Planning - Starting Over!

Discussion in 'Universal Orlando Resorts & Hotels' started by DryCreek, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. DryCreek

    DryCreek Peter Pan (never grows up)

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    Hey folks, I'm back - with a few questions.
    Last year I was all gung-ho on getting our annual early February trip planned and booked by August. That is my normal SOP for Disney trips. I couldn't get anything booked on site until (if I recall) almost September. I guess that was a good thing, as I had a major monkey wrench thrown into the equation. About the same time I was in full swing planning our annual getaway for the DW and I, it was hinted that I would likely have a work schedule change. I normally planned our big trip during one of my "seven-offs" that roll around every five weeks. Well, I have been moved off-shift to a regular position now. I work 4 tens (Mon. thru Thurs.). That's great for planning, but I didn't get the final word until only three weeks ago. Yup, I've been in limbo that long. Needless to say, I dropped our vacation planning until I knew the days I would have available, and my schedule. So, there is absolutely no way I can get everything planned for this month or next month. Late March and all of April are not available (refueling outage, no vacation allowed). How busy is mid May? I know schools here in Texas start letting out about then, but can't remember about the rest of the world since our son graduated five years ago. I don't really want to go during the summer rush. We did Disney twice during June, and the crowds made us miserable each time - especially if you are used to the February lulls.
    OK, so how about early or mid October, or early November (skipping the haunted thingy crowds)? Do they offer special value seasons like the "mouse" does? We want to stay onsite, preferably at the Royal Pacific (based on cost). I am thinking on purchasing admission through Undercover Tourist, and then adding the meal plan when we arrive.
    Days - since I work a nearly normal schedule now, I am betting that I can capitalize on better rates if we fly in early on a Monday, and depart on a Friday. That should give us a partial day (Mon.) and then three whole days to see both parks. Does that seem doable? Would it be better to arrive on a Sunday and go home on a Thursday instead?
    Sorry about the loooonggg post - but I get OC about planning when it comes to vacations and parting with my hard-earned dollars.

    ETA - just looked at rates, and the best deals appear to be April 21 through May 23 and May 27 through June 6. Which ones are the "goodest" as far as crowd levels?
     
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  3. damo

    damo Proud Redhead

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    All those times are good. Skip the meal plan, it is only good for 3 counter service restaurants at each park and really doesn't give you very good choices.

    One thing to remember is that Transformers and the newly renovated Simpsons area won't be open this spring. If you wait until the fall (early November is better than October), you'll get those new things as well.
     
  4. DryCreek

    DryCreek Peter Pan (never grows up)

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    That may just work.
    As a note: those rates I quoted are for Florida residents. Doesn't quite apply to me. The best rates I could find were $203 per night! At that rate, and since we are looking at going during slower periods, my wife says to look for something offsite, but close enough to walk. "Close enough to walk" translates to about three blocks or so. We are prolific walkers, even after a day in the park(s).

    Would I actually save money by purchasing an annual pass and looking at AP rates? I would like to stay onsite - but when compared to what the same amount would buy at WDW, it's kinda hard to justify that rate.
     
  5. damo

    damo Proud Redhead

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    Yes you can often save a considerable amount of money with an AP. Just use the code APH in the code box when you look here http://www.loewshotels.com/en/booking/uo?hotel=UEPBH,UEHRH,UERPR

    If no AP rates show up, they either are sold out or not out yet. You can also get AAA rates by calling the hotel directly.

    You need to remember that the onsite hotels at Universal are deluxe. You can not get a deluxe hotel within walking distance of two parks with unlimited fastpasses at Disney. Even scratching the unlimited fastpasses, you would be paying way more than $200/night for a hotel like that. You can find a value resort that you have to take a bus and don't get any perks for though.
     
  6. DryCreek

    DryCreek Peter Pan (never grows up)

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    Wow, tried booking the same dates using APH and it was higher than using the Stay More Save More rates (by about $35 a night!).

    Just for comparison, I looked up the rates for May 13th through 17th at the RPR. It shows a rate of $914.40. I contrasted this to my wife's favorite moderate (POR) for the exact same dates. The rate came up as $1,191.60 - but that also included admission (base 5 day ticket) and the other standard Your Way stuff. With the Quick Service dining plan, the whole shebang was only $1,492.24. So, it is possible to get decent lodging at a resort - but you are right about having to ride the bus. The DME is a big, big perk I miss when I plan other vacations.

    Anyway, the wife says no Disney trip back to back (last year was Disneyland), and that she wants to stay onsite at Universal. Once we clear our schedules for Mid-May (we both have to get vacation requests approved) then it looks like I will be booking RPH for lodging and ordering our 4 day two park tickets ($159.95 pp) through undercover tourist. I also have found that Mears has a shuttle for $30 pp round trip from MCO to International Drive area.

    What else should I be pre-planning for too? Believe it or not, my wife likes the meal plan they offer. They seem to have salads and other light fare where we can stop in without having to make reservations or linger over a drawn out meal. I take it that I would arrange for that at the time of check-in?
     
  7. damo

    damo Proud Redhead

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    You can purchase the dining plan once you get to the park.

    I don't think POR is a fair comparison. I'd compare prices for Boardwalk to the Universal Hotels. It is $1876 for those same dates May 13-17. That doesn't include tickets.

    When I put May 13-17 for POR, I get $900 for room only. It was $1473 including tickets and $1774 including quickserve dining meal plan.
     
  8. RMulieri

    RMulieri DIS Veteran

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    You can't compare a Disney Moderate to a Universal hotel..Universal hotels are on par ( actually nicer imho and I stay at Disney deluxes alot) with Disney Deluxe..Universal resorts are on par with Disneys Boardwalk or Polynesian..Difference is, try pricing out the Polynesian..With Universal resorts you get unlimited express pass and able to walk to 2 parks and citywalk ..
     
  9. shoney

    shoney DIS Veteran

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    Our upcoming universal trip will be more expensive than Disney.

    We went to WDW last feb and stayed at POR.

    $3000 for the hotel, 6 day park hoppers, free dining plan

    This year

    2400.00 7 nights club level at RPR
    100.00 airport transfers
    720.00 3 park unlimited tix

    3220.00 total - we will be spending more on food

    Honestly, I was a bit surprised that it would be more $$$. My boys and DH like US more than WDW (I love both!), so it will be worth every penny.

    The kids have never stayed on site before. We did many years ago. It is such a nice, relaxing experience.
     
  10. RMulieri

    RMulieri DIS Veteran

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    Its not surprising its more money..POR is a moderate. RPR is a deluxe.Universal has finally become a vacation destination much like Disney.My Universal trips have all been cheaper than my Disney trips, but I stay Disney deluxe .
     
  11. shoney

    shoney DIS Veteran

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    Yes you are right!

    We haven't been to US since 2009. Tix were much cheaper then! Not that we bought them, though...we bought the upgraded VIP type tix to get the unlimited express passes!

    I just think of Disney being more expensive.

    At that time, the deluxes were running around $5k for the same package.

    by the time I add meals to what we are paying, it will be close!

    I'm not saying it isn't worth it or that it isn't a destination in itself, just that I had it in my mind that US/Ioa is a cheaper vacation and it is not.
     
  12. damo

    damo Proud Redhead

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    Here is the price for the Boardwalk concierge for 7 nights in mid May... $3374...that is the comparable hotel for RPR. That is without tickets. With tickets for 3 people it is $4779.
     
  13. DryCreek

    DryCreek Peter Pan (never grows up)

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    OK, flights booked (ACT-DFW-MCO/MCO-DFW-ACT) and we also booked our room. The wife decided that it would be nice to spend the first day just relaxing and prepping ourselves for the next four days in the parks. We used the Stay More, Save More offer and that got the price of a King Suite at the RPH down to $291.75 a night. Due to the inherent cheapskate in me, it took a boot from the wife to commit for the five nights, but it is booked and paid in full. I will be keeping an eye out for rate drops in the near future. Are they pretty good about allowing you to take advantage of price drops when they are made available? If so, what are the ones to watch for? I don't have AAA, or an Annual Pass, am not a Florida resident, and they don't seem to have any AARP or NRA discounts either. I will check to see if they offer IBEW or other member discounts later.
    The tickets (4 day/2 park) have been ordered through Undercover Tourist now too. My revenge will be the fact that I am going to make us suffer through counter service meals for the four days in the parks. It really makes sense (cents?) for us since we tend to be at the gate for the rope drop, and we are usually some of the last ones lingering as the park closes. As long as the offerings are at least on par with what is offered at WDW and DL counter service establishments, I think that we may just survive. I have found a way on the Universal website to purchase the two park meal deal online, but I am going to wait and speak to a customer service rep in the morning. Just before I "clicked buy-it-now" I had a visualization of us getting to the will-call window and them handing us 8 wrist bands of the same color, and me standing there trying to explain that my goal was for us to get two (adult) bands each of four days.
     
  14. damo

    damo Proud Redhead

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    Sounds great!!! Remember that the meal deal doesn't include breakfast, so make sure you allow for that.

    Keep watching for rates going down but the SMSM rate doesn't tend to change much.

    I really think you should wait to purchase the meal deal when you get there and then just buy it for a day at a time. If you decide after a couple of days that you are sick of eating at the same places over and over, you can change things up.
     
  15. buckeev

    buckeev RedNeck Mouseketeer

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    I agree! Plus...there are many excellent eating options at City Walk and Also at the hotels. Treat that bride to a meal at the Emeril's at Royal Pacific....it is OUTSTANDING!
    When are y'all going? Mid May?
     
  16. DryCreek

    DryCreek Peter Pan (never grows up)

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    Those are good points. I was kinda hoping that the two queen bed rooms would become available again. That was quite a jump to the King Suite from the base room price! I guess that was my punishment for dawdling around before committing! I was really waiting to be sure that my vacation request had been approved by the supervisor in the new department I have been transferred to. Is there any way I can have their reservations people flag my booking for a room change - downward? That would free up nearly $500 for other fun things while we are there, such as a fancy meal and souvenirs. It is getting near time to replace my WDW hat I wear often. I got it back in '09 bundled with the "71" T-shirt while trying to spend the rest of the $200 on the included gift card with our onsite booking.

    We discussed the breakfast issue, and it is no big deal for the wife. She is not a breakfast person and on days ff doesn't even think about food until around 10. I am good with several cups of strong coffee and a banana. We are looking to go stock up on breakfast fruit and snack items on the Sunday we arrive. I have been following the K-Cup discussion on another thread very closely. Caffeine is the single most important morning additive to me. with a couple of good, hot, extra-strong cups in me I am ready to go all day.

    The funny thing is that we've learned that we are not easily tired by eating at the same place. When we are at the parks we tend to treat dining like filling up your car on a trip - it is just a side task to be performed as required. Once we find a place that caters to our tastes, we actually tend to gravitate towards it at mealtimes in order to avoid having to agonize over new menu offerings each time. Last year while at DL, we found that we consistently ate at the same places (Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, Paradise Garden Grill at DCA, and Rancho Del Zocalo, French Market Restaurant in DL). Our typical lunch is a plate of meatless pasta (or with chicken) or a grilled chicken entree with vegetables and fruit for desert, and at supper just a big chef/cobb salad suits us. I do miss the fish tacos at Zocala though - they were very good! The one thing we always avoid when eating out is beef. That is the only food we have developed snobby tendencies for. We raise our own all-natural grass fed beef. It is hard to go from eating extra lean cuts to the ones offered commercially, it has a "mushy" texture to it. The only thing better (IMO) is venison.

    The few times we do linger over a meal is during a rain break or if we are planning the rest of the day. It is a plus if the dining area is themed though. We do enjoy picking up on the subtle nuances that the designers work into the decor to build the ambiance.
     
  17. DryCreek

    DryCreek Peter Pan (never grows up)

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    We are arriving on Sunday May 12th, and flying out on Friday May 17th. Since it is the week after our 25th anniversary, we may treat ourselves to one special meal.

    We usually take our big vacation in February if we are going to a Disney property, or in this case - to Orlando, but right as I was getting into the planning mode for this trip (see my posts complaining about not being able to book 6 months in advance) word came out that they needed to shift some people around. It was a chance for me to go to straight day shift with four 10 hour days (Monday through Thursday) and come off of rotating shift work. I would have liked to go earlier (before the crowds, and planned around cheerleader/Brazilian invasions) but one of the issues is that we shut down one of the two plants every fall or spring for a refueling outage. No vacation during that time, and everyone works 75 hour weeks. This usually takes from mid-March to the end of April/beginning of May. I guess that the other benefit going that late into spring is that we should have some grass in the pastures (no setting out a bunch of hay before leaving) and the spring calving should be done by then.
     
  18. damo

    damo Proud Redhead

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    I see a regular room right now for your dates.

    Did they let you pay in full over the phone? They usually only accept one night's payment and then the rest is payable when you leave. Normally you have to call their accounting department and have forms faxed to you to submit the full payment. Wonder if this is a new policy.
     
  19. DryCreek

    DryCreek Peter Pan (never grows up)

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    I booked online through the Universal link. They didn't show any of the two-queen options. Maybe I'll just try that link out and give them a call! I paid in full with a credit card as that was the only option they offered.....

    ETA - just tried the same link, and all they show as the lowest priced option is the same $291.75 per night for the king suite (link). Is there somewhere else I should be looking or maybe just call them directly?

    ETA #2 - Just called the number on my reservation and asked about being put on a downgrade "standby list". Appears they don't have any means of doing that, but should I find a lower priced room on my own, they would be more than happy to alter my reservation. I will keep checking.
     
  20. damo

    damo Proud Redhead

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    The room is gone now. It was there when I posted. Keep checking. Take the AAA out of the code box. Check several times a day because people cancel all the time. It was $199/night for a two queen room this morning.

    You probably didn't pay in full. You probably only paid a one night's deposit. If you booked through the link you just sent me, it only charges for one night's deposit.

    Total Cost: $2188.15
    Amount charged on credit card for deposit: $437.63
    Remaining Cost of Stay (Total cost less deposit): $1750.52
     
  21. DryCreek

    DryCreek Peter Pan (never grows up)

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    Wow, just noticed your numbers, and I wondered how much I had really committed for. Thank goodness it is a much lower amount (sort of)!

    Cost for room
    Room Avg. Nightly Rate Cost of Stay Taxes/Serv. Charge Sub-Total
    Type: King Suite $291.00 $1458.75 $182.35 $1641.10
    Rate: Stay More, Save More
    Sun May 12, 2013 $291.75
    Mon May 13, 2013 $291.75
    Tue May 14, 2013 $291.75
    Wed May 15, 2013 $291.75
    Thu May 16, 2013 $291.75

    Total Cost:(USD) $1641.10
    Amount charged on credit card for deposit: $328.22

    ETA - Hahaha! That was funny. I never use emoticons, yet the perfect combination of a colon and open parens created little Mr. Frowny Face. See, the inner tightwad in me manifests itself in the strangest ways! All I did was copy and past from the pop up window. Really!
     

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