One day trip planning decision help!

Hi forum! Just learned I’ll unexpectedly be in Orlando for a day and am contemplating a one-day Universal run (me and one other adult). We snagged an on-site room, but not deluxe so no Express Pass. It’s during Mardi Gras week (Monday, 2/12), so am expecting crowds. We don’t need to do the more kid-focused rides and won’t be able to do the drenching water rides given our flights that evening. Big Harry Potter fans and I haven’t been to Universal in 25 years, so lots to see! We’re also rope droppers and willing to pack it all in at a Liner-like pace. Given this info, here’s where I’d love advice:

  1. Should we do the 1-park or 2-park ticket? Both parks close at 6 and we’ll need to leave around 5:30 for flights anyway. 2-parks feels overly ambitious, but no single park is the clear winner (interested in IOA rides, USF shows/lands).
  2. Right now we’re staying at Sapphire Falls. Any rope drop tips–is water taxi or bus the way to go? We’re willing to walk too, but wasn’t sure if the path is clear.
  3. Any tips for using the main lockers to stash luggage? We’ll each have a large backpack, but will leave for the airport from the parks so don’t want to store with the hotel.
    Would appreciate any other tips for a marathon one-day trip. I’m traveling with a great travel buddy, so I think we’ll have a blast no matter what we do!

If you are truly only there for this one day then I’d go to whichever park has Early Park Admission and stay there. That will most like be IOA. I think even without Express Pass (UXP) you won’t have any issues seeing everything.

I’d love to tell you to get a park-to-park pass, but I’m not sure you’ll get full value. Besides, IOA has all the “big rides” that people love. Take time to meet a Raptor and do the Seuss attractions as well! There’s more “to do” at IOA.

USF has more shows by far and it’s the park I prefer to leisurely “hang out” in, but you’re there to do the rides!

(Sadly, this means you won’t see Diagon Alley - the best theme park land anywhere!)

Water taxi!! It’s not even a contest!! You walk right out the back door and right onto a boat. They do all the security screening right there and will only take a minute. The bus takes a longer route & then you have to go through the general public security at the hub!

Daily rate lockers

At the front of each of Universal’s theme parks, you will find lockers available to rent for the entire day, which you may open as many times as you’d like. There are two sizes of lockers available here: the large ones (12 in. x 13 in. x 16.9 in.) start at $12 per day, while the family size (12 in. x 16.25 in. x 16.9 in.) starts at $15.

Universal Studios Florida: this park has three sets of daily rate lockers, all located in the Production Central area of the park – once you go through the turnstiles, make your way far left or far right.

Islands of Adventure: there’s just one set of daily-rental lockers located inside the turnstiles, to the far left by the stroller and wheelchair rental station.

Personally - I’d use your hotel’s luggage services. IME - Getting your Uber / Lyft to MCO is easier at the hotels than the parking garage. Leave the bags at the hotel (FOR FREE) and just come back to the hotel when you are ready. The water taxis come about every 6 - 7 minutes. Getting back to SF is really easy!

Ask anything & as often as you like! I love talking UOR and go as often as I can - which is probably more than I should!! :rofl:

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Thank you so much @darkmite2 ! I’m leaning the same way about IOA, but no worries-I’m headed back in the fall for a family trip so will get to see Diagon Alley with my kids over more days! My travel companion won’t be back anytime soon, which is why we even considered 2-parks.

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  1. Since you are big Potter fans and haven’t seen either WWOHP, can do commando style touring, & will rope drop, I’d visit both parks. I’d only say no if you plan to visit UOR in the near future and have more time to spend there. This makes sense because you’ll start at IOA and do Hogsmeade, other rides you want to do. Then hop over to USF for an afternoon show/ride and Diagon Alley.

  2. Boat or walk, it’s up to you. Walking will be the fastest and may get you there before the boat people. (the boat drops off on the other side of the lagoon, so a little walking after drop off) The security at the end of the Garden Walk opens 60 minutes before EPA. That path comes out at the IOA entrance.


Nice, then 1 park will work!


I do not advise this. It is quicker to go back to the hotel, get your bags, and hail the cab than to send your bags through universal security scanners.


If you want to ride Hogwarts Express you’ll need admission to both parks. (Or, this could be old advice? My trip was 2019…). We did Universal in 1.5 days, it can be done. I did it with 3 kids, but they were old enough to stay out late and do some of the thrill rides. I just made my must do list of about 3 things and took it from there. If you’re into the wand thing you can purchase in advance and be ready to do spells, but if you really want to do that and have the Ollivander’s experience you can save it for that. We purchased some in the gift shop at the hotel, which was Portofino. Again, a long time ago, I don’t know what has changed. But we definitely found it a very fun and worthwhile experience to go to Universal for a day.


This is all still accurate! Not much has radically changed in the last 3 - 4 years! (Which I like! They’ve added rides, but most “policies” are the same as prepandemic)

Sold! Will definitely take this advice-thanks!


Be sure to go to Knockturn Alley. That was one of the most fun parts of wwohp for us.

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Hey all! Thanks for the helpful advice and I’m hoping to pick your brains about a few more steps. Sibling Trip 24 is booked-tickets bought, we’re planning to visit just IOA, apps downloaded, and we’ll leave bags at the hotel!

Next question is about our rope drop strategy. I just did an Optimized Plan and it suggests hanging out in Hogsmeade for 30 minutes, then doing Hippogriff, Velocicoaster, FJ and then Hagrid’s at 9:09 (which is the part that seems suspect). I know about the Hagrid’s 11:30 drop in wait times. I feel pretty confident we can be at the front of RD too (will get there an hour before and won’t have bags/loose items for lockers at all). Should we try the stampede to Hagrid’s? (Or, dare I say, try both times???)

Finally, any red flags for Hagrid’s or VC–meaning, ways to tell the ride may not be running so we can abandon? Or, at that 11:30 mark, is there a point in the queue by which we’d know whether the posted time is inflated or not (ie, if the line is HERE, you’re looking at a 60 minute wait).

We’ll definitely have time to get to everything, but if we can knock out some rides during EPA and then have a leisurely rest of the day to snack, ride and wander, that would be perfect. Thanks again!

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If you are doing spells then EPA and hanging out in Hogsmeade is a great time for that. Otherwise, it is suggesting that as the first step because it will have a wait time of zero minutes…

EPA is the best time for Hippo, VC & FJ!!

Time for “real talk”…I’ve been to UOR frequently between 2022 - today. I really have been the first person at the entry taps multiple times. If I’m not first, I’m in the first 6 people at my entry gate.

If I run / jog and RUSH to Hagrid’s I can board, typically, in less than 15 minutes after I enter the queue.

If I power walk / “walk with a purpose” nonstop to the ride I can board in 20 - 25 minutes…

Because of this I don’t RUN to Hagrid’s as much as I used to. I know that if I walk and don’t stop that I’ll probably still ride Hagrid’s before EPA is over.

If you can be one of the first couple hundred people to get into the queue it’s really not that bad…

I find the lockers to the the worst thing about RD Hagrid’s. You can’t take bags with you and there’s a limited amount of lockers. Entire families crowd around the lockers and block access while they are putting all their items away. Then people behind them & you are all trying to get into the locker bays. It can get a bit “Thunderdome” in there. When I do it with my family, we split up and grab the first lockers we can get to individually.

So…can you get on Hagrid’s quickly at EPA??? Yep! You just need to wake up and be at your bus / water taxi 75 minutes before EPA starts. This will get you at the front of the pack. Then you need to be ready to walk quickly to the FARTHEST point in IOA from the entry!! Have your hotel key in your lanyard and clearly visible to get waved past the TMs checking for valid EPA entry.

At Hagrid’s they will not let you into the queue or even into the locker bays if it is delayed at EPA.

I’ve never had a delay at VC during the mornings. I’m sure it happens, but it runs FAR MORE reliably than Hagrid’s. (Hagrid’s has some very unique elements that if the sensors get out of alignment they have to reboot it completely.)

The Hagrid’s queue is about 90% indoors.I know from experience about “how much longer” the wait will be by landmarks in the queue. I will say that if the queue extends outside to around Hagrid’s hut you are definitely more than one hour away. I’d feel comfortable saying that if you are inside the building and through the preshow room (which isn’t running most times, but you’ll “know” it. It’s still a very large projection screen) the next room is about where I’d say you are at about 60 minutes left to queue. That room is a long hall way of switchbacks that exit deeper into the lower depths of the building. (You will be going underground. You’ll lost cell service for a bit after this room until you get to loading)

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Love the real talk!!! Thank you so much!!!

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I really want to stress this!! :rofl: :rofl:

If you are going to run / jog you’d better be in decent shape! :rofl: It’s uphill for the final third of the distance too!

I work out most days by walking. I usually do 6 - 8 miles on a “normal” day. I do 10+ miles pretty regularly too. I giggle when I see out of shape parents trying to keep up with their kids who don’t know truly how far they have to go to get there! :rofl:

I, typically, “trot” to Hogsmeade. I find it easier than “power walking”. It’s like slow jogging! I often past the people who sprinted the first half of the way as they’ve burned out! :rofl: (I look dumb doing it though!)

I don’t want to brag or get your expectations up too much, but if you are committed to being at the front of the pack - you can do every attraction EPA has to offer before the one hour is complete without UXP. (It helps if its a weekday & not a holiday too!)

You can’t ride Hagrid’s twice during EPA - typically. I’ve been one of the very first people to board the ride before. By the time you get off and get back to the front of the ride entry the queue will be massive. I’ve managed to ride twice during EPA once - ONLY because a TM was being super cool and actually let me reride it immediately without waiting. (My motorbike had a very minor audio / sound effects issue. I wasn’t complaining, just letting them know. I think b/c of my nice attitude and not making a big deal about it is why I got to go again when they really didn’t “have” let me) :innocent:

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Thanks! We’re in decent shape (I’m a walker, sis is a runner), so a trot sounds doable, but helpful to know about the uphill! We definitely aren’t thinking of Hagrid’s twice during EPA. If we wanted to attempt a second ride, we’d likely aim for the 11:30AM dip in wait times, depending on how the morning goes. We have a really manageable plan otherwise, so I think we’ll get to soak in the day, be flexible, and just enjoy the fun of being there!
(Touring plan had us arriving at Hagrid’s at 9:09 with a 17 minute wait and I’ve read enough of this forum to give that estimate a side-eye!)

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We were the second family in line at the taps for Early Entry during the week after Christmas (super crowded). We walked somewhat quickly but never ran or jogged and went straight onto Hagrid’s without ever slowing down in the line. It’s a bit of a hike but not too bad. I didn’ t really notice the hill. We had plenty of time to do the other EE rides before official park open.


From the end of Suess Landing to just past Mythos is a decent incline. (At least for me that early in the morning!! :rofl::rofl:)


Mini trip report/update! Here today and our day was AWESOME. Was about 12 people back at the taps. From there:
On Hagrid’s line by 8:03 and walked all the way to loading. Done before 8:20.
Straight to velocicoaster, which listed a 15 minute wait but was also a walk on
Then hippogriff and forbidden journey—done right at 9! All four rides during EPA!
Headed over to Spider-Man (walk-on) and Hulk (15 minute wait).
All in all, did everything above before 10, then spent the rest of the day slowly walking through each land, taking in the details, snacking and relaxing. Headed to the airport after a truly perfect day!! Thanks to all for your advice!


This is the correct way to do EPA!! Well done!!!

This is the correct way to experience IOA!! :rofl: :rofl: (I couldn’t resist saying twice! :innocent:)

I hope you go home safely! Thanks for sharing!! :star_struck: :star_struck:

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