Trip Recap

I am not one to do lengthy, detailed trip reports, but I was thinking that recapping my trip and highlighting some of the topics that have been discussed/debated/complained about both here and on the Lines app may be helpful for people with upcoming trips. So, sit back, relax, grab a butterbeer and read along!

First, the basic trip details. I took a trip December 6 through December 10 with my sister. Our park days were December 7 through December 10 and we did a split stay with 3 nights at Royal Pacific and 1 night (our last night) at Cabana Bay. The parks were open 9-7 every day, except Saturday, when they were open until 8. USF had early entry every day.

This ride was our main reason for this trip. My sister and myself are HUGE Harry Potter geeks. We waited until December in the hopes that all the ride kinks would be worked out and it would be running smoothly. As you all know, that is simply not the case. In addition, we were concerned about my sister being able to fit on the ride. She is a bigger girl and needs modified seating on rides like Gringotts, the Hulk and Rip Ride Rocket. Since reviews of bigger people not being able to fit on this ride have been all over the place, this was a real concern for us.

Our first park day, Saturday, December 7, we headed straight to IOA. We got there later than planned, at roughly 8:40. There were a decent number of people in front of us and a man walking around with a microphone announcing that Hagrid was going to have a delayed opening that day. We decided to still head right there and wait it out. When the park opened, we walked slowly back to Hagrid and by the time we reached the line, the ride was open and TMs were saying it was a 60 minute wait. I timed it. We waited a mere 16 minutes. And best of all, my sister fit on the ride with no problems! We had read that the motorcycle was more accommodating, so she took the bike and it was smooth sailing. I thought the ride was good, but less intense than I had imagined.

The next day, Sunday, December 8, we tried for an afternoon ride. I cannot remember the exact time we got in line, but this time we waited 59 minutes. Still better than I had anticipated.

Our last day, Tuesday, December 10, we went on again, getting in line around 1:30 or so, I believe. This time, I really wanted to try the motorcycle. Knowing that the single riders fill in the “extra” slots and knowing I HAD to have the motorcycle, we both waited in the regular line and then just added single riders in right before boarding the ride. This time, the line had a 20 minute delay and we ended up waiting 84 minutes total, including the delay. But this was the first time we saw the actual preshow. The two other times, when we walked in, it just had Fang walking around on the screen. Seeing the preshow made the ride make a lot more sense. And most importantly, the motorcycle is an ENTIRELY different experience than the sidecar. This time, the ride felt more intense and much more what I was expecting. I am so glad I had a chance to try it out.

Something to note. If you want your pictures on this ride, you should know the system is a total mess. Unlike other rides, where you walk off and your photos show up on the screen around the time you get off, on this ride, according to the people working the photo counter, the photos pop up as they are taken. By the time you get off the ride, yours is long gone. So don’t stand around waiting for it to show up. It won’t. You have to get to the front and ask the person at the counter to locate your photo, based on your ride position and what you are wearing. It takes forever. But if you happen to have the Photo Pass, you will get not only your photo, but a short video of you on the ride as well. Which brings me to…

Photo Pass
People are always asking if this is a good deal. In my four park days, I got exactly 100 pictures. This included ride photos, roaming photographers, the Dark Room photos and one picture I bought from Shutterbuttons (more on that later). I had bought a Photo Pass that included 5 days of photos, a Shutterbuttons video, a poster, an 8x10 print and a 5x7 print for $59. Without a doubt, it was worth every penny. I love pictures and would have gladly paid $59 for just 100 photos. Everything else was icing on the cake.

Things to note. The Dark Room is the only place in USF that can print posters, so your best bet is to just go there to have it done, rather than go to the main store at the front of the park and have them run back and forth. The Dark Room was empty when we were there and we were able to get all the green screen photos with no wait, and get all our prints done as well. Also, several of the photos are only available as 8x10s, so that 5x7 quickly turned into an 8x10. And they can print photos from…

I have done the Shutterbuttons video twice in the past. I am always acutely aware of how the person talking you through the movements can make or break the video. We had an excellent “student” this time and were very happy with the results. This is also the first time I was there that they did enhanced photos. They have you pose for all the pictures and show them to you all at the end. They are not included; you have to buy them separately. There was one I really wanted, so I got it. Cost was discounted to $25 with the Photo Pass, and it came with a digital download and 8x10 print. I was told the regular non-discounted rate is $35. That’s crazy expensive, but I split the $25 cost with my sister and the picture was just so fun!

This was our first time visiting during the holidays and we were very excited to see the decorations and the shows. There was a lot of discussion on the Lines app about the Grinchmas show and when/where/how to get in line. For clarification, here is what I was told by the TM manning the line. The 3:45 show is the most popular and you should be in line 30-45 minutes beforehand to get a seat. There is NO EP LINE, despite what some people were told. You line up next to Circus McGurkus. On Monday, December 9, we saw the 4:45 show. We got in line at 4:20 and got great seats with no problems. But this turned out to be a CL 1 day.

The Celestina Warbeck show in Diagon Alley and the Frog Choir show in Hogsmeade both had Christmas themed songs which was very fun. But, question. At what point did they start piping music in during the Frog Choir? The first two times I saw it, it was all vocal, which made it super impressive. It’s still a good show, but less so when they pipe in recorded music.

We watched the Macy’s parade and grabbed a spot next to Mel’s Drive In. We were right at the curb and we arrived only about 30 minutes early.

Another bonus to lower crowds was that we only arrived about 25 minutes before the start of the Cinematic Spectacular and we were right up against the fence on the far end of the main viewing area.

And we arrived at the castle show on Hogwarts about 10 minutes before the second show started. We stood just outside of Hogsmeade, on the bridge into Jurassic Park, and had a great view.

Split Stay
This was the first time I have ever done a split stay. We switched to Cabana Bay for our last night because we got a great AP rate and were able to upgrade to a suite for $20 more. I had always wanted to see their suites, so it was worth it and we were still ahead $180 for the night. We dropped our luggage off at luggage services at RPR Monday morning and they said they would get it over to Cabana Bay and it would be there around 4. When we checked into Cabana Bay around 8 that night, all the luggage was there with no problems.

I was, however, totally unimpressed with the suite. I think that calling it a “suite” is a bit misleading. Yes, it has a tiny area with a small sink, refrigerator and microwave, and then a small sitting area, but in exchange, the bedroom area is VERY small. I honestly feel like you would be fine with up to four people in here, but any more than that and you would feel very cramped. I had expected something bigger.

And one of the best parts of the trip was that I got to meet up and have dinner with some fellow Liners! We had a great time (but absolutely terrible service!) at Jake’s American Bar at Royal Pacific.

I think that covers everything that may be helpful for anyone with an upcoming trip. If you have any questions, please ask. As of right now, it’s still fresh in my brain!


It was so much fun meeting you!

Ok, this is still driving me crazy! When you left the theatre were there three lines? There were two on the right as we exited (one marked VIP). The CL staff at RPR called (one of them works Hagrids in the morning) and they said that second line was EP but I am not convinced. I just don’t know why we were held outside for the first show for 25 minutes and then entered to a full theatre, especially when they had the entranced blocked before 11?

Is it different on Saturdays and Sundays?

I really enjoyed your trip report. Thank you! :slight_smile:

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No, both when we went in and when we left, there was only one line. It is possible the weekends are different. I specifically asked the TM about an EP line and he said there wasn’t one. It’s very baffling! And it was great meeting you!

Great trip report @rebeecky! And it was great to meet you as well!


Can a non-HP fan, enjoy the rides in the HP area? Do you need to understand the stories and characters to have a worthwhile experience?

I think you can certainly enjoy the rides, especially Hagrid and Escape from Gringotts. Forbidden Journey is a unique ride design and is impressive for that reason, but the ride itself may not mean much to you without story background. Flight of the Hippogriff is just a small coaster with no storyline.

We go every year, and love the HP areas. I have never read one book, or watched a movie. I don’t think you need knowledge or interest in HP to enjoy the amazing worlds they have built in both parks.

I just went on a trip with someone that has never read any or the books or watched the movies. She loved the HP areas. It was funny, she loved standing at the entrance of Diagon Alley and watching the reaction as people entered. You don’t have to be a fan to appreciate that joy.

Thank you! We are planning to go next year for the first time - I appreciate all of your insight!

Glad to help! You will have an incredible time!

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