Vacation planning 101- starting from the beginning

HI all! We are finally planning a trip to UOR - we are from Canada and have been restricted from travel for the last 2 years. I’m pretty well versed at Disney planning but need a few pointers for Universal.
Trip is still very far away, our spring break which is March 4-11 2023- seems like Mardi Gras will be happening at this time?
We are a family of 5 planning to stay at Endless Summer resort - we really appreciate the separate bedroom. We will pay for 1 night at a premier resort to get express passes for 2 days.
My question is when should I look at booking my hotel for the best rates? Also for Universal tickets, is Undercover Tourist our best bet?
Are there any (dis)advantages between booking all parts separately vs a Universal package type deal?
Thanks everyone - I am sure I will be on here a lot more often now !

Marti gras was still happening for us in late April 2021 so should still be going then!
We used UT for our Universal tickets and it worked great! Will let others speak to the package question.

A Universal Seasonal Pass (AP) pays for itself on day 4. There are black out dates close to your travel date, but they typically start closer to March 15.

I would consider this once the 2023 calendar is released this fall.

If that doesn’t work Universal typically offers buy 3 days get 2 free starting in January. You don’t need a hotel package.

The last BOGO offer for 2022 just expired on May 5th

I can’t wait until this fall! It’s so weird to not plan anything a year in advance, like we do with Disney.

Oh - also, following, since we’re looking at going to Universal for the first time, this upcoming spring break, too.

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You’re going to loathe Universal then! :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

It’s so laid back…no park reservations, no 60 day ADRs, no Genie+/LL$ and you can park hop at any time! You can just show up and have fun!

I still make a Universal TP. However, I only look at it before I go to verify I should have time to do what I want. My Universal TP is more like a checklist.

I do want to go back to Disney one day, but not until a lot of the items mentioned are gone or at least working a lot better


I’m actually a little worried that I will loathe it! I get motion sick, and it sounds like a lot of the rides are simulators. Ugh. :face_vomiting:
We’re HP fans, though, so want to do it once, at least. And my family will enjoy everything.

I’m looking forward to less of the planning hoops, truly. I just want to have the basics nailed down. I keep looking at hotels and they’re SO expensive. I’m hoping prices go down as we get closer.

Agreed that we want some changes at Disney before we go back.

There are a lot of projection based rides. I suggest a chewable Dramamine tablet or two before entering the first queue of the day. I used to be fine on these rides, but the older I get a couple of rides do make me a bit nauseated :woozy_face::face_vomiting:

After a couple of those chewables, I’m good for a few hours! :wink:

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Thank you! This is the exact info i was loking for regarding tickets !

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We were there for the Mardi Gras 2020 right before the lockdown and for Mardi Gras 2021. In 2020 the food booths were in a central location and we never made it over there, although there were rave reviews on the food. In 2021, they spread the booths around the park for social distancing and we ate at them a lot and they were awesome. In 2022, we didn’t go, but the reviews weren’t so good. Sounded like the pre-made a lot of the food including food that shouldn’t be premade.

Both years we went (and I think this year) they sold a tasting lanyard that was 15 items for $60. So, the price was at least reasonable.

In 2020 they were doing parades and if you were a season pass holder you could request to be one of the bead throwers. You’d need your Disney planning skills to get on that list. Universal has a facebook page for season pass holders.
In 2021 they parked the floats scattered around and we enjoyed that. We could give each one as much or as little time as we felt like. Plus no waiting for a parade.
I mention what they did in various years so that you’ll have an idea of what might happen while you are there.

Oh, and they have a concert every weekend. I haven’t listened to the radio this century, so I ignored those.

Amazing, thats alot of really great information. Thank you so much! My kids may be interested in the concerts , just another bonus of going at this time.
How did you find crowds? We will have express passes so I shouldnt be too worried?

They weren’t too bad. Well, I do remember in 2020 our last Sat was predicted to be like a 3 and it ended up being an 8 or 9. We ended up leaving just because we were hungry. Even then we were OK with the ride lines, but the food lines were outrageous. But, that is the nice thing about having season passes and a long trip. Instead of having rest days like at Disney you can have partial park days without wasting money. But, really who knows how the crowds will be?

For the hotel I’d have one of the TP recommended TA’s book it. I’d book that now because you can always rebook at a lower rate.
Then tell the TA to change you to the season pass rate when they come out. You are probably already planning on booking the premier somewhere in the middle of the trip. Since you are a family of 5, it might be worthwhile to book two one-night stays to get 4 days of passes. Like maybe the 7th and the 9th. Say the room is $400. That is still only $40 per day per person for express passes.

So, how does it work if you book a premier room for just one day? Do you have to stop at the hotel on the first day, before going to the parks? Isn’t that a pain to do before rope drop?

And, another random question, can TAs use employee-based discounts? Like, I can sometimes save a bunch of money by booking hotels through my work. I don’t know how I’d use a TA to do that, though.

Yes, you’ll have to get your resort keys first. As for TAs, book your hotel through your work for cheap then you can transfer the reservation to a TA.


You can do it as early as 6 am. They give you a room key, but it won’t open a room until they have one ready.

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We haven’t ever found it a pain. We want to drop off our bags anyway.

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We are here now.

It is a little screen heavy, but with multiple members of my party sensitive, we are doing pretty well.

Simpsons and HP Forbidden Journey are the only ones I would not want to redo. But I’m not sorry I went on them…

None of us have been wrecked at this point. I’ll do more at USF today… time will tell.


The concert are fun but packed shoulder-to-shoulder. If it’s a band ppl really like they come at opening to have picnics and sleep right at the front of the stage until night time. It’s the kind of thing where you walk by and see a massive crowd and say something like “Is that Sugar Ray??” Idk…" and then go ride Mummy! It’s never a big time current artist. They can’t book Taylor Swift or the place would burn down!! :crazy_face:

I’ve been going during 2022 and there were (and probably will be next year) changes to Mardi Gras.

This year they got rid of the Mardi Gras lanyards and issued Food Cards. You could pay $65 for a GC valued at $75 OR pay $120 for a GC valued at $150. These cards never expire and are only good for food. Not merch or tips at sit down dinning. I bought $480 worth of cards and have $600 worth of food for my trips this year. I’ve been on two separate trips, each for 5 days, and I still have about $50 more on the cards! I wish I had bought even more, but this was a “new” system & I was nervous. (The card sales ended at April 24th)

2022 was back to floats & parades and really the entire park is back to pre-COVID. So much entertainment all over!!

Universal has simplified the process to get on the Mardi Gras floats. All you need to do is sign-up in the App. It’s super easy. They kept sending me notifications asking me if I wanted to sign-up each day since I was actively in the parks.

If you have Express you’ll never worry about crowds!! This is not like Disney & Genie+ where you still have to wait in a long line or fuss on your phone all day! You enter the queue and most of the time your wait is only 33% or less of the posted standby wait. Often basically a walk-on. It’s great!!

The best comparison I can give is to think of Universal like it’s Disneyland. It’s that scale compared to WDW. Disneyland is much smaller than WDW, but so many fun things and an entertainment / dinning complex nearby. This is just like Universal and CityWalk. You can, literally, walk everywhere within Universal.