Just back – 3 days/3 nights with my 3 kids

Discussion in 'Universal Studios Trip Reports' started by KJTex, Jun 7, 2018.

  1. KJTex

    KJTex Earning My Ears

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    Background:



    Family of 5. Mom, Dad, teenage son, and two daughters ages 7-11. This is our third time to Universal. We went last June (trip report here) and last November as well (I lost my trip report, but still want to jot a few key highlights and tips down at some point). This quick trip was late May/early June to celebrate my son’s middle school graduation and my daughter’s elementary school graduation. All 3 trips we stayed at Portofino because I love it there and the rooms are big enough for 5 people to sleep comfortably. This time, we were there for 2 partial days, 2 full days, and 3 nights. I will try to summarize each day and then jot down some overall thoughts at the end. I used the DIS Boards a lot in my trip planning, so hopefully some folks will find my report helpful for them when they start planning too.
     
  2. KJTex

    KJTex Earning My Ears

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    Day 1 – Arrival Day

    Flew Jet Blue. Arrived into MCO at 4:30. Tony Hinds picked us up. He is awesome. So dependable and just one of the nicest guys I have met. We did a quick stop at Publix to buy Dr. Pepper (why don’t the hotels at Universal serve Dr. Pepper?) and arrived at hotel by 5:30. Easy check in. Room 2562 in the Villa building, which was not too far from the club lounge or the pools or the harbor. I thought it was a nice location. We over-looked the quiet pool. Dinner that night at the club was Mexican food. Beef enchiladas, rice and cauliflower. Salad and cheeses of course too. I had a nice glass of Rose wine and my husband had a beer. Done dinner by 6:30 and headed to parks. The boats were not running due to lightning, so we decided to walk it. It was not a bad walk, but about halfway it started to rain. Kids decided to push forward. The good news was that as we were entering the park, there was a mass exodus of people leaving the park (probably because of the rain). We chose Minions as our first stop as we just wanted to get under the overhang to stay dry. It was fun. We then went toward the back of the park and what did we find? Fast and Furious. I totally forgot they were adding that ride. We decide to try it. It was just okay. I thought it was a less-entertaining version on the Kong ride, but my kids liked it okay. This was not a ride we tried to repeat. We then went to Diagon Alley and right as we walked in we got to see the Dragon breathe fire. Cool. We got in line for Escape from Gringotts, but by this point it was already 8pm, so I told the kids they had to choose between this ride or going to KrustyLand. KrustyLand won out. I bought each kid a $25 game card which allowed them to each play 5 games. They are just little red paper cards and they punch a hole each time a game is played. These cards are good at KrustyLand, plus the games at Jurassic park and Toon Town at IoA. And we were told the cards would never expire. I never let the kids do carnival games, so they had a blast. The kids did the fish game first. Pick a fish, they weigh it and then depending on its “weight”, you pick your prize (small, medium, large). Guarantee that you win something. My girls each got a small prize teddy bear, and my son got the medium Bart Simpson. My son and middle daughter each played a game where you throw baseballs at these little figures to knock them down. They each knocked down 1 figure only (out of 3 balls), but that was enough to win a little Maggie doll (a similar sized Maggie doll was at gift store for $21). My youngest then played a balloon game where you throw little sand bags at balloons to try and pop them. They let her keep playing until she knocked down 3 balloons and then let her pick any prize she wanted. She picked a ram. My son also played the game, easily popped all 3 balloons, and picked a sideshow bob hair hat (you can google it to see what it is). My middle daughter and son then placed the water games where you squirt water at a target and try to see which horse can get to the finish line first. My son won and picked Homer doll. We decided to save the rest of the games for another day. We took all of our stuffies and walked back to the hotel. Back at hotel by 9pm to grab dessert in the club. l think it was just cookies left by the time we got there. Grabbed some fruit and water bottles for the room. Fell asleep by 10:30.
     
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  4. Stargazer9

    Stargazer9 Loves Universal and Disney

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    Thanks so much for posting! It sounds like you had a full and fun first day.

    Can't wait to read more! We're arriving Portofino Bay in 9 days.
     
  5. KJTex

    KJTex Earning My Ears

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    Day 2

    Woke up at about 7:30 (later than I wanted) and headed to the Club for breakfast. Fruit, pastries, eggs, potatoes, and bacon. My kids had bacon and fruit. I had a bagel with cream cheese. We left for the parks at 8:30 and arrived by 9AM. We went over to Mummy and rode that a couple of times. We then tried to do escape from Gringotts but we were shut out again because the ride went down and after about 15 min, we got tired of waiting and left the line. We then did MIB twice instead. We took the train over to the Hogsmeade side and arrived at 11:30. I had always wanted to try Three Broomsticks so we went there for lunch. Line was not too bad. We ordered our food right away, waited about 3 min for a table and received the feast which was a great deal. It says it feeds 4, but even with 5 of us, we had food leftover. My only complaint was that they did not have sodas -only butter beer and pumpkin juice and tea – so we all just had water. When we left at 12:30, there was a long line just to order. And the line appeared to be primarily outside with no shade. Yuck!

    After lunch my husband was not feeling well, so went back to the hotel room. The rest of us stayed in Hogsmeade and my daughter used her interactive wand to cast some spells and we all went on the Hippogriff ride. We then did Jurassic Park with no wait time thanks to Express Pass. And we looked at the carnival games in the Jurassic area and at the toon area. My kids said they did not like any of the prizes there, so we skipped most of the games. But then we saw a ball toss game where you could win a baby Groot, so my middle daughter played and won (she just had to get 1 ball in out of 3 in order to win baby Groot). Yay! We rode SpiderMan (also with no wait for Express Pass). We left the park hot and tired at about 2pm and went back to hotel. But on the way back, we made a stop at Voodoo donuts. It was about a 15 min wait and it was so worth it. We bought a dozen donuts and they were all delicious (even the ones we ate a day or two later).

    My husband, the girls and I went down to the club at 5 for dinner (it was Greek food with couscous and fish and vegetable medley) and then left for the parks about 6. We went to the Universal side again and did Escape from Gringotts (and saw the dragon breathe again), ET ride and the Woody Woodpecker coaster. We did a couple more carnival games. My middle daughter won another Maggie with the ball toss game and my younger daughter won a Bart doll doing the fishing game again. Back at the hotel by 8:30, we got dessert in the club lounge and then went down to the pool. It was a glow party. They had beach balls, glow sticks and a DJ playing great music. My kids had a blast swimming. My son had slept through dinner, so he ordered a plate of nachos at the pool which were a great deal since it was so much food!
     
  6. pattyw

    pattyw DIS Veteran

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    Sounds great! Congratulations on the graduations! Can't think of a better place to celebrate! We did the same thing when my boys graduated high school!!

    Portofino Bay is so lovely! We stayed there a few years ago. Now we stay at HRH, but all the hotels are so nice, I'd like to go back and stay at the others on future trips!!

    Glad the kids won some prizes!!
     
  7. KJTex

    KJTex Earning My Ears

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    Day 3

    Kids must have been getting tired as I do not think we even made it down to breakfast at the club before 8:30. I think we got to the park around 9:30 AM and started on the IoA side this time. My older kids rode Hulk, while my youngest and I rode the Storm Force spinning ride next door. Then, we went on to ride Spider-Man again. Next was the Kong ride. The line yesterday for Kong had been like 90 min, so a 40 min line this time seemed small, and being on the Express Pass side, we were through in just about 15 min. I think this ride is well done. Then we walked back to ride Forbidden Journey. We used the child swap, so my olders got to ride twice – once with Dad and once with Mom. My kids love this ride. Me not so much.

    At this point, Dad wanted to go back to hotel, so we said we would walk him out. On the way out, we passed by the toon town carnival games again. The water squirting game where you compete against someone else had added a new prize that they did not have the day before – the unicorn from Despicable Me. It was a perfectly sized one that also folded into a pillow. My youngest was so excited, she had to have it. We waited until the game was clear and then just my son and her played. My son won but got her the unicorn. Our game cards were done by this point and everyone was happy with what they had.

    After that my husband went back to the hotel with the unicorn, and the kids decided it was time to get wet. We changed out of our sneakers and put flip flops and ponchos on. We rode the Ripsaw ride 3 times, Bluto’s Barge twice, then back to Ripsaw for a fourth time. Soaking wet and exhausted, we headed out of the park about 1pm. My kids love Chinese food, so I offered to pick them up some Panda Express at City Walk. Easy to get it to go, $30, and it was a lot of food.



    That evening, my husband stayed back at hotel and the kids and I went back and did Fallon’s Race Through New York, Escape from Gringotts, and the Simpsons ride. My daughter also did some spells in Diagon Alley, and I bought each kid a chocolate frog which they all enjoyed. We stopped at club for dessert again at 8:30 and then quickly changed for another glow party at the pool. They even had this massive bubble/foam area that the kids all got to play in. Another great evening/night.
     
  8. KJTex

    KJTex Earning My Ears

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    Day 4

    Our last day. Why won’t my children wake up early? I got up and got dressed about 7AM. Finally at 8AM, my youngest work up and I convinced her to go to the Club to get breakfast with me. The kids and I left for the parks about 9:15. The older kids went on Mummy and then we all went on Escape from Gringotts. The ride broke down again (or had some other kind of delay), but we waited it out this time and within 10 minutes, the line started moving again. We then went over to the Simpsons area and rode the Twirl N Hurl, and then hit a few gift shops before hustling out of the park to meet my husband for lunch at Toothsome. We had been there before but this time I was a bit disappointed. We pretty much got seated right away at 11:15, but it took over 30 min to get our food and Penelope and the robot never stopped by at our table. I only have a picture of their backs when they visited a table across the way from us. Oh well. By the time our food came, we were in a hurry to get back to our hotel to pack up, so we quickly ate, paid the check and left. No dessert for us this time. At the hotel, we packed, checked out and went down to the Avis counter to rent a car for the next part of our Florida trip -relaxing at the beach. We also spent a day at Kennedy Center after we left Universal. Is there a place to post on DIS Boards about Kennedy Space Center? If no, I will just post to TripAdvisor and also am happy to answer any questions if anyone has any. Plus, stay tuned for my overall thoughts of the trip.
     
  9. KJTex

    KJTex Earning My Ears

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    Overall thoughts:

    Hotel:

    First night, the only room card that worked to open the door was my daughter’s. I went down to the front desk and they re-programmed new cards for all of us. It took a bit because everyone wanted specific cards (Simpsons, Minions, etc…). Next morning none of our cards worked. We did not get a yellow light or red light or anything. Someone from housekeeping saw we were having problems and explained the battery in the door must have failed. Luckily my husband was still in the room, so he let us in so we could change before we left for the parks. But once we all left, we did forget sunglasses and could not get back in the room. Oh well. I texted the hotel and they had the door fixed within the couple of hours while we were at the park that day.

    Housekeeping came to our room both days at about 4pm when we were napping, so we sent them away and we never had housekeeping in the room. By the time we left, garbage and towels were piling up and we were out of toilet paper. I am sure they would have come if I had called them, but for such a short trip I guess we were okay. For Sunday the hotel gave us a 2pm check out, so all was forgiven then. Plus I loved the texting feature. They sent me a text when we checked in and then I texted them back whenever I had a question (example – what was for dinner in the club lounge?) and within minutes they would text back. I even used texting to request my late checkout. And I loved the size of the villa room that we had. Fit all 5 of us comfortably. And the beds are the best! When we checked in, the club lounge paper said that our access to the club lounge would turn off at 11am on day of departure. In reality, it turned off sometime after 12:45 (as my husband was able to get in then to grab a bottle of water). The Avis counter was convenient. We booked through Costco and everything was ready as expected. We were out of there with our rental car in about 10 min.

    Clothing:

    I really made an effort to keep my self more covered this time to try to avoid the sun. Most days, I covered up with a long sleeve pullover like this one. In the evenings, I often wore a dress like this one. The material that Lily Pulitzer uses is so breathable and it was remarkably not too hot to keep my arms covered with these cute clothes. My daughter found the cutest t-shirt at Children’s Place on sale before we left to wear while she was casting spells. Check it out. Definitely a lot cheaper than buying a t-shirt at Universal.

    Lanyards

    The girls and I wore our lanyards from Vera Bradley which I love. They have little zipper pouches, so I can carry ID and cash, in addition to my room key and the club lounge key. My husband and my son wore their lanyards from skiing last winter.

    Souvenirs:

    Besides all the stuffies they won from games, my son bought a “Duff” shirt. It was super soft and he “thinks” he will be able to wear it to school since it does not say beer on it and “Duff” can refer to anything. Hmm, we will see… My middle daughter wanted something special and wanted something Harry Potter-ish. We looked and looked and nothing stood out for her. On the last day, we stopped at the hotel Universal store right before leaving and she found the perfect gift for herself – a beige and purple scarf that was the Maurader’s map. It was subtle enough that she can wear it out anywhere.

    For me, I love Disney souvenirs -things like Dooney & Bourke, Vera Bradley, maybe even some Alex & Ani. But, I have never found anything at Universal that I liked. So, I actually bought myself my souvenirs ahead of time at my local James Avery store. I bought a scooter charm to remind me of the Portofino and a pearl charm to remind me of the beach (the second part of my vacation). They were running a promo so I got a free charm necklace with my 2 charm purchase.


    Parks:

    Even though it was only early June, the parks still felt a tad crowded during the day. Evenings were better. Sunday was not crowded at all, but that was the day we left. Also, I saw lots of families in matching t-shirts, and I used to do that a bit for my Disney trips, but never thought about it for a Universal trip. I thought they were cute and I will probably pursue it for next time. If for no other reason, they make it easier to quickly spot everyone.


    Lockers:

    This was my first trip using lockers and they worked well for us. I never got brave enough to leave my phone in one (I feel naked without my phone and luckily always had pockets), but I put out other stuff in the lockers. Definitely slowed us down a bit (especially at Escape from Gringotts where it was always so busy at the lockers), but not as bad as I had imagined.


    Carnival Games

    I thought they were great to be honest. The kids loved winning the prizes. The folks running the games were super nice and patient. At one point, my son sat down to do a game where you shoot a ball at some cans and the attendant told him that it was one of the hardest games at the park and suggested he try something else if he was really counting on winning something. I thought his honesty was nice. While expensive to play, I think the prizes they won would have cost even more had we tried to purchase something similar in a gift shop. And, I confirmed that you can buy the prizes too. My daughter really wanted this spider pig stuffie from the baseball throwing game, but you had to knock 3 figures over with the 3 balls, and we never quite got that good. We asked, and the attendant told us that we could buy spider big for $15 or trade in the 3 little Maggie dolls for it. $15 for that jumbo spider pig was a great deal in my opinion. And being able to buy a prize is a great option. The only issue with the carnival games is that we won so much stuff that we could not fit it all into our suitcases (we had carry-ons only), so we had to ship them back home
     
  10. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    Thanks for sharing your trip with us!
     
  11. Lynne G

    Lynne G DIS Veteran

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    Great report, thank you for posting it. I have a teen and adult kid. I can usually get the teen up early, the adult one, well, usually meets up with us later in the morning. We do this at Universal and Disney. We'll be staying at the Portofino in August, so I hope the fun pool stuff at night is still happening. I am sure my teen will like it.
     
  12. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    The battery for the room lock, went out for me last year.

    I did the same as you were thinking it was my room key card.

    After another fail trying to get the green light, they knew it was the battery issue.

    Took minutes to have it replaced and then worked fine for the rest of my stay there.
     
  13. ckmiles

    ckmiles Mouseketeer

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    Thank you for sharing your trip! Sounds like you had a great time! The dress you posted is really cute!
     
  14. GracieKam

    GracieKam Earning My Ears

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    Loved your report! And I so understand about trying to get teens up early:sad2:
     

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