Just got back from our first Universal Trip!!!!

Discussion in 'Universal Studios Trip Reports' started by Carnut12, Feb 24, 2018.

  1. Carnut12

    Carnut12 Earning My Ears

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    As the title states we just got back from 5 days at Disney followed by 3 (3 day park to park passes) at Universal. We have been to Disney several times, but this was our First trip to Universal as a family.

    It was an absolute blast, we loved it. We are a family of 5 (Twin 12 year old boys and a 8 year old girl).

    We stayed at RPR in a Club Room, the Club option worked out well for us, we took advantage of breakfast before we left and dessert each night as well when we got back. One day we took advantage of the mid-day snacks when we came back and hung at the pool for a few hours, in addition we brought snacks and drinks down to our room to have. I only have 2 things I would have liked better about RPR, one is the rooms are rather small, about the size of a regular Hampton Inn, maybe even smaller. Second is we ended up on the 6th floor when most Club Rooms are 7th, that was a slight inconvenience going up and down, I would request 7th floor next time for sure. The Club Room was NOT cheap (About $500 a night), BUT with a family of 5 it included 5 Express passes for all 3 days and we only stayed at the RPR 2 nights, I had originally booked 3 nights, but thanks to this forum I saved $500 and booked a Hilton with points the night before I flew out, this forum made me aware you could go to the Hotel at 7am and get your keys and utilize them for Express Pass on the day you Checked in as well as the day you checked out. So between the Express Pass, Food, and being able to walk to the Parks I thought the $500 was well worth it. Keep in mind $500 was due to being a Holiday week, based on what I have seen it is usually cheaper then that.

    The parks were amazing, I did not realize how many of the rides were Virtual, I have to admit both my wife and I were Virtual Rided out by the 3rd day, after a few of them each day they definitely gave us the start of motion sickness, we thought about taking some Dramamine, but forgot the last day, does anyone know if this would help? It did not seem to bother the kids as much. With the Express Pass our average wait was between 5-10 minutes, in many cases it was even less. We loved all of the rides, the Harry Potter was probably our favorite, but I was also surprised how much I liked King Kong. We went to Mardi Gras 2 nights and it was a blast, the kids Loved it!!!! It was a great way to end the night and I enjoyed the fact the parks closed with enough time to relax before starting the next day.

    Food Reviews- We ended up doing 3 lunches at the park, we started with 3 Broomsticks and I was blown away with the quality of food for the cost, we got the Feast for 4 and my daughter got a kids meal. The restaurant was very cool to look around and it was extremely organized compared to anything at Disney. The "Feast" was Amazing, this will be on our list every time we visit going forward. I am used to everything being Fried at quick serves, this was far from it, Highly Recommended!!! Our next lunch was at Cowfish and it was equally amazing, once again our expectations were exceeded. We went during prime time for lunch and had Zero wait time, I noticed with all the restaurants around you do not have to wait like you do at Disney, BIG win IMO. Everyone gloated about what they ordered at Cowfish and the service was excellent, I ordered the Sushi American Cheeseburger meal and it was Outstanding!!! The Kids meals were fantastic for the price, the carrots and apples for example appeared to be freshly cut, by comparison in Disney they come in little prepackaged bags. The last place we had lunch was Leaky Cauldron, I ordered the beef stew in the bread bowl. Honestly I think it was OK, but my expectations were set at 3 Broomsticks and I do not think the food at LC compared to 3 Broomsticks. I was hoping they had a similar "Family Feast", but it appears they only do so during the Thanksgiving/Christmas Holiday time period. We did like the setting and the service was fantastic, as stated above MUCH more organized then anything at Disney. The last place we ate on at the parks (Besides Snacks) was The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, we only ordered dessert here. Oh my gosh it was absolutely incredible. The kids all ordered shakes and they all said it was the best ones they have ever had, my wife and I shared a triple chocolate brownie sundae they we could not finish between the 2 of us. We will absolutely return here for dessert, next time we will probably order 2-3 sundae dishes to share, they all look so good, the most difficult part was picking one. We also ordered Butter Beer, it was Fantastic, I ordered the Frozen and the kids the Cold, I preferred mine. Last quick note on food is I enjoy a nice salted pretzel, it is my "Go To" snack, the ones at Universal blow away Mickey Pretzels, they are not as big, but they were Hot and Fresh and had a good amount of salt on them. The ones at Disney do not taste as fresh and rarely have enough salt on them.

    Quick comparison to Disney- They are MUCH different parks, I do not think it would be fair to pick one over the other. I enjoy shows and I have to say Disney Shows blow away Universal. But from a pure ride standpoint I give the edge to Universal. From a food standpoint Universal blows Disney away, the only exception I would give is Epcot due to the countries, but then you are paying a significant amount more to eat at those restaurants. Universal appears to be more organized as well, I thought they handled lines much better, same with bag checks. They were MUCH more organized at the food places, one thing i dread about Disney is going to eat. A quick example is our last day at Disney we were at Animal Kingdom, I ordered my food online (I do LOVE this option) and waited to be called. My wife and kids went to find a table and 50% of them were being saved, in Universal they make it so this is not possible, you have to have your food to sit and eat. This may seem small, but to me it makes a big difference, you not only get your table promptly, but while you are eating you do not have to deal with the crowds of people wandering around trying to scarf up a table for someone that just got on line.

    Sorry for the long winded post, I could keep going, but I will end with this- We upgraded our 3 day passes to AP Power passes before we left and we intend to start planning our next trip soon!!! We will skip Disney for a few years and stick with Universal for now........

    My last comment is THANK YOU!!! to those on this forum, my trip would not have been nearly as fun and well planned out if not for this forum and more importantly the people on this forum, I hope I can help pay that forward to others with questions.
     
  2. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    Now that you have spent time at the darkside, you’re a pro !

    I’m glad you returned here to share your experiences with the readers here

    I’m with you on the 3B’s being a fine place to eat
    I prefer it over LC like you did

    Enjoy those new ap’s you have
    I’m sure you will put them to good use
     
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  4. schumigirl

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

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    What a lovely review!

    So glad to hear you enjoyed so many things about Universal and the hotel. And so glad you came back to tell us all about it.......

    Really enjoyed reading your review, especially as a first timer to Universal........and it wasn’t long winded at all....we like details on these boards!

    Nice to hear you plan to go back too.........and congrats on getting AP’s!
     
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  5. mjhtvchick

    mjhtvchick DIS Veteran

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    Great review! Made me even more excited for my May trip - we have Three Broomsticks and Toothsome on our list of restaurants to visit and I can't wait! :)
     
  6. Carnut12

    Carnut12 Earning My Ears

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    Thank you all, by the way we got a little lucky, my twin boys were chosen at Ollivanders and my son Ryan was chosen at Poseidon's Fury. At Disney my daughter was chosen to be the Beast at Beauty and the Beast, she was also the Spy at Star Tours. They all thought it was so cool to get chosen.
     
  7. prairiesarah

    prairiesarah Mouseketeer

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    Thank you for sharing - we're taking our first trip in 12 days and I'm beyond excited. Really enjoy reading reviews and trip reports like yours. We're travelling with our 12 year old son and thinking this is a great age to take him to Universal (well again for him but first time for us as he went with his aunt and uncle on our last trip to Orlando).
     
  8. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    I bet this is a trip the kids will never forget !

    Thrilling events for them


    Hope you had a camera with you to capture those special memories
     
  9. bobbie68

    bobbie68 DIS Veteran

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    Hi thanks for sharing your report. I love reading trip reports on Universal. Glad you had a great time and what wonderful memories for your children. You will have many more happy trips to Universal.
     
  10. schumigirl

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

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    How fabulous they were chosen for all those things........they must have been thrilled ::yes::
     
  11. wilma-bride

    wilma-bride <<This space intentionally blank>> Moderator

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    What a great first trip. We absolutely love Universal, it has many advantages over Disney to us. the on-site privileges, I think, are second to none. I agree with you about the food at Leaky Cauldron, compared to Three Broomsticks. The Toad in the Hole there is nothing like any Toad in the Hole I have ever seen - and I'm pretty sure 'we' invented it!

    Yay for another trip in the future!
     
  12. Meg_G_16

    Meg_G_16 Earning My Ears

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    I loved reading your review, but I'll admit it makes me nervous. I have been to Universal several times in the last few years, but havent been to Disney in years. I have been looking forward to when I have the budget to go back to Disney, but worry that I'll be disappointed for all of the reasons you mentioned (lines, chaos, etc)!!

    Also, never tried Dramanine but I agree all the motion rides get old after a few days.
     
  13. Owlpost23

    Owlpost23 DIS Veteran

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    So glad to hear about your fabulous trip to the Dark Side! You found out why so many of us love Universal!Looking forward to hearing about your future Universal adventures.
     
  14. GoldmanTrust

    GoldmanTrust Mouseketeer

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    Great review, thanks for sharing your experience. We have done Universal for a few years in a row and will be returning in September this year.

    We did MNSSHP at Magic Kingdom, to get the Disney vibe as well. I recommend that option. Tickets are cheaper, and it is a cool and different experience.

    And i agree with you about this forum. The knowledge and the kindness here is extraordinary. Im really thankful for being a part of this community.
     
  15. Spencer Wright

    Spencer Wright Constantly craving a zebra dome...

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    I appreciate you sharing your experience! I am thinking about trying Universal for a couple of days in my 2019 trip, and positive reports such as this will really help convince my family.

    One common theme I have heard from other visitors is that Universal is very efficient and streamlined. This is absolutely a huge plus.

    In terms of overall tickets and accomedations, are you comfortable sharing how large the price gap might have been, as opposed to Disney?
     
  16. Carnut12

    Carnut12 Earning My Ears

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    It is hard to compare Disney and Universal, I would say as soon as you get to 3-4 days at Universal you are better off getting an Annual Pass. The AP at Universal is MUCH cheaper then Disney, but a 3 day pass is actually MORE at Universal then Disney. I bought my 3 day 2-Park tickets from Undercover Tourist, after doing so I did more research and ended up upgrading to a AP while I was at the park. It only costs me $60 per person to upgrade and I am visiting again next year so it will more then pay for itself plus with the AP you get discounts on the Universal Hotels as well. As far as the Hotels are concerned where I stayed at Universal was more expensive then Disney, BUT you also get a lot more. I got a Club Room (About $500 a night because it was Presidents Day week) so we ate breakfast each morning for free and we also took advantage of snacks and drinks that we brought back to the room, in addition we went to the late dessert each night and I had a few beers, this all comes with the Club Room. Also there is something to be said for being walking distance to the parks, that was absolutely worth it. ALSO I got express for the 5 of us, that alone makes the extra cost worth it IMO. One last huge benefit was I stayed at a local Doubletree the night before we went to the parks, I woke up early and went to RPR to get our room keys and head to the parks. Because of this I only had to stay at RPR 2 nights to get 3 full days of express pass.

    If I were to do it all over I would've gotten the AP from the start, then I would've saved around $150 a night on my room each night, but I did not know at the time. I am probably spoiled now so I fully intend to stay at one of the 3 resorts that include Express Pass again next year.

    Ask any other questions you may have, I will answer the best I can.

    Just thought of one more benefit specifically for families of 5. At Disney a family of 5 can not stay in most regular rooms, you have to upgrade, there is no way around it (That I am aware of), at Universal they allow 5 in a room with 2 beds, they bring you a rolling bed if requested for an extra cost, but we did not request one, my 3 kids are still young enough to sleep in one bed or my daughter joins us.
     
  17. Mousefan mom

    Mousefan mom Mouseketeer

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    Lots of great info here. We are taking our last Disney trip as AP this summer, then plan to take a Disney break. I really love Disney but the costs have gotten so high, and with the new parking fee, we were just turned off. We had always been critical of Universal for having lots of little fees that seem to add up..but really Disney is doing that now too.

    Here is a question...we generally like to go for a week and just relax. We enjoy staying on property. However, is there enough to "do" at Universal for a week? What are some other options? I've been given the impression its only a 3 day vacation...would love to hear feedback on that.
     
  18. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    I always liked that UO hotels only charged those with cars for the parking and not have it hidden in the room fees.
    The times I do drive to Orlando, I pay for hotel parking but not at disney
    Nice while that lasted.

    If you have a 3 day trip, you can stay busy during that time.
    You have the parks and can cover them in a couple of days depending on if you do a majority of the rides.
    If you are a Potter fan, lots to explore at both of them.
    The shows are timed and it can take time to see all of them at Potter.
    Street entertainment is fun if you have the time to watch.
    Blues Brothers, Beat, Marilyn Monroe singing skit, singing skit presentation near central park/Finnegans alley way, character meets, etc
    It is listed on the park guide maps.

    Indoor set show time shows are fun.
    (Horror Make Up show, Animal Actors on Parade)
    It will take a good 30 minutes of your time that day.
    Line up for the show, be seated and have a decent 15+ show time

    And IOA also has entertainment in the parks.

    Besides the parks, you can explore City Walk, check out the hotels, hit the cinema or mini golf in City Walk.
    They are open until 2:00 am daily.

    Saturdays RPH has a fire dancer, hula girls mini show the pool area.
    It is held outside Tower 3 bulding in that pool area
    PBH has the opera singers at dusk each night.
    Cabana Bay has bowling anytime.
    Adventura hotel has the rooftop bar

    There are always the pools to lounge by.
    Games are done during the day.
    Even adults have a chance with the games and the prizes are drinks.

    Pool hopping is allowed to any of the hotel pools is you are a registered guest at one of them.

    Check the UO website to see what rides, shows, entertainment is listed
    Make tenative plans on what rides/shows, you do want to see.

    Do a few walk thrus for the gift shops.
    Do check out the sweet shop section at the end of the Universal Store in the studios.
    (also main store at IOA)

    Some of the shops at IOA are unique such as the Christmas Store.

    I believe you can fill your time of the 2.5 days easily.

    Rising Star at City Walk is one club I have found good some nights
    All depends on who is singing

    www.citywalk.com
     
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  19. Carnut12

    Carnut12 Earning My Ears

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    If you are going for a week with the intention to relax I think you can make it a trip longer then 3 days. We did 3 days, the first day we did the parks the full day because we wanted to get to as much as possible. The second day was more enjoyable because we did 3-4 hours in the morning, then 3 hours or so back at the hotel pool area, followed by 2-3 more hours at the park. With that type of agenda I think you could easily go 5-6 days and it would be a fantastic vacation. Also there are so many great places to eat I couldn’t make it to all of them, extending to 5-6 days would give you the opportunity to experience more from this standpoint.
     
  20. Robo56

    Robo56 Look into my eyes

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    Carnut12......Thank you for sharing your trip report.......it is always so nice to hear someone else has really enjoyed Universal Orlando. This is my Happy Place and I enjoy going any chance I can.

    I agree with you on 3 B’s family feast it is a great meal. There is enough to feed a family of 5 or 6. The salad, roasted chicken, ribs , potatoes and steamed veggies are delicious. It is really a bargain and so good.
     
  21. pattyw

    pattyw DIS Veteran

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    Nice trip report! We still haven't tried the HP quick serve restaurants- 3B'S sounds great! I guess I'm afraid of finding seats there- they see so crowded and I hate fighting for a place to sit. Will have to try an off time.
     

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