Two 50-somethings and Their Relaxing Trip to Universal (Better Late than Never) - Nov. 9-17, 2018 (Completed)

jeanelle

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jan 25, 2005
Welcome to my trip report! This is my first one ever so please be kind...LOL

First to introduce ourselves. We are a 50-something couple with grown children (and as of March of 2018, grandparents of the cutest little girl). We are kids at heart. We honeymooned in Disney World and had a good time but ended up exhausted. My husband's compromise for another trip to Orlando was a trip to Universal as I told him it would be more relaxing.

If you are interested in all of the planning and more background here is my PTR: Pre-Trip Report.

The people on this trip are me, a 53 yo mother/grandmother that works a high stress job and lives for her vacations, and my DH, a 53 yo father/grandfather that works hard for his family and loves to vacation as long as he has some downtime to relax.

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My DH hates to fly and loves to drive so we always drive to Orlando. We take our time and give 2 days there and 2 days back. We always stop in Georgia a little over half way. So here are our tentative plans:

Friday, Nov 9 - Drive to Macon, GA and stay overnight in the Comfort Inn & Suites West
Saturday, Nov 10 - Finish drive and arrive at the Hard Rock Hotel followed by Luau that night at Royal Pacific
Sunday, Nov 11 - Hit the parks doing just Harry Potter things (the main reason my DH wanted to go)
Monday, Nov 12 - Hit the parks to do other things
Tuesday, Nov 13 - Day at the pool in our rented cabana
Wednesday, Nov 14 - Hit the parks again for more Harry Potter
Thursday, Nov 15 - Hit the parks for anything we missed or wanted to do again
Friday, Nov 16 - Drive to Dalton, GA and stay overnight at the Comfort Inn & Suites
Saturday, Nov 17 - Arrive back at home

So did we stick to our plans? Was there any relaxing to be done? Stay tuned for the next installment!
 

jeanelle

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jan 25, 2005
Day 1: November 9, 2018 (Travel Day)

Today was our first travel day. Our plan was to get up early and hit the road and try to get through Nashville before rush hour. We, unfortunately, got on the road a little late and hit Nashville at just about rush hour.

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It is still a beautiful city. The drive was very uneventful. We stopped several times along the way. I did take a picture of this very interesting rest area in Tennessee.

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I just looked so homey. After about 8 hours or so of driving through the very scenic Kentucky countryside and Tennessee mountains and through the very busy Atlanta, which was always dread, we arrived to our hotel in Macon, GA. I had splurged a bit and reserved rooms with jacuzzi tubs in the hotels both way. I figured that my DH would enjoy the tub with a glass of wine after being in the car all day. He truly did. I thought I took pictures of the hotel but I cannot find them anywhere. Here are some from the internet to give you an idea. It was actually a very nice hotel though a little dated. Perfect for just one night.
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The tub was nice and my DH enjoyed the soak. The bed was comfortable. The room was absolutely huge!

We both slept as well as you can with the excitement of arriving at Universal the next day allows you! We are going to book the room again next year when we head back to Universal.
 

jeanelle

Mouseketeer
Joined
Jan 25, 2005
Day 2: November 10, 2018 (Travel Day and Arrival at HRH)

So we were up really early. We are normally early riser as each of us has to be to work before 8 am. This morning was no exception. We were up and on the road by 7 am. The drive again was uneventful. Southern Georgia and Northern Florida are some of the most boring landscape ever. 20181110_102415.jpg
Finally arrived in Florida! Only about 4 more hours to go!

We arrived at Hard Rock Hotel at about 2 pm. Our room was not ready at that time. We gave them our luggage and went up to the lounge. We hung out there for about and hour and went back down to the lobby. We waited until about 4:30 before we received the text that our room was ready. I took some pictures of the front of the hotel, lobby and public areas.

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I will not lie, it was a very long and tedious wait. We have already decided that next year when we go, we are going to plan to not arrive until after 4 and no plans for the first night.

However, tonight we had plans to attend the Luau! My DH lived in Hawaii as a kid and was very excited about this.
 
  • jeanelle

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 25, 2005
    Day 2: November 10, 2018 (Continued)

    Here are some more pictures. I tend to take more detailed pics than large pics of the entire lobby.

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    We finally were able to get into our room. We were on Club Level in Room 7055. This was on the same side as the lounge about 1/3 of the way down the hall if I remember right. It had a view of the front of the hotel. It was very convenient. Close to the lounge and elevators but far enough away that we didn't really hear any noise.

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    We were now in a rush. We had the luau to get to. We had about an hour to shower, change, and get over to Royal Pacific!
     

    jeanelle

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 25, 2005
    Day 2: November 10, 2018 (Luau)

    We usually don't plan anything the first night we arrive on vacation. Unfortunately, the luau is only on Saturday nights. We, therefore, had no choice but to go on this night or skip it. My DH was very excited about it and really wanted to try it. We are a bit geeky. We enjoy dressing in matching outfits every once in a while. Especially on vacation. My DH was very excited about getting matching Hawaiian outfits for the luau.
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    We had a really great time even though we were really tired. My DH didn't think he would make it until the end but he did. Both of us have been to real luaus in Hawaii and this didn't actually stack up to that but it was definitely enjoyable. We liked it so much that we are planning to go back again next year to experience it when we aren't so exhausted.

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    I wanted to add that we took the free car service to Royal Pacific and back afterwards. It worked really well. We are very sad to see that this has gone away. We will have to plan extra time to get there next year.

    When we got back to the room, we both collapsed into bed and slept very well. We were excited to have our first day in the park the next day!
     
    Last edited:

    Pumpkin1172

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 14, 2016
    Following along on your adventure! Your plan sounds like a great plan!!!! There is just enough that if unexpected things happen or one part of the park is too crowded, you can come back to that part at a different time.
    The hotel and room look lovely. I always love to hear how everyone enjoys the rooms.
    The luau looks like it was fun!

    I can't wait to hear more
     

    TommyJK

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 12, 2015
    Enjoying the TR so far and look forward to the rest of it!

    I can't wait until my kids are old enough to stay home on their own so the wife and I can do a kid-free trip like this!
     
  • jeanelle

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 25, 2005
    I can't wait until my kids are old enough to stay home on their own so the wife and I can do a kid-free trip like this!
    We are actually starting to plan trips to include our new granddaughter. We plan to take her to Disney in about 5 years and Universal when she gets a little older. :)
     

    a1tinkfans

    Spreading Some Pixie Dust Today!
    Joined
    Aug 12, 2006
    Following along. Have been a diehard disney
    Fan and have not gotten to universal... yet. Interested in your take!
    Loved your luau outfits too!
     

    disneyseniors

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 2, 2014
    Following along too. My husband and I love Universal. It is definitely a different kind of vacation than Disney. We are much more relaxed and laid back at Universal. It's great to Not have to book adr's and fp's months in advance. We could just go on what we wanted when we wanted. We always stay at RPR and love that tropical vibe. Can't wait for more TR!
     
  • schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    Jeanelle......glad you came back to do your trip report!

    It’s a lot of fun to read........and your pictures are lovely......the luau is a fun evening........
     

    jeanelle

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 25, 2005
    Following along. Have been a diehard disney
    Fan and have not gotten to universal... yet. Interested in your take!
    Loved your luau outfits too!
    I lived in South Florida for over 11 years. During that time, I had annual passes to all the parks. I am a huge Disney fan. I loved to parks. However, I toured differently. Since I went at least 1 time a month, I took my time and if I didn't see something it wasn't a big deal. I rarely ever made any reservations. My ex-husband's cousin was the chef at O'hanas. If we wanted to eat there, we just called him and he got us in. :) When we went on our honeymoon it was just a completely different experience. We were on the dining plan (since we got it for free). My DH felt like we were always rushing from one place to another to meet our fast pass time or make our reservation. It was fun, just not very relaxing. Next year we are going back to Universal and are planning on taking 1 day to go to Hollywood Studios. My DH is a huge Star Wars fan and he really wants to see the new land there. We will definitely be back to Disney in the future for we feel Universal is much more relaxing and less hectic.
     

    jeanelle

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 25, 2005
    Day 3: November 11, 2018 (Potter Time!)

    We were up early and started what would turn out to be our normal routine. We would wake up in the morning, get ready and head to the lounge for breakfast. Neither of us are huge breakfast eaters so this made a lot of sense for us. Of course, I realized that I never took any pics of the lounge! As I went through my pics to write this report, I realized that we didn't take a lot of pics. We were more in the moment than feeling the need to take pics. I apologize in advance for the lack of pics going forward.

    My DH and I are huge Harry Potter fans. We have all the books, all the movies and read and watched them all multiple times. In fact, I actually attended the grand opening of Hogsmeade. It was exciting but so very crowded! You really couldn't move in the streets and the stores were obnoxious.
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    Anyways, back to our current trip report. My DH is a Slytherin and I am a Ravenclaw. One of the things that sold him about Universal was Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. I knew that our first day had to be devoted to Harry! We decided to follow in Harry's footsteps by starting in Universal Studios and buying our "school supplies".

    We took the boat over to City Walk. By this time, my husband's back was hurting a bit, which will come into play the next day. We got to the gates just as they were opening.

    I had purchased the Photo package when it went on sale way back in March for 5 day for $60. The first thing we had to do was activate it. This seemed to go very smoothly by turned out to be a nightmare later in our trip. All I can say is make sure you keep the emails they send you!

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    We didn't get near as many pics as we did on our honeymoon with the PhotoPass but I also wasn't scouring the place for photographers. Here is our obligatory entering the park pic.

    After taking care of that little bit of business, we were off to Diagon Alley. I had taken note of all the people that said the entrance is very hard to find and easy to walk by. We had no problems finding it. We stopped at the entrance to take it all in and listen to the bricks moving. It was truly magical. There may have been some tears but it was probably just the sun in my eyes. :)

    The first stop DH wanted to make was to buy some robes. He had requested 2 things before we left. He wanted robes and a wand. So off to Madam Malkin's we went. Again, we were totally in the moment and didn't take any pics of us trying on robes or the shop but here are our purchased robes.
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    He absolutely loved his robes. Unfortunately, it was way to hot to be wearing them around the park that day so we planned to wear them later in the week when it was supposed to be cooler. We had them shipped back to our hotel. This was the very first time that we used this service and I will say it was wonderful! We didn't have to carry things around all day and they were delivered to us no later than the next day to our rooms. I definitely recommend it. We had only 1 hiccup with this which I'll talk about later.

    So robes purchased we decided it was time head to Ollivanders to purchase our wands. I already had a wand that I purchased when Hogsmeade opened. It wasn't an interactive one and I wanted an interactive one. I ended up getting the same wand that I had that was based on my birth month (March) and my DH got the one for his birth month (November). We went through the show but weren't picked. The cutest little girl was though.
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    After the show we went into the shop, talked to the wand experts and purchased our wands. Mine is on the left and DH's is on the right.

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    We had a lot of fun using them throughout both parks. After purchasing them though, my DH decided that he wanted the Elder Wand so next year we will be purchasing new wands. :)

    I had purchased wand holsters from etsy before our trip so we each strapped on our wands and sent the empty boxes back to the hotel.

    We spent the next few hours wandering around Diagon Alley. We each got a butter beer (another must do for my DH) and we rode the Gringott's ride. It was topped off with lunch at the Leakey Cauldron. Sorry there are not many pics of any of us. I didn't even take food pics (I know, I know....the shame upon my house). I do know that my DH had the fish and chips that he said were okay. I had the bangers and mash that was also okay. Nothing spectacular. I did have the Peachtree Fizzing Tea, which was excellent. Here are a few pictures we did take of Diagon Alley.

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    After lunch, it was off to hop on the Hogwart's express to Hogsmeade!
     

    TommyJK

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 12, 2015
    Jeanelle, how was the food at the Luau? I've been contemplating doing this on our next trip and a now the cost of it is more about the show, but if the food isn't that great we'll spend out money elsewhere.
     

    jeanelle

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 25, 2005
    Jeanelle, how was the food at the Luau? I've been contemplating doing this on our next trip and a now the cost of it is more about the show, but if the food isn't that great we'll spend out money elsewhere.
    The food was okay. It is served buffet style. There was plenty available. There are also Mai Tais available (included in the cost). It was good enough that we will do it again. The show was really good and we truly enjoyed it.
     

    jeanelle

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 25, 2005
    Day 3: November 11, 2018 (Continued)

    So lunch was finished and off we go to grab the Hogwart's Express over to Hogsmeade. We didn't wait very long. At this point, my knees were hurting and my DH's back was really hurting him. We were very happy to have the elevators that took you up to the platform. :) We really enjoyed the ride. It is a nice way to get over to IOA and the storyline is fun.

    In no time, we were walking the streets of Hogsmeade. Our first stop was Hogwarts and the Forbidden Journey ride. I have ridden this ride many times. However, this was the first trip for my DH. I was excited for him to experience the castle. We didn't have our phones so no pictures were taken. However, here are a few from a previous trip.

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    It is a great ride as always. One time was fine though for my DH. I would ride it again the following day by myself.

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    After visiting the castle it was time to explore Hogsmeade. We wandered through the various stores, purchased some pumpkin juice, which DH did not care for. We ended up here:

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    My DH went a bit wild with the candy purchases....LOL. This is what we ended up with:

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    All have been devoured except for the All Flavor Beans. We got through about 1/2 of them and had to toss the rest as they became stale and w got tired of the disgusting flavors. :) We had all of the above shipped back to our room. We did also buy some fudge which we ate on our way back to the room.

    At this point we were both hot and tired and my DH's back was killing him. It was off to the hotel we went. Again, we took the boat back. We actually never walked back to the hotel our entire stay and relied on the boat.

    Once back at the hotel, we had a surprise waiting for us. We were celebrating my DH's birthday while we were there. They had brought a piece of cake the night before and I had ordered this especially for him.

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    It was almost too pretty to eat but we did. :) I do have to say it was overprices for what we got but for a one-time surprise, it was worth it.

    We ended up ordering room service for dinner as DH didn't want to move and then watched some TV and slipped off to dreamland.
     

    jeanelle

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jan 25, 2005
    Day 4: November 12, 2018 (Wandering IOA)

    We again woke up early-ish. We got dressed and headed to the lounge for breakfast again. We basically got the same thing every day. I would get boiled eggs and a bagel and DH would get pastries with an occasional oatmeal thrown in. The food in the lounge is nothing special for breakfast but it definitely served its purpose for us.

    I could tell that DH wasn't feeling well. He was walking very slow and was just quiet. At breakfast, I asked him if he would rather just stay in the room today. He said that he would prefer that but didn't want to disappoint me. After some discussion, it was decided that he would stay in the room and I would head off to IOA and do some of the stuff that I wanted to do. He felt if he could rest today and then tomorrow (which was our pool rest day to begin with) that he would be fine for the rest of the trip.

    I have toured the parks by myself many times. I knew I would miss him but knew I would be miserable sitting in the room all day with Universal right there in my backyard. :) Because of all of this, I grabbed my stuff and headed out to the boat and to the City Walk. I knew there were a few things that I wanted to do that DH could care less about so I put my mind to do those and some all time favorites.
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    The first stop was the large gift shop at the front of the park. My DIL had requested that we purchase something Slytherin for my granddaughter. Well after scouring both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade yesterday, we had come up empty handed. We found very little infant wear and if we did it was generic Hogswarts or Griffyndor. I thought that maybe this gift shop would have something but alas none were to be found. What do you do in that situation, you go for the next best thing....Superheroes!

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    I thought these were both so adorable. I sent my DIL a picture and asked which one they preferred. I ended up with the Spiderman outfit. Here she is wearing it. :)
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    After that little purchase, it was off to one of my favorite rides, Spiderman! This is truly my favorite ride in both parks. I love the storyline and the details and maybe just the nostalgia.

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    After my little trip through memory lane and saving the world, I just wandered my way around the park.

    First came Toon Lagoon.

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    I did ride King Kong but no pictures were taken until later with DH.

    Next stop Jurassic Park!
     

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