The DVC member's guide to Universal Orlando
Back in December of 1999, I was visiting a dear friend of mine in Los Angeles. An employee in the movie division of The Walt Disney Company, he was thoughtfully taking my wife and I to Disneyland, using his employee benefit of free admission. There, we met another friend, a Santa Monica attorney, and proceeded to spend the day at the Happiest Place on Earth. Oddly, this day would take me down a path that would eventually lead to my becoming an unlikely fan of Universal Studios.
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Universal really upped their game since Harry Potter came out and I think it's really worth 2 days, the only problem is that it's not as kids friendly as Disney, all major attarctions have height restrictions. But it has a bigger appeal for teen agers.
A few random tips:
- if you book one night in a Deluxe hotel, you get 2 whole days of Universal Express Passes for the whole party
- the most popular attractions have single rider lines, if you can, use them, they can save hours in line over the day. Exception: Forbidden Journey and Escape from Gringott have preshows and theming in the queues that are unparallel, they are really worth experiencing if you can
- the express pass cannot be used on the Harry Potter rides or the Minions attraction. While HP rides can be experienced using single rider lines, Miniom Mayem has a long queue all day long. And rope dropping won't help it because with onsite guests the line will already at 30+ minutes by the time gates open to everyone. Another point in favor of staying on site
- I have used my DVC points to stay onsite at Universal: I have rented them and used the money to pay cash for a room!
- the new water park, Volcano Bay, is going to open in a few weeks. Looking at the previews it's going to rock, Universal now say they have 3 theme parks, it may be worth doing 3 days if that turns true!
We finally did a couple of days at Universal in June 2016. We joined my DSIL and her daughters, ages 16 and 12 and actually stayed off property at another timeshare. We didn't see the two parks at Universal in an organized manner except we did do one park one day and the other the next, with one extra ride on Harry's Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The Forbidden Journey lines were long both mornings as they were having problems with the simulation. We tried to do the Hogwarts Express twice but it was down one day. The girls pretty much decided the rides we did, except I found myself sitting out on the more rough rides. Even some of the simulations really bruised my body.
Universal is themed just not to the extent that Disney does. Although the Harry Potter stuff was excellent. I just wish R.K. Rowling hadn't been so insistent on that the shops would be small. There was just too many people for the size of the shops.
Universal does have a better priced annual passes, but the daily charges are similar to Disney's. They get you with charging for front of the line access.
Scheduled upcoming Disney trips:
11/30/17 - 12/14/17 - Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort
03/01/18 - 03/08/18 - Copper Creek at the Wilderness Lodge
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We planned two days at Universal on our most recent trip, and ended up only going for one. We were there in January, and while we could have come back for the second day, there wasn't really enough to draw us back. It may have gone better had we gone earlier in the trip (it was about a week into a 10-night trip) - we took the second day to sleep in and relax at the pool. It may have also gone better had we shifted to a hotel near Universal - instead, we took UberXL each way, which worked well, but still meant we needed to plan on transportation time.
That said - the Harry Potter areas are amazing, and the Seuss land at IoA is picture-perfect. I wouldn't mind going back at some point.
[WDW visits: DxL 1/98, VWL 1/03, WL 6/03, VWL 1/08, BWV 1/13, BCV 1/16, POFQ 4/17]
[DL visits: 7/90, 11/93, 11/94, 11/95, 11/96, 6/97, 11/97, 11/99, 12/00, 8/01, 1/06, 2/08, 2/12, 6/14, VGC 7/16, DLH/VGC 1/17]
[Family: me45, wife45, daughter18, son16, son12]
[Races: 2016 WDW 10k, 2017 SW Light Side Rebel Challenge, 2017 SW Dark Side Half]