Universal During Covid Feb - w/unlimited Express, stay at Lowes Royal Pacific - advice requested

Hi all!

My family has just recently gotten over Covid and now my husband and I are considering traveling to Universal Orlando for the Valentine’s/President’s Day weekend. We always stay at the Royal Pacific for the Unlimited Express pass value and have been happy there. However, my husband is NOT the most patient of people and is very nervous to visit during pandemic, especially after we have seen how ridiculously long lines can be with social distancing, etc. Crowd projections are looking to be at least 7 or 8 for those days.

So two questions to those who have been during pandemic:

  1. what are wait times like with an unlimited express pass?
  2. do you think it’s worth it to go now or to wait until all this is over, especially with an impatient old bugger in tow?

I appreciate any advice, thanks a bunch!

Nicole

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#1 - Wait times with UXP still tend to be about only 1/3 of the time you would be in the standby queue. Not much has changed there.

#2 - Can your “impatient old bugger” handle all the social distancing & mask rules? I absolutely LOVE Universal & WDW, but I’m not gonna walk around all day sweating in the sun in a mask. Plus, while Universal hasn’t “limited” its experience as much as WDW not everything is offered and/or “normal” if it is.

I’m not trying to talk you out of going, but before you invest $1000’s you should know what you’re getting into. The general consensus is, “If you’re an AP person / local then the parks are still fun because you can pop in & out. However, if this is your annual trip or one every couple of years then you’d have a better time once the parks are operating normally.”

Holiday weekends, like Presidents Day, still bring out large crowds. Remember, the “limited capacity” is based on the maximum number of people the parks could hold. Typically, 35% of that maximum number is what a “normal / pre-COVID” day would be. Now, you have to space all that out with social distancing and fewer shows.

I hope that helps!

I’d suggest going on YouTube and watch “RixFlix” as he goes to Universal at least 3 - 4 times a week. There are a couple other vloggers out there as well and even Universal TMs with their own YouTube channels

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This is great, thanks so much! We typically go once a year, we are in VA. I think he could handle the masks, but feeling like he is waiting longer than usual, even with express passes, is a no go.

I will check out You Tube, great idea. Thanks for the input!

My DS and I went in October over Columbus weekend. The parks closed both Saturday and Sunday to capacity. We were at HRH and had EP. We felt like our waits with EP were not bad at all. What was bad was the wait for food (even with mobile ordering). What worked for us was being at the park at RD, taking a break around lunch to eat outside of the parks and avoid the crowds and then return in the late afternoon.

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Awesome, thanks so much for the feedback. I just want to make sure that if we go, my husband’s head doesn’t explode form having to wait.

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Can you leave him home? (Semi-serious - if he’s that impatient, it doesn’t sounds like theme parks are an enjoyable vacation).

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The food wait times were the thing that I was not prepared for. One day we mobile ordered from the Leaky Cauldron for lunch. When we headed to the restaurant there was a crazy line of everyone else who had mobile ordered and they were estimating it would be an hour wait. We canceled the order. We went back in the evening at dinner time and there were 3 people in line. It was the middle of the day when the crowds seemed bad.

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Well, that’s good to know. Since it would just be me and my husband, we are pretty flexible on where to eat, no problem heading out to CityWalk or back to the hotel for lunch. Thanks again for the input.

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That’s exactly what we did. City Walk wasn’t busy at lunch (and the hotel really wasn’t–we were literally the only people eating at The Kitchen at HRH for lunch one day).

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That’s nice, especially during covid. What do you think about HRH ? We have always gone to Royal Pacific, been I think about 5 times. We like it but a change might be nice. Last time we went, Oct 19, we walked over and looked around. The grounds are beautiful but the hotel is a bit kitschy for our taste, not that into the pop culture vibe. But it does seem nice.

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HRH is where we usually stay at Universal. It’s my kids favorite. I prefer Portofino personally–I think the grounds are beautiful. I will say that HRH is an easy to the parks which is nice.

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HRH is super close to park entrance, that’s for sure. Thanks for the feedback

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We’ve gone a couple times during the pandemic. Wait times with express passes were good as usual, 10-15 minutes or better on average except for Hogwarts express, which tends to take longer. Also had a really long express line at hulk one time during trip in early Jan., so came back later when it was better. I would not have enjoyed our trips without them. Your proposed travel time will be busy, with holidays and Mardi Gras. As others noted, the most challenging things were in-park dining. Advance reservations helped.

If you really want to try to avoid lines, you might consider the Orlando Informer meet-up, scheduled for first weekend in June. It is an after-hours separately ticket event with unlimited food and beverages included. Did it in December, and really liked it. Harry Potter areas can still get congested, but everything else was essentially walk on.

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I pretty much concur with everything @Dreamer said. There were a couple of rides that with an Express Pass we still had some wait (I’m looking at you Dudley Do Right) and I feel overall we waited a little longer than normal with the EP but it wasn’t ever more than 20 or 30 minutes and that was rare. Typically 5-15 min. Of course for Hagrid’s unless you RD (and I mean get there an hour before Early Entry so you’re at the front of the gates) you’re going to wait an hour for but that’s really it. However, eat quick service early or leave the park for lunch! Please leave the park for lunch back at your hotel. There was no one at The Kitchen (and it has outdoor seating if that makes you more comfortable). It’s better food and a 5 min walk. You might wait an hour for a table at QS otherwise. I think even CityWalk during lunchtime isn’t bad but it gets really crowded in the evenings I’ve heard and felt. We were able to grab dinner at Cowfish without a wait (and we used the app to checkin while in the parks just in case) but we ate early. By the time we left the walkways in Citywalk were crowded. We did wait in the Voodoo line but it moved pretty quickly though it went out the door and down aways.

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so if early entry is a 9 am, you recommend getting in line at 8am to be at the front? i’ve been trying to determine how early is necessary

yes, at least by 8:15am

Edit: I went two 10 crowd level Saturdays in a row. The first we were approximately 30 min early and waited an hour for Hagrids eating up the entire early entry. The 2nd we were there as soon as they opened security which was a little after 7am (by 7:10am I think) and we were off Hagrids in 12 min I think it was…with 48 min of early entry left.

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I echo what others have said about the EP lines being short even during a crowded time right now- we were there just before Christmas and the parks reached capacity 3/4 days, but with EP we waited 30 min at the longest, and usually 5-15 min. The longest wait we had was to get IN to the park on our first day- no EP for that! Early entry was at 9 that day and we didn’t get there until 8:50 due to a late arrival the night before. That was a big mistake as we waited an hour to get into the park, which was painful. So…I agree with others that you are best getting there early if you want to ride Hagrid’s right away and if you don’t want to wait in a long line. We were fine getting there 20-30 min early when the early entry was 7am, but if early entry is later in the morning, be prepared for big crowds if you don’t get there well before the gates open!!

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On waiting until this is over. Except for the light shows and a few kiddie rides, Universal hasn’t scaled back their offerings unlike Disney which seems to have been using this as an excuse to slash and burn everything except ticket prices.

So, there is socially distancing in the lines and the masks. There is the social distancing at dining tables but otherwise it is pretty normal. Just avoid eating at a table unless you have a reservation.

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We love HRH but if the theming doesn’t appeal I might stay elsewhere, it is quite in your face. It might be ok for a couple of nights.