Questions from a newbie

Hi all,

We just got back from Disney and found that forum extremely helpful. We are now in the process of planning a surprise birthday trip for my 9 year old son and it’s so overwhelming because I haven’t been to universal since I was a kid!

So here’s the facts:

  • going from Sunday, August 9 through Wednesday, August 12.
  • leaving my littles with grandma so it’s just my husband, myself, and son (won’t turn 10 until the end of August)
  • we want the express passes that can be used over and over
  • we intended on only doing two days at the park, but I’m seeing deals where you get extra days tossed in so we might check out a park on Sunday night or Wednesday before we fly out

Currently looking at staying at a premiere resort for the fast passes. Three nights.

Currently looking at booking the buy two get two free deal that’s going on.

Wondering if we should look into annual passes? We would NOT be going back but I read you can get a room discount and seems like that would be helpful but I can’t seem to find how that works. Do you buy the pass and then book the room?

We do NOT have any interest in the water park and will not have a car or need to worry about parking. Any tips or things we might be overlooking? Thanks for helping us get started!

You can get a room discount if one is available. I would just book the room and you can get an AP discount applied afterwards if it comes out. And then upgrade one of your tickets to the cheapest AP (seasonal) when you get there. You would need to check blackout dates - I don’t think there are any in August though, except for Volcano Bay. Having said that, I was there 7-9 August last year and there was no discount, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t just miss by a couple of days or I’d have just changed my dates, or at least tried to.

I’ll have a look for the AP section of the website and link it.

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I hate their website!

This is about the APs - https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/tickets-packages/annual-passes/promo

Blackout dates - https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/tickets-packages/annual-passes/blockout-dates

And hotel discounts - https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/tickets-packages/annual-passes/your-annual-pass#hotels-and-packages

It says you need to have an AP to book but you don’t. You should be asked at check in but it’s fine to say you are just upgrading your ticket.

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Quick search shows the best AP value for resorts with Express Pass is Royal Pacific at $329 a night. The included Express is unlimited.

Note also that Express is not a requirement like FastPass is at Disney. You can save a bunch by staying at other resorts.

https://res.windsurfercrs.com/ibe/default.aspx?hgID=641&langID=1&checkin=8%2F9%2F2020&nights=3&rooms=1&adults=2&children=0&promo=APH&iata=&group=&hotels=&ada=0&currid=0

You may want to look into checking into a cheaper hotel with the APH discount. (For you dates Cabana Bay is $89 a night, about $60 cheaper than the regular rate.) Then book a throwaway reservation for Monday night at RPR under the spouses name. That would give you Monday and Tuesday with express passes, which were the days you intended to go into the parks.

The seasonal pass is $10 more than the ticket you were looking at.

Wow, thanks! Some amazing tips…really appreciate all the good info.

Curious why you don’t think the express passes are as necessary as a fast pass. Crowd calendar suggests high volumes of people (7-9 while we are there).

A 7-9 at UOR is more equivalent to a 5-7 at WDW. We’re as happy going without Express Passes as with. Last August it really wasn’t busy.

Expresses are very expensive, or require you to book a very expensive room.

When you are doing 4 days at the parks, it is generally more than enough time to do everything you want. Express Pass, then, merely gives you a chance to wait less, and possibly do some rides more than once.

When we were there (albeit, during low CL days), for four days, we got there at RD each day, and was out of the park each day no later than 3 pm. By the third day, we had done everything, and day four, we just went back on rides we had already been on that we most enjoyed.

The question becomes just how important it is to you to avoid waits…and if you could use that money for something else.

BTW, we stayed off site and rented a 3-bedroom condo with full kitchen. It was less than $600 for the 5 nights we were there.

Your son will be a good age to go there and enjoy a lot. Partial days can be great b/c there is so much to do so if you get tix for more than 2 days you will find something to do.

If you decide to book a premier resort and cannot get an AP rate, keep checking! We went on Thanksgiving last year and I checked for months for a lower price and couldn’t find anything. About three weeks before our trip, an AP rate showed up for Portofino, so I booked it and canceled our previous reservation. A couple of days later the cheaper rate was gone. Keep in mind that discount availability varies with length of stay (so there may be an AP rate if you book 5 days but not if you only book 2 [overlapping] days).

If you arrive at park open, take a midday break, then return at close you’ll be able to do everything, ESPECIALLY if you get the two extra days and go to the parks some on your arrival and departure day.

I’m not going to lie: having Express is reaaaalllly niiiiiiiice. But a good touring plan will have you avoiding all the headaches.

What kind of rides do you and your son like? What are you looking to get out of this trip? What kind of food do you like?

We will definitely want to do the Harry Potter rides, and the wand ceremony. Was thinking of doing that the night we arrive since I hear the crowds are lower in the evening.

He likes roller coasters but hasn’t seen a lot of the characters or movies featured. I’ll need to do more research on that but we tend to be more ride/less show focused.

From what little research I’ve done, I want to try a voodoo doughnut and have butter beer. We probably will have groceries delivered for the days we don’t dine in the parks. A few sit down meals here or there? He’s an adventurous eater. My husband is vegetarian.

He wakes up early and we were out the door by 7 every morning at Disney. We always did rest time in the afternoon, but that was mostly for the 6 and 3 year olds who aren’t coming on this trip. So we will probably stay most of the day.

Any particularly good Harry Potter shows you recommend? How long does all the wand stuff take?

Thanks, great tip! Is there a certain site that alerts you to this, or you just need to check frequently?

I don’t know of any sites that send alerts for this, but the link @josephmatt posted has the date (after chekin=) and duration (after nights=) already set. If you bookmark it, it only takes a minute to check. The page will list the lowest price for each hotel, so it’s easy to see if anything went down.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard in Diagon Alley is fab! And the light show on the castle.

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The horror make up show is pretty entertaining. Regarding the wand, if you want to get it and end up going to the parks Sunday night, wait until the last hour or so to do the wand show. It’s a lot quieter -> higher probability of being picked. When we went I didn’t tell DD11 about the possibility because I didn’t want her to be disappointed if it wasn’t her, but it was only us and one other group of adults so the odds were high. DH was chosen and said he wasn’t in the market for a wand, but DD was, so she got to do it. It was really cool.

I love both shows in Diagon Allye; Beedle the Bard and Celestina Warbeck. The wand experience is about 5-7 minutes.

Amazing tips…thanks so much!

Appreciate the heads up on the level of intensity of the coasters. We live near cedar point and my son and I are coaster junkies. My husband, not so much. Maybe we can leave him at ET and do the coasters just the two of us :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

If you want to do lots of coasters, it’s better not to have a purse/bag (apart from 3 prong fanny packs) so you don’t have to constantly put stuff in lockers (unless your husband holds them for you); in that aspect the wand is inconvenient. Riding the bike on Hagrids was my favorite experience at Universal. I usually feel a bit queasy in roller coasters but I found that leaning into the bike really solved that problem for me!