First trip August 1-8 and getting nervous

dhardawa

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 2, 2007
I’m a Disney veteran. I know the ins and outs and can plan a trip in my sleep. But, with all the issues Disney is having, I thought we would give Universal a shot. We’re staying at Sapphire Falls and my plan was to get up early, do early entry to try to beat the heat, come back to the resort and swim or head over to Volcano Bay, and then go back to the parks late in the day.

It appears meals are an issue. I had planned to get groceries from somewhere (we won’t have a car) and eat in the room, but I’m thinking we may need to plan lunch there too. What about dinner? I’d love to just do quick service in the parks, but is that an option without a two hour wait? Can we eat at a resort faster? Are there places close to eat? I’m not above grabbing an Uber and running to Applebee’s. It would probably be cheaper anyway.

I know we can take water into the parks and get ice water at quick service, but what is the wait at quick service for water?

How early do we need to get there for early entry? If I need to get there an hour early to save an hour wait for a ride, are we really saving any time? What if I get there right as they open?

I swear, I have thought so many times about cancelling this and booking Disney as usual so I know what I’m doing, but I’m determined to actually see this through.
 

TwoMisfits

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 21, 2002
I’m a Disney veteran. I know the ins and outs and can plan a trip in my sleep. But, with all the issues Disney is having, I thought we would give Universal a shot. We’re staying at Sapphire Falls and my plan was to get up early, do early entry to try to beat the heat, come back to the resort and swim or head over to Volcano Bay, and then go back to the parks late in the day.

It appears meals are an issue. I had planned to get groceries from somewhere (we won’t have a car) and eat in the room, but I’m thinking we may need to plan lunch there too. What about dinner? I’d love to just do quick service in the parks, but is that an option without a two hour wait? Can we eat at a resort faster? Are there places close to eat? I’m not above grabbing an Uber and running to Applebee’s. It would probably be cheaper anyway.

I know we can take water into the parks and get ice water at quick service, but what is the wait at quick service for water?

How early do we need to get there for early entry? If I need to get there an hour early to save an hour wait for a ride, are we really saving any time? What if I get there right as they open?

I swear, I have thought so many times about cancelling this and booking Disney as usual so I know what I’m doing, but I’m determined to actually see this through.
Don't be nervous...Universal is much easier than Disney...

And Universal should be more staffed in August than it is now, so you should have an easier time with meals. That said, nothing wrong with getting lunch items for the room that can fill in as lunch or dinner options, if you have a desire to be more budget-conscious or want to be more relaxed.

As I've given as advice, make City Walk lunch reservations now to have nice meals after park mornings before heading back to your room or to Volcano Bay. City Walk restaurants are great, and priced more competitively than Disney Springs restaurants, so it won't be such a budget suck - and I love Cowfish for a perfect lunch place (b/c you can go heavy or light as the mood strikes you)...
 

TwoMisfits

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 21, 2002
And as for in-park CS, if you eat where others don't want to go, it's not AS bad, even now. Burger Digs had a very reasonable wait in IOA when we hit it at 11:30am one morning...and Marvel Land had almost no wait for Dole Whips ($1 cheaper than Disney)...

If you want Harry Potter food or drinks, just go very early for it...and if you want to eat in Springfield or the Today Cafe, same advice...
 

sandam1

DIS Veteran
Joined
Apr 19, 2016
It appears meals are an issue. I had planned to get groceries from somewhere (we won’t have a car) and eat in the room, but I’m thinking we may need to plan lunch there too. What about dinner? I’d love to just do quick service in the parks, but is that an option without a two hour wait? Can we eat at a resort faster? Are there places close to eat? I’m not above grabbing an Uber and running to Applebee’s. It would probably be cheaper anyway.
As far as groceries, how are you planning on getting from the airport to the hotel. If you use a private car service, most of them include a grocery stop.

I haven't been back to Universal recently (Feb 2020 was my last trip), but one trick that worked for us pre-COVID is to do our daily sit-down meal as late lunch (usually 1ish) at City Walk before heading back to the hotel. Then if we have leftovers, it is easy to take them back to the hotel. Leftovers can make an awesome dinner and/or breakfast. I'll admit that I often order based on what I think will taste best/work well as a leftover. Also, if you are looking for breakfast food or snacks, this is the perfect time to do a mobile order at Voodoo Doughnuts, which will be SLAMMED at park close.

I haven't heard much about the food situation at the hotels, but I would recommend checking out the SF hotel thread and see what information you can gather. We are staying at Cabana Bay and love the food court there. If we can't do our quick dinner after park close without a stupid long wait, I'm going to be sad.
 

DoryGirl1963

Mouseketeer
Joined
Dec 14, 2016
As far as groceries, how are you planning on getting from the airport to the hotel. If you use a private car service, most of them include a grocery stop.

I haven't been back to Universal recently (Feb 2020 was my last trip), but one trick that worked for us pre-COVID is to do our daily sit-down meal as late lunch (usually 1ish) at City Walk before heading back to the hotel. Then if we have leftovers, it is easy to take them back to the hotel. Leftovers can make an awesome dinner and/or breakfast. I'll admit that I often order based on what I think will taste best/work well as a leftover. Also, if you are looking for breakfast food or snacks, this is the perfect time to do a mobile order at Voodoo Doughnuts, which will be SLAMMED at park close.

I haven't heard much about the food situation at the hotels, but I would recommend checking out the SF hotel thread and see what information you can gather. We are staying at Cabana Bay and love the food court there. If we can't do our quick dinner after park close without a stupid long wait, I'm going to be sad.
We stayed at Cabana Bay May 9-14, 2021 - we love CB, too! - & did exactly what you do - big late lunch in Citywalk then hit the Bayliner Diner for dinner each day & had no issues with bad lines at all :) - hope it's the same for you!
 

georgina

DIS Veteran
Joined
Apr 21, 2003
We stayed at Cabana Bay May 9-14, 2021 - we love CB, too! - & did exactly what you do - big late lunch in Citywalk then hit the Bayliner Diner for dinner each day & had no issues with bad lines at all :) - hope it's the same for you!
Completely off-topic, did you visit Volcano Bay during your trip? Just curious if they were checking CB room keys on the way back to CB. They never used to, but I wasn't sure if covid changed anything. I will be offsite part of my next trip and wanted to go to CB after my VB day for dinner.
 
  • DoryGirl1963

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Dec 14, 2016
    Completely off-topic, did you visit Volcano Bay during your trip? Just curious if they were checking CB room keys on the way back to CB. They never used to, but I wasn't sure if covid changed anything. I will be offsite part of my next trip and wanted to go to CB after my VB day for dinner.
    We didn't go to VB but I'd guess you could just use the regular CB lobby entrance if you want to hit the Bayliner Diner - it's open to anyone. Have to have a CB room key to access the pools so that would be a no-go.
     

    bchbetha

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 27, 2016
    While the hotel and parks are close (walking or boat), I think it is a time suck to plan to return to your room just to eat. If you are going back for a break anyway, that's fine. But, I would personally just plan to eat in the park or Citywalk. Just make some reservations. Yes, it isn't the cheap option compared with groceries in your room but...it's vacation. :) And you're paying a heap of money on tickets so maximizing park time gets my vote. :) Just don't discount the transit time as well as the time to go back through ticketing and security.
    Water is out for taking at a lot of places without having to wait in line.
    How many days do you have? You don't have to be a theme park warrior with early mornings every day if you have 3+ days.
    Would you be feeling the same stress and indecision if you were visiting another park in the US? Is it just because you feel like you should be going to Disney since you are in Orlando that you feel reluctant? Like if you were going to Hershey Park, Cedar Point, Dollywood,...would you be wanting to cancel because you didn't have a good feel for what to expect? Universal is just a lot more chill- like those other parks. They just aren't Disney- nor is Universal. If you are able to cast aside the compare and contrast to Disney and get excited about Universal, that would be awesome. :) We're happy to give you reassurance and answers to help you plan a successful, fun trip.
     

    georgina

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 21, 2003
    We didn't go to VB but I'd guess you could just use the regular CB lobby entrance if you want to hit the Bayliner Diner - it's open to anyone. Have to have a CB room key to access the pools so that would be a no-go.
    I will have to park in the City Walk garage, so if I can't walk to CB from VB then I will have to take the bus back to City Walk. Not going to get on a bus back to CB at that point. It will be Oct, maybe will be more normal by then.
     

    sandam1

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 19, 2016
    We stayed at Cabana Bay May 9-14, 2021 - we love CB, too! - & did exactly what you do - big late lunch in Citywalk then hit the Bayliner Diner for dinner each day & had no issues with bad lines at all :) - hope it's the same for you!
    Thanks for the update! Fingers crossed that it stays the same since our trip isn't until September.

    Have to have a CB room key to access the pools so that would be a no-go.
    If I recall correctly, the CB walkway from VB doesn't require you to go through the pool - I'm pretty sure you can walk through the parking area alongside the Americana building to the lobby/diner area. But then again, it's been a while.
     
  • Ross Kratter

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 5, 2019
    I will have to park in the City Walk garage, so if I can't walk to CB from VB then I will have to take the bus back to City Walk. Not going to get on a bus back to CB at that point. It will be Oct, maybe will be more normal by then.
    If you are staying at a Universal resort, you have to pay for parking both at the hotel and at the parks if you drive to the parks. Stick with their transportation or walking paths if you can; you’ll save a ton of money and time.
     

    Bethany10

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2016
    Thanks for the update! Fingers crossed that it stays the same since our trip isn't until September.



    If I recall correctly, the CB walkway from VB doesn't require you to go through the pool - I'm pretty sure you can walk through the parking area alongside the Americana building to the lobby/diner area. But then again, it's been a while.
    Yes, my son and I made the walk a couple of times and while you can divert through the pool area (you need a key) there is a walking path next to the buildings.
     

    Bethany10

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2016
    OP, we did what you're looking at only we stayed at Cabana Bay. Hit the park in the morning, headed back to the hotel at mid day and went to volcano bay in the afternoon. I would agree with the others lunch in Citywalk is a viable option - reservations required for the sit down restaurants. They have some fast options as well, though we didn't try those this last trip. FYI the frozen yogurt place has dole whip if you've got a craving.

    Some of the fast casual places will let you mobile order - Voodoo Donuts is one example. I also discovered the cinnabun coffee frozen concoction that I may have tried to run back for the next day but got stymied by the line for security. Cowfish is a great lunch option. Vivo is an upscale dinner that has been outstanding both times we've eaten there, but a heavy meal and not really good for lunch. We did not hit up bigfire, but many on here like it.
     

    Bethany10

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2016
    How early do we need to get there for early entry? If I need to get there an hour early to save an hour wait for a ride, are we really saving any time? What if I get there right as they open?
    Because you're staying on site the parks will give you one hour early entry. Our experience in early June was that line line for the EE park was huge, so we hopped in the line for the non EE park. By August, the heat and travel "rush" that's happening now may be faded. Also it looks like both parks are offering early entry in June, so by August it may be back down to one or still at both.

    That said, if you show up when they open, either for EE or general public you will be in line behind everyone who either decided to come in early or got there early to stand in line. Plus, you'll need to go through security at Citywalk (can you get a boat from Sapphire? if you can take it! The ride is beautiful and you cut the city walk security line, as the dock is really close to the park entrance.

    In June, with only one park open early lining up at 7:45 for the 9:00 park open (It actually opened at 8:30 and our kids were ON rides by 8:45, meant virtually no wait for the big rides like Hulk and Velocicoaster. I've also heard Hagrids if it's up and running ok is a much shorter wait first thing.

    Comparatively speaking, we went to Disney one day. official park opening was at 9. The time stamp on my phone from inside the park says 8:39. The wait for Smugglers run was 10 minutes when we raced back there. By the time we got off the ride it was at 30 minutes. So there's a lot to be said about getting there early, avoiding the heat of the day and getting in some of the bigger rides with less wait.
     

    WDWRook

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 4, 2016
    That said, if you show up when they open, either for EE or general public you will be in line behind everyone who either decided to come in early or got there early to stand in line. Plus, you'll need to go through security at Citywalk (can you get a boat from Sapphire? if you can take it! The ride is beautiful and you cut the city walk security line, as the dock is really close to the park entrance.
    sorry to hijack. We are staying one night at Pacific. I planned taking the short walk to IOA/US. Is it better to take the boat to skip security at Citywalk?
     

    schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    sorry to hijack. We are staying one night at Pacific. I planned taking the short walk to IOA/US. Is it better to take the boat to skip security at Citywalk?
    You`ll just have security check as you get on the boat if you don`t walk.

    To be honest, the security checks at M`ville are always quick as a flash. Six and half a dozen really.
     

    Bethany10

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2016
    sorry to hijack. We are staying one night at Pacific. I planned taking the short walk to IOA/US. Is it better to take the boat to skip security at Citywalk?
    It's 6 of 1, the walking path and boat path parallel each other. We loved the ease of taking the boat in the mornings, but we're a bunch of sloths and don't do more walking than we have to. The walk looks very easy and totally flat. Depending on the line it's also faster than the boat. You can't go wrong either way.
     


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