We just got home from an awesome 4 day trip to Universal Orlando! I thought I’d share a trip report, since reading other’s reports was really helpful : ) We are a family of 5, kids ages 9 (birthday on the trip), 11, and 14. This is our first trip to Universal in 13 years! First, general stuff:
Going when we did (late September) and staying at Portofino with EPs, we really didn’t need a touring plan. This was so nice! It made the trip much less stressful than our two Disney trips. The only thing we really planned around was Hagrid’s, which changed on the fly a lot. Also, we made sure to do USF early as it closed at 5 or 6 every day we were there b/c of HHN.
Whatever the CL for the parks is, double it for the Wizarding World. Maybe it’s because it’s narrower, but it felt MUCH more crowded back there. Still very worth it, but difficult to get into the shops and really look around. Because of that, forcing ourselves to wake up for the 7am EPA was WELL worth it, at least for the major HP fans. We could really look around and see everything. And, it was nice and cool!
The HP rides are amazing, even if you’re not a Potterhead. My husband (def a muggle) said those were his favorite rides.
For a family of thrill-seekers, we have decided we MUCH prefer Universal to Disney! The rides are better and so much closer together. With EP, we were able to ride everything we loved multiple times! We’ve never been able to do that at Disney.
Specific HP Stuff:
Again, the WWHP is just so awesome. We were very fortunate to get to ride Hagrid’s 3x and it totally lived up to the hype. It was never delayed for weather when we were there (crazy, I know), and seemed to run consistently except for a crazy bee problem. So, hopefully it will just keep getting better. Also, twice our wait time was less than posted.
We got to see the Dark Arts show, but our seats weren’t great. With kids who love rides, we opted for short lines in Hagrid’s, Forbidden Journey, and Flight of the Hippogriff over grabbing a good spot early. And they go early! We watched from just outside the castle. It was still cool, but I know the view was better further back. The Death Eaters wandering around was cool, and that started around 7pm.
JK Rowling is a genius.
On rides we suggest you skip:
Fast & Furious was as bad as everyone says. The pre-show takes way too long and the ride is bad. For a similar ride with a WAY better experience, just do Kong.
Shrek was a waste of time. The movie isn’t great and the room you wait in for the pre-show will seriously test your ability to be WAY too close to strangers.
The Jimmy Fallon pre-show with the barbershop quartet should be a show in the theatre. I loved them and it would have been even better if I’d been sitting down : ) But it takes far too much time to do a ride that is just meh.
My kids thought ET was lame, but I love it and made them ride anyway : )
On Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel:
The room was a really nice size. Our twin size air mattress fit very nicely. We had some electrical issues, but they were resolved pretty quickly. It’s a nice, short walk to the water taxi. The concierge was very helpful, sending extra blankets and making my son a Birthday pin. The pool was great. I’m not sure I get the sand (who wants to get sand in their shoes when they’re not at the beach??), but the kids loved the water slide (which was surprisingly fast), and the adults loved that we easily found chairs with an umbrella. Nice way to spend an afternoon.
Our only issue was that our room wasn’t cleaned on our last day there. It took a while to resolve, but they readily comped one of our days of parking when I asked the next morning. We didn’t eat at any of the restaurants (we have 3 kids!), but we heard the opera singers a few times. They were great! We got our room through a Costco package, which made it cheaper than Royal Pacific.
Thanks for sharing, always glad to hear some new feedback!
We had a few housekeeping issues at RPR this week too. I’ll follow up on the email they sent. Good stay overall, and Hagrids is a solid addition to IOA! We missed the death eaters. We were probably to close to the castle and were ushered off through Jurrasic park after the projections.
Thanks for the report @nixfam. We’ve got 3 kids as well.
The parts of your trip you enjoyed were similar to our experience. WWHP is awesome, and JK Rowling is a genius!!
Where our experience greatly differed from yours was our experience with Portofino. We had a nightmare experience. The first room we had smelled bad, and was unclean upon check in…really gross. They switched our room, but gave us a hard time at the front desk. The next room was so far from everything, that it felt like we were being punished for complaining about the dirty room… The service at Portofino never got better for us. Everyone we encountered seemed to hate their job. A very big contrast to the many Disney experiences we’ve had on property. Because of this experience we’ve never gone back to Universal. I’m sure we’ll try again in the next few years, but it won’t be at the Portofino for sure.
I’m so sorry to hear this! We were at Portofino last year and had an absolutely amazing experience. I found every employee I encountered on the property to be extremely friendly and helpful. It was actually one of the best resort experiences I have ever had anywhere, including my trips to Disney. Try not to give up on Universal entirely because of one bad experience at one resort!
I’m glad you guys had such a great time! Your kids are almost exactly the same in age as mine. I currently have a 14, 11 and 8 year old. I love the ease of having EP at Universal, and while I always make touring plans because I’m a nerd ike that, we really just go with the flow. On our last trip, we actually rode Forbidden Journey 10 times. I would never be able to say that anywhere else!
We won’t give up on Universal for sure. But I’m quite sure we’ll try one of the other resorts before returning back to Portofino.
I’m glad you had a good experience. We might have just hit them on a bad week??
I’m glad to hear that. And maybe they were just having a bad week, or in the middle of some kind of staff turnover. In any event, I’m a big fan of trying out all the resorts anyway!
Thank you for the trip report! We’re going to Universal in April for the first time (well, I went as a kid and i 2004-but first time as a family and since WWOHP). We have DD16 and DS11 so your report was very helpful for us! I think I’m the one most excited for Harry Potter, but the kids will love all the rides! Now, if i can just get my husband to skip Fast and the Furious