Big Family Trip - Which To Do First? WDW or Universal?

mrsclark

DIS Veteran
Joined
May 16, 2013
My dad and stepmom are taking my husband, our two kids, and me along with my stepbrother, his wife and their three kids on a big trip next year - hopefully June 2022, but possibly October 2022. The ages of people going at the time of the trip will be my dad (73), my stepmom (70), my husband (43), our son (2-1/2), our daughter (17 months), me (38), my stepbrother (47), his wife (42?), my niece (15), and my two nephews (10 and 7).

We are planning to do 7-10 nights at WDW at BCV and 2-3 nights (possibly 4) at Loews Royal Pacific at Universal.

I know for our little family, we are planning to see Seuss Land at Universal and then spend a lot of our time relaxing at the RP pool - so if it was just us going I would do Universal second. DH and I have been to Universal many times before we had kids and so there isn't anything we have to do or see while we are there outside of what is fun for DS and DD.

However, my stepbrother's family has never been to Universal before and I am not sure if it makes more sense to put it at the start of the trip or the end of the trip for them. As far as I know neither my niece nor nephews are into HP at all (yet!). But my niece is a huge thrill ride person - so I know she is going to love Universal.

Thoughts on doing Universal first or second?
 

thanxfornoticin

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 12, 2020
Many ways to consider your decision. If it was us, I think we'd do Universal first, mostly because Universal/IOA is really about the rides for us. They have some really fun thrill rides, and we'd plan to enjoy those at the beginning. Then we'd move into our new 'home' at the BCV for a week+, do our wash in the room to reduce packing requirements (if you're in a room at least the size of a 1BR, it includes your own w/d, but you probably know that!!), and use the second part of the trip to enjoy things at a slightly slower pace - the Disney parks, Stormalong Bay pool at BC, the amazing dining options around the BC/Boardwalk area, dining options in EPCOT, walking to an evening of mini golf...... MANY fun options, either way you do it. But logistically, we'd prefer Univ then WDW. Sounds like an awesome trip, especially if someone else is treating for some of it!
 

WhoDat09

Mouseketeer
Joined
May 21, 2014
My dad and stepmom are taking my husband, our two kids, and me along with my stepbrother, his wife and their three kids on a big trip next year - hopefully June 2022, but possibly October 2022. The ages of people going at the time of the trip will be my dad (73), my stepmom (70), my husband (43), our son (2-1/2), our daughter (17 months), me (38), my stepbrother (47), his wife (42?), my niece (15), and my two nephews (10 and 7).

We are planning to do 7-10 nights at WDW at BCV and 2-3 nights (possibly 4) at Loews Royal Pacific at Universal.

I know for our little family, we are planning to see Seuss Land at Universal and then spend a lot of our time relaxing at the RP pool - so if it was just us going I would do Universal second. DH and I have been to Universal many times before we had kids and so there isn't anything we have to do or see while we are there outside of what is fun for DS and DD.

However, my stepbrother's family has never been to Universal before and I am not sure if it makes more sense to put it at the start of the trip or the end of the trip for them. As far as I know neither my niece nor nephews are into HP at all (yet!). But my niece is a huge thrill ride person - so I know she is going to love Universal.

Thoughts on doing Universal first or second?
I like to save the best for last, so I would go to Universal first. With that being said, I just booked a trip yesterday with 4 days at Disney, followed by 3 days at Universal(1 at Volcano Bay). But that is mainly because we are surprising our 8 year old with the Universal portion. She is huge into Harry Potter right now and she thinks we will be finishing our trip up after the first 4 days.
 

thanxfornoticin

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 12, 2020
Universal last because Express Passes and the hotel proximity to the park will spoil you. Going to the chaos of Disney second will be annoying. You can end your trip feeling more relaxed too if you do Universal second.
Sorry that you feel WDW is just a chaotic, annoying trip! If it's just because of express pass/fast pass, it's certainly a perk that Universal includes with many of their rooms. But the parks, restaurant options, and just overall feel at Disney is way more relaxing for us, even without FP at this time.
 

TreeFalls

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jun 22, 2016
Universal last because Express Passes and the hotel proximity to the park will spoil you. Going to the chaos of Disney second will be annoying. You can end your trip feeling more relaxed too if you do Universal second.

I agree. I love them both, but Universal is much simpler and less chaotic. I am envious of your long trip, I would love to do that sometime!
 

bchbetha

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 27, 2016
Sorry that you feel WDW is just a chaotic, annoying trip! If it's just because of express pass/fast pass, it's certainly a perk that Universal includes with many of their rooms. But the parks, restaurant options, and just overall feel at Disney is way more relaxing for us, even without FP at this time.
Everything about Universal is just easier for us. No giant lines for buses and everything is just close by. Express Passes really are the major deal though, even without them, I just find Universal easier and more relaxing. It’s nice that there are plenty of parks to suit individual tastes. 😊
 
  • AuroraluvsPhillip

    Placed in Gryffindor, so red is my color
    Joined
    Mar 27, 2004
    I would probably do the shorter resort (Universal) first, then you can move to Disney, unpack and relax for the longer period. If you do the opposite, you'll be moving/unpacking toward the end of your trip, when you're more tired. JMO
     

    Southernmiss

    I am hazed everyday
    Joined
    Aug 27, 2011
    We started our week with Universal. One day with EP (staying offsite). We did most everything we wanted with EP, except ET. We just never made it to that area of the park and tried to do it on day 2, but needed to leave the park by 2 and had no time to wait 45 minutes for the ride.

    I liked having Universal first this trip. We found the intensity and heat of the Universal to be more difficult than the ease of Disney. And Disney provides more shade and opportunity to cool off in our experience.

    We are staying offsite and it's been so nice to unpack and set up "home" for the week to not change things mid way as we were getting our stride.

    We have done everything we wanted to do at Universal and now Disney with one Disney day left tomorrow where we will not hustle and just enjoy the parks.
     

    hhoope01

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 13, 2015
    I'd say the order depends on your family and your likes/desires/situation.

    Assuming parks at both will be crowded, for Disney, that will usually mean someone will spend some time trying to plan out which park to do go to on which days. Then once you have the park order in mind, you then want to plan out your Fast Pass strategy. Which rides to get your initial set of FPs and don't forget you need to plan out when you can reserve those (60 or 30 days in advance). And then you will probably have to plan out your next round of FPs to grab once you use the initial for that day and so on. And in between, you probably will want to plan out exactly which rides you will hit in between. There are whole websites dedicated to minimize wait times for the Disney parks. With a lot of planning and sticking to that plan, one can usually minimize wait times to be able to hit the most rides in a day. And of course the more crowded the parks, the more it can help really planning out each day at Disney. And don't forget, if you really want to maximize rides with a minimum of line waiting, you will need to keep track of which park(s) has early entry (not sure if that has started up again yet, and my understanding is late hours will no longer be included). To maximize your stay, you will probably need to be there early to get into the park for those early hours (if you can). That means getting up really early (more so if you coming to Florida from the West coast.) So you will probably need to open and possibly close the park to really hit most everything in a day. That means long hours in the heat of summer. And if some of the little ones are getting a little grumpy, they might need a some "pushing" to get them through it. Over a number of days, this can be very tiring (i.e. chaotic as mentioned above.) Though there are those that really do thrive with this and love the planning, the thrill of making that plan work, etc.

    At Universal, if you can get a night or more at one of the 3 Premier hotels (RPR, HRH, PBR), you will have unlimited EPs for the days around your stay. With those, you won't have to plan out anything concerning Express Passes as you have an unlimited supply for those days. You don't have to pre-plan months in advance which park on which days. You can wake up each day and decide which you want. You don't necessarily have to be there for early entry (though on really crowded days if you want to hit Hagrid's then it might be helpful and not sure if the Velocicoaster is open during any early hours.) But other than that, you could wake up and get to the parks at a more leisure pace while still being able to hit every ride you want (and possibly multiple times too.)

    For me, I'd want to do the faster paced, more planning, have to be there early and stay longer Disney first. This allows us to have more energy to do those things. Then as our energy levels are lowered, we head to Universal second where we can probably still hit all the rides (due to having unlimited EPs) while being able to sleep in a bit and even leaving the parks a bit early to have some extra down-time at the pool. If you do this the other way, some while having to wait in longer lines, might get a little nostalgic remembering how quickly they were able to get from ride to ride with possibly much shorter lines.

    With that in mind, I'll offer another suggestion. Pick Disney or Universal, not both. If money is no issue, then by all means, do both. But doing both parks in one trip will usually increase your costs. For the most part, park ticket prices go down on a 'per day' basis the more park days you pay for. This can also apply to hotel rooms plus you have to get transportation from one to the other. So instead of purchasing a 6 day Disney ticket and a 2 day Universal ticket, save that $270pp and add 2 extra days to your Disney tickets. Adding those 2 extra days may only cost $65pp saving you over $200pp. And don't forget, if you are changing hotels and parks in the middle of your vacation, that is half to a whole day lost just to pack-up, check-out, check-in, unpack. That could be time you could be laying out by the pool relaxing. And usually we will NOT rent a car which will save on the car rental and parking. We pick one and pretty much stay there for the duration and we've never yet got bored at either location. So I have rarely tried to do both Disney and Universal in a single trip. It adds to the cost and takes time away from the vacation. But, I will admit I'm "assuming" you will make it back to Orlando at some future point to hit the other parks.
     
  • keishashadow

    Proud Redhead...yes, I have some bananas!
    Joined
    Dec 30, 2004
    It should be written in stone somewhere...

    If at all possible, do the Universal portion of a split trip last in order to enjoy the FOTL perk via booking at the deluxe properties. Otherwise, you will find yourself in a series of stand-by lines at WDW with just a bit less appreciation for the experience. :rolleyes1

    hopefully June 2022, but possibly October 2022.
    As mentioned earlier, if a fall trip you need to factor in both the special evening events at both parks; especially if you want to partake.

    for many cost may be a major factor in the decision of when to travel.

    Note that the weekend rates @ U then often wind up being relatively higher in price, even with an AP discount. you may also find a minimum length of stay requirement imposed in order to secure a room, especially after HHN is announced

    At WDW, if you don’t have APs, ticket prices also vary due to the season. You are running into the 50th celebration next year, remains to be seen what month would be more reasonable for booking at WDW. In the past, first week of June seemed to be reasonable. October steadily increasing with Columbus Day surrounding weeks & over Halloween higher. Hard to predict until we get thru a full season as to post-pandemic period/full resort reopening.

    I know for our little family, we are planning to see Seuss Land at Universal and then spend a lot of our time relaxing at the RP pool - so if it was just us going I would do Universal second. DH and I have been to Universal many times before we had kids and so there isn't anything we have to do or see while we are there outside of what is fun for DS and DD.
    Things don’t always go quite to plan when traveling with extended family. You may very well find yourself touring U with the family as a large extended group. There are many attractions at Universal that you can all enjoy together, then branch off for solo activities.

    BTW: What a lovely gesture for your father to be so generous, enjoy!
     
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    finedice

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 3, 2007
    Some version of FP will surely be back by the fall. The food offerings (if choosing dining options carefully) are, on average, much better at Disney - this is based solely on research on USO, and vast experience at WDW. I am going to USO for the first time in a few weeks, but I am a Dis Vet (and a decently accomplished professional chef).

    From what you say about the ages of the children in your party, I would do USO first for a day or 2 max, and then move on to WDW. Of course, I have not been to WDW since JUST before the shutdown last year, and have never been to USO. My guess is that there will be more for the children at their ages at WDW by far. It will help build anticipation for them, and let the grown-ups "graduate" to better dining options and other additional amenities at the end of the trip.

    One piece of advice I have (after a couple of joint family trips to WDW), is that you should not be afraid to split the parties up occasionally. Pleasing everyone at the same time is very difficult - inevitably, there is one person (or part of the family) that doesn't want to do what everyone else wants to do - it can be a real drag and a time waster too. Best of luck - Make the best decision for YOUR group!
     

    sandy77d

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Oct 26, 2015
    We are doing our first combined Disney/Universal trip this summer. We have been to both parks several times, but this will be our first time to do both in one trip. We chose to go to Disney first. We are doing 5 nights at Disney followed by 4 nights at Universal. We are not going to a park on arrival day, then will have one day at each Disney park, one transition day, followed by three days at Universal. We see Universal as easier so wanted that at the end of our trip. And we are staying at a value resort at Disney (Pop Century) and deluxe at Universal (Portofino), and we would rather move up to the nicer hotel instead of moving down from deluxe to value.
     

    Kit Jackson

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Dec 2, 2014
    One piece of advice I have (after a couple of joint family trips to WDW), is that you should not be afraid to split the parties up occasionally. Pleasing everyone at the same time is very difficult - inevitably, there is one person (or part of the family) that doesn't want to do what everyone else wants to do - it can be a real drag and a time waster too. Best of luck - Make the best decision for YOUR group!
    I agree with this peice of advice. There is a significant age difference between myself and my sibling. My parents let my older sibling bring a friend to have someone to do things with. The rules were we had breakfast together, and we'd arrange a time/place to meet in the afternoon. Later, we would all have dinner together. It's been decades since we did a WDW trip, but the advice is still valid and maybe some version of this would work for your family @mrsclark.
     

    cfoxga

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 14, 2009
    While the planning for WDW is much worse than UO (especially with EPs), it mostly affects the main planner. Since you are going to both, the work/cost will be the same regardless of which one goes first. So it really comes down to the experience once you get there. While I really enjoyed our trips to WDW, things just felt more rushed to get to the next line...

    - Ride lines: WDW does not have anything that comes close to EPs. Our last trip to WDW was when they had the paper FPs; I used to walk at least 5 miles to ensure that when had FPs to all of the rides. But my understanding is the replacement FP is very limited even before Covid. At UO, I just show up and have minimal waits for 90+% of the rides.

    - Walkable bubble: at the UO deluxe resorts, you can easily walk to both parks and CityWalk. And if you don't feel like walking, there is a boat you can take. WDW is too big and spread out to be able to match that. The fact that I never have to get on a bus makes me very happy.

    Since I have not done both in a single trip, I can only say that I would do UO last since it is more relaxing for us...
     

    puffkin

    DVC Owner- SSR & AKV
    Joined
    Apr 30, 2001
    We like Universal more and more each trip and while we don't dislike Disney, there just is more and more that annoys us there over the years in terms of the quality of the experience. I am also the main planner/decision maker and it has gotten to the point where it is just down right exhausting for me and not enjoyable. Having been to both several times over the pandemic and now that things are creeping back to normal we really feel that Universal has been a superior experience. Knowing what I know now (and assuming you are staying Premier at Universal with EP's) I would do Disney first while still fresh and do Universal last. Right now I feel like it is just so much more relaxed and manageable at Universal if you have EP's. As my DH pointed out, why is everything at Disney such an ordeal (after I got up at 6am multiple days to make dining reservations)? Universal is just so easy in comparison.
     

    mlayman7

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 24, 2014
    Every year we do a long family trip where we do Disney and Universal. We have done Universal first on some trips and Disney first on some trips. I would prefer to do Universal last though because like others have mentioned, the proximity of the resorts to the parks and getting back and forth between City Walk and the resorts is just so much more convenient and relaxing at Universal compared to Disney. We love both but get more tired out with the traveling between parks and the resorts and if we want a nice dinner at Disney Springs, the long bus rides. Once you get to Universal after Disney, your feet will appreciate less walking.
     

    Piglet99645

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 27, 2005
    I don’t think there’s a wrong answer here, and what a great problem to have! Lol

    Last time I went (2016) we did both in one trip as follows.

    Because we have a very long flight from Alaska, I booked an on site hotel at Universal for the first few nights so I wouldn’t have to rent a car and drive to our VRBO and get groceries, etc. At the time there were fewer hotels on site and I don’t remember which one we stayed at.

    We did 2 days at Universal then rented our car and moved to our VRBO near Disney. I agree it was nice to do laundry, etc, upon moving. We then had parkhoppers for several days, but ended up driving back to Universal one day to meet friends and use the third day of our Universal passes.

    At the time I think you still had 13 days to use parkhoppers (they have shortened that now I see) so we had the time to do this... but it’s really not a long drive if you want to pop back over to Universal for a bonus day after you move to Disney.
     


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