Late December 2020 Trip Observations

I posted earlier asking about the best method to ride Hagrid’s and got some good information. I thought I would add this post to the board to provide my observations about our recent trip and maybe this could helps others.

Cold Weather = No big rollercoasters:

Our first park day was 12/26. Temperatures at 7AM were in the mid 30s. My teenagers and myself got up early to be at the gate of IOA at 6:40am to ride Hagrid’s at early entry and before the virtual line started. It was not operating because of the temperature. My wife slept in - she made the right decision.

Likewise, Hulk and Rip Rockit also were offline. We learned from a UO manager that below 48 degrees the big coasters don’t operate. It didn’t hit 50 degrees until noon so the coasters were not up and running till later.

Express Pass is a must during crowded days, but there are some caveats to be aware of:

The parks hit capacity on 3 of the 4 days we were there. Lines were running in the 2 to 3 hours for all the big attractions. Express pass cut the wait down to 30 minutes or less. However, a number of attractions have a pre-line area before you get to the express pass entrance where you wait with everyone. Hulk, Rip Rockit, FJ and Mummy had these. So you will spend part of your wait in line with the general public before you are able to split off to the express pass entrance.

Locker lines - this also slows you down. You need to put bags and backpacks in lockers for many of the rides - this causes additional waits, especially with COVID social distancing. For Gringotts the line for the lockers was 15 minutes! This is before you get to the line for the actual attraction ride. A solution, if one of your party is not riding, is to let them hold the bags to skip the line for the lockers.

Also if a ride hits capacity, express pass does not allow you to get in line. It is closed for everyone. During our trip all the major rides hit capacity at various points during the day, even King Kong which is hardly a headliner! Usually after 30-45 minutes they would reopen, but you have to keep checking the app to see.

Even with these limitations we were able to ride the big rides using express multiple times. I could not imagine being at the park without it when we were there, though. It would have been miserable.

Virtual Line

After our failure to ride Hagrid’s during early entry, it was virtual line pass or bust for us. We had everyone try on their phones are were able to get at least one virtual line pass per day for Hagrid’s. It’s a great coaster. I just set an alarm on my phone for one minute before the drop times. Also keep trying a few minutes after the hour. I found that the drops would show up 2 minutes after rather that right at the hour mark.

I will follow up with some more tips.

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This is so awesome! We’ve been since the lockdown but things keep changing so it is good to get up-to-minute info.

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Some more tidbits:

Meals

We had reservations for both lunch and dinner everyday. Even in normal times for our trips to WDW or UO, I’m a big believer in doing table service for lunch, because I like to know I have a seat and to have an opportunity to rest and recharge for an hour or so. I figure we spend enough time in lines for attractions that I don’t need more lines just to get food. Also, I don’t find that the incremental cost difference is that great. Burgers and fries at a quick service place can run $18 and you certainly can find dishes at a full service place that are not that much more. Plus you can split entrees, if you are not that hungry, or just get some appetizers. And don’t forget unlimited drink refills during your meal. I probably drink a gallon of ice tea at lunch!

During COVID table service is a must. The lines for the quick service places were crazy - at least 30 minutes or more! With social distancing the lines would go for 50 - 100 yards long. One time, for a breakfast snack, we decided to get cinnamon rolls from Cinnabon. It took 30+ minutes and by the time we got to the window - they were out a cinnamon rolls! Ridiculous - as that is their one signature product. We ended up getting some mini rolls.

One complaint about UO restaurant reservations is that they need a single platform and a single reservation window for all of their restaurants. Some restaurants use Open Table, some use Zomato via the UO reservation number. Moreover, the in park restaurants and resort restaurants can be booked 60 days in advance while the CityWalk restaurants accept reservations only 30 days in advance. These discrepancies make booking an unnecessary challenge, plus you receive confirmations in different formats depending on whether it is Open Table or Zamoto or UO reservation line. Certainly another area UO could improve.

Stay on Property

As noted above, the parks hit capacity 3 of the 4 days we were there. Hotel guests are exempt from the capacity limits. On 12/29, we came out at about 8:30am to U Studios and the line to get in the park was around 400 yards long across the bridge towards CityWalk. The park had already hit capacity - everyone in that line that wasn’t a hotel guest was going to be turned away.

Also, there is a separate line for hotel guests at both parks. It not marked very well, so I suggest you ask a cast member to point it out. We would see a huge line in front of the hotel guest entrance, but after asking folks if they were hotel’s guests would find they were not so we would cut in at that point. My advice is do not go to the back of the long lines coming from CityWalk because the hotel guest line may look busy, but most guests are in the wrong line. UO could do better with organization in this area because it was confusing and you don’t want to seem to be cutting, but in reality you are not because those non hotel guest are just blindly lining up without knowing what line they are in.

Also if you stay at the Hard Rock, Portofino or Royal Pacific you get the unlimited express passes which are worth ever penny during busy days.

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