Trip Report. I have no clever name for this one


#1

We visited UOR on the first part of our Orlando trip. We arrived the afternoon of Friday, Oct 19. We did visit the parks (briefly) that evening, and then we had a full day there on Oct 20, and a half day on Oct 21. Here are the players:

Me (with my knee scooter)
My hubby
Dad (78)
Mom (75 with Alzheimers)
My Brother & his wife
My nephews: 8, 10, 15
My nieces: 25 and 13

My brother and his family were coming from a different state than us, and their plane landed a few hours before ours, so I called Pacific Royal a couple days before our trip to let them know that he would be checking in for all of us even though the reservations were in my name. I wanted to make sure he’d be able to get the Unlimited Express passes for his family, and head to the parks. We had decided to squish 11 people into 2 rooms for 5 each, trying to make the most of the UE benefits. We intentionally left Mom off of the reservation since she would be riding the least and would never be without one of the group, so she would never need her own room key.

My brother was able to get checked in, and then they headed to the pool for a bit just as my husband and I were landing. I cannot believe how long it took to get our bags, get our rental car, and get to the resort. Every step took wayyyyyy too long. Friday evening traffic. Yikes. I think our plane landed at 4pm, and it was 6pm before we got to the hotel. In the meantime, my brother’s family finished up at the pool and headed to the park.

We had all bought our tickets online a month earlier, so we had digital park tickets. The room keys that they gave us acted as our UE passes.

We dropped our car with the Valet, our bags with bell services, and headed straight to IOA. (UOR closed at 5 that night for HHN.) It was a pretty easy walk from Pacific Royal to IOR, right along the waterfront. We met the family in Hogsmeade, and they had some frozen butterbeer waiting for us! They had already ridden the Hogwarts ride, so we decided to see what else we could get in before the 8pm closing time. On our last trip we had really enjoyed the Jurassic Park ride, so we headed there next. It was so fun in the dark, and quite a bit different! We decided to ride it again.

Next we headed to Kong, and everyone enjoyed that as well. Wait times were pretty low for both rides, and even without the UE we would’ve been fine.

At this point it was time for the park to close and we were all super hungry. My brother and I had both decided (independently) that we wanted to wait for each other and eat dinner together that night. But by the time we got to the parks we only had 90 min before closing, so dinner was put on hold. I had talked up Toothsome to my brother, and they were excited to eat there so we made the trek. When we put in our name we were told that it was a 60 min wait. Oye. We were all too tired and hungry to wait, and we said to each other that we would come back the next day. The hostess informed us that it would be worse the next day, but we couldn’t wait that long tonight so we’d have to take our chances for tomorrow.

A couple members of our group ran over to Hard Rock to see how long their wait was, and they said they could get us in immediately, so we decided to do that. The food was good…we all had burgers. When I asked for a straw for my Diet Coke the waiter looked at me like I was from another planet. A very stinky, disgusting planet. Alas, he did find one in the back and bring it to me (on a napkin like it was the last straw in existence). The rest of my group was afraid to ask for one! haha.

We decided to hit Voodoo donut on the way back to the resort to get some breakfast for the next morning since we would be trying to hit UOR for early admission. The line was so long! It was full inside, and there was a secondary line outside. We didn’t have a lot of breakfast options, so we decided to wait and, thankfully, the line moved really fast.

We headed back to the resort, called for our bags (which came super quickly, despite us having lost the claim check). Got ready for bed and lights out! We were able to spread out a little this night because my parents weren’t there yet. I have a sister that works for an airline, so my parents get free flights, but they have to fly standby, and they don’t always make the flights they want. They tried to get on the same flight as my husband and I, but it was full so they had to wait until the next day.

The next morning we were up sooooo early. My husband and I were still on AZ time, and my bro was on Colorado time, which meant we were getting up at 3 and 4 in the morning. Was it worth it? Not sure.

EMH started at 7am so we left the hotel at about 6:40. Easy walk along the riverfront, hit security just before the path pops up onto CityWalk behind Margaritaville. Security was hilarious. They made me take my phone off the mount on my scooter, but then I rode the scooter through the metal detector?? What’s the point of that?? Anyway.

As we entered the park we asked what was open, and they were so excited to tell us that Fast and the Furious was open as well as the ENTIRE Diagon Alley. We headed to the back of the park, and decided to hit FF on the way. The line for this ride is actually kind of cool…it’s a huge garage with shiny cars, and bumping music. Kinda fun. There was essentially no line, of course, so we sped through the garage. We got through the 2 pre-shows, and then into the room where they load the busses. And then they started announcing that the ride was down, and it might take 45 min to get it running? Seriously? This is one of 2 rides that is open this hour? So we bailed and went to Diagon Alley and straight to Gringots. The scooter has an awesome perk at the Universal Parks. Everyone in my party took very minimal gear with them, and there was room in my scooter basket to hold everything. It was awesome because it eliminated the need for lockers! We saved so much time!!

The line for Gringots wasn’t non-existent, but it wasn’t too bad…maybe 10 minutes. Because of the scooter they sent us up the back elevator, and we entered the ride near the child swap area. As we greeted the worker there he asked us how many in our party. We told him there were 9 of us, and he got a very thoughtful, focused look on his face, like he was thinking really hard. Then he held up a finger and said “just a sec.” He walked away and then came back with a little whiteboard. And then he started to calculate all the permutations of how he could organize us on the ride. I suggested that we do 3, 3, 3, and he seemed to accept this answer, so he took us around the corner to load up and told us to put the tall people in the back. Pretty cute how deliberate he was with all of this.

The ride was fun, but halfway through, in one of the vault rooms, it broke!! We were stuck in our carts, the screen didn’t loop (thankfully), the music was down, but the carts were still going through their motions for the rest of the ride. They stayed in the same place in the room, but did all the spinning and turns like they were finishing. We were there for a good 5 minutes. When it started up again the screens and sounds were all un-sync’d, and the carts just moved straight down the track. Kinda funny. When we got off my bro asked the attendant if we could go through the child swap area and ride again since the ride had broken down and we had the scooter and didn’t want to go through the whole line again. He said sure, so we did! It was so much better the second time, and made a lot more sense. :wink:

From there we quickly went through the gift shop and decided to go to Olivanders. Again, a very minimal wait. It was our group and maybe 3 other people, and our 10 year old boy was chosen to let the wand chose him. My SIL was recording it on her phone and it was so fun. The boy is kinda shy and respectful and it was sweet to see him being so timid and hesitant with the wands. About halfway through the show I heard the door behind us open and shut, but didn’t think anything of it. When we got out my nephew gave the wand back to the workers… he already had one that he had purchased on the last trip. We went out front and I found out that we had lost our little 8 year old!! When the door opened halfway through the Olivanders show it was because my brother had realized he was gone, and he had left to find him. Turns out my 8 year old nephew had stopped in the gift shop when we exited Gringots to look around, and when he snapped back into it he looked around and didn’t find us, then he went outside and didn’t find us. He had been taught that if this ever happens he should stay where he is, and keep his eyes out for a worker with a name tag. So he went back into the store and found a worker! They tried to call my SIL’s cell number, but when the call came thru it said it was a NYC # so she ignored it and kept recording the wand show. So my brother found the little guy in the gift shop, with tears running down his face, waiting with the worker for the guy from the central-lost-child office to come and collect him. Poor little guy. A lesson for all of us, though, and so glad that it happened during EMH with minimal crowds. Good to know also that he was actually listening when he was given the “if you get lost” instructions.

So he and my brother decided to do Olivanders while the rest of us hung around and tried to use our Wands around Diagonal alley. The Olivanders group they got put into was basically a bachelorette party, and my brother and his kid. So of course my nephew got picked to do the wand. (Much to the bachelorettes’ dismay). Probably his red eyes and tear stained face played a role too. So funny that my brother bought the wand for him after the show, even though he already had one. Definitely trying to make up for leaving him behind. We all felt pretty bad, and we had some butterbeer ice cream waiting for him when they got out of Olivanders. (Yes, it was before 8am and we were eating ice cream…don’t judge…there was NO LINE at Fortiscues!!) We played around Diagon Alley, visited Sugarplums and Knockturn Alley, and then it was time for the rest of the park to open, so we left London.

Our plan was to head toward the Mummy and Jimmy Fallon, then continue around the loop, ending with MIB and then take the Hogwarts Express to the other park. As we got to F&F it looked like it was running again, so we decided to try. My bro let the worker at the start of the line know what had happened that morning, and she took us through the back entrance, right to the bus loading area. So nice!! We were put directly into the rows for the busses, and then the whole thing got delayed again. It was probably 10 minutes before the people in front of us got on, and then another 5 min before we got on. This ride was okay, but definitely not worth all the hassle. The part in the big room where it looks like you are on the freeway, out running people is pretty cool. I like how they put a screen on the back of the part of the bus where the driver sits…so it looks like you are looking through the windshield. I would definitely not ride this again though. Just not worth it.

Next we headed to Mummy, which is one of my favorite Universal rides!! We do have a running joke in our family about it being “just like Indiana Jones” which definitely contributes to it being my favorite, but I also just really like it.

After riding that a couple of times it was 10:30, and everyone was getting pretty hungry (We had “breakfast” in the rooms about 6:30, and that plus the ice cream just wasn’t cutting it). I was really wanting to eat lunch in one of the HP restaurants, but the timing just wasn’t going to work out. We hit up the pizza place right near the Mummy ride, and ended up waiting about 10 min for it to open. I think maybe they need to open a little earlier, because there was a pretty huge line right at open. We ordered a couple of full pizzas to share, and it took about 20 min for us to get them. We sent most of our group to ride the Jimmy Fallon ride while we waited. The pizza was good…worth the wait.

From there we continued our loop, and hit all the highlights. Several of us did the Rip Ride Rocket, together we did Minions, Shrek (ugh…don’t bother), Transformers, skipped Simpsons this time (thankfully), rode ET. ET was so cute!! I’d never been on that one before and I really like it. It was just calm and not screens, and cute. MIB was fun, but just bugs me when it spins. Back to London, grabbed some pumpkin pasties and chocolate bars for the train, and got in line for the Hogwarts Express. It was about this time that we found out that Mom and Dad had made their flight, and they would be arriving later this evening. Yay!!

Enjoyed the Hogwarts express (as always). I LOVE the view as you exit the Hogwarts express and enter Hogsmeade. Seriously. Love it. We grabbed some frozen butterbeer and decided to hit the Hogwarts ride while we were there, and then headed over to Jurassic park again. And then continued our loop, planning to exit the park at the main entrance, and meet Mom and Dad at Toothsome for dinner. We rode (not in this order) Spiderman, Dr Doom’s Fearfall (a couple of times), Dudley Do-Right (a couple of times), and I’m not sure what else. And then the last time people rode Dudley Do-Right, they got pretty wet, so they decided to go ahead and do the Bilge-Rat Barges. When they got off they were sooooo incredibly wet. They felt like they couldn’t actuallly be any more wet, so they rode it again. Haha. It was about 4:30pm at this point, and we were expecting Mom and Dad around 5, so a few of us went to the Resort to set up her (massive) wheelchair and greet them.

Since they were flying stand-by, my husband and I checked their bag on our flight, and we also checked their wheelchair. I knew my dad would have his hands full with just a carry-on and Mom, so we wanted to ease this burden for them. Since they didn’t have any checked baggage, we expected them to be relatively quick at the airport. We got the wheelchair set up and met them up by the Valet area. Dad left his carry-on with bell services, and we were off to Toothsome!! When we got there about 6, we checked in and we were told the wait was 120 minutes. Srsly?? Sheesh. I refused to eat at Hard Rock again, so a few of our group headed to the other restaurants at CityWalk to find something faster.

Antojitos reported a 20-30 min wait, so we made the trek over there. It was drizzling at this point, but not cold. We waited a few minutes and then we were seated. Our waiter was super nice and the food was good too.

By the time we were done eating, the parks were closed (except for HHN, which we were not interested in) and so we went back to the hotel to settle in. I think we were lights out by about 9:30.

We woke even earlier the next day because we wanted to get our bags and everything out of the room so we didn’t have to come back to check out at 11. Mom and Dad slept in, of course, and we had a plan to meet at Toothsome at 11:15 to try again!

I had purchased Mom’s UE pass online, so I went to the park-desk at the hotel that morning to see if I could get the ticket. They weren’t able to give it to me because I didn’t have the CC or my mom’s ID, and apparently the confirmation email wasn’t enough. She told me I’d have to do it at the windows at the park.

We left the hotel at about 6:40 again, after dropping our bags with bell services. We were a little better off with breakfast this morning because my brother had gone to Walmart the night before and got some greek yogurt for us. (Where does that man get his energy??) So we hit the park again. Rode Gringotts a couple of times, popped down to the Mummy again when the park opened, and then jumped on the Hogwarts Express to get to the other park. My brother REALLY wanted to ride the Hulk coaster, and we figured we’d be better off doing it before Mom and Dad joined us.

About 10:30 my dad called and said that we should just do lunch without them, and they’d meet us later that afternoon. (My mom does not do mornings well…at this point it was 7:30 AZ time, and she was still worn out from the travel day the day before.) I reminded him that he needed to be out of the room by 11, and that got them moving.

We rode the Hulk coaster (again we were in the child swap area because of the knee scooter). I think my brother rode it 3 times with different combinations of people from our group? Once was enough for me. My profession causes chronic neck issues, and I just find the jerky, shaky coasters to be uncomfortable. We also did Dr Doom’s Freefall, and this time I rode with my brother and nephew. Twice. I really liked this ride!!! Didn’t jerk me around and didn’t make me nauseated!!

And then we trekked over to Toothsome and (miracle of miracles) we got a table!! Woohoo!!

The kids shared some shakes, and then they were too full for other food. Haha. The rest of us got other food and then we were too full for dessert. Oh well. It was still fun.

I had been talking to my dad a TON about the HP stuff in Universal, and the Hogwarts express, and especially the butterbeer. So we wanted to go back into the parks so he could experience some of that. We decided to do IOA first, and take the train the opposite way since it’s a different show each direction, and we had already seen it twice from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade. I had to stop on the way in to get Mom’s UE pass, and unfortunately the lines for the windows were not short. I got in line, and then I was reading the email confirmation, which said I could print the UE at the kiosk. So I bailed on the line and tried the kiosk and it worked!!! After everyone had found bathrooms and gotten into the park we were on our way. Whew. Trying to keep everyone together is like herding cats.

We stopped along the way to do a couple of the Seuss rides and Jurassic park (of course). And then into Hogsmeade and some butterbeer. We sat, sipping our drinks, getting brain freeze, and enjoying the atmosphere. We sat in the little covered area adjacent to the post office. Have you ever noticed that a lot of the owls up in the rafters are actually animatronic? Such awesome details. I thought Dad would enjoy seeing the inside of the castle, so we decided to do the Hogwarts ride. We parked mom’s wheelchair outside, and went in, taking turns with Mom in the Rider-swap area. Dad liked the ride, but just like me, found it to be nauseating. Thank heaven for Bonine. Lots and lots of Bonine.

We stopped at Honeydukes to get some treats for the train, and then we were off! The line for the train at this end is So. Much. Shorter. Than the other side. Seriously. If it’s not important to you that you “follow Harry’s steps” then do Hogsmeade first.

And all of the sudden it was 3pm, and time to bail on Universal. We had FOP FPP at AK that night, and we needed switch to our WDW resort and get on with the happy! I stopped at Toothsome for some chocolate to take home while the rest of the group went to the Royal Pacific to start gathering the cars from Valet and the bags from bell services. It was a pretty easy task, except that my husband had left the valet tag in his carryon, so we had to wait for the bags to come before we could request the car. No big deal. It all worked out.

That’s it!! Thanks for reading!


#2

I forgot to mention that we had been planning on purchasing 2 day park-to-park tickets, but I had been keeping an eye on the tickets, and at about a month before our visit they went on sale! We ended up buying the planned tickets, but then they threw in 2 more days for free! And with staying onsite we got free UE for 3 days even though we only stayed 2 nights. (They include UE for check-in as well as check-out days.)

Also, we found out the day we left that if you are staying onsite you get preferred seating at some of the CityWalk restaurants…including Toothsome. Too late for us, but maybe it’ll be helpful info for another Liner.


#3

Not that this is helpful now but if you go back. Staying at the preferred hotels gets you priority seating. You just have to show them your room card at the hostess stand and they put you at the top. My husband and I did this and waited 15 mins instead of an hour at toothsome.


#4

Thank you so much for writing this with so much detail. We are doing similar days as you. Half day (after leaving WDW), then full day RD, and half day morning departure day. We will have EP too staying at HRH. So it was great for me to see how you toured the parks. Thanks again!