Park Entry (Boat, Walking Path, vs Shuttle)

Universal Newbie (WDW family). Arriving in March, staying at Sapphire Falls. We rope drop WDW and stay on site to avoid lines, use the apps, and leave the parks for resort time in the afternoons. I’m having a hard time getting started planning. My teen/tween are only interested in HP. From our hotel what is the best way to arrive? What time will we need to depart to make the most of EE? I have years of experience at WDW from various resorts and time it depending on bus, monorail, or water taxi. When do the parks get crowded? We usually resort it by 1:30 to enjoy the pool and chill before heading back for the evening. Does this work at Universal? Any behind the scenes or tricks to capitalize on for entry/departure am/afternoon/evening? Is USF different from IOA? We have park to park 3 day.

This will all be much easier at Universal than at Disney. It’ll be like you’re staying at Boardwalk or Beach Club and The distance from Sapphire Falls to both parks is somewhat between Epcot and DHS. You’ll have the option to walk (my morning preference) or to boat (I usually do this when my feet are tired). The boat will take longer simply because you’ll have to time it to catch one but it doesn’t take long at all. The boats start running an hour before EE. I watched the Portofino one from the club. They were coming 10-15 min apart in the early morning hours and sometimes would leave people behind (which is why I chose the 10 min walk).

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In regards to EE it depends. This last trip last week wasn’t a super crowded one and we got to EE about 5 min after it began and were in line for VelociCoaster 20 min after the EE start time so it took 15 min to get thru the checkin line and walk to the opposite side of the park. We went last June so during school break on Saturdays right when VC opened and I’d suggest an hour before EE on crowded days like that. When DD and I were an hour early in Oct 2020 we were at the literal front of the line to get in versus when I was there 30 min early the Sat before with the boys it took 30 min just to get thru the line once they started letting us in

So during spring break for newbies unfamiliar with the layout best to leave 60 min from hotel to EE?

Yes if you’re walking. Maybe 75 if you’re boating so you get on that first boat

OK thank you! We walk from Contemporary and Boardwalk just like you said…so will plan to do that in AM and enjoy the boat back to the resort later. Any advice once at the park for where to go for entry? Stay left? Is there a “best practice” with tickets? I haven’t printed them. Should I laminate? Lanyards for everyone? I already miss magic bands.

You will miss magic bands and I highly recommend a lanyard. For Hogsmeade go right at the end of Port of Entry and take the first left in Seussland where the Green Eggs and Ham quick service is, then left onto the bridge for the Lost Continent. When you see a bridge to Jurassic Park you’d avoid that and go more to the right for the main Hogsmeade entrance.

For Diagon Alley you’ll just go straight through Production Central, turning right after Jimmy Fallon and left as you approach the waterfront from NY. Then straight through San Fran to London.

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Our tickets are through Costco so I’ll look for what prints. Assuming they scan and should be laminated for the lanyard. I’ll get us each one. No issues with laminating? Thanks for directions. I see in the touring plans there’s something calls Hogwarts Express arrival. What is that?

There’s a train that connects the 2 wizarding worlds between the two parks. You need a park to park ticket to use it and you should ride it both directions. It’s fantastic. You get to walk thru Platform 9 3/4. January 5, 2022 - YouTube
Make sure to ask a Kings Cross attendant how to find platform 9 and 3/4! And ask the Knight Bus conductor and head if they’ve heard any rumors about Voldemort. If they ask who put you up to asking that, say a gryffindor.

One station is in London and the other right outside of Hogsmeade. They are not close to the park entrances so it’s something you’ll use later in the day. So if you’re creating personal plans you can say you’re arriving in one park or another via the train instead of the front entrance. This is akin to using the monorail to enter Tomorrowland in Disneyland so you’d be coming in there in Tomorrowland and not on Main Street.

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Don’t laminate. Just use the zip seal badge holder with the lanyard. Fold up the ticket with the bar code exposed.

If you cut the ticket part off the page and laminate, there is a chance that you’ll get a fussy TM that says: “Oh no sir, you need to have your whole ticket complete with the terms and conditions on!”

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Also put your room key facing the other direction in the lanyard so you can flash it easily for EE.

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Grateful for your answers! THANK YOU!

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Oh yeah, breaks will be so much easier here. I have found on crowded school break Saturdays the parks start feeling more crowded around 11am. They never ever feel as crowded as Disney EXCEPT in the WWHOP areas where they are pretty much crowded the whole time except less so in the last two hours the park is open.

And if Sapphire Falls offers a shuttle bus I’d never take that over walking or the boat as it deposits you where the parking garage entrances are which is just as long a hike as it is for you to just walk from the hotel directly and you’ll be entering security with many more people than from the boat dock or hotel walkway entrances.

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Make sure you know which attractions that you need to put your bag in the lockers for. And the 3 that have metal detectors so zero loose items in pockets.

Mini back pack, sling bag types fit into the free lockers.

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yup what @bebe80 says. You can always wear your lanyard on the ride and you need a barcode to work the lockers so you’ll want to keep it with you even on the big rollercoasters where you cannot even take a phone.

Rides where you can’t take anything but your person and your lanyard (which they’ll make you tuck in your shirt):
The Incredible Hulk Coaster
VelociCoaster
Rip Ride Rockit

Rides where you must deposit bags in a free (small locker) or pay $2 for a locker that’ll fit an actual backpack (so don’t shop till you’re done with rides or have them send your stuff to the hotel for you). You can bring your phone with you thru the rides here just put it in your pocket for the actual ride:
Revenge of the Mummy
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Men in Black Alien Attack
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

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I’m going back thru your questions…I’ve made it to the last one but I think this one has hopefully been explained…yes they are two side by side different parks with their own main entrances. You need a park to park ticket to visit both on the same day which is highly recommended both because the parks are literally right next to each other so it’s very easy to do and because it’s the only way to ride the Hogwarts Express since it’s a one way trip between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade (with each one being in a different park). Hogsmeade is in IOA along with Seussland, The Lost Continent, Jurassic Park, Skull Island, Toon Lagoon, Marvel Super Hero Island and Port of Entry. Diagon Alley is in USF along with Production Central, New York, San Francisco, World Expo, Simpsons, Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone and Hollywood. If you’ve been to Disneyland, these two parks are like going there in how close they are.

What Lanyard? Do you get a lanyard somewhere for your tickets?

Universal sells them…I use the waterproof cell phone ones that I already own for waterparks…something like:
AmazonSmile: LENPOW Waterproof Phone Case, 4 Pack Universal Waterproof Pouch Dry Bag with Neck Strap Luminous Ornament for Water Games Protect iPhone 12 11 Pro XS XR X Max SE Plus Galaxy S21 S20 Note Google LG HTC : Cell Phones & Accessories

the ones universal sells you have to buy both the lanyard and the pouch separately (also protip if you purchase MUP (photo package) you get a free lanyard for that card).

Search Results (universalorlando.com)

Notice the cell phone ones on Amazon are cheaper for a 4 pack pouch and lanyard included…than an individual lanyard only sans pouch at universal and are clear on both sides so you can put one card each direction (like room key and park ticket or express pass, etc) for easy scanning.

I found some card ones on Amazon too that are clear and much cheaper than Universal’s:
AmazonSmile : YOUOWO 2 Pack ID Badge Holders with Purple Lanyards Office Neck Strings Strap Grey Lanyard with Horizontal Heavy Duty id Holder PVC Name Tag Card Holder Waterproof Resealable Clear Plastic : Office Products

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I’ve just used my phone with no lanyard, with a backup paper copy of my ticket in my pocket. Are you guys recommending lanyards now? I don’t have one for my phone, but I have plenty of lanyards from trade shows I can use for tickets

when you have to put your phone in a locker you cannot use that barcode…so then you have to tell the first employee and get a paper card. So I prefer to use something in a lanyard with the barcode…I don’t put my phone in the phone lanyard…I’m just saving money reusing it for the hotel room key (I use that for EP as I stay in the Premium so I can get the Express) and for the photo card. I did just use the phone for my park ticket this time since I only needed it to get in the park and use the train but I like to have a lanyard for something I can use to hold that barcode for the lockers.

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