We just got back from a four-day park-to-park trip to Universal Studios Orlando. During this trip, we utilized the Universal Studios App on both Android and iPhone, as well as the Touring Plans app on Android. Here is the review of my experience.
First off, we did utilize the crowd calendar from the Touring Plans website to help pick the week (Feb. 5 through Feb. 9), as well as the menu information to plan where we could eat. Both were extremely helpful. However, I will say that the crowd calendar predictions for 2018 seemed to be off. I’m not sure if it is because of differing events in the parks this year (such as Mardi Gras) or not, but the information was useful nonetheless. We did find Tuesday and Wednesday to be the lightest days. Monday was quite crowded, despite being ranked a 3, and Thursday was extremely crowded.
Now, I did try to use the Touring Plan feature itself ahead of time, but frankly, I found the entire app to be confusing. It is not well designed for those using park-to-park. It forces you to switch between plans if you switch parks, which means there is no way to optimize a trip across two parks correctly, which I would expect…especially since I would expect park-to-park tickets to become the norm now that there is the train between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. So, ultimately I abandoned using the Touring Plan itself. It was, frankly, easier to just play it by ear. This might not be the case had we attended the parks during a much busier time period.
Once we arrived, my wife used the Universal Studios app on her iPhone to look at ride times. I started out using the Touring Plans app, and supplemented with the Universal App on my Android phone. What I discovered was that the Touring Plans app was almost never accurate. The listed posted wait time in the app was never even close to the actual posted wait time in the park. Comparing this to the Universal App, the Universal App was usually quite accurate with perhaps a few minutes delay. (That is, if the sign in front of the ride was updated to 40 minutes, the app might not reflect this change for a few minutes.) I did find that the posted wait times at Universal are not nearly as accurate as at Disney, but that’s another matter.
Now, when I would look at the times in the Touring Plans app, as I said, the Posted wait time was almost NEVER correct…often off by 30+ minutes. Furthermore, the expected actual wait time listed in the app was only occasionally accurate. Most of the time, it was well below the actual wait time, although occasionally the actual wait time was well above the wait time. As the week went on, I paid more and more attention to our actual wait time versus the Touring Plans wait times, and found the Touring Plans app was pretty much worthless.
I did, however, experience issues with the Universal App on the Android device. From time to time, it would simply stop obtaining updates, even though it would act like it refreshed the time. At first I thought it was just a Universal App thing, but my wife’s iPhone version had no problem keeping up with the actual posted wait times. In the Android app, I would have to force quit the app and then re-start it to get it to start working again. (This is the Universal App, NOT the Touring Plans app.)
In the end, I found little benefit to the Touring Plans app itself, although the website contains a lot of useful information. Unfortunately, the Universal App itself is imperfect (at least on Android) and Universal Studios in general just doesn’t have a firm grasp on estimating wait times for itself. Disney seems to have this down to a science, since they have the little lanyards they hand off to people frequently to keep the wait time estimates accurate. This means that there is probably no way Universal wait times will be reflective of actual wait times, whether in the apps or on the posted signs. It was just disappointing that the wait time information (both actual and posted) in the Touring Plans app was so completely off most of the time.
I would be curious if others have experienced similar disparities during busier times (that is, perhaps it is only an issue when park attendance is relatively low). I’m not sure out TP obtains the posted wait time information, however…and it doesn’t seem that the actual park attendance should affect accuracy of this information. Actual wait time calculation I would see being harder to get right.