We went to UOR Thurs 10/26 (Crowd Levels Predicted 4/3; Actual 6/4) and Sat 10/28 (Crowd Levels Predicted 5/4; Actual 6/4) and stayed at Lowes Royal Pacific (Club Level).
My family’s priority is to maximize time (and money). I used tour plans for WDW in 2014 and had an awesome trip. No lines/wait times and everything worked like clockwork. I was crowned Best Mom on Earth by my family. While we had a great time and especially enjoyed the Harry Potter lands, this UOR trip didn’t feel as successful as WDW.
Because of HHN, we adjusted the 2D2P w/ Unlimited Express to start in USF in the AM both days, since USF closed at 5PM and also had early 7AM open.
On Day 1, we arrived at the Royal Pacific at 6:45, checked in, got our Unlimited Express Pass/Room Key, grabbed coffee/breakfast at the take/go lounge and stepped onto Gringotts at 7:30.
Even though I had built in a few 30 minute breaks to create some slack in our Tour Plan, we got behind on our plan very early due to a ride closure at Mummy, longer ride times than planned, higher crowd level than predicted, and getting lost. Rides like Despicable Me and Shrek 4D seemed to take much longer to complete than the plan projected, because they load hundreds of people in batches. Getting stuff into lockers also consumed time. These issues made it hard to attend shows because we constantly missed them.
Day 1 included every non-kiddie ride in UOF except Shrek and RRR, early lunch at LC, Halloween Horror Makeup Show and switch over around 2:00 to IOA. Did FJ, FH and toured very crowded Hogsmeade briefly followed by Skull Island and Spiderman. Returned to hotel with aching feet.
Day 2 was another early start in USF for a more leisurely exploration of Diagon Alley before the crowds so we could do every interactive wand station. Did Shrek and took a 2nd spin through USF faves like Gringotts, Mummy & MIB then switched to IOA via HE for wet rides. Returned to hotel to dry off and then lunch at NBC. We returned in the PM to IOA to do Hogsmeade, FJ, FH and buy a frog at Honeydukes. Recs say late PM Hogsmeade supposed to be less crowded, but seemed pretty busy to us. Did other rides before we were chased out around 7PM by a storm.
10 YO Son’s Favorites: Everything Harry Potter. He enjoyed early morning Diagon Alley, which was much more fun than later in the AM when crowds arrived. He loved his interactive wand. Gringotts was great. Unfortunately, he got queasy on many rides including Forbidden Journey. Other rides that especially appealed were wet rides, Spider Man, MIB, Skull Island & Flight of Hippogriff. Loved Horror Make-up Show.
13 YO Son’s Favorites - Mummy, Spider Man, Simpsons, Skull Island, wet rides, Transformer, FJ and Gringotts.
- We ate at Leaky Cauldron for lunch. Service was super efficient. Food was fine but portions small and expensive. Adult fish and chips for $14 got you 4 strips while Kid version for $7 got you 3. Husband and I shared an adult portion since they are usually too big and went away a bit hungry. Kid menu is better deal. Total bill was $60-$70 for 1 Kid meal, 2 Adult meals & 3 BBs (no alcohol).
- Enjoyed lunch at NBC on City Walk. Really great food and king size portions, perfect for sharing. College ball on tv was icing on the cake. Total bill was $70-$80 for 1 Kid meal, 1 app, 2 Adult meals, 3 drinks, 1 premium beer.
- The whole family tucked into a Lard Lad Big Pink Donut as an AM snack, which was fun to eat and giggle over. Makes for great photos in front of the Lard Lad statue.
The other thing that was interesting to me was the crowd. There were a lot fewer strollers and scooters than WDW, which made movement quicker and more enjoyable. Crowd included more 20-30 singles/couples. Also, more smokers and drinkers at UOR than WDW. Fun to crowd watch the Harry Potter fans bedecked in their robes. Also, the last week in October is a school break in the UK, which made it fun to make new friends from GB.
The Lowes Royal Pacific was very nice and a close walk. Room shower was awesome, but pillows were lumpy/flat. The resort pool was great / not too crowded. They told us walking to resorts was faster than the boat, but the boat beat us most of the time. If your dogs are tired, take the boat. Self parking was expensive, but expected.
Saved on food bills with the RPR Club Level. Breakfast was cereal, pancakes, pastries, fruit, hard boiled eggs, and cold cuts (ham, salami, sliced cheese). Watched some people make sandwiches from the breakfast cold cuts & bread for later lunching (bring bags, mayo, mustard, lettuce & tomato if that is your plan!). Coffee was served all day, but a bit weak - if you like strong coffee, make time to hit Starbucks at City Walk or IOA. Canned soda is available all day, and we kept a few in our room fridge for later. Mid-day snack is chips and whole fruit. Evening service included free beer (Anheuser-Busch choices + Coronas w/ lime) & wine (Blush, Chardonnay & Cab) + cocktails and better brands of wine/beer for $. Can be a great replacement for dinner for adults and kids with more adventuresome palettes than my boys have. They enjoyed American Night (pork barbeque), but not Asian night (beef noodles) or Island night (coconut rice and chicken). Dessert every night was thick, cake-like cookies (not worth the calories imho) plus a second item that varied like mini-flans or chocolate brownies. Full evening menu posted here: RPR Club level menu
Overall Pros: Everything Harry Potter; Unlimited Express Pass; Royal Pacific Resort; Club Level Amenities; 4D rides if you don’t get sick from them; NBC Lunch; Easier to do “spur of the moment” than WDW since you don’t have to figure out Fastpasses and reservations months in advance.
Overall Cons: Much more walking and tired feet than WDW; If you don’t like 4D rides this is not the place for you; Feels like less value for the money than WDW; Lots of nickel and diming (parking fees, no free lockers at wet rides versus coasters, ridiculous prices in stores like $10 for six gummy slugs, etc.)
SOME FINAL QUICK TAKE-AWAYS / TIPS
Buy interactive wand on eBay. Paid <$40 for NIB versus $50 + tax in park. Plus the store part of Ollivanders was crowded. Our wand purchased in advance didn’t come with a map showing the interactive locations, but they gave us one at the counter no problemo.
- We found the key to making the interactive wand stations work is small movements aimed exactly where the medallion arrow points. Big, super fast, sweeping wand gestures don’t get results. This article helped: https://orlandoinformer.com/universal/interactive-wands
- You get completely soaked on the wet rides - especially Bluto. And, if you don’t get wet on the ride, there are sadistic people who pay $5 to shoot you in the face with water guns at the end. We did the wet rides right before lunch and went to the hotel to change after. There are no free lockers near the wet rides. Strongly suggest bringing a change of shoes or wearing flip flops and/or dressing in board shorts or bathing suits if possible. We put our phones in a ziplock in our back pack and carried it on to all rides. It stayed dry on Bluto (where there is storage) and Jurassic and mostly dry in the rear seat of Ripsaw. If you are not planning to exit the park, I’d build in break time to dry off somehow after the wet rides.
Hogwarts Express takes a long time mid-day and in the PM. Wait times for non-Express were >60 minutes on a Crowd 6 day versus about 20 minutes to walk. Be strategic about using it to change parks. Sometimes it is quicker to end one park near the front and just walk over to the other.
- If you exclude the kiddie rides and shows, each park really only has 8-9 unique rides, which is easily do-able in one day with Unlimited Express Pass on a lower crowd day. In retrospect, we probably could have done UOR in one day instead of two.
Dramamine helped a ton with the 4D rides.
- I can do coasters, but get super sick on 4D rides (threw up after Mission Space Orange). My strategy to survive the 4D rides was skipping Simpsons as reviews said that it is the worst and closing eyes during flying part of FJ and falling parts of Spiderman, Despicable Me & Skull Island and most of Transformers. Gringotts wasn’t bad. Tried to design plan to avoid too many 4D rides all in a row, which is hard to do given the number of them.
Unlimited Express was the bomb. Highly recommend staying on site to get it. Made a huge difference even on Crowd 4 day, especially on Hogwarts Express.
- When creating your plan, build in a break to absorb time needed to stow stuff in lockers. I would build in 5-10 minutes for every locker ride, especially FJ where the locker room is crowded.
- Gringotts has the same queue for Express and Standard. However, the Express Queue for FJ skips a few things like the nursery. If you are using the Unlimited Express plan and want to experience the Standard FJ queue, you should build in a break for that in your plan.
- Buy cheap lanyards for your Express passes. You have to show them multiple times on every ride and it keeps them dry.
If the free lockers don’t work, it is probably because the ride is closed. We spent 10 minutes trying to access the Mummy lockers only to figure out that they show as unavailable when the ride is closed.
Butter beer costs $7 and is a large size and fairly sweet (like a dessert). Strongly recommend buying one for everyone to try, before you find out that your kids don’t care for it or it is too big & sweet to finish with your meal.
UOR parks are harder to navigate than WDW IMHO. Ultimately, I found the best way to navigate was to print your tour plan and use the map on it. The official park map and apps were not efficient. Also really liked the free Magic Guide for Univeral App by VersaEdge, which has a map that incorporates wait times.
Keep your park tickets intact and do not cut them along the solid line. This voids the ticket. (I did this so I could stuff the ticket in our lanyards. We got held up at the gate and the the manager made us pull our ticket .pdf up on our phones to allow entry on day 2.)
- We weren’t interested in character experiences, but there were tons of them and lines were reasonable. The Transformer dude was super cool.
- We didn’t buy the photo plan based on bad reviews. The only camera people we saw were stationed at the character experiences and you could get ride photos.
- I wish I had bought tickets to Blue Man or Cirque in advance. The only seats left the week of our trip were the super expensive front row ones.
- We originally planned to buy 3-Day 3 Park P2P tickets and visit VB, but were scared off from Volcano Bay by terrible wait time reviews, reports of lazy river brawling and concerns over cold weather. So, we scaled back to 2-Day 2 Park P2P tickets, saved about $200 in tickets, and took a day off from UOR. We found off site activities and went to Top Golf (https://topgolf.com/us/orlando/) and Andretti Indoor Karting (https://andrettikarting.com/orlando/), which were HUGE HITS. They are 10 minutes from UOR and right next door to each other. Top Golf had great food (including breakfast) and drinks. The Bloody Marys rocked.
This is me, signing off from amusement parks now that the kids have seen WDW and UOR.
I hope this is helpful. Thanks for the tips, tricks and tour plans that have made our two experiences better.