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Old 01-27-2013, 08:05 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Disney girl has NO clue how to plan for Universal!

Please help-I'm a Disney girl through & through and have mastered planning our trips to the Happiest Place on Earth BUT...dare I say...we're considering a non-Disney Orlando trip (gasp!) for spring break (3-31 to 4-6) and frankly, I'm lost. What's the best way to do Universal (both parks), Sea World & Discovery Cove in a week? We're getting a great deal on an off site condo through a friend but I'm worried about crowds, park planning (especially since I have NO idea what's must-see, except for Harry Potter for DS9). It's me, DH, DD15, DS9 & DD7.
Where do I start? Is it just me or does Disney just make it so much easier to plan?
Thanks in advance for any help you can give this Disney girl
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Old 01-27-2013, 08:49 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Welcome to the boards!!! The universal parks are smaller. There are a lot of fun rides at both US & IOA. We love the Spider-Man ride at IOA. It's great!!! There is a fairly new coaster at US where you pick the song you want to listen to. That's a lot of fun!!! City Walk is also great for restaurants. We eat at the NASCAR restaurant but our favourite is Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville!!! There is a great movie theatre there with amazing seats!!! I remember seeing Benchwarmers there with the kids!! We usually spend two days just to make sure we get to do everything we want but it could be done in one. We were there at March Break years ago so I can't really comment on what crowds might be like.

We really enjoy Universal. Have a great trip!!!!
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Old 01-27-2013, 09:32 PM   #3 (permalink)
 
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Welcome to the boards. I have found that the best way to tour US and IoA is to go to IoA first thing. When you enter IoA go to the right through Seuss Landing to Harry Potter. Your younger ones will want to stop at SL but you can come back to SL later in the day. The crowd level at HP usually does NOT go down during the day so get it done first. US/IoA has a program to bypass the queues. This is a paid program and must be bought for each guest. Bad news, it does not cover the main HP ride. After HP, continue around the park in a counter clockwise direction. My personal favorites are the rides at HP (ride all 4 of them,) followed by Jurassic Park, Spiderman, and the Hulk. Some of the rides require that you put your bags etc into lockers. These are usually free unless the queue and the ride takes too long. If you plan on doing both of the dragon coasters back to back, you probably should consider moving your bags between the rides so you don't time out and find the lockers locked. Then you have to pay to get the door open. Another thing to consider is that the IoA park is primarily an outdoor park. If there is rain and lightening in the area, this park can be shut down almost completely. When this happens, quickly go to the regular US park which is mostly indoor shows. I have used valet parking at US/IoA because of the convenience. It is about twice the cost of regular parking but can get you into the park faster. You also asked about Sea World and Discovery Cove. I have only been to Sea World a few times and never to Discovery Cove. I hope that others in the forums can help you there.
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Old 01-28-2013, 07:38 AM   #4 (permalink)
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First of all, I love your thread title!!!

I am in the same situation as you . . . I feel very comfortable planning a trip to our happiest place on Earth, but I have not been to Universal since I was 18 yrs old -- over 20 yrs ago!!!

Anyways, we're planning 2 days at the Hard Rock Hotel after our cruise on the Dream our two DD adore Harry Potter and our main reason to visit is to enjoy all things HP!!!

From what I've researched, be sure to visit IOA first thing and early if you can!!!

Good luck with planning and if you need more help with planning, this is a a great place to visit and ask!!!
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Old 01-28-2013, 02:32 PM   #5 (permalink)
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After all those years doing WDW, we went to Universal Parks & Sea World last year for spring break. I agree, Disney is sooooo much easier to plan for. But on the upside, you won't be exhausted running around the Universal Parks because they're so small compared to the World. We're going again this year (but next year I INSIST on WDW). We've got tickets that are a 2 day+1 for Universal and are staying at Loews Pacific to see what onsite is like. And that will be plenty of time to do everything. You can purchase the express passes to cut the time in the queues, but I suggest you wait till you get to the parks. We bought ours in advance last year because we thought it would be so crowded. But we only really needed it for the Men in Black ride. We did hit HP first. But we rode Forbidden Journey 3 times that day with our longest wait being 40 minutes. And honestly, a bit of a wait is a good thing for that ride because it's so neat going thru Hogwarts. A suggestion for IoA... let your kids wear their swimsuits. The few water rides they have there will get you drenched and DS dried up pretty quick in his swim trunks....those of us in shorts...not so much. Sea World was really nice. But DS is 10 and once he saw Shamu, all he was interested in was Krakken and Manta. So one day was plenty for us. This spring break will be 3 days at the Unversal parks and then we're heading to Tampa for a few days to see what Busch Gardens is like. I guess the main thing is to not compare WDW with Universal. City Walk isn't geared to kids like DTD is either. My heart still lies with WDW. So, while I'm finishing up touches for spring break.... the devious side of me is already planning Thanksgiving...at WDW!!
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Old 01-28-2013, 02:38 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions! So my next big planning question: is it worth the cost of the express pass (buying or shelling out the big bucks to stay on-site) for this time of year?
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Old 01-28-2013, 02:46 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by mamasann View Post
After all those years doing WDW, we went to Universal Parks & Sea World last year for spring break. I agree, Disney is sooooo much easier to plan for. But on the upside, you won't be exhausted running around the Universal Parks because they're so small compared to the World. We're going again this year (but next year I INSIST on WDW). We've got tickets that are a 2 day+1 for Universal and are staying at Loews Pacific to see what onsite is like. And that will be plenty of time to do everything. You can purchase the express passes to cut the time in the queues, but I suggest you wait till you get to the parks. We bought ours in advance last year because we thought it would be so crowded. But we only really needed it for the Men in Black ride. We did hit HP first. But we rode Forbidden Journey 3 times that day with our longest wait being 40 minutes. And honestly, a bit of a wait is a good thing for that ride because it's so neat going thru Hogwarts. A suggestion for IoA... let your kids wear their swimsuits. The few water rides they have there will get you drenched and DS dried up pretty quick in his swim trunks....those of us in shorts...not so much. Sea World was really nice. But DS is 10 and once he saw Shamu, all he was interested in was Krakken and Manta. So one day was plenty for us. This spring break will be 3 days at the Unversal parks and then we're heading to Tampa for a few days to see what Busch Gardens is like. I guess the main thing is to not compare WDW with Universal. City Walk isn't geared to kids like DTD is either. My heart still lies with WDW. So, while I'm finishing up touches for spring break.... the devious side of me is already planning Thanksgiving...at WDW!!
So you think we should wait & see if we need express pass since it may not be crowded? I'm having a hard time coughing up the extra money to stay on site at their prices -for that money I'd rather stay on the monorail at Disney world! Making it tougher is the great price we're getting on an off-site condo.
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Old 01-28-2013, 03:23 PM   #8 (permalink)
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The express passes we bought were good for one time per ride. And I think they were about $29 each. The week we went was Not busy at all. But since it was spring break we expected it to be. Had we waited until we got to the parks ... we'd have never bought them. There are pricier express passes that let you ride over and over, but they aren't good on FJ or RR either. And those are the rides with the longest lines. We stayed offsite last spring and like you, didn't want to cough up the big bucks to stay onsite. But we're going to try it this time and Loews Pacific was least expensive of the hotels.
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Old 01-28-2013, 08:31 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Discovery cove is fun but a fortune. The dolphin interaction is awesome but very expensive. The picture package they offer is beyond insane & luckily I ran into a friend I knew from back home who had moved to FL the year prior & was working at DC while we were there! He hooked me up with his employee discount otherwise I never would have purchased a single photo.
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Old 01-29-2013, 01:28 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Look into staying just one night at Universal. I believe their express pass is good for the day you check in until you check out. I went during Spring Break last year plus there was some kind of plastics convention going on in Orlando that made the parks extra crowded. Staying on site and having the express pass allowed me to ride some of my favorites over and over again and skipping the long lines. I rode Spiderman, Hulk, The Simpsons and The Mummy numerous times in my visit. Also, staying on site will allow you to take a mid-day break which you will have plenty of time for when skipping all the lines. Staying on site also will get you into Harry Potter earlier than the general public. I think it was about an hour earlier.
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Old 01-29-2013, 03:09 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Just the thread I needed. I too can use all the help I can get. We're going 3 days to Universal parks this summer for the first time and I like you am at a loss for which parks when and what to do in what order.
Keep those tips coming .
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Old 02-02-2013, 06:29 PM   #12 (permalink)
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We went to IOA and Disney in Oct., I found it really hard to plan for IOA. We ended up getting there when the park opened and just started at Suess Landing and went around the park. It was'nt to bad just wandering and finding things to ride and do during our visit. HP was busy, but we didnt have to wait long for the rides. The worst part was trying to get into the shops, they were packed. Make sure to take rain gear for the water rides. We also went through City Walk, but the kids were tired so didnt stay long. Did get there pictures in front of the Universal spinning globe. Great rides, Fun park just wish also it was easier to plan it like you can Disney. We went to Sea World in 2009 and loved the park, there is alot to see and it took us most of the day and we didnt ride very many of the rides, but saw most of the shows. Have Fun!
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Old 02-18-2013, 02:03 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Year for Disney Girls going to Universal

I, too, am a disney girl going to Universal for the first time. Well, the last time I went, my eleven year old was about 9 months old. We left after an hour; he saw Barney and could not stop screaming - bad screaming not "oh I love Barney" screaming. Funny, he loved watching Barney on tv! Anyways - this is our family's first trip to Universal and I am finding it quite difficult to plan for. With Disney there is so much information, with Universal not so much. Right now, I am completely stomped with figuring out what rides will be work for both my 6 year old and my 11 year old son.
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Old 02-18-2013, 03:50 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Well, if your boys are anything like our DS, they'll love Men In Black and Spiderman & Jurassic rides for sure. DS really enjoyed the Terminator show and Disaster was way cool (think Backlot Tour). WWHP is really very well done & I'm not sure even Disney could have done more with FJ. It's worth the stand in line just to see inside Hogwarts! WWHP is crowded. Disney tends to spoil us and makes sure we have plenty of room to walk around & spend our money. Oh, and Universal parks will make you put bags in lockers too. I know you have to use a locker for FJ and some of the coasters. If your kids like Kali river rapids, they'll definately enjoy the rapids at IOA. and they will get drenched for sure. There were a lot of coasters to enjoy at each park. The Mummy was pretty neat, not sure if your 6 yr old is tall enough for RipRocket. DS was 10 when we went for the 1st time last spring. And he's totally into coasters, so that's why we're going back. We're staying on site this time around so we'll have the unlimited express pass which is good from the day you first use your ticket thru the day you check out. In fact, if you're going to a park after checking out, they'll hold your bags for you at the resort so you don't have to leave them in the car or van.
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Old 02-20-2013, 12:33 AM   #15 (permalink)
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We're going to Disney the first week of March. Was planning to do Universal also since we've never been but my mom doesn't do rides (she's 74 & has never been a roller coaster fan.) We're big HP fans but other than that is it worth it to go. What is there for someone who doesn't do the rides? Should we do both parks or just IOA? The more I research Universal, the less I'm interested.
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