Our Family Trip Report - Combined Disney and Universal - June 5 to 12,2018

I personally love trip reports, as I feel I can live through them vicariously. So I wanted to provide our trip report for those interested. We did a combined trip of both Disney and Universal FL, but I am going to post it on the Disney board because we only spent two of seven days in Universal. I promise that future days will have more pics, but I didn’t feel like we had any good pics for our travel day.

Who we are?

Myself, my DH, DD8, DS11, my sister and her son (who turned 18 on our first park day!). We are from the KC area, so as Midwesterners, that FL weather didn’t really affect us much. Rain, thunderstorms, and heat are norms here in the middle of the country.

My sis and I are the only ones who had been to WDW before, but that was over 30 years ago (I was 3 yrs old and she was 5 or 6). The only memories I have of that first trip are Figment, and some Dinosaur type ride (similar to Carousel of Progress layout). My sister remembers more than I do, but there isn’t much that still remains the same, so in a way, this is a first trip for all of us. My DH and all the kids had never been.


As a precursor, I must say that I first discovered Touring Plans by accident while surfing You Tube. But I am SO GLAD I DID!!! Without TP, we would have never accomplished my overly ambitious plan of getting on almost EVERY RIDE in EVERY PARK, plus going to Universal for two days with the same intent. Our trip lasted a total of 8 days with seven of those in a park of some sort. We planned on two Universal days, one for each of the theme parks, and 5 Disney days. We got a great deal with Undercover Tourist for the 4 days with 5th day free. Being spending savvy people, we couldn’t dare waste that 5th day, so we planned our flight home for an evening flight. We can squeeze in a park day before that flight, right?

We decided to stay offsite, although I knew there were going to be sacrifices involved. But I figured…with my “we are tackling it all” mentality, I knew that our time at a room would be short and pointless. So, we opted for an offsite 6 bedroom/5 bath house to save some money. We had our own personal pool, a massive amount of TVs, our own washer/dryer, full kitchen, and room to get out of each other’s way. That last one is important when you get tired of looking at the same people for a week.

Even with the decision to stay offsite, I still diligently planned out our FP+ and took full advantage where we could (more about that later). We had planned several PPO ADRs to help us with our TP, even though one of them fell through with the MK change in opening hours. But even when our TPs fell apart for one reason or another, I’m glad I had all the knowledge I needed to improvise. FL weather can be so unpredictable!
Without further delay, let’s move on to the TRIP!

Day 1 – Travel

Our travel day was fairly uneventful, so I won’t say much here. We got up early to drop off our dogs with family, stopped to have a nice sit-down breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants in the KC area, and took off on our hour drive to the airport. Our only set back was when I found out that my DH forgot to enter my TSA Pre-check KTN number on my air reservation! Of our party of six, I was the lucky one that had to stand in the regular security line! But I couldn’t let my anger boil over on the first day…we are going to the happiest place on earth, after all. I can, however, guarantee that he re-checked my flight home for that number. And I’m glad we did that…it pays off later when we stumble through Day 8!

Ultimately, we arrive at MCO. We had reserved the largest SUV the rental agency had. After all, how are we going to get 6 people plus all their luggage into one vehicle? We walk up to the “choose your own car” aisle and are greeted by a CSR. Sadly, this CSR wasn’t very helpful at all. His first suggestion…a minivan! I know that may not seem bad to some, but I have an aversion for mini vans. Hate them, never want to be in one. I assume that the CSR saw the look of disgust on my face with the mention of that, and immediately turned our attention to the only other option he had…a $50K+ Infinity SUV. We’ll take it! I’m not one to rent out the expensive cars, because I don’t like the risk, but this time, my hatred of minivans trumped all.

On our way to our house from MCO, we passed through several tolls. We knew this was going to happen and had cash on hand. What I didn’t know would happen is that my DH doesn’t know how to read the toll signs. He accidentally got into an unmanned SunPass lane. We had no other “safe” choice but to drive through. I guess I will patiently wait on the bill from the rental car agency for that mistake.

We finally get to our rental house for the week. By this time, it’s now almost 8 pm EST, and we started our day at 7 am CST. Wow, time flies…literally! We left the then 17 yr old nephew with our two kids at the house, and took off for Target for our groceries and supplies for the week. By the time we return, it is almost 10 pm EST and we have an early morning start to get to Universal Island of Adventure. Off to bed we go! Day 2 is Universal’s Island of Adventure, and my nephew’s 18th birthday!

Here’s my one pic for our travel day. This is not what you want to see when you board a plane…it’s inside!


I am looking forward to the rest of your report!

Sounds like you got off to a good start…That is a large group to be travelling with…I can definitely understand choosing off-site living arrangements…lower stress is a good thing.
I’m also in the KC area…Glad to see you posting…

Day 2 – Universal Island of Adventure
Being an absolute obsessive planner in every way, the family knew I would know exactly when to wake up every day. We all arose bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7 am EST. By the way, this is the ONLY time on the trip I can say that everyone was happy to wake up! As we pack up for the first park day, I realize something…I didn’t print our Universal tickets! After several minutes of rapid fire internet searching, I find that a phone .pdf file is fine to use. Not easy to use, but fine. And if all else fails, we can ask “will call” to print them out for us. Another crisis averted.

We get out of the house at 7:45 am and take off towards Universal. The drive is around 45 min, but it seems rather easy given the time of day. I expected a little more rush hour traffic, I guess. We get to the garage right at 8:30 am and start the long journey to the front of the park. We had done Universal in Hollywood last year, so we knew it would be a trek. But this trek seemed much longer! We get to the gates of Island of Adventure in 10 min (wow, I didn’t know we could walk that fast!), and have 20 min until the park opens. As we stand in line, it starts to sprinkle. But no worries as the clouds don’t look threatening. It clears up by the time we walk into the park.

We immediately start into our TP by heading over to Marvel World. All I can say is wow! Love the theming used in all the Universal parks, but this one makes you feel like you stepped into a comic book! We head straight to Spider Man and practically walk right on to the ride. Although we love being able to walk right in with practically no line, you end up missing the very well themed queues. We glance as quickly as we can at the news room complete with cubicles (am I back at work!?!?), while booking it to the ride vehicles and hop in. Five minutes later, we are off to the next ride…King Kong.

We skimmed through Toon Lagoon very quickly to get to King Kong. Fun theming all around, but nothing else to do here unless you have the tiny tots with you, or want to get wet at 9 am! So we move on to Kong Island. Seeing that we did a form of King Kong in Universal Hollywood’s Studio Tour, it didn’t take us to another world. We had seen the screen action and knew what to expect. Even my DD8 seemed a little bored by it. But the kids will never say they didn’t like it. Again, jumping right to the front here as well, and we were off in a few minutes.

Next up was Jurassic World. Given that my kids don’t like the dropping water rides (I’m looking at you, Splash Mountain), we skipped it and went straight to the Pteranodon Flyers. Apparently, I didn’t do my research on this ride. As much as I was looking forward to it, we get to the entrance only to be told there is a height max. Small kids only, and they can only bring one “taller” person with them. Even my DS11 was too tall for this ride. My DD8 barely made the cutoff, so we let her take her brother and the kids enjoy alone. They were literally only gone 3 minutes before we were off again.

The next stop was my sister and nephew’s favorite part…Harry Potter! Again, with this being another repeat of Universal Hollywood, my DH, kids, and I didn’t get the Ooohhs and Aaahhs of someone experiencing for the first time. But I could feel the smiles beaming from my sister and nephew’s faces. We kept our pace and jumped right into Hogwart’s castle for Forbidden Journey. I can never say enough about this ride…it is truly an experience in itself. Not only is it amazing to walk through the castle and see all the wonderful queue details, but the ride alone is exhilarating! You truly feel like you are flying. We probably wait in line a total of 10 min, but it flies by with the queue to look at.

After FJ is over, my motion sickness prone DH had enough, and decided the next motion simulator would not be for him. But luckily, still being in Harry Potter land, we had the Flight of the Hippogriff coming next. All three kids (including the now 18 yr old) have some strange fear of roller coasters. Even the kiddy versions. But I convinced them that if they could survive this one, the rest in Disney would be a breeze. They agreed to give it a go. It was a longer wait than we expected, and we were already 25 min ahead of our TP, but we didn’t want to stop so we stood in line anyway. After about 15 min of a wait line and a quick ride, we were off again to the next ride.

We made it over to the Lost Continent next. This land was not my favorite. It was true to form and well themed, but the scenery just wasn’t as whimsical as everything else we had walked through so far. We jumped right in line for Poseidon’s Fury. This one was also not a favorite of any of us. The guide was a little corny, and I think he was paid to be that way. The story line was boring, but the effects were worth the one trip through. We waited about 10 min for the show to start, and it takes about 20-25 min to get through. The “tunnel of water” that you get to walk through was pretty cool, but the smell emanating from that thing was putrid! Florida water, I guess.

Off again to finish our TP back in Marvel world with Storm Force Accelatron. We breezed through Dr Seuss land to get back to the front of the park (we come back to this land later). Storm Force is just another Mad Tea Party ride, but still fun. Again, DH sat this one out (I’m sure his head is spinning by this point).
Our “must do” TP was officially done by 11 am (an hour ahead of plan), but we went back to several things we missed. We made it back to Dr Suess land for the Cat in the Hat ride and the Trolley Train. The Cat in the Hat is very Disney like with the animatronics ride through. And the trolley train was fun only because it takes you on a train ride high above the park. We went back to Forbidden Journey and Spider Man for a second ride each, and decided to check out Jurassic Park Discovery Center. The JP DC is definitely geared towards the younger crowd, with things to play with and touch. But we still enjoyed it. We didn’t ride some of the headliners like the Hulk coaster and Jurassic Park water ride, but these just weren’t right for our group.

For lunch, we landed in the Thunder Falls Terrace overlooking the Jurassic Park water ride. The food here was above par for sure, with BBQ, chicken, and burger options. Only one of the six had anything fried and the food was delicious. We also stopped at the Crescent Moon Bakery near the entry and had some dessert. My favorite was the Guava Croissant (sorry that’s not the official name, but I can’t remember it). It was delicious!
Overall, our one tip for this park is…do things in order! I’m pretty sure over the course of the day, we circled the park a total of 5 times. And with there being no shortcuts through the lake in the middle, if you miss something in one section and want to go back, be prepared to hike it! By 6 pm, we had had enough and hiked it back to the car for the day.

Next up on Day 3…our first Disney day!


Question on your rental car situation - we are doing the same using Alamo (and at MCO the pick your car from the row when you arrive feature) - is this the company you used? Their website shows Expeditions and Suburbans…definitely not doing a mini van with my family either!

Happy to read your Universal report! We are adding 2 days to Universal to our trip this year. We are first timers for Universal and have no idea…

Our car rental was from National, so I couldn’t speak for Alamo. What we reserved was supposed to be equal to an Expedition, but I wasn’t aware that they considered a minivan in that same category (or maybe they don’t, not sure).

I really think Universal is worth it. It gets severly overshadowed by Disney, but is an entirely different experience than Disney. We did Hollywood last year and it was amazing.

It’s great to read a UOR report — I’m a big fan and am really looking forward to going again in about 11 days time. Your report has made me even more excited about it!

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National and Alamo have the same parent company and I think their pick your on car policies are similar. I used to rent from National on a weekly basis (for work) and you are at the whim of what they have available and put on the lot that day, but I often got great cars.

We used Alamo last year and I was hugely impressed with every aspect of the experience. Couldn’t have been quicker or simpler or easier.

Day 3 – Magic Kingdom Morning (Adventureland, Frontierland, and Liberty Square) & Epcot Evening (World Showcase)

This is the point on our trip where my family really starts to regret the fact that I am so particular in planning. In order to make the 8 am park opening for Magic Kingdom, we have to leave our house by 6:45 am EST (that’s 5:45 in our home time zone, folks!). Which means that wakeup call is 6 am! Needless to say, the warm and fuzzy greeting from the day before had morphed into grumpy and tired.

We make it out right on time (I don’t know how), and head for Magic Kingdom. A brief 15 min drive and we are officially going under the infamous Welcome Signs of Disney World. The rush of excitement is hitting us hard! We park in a fairly close lot and are able to walk to the TTC. With myself carrying the “group bag”, I make my way to the bag lines while the rest of them breeze through security. Luckily, there aren’t a ton of people here with us at 7:20 am. My kids are stoked about the monorail at this point…that is, until we cross to the other side of the ticket booths and hear a voice shouting about the monorail being closed and the ferryboat is our option. Uhhhh, wait a sec! What do I do with my motion sick DH? I kindly ask the cast member who says we can still use the Resort Monorail, but the Ferry Boat would be much quicker. Trusting the experts and getting the nod from my DH, we board the Ferry. As we stand on the boat, we get a good dose of sunscreen on and wait, and wait, and wait…. After about 10 min of waiting, the boat finally starts to move. At last, we are on our way!

Once we arrive, in remembering the words of wisdom from all the other Liners, we move to the far right line where no one else is standing. They let us through the tapstiles and hold us again at the gates. By this point, our 7:20 small crowd has turned into a larger mass of strangers. Deciding that our photos can wait until the last day, we squeeze our way through to get a good spot for the Welcome show. Once we arrive at the castle, we park ourselves at the front of the ropes on the right, with direct path to Peter Pan’s flight ahead of us. With all our FP reserved at 30 days, most of the headliners wouldn’t be available, so we tried to spread them out amongst our RD options. Peter Pan’s was for today.

I will say that the Peter Pan queue is fun, although we practically ran through it. My kids loved the fact that my DS neon shirt was glowing during the ride. I’m not sure they even paid attention to the ride itself. Off in a matter of minutes, my TP included a brief stop at “It’s a small world” before heading over to the west side of the park. That song will never leave me now!

Our first headliner to hit up on the west side was Big Thunder. It took a little convincing (again) but all three kids decided to give it a go. And they were glad they did! This became their favorite ride in Magic Kingdom after that. Next up was our FP to Haunted Mansion. We had an extra 10 min before our FP, so we took the walk back pretty slowly, stopping at the Rapunzel restrooms nearby to get a peek at Pascal. Once we arrived at HM, the cast member at the FP line stopped us and told us not to tap in. He wanted to recommend that we modify our FP to something else, since it would do us no good here. Here’s where the planner kicks in. You can’t distress a planner with a plan! I really wanted to tell him, “I HAVE A PLAN! DON’T MESS ME UP!”, but we tapped in anyway and went on in. I’m sure there would have been a way to modify and use the FP in a better way, but I didn’t care at that point. That voice in my head just kept telling me we needed to keep moving.

We then hopped through our plan to the Magic Carpets, the Tiki Room (a classic, but the kids were bored out of their minds), Country Bear Jamboree (I can’t get enough of this one!), and then to our second FP for Pirates of the Caribbean. We didn’t tell any of the kids about the “drop” until we were seconds away. You should have seen their faces and heard the “wait, what?” in person. It was classic! Disney does do a really good job pumping the smells in those rides, too. The smell of sulfur and filth filled the air. At least I hope that was a Disney provided smell… :blush:

We finally wrapped up our TP for the morning with Hall of Presidents and Jungle Cruise FP, but not before stopping to grab a Dole Whip on our way to Jungle Cruise. My daughter and I decided to split the float instead, and I think the rest of our group was a tad jealous. The float trumped the regular Dole Whip for me. Our tour guide for Jungle Cruise did a great job, as I’m sure they all do. But he had the particular fun of picking on the guy who didn’t want to be picked on. I’ll admit, the guy took it well, but you could see the steam coming from his ears every time the guide looked in his direction. The rest of the boat got a kick out of it.

Since our TP was wrapped for the morning, and I had a “food list” to accomplish as well, we made a stop by Sleepy Hollow for the fruit waffle sandwich. On our way over, we even happened to catch the Muppets show in Liberty Square. As the chocolate hazelnut spread oozed through our fingers in the FL heat, we decided to wrap it up for the morning and take a break at the house before heading over to World Showcase for the night.

After what seemed like only a 30 min break (it was more like 2 hours), it was time for World Showcase. We had decided to eat lunch at our house, so we could “eat around the world” for dinner. I had a LONG list of foods to try in WS. And sadly, my stomach couldn’t do it. But we got to try some pretty amazing things.

We decided to start our tour in Epcot with some of the smaller Future World attractions, so as not to take time away from our Epcot morning on Day 5. We took in the Disney Pixar short film festival. My kids loved that one. I particularly liked the second one about a little bird who was experiencing the ocean for the first time. Such a cute film! We also took some time in Club Cool. And, yes, we all tried the Beverly. It is as disgusting as everyone says it is. As my DS says, “Why would anyone even want this?”

First thing we saw in Canada was the Refreshment Port, and knew this was the place to try the Croissant Doughnut. I think it was more fun watching the little birds at our feet scooping up every flake that fell off, but the doughnut was good. We also just had to try the Poutine. My DH and I split an order, and it was delicious! You can’t go wrong with anything that has gravy on it. We took in the Canada 360 film and it even made me dizzy. I thought the standing bars to help you balance were a little much at first, until the room started spinning. Now I get it.

By this point, my DH and DS were seriously getting hungry, and I knew that UK was next. So we stopped in at the Yorkshire County Fish Shop for some Fish and Chips, and a Victoria Sponge Cake. We also wandered the shops in the UK, as my sister is a bit obsessed with all things London, and I showed them the Christopher Robin room in the back of the toy store. Such a cute little room, glad it’s still there to see. We could see the rain rolling in, but marched on.

My absolute favorite “food stop” was next…France! In order to give our last snack some time to digest, we took in the Impressions de France show. This film was beautiful to watch and hear. Great music along with great scenery. I could have taken a nap in there. When we exited the film, we were immediately placed into the store/bakery. I had already made plans to have some “breakfast” items come home with me, so when entering the bakery line, I asked the CM for a box to start. I ended up with the Macron, the Frangipane, and Framboise. My kids had the Napoleon and some Chocolate Cake thing. Everything here was delicious, but I saved all mine because I had a different thought in mind…ice cream. Next door is the Les Artisan de Glaces, where I ordered a Croque Glace. I opted for Salted Caramel ice cream with a caramel sauce. Seems like caramel overkill, and it was, but it was delicious. I felt bad that I probably butchered the name of what I ordered, as the CM was actually from France. But I’m sure she hears that all the time, right?

As we were leaving France and headed towards Japan, it started to rain. It was a light sprinkle, so we opted to forgo our ponchos for now. I had so many plans for Japan…sigh. My stomach didn’t agree with me at all. In order to give more time to our digestion, we decided to wander through the Japan shops. It was raining heavier now and we still didn’t want to drag out the ponchos. The Japan store is so amazing! So many interesting things to look at. This gave us enough time for the rain to lighten up so we could move on. Sadly, my stomach never recovered in time for me to try out the Green Tea Cheesecake or the Kakigori that I wanted. Maybe next time.

With the rain coming down and our stomachs gurgling in pain, we decided to skip the American Pavilion all together. There was a Passion Fruit Beer I wanted to try, but again, nowhere for it to go. I feel like we also went right through Italy as well. I really wanted to try the Gelato, but you get the idea now. So off to Germany.
We had upcoming lunch reservations at Biergarten on Day 5, so we stuck to the Sommerfest menu for some snacks. By this point, we had a little more room, so my daughter and I opted for the Nudel Gratin. Can’t say that this is anything special. Glorified mac and cheese, but still tasted good. My DS and DH split a sausage and paprika chips. I have to say that I wasn’t sure about the chips, but they ended up being pretty good. Glad they were willing to share.

By the time we take off for China, our stomach still reeling. Why do we keep eating more? We decide to try out the China 360 show, and that’s not a good idea after you eat too much. No one actually got physically sick, but I’m sure the color left my face a few times. After exiting the film, we find the Joy of Tea stand, hoping that maybe a hot tea on this dreary rainy day will help. We walk straight through Norway, as Frozen is set for our TP on Day 5. And decide that we can come back to the Norway bakery for school bread. It wasn’t going to happen that day, obviously.

We reach the Mexico pavilion and walk around the shops a little inside. I love the ambiance here. The night sky gives it such a feeling of warmth on the rainy day. We were a little wet at this point, so being inside was a good thing. We manage to finish our teas so we can hop on the Three Amigos ride. This ride was a long needed break for all of us.

By the time we leave the Mexico pavilion, it is just at 8:30 pm. Illuminations will be starting soon, so we decide to find a good place to sit and take some more photos. The show is stunning, even in the rain. We make it through about 10 min of it before we decide to beat the crowd out the gates. We hop on a tram and make it to the car after a very long first Disney day. Side note…the tram operators are hilarious! We never had a tram operator that didn’t make us laugh. For such a tough job, they do it well.

Overall, this day was packed full of rides and activities, and A LOT of food. Best tip from this day…don’t go see the 360 films on a very full stomach!

Next up…Day 4 – Universal Studios FL Day


Day 4 – Universal Studios Florida

This was a day for us to remember! It started out great and we got to experience some great rides, but the weather gets the best of us today.

We start the day at 7 am EST and are out at 7:45. After having our first park day at Island of Adventure, we are ready and prepared for the long trek from the parking garage, as well as the beautiful views through CityWalk. Knowing that the early park access was available to resort guests today, it doesn’t surprise me when we walk up to the gates and see people inside at 8:40. What does surprise me is that they are letting everyone in the gates 20 min early. Oh, no! My TP is already falling apart and we haven’t even started yet.
Our first item on the TP was supposed to be the Minions ride. We were expected to have around a 20 min wait at 9 am park open, with times creeping up to around an hour for the rest of the day. By now, I’m panicky. When we get into the park at 8:40, the line for Minions is already at 30 min. I check my lines app and it doesn’t even have the park open yet. Now, I’m a little freaked out. If the whole park is open early and we are late, the entire TP is blown!

We go ahead and hop into the Minions line anyway. I figured I don’t have a better plan, so let’s go for it. Luckily, as we are standing in line, my sister overhears a park attendant telling someone that they only opened Shrek 4D and Minions to everyone, while resort guests can get on any ride. PHEW! A giant weight is lifted, as I realize my TP still has hope. While we’re standing in line, I decide to log in to my Universal App to get some return tickets for Jimmy Fallon…except when I log in, there are no tickets left! I could not believe that the park wasn’t even open and all the Jimmy Fallon tickets were gone. I thought maybe it had something to do with the park not being open yet, so I decide to keep checking throughout our day.

Once we exit Minions, it is officially park opening (still no Jimmy Fallon tickets). My plan had us hitting up Shrek next, but I improvise and decide to wait since it’s been open to everyone for a while. We move on to Transformers just around the block. Since my kids, DH, and I had been to Universal Hollywood, Minions and Transformers were not new to us. But I still love the rides at Universal. It’s crazy to me how they can make you feel like you are actually falling. By 9:20, we are done with both and moving on (again, still no Jimmy Fallon tickets).

Next up was ET. It wasn’t a short walk over to the ET ride, as it felt like we were walking city blocks. As we approach the ride entrance, there are two park attendants standing there goofing off. It’s not until we actually approach the ride entrance in a far corner of the park, that they tell us that ET will not open until 10 am. I inquire if it’s a ride breakdown or not, as it wasn’t showing up on my Line app or the Universal app. To that, he tells me that they just don’t open until 10. Really? You all couldn’t put up a sign about a city block ago where I entered this section? Whatever…moving on. Now my plan has two things on it to come back to (remember, we skipped Shrek for now). We march on to Springfield USA. Side note…Still no Jimmy Fallon tickets and I’m getting nervous we might miss the ride entirely.

Springfield is actually my favorite theming in all of Universal. Part of that is the fact that I love the Simpsons. But you really feel like you walked into the cartoon. All those things you see in the show are right there in front of you. I can walk into Moe’s tavern or the Kwik-E-Mart. We can pose for pictures with Chief Wiggam or Lard Lad. And we are determined to get a big pink donut this trip, as we forgot to pick one up last year in Hollywood. So we don’t have to carry it around, we opt to hold off until we are ready to leave (we regret this decision later).

The Simpsons ride is so much fun! I had warned my sister that you get wet when you least expect it on this ride, but I was surprised that they changed that part from the Hollywood version. Here, you do get a little sprinkle as they pass through a pool of water. But in Hollywood, you get wet when Maggie sticks the ride vehicle in her mouth. I think the Hollywood version is more disgusting, but more true to Simpsons form.

We had every intent of riding Kang and Kodos Twirl and Hurl as well, but as we passed by the ride itself, we got a glance at just how mundane it really was. It’s similar to Dumbo or Magic Carpets, but I think the up/down movement may not have been as good. We decided to skip this one and move on. Next up was Men in Black. We were excited about this one, as we are fans of the shooter style rides. And it was just as fun as we thought. Not only is there target shooting, but the ride vehicle moves about as if you are racing through the streets. Lots of twists and turns, and spin outs…it was a blast!

Next up, we entered London. It was really neat seeing the whole other world tucked in behind what looks like a normal London street. Through one of the skinny hallways, we entered the world of Diagon Alley. And this place was PACKED with people. We arrived around 11 am, just in time for the dragon to breathe his fire. It was impossible to get back to Gringott’s Bank through the swarms of people holding up their iPhones to capture the dragon’s fire. But we finally made it back only to be stopped dead in our tracks at the bank’s entrance. Gringott’s was shut down! Oh, no! Another kink in my perfect plan. We decide to keep moving with our plan. By this time, we had already missed several things we had to come back to, so my TP is shot at this point anyway.

We move on to the Fast & the Furious. Early on, because I knew TP had no historical data on this ride, I decided to build in a 20 min “break” right after F&F. This would account for a potential 20 min wait that TP couldn’t predict. Our wait ends up being more like 10 min, but we are already out of sync with our plan, so it didn’t matter much. This ride is very similar to Hollywood’s Studio Tour version, and is not the greatest. Think King Kong with different graphics.

As we exit F&F, I do another check for Jimmy Fallon tickets…nope! I also check on Gringott’s…still down. Well, since we are close enough, we walk over to Jimmy Fallon in hopes that they have a kiosk we can use for tickets. After 5 min of searching for a kiosk (later I was told they don’t have one there now), we asked a park attendant there who told me to reboot my app and try again. Low and behold, times begin to appear. Who knew? Funny enough, there was a time available for that very moment for all 6 of us. I snatch up the time and we enter immediately.

The waiting area for Jimmy Fallon is quite impressive. There is a lot of unique “show” items housed in a museum of sorts in the bottom level. Once you go upstairs, there is live entertainment on stage, along with chairs and couches to relax on. Many of the chairs have touchscreen video games for the kids to play. The ride itself was also pretty intense. Universal really knows how to do motion simulation. But this one had my motion sick DH tapping out. He was done for the day.

Once we completed Jimmy Fallon, we knew we still had Gringott’s and ET. Since Gringott’s was still down, we decided to go for ET. At least this way, we would be nearby Springfield USA for lunch. On the way over, we see some parade floats sitting in the street with actors around. Unlike Disney, Universal will bring out their floats and park them. You can walk up to them and interact with the characters. The one we happened to catch was for Secret Life of Pets. My DD is in love with Gidget and just had to get a picture. Gidget even interacts a little with what you say to her.

My original TP had us waiting 8 min for ET and the Lines App said 6 min at this point. What I’ve come to find out is that wait time is only the time to have them usher you in for the prescreen film. Once past this film, you walk up to a team member who gives you a passport card thing and has you state your name. She pretends to type it in her computer, but in reality, they are recording your voice (that’s good to know for later). We ended up actually waiting over 20 min once we got past the passport station. There is another area of long and windy queue rows inside the building that I believe is not being factored into the Lines App (or Universal’s estimate). I checked back several times that day and the wait was never listed longer than 10 min, but that wasn’t reality. Once on the ride, it reminded me of Peter Pan with the difference of a bicycle ride vehicle instead of a boat. At the very end of the ride, a faint ET can be heard trying to repeat your names (that they secretly recorded from earlier).

Once we stepped out of ET, it was time for lunch. A quick check of Gringott’s again (still shut down) and we make our way to Springfield’s Fast Food Boulevard. This is where Universal FL really beats Universal Hollywood. The choices here are immense! My nephew and DH had Bumble Bee’s Taco Truck, while the rest of us went for Cletus’ Chicken Shack. But there is also Krusty Burger, Luigi’s Pizza, Flying Dutchman Seafood, and Lisa’s TeaHouse of Horrors (healthier options that are grab and go). As in Hollywood, the kids got the chicken and waffle sandwich, which is delicious. You wouldn’t think maple flavored mayo could be good but it works! My sis and I opted for the chicken plate (standard fare). Once we ate, a check of Gringott’s again says it’s still down. Now, the worry starts to set in for we may not get to ride this one at all! We decide to make our way over to Diagon Alley again to do some photos and shopping instead. Maybe it will open up soon.

We get to Diagon Alley, and finally, Gringott’s is open again! A quick check on wait times and it’s already up to 35 min. But my instincts told me we needed to get in line now! With the ride being closed for many hours, I knew the wait time estimates in Lines would not be accurate. Everyone else was just like us…waiting for it to open up again. So, we grin and bear the 35 min wait for a great ride experience. Another great motion simulator, Universal! A check back to the app throughout the day reveals this was the right call, as waits crept up to almost 80 min and maintained there until we left.

By this time, the heat is creeping up on us, so we decide that it’s time to head back to Shrek 4D. A quick 10 min wait for the next show to start and we are in our seats. Cute show, but not 100% necessary. The humor was a little outside the league of many kids though. But this is a great place to cool off in the heat of the day. Since we officially covered most all of our TP, we decide it’s time to stroll around. We go through many of the shops in Springfield and Diagon Alley. We are making plans to go try out the Mummy coaster, but the kids have no interest. We made them try it in Hollywood and they came off in tears. Big mistake…don’t be that mom. Instead, we made a deal that the 18 yr old would take the kids back to nearby Jimmy Fallon, while we “adults” rode the Mummy. But first return tickets I could find were an hour away (4:15). We go forward with it and do more shopping.

By this point, we feel the rain coming in…fast! We plan out the rest of the day like this: Go buy souvenirs; ride Mummy/JF; eat at Leaky Cauldron; leave. As my sis and nephew go back in to Diagon Alley for souvenirs, my kids and I start walking towards Minions to get their souvenirs. My DH hangs back at an outdoor picnic table with an umbrella in San Francisco. As the kids and I round the corner past some of the taller buildings, we get a view of what storm is really coming. Being from KS, a storm usually doesn’t bother me but this one says it’s no light drizzle…and we don’t have time to walk back to Minions. We rush back to my DH’s table, and I immediately text my sis to “hurry up”. About 5 min later, she is back with us as all the park attendants are wrapping up the outdoor stands with covers blowing wildly in the wind. She is upset because the shirt she wanted was in one of those outdoor booths and she just missed it. We check the radar on our phones, and this isn’t looking promising. Lightening, heavy downpours, and possible hail from 5-10 pm. Well, that cancelled just about all of the rest of our plans. We start to feel the sprinkles and make a jog for the exits. We forget the dinner at Leaky Cauldron, the ride on Mummy & Jimmy Fallon, and all the souvenirs (including that darn pink donut we’re never meant to get).

We have our ponchos, but since we are headed out anyway, we don’t dig them out. It should only take us 5 min to reach the covered walkways to the parking garage. Boy, that was a mistake! Once we hit the front entrance, it starts a torrential downpour! And I’m talking about so much rain at once, that the water coming down my face could have drowned me if I took a breath. By this point, we are in the CityWalk, and there is no shopfront to duck into. Every store is packed with people with nowhere to stand. By this point, we are all soaked and decide to just keep running. I could feel the stares as the drowned rats ran quickly by. We were practically the only ones stupid enough to just keep running in the rain. We had one brief stop under the awning to the AMC theaters before we took one more shower running to the covered walkways. By the time we made it to the car, I could feel the puddles in my shoes. Every point on our bodies was just dripping wet! We had no towels in the rental car and ponchos still sealed up in my now very soaked backpack. Go figure!
To top off this wild day, the forecast was wrong. The rain cleared up about 20 min into our drive home and never came back. Which means we could have ducked into a building inside Universal and waited this one out. That was a bit depressing.

Lesson we learned from this day…never trust a weatherman in Florida!

Up next on Day 5…Epcot’s Future World (and Frozen)!


Really enjoying your report! I’m sorry the weather forecast was wrong, how annoying!

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Loving your trip report! Keep it coming!

Day 5 – Epcot (Future World & Frozen) & Late Night Cinderella’s Castle Dinner

This was a day we were all excited about. Not only were there going to be some great rides, but we had our PPO ADR for Garden Grill, a lunch reservation at Biergarten, and a very late night reservation for Cinderella’s Royal Table. So much to look forward to!

We started this day bright and early again. Leaving the house by 7 am EST in order to make our PPO ADR at Garden Grill, this landed us at the security tables of Epcot by 7:30. They didn’t let us through until 7:40, but our timing still got us to the front of the line for both security and the gates. It was funny watching the twitchy people behind us who also had 8 am reservations. They kept asking the gate attendants when we would be let in and kept getting the same response of, “You won’t be late, we will get you there on time.” Trust goes a long way, people!

At about 7:53, we were let in the front gates for our breakfast reservations. As we were the first ones in, we booked it to the Land pavilion and were also the first ones to check in. We had made our ADRs as two separate parties of 4 and 2, and decided that we wanted to keep it that way to simplify the billing. So my sis and nephew went one way and the kids, DH, and I went another. We sat on opposite sides of the restaurant, but we were fine with that. We hadn’t been sitting down 2 minutes when Dale shows up at our table. My kids, not knowing this was a character meal, didn’t know what to do here. I told them to give him a high five, which they did, and Dale moved on.

The waiter was extremely nice here (I wish I remembered his name). I ordered the juice blend and it was amazing! My DD didn’t think so, as she tried some of mine and commented that it was “sour”. Before we knew it, we had fruit and a cinnamon bun in front of us. My kids were ready to devour the fruit, but I made sure they knew there was more coming. Just as soon as the waiter sat the giant skillet down with all the fixings, Pluto shows up. This time, he is gesturing the kids to come over to give him a hug. My DD obliged quickly, and my DS took a little more convincing. But they both gave their hugs and we got some photos. A little later, Farmer Mickey comes by, as well as Chip, and they know exactly what to do this time. Photos and hugs! I text my sister to let her know we are finishing up, and they meet us out front 5 min later. After a quick restroom break, we are going down the stairs to Soarin’.

Making our way through the long queue of Soarin’, we see the trivia game that we will miss. But we have to get this ride in before park opening. By the time they load us in, it is 8:50 am. We ended up in the second row, so the entire show was spent with dangling feet in front of us. Now, I understand why people request the first row. But it was still an amazing ride, and the scents were definitely strong. We loved this ride so much that we wanted to go back on. So we practically run out of the ride to jump back in line. We should still have time for one more. Sadly, by the time we reach the front, the rush of people is already flowing down the steps. It’s too late. Boo :frowning:

Oh, well. We move on with the TP for the day. There is still so much more to do. Next up, we complete the Land pavilion by hopping on Living with the Land with no wait at all. We get our own boat and off we go. My DH, who is a self-proclaimed green thumb loves this ride. At the end, he claims that Disney stole all his ideas (with a smirk on his face). Next up, we take the short jog over to Journey into the Imagination with Figment.
I’m excited for this ride, only because it’s one of the few rides I remember from my very first visit over 30 years ago. As we make our way through, I notice it is much different (this is not what I remember). Still a cute ride, and the disappearing butterfly in the cage still baffles me today. At the end of the ride, we realize we are way ahead of schedule, so the kids stop in the play area for a while. That only lasts about 5 min though as they are way too old for this kind of stuff. We decide to move on.

Next up is our first FP of the day, Test Track. I went with this for our Tier 1 FP because it’s notorious for breaking down a lot (and we got Soarin’ in with our PPO ADR). I figured if it broke down during our FP, we would likely get another FP. But if it broke down while in a normal line…well…no promises there. We had also heard that you can design your car ahead of the line by going into the interactive area at the ride’s exit. We each went in and designed our cars ahead of time, saved them to our Magic Bands, and hopped in the FP line. I was glad we decided to do this. Once in the FP line, each group of people (they grouped us in two sets of 3) had about 2.5 minutes to design their cars. That would have never worked out with my snail’s pace kids. All in all, the kids loved the ride, although nervous about the speed. My nephew’s design won amongst the 6 of us.

Frozen Ever After was next on our TP, and I was a little nervous about putting this one off until later in the morning. But the reliance on the TP paid off, as our wait was no different than the approx. 25 min we expected. I can’t say that this ride is worth it though, if you don’t have a Frozen fan in your midst. My DD was obsessed with Frozen when she was 6-7, but then 8 yrs old hit and she was “over it”.

Our next was a FP, so we decided that we had time to stop at the Norway bakery for the School Bread. I really wish that we got a chance to visit the permanent location, but I knew that it was under renovation, so we didn’t get to try the Troll Horn or Berry Pastry like I wanted to. Seeing that we just ate a huge all you can eat for breakfast, we planned ahead and brought plastic containers to put our school bread in for later. Side note here…none of us liked the school bread at all. The custard in the middle is great, but the bread itself tasted heavy on the cardamom, and that’s not an easy spice on the palette.

Our second FP was for Spaceship Earth. As the FL heat started to ramp up, I remembered why I picked this one for a FP. Watching all those poor people standing outside in that line made me feel good about that choice. This one wasn’t as thrilling, and my kids let me know how bored they were afterwards. But my sis, DH, and I got a kick out of trying to find the re-used presidential animatronics. We only caught one, and it was Eisenhower in the Egyptian scene. Made for a good laugh!

We had some time before our next FP, so we made our way over to Nemo and Friends. When we arrived, the Disney wait estimate was 35 min, and the Lines app said 30 min. Since our TP had us going to the aquariums first, then the ride with a 12 min wait, we decided to follow the plan and made our way into the aquariums. My family knows how much I love aquariums and this one was no different. I could sit there for hours watching everything swim by. We wandered for our scheduled 20 min, then headed back outside only to find the wait times had now increased to 40 min (by Disney estimate). Uh, no! Guess we won’t be riding this one after all. We had wasted enough time to be able to get to our last FP for Mission Space, so off we went.

Early on, I had talked to some co-workers who had attempted Mission Space Orange. They did NOT recommend it. And since I figured my kids would also have trouble handling it, and we all wanted to ride together, we opted to go to Green. After it was over, I really wish we had given Orange a try. The Green side seemed too tame and wasn’t very thrilling at all. But my kids quickly forgot that when we entered the interactive play zone at the end of the ride. They were in heaven! I went outside to get my DH (who skipped this one for motion sickness), and we all played a couple games on the big board. I have to say that this was pretty fun, even for the adults.

By this time, it was nearing our scheduled reservation at Biergarten, so we started our long trek to Germany Pavilion. We make it with 2 min to spare, but end up waiting for a table for about 10 min. We are seated right next to the dance floor and stage up front and are asked to leave the last two chairs at our table empty. Several minutes later, another couple is sat next to us. We knew this was a shared table situation, so we weren’t surprised by this, but I don’t think the couple realized it. They seemed a little anxious.

The food at Biergarten is amazing! We are big fans of German food, and this was not a letdown. The best things I had were the marinated mushroom salad, cucumber salad, the pork schnitzel, and of course, the spaetzle covered in brown gravy (remember from the Poutine I LOVE gravy!). We also made sure to try one of every dessert, along with the apple strudel which we doused in vanilla sauce sitting nearby. Not sure that you are supposed to eat it that way, but I did!

While we sat, the band came out to play on stage. They encouraged the kids to come dance on the floor and gave quite a performance. These guys were top notch musicians, and really knew how to entertain. Their set also included the long giant horns (don’t remember what they are called) and a table of bells. I got a video of the guy playing the bells, I wish I could post it here. He is truly talented!

While sitting at our table waiting on our group to finish, I start to scan through the MDE app and happen upon some FP for Nemo and Friends for 3:15 pm. Since we skipped it earlier, I snatch them up and we don’t miss the ride after all. Can’t say that this is a favorite ride, but the kids enjoyed seeing the screenplay, and I enjoyed seeing the fish again.

My DD and I snapped a selfie in our clamshell!

And my DS just had to have his photo of him “holding up the ball”.

By this time, our Epcot morning was over and it was time to head back to the house. It was about 4 pm and the adults had a 10 pm dinner reservation at Cinderella’s Castle. Once we get back to the house, we have time for the pool and some naps. But by 8 pm, the three adults are headed back to Magic Kingdom. What the kids didn’t know (and we never told them) is that I also managed to snatch up FP for Big Thunder for the three of us at 9:15 pm. I was hoping for a view of the fireworks from the ride, and Disney did not disappoint!

We got to Big Thunder just in time for our 9:15 FP to kick in. By this point, I knew the fireworks were already going off (as we saw them on our walk over). We are headed down the ramps to the ride vehicles, and I start to hear less “bangs”. Oh, no, did we miss them already? Just as we get to our designated car number, I hear the booms again. We didn’t miss them. I can say that Big Thunder is way more fun with Fireworks…and in the dark! We get off just in time to see the finale from the viewing porch near Big Thunder’s exit. It was beautiful!

We start to make our way over to Cinderella’s Castle. I see the bustle of people leaving after the show, and start to think those people who said the park clears out after fireworks are right. We get checked in and wait for our name to be called. Once inside, we are immediately placed in line to meet Cinderella. With it just being us adults, we have no interest in photos with her, so we kindly ask to be moved out of the line. The CM obliges, although he looked a little put off by our request, and asks us to have a seat on a side bench next to the stairs. As I sit there, I notice a panel blocking the stairway. I peer through the slats to see two CMs on the floor of the stairs and get a strong whiff of cleaner. Oh, I know what this is…a code V! It was a sad thought knowing we weren’t going to walk up the grand stairway, but we make it to the top on the elevator.

The dining room was much smaller than I anticipated. We are sat near the windows, but not directly next to them. From my point of view, I can see the colors of the shows going on outside. It casts a beautiful hue of colors on the windows. Now, I see why people have these late-night reservations. We are greeted by one of the best waiters we had on the whole trip (again, I am horrible with remembering names). We already know what we want, order quickly, and the experience starts.

Not even 5 min after we order, the first princess arrives…Snow White. She starts a couple tables behind us and is to our table quickly. We greet her, and all the other princesses, with the utmost politeness, but decline their offers for photos or autographs. We decide that they should spend more of their time with the kids in the room.

The food was absolutely delicious, but not the best we had in Disney. We all ordered the charcuterie plate for an appetizer. I gave half of mine to my husband due to allergies to some of the cheeses, but he didn’t mind. And we all also ordered the same entrée…the braised pork shank over carrots and mashed potatoes. This one was worth the price of admission. Cooked to perfection! We forced ourselves to finish, as leftovers weren’t going to taste nearly as good. Finally, dessert came and we all ordered differently for once. My DH got the Clock Strikes Twelve, my sis had the Jaq & Gus, and I had a citrus chiffon cake with raspberry and coconut brittle. The coconut brittle was the best part, but very sticky.

After dinner, we quietly exited as many other families were still struggling to get their kids to eat. I felt sorry for them (just a little) but was ready for a good night’s sleep. And we did finally get to see the stairway on our way out…with no sign of a code V anywhere. Good job, CMs! Our plan is to take some photos of the park all lit up at night. When we are outside in the spoke, we stop for some castle photos. It is really a brilliant sight at night. But I’m also surprised to see SO many people still here, now being 11:15 at night. I knew the park closed at 11 pm and the Main Street Shops at 12 am, but there were people still just hanging out. We decide to find a bench nearby and take a seat to wait out some of the crowds exiting. I glance over to the monorail station and can see the line winding down to the park entrance. We wait about 15 min before we decide we need to just deal with it and go stand in line.

The monorail line doesn’t take long to load, surprisingly, and we are on before we know it. We arrive at the TTC by 11:45 pm and think we’ll be to the car in no time. Until we see the lines for the trams. :frowning: Wow, even at almost midnight and there are still SO many people here. We don’t think we can make the walk to the far reaches of the villain lot, so waiting it is. After waiting for about 3 trams, we are finally on one and back to the car. Knowing that we are all going to regret this very late night, we get back to the house for our short-lived sleep. Tomorrow starts with an 8 am Be Our Guest reservation, after all…

Lesson from today – the crowds do NOT leave the Magic Kingdom, EVER!

Next Up – Day 6 is Magic Kingdom morning & Hollywood Studios


No way I could handle an 8am breakfast after that long day!!

This sounds like a great day!

I’m pretty sure that my sleep cycle still hasn’t recovered from this entire trip yet. :slight_smile:

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We did CRT last year: two grown-ups. But my friend is into princesses so that was all good.

I did think about doing CRT on my own this year, but I just would have felt awkward about the whole princess thing. I’d read elsewhere that they don’t necessarily respond well if you decline to meet Cindarella on check-in.

Furry characters I can deal with. They’re adorably cute and it’s no problem to suspend disbelief. But face characters freak me out.

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I completely agree. It was easier for us with the costume characters. But every princess was kind and courteous, even when we declined. Ariel was even willing to strike up a little conversation, while still staying in character. I have respect for those ladies for what they do!


People were waiting for the goodnight kiss i guess

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