It's an epic 16th birthday celebration (TR) - Update 9/1 - Days 3&4 with wrap-up

skier_pete

DIsney-holics Anon
Joined
Aug 17, 2006
Hey everyone! I just wrapped up my last trip report, and decided it was probably time to start working on the next one. We are a small family (myself, DW and DD) and while we like Universal, we LOVE Disney. But we are all big-time Harry Potter fans, so in 2016-2017 we got APs for Universal. We spend February break 2016 at Universal - stayed offsite,and for 2017 February break we went back for 2 days before a Disney trip - using our AP and staying on-site for one night to get the FOTL pass. Here's a couple of pictures from that trip.





We weren't really thinking about going back to Universal this soon, but DD decided that she really wanted to go back for her 16th Birthday present. So while it doesn't fall EXACTLY on her birthday, we are going to travel down to Florida for Memorial Day weekend in 2019.

We picked this weekend for a few reasons:
1) Both DD and myself have 4 days off for the weekend - this is particularly important for DD to be able to not miss school. School in New York state goes until around June 20th, and in high school right before finals is not the time to miss school.

2) I know it will be hot, but maybe not as hot as going in the dead of summer (July/August) which would really be our other choice.

3) Universal is having a ticket sale where you buy a 2-day pass, and you get 2-days free. This is perfect for a 4-day weekend. The sale ends at the end of May. We are going to buy the single park ticket to save money - and spend 2 days in each park.

The other issue of course is the cost. Travel to Florida and park stays for a weekend aren't exactly cheap, and we really had to watch the price for this trip. Because she only made the decision that she wanted to do this in like February - we weren't able to jump on prices for Southwest when they went on sale. We were able to get a semi reasonable air fare rate, but our flights are not great times:

Flying down at 5:15 AM and arrive at 7:45 AM. This is WAY too early - we probably need to get up at 3:30 AM to make this flight. The good news of course is we could even make park opening. The return flight is the opposite problem, where our flight leaves Orlando @ 10:25 PM and gets back home at 1 AM. This may make the next day really rough considering we won't get home unit probably 2 AM. (I may take the day off.)

Past that - we were already at $1600 with airfare and park tickets, so we needed to really look at where we could afford to stay. I looked a little at on-property stay, but really the cost for the holiday weekend was just too high, even at Cabana Bay. Since we have access to timeshare exchanges, I was able to exchange into the Hilton Grand Vacation Club @ Las Palmeras. This location is about 3 miles from Universal, which is plenty close. We were able to get a 1-bedroom unit, allowing DD to have her own sleeping area (sofa bed) and also gives us a kitchen we can use for breakfast.

Best of all, because the cost was so low, I was able to book a 4th night for Monday night. Since our flight doesn't leave until 10:30 PM, we can now leave our stuff at the hotel in the room, and can even come back in the afternoon for a swim if it gets too hot. The actual cost is less than $100 a night using the timeshare points, and the actual fee cost is only $139.

Last up in Transportation. In the end - we just couldn't justify paying for a vehicle. If you think about it, each day we would have to pay for a car rental ($35), parking at the resort ($22) and parking at Universal ($25). So realistically we are looking at $82 per day to have a car. If we use Lyft or Uber, the drive to/from Universal is probably going to be about $12 each way with tip, so even if we go back to the resort for a break every afternoon - we are still looking at $48 in expenses versus $82 for the rental car. Yes, we also have the travel to/from the airport, but it still should be much less than it would be to rent a car. Plus we are expecting to meet up with a friend at least one day, so maybe even less than that.

This leaves us with food and souvenirs as the only remaining expenses. We hope to get to a grocery store / bring some food with us for breakfast so we don't have to buy 3 meals a day. Since it's really only 4 days I am not too worried about food expenses. The only place DD REALLY wants to eat is Toothsome's:


I am going to leave off here - the actual plan for each day is still yet to be determined - we still don't yet know which parks we will do which day.
 
  • iluvet58

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Feb 19, 2019
    What great parents you are. I understand though, we have one son and love to spoil him. Can’t wait to read along about all your plans. And May weather here in Florida is strange. It could be hot or unseasonably cool.
     

    franandaj

    I'm so happy, I could BOUNCE!
    Joined
    Nov 15, 2009
    Sounds like a fun, and slightly expensive trip, but glad you're able to pull it off. For grocery delivery don't forget WeGoShop. I use them for all my grocery deliveries and they're efficient and not too expensive. You give them a list and they charge you a delivery fee and tip, so you can specify brands and sizes of what you want.

    Looking forward to seeing you this summer!
     

    NJlauren

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Nov 6, 2014
    Following along! I really can’t wait to get back to universal.... so excited to hear about the planning and the trip!
     
  • Malia78

    Flotsam and Jetsam
    Joined
    Apr 30, 2012
    Following as I usually do with your trip reports but am going to try to do better with actually commenting as I know that is a source of encouragement to keep on writing these entertaining reports. Will look forward to reading about this Universal trip...hope to make it back there this September.
     

    skier_pete

    DIsney-holics Anon
    Joined
    Aug 17, 2006
    So....was thinking about food yesterday. One of the big differences for us between Disney and Universal is the food. We like to play a game in the car where we go "OK, top 3 things we want to eat in Epcot" or "Top 3 things we want to eat at MK". But, then we play the game at Universal and it goes like this.

    "Top 3 things you want to eat in Universal..."

    1) Butterbeer
    2) Butterbeer Ice Cream
    3)......Um.....

    Yup, we don't find there's really anything to look forward to at Universal outside the Harry Potter Worlds. I mean, the food at the 3 Broomsticks and Leaky Cauldron is OK and at least a little unique, but everything else is just blah burger and chicken fingers. Fine for a day, but not really something that makes me want to eat for 4 days. Some of the stuff in Citywalk seems OK, but we don't always want to have to go out of the parks.

    So - since I have posted this on the Universal boards....anyone out there give me something that's worth my theme park money in Universal. With 4 days to play I certainly am interested in trying something new!
     
  • macraven

    Proud Redhead
    Moderator
    Joined
    Apr 21, 2003
    Quite a few threads on food in the parks, hotels and city walk

    Don’t know where to begin as I have eaten at about all of them over the years
    Probably Louie’s is my present favorite for pizza/Caesar salad or the meatball sub
    Simpson’s ribwich sandwich at least once in my two week stay at uo

    Depending on the menu, Finnegan and
    Lombards has been fine for me

    Only places I have had a burger has been at Hard Rock Cafe in City Walk and at Simpson’s

    There are some eateries I will not eat at for a few reasons
    I base it on 3 strikes and I’m done with them
    Mel’s has been a disappointment for me and others

    I’m of the same opinion as you.
    Potter food eateries were ok but not a repeat for me
    Tried them both a couple of times and call it no more for me
     

    NJlauren

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Nov 6, 2014
    I am of no help on food at universal.... but I am interested to hear what others have to say!
     

    franandaj

    I'm so happy, I could BOUNCE!
    Joined
    Nov 15, 2009
    Well I'm not a lot of help. My most memorable food at Universal was the Donut the size of my head at Lard Lad Donuts! :laughing:

    However I do remember having a decent meal at Finnegans one day. I also remember that we ate at Bumblebee Man's Tacos, and those hit the spot.

    I was going over menus trying to find the other place I remembered to be pretty good. I thought that it was Mythos, but the menu doesn't look familiar. That said, it looks pretty good, I always like a decent Gyro. I saw some other places with Kebabs and such. I like to go for Eastern food (Middle East or Far East) when I'm sick of the normal American or Americanized fare. I'm curious what others say.
     

    skier_pete

    DIsney-holics Anon
    Joined
    Aug 17, 2006
    So with 8 weeks ago it's hard not to think about the trip - but with Universal there is so little to plan in advance it's hard to come up with much. Right now we are expecting to do the following pattern.
    Friday - US / Saturday - IOA / Sunday - US / Saturday - IOA

    But what rides and shows do we want to do. I've listed all the normal attractions in this list. Indications are green as being "must do", yellow as "maybe" and red as "No".

    So - For Universal Studios:

    A Day in the Park with Barney/ Curious George Goes to Town/ Fievel's Playland/ Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster – There’s no interest in spending a 16-year old’s birthday in kiddie land – so we’ll skip right over these.
    Animal Actors On Location! – We saw this once. It wasn’t very good. I asked DD if she wanted to see it again, the answer was “No”.

    Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – I think we’re all a fan of this ride. I would picture riding it at least once, maybe twice.
    E.T. Adventure – Definitely Yes – we haven’t ridden it yet. Both trips previously we considered it but just didn’t do it.
    Fast and Furious - Supercharged – This was not open in the last two trips, so this is definitely a “Yes”.

    Fear Factor Live – Haven’t seen it, no desire to see it, a big-time no.
    Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – Definitely a Yes from me. DW likes it too. DD is the question mark. It scared her a bit the first time she rode it, and then when we went last year she wouldn’t ride it. We’ll see, but this may be a “one and done”.
    Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit – This is a “Dad Only” ride. I definitely want to ride it again though – I think the harness mechanism is kind of scary/doesn’t feel secure, but it’s a fun ride I want to ride at least once.

    Kang & Kodos' Twirl 'n' Hurl – I can’t be bothered with waiting 5 minutes to get on a spinner ride.
    Men in Black: Alien Attack – I think the rest of the family likes this one, I think it’s just OK because I am always like “Really, more spinning! Can’t any ride here just let you sit!” But we’ll definitely do this one.
    Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon – We enjoy the preshow way more than the ride. I am sure we will do this one to get out of the heat at some point.

    Revenge of the Mummy – This one’s probably a no. DD won’t go near it. DW rode it once and “never again”. I like it OK, but not worth a long wait.
    Shrek 4-D – Gonna call this a maybe. It was OK, but the visuals are very tired and I could see skipping this one.
    The Blues Brothers Show – I love the Blues Brothers. Probably depends a little on the heat, but I could watch this show ALL DAY – so it’s a yes for me.
    The Simpsons Ride – I am the only one in the family that liked this ride. I MAY ride it myself, but I’ve ridden it twice and don’t really feel the need to ride again.
    Transformers: The Ride 3D – We only rode this once our first trip. I was getting screen fatigue at the time and was really not excited by it, but I’m kind of curious to see it again with low expectations, so this is a maybe.
    Universal Orlando's Horror Make-Up Show – We missed this both the last two trips. To me this is a definite yes, especially with two entire days in the park.
    Universal Cinematic Celebration - We definitely want to catch this.

    Hogwarts Express – We won’t be doing this because we have no park-to-park. I have nothing against this ride, but having done it both ways twice I don’t ever have to do it again.


    Let's move on to Islands of Adventure.
    Doctor Doom's Fearfall – I would do this one only if someone else in the family did, but no one does, so this is a no.
    Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls – We haven’t done this one since 2000. I really want to do it. DD is saying no (she does not like walking around wet). We’ll see, I think at minimum I want to ride it.
    Flight of the Hippogriff – This is a yes for sure.
    King Kong – This is a “must-do” for DW and I. DD does NOT like the queue and wouldn’t go on the ride after walking through the queue. The queue is worse than the ride though. I think we can get her on it.
    Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – For all the thrill rides they WON’T ride, both DW and DD love this ride. I do to, so I am sure we will do it at least once each of our two days in the park.
    Jurassic Park: The Ride – Another ride that DD really likes, so again, this will probably be a “more than once” ride.

    One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish – Not Likely
    Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges – We rode this once and got drenched. Again, I can really see doing this one but DD is again saying no, so again “we’ll see”
    Poseidon's Fury – We haven’t yet done this – so I am thinking we will try this one. Really the only thing in the park we haven’t done.
    Pteranodon Flyers – OK, we haven’t done this, but pretty sure we can’t even ride it.
    Raptor Encounter - Another thing we keep managing to miss - we'll definitely catch it THIS time!
    Storm Force Accelatron – Wait forgot this one as well – we’ve never ridden it. It’s glorified tea cups. It’s “maybe if the line is short”.
    The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – DD is resisting, but trying to convince her to ride this again. She actually likes Marvel movies, so not sure what makes this bother her so much.
    The Cat In The Hat – That’s a no.
    The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show – EDIT: It's CLOSED - my bad for including it! Wouldn't do it anyways.
    The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride – Um, No. We did this once and I was so bored. Please never again.

    The Incredible Hulk Coaster – I love this coaster. I probably only need to do it once, and it will be me by myself
    Caro–Seuss–el – We’ve never ridden on this – so maybe?


    SO for Universal - we have 11 Yes, 1 Maybe, 6 No. That gives us 11 rides/shows across 2 days, which seems more than reasonable to be able to ride. iOA we get only 8 Yes, 4 Maybe, and 6 No. So even easier to fit in 7 rides/attractions in 2 days in this park. Makes me feel like 4 days is somewhat overkill in these parks, but that's OK. We do like heading back to the resort for a break mid-day, and we don't have any front of the line access. Overall, I think hitting everything we want to this trip will not be an issue at all. In other words, four days is plenty.
     
    Last edited:

    TommyJK

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 12, 2015
    One of my favourite places to eat at IOA is Thunder Falls Terrace. It get's it's name as it's right beside where the boat comes out of Jurassic Park River Adventure. It has a beautiful outdoor shaded terrace where you can sit and watch the boats fly out of JPRA and the food quality is great for quick service. Mainly they specialize in rotisserie chicken and BBQ ribs. Portions have always been quite big to share as well.

    https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/things-to-do/dining/thunder-falls-terrace/menu.html
     

    franandaj

    I'm so happy, I could BOUNCE!
    Joined
    Nov 15, 2009
    Wow there sure are a lot of rides at Universal that I probably can't ride! I've done a few of them and won't be trying them again.

    Sounds like you have a good plan to hit all the rides that you want in a leisurely fashion!
     

    JPinkc

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Sep 9, 2016
    From my checking for our first (real stay onsite) Universal trip, Posideons Adventure and Sinbad are both closed, according to other sites but both still listed on the Universal Website
     

    skier_pete

    DIsney-holics Anon
    Joined
    Aug 17, 2006
    From my checking for our first (real stay onsite) Universal trip, Posideons Adventure and Sinbad are both closed, according to other sites but both still listed on the Universal Website
    I heard that Sinbad had closed - realizing that it was on my list but I shouldn't have included it.

    Poseidon's Fury from what I can tell is still open though. It's certainly still showing up on the touring plans wait time site.

    Wow there sure are a lot of rides at Universal that I probably can't ride! I've done a few of them and won't be trying them again.

    Sounds like you have a good plan to hit all the rides that you want in a leisurely fashion!
    There certainly is a lot of fast, loud and violent rides at Universal!
     

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