Introductions and Preliminary Planning Hi everyone. Long-time lurker, very infrequent poster here. I’m writing this Trip Report as a Thank You to the many, many posters who helped me plan and execute a phenomenal Universal Studios Spring Break at the Hard Rock Hotel over 4 nights with 3 teens, 2 adults, and 1 ton of fun! A special shout out to Schumigirl, Macraven, and Pcstang, whose posts and replies could veritably be assembled into the unofficial Universal Orlando Book of Knowledge. Thank you all, for your generosity in time and information-sharing! I hope this helps pay-it-forward for a few other eager Universal newbies or planning obsessives out there. Warning: this is a words-only report. If you’re a picture person, feel free to move along. If I waited to post until I figured out how to add pictures to my trip reports, our tale would age for a few years, so this will have to suffice for now. I’m off to a business trip on Sunday, so I have two days to wrap up my thoughts. Pictures would put me over the edge. Sorry! By means of introduction, I’m the ringleader, Karen, a long-time Disney fanatic in Western New York who has reared a family of Disney fans. We love our Disney Vacation Club membership, Disney Cruises, Disney resorts beyond Orlando, and we are hoping to plan our first trip to Europe around Disneyland Paris’s 25th Anniversary. BUT…. we also enjoy making the occasional DVC point trade or sale and branching out to Royal Caribbean Cruises and non-Disney Theme Parks. Around our crazy sports, dance, and music competition schedule, we had only 5 possible days for Spring Break, so we voted on Universal Studios for a short Spring Break trip. Participants on this trip include: myself, my husband Jim, who tolerates my Disney addiction and is especially happy on our non-Disney trips, our 15-year-old DS (a long distance runner), 13-year-old DD (a competitive dancer), and 16-year-old Dear Nephew (a 2nd degree black belt and regular on our family trips). These kids were trained and prepared for the test of endurance I had planned for them. We have had some experience at Universal, having tacked on 2-night stays at Royal Pacific Resort to the end of Disney trips back in November 2008 and August 2013. We thought a 4-night focus would more than double the fun of the experience, and we were right. During our past trips, we faced a range of constricting strollers or height restrictions or youngster ride fears that never allowed us to enjoy all of the rides together, and we all missed some of the top experiences. With that in the past, we decided to stay at Hard Rock Hotel (I would have preferred Portofino Bay, but with three teens, there was no debate… not to mention, proximity to the parks was a plus), splurge on Club Level (I am a breakfast skipper personally, but these dang kids somehow keep requiring food…), and be ready to hit the parks each morning before park opening and put our Early Entry and Express Passes to the test. My initial plan came together on Black Friday 2016. I booked our Club Level standard room, flights for Easter week (ouch to the prices, so we ended up going down late on Easter Sunday and returning late on Thursday night, for a total of 4 nights/4 days), ordered 4-day park-to-park tickets, and started mapping out a plan. Ironically, if you were planning a Disney April trip starting on Thanksgiving, you would have already missed out on most of the top dining experiences and would need to immediately start strategizing your Fast Pass schedule planning. (I personally kinda like that aspect of Disney…) But if you’re planning a Universal April trip starting on Thanksgiving, once you have a hotel, flights, and theme park tickets, you’re kinda dead in the water until 30-45 days before your trip. So…. Fast forward to New Year’s Day when I could no longer control the urge to plan… With 3 ½ months until the trip, I bought a membership to Touring Plans for access to their Universal touring plans, (I know, I know, but for sufferers of true Chronic Planning Syndrome, this helps…) mapped out a sketchy daily plan that frustratingly could not be planned precisely to the minute because so much information was still unavailable, and started massively trolling the Universal boards for tips, hints, help, links to some awesome websites, and ideas for experiences we haven’t previously done. From there, I came up with this. Sunday 4/16: Book Tony Hinds for transportation from MCO to Hard Rock Hotel, arrive around 11pm. Check in, unpack, prep backpack and tickets for morning, sleep. Monday 4/17: Breakfast at 7am at the Club, Early Entry – be in line by 7:25, Rides until lunch at 11:30 then Lombard’s for Cinematic Spectacular Meal (do as lunch instead of dinner, based upon 2013 experience of not enjoying the dinner so close to the desserts), afternoon break at the hotel, evening snacks at the Club, back to the parks by 7pm and to Lombard’s for dessert and evening show at 8pm. Tuesday 4/18: Breakfast at 7am at the Club, Early Entry – be in line by 7:25, Rides until lunch at 11:30 then Three Broomsticks Great Feast, afternoon break at the hotel, change into swim clothes and return to Islands of Adventure for the three major water rides, return to the hotel for a swim, dinner snacks at the Club, Blue Man Group at 9pm – front row poncho zone. Wednesday 4/19: Breakfast at 7am at the Club, Early Entry – be in line by 7:25, Rides until lunch at 10:30 then Superstar Character Breakfast, more rides, afternoon break at the hotel, back to the parks by 5pm and to VIP Parade viewing, then rides until closing. Thursday 4/20: Breakfast at 7am at the Club, Early Entry – be in line by 7:25, Rides until 10:30 then back to Hotel to pack up/check out, 11:30 lunch at Bubba Gump’s, then back to parks until 3:45, to Hard Rock Hotel by 4:00 for Tony Hinds pick up at 4:30. So, that was the plan mapped out on New Year’s Day, long before park hours, early entry, and dining reservations opened up. Stay tuned to see how we executed on that plan!