The TMs are Starting to Recognize Us! September 2018 TR *NEW* 12/15 x2

Discussion in 'Universal Studios Trip Reports' started by khertz, Oct 14, 2018.

  1. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    The TMs are Starting to Recognize Us!
    A September 2018 Trip Report

    Welcome, everyone, to my second Universal Orlando trip report! In case you missed my first one, you can find it here: "It's Because This Wand CHOSE Me!" September 2017 TR

    Despite this only being my second Universal TR here on the boards, we are no strangers to the Universal parks! It’s been a part of almost every single WDW trip we have taken with the exception of a couple of trips when DS was a baby/toddler. But let me back it up. Some of you may know who we are, but some of you may not!

    First up is me, khertz.

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    I’m 33 years old, and a pediatric oncology nurse by trade. While I’m a total Disney lover, I’m a huge fan of Universal Orlando as well! I love nearly all of the IPs in the parks, namely Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Despicable Me, Fast & Furious, and Marvel. This was my 12th visit to Universal, and my second Universal-only trip.

    Joining me and helping to fund our vacations is DH, sometimes found on the boards as @DDuck4Life .


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    In case you’re unsure, he’s the one on the right. He is 34 years old, and an engineer in the oil field with a hobby for photography, so he will be responsible for nearly all of the photos in this TR, which means you won’t be seeing a whole lot of him! He is another fan of the Universal properties, though I think he would probably rate The Simpsons, Jurassic Park, and Marvel as his favorites.

    Rounding out our traveling party was DS.

    This was an early birthday celebration for him as he is 7 years old but turning 8 in October. His day job is working hard in 2nd grade. About a year ago, I read the Harry Potter novels to him and we watched the movies, which turned him into a huge Harry Potter fan as well. He also likes Jurassic Park/World, Spider-Man, Transformers, and The Simpsons.

    Honorable mention for this TR will be DD.

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    She recently turned 3 years old, and since she is still not really tall enough to do much at the Universal parks, she had her own “vacation” at my parents house for the week. Don’t worry, she got to ride her bike in the house, have ice cream with chocolate syrup every night, and stay up late so she wasn’t jealous of our trip at all!

    Our trip dates were September 15-22. Originally we booked September 16-21 at Hard Rock Hotel to avoid the higher rates on Friday & Saturday nights. Then we started thinking…why wait to drive in until Sunday when we’d have Saturday too? So we booked Saturday night at the Clarion Inn near the entrance to Universal so that we could have some time at the parks Sunday as well.

    We had Seasonal APs we had upgraded to on our trip last year, and the last day we could use them was Thursday 9/20. We decided to add on an additional night at the end of our trip on Friday at our Wyndham timeshare Bonnet Creek. We figured even if we couldn’t go into the parks on Friday, we thought we could spend the day at the pools and lazy rivers around the resort, and maybe go to dinner at Disney Springs or something, then return home Saturday. As the trip got closer, DH got an offer to renew our APs for 20% off and 3 additional months free, so we started toying with the idea of renewing, but I’ll discuss that later in the TR.

    So I hope you’ll join us for one of the best Universal Orlando trips yet! We ate at several new places, tried a few new things in the parks, and had an amazing time!
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2018
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  2. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    Saturday September 15th
    Day 1: Traveling, Traveling, Traveling

    Sunday September 16th

    Day 2 Part 1: Hard Rocks, Red Ovens, and Duff Beers
    Day 2 Part 2: The Wand Chooses the Wizard
    Day 2 Part 3: Let the Little Wizard Go!
    Day 2 Part 4: The Rock is in This Movie??

    Day 2 Part 5: Nighttime at Hogwarts

    Monday September 17th

    Day 3 Part 1: Early Entry Kind of Morning
    Day 3 Part 2: Guess Who Is My Favorite Minion? You Are!
    Day 3 Part 3: Splish Splash
    Day 3 Part 4: Welcome to the (Jurassic) World, Sugar!
    Day 3 Part 5: Hogsmeade Magic


    Tuesday September 18th
    Day 4 Part 1: Good Things Come in Pink Boxes
    Day 4 Part 2: Bilge-Rats
    Day 4 Part 3: Studios Afternoon


    Wednesday September 19th

    Thursday September 20th

    Friday September 21st

     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2018 at 11:40 AM
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  4. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    Day 1: Saturday September 15th

    Our traveling actually started Friday evening. I had taken the day off work to get a few last minute things done around the house before we left, and DD had her 3 year well visit that morning. I picked DS up from school and got the kids home for baths. DH picked up a pizza on his way home from work for a quick dinner, then he put the luggage in the car and headed to my parents house in the New Orleans area. We figured since we had to drop DD off there anyway, we might as well get a head start on our long drive and be a couple hours closer to our final destination.

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    We got to their house a little after 8 so of course it took the kids some time to settle down and get ready for bed. But eventually we were all tucked in and off to sleep as best we could all 4 sharing the same tiny bedroom.

    My dad was sweet enough to send us off with some made-from-scratch pancakes and scrambled eggs Saturday morning. We got a quick picture with DD after breakfast.

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    We were on the road by about 7 am! We had brought plenty for DS to do in the car to keep him busy, including this map of the U.S. I had printed that you can see in the photo for him to color in states as we spotted license plates from different ones.

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    He had a packet of homework to do, but unfortunately couldn’t get any done on that long drive because reading in the car makes him sick. I did pick up some kids Dramamine chewables and gave him one, which seemed to help but I didn’t push it by making him work on homework. He had Legos, puzzles, movies on his tablet, and even his own podcast to listen to called Brains On (recommended by @TheMaxRebo ) that he really enjoyed. DH drove the whole way, listening to his own podcasts. I had a few to listen to on my phone, but I also napped and watched the movie Like Father on Netflix, which was really cute.

    It was an uneventful drive, and we made it to our offsite hotel the Clarion Inn at around 6 pm. I knew it was really close to Universal, but didn’t realize just how close until we arrived. You could actually see the Universal entrance sign from our hotel!

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    DS wanted me to take some photos of him in the lobby while DH got us checked in.

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    The room was decent enough for one night, but a bit cramped had we been staying any longer. I also hate those window a/c units, so that was a bit of a pain.

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    The beds were doubles, another thing that would have been uncomfortable for longer than a week! Pretty much as soon as we got all of the luggage brought inside, DH headed out again. He wanted to go to the Disney outlets, and although I would have loved to join him, I really wanted DS to start working on some of his school work. So he and I stayed in the room and worked on a bunch of it while DH went to the outlet and picked us up some Five Guys for dinner.

    After showering, DH was able to hook up our Firestick to the TV there so we could watch Big Hero 6 on the Disney Now app before going to bed. We were all pretty tired from a long day in the car!

    Continued in next post...
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2018
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  5. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    Day 2: Sunday September 16th

    We were up the next morning around 7:15 to get dressed, have some breakfast, and repack as best we could. We left at 8:15 am to get to mass at Holy Family Catholic Church, which was only a few minutes from the hotel and meant driving through Universal property to get there, so it got us all pretty excited for the vacation to fully start! I didn’t take any of my own photos of the church, which was beautiful, but I found a few online.


    It was really huge inside, and they even had several cameras posted to live broadcast the mass online, which I thought was interesting. Mass was at 8:45 am, so we were finished around 9:45 and back to the Clarion by 10. We changed into what we’d be wearing to the parks, threw our last few items into the suitcases and loaded up the car to head over to Hard Rock Hotel to check in. Sorry for the crappy quality but since DH was driving all you get are these iPhone pics I managed to snap as we drove in.

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    Someone came to the car as soon as we pulled up to take our luggage over to bell services for us so we could go straight to check in. Of course our room wasn’t ready, but at least we could get our temporary room keys that would be our Express Passes while at the parks that afternoon. While DH was waiting to check in, DS and I went out on the balcony to check out the pool.

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    Normally we are not “hang by the pool” people on theme park vacations, but the heat this trip really got to us, so we spent a lot more time there than we had anticipated! Once we had our Express Passes, we had one more piece of business to attend to. DH had left our APs at home! We had them linked to our Universal apps on our phones, so we could have just used that to get into the parks, but I like having a physical pass in hand. We went over to the ticket counter in the lobby and got mine and DS’s reprinted, but DH decided he would just use his phone. This will be important later! :laughing:

    Once we had all this taken care of, we were ready to roll! One of the best things about staying at Hard Rock is that it is soooo close to everything! We walked right over to CityWalk, and DS enjoyed that there was a “shortcut” through a butterfly garden.


    The camera was still fogging up a lot from the humidity as you can see in that photo.

    Just a short while later we could see our destination!


    Buuuutttttt…not into the park yet! We were hungry, ready for some lunch, and I twisted a few arms to get a meal at Red Oven Pizza Bakery. Except with DS we can never just go straight somewhere without him wanting to climb on all things, so first we visited the brand new Voodoo Doughnuts, which we were really excited to try on this trip!

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    And he discovered the cowfish.

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    We decided to share one pizza, so DH ordered a margherita pizza and some waters for us while DS enjoyed watching them make the pizza dough.

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    We grabbed a table and waited for our food to come out, but DS was getting restless and spotted a few more photo ops for himself.

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    We also took a trip up and down the nearby escalator, then finally our food arrived and we were ready to dig in.


    After lunch, we decided we’d hit Studios since not only was it right there by where we were eating, it was also closing early for Halloween Horror Nights that night.

    Once in the park, before we could even decide on what ride to do first, we spotted Homer Simpson out meeting near their RV with almost no line, so we stopped there first, despite DS’s protests.

    Lucky we got in line when we did because there were only a couple families in line at that point, but as soon as we got in line a bunch of families joined behind us. In no time, we were meeting Homer!


    After that, we were more than ready for some fun!! Any guesses on our first attraction of the trip?

    UP NEXT: Watch out for flying balls!
     
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  6. schumigirl

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

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    Welcome back khertz........nice to see you have another trip report going!!

    Lovely pictures already......and haven’t the children grown!!! They are so cute........looking forward to reading along with this one too........:thumbsup2
     
  7. TheMaxRebo

    TheMaxRebo DIS Veteran

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    Seems like it worked out to stay the one night in the Clarions - but especially only having double beds I can see being a challenge for a full week

    Glad DS enjoyed the podcasts!

    Interested in the foreshadowing about DH’s AP phone situation
     
  8. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    Beautiful family and great pictures.

    Any one ever tell you your son looks like you.....

    Such a cutie!


    I'm in for the read of your trip report
     
  9. rdkeim

    rdkeim Mouseketeer

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    Following!
     
  10. pattyw

    pattyw DIS Veteran

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    Sounds like a great start to your trip!! Love the HRH:love: It's our Orlando home!!

    I bet DD had a great vacay with your parents! My boys loved their times spent getting spoiled by their grandparents!:)
     
  11. amazingact21

    amazingact21 Upendi

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    I'm here and looking forward to reading about this Universal trip. I have to admit, now that Landon has read the first HP book and visited the Studios in London, your trips have inspired me to find ways to take him to Universal on his own! :rolleyes1


    Bummer that you couldn't go to the Outlets, too, but better to get a leg up on the homework rather than have to do it all at the end of vacation.
    Doubles...sleep's a lot harder with doubles. :rotfl2: The Achilles heel of European travels.


    Uh oh, that's some ominous foreshadowing about the passes and DH not printing his.

    So the kids don't grow out of that "I gotta touch and crawl on everything" phase? Bummer. :rotfl:

    Hmm, was Gringotts the first ride? And then a Butterbeer treat afterwards?
     
  12. Terra Nova guy

    Terra Nova guy DIS Dad #811 Newfoundland, Canada

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    Jumping in! I didn't get to Universal on my August trip - actually the only trip I've done that was Disney-only, and I missed not seeing Universal. I don't enjoy it as much as Disney, but I do like it.

    I'mm glad you cleared that up for us. I was wondering for a moment :laughing:

    The same thing used to happen to me when I was younger, and probably would now as well actually. I've always found it tough to get and homework done during a vacation anyway.

    Pfft...men...

    Marie eye roll.gif

    (I say as I have a feeling that I may have done the same thing...)

    Interesting foreshadowing.

    I am tempted to say Gringotts, but since you met Homer and are in the area, I will say The Simpsons ride.
     
  13. missangelalexis

    missangelalexis DIS Veteran

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    Yay glad you've started!!

    Your drive to Orlando sounds like it went without a hitch! I'm sure you were glad going down the day early and staying offsite for the night!

    Love the pics with Homer! Hmm I'll say you kept with the theme and rode the Simpsons ride first.
     
  14. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    Thanks for joining in!!

    It's crazy the difference a year makes, isn't it?

    Double beds was ok for a night to get our trip started early, but definitely would have been a challenge to spend a whole trip like that!

    Thanks again for the suggestion. It gave him something fun to listen to while he played with Legos or colored, so helped him pass the time. We didn't have time to download all the episodes he wanted to listen to, so I'm going to download another batch for our upcoming drive to Tennessee.

    Thank you so much!

    I have started hearing that more as he's gotten older. He used to look just like my husband when he was a baby!! lol

    Welcome aboard!

    Welcome!!

    I love HRH too! We've enjoyed our stays at all of the 3 top tier Universal resorts we've tried, but HRH is my favorite. The rooms are so big, and it's SO close to the parks! It worked out well that when we were pricing resorts it was only $10 more per night from Royal Pacific. Usually it is so much more expensive so we can't always justify staying there.

    She had a blast! I don't think she missed us at all. lol

    I hope you get to!!! It's a special kind of magic seeing your little one get all into Harry Potter in the parks.

    I'm not a huge shopper, so it wasn't a big loss. And it was definitely good to get a jump on the classwork. We actually were able to finish it up a few days into the trip so we didn't have to worry about it at the end.

    Doubles are awful!!! We got lucky with the places ABD put us up in on our 2014 trip and had queens or kings everywhere we stayed.

    They DO NOT grow out of that phase!! It's still going strong at nearly 8 years old.

    Good guess!

    Welcome aboard!

    I thought some people may be confused! :rotfl2:

    :rotfl::rotfl:

    Good guess!

    Welcome back!!!

    It was not bad all things considered. It helped DS is older and can keep himself entertained a bit better. We are taking both kids to Tennessee for Thanksgiving, and I'm absolutely dreading it. lol But it was nice to get in early and get a jump start on our trip since we couldn't fly this time around.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018
  15. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    Family in Tennessee?
     
  16. DLo

    DLo DIS Veteran

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    Hopping aboard from the last TR. I went to UO for the first time in May with my brother and his family. I can’t believe it took me so long to try it . I am going in a little over 2 weeks for a quick solo trip. Staying at HR - stayed there in May and loved the closeness to the parks and city walk

    Looking forward to reading more about your adventures.
     
  17. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    No family, just thought it would be a fun place to spend the holiday! I'm excited to get to try a bunch of their holiday events. The last time we were there was in the spring when DS was little.

    Welcome!!

    Have so much fun on your trip! I have enjoyed all of our stays at the premier resorts there, but HRH is my favorite. I just love the vibe and the rooms, and can't beat being SO CLOSE to the Studios!
     
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  18. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    Day 2 Continued: Sunday September 16th

    Y'all had some decent guesses, but no one got it right!

    I think it was me who suggested we go over to E.T. Adventure first because it’s one of my favorites! I absolutely LOVE the smell inside the queue there, so that may have swayed my decision. :rotfl:


    Since we were back there in Kid Zone, we decided to go try something we had never done before and visit the Curious George area. I have read about this a lot on the Universal Annual Passholder FB page and seen pictures of the Ball Factory but we’d never been there ourselves.

    On a trip DH and I took to WDW for a few days without the kids, we had taken DS’s Lightning McQueen toy with us to take pictures around the parks to send to DS. This time, we let DD pick something of hers to do the same thing, and she chose a little stuffed Belle that she has. This was the first pic we took of her to send to DD on the Curious George book.

    To get back to the ball factory, we had to dodge all the water in the splash playground first.


    DS immediately went nuts in here! There were guns around the top ramp to shoot balls down on the people below. And on the ground floor there were all kinds of ways to suck up the balls and get them into a huge basket up in the air that every few minutes would tip over and dump all the balls back down. DS had a blast with the guns and with the vacuum tubes to suck up the balls.


    I think he would have stayed in there forever if we’d let him, but it was getting a bit hot just sitting in there without much air circulation, and really, we’d only done one ride so far! I wanted to move along and do something else!

    We dragged him away and cut through Springfield to go ride Men In Black.


    When we got up to the top where they scan your Express Passes, the TM there saw DS’s birthday button and made sure to check his name up close. I kind of knew what was coming from that exchange, but DS was surprised when we got down to the bottom of the stairs at the loading platform and they made an announcement for everyone to wish a happy birthday to Agent Paxton! He was a bit embarrassed, but when it happened later in the trip again, he knew what to expect when the TM at the top of the stairs asked his name! :laughing:

    Since we were heading in that direction, we decided to stop over in Diagon Alley. First we spotted Kreacher peeking out of the windows of 12 Grimmauld Place at us.


    As we walked past Ollivanders they were trying to get people to come in for the next show, so we hopped right in. I immediately noticed that DS was the only kid in our group as we were led into the wand shop…

    Sure enough, DS was picked!



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    It took a few tries, but eventually DS was chosen by a wand!

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    So if you read my last Universal TR, you may remember that DS was chosen for the wand ceremony for the first time on that trip. And although we had just bought him an interactive wand at the beginning of the trip, we ended up buying the wand that chose him during the ceremony. And as luck would have it, he was suddenly “better” at magic (whether because the first wand we got was misbehaving or because now he had gotten some practice under his belt) and he immediately decided it was because this wand had chosen him instead of him picking out a wand to buy. After a quick whispered discussion between DH and I at the end of this second wand ceremony that DS had been chosen for, we ultimately decided to go ahead and buy him ANOTHER wand! Maybe because it was the first day and we were still on a high, I don’t know, but we left with a 3rd interactive wand.

    As we walked out of the shop and rounded a corner, we ran into a Tales of Beedle the Bard show that had just begun, so we decided to stop and watch the tale of The Fountain of Fair Fortune.


    UP NEXT: Wingardium Leviosa!
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2018
  19. schumigirl

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

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    What lovely experiences for having his birthday button on.......and congrats again for getting chosen for the wand ceremony.........yep you had to get that wand......love that they announced his birthday in such a way in MiB!!

    Your pictures are beautiful........they really are.......never really seen the curious George area daytime, only during HHN where it’s not as lively.........
     
  20. amazingact21

    amazingact21 Upendi

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    That ball studio sounds like a kid's wonderland. I had no idea about it, but I'm glad to now know there's another kid-friendly place inside the Universal parks. But no air conditioning or air circulation? Yikes. That probably gets rough in the dead of summer.

    Hooray for Paxton getting chosen again for the wand ceremony. It would have been really hard to pass up on buying that wand! And between that and getting called out on MIB, I'm sure he was having a fantastic first day! No doubt he's going to remember how awesome these one-on-one trips with his parents were.
     
  21. missangelalexis

    missangelalexis DIS Veteran

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    ET!! Good choice!

    That ball area looks pretty fun, not gonna lie hahaha

    Cool that DS was picked for the wand show..but maybe not so cool since he walked away with a new wand! :rotfl2: But hey it's part of the experience!
     

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