Feels Like the First Time! A Surprise Universal PTR.

Discussion in 'Universal Studios Trip Reports' started by crabbymom, Dec 3, 2017.

  1. crabbymom

    crabbymom Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess

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    Hi Everyone!! :wave2:

    My name is Rachel and I am planning a surprise trip to Universal for my son when I drive down to pick him up from college in Fort Lauderdale in May. I will be revealing this as his Christmas present while he is home for break in a few weeks!

    While I have been to Disney as recently as last summer, I have not been to Universal since 2012 and that was just a one day add on to our Disney trip. This will be my first planned Universal trip ever and I am so excited for it!

    I wanted to start this PTR so that I could get some input/advice from all the Universal vets here. Also, I have read so many great reports, I really want to throw my hat in the ring! So with out further ado...

    INTRODUCTIONS:

    Again, I am Rachel. I'm 45 (alright, 46 in less than a month), a single mother of two boys ages 19 & 15 and one daughter age 6. This trip will only be me and my older son, Jarod. He's in his second year of college at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. Here's us:

    Paris.jpg

    We love to travel as a family, and I am always the planner, photographer, etc. I try to chronicle our trips on my blog, but I am really far behind at the moment! That pesky work thing keeps getting in the way!

    WHAT I'VE PLANNED SO FAR

    Jarod finishes his exams on May 4 so I will leave Charlotte that afternoon/evening and drive as far as Jacksonville. I will get up early on the 5th, drive the rest of the way to Ft. Lauderdale, pack the car and clean the dorm room. We will spend the night in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday the 5th, get up early on Sunday May 6 and head to Orlando.
    I have booked 4 nights at Cabana Bay Beach Resort and the 3 park 2 day + 2 free day tickets so I am hoping to get some park time in on Sunday when we get there, even if our rooms are not ready yet.
    Also, I am almost positive that I will be upgrading our tickets to AP when we get there. I am undecided on which flavor of AP will be best for us, but with Universal being only a 7 hour drive (only 3 hours for Jarod at school), I feel like we can do some off season weekends that would make it worth the upgrade.

    That is pretty much all I've planned. My most pressing planning issue is how to present this to him as a Christmas present. He turns 20 the week before Christmas, so he's missed the "Hogwarts Letter" acceptance thing. We both love Harry Potter and he LOVES Marvel and Jurassic Park so any suggestions for theme gifts are appreciated. We are also big time foodies so I will take any and all restaurant reviews!

    Thanks for reading and I am so looking forward to planning this surprise trip!
     
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  2. PoohIsHome

    PoohIsHome Wizard momma living in a muggle world.

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    What a great surprise! You could always go with a trio of T-shirts from Harry Potter, Marvel and Jurassic Park as well as a lanyard. You could also print off a park map and a brochure about CBBR.
     
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  4. crabbymom

    crabbymom Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess

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    So I found some awesome shirts that I am going to wrap up for him, one for each day. I also found some for me!

    For Me:

    Slytherin.jpg Because Slytherin

    Clever Girl.jpg @Raeven posted a similar shirt and ever since I have wanted one!!

    JP Margaritaville.jpg This was too funny...but its true that Margaritaville will open a bar in any tourist destination...even Isla Nublar!

    Upside Down Seuss.jpg I just started with Stranger Things, but I love Dr Suess so I thought this was cute!

    For Him:

    Sharknado.jpg Jarod is a B Movie junkie and while I do not get the appeal, I found out that portions of Sharknado 5 were filmed at Cabana Bay Beach Resort so this fit. Plus his college team is the Sharks.

    Ravenclaw Dueling Club.jpg Because he's a Ravenclaw. He is not at all into HP as much as I am, he much prefers the Marvel and JP aspects, but still...ya gotta represent!

    Dead Kool.jpg Deadpool is his favorite character of all time, across all comics.

    DP Chimichanga.jpg Yes...I know its another Deadpool...See comment above!! :goodvibes

    Raptor Trainer.jpg And last but not least, for Jurassic Park

    So those are the shirts I got for the two of us! He comes home on Saturday for the Holiday break and I am so excited!!!
     
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  5. PoohIsHome

    PoohIsHome Wizard momma living in a muggle world.

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    @crabbymom Those are awesome!!

    My DH says that even the casual observer can't help but be overwhelmed and wowed with Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley! Both sections are just so well done...the theming is amazing! Now you've got me to thinking about doing a mother/son trip with my Ravenclaw......

    We were just at Universal over Thanksgiving week....I've got my TR started. :-)
     
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  6. crabbymom

    crabbymom Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess

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    I've been reading your TR...boy did you need that vacation! My DS is an athlete too so I remember those days in the ER, ortho, and of course on the side line ready to have a nervous breakdown! But they love it, what can you do? I try to take one solo trip with each of my kids plus one family trip all together. Who knows how long they'll want to travel wit me so I take advantage of it every chance I get.

    Can't wait to read more about your trip in between planning mine!
     
  7. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    You have 5 more months to read and get an idea about UO

    One thing to do is check out the park maps and where everything is located
    You’ll know where rides, eateries, shops are in advance

    Read about the shows, street entertainment, etc so you can decide what to do or pass on

    Reading trip reports are beneficial
    You learn things that aren’t in any websites

    You have lots of time to be a pro before you get there

    Since you last went to UO in 2012, you
    know some of the basics
    Security has had changes but all parks have that now
     
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  8. crabbymom

    crabbymom Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess

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    Quick question for the Universal Pro's...Dining Plan?? Yes or No? I've had them at Disney and thought that they were totally worth it (we got them on the free dining promo, so free is always worth it!!) but I am not sure about Universal. Our plan is to grab breakfast at the hotel, then lunch in the park. Dinner will be separate and I am planning on getting the refillable cups for both of us. Another plus in my planning list is that it is one more thing that I can pre-pay to minimize the hit in May. So what does everyone think, is it worth it for breakfast & lunch? Thanks!!:flower3:
     
  9. HM

    HM My tag from the Tag Fairy is now too long to use.

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    Dining plan hasn't been something we thought would be worth it at US/IOA.

    I'd look at the restaurant's menus that take it and where you might eat and see if the cost can be justified for what you might order. I think its an entree and drink for the meal, a snack, and a drink for about $23, right? If you mearly like the convenience and don't worry about getting your money's worth, then it may be for you, I guess.

    We also no longer thing Disney Dining plan is worth it either.
     
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  10. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    I have done the counter service dining
    plan and come out saving about $5-6 using it
    The cost of this one is about $23

    I’ll buy it at the 3 B’s or at Louie’s
    And get the high end meal as the plan covers all of them on the menu


    I’ll use the snack coupon for the most high end ones and beverage coupon for water or soda

    I’m there for two weeks and no rush to redeem the coupons right away

    The other dining program I don’t come out ahead, don’t remember what the cost of it is now but my guess about $50??

    What is allowed on it would not be my first choice of food

    Pre paid dining programs don’t draw me in

    Most trips I use the gift cards, charge back to the room or do cash for food
     
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  11. crabbymom

    crabbymom Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess

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    Gift cards are a great idea! Thanks Macraven! That way I can still pre-pay a good amount but not be locked in to only what is allowed. Can you get a couple big denomination cards or is it better to get many smaller denominations?
     
  12. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    I usually buy $50 denomination cards
    And also some $25 ones

    They can be bought online and you can choose the character or picture you want from their selection

    When I buy them at the Kroger grocery stores, I can choose the amount I want them to be

    Those I put $100 on them
    Instead of having to put hotel
    Room charges on my cc, I can pay everything off with gift cards

    Anything left on any of the partially used gift cards, I apply on my hotel room costs the day before I check out

    I stay onsite for 15 nights in the fall
    and have an idea of what I will be buying and the cost of food during the days

    If I have cards left in case I really over bought them, I use them on my shorter trips at UO

    Gift cards do not expire
     
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  13. crabbymom

    crabbymom Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess

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    Well, it's now less than two weeks until I head down to pick up the kiddo. Thanks to @macraven I have been steadily purchasing gift cards to use for food, drink, etc. Thanks to @schumigirl I have found the Holy Grail...The Donut Burger!! We had a place near me that served them, but they closed a couple of years ago, so Schumigirl's tip about Teak was awesome to read!! We will actually be stopping there on Sunday, before we even check in. Since my car will be packed with my son's dorm room, I don't want to drive around too much once I get on site.

    Also, we have had a slight wrench thrown in our plans, my son will be having surgery the Monday after we get home to correct a side effect of a soccer injury suffered a couple of years ago. We are really happy to finally be getting this fixed, but while he has been cleared for all roller coaster type rides, the doctor has said no water slides so Volcano Bay is out for us this trip. :worried:

    My question is about upgrading to AP passes. My understanding is that as long as we have not used our 3 park 4 day passes at VB, we can upgrade to 2 park AP's. Is this correct? Also, any idea when they will post show times? Right now it only goes until May 5. And anybody know why IoA is closing at 6pm on Tuesday May 8th? When I had originally put times down, it was listed at 10pm. No biggie, we can hang at City Walk or something, just curious. Thanks to everyone that writes trip reports...every one helps! And now its time to get excited!!
     
  14. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    Show times should be out by the end of this month for May


    You are correct!

    If you use your present tickets to enter Islands or the Studios, you can go to Guest Services and change to the 2 park AP .

    There is a guest service outside of both parks also but use the one inside the park


    By using the ticket to enter a park, it will update your tickets to current value of the tickets.

    Some people buy
    from UT or somewhere besides UO.
    If you received a discount price on those tickets, that is great for you.
    Might as well get a higher value on them when you convert them to an AP
     
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  15. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    I hope all goes well for your son on the surgery he will have after your vacation.

    Keep us posted how he does after the surgery.
     
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  16. schumigirl

    schumigirl It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts

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    How’d I miss this post!!

    I am so glad you’ll be able to enjoy a doughnut burger.......oh I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!!!

    Your trip is just around the corner now..........and best wishes for your son with his surgery.........
     
  17. crabbymom

    crabbymom Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess

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    Thanks y'all! I am really getting excited now! Hope to post some live pics, but we will see how it goes!
     
  18. crabbymom

    crabbymom Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess

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    Made it to Teak for lunch! Burger was amazing, service was great! Thank you @schumigirl for the tip!!! Worth every calorie!!
     
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  19. pattyw

    pattyw DIS Veteran

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    Love Teak Neighborhood Grill! Went there on Schumi's suggestion! Their au gratin potatoes are to die for!!
     
  20. schumigirl

    schumigirl It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts

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    So glad to hear that you did enjoy it..........:thumbsup2
     
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  21. crabbymom

    crabbymom Slythermom to 2 'claws and a Princess

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    Oh also on @schumigirl suggestion...we just got back from pre-dinner cocktails at Strong Water then dinner and Volcano Bowls at Royal Pacific’s Jakes American. Amazing food and drinks!!
     
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