Just got back...our trip report for WDW and Universal

The background: I love Disney, love planning my trips and love hearing about the experiences and advice on this forum–so first, thank you for helping me plan! DH likes Disney (but doesn’t love it) and prefers fly fishing in the mountains. We try to go to Disney about every 3 years and do a park a day and go hard from open to close–this was a reschedule from our cancelled trip in May 2020. Have never had an issue with this type touring until this trip. We were at WDW Fri-Mon of this past week and then at Universal Tues and Wed. DH, DS (14), and DS (11) and myself stayed at Boardwalk villas. Oldest DS (17) doesn’t like roller coasters and has been to Disney 3 times already so we let him stay home and play in his high school basketball tourney.

So, now that background info is out of the way…the good, the bad, and the unpleasant. It was good to be back there. We loved Galaxy’s Edge and seeing Toy Story Land. Early Admission at HS and MK helped us knock out ROTR (30 min wait) and 7DMT (minimal wait) and Space (20 min wait). I love the theming and we had no problem with buses (although I know others have, but we had very little waits). Our dinner at Boma was delicious and we really liked Satuli Canteen, also. Only bad meal was Docking Bay 7 and Sci-Fi was average for us. One child liked the green milk “ok” and other one loved his blue milk.

I knew that between people being able to travel again and it being Thanksgiving week that crowds at WDW would be bad, but it was way worse than I thought it would be. Not only were crowds bad when just walking around but wait times were very lengthy for most rides, too (lengthy to me=50-60 min or more). We have always gone at this time and in the past crowds increased as it got closer to Thanksgiving, but the crowds were honestly horrible from the get-go this time around. It rained some everyday and our AK day it rained a lot. Unfortunately, the rain did not chase away any crowds, but we pressed on.

Actual wait times & TP: I tried to follow my touring plan, but quickly realized they were not useful. The touring plan expected wait times were not correct for any of our days (including Universal), except a random ride or two. I hate typing this b/c I’ve always planned our trip to the last detail and relied on my TP but the actual wait times and the expected wait times on the app were not the same (with actual being much longer). I’m not knocking them but I think it was a perfect storm–much larger crowds & Genie+ and ILL still being so new and there hasn’t been time to analyze their affect on wait times. The wait times on the Disney app and the Universal app were consistently accurate for standby lines.

I tried to do this trip w/o G+ and ILL b/c I’m frugal and out of principle against the new system, but I also didn’t have enough time to really grasp the hacks and ins and outs of it. IMO, Epcot can be done without it on a lower crowd level day (we went on a level 3 day so not sure about a 7 or higher crowd level day).

MK: G+ would have been nice at MK, but since were able to be at front of rope drop for 7DMT and then rush to Space we only had a long wait for Pirates. We watched fireworks from Adventureland bridge and rushed to JC for a short wait right after the show. After JC we were able to do Splash again and shorter wait for BTMR (it broke down–I’ll get to that later). If you are not rope dropping for ETPE either 7DMT or Space OR you are not at front of the pack to rope drop 7DMT then I would consider purchasing ILL. It worked out for us not to have to purchase ILL, but G+ would have been nice in hindsight.

HS: G+ would have been helpful at HS–even though there aren’t that many rides, the waits for each was 60-90 min all day with ROTR obviously much longer. In hindsight, I would rope drop ROTR and then buy ILL for SDD first thing that morning. We waited until too late to try and purchase ILL for SDD and they were all gone so we had to wait 90 min to ride SDD–it was our only HS day so we wanted to ride and it is a fun coaster, but no ride is worth that long of a wait, in my opinion. We kept watching wait times all day and finally got in line close to closing time and it was still 90 min wait at that time. My husband was polite and patient but miserable, kids were troopers–it was no fun waiting that long! But once again, the WDW app was consistently accurate with actual wait times and TP app was not. DS (14) and I loved ROTR, my husband and DS (11) liked it a lot but didn’t think it was “best ride ever.” :slight_smile: I wish we could have ridden that again but passes went too quickly.

AK: I finally broke down after the bad waits at HS and we bought ILL for FOP (would recommend) and EE (would not recommend if you an do single rider). My boys are old enough to do single rider and me not worry too much about being separated, so we were able to do EE about 4-5 times that way–fastest single rider line that we did! Safari and Dinosaur actual waits were long so if you want to do AK in half day then G+ would be nice, but not necessary for whole day there IMO if you get there early.

Breakdowns: Maybe we have been fortunate in the past and not had a lot of break downs, but this trip we consistently had rides stop while waiting or while we were on them–it got to be a joke that the WDW folks must have been watching us. I would say that we had breakdowns on 75% of the rides we went on…some were short breaks in the action but others were down for the day (Test Track–weather, so not Disney’s fault-- and BTMM). Both of those times we were given passes for a Lightning Lane to use that day or the next at any of the G+ attractions. This helped us b/c we used it for PP at MK and had rope dropped 7DMT and Space so we only had Pirates and the other 2 mountains with longer waits, which was completely doable for us. We used the other pass for Smuggler’s Run at HS, so that helped us not wait there for long.

Universal: it was equally as crowded but we had Express Pass and it was a welcome relief after the long lines at WDW. We had park to park and went to each park both days. Had a great time touring and rode everything we wanted (and some things 2-3 times) but again, the Universal app wait times were accurate than TP except for Early Admission when they had 120 min posted for Velocicoaster and we only waited 30 min. It was accurately posted as an hour later throughout the day. DS grabbed 2 Hagrid’s passes our first Universal day and we loved it. The VQ never showed passes our second day (Wed) so we didn’t ride Hagrid’s that second day and were glad we had already ridden it twice.

Hope this helps someone with a trip coming up. We are aching and tired from over 53,000 steps in 6 days, but we had a great time with our younger boys and rode everything we wanted to and enjoyed being there and seeing the detail and theming. But with that said: the wall-to-wall crowds, increased prices, lack of benefits of staying on property, and paying additional for G+/ILL (with no benefits for staying on property like Universal deluxe hotels)–all of that makes me think this will be our last trip for a while. I’ll keep lurking and seeing where some of these changes that Disney has made since re-opening go, but think we may spend that vacation $$ elsewhere in years to come. We have always been restricted to go when boys were out of school, but if you have any flexibility on travel dates I would strongly recommend you go when crowds are less than level 4–it was tough to be there on level 7-10 days for sure! Happy Thanksgiving!!