween Horror Nights but those are going to be crowded. If you want to do Volcano Bay, I’d say when it warmer outside as it can close due to weather. This just really depends. But I find Orlando so hot and muggy I like Fall to Spring over summer and by Fall I mean late fall and early spring.

Best places to eat?

In the parks, Mythos for Table Service which is in IOA. For quick service the Harry Potter eateries are the best. Leaky Cauldron is my favorite of the two. In Citywalk, Cowfish never disappoints.

What to avoid?

Personally, I don’t like a lot of the quick service food and I’d avoid most of it. Most especially the carts with hot dogs and churros. They aren’t as good as Disney’s. Fast and the Furious is an abomination of an attraction in my experience…put it low on your list if you have time. I like all the other attractions. Though some make me sick so if you are prone to motion sickness do the things you need to (Like not riding on an empty stomach or overfull stomach…maybe “Less Drowsy” Dramamine, etc.)

Volcano Bay worth it? (We love a good water park)

100% hands down a great water park. Much better than Disney’s.

Do I need to watch Harry Potter to get the full experience?

Honestly, I would say yes, or read the books which is even better.


Anyone who has food allergies in the family have any UOR dining experiences to share? Are they any good at being up front about allergens or at accommodating?

One of the things that has been so great for our family at Disney is our kids get to have a more normal dining experience since they do a very good job at tracking allergens. (Although not perfect, but as close as any place can be I think.)


My mom has a ton of food allergies including celiacs, casein (milk) and almonds among others like cantaloupe. She says Disney is the best but they can accommodate her in Universal too.

I don’t know why I remember this but the chicken sandwich is the only thing she can eat at Leaky Cauldron with a gluten free bun of course.


Reading all this got me so excited that I looked at Cyber Monday Sales for flights, hotel and APs… Using credit card points and such I can get my DW & I booked for 4 days / nights with all expenses (except food) for $1000…

Now, I’ve got to can convince her that it’s really safe to go. We’ve had our shots & planning on boosters this week (waited until after Thanksgiving).I really don’t know how much else we can do to be any safer and I’m ready to get back out.

Plus… we were both just discussing about how we don’t really want anything for Christmas and were considering a new appliance or large “family” item. I just might have to see if she’ll go for that angle… :joy:


Good luck. I’ve been doing a little research myself. I picked 7 dates throughout 2022 based on long weekend trips I like to take and all of the dates I chose were not blocked out if I were to get the basic seasonal pass. Thinking I might have an answer this year when my family asks “what do you want for Christmas Dad?”


@bebe80 look at all the links you gave HERE!


1 Like

Yep, made it easy for me to link that post to your thread and not have to copy and paste everything!

I’m hoping to go next in January 2023 with the school band.

1 Like