BOOM! EXPRESS! No Wait!! A UOR December 2019 TR *COMPLETE* 4/27 x2

khertz

Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!
Joined
Aug 10, 2008
BOOM! EXPRESS! No Wait!!
A December Universal TR

Welcome to another Universal TR! This is my 4th one since 2017 when we started taking Universal-only trips, and it will probably be my last for awhile as we don’t have any more Universal plans for the next couple of years. After 2 fall trips and 1 early summer trip, this time around we were celebrating the holidays! But before we get into how we ended up visiting during Christmas time, let’s go over who was on this trip. Our group had expanded quite a bit from our last few visits!

Up first is me, khertz, your TR narrator!


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by disneymom1024, on Flickr

I take meticulous notes during our trip so that I can put together these TRs when we get home. I’m wife to 1 and mom to 2, and I have done my best to bring up my children as theme park fans like DH & I are! We are definitely a Disney family, but Universal has always been a part of my Disney history, as we have almost always spent some time there during our Disney visits. The two go hand in hand for me, mostly. I work as an RN to fund our trips, and I’m always counting down to the next vacation. My Universal favorites would include Harry Potter, frozen Butterbeer, Transformers, Jurassic Park, and the Brookie sundae dessert at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium.

Next is DH, the photographer of the group.


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by disneymom1024, on Flickr

You’ll find out why the sad face at the end of this TR… lol

He works as an engineer to fund our trips, but he dabbles in photography as a hobby. So he takes 90% of our photos aside from the few I catch on my phone. He loves Disney and Universal as much as I do, so we are a perfect match! Some of his favorites at Universal would include The Simpsons, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Universal’s Horror Makeup Show, and the Marvel superheroes.

DS may look familiar!


He has been our Universal partner in crime for the previous 3 Universal-only trips. He got a little spoiled by getting to go as the only kid since his little sister was too short to ride much. He works hard at school in 3rd grade and in Cub Scouts. Some of his Universal favorites are Harry Potter, casting spells in the Wizarding World, foot long hot dogs at Fast Food Boulevard, Toothless & How to Train Your Dragon, Jurassic Park, and Men In Black.

Rounding out our immediate family is DD.


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by disneymom1024, on Flickr

While technically this wasn’t her first trip (we took her several times as an infant), it was the first time she can actually remember, and the first time she really got to ride and experience a lot of things in the parks. I was a bit worried going in to it that she would be too scared by a lot of the attractions, so you’ll have to stay tuned in to see how she did.

Finally, meet my parents, fondly referred to as Nonni & Poppi.


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by disneymom1024, on Flickr

On our past Universal trips, they kept DD for us while DH, DS, and myself enjoyed the parks. This time, they decided to come with us! We were happy to have them along, and they were happy to go with the flow and join in with whatever we had planned.

Our dates were December 6th-10th. We settled on those dates because we had originally booked for October but realized it would mean missing my cousin’s wedding, which we were all asked to be a part of. So we looked at different times and decided we would love to see the holiday festivities but wanted to avoid holiday crowds, so we settled on a weekend early in the month. DH, DS, and I have APs and we were lucky enough to get the 3 extra months free promotion when we renewed last year, so it made a holiday visit possible! My parents and DD took advantage of the buy 2 days get 3 days free tickets.

We stayed at the Orlando International Resort Club, where we had stayed back in May. All of the units there are 2 bedrooms, so it was plenty of room for the 6 of us, and it was very close to the parks. Although all of our nights were covered at this resort with our Wyndham points, we also booked one night at Royal Pacific Resort on Sunday night to get the benefit of the unlimited express passes for two of our days.

Whew! If you made it through all of that, let’s get to the fun stuff!! Family Vacations Are Universal!
 

khertz

Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!
Joined
Aug 10, 2008
Thursday December 5th
Day 0:
Leaving On a Jet Plane

Friday December 6th
Day 1 Part 1: Seuss Landing
Day 1 Part 2: I Do Not Like Them, Sam I Am
Day 1 Part 3: Jurassic Park Adventures
Day 1 Part 4: I'm Flying!!
Day 1 Part 5: You Will Be Great Minions!
Day 1 Part 6: Cinematic Celebration

Saturday December 7th
Day 2 Part 1: Good Things Come In Pink Boxes
Day 2 Part 2: Put Your Hair In The Air!
Day 2 Part 3: #Family & #The Panda
Day 2 Part 4: Hallo Kitty
Day 2 Part 5: Holiday Photo Fun

Sunday December 8th
Day 3 Part 1: Shutterbuttons
Day 3 Part 2: Welcome to Springfield
Day 3 Part 3: Spider-Man Surprise
Day 3 Part 4: We Like to Move It, Move It!
Day 3 Part 5: Universal Holiday Parade
Day 3 Part 6: Christmas Magic
Day 3 Part 7: Living the Royal Suite Life

Monday December 9th
Day 4 Part 1: Honorary Family!
Day 4 Part 2: Hogwarts, Hulk & Ham
Day 4 Part 3: You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
Day 4 Part 4: Butterbeer & 3 Brothers
Day 4 Part 5: In the Nuthouse
Day 4 Part 6: Holidays at Hogwarts

Tuesday December 10th
Day 5 Part 1:
Hagrid Heartbreak
Day 5 Part 2: That's A Wrap!
 
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  • DLo

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 14, 2006
    Hopping over from your last TR. looking forward to reading more about your adventures.
    I didn’t go to universal until my brother invited me to go with his family a year or so ago and have now gone 3 times plus hoping for another Nov trip this year . Why did I do Disney only for so many years ?? ( well , I thought it was all roller coasters my kids wouldn’t ride ? I have no idea where I got that in my head ?)
     

    khertz

    Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!
    Joined
    Aug 10, 2008
    I'm here! Can't wait to hear about this trip and see how DD fared with it all!
    Thanks for joining in!!

    Joining in!

    Can't wait to hear how the trip went with DD along and how she liked it all!
    Thanks for following along!

    Hopping over from your last TR. looking forward to reading more about your adventures.
    I didn’t go to universal until my brother invited me to go with his family a year or so ago and have now gone 3 times plus hoping for another Nov trip this year . Why did I do Disney only for so many years ?? ( well , I thought it was all roller coasters my kids wouldn’t ride ? I have no idea where I got that in my head ?)
    I kind of feel the same, mostly because while we did visit UOR, we always just tacked on a day or two. Finally deciding to dedicate an entire vacation to it was such a great decision! It allowed us to still have great and fun theme park vacations and explore the parks in a new way during a time when taking WDW trips just wasn't in the budget while we saved for our cruise. I think many people think the same that it's nothing but thrill rides and roller coasters, and it really isn't!
     

    DLo

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 14, 2006
    I also like the not having to plan so much and the express tickets . I still love WDW - sept trip planned - but it is a nice break to not have to worry so much . I think you can get a lot more done in a shorter period of time plus with the parks and city walk being so close to each other so much more convenient ( bonus very little travel time between venues )
     
  • amazingact21

    Upendi
    Joined
    Nov 6, 2010
    I'm here! Can't wait to hear how this trip went. Oh my goodness, DD looks so grown up now! I'm really interested in hearing how she liked Universal. Alex and I can't decide when we should take the kids back there. I feel like Evie's still a little too young but maybe I'll read your report and change my mind. :rotfl:
     

    khertz

    Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!
    Joined
    Aug 10, 2008
    I also like the not having to plan so much and the express tickets . I still love WDW - sept trip planned - but it is a nice break to not have to worry so much . I think you can get a lot more done in a shorter period of time plus with the parks and city walk being so close to each other so much more convenient ( bonus very little travel time between venues )
    You are so right! I haven't planned a Disney trip in a long time, and we go in a few weeks and it's honestly giving me way more anxiety than I ever remember. After several trips to Universal and one to Disneyland which is so similar in its relaxed style, I have gotten a bit spoiled to being able to just show up and have fun!

    I'm here! Can't wait to hear how this trip went. Oh my goodness, DD looks so grown up now! I'm really interested in hearing how she liked Universal. Alex and I can't decide when we should take the kids back there. I feel like Evie's still a little too young but maybe I'll read your report and change my mind. :rotfl:
    It was definitely a different experience this time around having DD along with us! I struggled with it a bit, but since we had renewed our APs and wanted to get good use out of them, two trips just made sense. And with her having to miss school anyway by now, it didn't seem smart to leave her home with my parents and miss school for nothing, really. So we took the plunge and decided it was time to bring her!
     
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    khertz

    Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!
    Joined
    Aug 10, 2008
    Day 0: Thursday December 5th

    On our departure day, the kids went to school as usual, but DH and I had taken the day off of work so that we could finish up packing and loading the car. The plan was to get the kids from school around 12:30 and make the 2 hour drive to New Orleans to meet up with my parents at my grandmother’s house. She lives near the airport and was okay with us leaving our vehicles there while we were gone, so that we could Lyft to the airport and not have to pay for parking while we were away. We made really good time on the road, and both kids even took naps on the way.


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    DH and I were excited and happy to be starting our vacation, and thrilled that the drive went so smoothly. The kids did so great.


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    My dad decided to take over booking the Lyft for us since he’d never used it before so he could sign up for discounted rides. He tried to use the feature to schedule a ride in advance for 4 pm, but said he got an alert that his driver was on the way immediately. He had to cancel that one, then book one for 4 pm. We got to my grandmother’s house and had some time to let the kids change clothes and relax a bit before our ride got there. The driver that had originally been coming and had to be cancelled was in a big Suburban, and the one that ended up coming was in a Mazda CX-9. I’m pretty sure we looked like we were piling into a clown car considering there were six of us, each with a carry on suitcase and a backpack, plus an umbrella stroller, a kid in a car seat, and one in a booster seat. But we all made it in and to Louis Armstrong International Airport.

    The airport had been entirely revamped and a new terminal built, which opened just a few weeks before our trip. I was a bit nervous that everything was so brand new and unfamiliar, but it ended up being great. They went from having multiple security locations to just one, but it was really huge and moved quickly. There was a separate line for families with strollers and people in wheelchairs, which was nice so we didn’t feel quite so rushed. Another positive was that once we got through, there were so many more options for food while waiting for our flight than there used to be.

    We got Chick Fil A for dinner and ate at the gate, then had time for a bathroom break and they were boarding as we came out, so we hurried on to the plane. DS sat with my parents, and DH, DD, and I sat in the row across from them.



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    Originally, our flight had been at 9 pm with an arrival in Orlando close to 11 pm, and I had kind of been dreading traveling that late at night with the kids. A few months after we booked, they ended up moving our flight time up to 6:25 pm instead, which meant the kids had to miss more school, but it meant we weren’t arriving quite so late so I was okay with that.

    We landed about an hour and 15 minutes later, and we lost an hour, so it was 8:45 or so when we got on the ground and a little later than that we were greeted with our first glimpse of Christmas!



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    We had to take the monorail over to the other side of the terminal and go across the street to the garage to pick up our rental car.


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    Luckily we were able to skip the counter which was nice and save a little time, but it was after 9 pm when we had our minivan loaded up and ready to go.


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    We arrived at Orlando International Resort Club where we had first stayed just a few months before when we visited in May. All of the units there are 2 bedrooms, with a master bedroom and second bedroom with 2 twin beds, plus a sleeper sofa. The units on the first floor are all spread out on that one floor, while the second floor units are actually two story units with the bedrooms upstairs. We had stayed in one of the two story units in May and it was so much space that we requested it again for this trip since we’d have two extra people so the 3rd bathroom was nice. We had discussed the sleeping arrangements with my parents beforehand and they had decided they’d rather take the sleeper sofa so they could basically have the whole first floor to themselves and not have to worry about waking us or the kids if they stayed up later or woke up earlier.

    Once we had checked in and unloaded the luggage, my dad and DH headed out to grocery shop while my mom helped me get the kids bathed and ready for bed. We knew it would be a late night, and we didn’t end up getting into bed until close to midnight, but at least we had gotten in earlier than we’d originally been planning on. I can’t even imagine how late we’d have all gotten to bed had we not landed until 11 pm! So while we didn’t set any alarms and figured we’d take our time in the morning getting ready and heading into a park, at least our day wouldn’t be as shot as it might have been had we gotten in and to bed even later!

    Continued in next post...
     
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    khertz

    Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!
    Joined
    Aug 10, 2008
    Day 1: Friday December 6th

    Since we’d gotten in and to bed so late the night before, we weren’t in a rush to get up and moving this morning. Unfortunately for my parents, the kids were up at 7:20 am and the first thing they did was clomp down the stairs to wake them up on the sofa bed. It was fortunate for us though, because we were able to sleep in until after 8 am! My dad had gone to town cooking all of the breakfast stuff he had bought so we could just keep it in the fridge and reheat in the mornings. The kids had already eaten too. He made some pancakes, sausage, and scrambled eggs.

    Although we weren’t rushing, we did have a pretty rough start to the day. My mom has a chronic issue that hasn’t flared up in years, and decided to flare up once we arrived, so she was struggling with that this morning and wondering if she should even join us at the parks or stay at the resort and rest.

    Meanwhile, DH had realized he had forgotten to pack the charger for his camera battery. Since we were just sitting around, he was searching online, but the only options he could find was one from Amazon Prime that was only $10 but wouldn’t be there until Monday, or a $50 one from Best Buy. I ended up mentioning to my mom what was going on when she realized he was not in a great mood, and she insisted on chipping in for half if he decided to go buy one because she said they had not brought their own camera because they were counting on having his photos, and because they were staying at the resort for free because we had used our points to book it. He begrudgingly agreed to go that route, and ordered it online so all he’d have to go was go pick it up that evening.

    We were finally ready to leave around 10 am, and we drove over to the parking garage. My mom ended up deciding to come with us anyway and just hope she would start feeling better as the day went on.

    The first of many times making the trek through the parking garage…



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    by disneymom1024, on Flickr

    I have no pictures of us really getting in and settled into the park, but we did a few things as soon as we entered Islands of Adventure. I stopped at the photo store at the front of the park to activate our My Universal Photos package. We had enjoyed using it so much after getting it for free on our May trip, and just happened to see that the 5 day package was on sale right when we went home from that trip, so we decided to purchase it and split the cost with my parents. They gave me a card on a lanyard to use to collect our photos, which was good because I had forgotten to pack my good lanyard this time!

    Next, we stopped inside the Port of Entry Christmas store to get a map for the Christmas Tree Hunt they had going on during the holidays. The map had 14 locations (6 in each park and 2 in City Walk) where you had to find the Christmas tree, get your map stamped, and once you had all 14 stamps, you get a free gift! We decided to get one map for each kid, one for me & DH, and one for my parents. Then, DH stopped at Croissant Moon Bakery to get our cup activated for the day!

    We went over to Seuss Landing to get our first Icee of the trip.



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    Cat in the Hat had a short wait, so we decided it may as well be DD’s first ride at Universal Orlando! While in the short line, we discovered she REALLY liked Coke Icees.


    Soon enough, we had boarded a ride vehicle, and she was so excited!


    We asked her what she thought of her first ride, and got an enthusiastic thumbs up from DD.


    Next they wanted to ride One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. I waffled over wanting to ride or not, but ultimately decided I didn’t want to chance getting wet, so I sat out with the stuff while everyone else went on it.


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    When they all came off much wetter than they had expected to be, I was very happy that I had decided against riding!! Then we went over to ride the Carou-Seuss-El.


    DD was really enjoying Seuss Landing, which was a great way to get her welcomed into Universal Orlando! She was loving everything there. Both kids enjoyed seeing the Lorax area decorated for the holidays, and we saw some Whos wandering around the streets.


    There was a huge line to meet the Grinch, but right nearby was the Cat in the Hat with hardly anyone around, so we went over to meet him.


    There was a Tree Hunt location inside the store where the Grinch was meeting, so we went inside to get another stamp on our maps.


    UP NEXT: I Do Not Like Them, Sam I Am!
     
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  • macraven

    Proud Redhead
    Moderator
    Joined
    Apr 21, 2003
    I’m glad your husband bought the battery charger !

    So many great pictures you are sharing with us!
     

    missangelalexis

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 27, 2012
    Glad your travel day was a smooth one!

    Ugh sorry to hear your mom wasn't doing well the next morning :( Followed by DH not having his battery charger, it sounds like a rough start! But glad your mom ended up forcing him to buy one!

    Aww DD looks so excited on Cat in the Hat! And I like that she got into the icees early :rotfl:

    Looks like everyone was having a blast in Seuss Landing!
     

    afwdwfan

    DIS Dad #460
    Joined
    Apr 23, 2010
    The driver that had originally been coming and had to be cancelled was in a big Suburban, and the one that ended up coming was in a Mazda CX-9. I’m pretty sure we looked like we were piling into a clown car considering there were six of us, each with a carry on suitcase and a backpack, plus an umbrella stroller, a kid in a car seat, and one in a booster seat. But we all made it in and to Louis Armstrong International Airport.
    Did they have to pull a UHaul to load everything?
    Once we had checked in and unloaded the luggage, my dad and DH headed out to grocery shop while my mom helped me get the kids bathed and ready for bed. We knew it would be a late night, and we didn’t end up getting into bed until close to midnight, but at least we had gotten in earlier than we’d originally been planning on. I can’t even imagine how late we’d have all gotten to bed had we not landed until 11 pm!
    Really, that's not too bad with getting there and getting things settled in. Good thing it worked out that you could get an earlier flight.
    Meanwhile, DH had realized he had forgotten to pack the charger for his camera battery. Since we were just sitting around, he was searching online, but the only options he could find was one from Amazon Prime that was only $10 but wouldn’t be there until Monday, or a $50 one from Best Buy.
    That seems like the way Prime always works. Need something right away, and it takes 2 - 3 days or doesn't qualify for Prime. Need something random that isn't urgent and it will be there in 2 hours. I'm glad you were able to figure something out.
    While in the short line, we discovered she REALLY liked Coke Icees.
    Well, of course she did!!!!
    We asked her what she thought of her first ride, and got an enthusiastic thumbs up from DD.
    That's great! And holy cow, she's really growing up!
     

    jnjusoioa

    I fell in love with DLR, whats not to love. Fantas
    Joined
    Jul 26, 2004
    Great start so far, awesome Seuss Landing photos, looks like your DD is really enjoying herself so far.
     

    christophfam

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 11, 2002
    Looks like a wonderful start! Such sweet smiles on your children’s faces. I so miss those days! Looking forward to reading more.
     

    khertz

    Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!
    Joined
    Aug 10, 2008
    I’m glad your husband bought the battery charger !

    So many great pictures you are sharing with us!
    I know he wasn't happy to spend the money, but I was happy he did too. We were all counting on his pictures!

    Glad your travel day was a smooth one!

    Ugh sorry to hear your mom wasn't doing well the next morning :( Followed by DH not having his battery charger, it sounds like a rough start! But glad your mom ended up forcing him to buy one!

    Aww DD looks so excited on Cat in the Hat! And I like that she got into the icees early :rotfl:

    Looks like everyone was having a blast in Seuss Landing!
    That first morning was definitely a little rough, so I'm glad we were on a more relaxed vacation to start with, and that we didn't really have anywhere to be that morning. Had this been a Disney trip, I think that slow morning with so many issues might have made for a much more stressful start to the vacation.

    She was ALL IN on those Icees! Lol Didn't matter the flavor either!!

    Did they have to pull a UHaul to load everything?
    Honestly one would have been nice. :rotfl:We had suitcases piled up in the back, so thankfully the driver had pulled up on the curb and not in the driveway because he couldn't have seen out his rearview mirror! DH was squished between the car seats in the back and I think I had a suitcase on my lap. My grandma was watching them load up and shaking her head saying, "No way are y'all all gonna fit!"

    Really, that's not too bad with getting there and getting things settled in. Good thing it worked out that you could get an earlier flight.
    The flight getting pushed up had stressed me out at first, but in the end I think it was for the best.

    That seems like the way Prime always works. Need something right away, and it takes 2 - 3 days or doesn't qualify for Prime. Need something random that isn't urgent and it will be there in 2 hours. I'm glad you were able to figure something out.
    Right!? It was incredibly frustrating, and although it was much more expensive I'm glad we had another option available.

    Well, of course she did!!!!
    Yep, she is one of us after all!

    That's great! And holy cow, she's really growing up!
    I know. :sad:


    Great start so far, awesome Seuss Landing photos, looks like your DD is really enjoying herself so far.
    I think it was the perfect way to start her off with some of the tamer rides first before diving into anything more thrilling.

    Looks like a wonderful start! Such sweet smiles on your children’s faces. I so miss those days! Looking forward to reading more.
    Thanks so much for joining in! It's really the best to see all of this through their eyes! :lovestruc
     

    Terra Nova guy

    DIS Dad #811 Newfoundland, Canada
    Joined
    Nov 11, 2014
    Hello! Wow , I really got behind on the boards. I started a new job back in December so I've been putting in a lot of hours, on top of the holidays. Things are just starting to get back to normal for me now.
    Anyway, I did finish reading your last TR and I'm joining in for this one.
     

    Wayland10

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 30, 2018
    First of all, your family is adorable! I'm planning our first visit to Universal, and I really appreciate your photos. I haven't seen some of these rides before and it's really helpful! Also, I've seen this before and I want to make sure I've got it right - refillable cups include slushies?!? My kids will be heaven!
     

    amazingact21

    Upendi
    Joined
    Nov 6, 2010
    Glad the drive and flight were uneventful! It's always a relief when that portion of the trip has nothing notable to report.

    Ahhh, kids and their grandparents. They can't resist waking them up. :rotfl:


    Am I the only one amused to see DD join in on the iccee enjoyment? I mean, it's sort of a tradition at this point. :laughing:
     

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