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Old 01-13-2013, 06:13 AM   #31
ProudMommyof2
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Awesome updates! I am so relieved to see how well you did without the benefit of Express Pass!

Can't wait to hear more!
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:33 AM   #32
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Love the updates. So glad you had a great time. Can't wait to read more.
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Old 01-13-2013, 09:20 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by ProudMommyof2 View Post
Awesome updates! I am so relieved to see how well you did without the benefit of Express Pass!

Can't wait to hear more!
I have to admit, it was hard on us just from a past experiences stand-point. The kids kept asking why we had to wait, and why could we not just get a Fast Pass. Guess they are just too used to Disney. I think by our last day they finally understood we could NEVER use that EP lane!

If I had to do this trip over, I think I would have just booked one of the on-site hotels (at the time we were booking, I had a 40% off code to use!). With the cost of the house plus rental car/gas, and parking ($15 each day - so we spent $60 to park this week) it would have been close. BUT, we would have been in a typical hotel room with a rollaway for our youngest, which is NOT how we usually like to vacation.

So, it seems at this time of the year, it's ok to not have EP. You just have to keep flexible, get their early and be prepared to wait if needed. If you have a smartphone, the Universal Studios App from Undercover Tourist was very helpful (and free!). I felt it was most accurate at the Studios - the times were a little off at IOA (numerous times it said Spiderman was 10 minutes, and when we got there it was 30). But still helpful in planning!
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Old 01-13-2013, 09:23 AM   #34
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Love the updates. So glad you had a great time. Can't wait to read more.
Thanks! It was a really nice little vacation. I wish we had more time in Florida, but seeing as I don't even have vacation time yet at my new job, this was really nice.

My DD really liked Universal because of the rides there. I think my boys prefer the Disney parks, simply because there is more to do there that isn't "thrilling." Of course, last time we were at Disney, my youngest was scared to go on Big Thunder Mtn, but he did the Mummy TWICE here.
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Old 01-13-2013, 10:21 AM   #35
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Day Four - Thursday, January 10

We were all so tired after our previous busy days that we opted to sleep in a little today. We gave ourselves an extra hour of sleep, and arrived back at Islands of Adventure at 9:30 AM. We saw how long the lines were already getting, and decided we'd make sure we were at rope drop again tomorrow!

The kids really wanted to ride Flight of the Hippogriff, and the lline was consistantly over 45 minutes the day before, so we did not do it. It was our first stop today, and the line was already 25 minutes long. So we waited. I am glad we did, because DS9 doesn't like thrill rides, but this family coaster was just enough of a thrill for him, so he enjoyed it.

Hagrid's Hut


Buckbeak


Then we walked through Hogsmeade a bit and took a few photos. We thought that even though the lines seemed to be a little longer today, the crowds were fewer in general. By the afternoon, that evened out and the streets of Hogsmeade were just as crowded as the day before. Here they are in the morning:



Now, I love Harry Potter (again, Children's Librarian here!), and the theme of this area didn't disappoint me at all. We loved looking in the windows of the shoppes, and the castle itself is just amazing! BUT, I was a bit put off by how narriw the streets are and how CROWDED it can get. It was very difficult to stop and get photos, or even really enjoy the area that much. After spending a little time there, we all just got frustrated of pushing past the crowds. So we spent less time in the WWOHP than I ever expected. That was a little disappointing.

So we left WWOHP and had a little snack in the shade in front of Poseidan's Fury, since that was our next stop. Universal only opens the line for their shows 15 minutes before the scheduled time, so we ended up doing quite a bit of waiting for just the queue to open. Here we are snacking - and looking at the little lizards (the kids LOVED those):



I really loved the look of the Lost Continent area. And the building for Poseidan's Fury was no different:



I hadn't really read anything about this attraction, other than it was about special effects. It was neat to see, and I am glad we did it, but since you stand for the whole attraction (moving through different rooms) it was difficult for the kids to see at times. We were never able to get into a front row, so they missed quite a bit of the action. So this wasn't on the top of their list at all. I am glad we saw it though.

After the show, we wandered back to the Dr. Seuss area to get some photos.



I still think this was one of my favorite areas in the park! I love how colorful it was, and that everything stayed true to the theme! We had not done the If I Ran the Zoo play area the previous day, so we stopped by to check that out.



It was a cute interactive area. Unfortunately, the water play area was not open yet (I don't know why they do that! There were quite a few staggered openings for rides throughout the park. It was frustrating to have to keep walking in circles).

We rode the Caro-seuss-el again (my DD is a sucker for merry-go-rounds) since there was no wait, and then took a few pictures. We loved the little alcove area behind the Green Eggs and Ham stand - we took some great shots there!





The kids had another little snack, and then it was back to the Lost Continent for the 8th Voyage of Sinbad. I had read that this show was not so good, and it wasn't In fact, I was checking on on Facebook, and I wrote "at the Sinbad show" but Autocorrect changed it to "at the so bad show." That was a good joke for the rest of the day! My DS6 actually loved the show - fire, monsters, swords! But I thought the dialouge was terrible and very difficult to understand. They should just focus on the stunts with music in the background - I think it would be an improvement!

All morning, the kids kept begging to go back to Camp Jurassic, so we continued from Lost Continent back through WWOHP to get to Jurassic Park. We stopped on the bridge for a few photos:



Love the detail!



And then into



We stopped in the Discovery Center, even though the kids just wanted to get back to Camp Jurassic. I really enjoyed the Discovery Center! Lots of interactive, hands-on things to do.

We saw a baby dinosaur hatch in the nursery



Then we FINALLY got back to Camp Jurassic, where the kids played for a good amount of time. They loved the rope bridges, caves, misty water features and more!

Our boys wore their swim suits today because they love water rides. I can't stand being wet, so I opted not to go on (as did my DD - she doesn't like getting all wet either - unless it's in the pool!). As I mentioned before, DS9 doesn't like thrill rides, so we skipped Jurassic Park water ride because the hill scared him. We entered Toon Lagoon, and he also wanted to skip the log flume there, but he loved the Popeye & Blutos Bilge-rat Barges. DD and I sat and did some people-watching while the boys rode.

We then saw that the Hulk had a 5 minutes wait, so DD and I went to that. I wear glasses, and I am BLIND without them, but I gave my stuff to DH (so I wouldn't have to use the lockers) - so that walk through the park was interesting because I couldn't see a thing! If my DD ever wanted to get rid of me, she could have then! So we rode the Hulk (awesome!) while the boys went on the barges again. There was still a 5 minute wait when we all met up again, so DD and DH did the Hulk one more time as well.

Once I had my glasses back, the boys and I waited for DD & DH in the large store near the exit to the park. We enjoyed looking at the wands, robes and other HP stuff in there.

We left the park around 4:00 today, having done everything we missed or wanted to do again. We did not eat lunch at the park - just snacks - so we were really hungry when we left! We stopped at Downtown Disney and had dinner at the Rain Forest Cafe. The kids have never been there (they did go to T-Rex a few years ago), and they were really interested in it when we were at DTD a few nights ago, so it seemed like a good stop. It was fine - the atmosphere is fun, the food just ok, and the prices through the roof! LOL

We sat next to the elephants


From there, we went home and let the kids swim before going to bed.
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Old 01-13-2013, 09:06 PM   #36
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Day Five - Friday, January 11

How did we get to our last day so soon? This was a really short vacation for us. In the past, I was not working, so we had lots of time available, but little money. So we would drive from PA to FL - which is 20 hours each way, making it 4 days of travel. Then we would stay at our destination for at least 6 nights/7 days, so our total vacation time was at least 11 days. This trip we flew, making the travel time a lot less. But we only spent 5 nights, and really only 4.5 days (arrived late afternoon into FL; departed early morning to PA).

So this was our last day.

We headed back to the Studios today. I was a little nervous about crowds, having read that many people will do 4 days at Disney and then move to Universal. Plus, our phone app was giving us a "yellow light" for US today.

We arrived at the gates around 8:40, and gates opened around 8:50. We split up for our first attraction. DD & DH headed over to Rip Ride Rockit, while the boys and I went back to Despicable Me. Both rides were on 5 minute waits. DD & DH got out first. We had a few technical difficulties in our ride - the preshow lost audio about 3/4 through it. It was interesting to watch the scramble as the employees tried to keep order (we weren't allowed to move into the next room) and get someone to fix the audio! It ended up fixing itself, and we were back to normal quickly!

Next we did the Mummy. There was NO WAIT at all for it.



I did not ride it the first day, as someone had to stay out with the boys. So I went on this time - AND DS6 went with me and DD! He was just barely 48 inches, but he made it on and LOVED the ride!



After the Mummy, the kids wanted to get back on the Simpsons ride, so we headed there. Again, no wait. We followed that with another round on Men in Black (no wait).

At this point, it was just shortly after 10:00 and we had hit so many attractions! The early bird gets the worm!

We wanted to see the Blues Brothers show at 11:00, so we headed back to New York and sat on the curb and had a little snack. My DS9 was a little grumpy about sitting and waiting for the show to start:



But he ended up loving the show. He stood front and center and really liked watching "Jazz" the saxophone player (since he is learning to play the sax this year in school). We all enjoyed this little show - such high energy!




After the show, there was still no line at the Mummy, so DH, DD and DS6 rode that again. And DS9 and I took some pictures in the New York street scene.





By the time the others got off the Mummy, it was nearly noon, so we stopped in Finnegan's Bar & Grille for some lunch. It was really good! We learned our lesson at IOA and Mythos - no quick service for us!

We all enjoyed the Irish soda bread - and the apple butter was soooo good! We ordered the following:
  • DS6 ordered chicken fingers with fries and grapes
  • DS9 had chicken fingers with fries
  • DD had a bacon burger (adult menu)
  • DH hadMisty Isle Mixed Grill -which was grilled chicken breast, sausage and bacon served with potatoes and root veggies
  • I had a bowl of potato leek soup (shared with DD) and the Newcastle Chicken (grilled chicken with potatoes and root veggies)

Our service was great, the atmosphere was fun, and the food was really good. Best part - we finally remembered our AAA discount (duh!) AND we had a gift card from Christmas to use, so the meal was practically free for us! That's the way to do it!

After lunch, we headed over to the other side of the park towards E.T. We came across Lucy and Marilyn on our way there:



We took a little detour into the I Love Lucy display. The kids don't know a lot about that show, but they liked the interactive quiz in there!

When we exited the display, Betty Boop was there.



She was so sweet! She had a nice conversation with the kids - great interaction!

Then we noticed the Simpsons were in front of their camper, so we got our photo with them too!



We needed a ride after that, so we went to E.T., where there was a 5 minute wait. The Beetlejuice show was at 2:30, and we had a little time to kill, so the kids ran around Fievel's Playland for a bit. Then we headed over to Beetlejuice. This was where we saw the most people that day - there was a big crowd heading into the theater. But we got good seats, and everyone enjoyed the rock and roll show.




We checked our Undercover Tourist App again, and Rip Ride Rockit was on a 5 minute wait, so DD and DH headed there again after the show. The boys found so many lizards in front of the Beetlejuice graveyard that they just wanted to stay there and look for more.

When DD came back, we decided to split up again. The boys and DH went back to Fievel's playland (what can I say, the boys just like to run around!), and DD and I went to do MIB one more time (10 minute wait). We all met back at Fievel's playland and I was finally able to talk the kids into at least walking through the Barney attraction. That playhouse was soooo cute! Too bad my kids wanted nothing to do with Barney anymore!

Our last thing on our to-do list was to see the character parade at 5:00. So we found a spot near Despicable Me and sat on the curb. I was just handing out some snacks to the kids when a Universal employee came up to me and asked if we were waiting for the parade. I said we were, and he asked if we'd like a better place to view the parade. We agreed, so we packed up our stuff and followed him to the Hollywood side of the park. There we found a roped-off bench waiting for us!



The guy said this was something they just started doing - something to make a family have an extra smile. He was so nice! He brought the kids bottled water and really treated us like VIPs! It was a great way to view the parade.







After the parade, our "host" came back over and asked if there was anything that we missed out doing or wanted to do again. DD mentioned how much she loved Rip Ride Rockit, so he asked if she wanted to ride it one more time - without waiting in line. She was thrilled.

He walked us over to Rip Ride Rockit and took DD & DH up the employee's only elevator to the front of the line. There was only a 10 minute wait at that time, but they sure felt important!

We thanked our guide for the full ending to our trip, and then we headed to the main souvenir store to finally make some purchases. My older two kids bought Harry Potter wands. We also came home with some minions, a Hogwarts christmas ornament and a few other things.

Then we said goodbye to Universal and left to get some dinner at Giordano's pizza in Kissimmee. We turned in early that night after packing our suitcase.

We left at 6:30 AM the next day for Sanford airport and had a nice quiet flight home. We ate lunch in PA by 1:00.
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Old 01-13-2013, 09:11 PM   #37
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that was a nice touch to have the vip bench and goodies.

you can never turn down a personal escort to the RRR !


sounds like your day ended great.


love all your pictures!
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Old 01-13-2013, 09:22 PM   #38
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What it cost

I thought I would also share what this trip cost us. We are always trying to save money where we can, but also don't mind spending a little more to make something special when we are able as well.

Airfare (inc tax, fees and baggage) - $850

Park tickets (we bought 2 adult & 2 child 4-day base tickets from AAA - our 5th set of tickets were won (free!) from Coke Rewards) - $586

Lodging (private 4BR/2BA pool home - 5 nights) - $650

Rental Car (Dollar) - $150

Parking (at Universal - 4 days) - $60

Gas - $40

Groceries (included breakfasts, snacks, toiletries, etc) - $130

Meals - $586

Souvenirs - $180 (the kids had their own money for their items, so most of this was paid for by them)

Entertainment (Dave & Busters) - $20

Total - $3252

This trip was supposed to be our "cheap" trip! LOL We knew when we opted to fly AND take all 5 of us, it would cost more. It certainly didn't end up being a bargain trip; however, I do think it cost us a little less than our past Disney trips (where we stayed longer, but did not fly).

All in all, it was a good trip (Florida in January is soooo much nicer than June or July!), and I am glad we got to spend some time at Universal. I am going to miss having a summer vacation this year, but I am going back to school to start my Masters and will be unable to take a week off once I begin the program. So this was a great solution.

Now we are all unpacked again at home, and tomorrow is back to work and school for all of us.

I hope you all enjoyed our trip report. Let me know if you have any questions!
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Old 01-14-2013, 10:37 AM   #39
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What a great way to end your trip!! Who doesn't love the VIP treatment!
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Old 01-14-2013, 05:21 PM   #40
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Hi
Thanks for your review!! It sounds like you had a really great time!! Your kids are very cute!!
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Old 01-14-2013, 08:02 PM   #41
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Thank you! I enjoyed reading your report We are going to Universal for the first time in December so it was all very interesting.
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Old 01-15-2013, 11:36 AM   #42
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Fantastic trip report. Glad you had a nice time....Thanks for sharing
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Old 01-16-2013, 08:55 PM   #43
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Great TR. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 01-16-2013, 08:57 PM   #44
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Great TR. Thanks for sharing! The pictures of your house look really nice. Sorry it was not all it seemed.
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Old 01-20-2013, 10:23 PM   #45
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Ty!

Thanks for your Trip report! We are excited to be going to Universal for the first time this year!
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