One day, first time trip and I have so many questions!

I’m confident in planning for our Disney trips every 5 years, but this time we’re heading to UOR for one day/two parks on Oct 16. We are a large group of 15 with all but 2 of us being ready to ride lots of rides. 9 adults, 6 children ages 2-11. The following are thoughts and questions I have, and figured you all might be able to help.

The crowd calendar for the day has it listed as a Overall 6, USF 8, IOA 5. There is a Horror Nights scheduled that night and we need to avoid any of the horrors as much as possible. Why is IOA’s crowd level that much lower for that day? Do crowds do USF all day and then go to Horror Nights?

Our main draw is a love for Harry Potter, but we figure we’ll want to do as much as we can on top of those attractions. I trust that touring plans can get us through, but we’re wondering with the shortened hours at one of the parks, how much more Express Pass might benefit us in the flow of the day.

Do people just rent hotel rooms and leave them empty to get cheaper and better Express Pass and EPA? If we were to get 3 rooms with 5 people in each for one night it is significantly cheaper. Can you check-in early in the morning and get the passes without having your whole group present? I’ve read it is just your hotel key that is used as an Express Pass, but does that mean each child has their own specific card to be produced at each ride?

We are being gifted this huge trip to Disney and UOR, so although obviously pricey, paying for the Express Pass for ourselves is a little more doable even with the large group. Opinions on how you’d do it.



Islands of Adventure often starts quieter because many people head straight to Universal Studios Florida and then later to Halloween Horror Nights. Express Pass can really help make the most of your day, especially with shorter park hours. As for the hotel room strategy, some folks do book extra rooms to get Express Pass perks, but policies on early check-in can vary. Your hotel key acts as your Express Pass, so it’s easy to manage. Have a fantastic trip

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So first up: HHN’s horror stuff is mostly all put away during the daytime… you don’t have to worry about accidental horrors.

Staying in a premier hotel is an absolute must if there are 3+ people and you planned on getting Express anyway. People don’t generalky leave the rooms empty though… they’re nice hotels and they’re the most convenient place to stay for early Park entry.


And yes, you can pick up the express passes at check in, I believe anyone after 6am. Another option is to get the room for the night before and actually sleep there… it’s very convenient, and then you already have your key card for Express and you can just walk out the door to the boat.


Each person’s card does have to be scanned at each Express ride, often twice. Most people get lanyards, and you can put one adult pass in the pouch and then have a young kid’s pass with the barcode out on the flip side for the littler ones so you scan one side, flip and scan the other side.


And TBH, at that time of year much of the crowd is there for HHN (it’s gotten hugely popular, to the point that hotels are as expensive then as they are over the holidays), so that’s why USF gets a much higher crowd level (though it’s pretty much always higher there, tbh). Many HHN people will start the day later, but at the same time non-HHN people tend to RD US because they know they’re going to end up at IOA later on… that means the crowd stays pretty steady all day, even though it’s 2 different groups of people shifting in and out.


I a lot of this has been answered, but I wanted to confirm and clarify…

First off… HHN is inside of USF. The event starts at 6pm…

At 5pm security begins to “sweep” everyone out of USF that doesn’t have a ticket for HHN.

FYI – A common misconception about Touring Plans Crowd Levels is that they are an indicator of the number of people in each park. However, they are an indicator of average queue waits at the rides in that park during 11am – 5pm - the peak ride times.

A CL 1 can feel like a CL 4 in terms of park capacity, but the queues may be moving quickly.

Conversely, you can be in a CL 9 park that feels like a CL 5 because the streets aren’t packed. However, all the queues are super long.

So… the queue waits at IOA will be shorter because more people will start the day at USF knowing that it will close early. This will make queue waits longer there.

Express Pass (UXP) will typically get you through the queue at about 33% - 50% of the posted wait time at most. If the queue says 60 mins for standby, you should be on the ride in about 20 - 30 mins. at most - often faster.

You could do this if this makes it cheaper on you. There are no “rules” or laws stating you must sleep in the room. They get your money either way. That’s all they care about. :laughing:

Yes. If you have any bags you can drop them at the “Luggage Services” desk for free (although you should tip the person handling your bags - but that’s up to you)

Incorrect. Sorry! Not trying to be rude or anything…

All you need to do is go to the check in desk and they’ll get you “temporary” room keys. These will be your express passes (UXP) until your room is ready. You’ll get a text when the room is ready and then, at your leisure, you can go get your actual room keys. These new keys will be your permanent UXP and hotel door/pool keys

100% correct! They hide everything under tarps.

There is nothing “spooky” or “horrors” in WWOHP during the day. Diagon Alley will be it’s traditional visage. (At HHN Death Eaters do a show & roam the area at night)

Totally agree. Unless you have a really nice private home nearby, you should just stay where you are paying for it. Plus, the parking garage for off-site guests is not free and it’s a hassle each morning. You can, literally, stroll into the parks at Hard Rock Hotel. Plus, there are amazing boats / “water taxis” that service only those premier hotels. I couldn’t imagine paying for such access to the parks and not using it.

It would be like booking the Contemporary Hotel at WDW and not staying there for monorail access.

!00% correct! You’ll see a BIG spike in crowds starting at 4pm. That’s when the RD people for HHN show up. It can be INSANE getting into the parks and security at CityWalk at that time…

If you try to park hop do it by 3pm! After that time the Hogwarts Express will have a constant 60+ minute wait that even UXP doesn’t help too much with as EVERYONE is trying to do the same. You can walk to the other park and that’s often faster, but it’s a bit of a hike.

Please ask as many questions as you need! I used to be a Die Hard WDW fan, but started going to Universal multiple times a year beginning in 2021.

If you want to read up on any trip reports I’ve done search - “Disney Refugee” for my first year of reporting and “Universal Addict” for my last year or so of reports.

I was just like you and felt overwhelmed about going to another place. However, IME, Universal Orlando Resort (UOR) is SO MUCH EASIER to navigate. There are so fewer logistical obstacles and things you don’t have to mess with. You can just show up, ride whatever you want - whenever you want and you don’t have to make dining reservations six months in advance!!

All the “magic” is there. The Team Members ™ are often former Disney CMs or work at both parks. I find the service to be better than WDW these days.

I’d recommend watching a few YouTube Vlogs such as Mammoth Club, VincentVision and RixFlix to get an idea of how things work.

Oh! The cliché that UOR rides are a lot of “screen” based attractions is true. They can cause motion sickness. So bring Dramamine or ginger pills with you!!

A few of us @Nikkipoooo and myself have HHN trips planned for September and will be doing Trip Reports. Heck, @Nikkipoooo will be there this week… right??


Quick clarification on this: You check in bright and early and these keys are BOTH your room key and your express passes. I’ve checked in at 7 am before without issue. When your room is ready, they text you the room number and that key you already have on your person will let you into your room!

Oh and to your question about check in, if the rooms are all under one person, they should distribute all the passes to that person. When you book your room, it asks for the names of the people in the room so the express passes/room keys are labeled as such

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Yup… arriving Friday night. Then I’ve sworn off FL until the September trip! Maybe. My Labor Day weekend is still wide open, and unless they raise the prices all crazy (they should be released by Friday, or Monday) I could do a Rush of Fear HHN pass instead of just 2 nights.


Awesome. They tend to do announcements for HHN on Thursday. I’m hopeful it will be this week as well. I’ll be getting mine & DD’s as soon as they go on sale. I know they don’t sell out, but it’ll make the trip feel more “real”.

I’ve planned at least 3 trips this year that I didn’t take. I just feel too guilty leaving DW behind when she’s the “real” money maker in our home. (I do make a pretty good salary, but her’s is at least double what I make!)

They did last year, for the first time… all of the multi-night passes except the most expensive one with express were cut off by 9/28. They also started cutting them off in September if that day was sold out, which they didn’t do before that… you had to choose a start date, and if that date was sold out you couldn’t use the pass until after.

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I’d already been & gone by then so I guess I wasn’t paying attention!!

Yeah, they made me pick a “start date” last year. I just choose Sept. 1, even though my trip wasn’t until mid-Sept. I hated that aspect of it & there weren’t any penalties for picking a date before you showed up.

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Thank you all so much for all the info. We went ahead and booked rooms at Royal Pacific for the night before our day at the parks. We were originally planning to just use the room as a vehicle for getting the Express Passes for $65 off per person while still staying the night at our other accommodations (we’re staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge for a few days and USO falls in the middle of the stay), but we have since decided the part of our party that is most excited about early admission will actually use the hotel rooms and meet up with the others later. There’s a strange desire to all stick together as much as possible for the week the extended family is together, so this is a real departure for us!

All the explanations totally make sense, and we really appreciate the tips about moving back into IOA before the crowd hits the train station!

Thanks again!


I think this is a very wise move… I know how big party travel is (my sister has this habit of expanding our party to 10+ almost every time, and until very recently we’ve always been travel-as-pack people). It’s really a bummer if some of the group can’t get it together for an early morning when the rest are all about it because then you’ve got some people annoyed that they had to get up early, and others annoyed that people didn’t get up early enough… splitting up for one night/morning is a great way to avoid that!