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S/O Universal Studios, any tips?


PeterPan
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Ok, we've done Disney ad nauseum with annual passes for year and need something else to do for a get some sun trip. Orlando is easy for us with direct tickets on Southwest for stupid cheap, knowing the hotels, lots of uber, etc.

So one, is it crazy, and two what are your best tips? Oh, and ds has autism, support level 2, can handle about 6 hours a day at Disney max (which includes meals), and uses the DAS. The DAS=Disability Access Service which allows us to request a return time and not wait in the actual physical standby line but return and use the fastpass line. Even with that accommodation and very strategic use of fastpasses, etc., he still gets maxed out, and maxed out means stimming and losing control and dangerous. He actually hit his psychologist yesterday when there was a fire drill because he was trying to calm himself and wasn't doing it safely. So he likes the rides and the input, but he can only keep calm for so much and then needs a break.

His favorite things at Disney? All the most intense rides, definitely. So like Rock n Roller Coaster he'd do 9 times over if I could hack it, lol. Flight of Passage. Space Mountain. Anything good for sensory input, lol. 

Oh, and we've never read or done anything with Harry Potter. I confess I skimmed a volume at Walmart, didn't like how they talked, and gave up. You can be aghast now. Does the section of HP stand on its own?

Give me your best tips!! Thanks!!!!!!!!

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Universal has a type of disability pass to get you to the front of the lines (free) at customer services.  I think you can just state you need one and they give it.  I didn’t feel like we “needed” it so I don’t try.  A lot of their rides are a mix with movie screens and coaster aspects.  They tend to make me nauseous but the kids have no problems.  We don’t ride the big coasters so I can’t comment on them (I think the rock coaster you mentioned I’d consider a big coaster).  After being there only a handful of times I feel like we’ve seen a lot of stuff.  Disney, no matter how many times we went, I felt there were more things we had not done yet.  

The crowds I think are smaller, even on busy days.  There are water rides for cooling off on hot days.

Frozen butter beer is better than cold.  Get an interactive Harry Potter universal studios wand off ebay before going.  The interactions are fun, but the wands in the park are like $75 I think?  But once you’ve done the spells, they probably don’t have much repeat fun.

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Okay, my biggest tip would be to stay at a Universal hotel if at all possible, especially if you are going during a busy time. With the more expensive hotels you get a pass so you do not have to stand in any regular lines but in the much shorter express lines (kind of like fastpass). It can save a lot of time if it is busy. Also, you get the pass for the day before and after the hotel stay so one night gets you two days, two nights three days etc.

We went in late August / Labor Day and the pass saved quite a bit the first day, less the second as it wasn't very busy. The more luxurious hotels are not cheap (though less than fancy Disney hotels), but there are also less expensive Universal places. We actually only stayed one night at a luxury property (for two days of passes) and the other nights at Cabana Bay which I loved. For a reasonable price we got to stay in one of their family suites - kind of a living room with kitchenette and pull-out couch as well as a bedroom. It is themed very nicely like a roadtrip motel in the 50's. You do not get the Express Pass but you are within easy walking distance to Volcano Bay (Universal's waterpark), early entry into Harry Potter World, and buses to CityWalk (from which you can easily walk to the other parks) run pretty much constantly. Cabana Bay also has a very nice food court (in the style of a diner), a great pool, activities, and a bowling alley (rather expensive). I actually enjoyed Cabana Bay more than the other, more expensive Universal hotel we stayed at because I loved the theme, appreciated the easily available, affordable food, and was glad that everyone had their own bed. Also, you are allowed to pool hop at Universal so you can use all the fancy pools at the other hotels as well.

Aside of that, Universal is a lot easier to organize than Disney. It tends to be less crowded and a touring plan is much less important. A lot (most) of the rides rely heavily on 3D/motion simulation. Also, you will get wet a lot - and not just a little bit but really soaking.

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4 hours ago, PeterPan said:

 His favorite things at Disney? All the most intense rides, definitely. So like Rock n Roller Coaster he'd do 9 times over if I could hack it, lol. Flight of Passage. Space Mountain. Anything good for sensory input, lol. 

 

FYI, the intense rides at Universal are in a completely different world than Disney-intense. I ride Rock n Roller Coaster but won't touch the big coasters at Universal. 

The Harry Potter stuff is on its own and can easily be skipped. I think there's a ride or two in the other areas, but they're just regular rides with an HP theme. 

Here is a recent overview of their disability policy: 

https://www.undercovertourist.com/blog/universals-attraction-assistance-pass/

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We don't need more than a couple days at Universal if we have front of the line passes. I highly recommend either staying on one of their properties to get that (along with early access to Harry Potter) or purchasing the front of the line passes. They are expensive, but really make a huge difference in being able to get through the park with less frustration.Couple the front of the line pass with the Two Park pass so you can get through both parks (and you can only do the Harry Potter train with access to both parks.)

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Seconding that the really intense rides at Universal are beyond the coasters at Disney. They're more like the ones that you'd see at Six Flags. Big. But they're in the same park as rides that are themed and set up with lots of experience stuff, which is very different than local theme parks. Those rides are all for movies and so forth - Spiderman, King Kong, Jurassic Park, The Simpsons, etc. You don't have to be a fan of the thing to enjoy the ride.

If you have that level of lack of familiarity with Harry Potter, then many of the aspects of those areas won't be especially interesting. The rides could still be fun - but the wait times tend to be among the highest in the parks, so you might just want to skip them anyway and get more rides on some other things. Though, I assume that, like the other rides, they can just be enjoyed as rides even without knowing the stories - and the two big ones do have a lot of sensory things to them.

Agreed with the above that the crowds tend to be lower overall than WDW, though they can be higher in the Harry Potter areas, depending.

One thing that's really different in terms of planning - no bags allowed on the majority of Universal rides. While Disney always has a place for your stuff, Universal makes you put it in a locker. Just an FYI that can change how you run your day or carry things.

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6 hours ago, Farrar said:

One thing that's really different in terms of planning - no bags allowed on the majority of Universal rides. While Disney always has a place for your stuff, Universal makes you put it in a locker. Just an FYI that can change how you run your day or carry things.

Does this feel safe?

6 hours ago, Farrar said:

Seconding that the really intense rides at Universal are beyond the coasters at Disney.

He's wanting a step up, but I'm not sure how much of a step up, lol.

It sounds like I should watch some videos of the rides and see.

7 hours ago, displace said:

But I don’t think you’ll need the express passes if you get the disability pass (everyone in the party gets one).  I’d research it because those express passes are $$.

Interesting. So I sort of missed it, but did you actually LIKE Universal? 

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10 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Does this feel safe?

Interesting. So I sort of missed it, but did you actually LIKE Universal? 

 

Not the person you asked but I'll still answer. 

The lockers are safe but a tremendous pain in the butt. 

We all agree that Universal lacks the 'magic' of Disney but it can certainly be fun in its own right. I like it the least because I don't do the killer rides they are famous for, lol. We are considering a trip there in lieu of Disney in the next year or so because the crowds and renovations at Disney have been rather awful the last couple of years. They're also trying various new things and we're thinking we'll wait till some of the construction is done and the new things kind of shake out and settle down. 

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26 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Does this feel safe?

He's wanting a step up, but I'm not sure how much of a step up, lol.

It sounds like I should watch some videos of the rides and see.

Interesting. So I sort of missed it, but did you actually LIKE Universal? 

Lockers are properly locked. As mentioned above, they're just annoying to deal with. And smallish. And sometimes really crowded to get to because the set up doesn't always make sense.

There are a lot of rides on the "Disney thrill level" - as in, as much about the theme as the jerking around and actual thrill. They're fun. The big coasters are just big coasters. He could do them or not and still get tons out of the park.

Yes, we liked it. I LOVED the Harry Potter stuff. The moment we found the little entrance to Diagon Alley, I seriously lost it. I mean, I'm a bit of a super fan, but I'm also not an all in, gushing person - I tend to be a bit cynical and have trouble doing a full geek out but... OMG... best immersive experience in a theme park ever. We also did Pandora at AK on that trip and it was pretty amazing too, but this was just... wow. Even apart from that though... my teens had a great time. They loved the rides. We had done WDW once before so this was all new to them. They had a better time overall there than WDW on this trip.

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7 hours ago, Farrar said:

Lockers are properly locked. As mentioned above, they're just annoying to deal with. And smallish. And sometimes really crowded to get to because the set up doesn't always make sense.

There are a lot of rides on the "Disney thrill level" - as in, as much about the theme as the jerking around and actual thrill. They're fun. The big coasters are just big coasters. He could do them or not and still get tons out of the park.

Yes, we liked it. I LOVED the Harry Potter stuff. The moment we found the little entrance to Diagon Alley, I seriously lost it. I mean, I'm a bit of a super fan, but I'm also not an all in, gushing person - I tend to be a bit cynical and have trouble doing a full geek out but... OMG... best immersive experience in a theme park ever. We also did Pandora at AK on that trip and it was pretty amazing too, but this was just... wow. Even apart from that though... my teens had a great time. They loved the rides. We had done WDW once before so this was all new to them. They had a better time overall there than WDW on this trip.

 

I didn't realizer the magic of Diagon Alley stuff until I met up with Lynn from these boards.   Her kids had the wands and made all the magic happen.  I honestly had no idea.  We followed her kids around for a bit and watched it all.

And yes, I hate the lockers!  

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I agree with Harry Potter world as being awesome.  I enjoyed Simpsons world as part of nostalgia (but I don’t let kids watch yet).  For me, universal is best for kids/tweens who are into movies and things there.  Personally, I never saw King Kong the new movie, I’m not into superheroes or transformers, I don’t like big coasters, and the movie coasters make me sick.  We are also limited to what live shows we can watch and almost never rewatch them.  I’m also a bit anti-tv/movie industry so the whole idea of amusement parks based on movies and shows is not exciting to me.  It really limits what I personally enjoy.  Kids like it and I do enjoy it enough that we go and have passes, but I doubt we’ll get passes again.  Whereas Disneyworld I can anticipate getting passes every few years if possible.  Plus universal has two non-water parks vs Disney’s four, so there’s a limitation.  I’m sure the passes are way cheaper at Universal though.

The lockers are free to use for the rides that require them, but they’re not fun and require me to memorize a number when we do use them.  Not all rides require them.  

DS has complained about some rides with steep drops causing a minimal airborne lift.  It’s scary enough for him he now refuses some rides.  He’s well over minimum height and I feel the rides are safe, but he’s moved into more of a logic and fear stage.

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One thing in Universal's favor (or not, depending on your preference) is that it seems much less hectic than Disney. Not only are the waits/crowds generally less, but it doesn't feel like there is SO much more you have to get done. There is more time to enjoy Citywalk, take a nap, go to the pool etc. And it needs a lot less planning - ADRs aren't usually necessary, no need to book fastpasses ahead of time and especially with ExpressPass (or similar) not much need for a touring plan (though we haven't been at a mega-busy time of year so it may depend a bit).

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11 hours ago, katilac said:

I like it the least because I don't do the killer rides they are famous for, lol.

Ok, that is the best advice ever, lol. You're right, I could make a list and say this and this, not this. 

3 hours ago, DawnM said:

 

I didn't realizer the magic of Diagon Alley stuff until I met up with Lynn from these boards.   Her kids had the wands and made all the magic happen.  I honestly had no idea.  We followed her kids around for a bit and watched it all.

And yes, I hate the lockers!  

Sounds like the wands are a must! :biggrin:  So if the lockers are so awful, what do people do instead? Take things that fit in your pockets? Something else?

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3 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Ok, that is the best advice ever, lol. You're right, I could make a list and say this and this, not this. 

Sounds like the wands are a must! :biggrin:  So if the lockers are so awful, what do people do instead? Take things that fit in your pockets? Something else?

 

Sometimes one of us doesn't want to ride the ride, so that person holds everything.  Some days we have tried to do no bags.  It isn't easy though, but I have kind of snuck a small wallet type purse in by shoving it in my jacket pocket when we get in line.  I typically have a windbreaker or hoodie with me and if it is hot I keep it around my waist.

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You could ask if you can store your bag in their child swap area if your ds might need things from it right when you get off the ride. The child swap area is almost always right next to where you load onto the rides and they do not make people using child swap stow their bags in lockers. 

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