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Gina’s August Universal/Disney World trip – PREP256

Gina’s August Universal/Disney World trip – PREP256

Gina and her family are Disney regulars and took a trip in August of 2021 that included both Universal Parks and three of the for Walt Disney World Parks. Gina traveled with her husband and their 16 year old daughter and 9 year old son.

These are notes from this episode. There’s much more info included in the audio so be sure to listen to the episode for a better explanation.

The Basics

Gina, her husband, and their two youngest children drove to Universal Studios on August 8. They had a few days at Universal Studios, staying Club Level at Hard Rock Hotel.

They checked out and moved over to Bay Lake Tower on August 11 and departed for home on August 15.

They opted to drive because it was more convenient and safer for this trip. It is also an opportunity to check in on their college-aged son that is on the way down. Their drive is about 9 hours.

They chose to stay club level at Hard Rock Hotel because of the convenience. They also opted to get the dining plan during their stay at Universal Studios. This included free refills on the freestyle drinks.

They chose Bay Lake Tower because originally they’d planned a theme park view room at the Contemporary on their originally scheduled trip. They opted to move to Bay Lake Tower to a lake view one bedroom room to have more space.

They also chose Bay Lake because it is very close for walking back during the middle of the day. The convenience was important to them.

Gina is using a third party travel protection. They are grateful that they can have that coverage just in case. This has become more of a priority during these times. 

Arrival (August 8)

They drove and it took about 10 hours total. They ended up stopping at a rest stop at Publix to use a clean restroom. 

They arrived and checked in at Hard Rock Hotel. They arrived around 5 p.m. and went to the club for some snacks. They were able to get some heavy Hors d’oeuvres. 

They planned to go to the pool but there were some storms so they walked to City Walk. It was a very easy walk. They went back to their room and got ready for their next day. 

Universal Parks (August 9)

Gina and her family woke up and got breakfast at the Club lounge. They arrived to Universal Studios entrance at 8 a.m. because they had early entry. 

They went right to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and rode Escape from Gringotts. Their next stop was Ollivanders Wand Shop for a wand choosing ceremony. They also hopped on Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon before heading to the Hogwarts Express. 

Islands of Adventure was opening at 10 a.m. and the terminal for Hogwarts Express opened at 9:30 a.m. They got in line and were on the Hogwarts Express fairly quickly. They went right to Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

This was their first time on Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and everyone loved it! 

After all of that, they stopped for Butter Beer. Gina used the Quick Service dining plan and they broke even, Gina calculated everything exactly. It was convenient to use though! 

They did the rest of the rides in Islands of Adventure, including Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriff, and Jurassic World

They stopped at Burger Digs for lunch and it was a good experience. The process was very organized. After lunch, Gina’s husband was ready to go back to the room, so she and the kids did Jurassic Park River Adventure

It was time to take a break so Gina and her kids went back to the room for a bit to rest. They were back in the park and entered through the front of Islands of Adventure to ride The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.

Gina says her kids were at the perfect ages for Universal Studios. They were tall enough to ride the rides and really enjoyed them.

They were stopped in a rain storm with a lot of lightning. They quickly made their way out of the park and stopped at Hard Rock Cafe because it was a safe place to stop. They ended up getting some food there while they waited.  

Gina and her family added the Freestyle mug option to their dining plan. It was good for them because they were able to refill at every Freestyle machine during the day. They always had a cold drink with them. 

They made their way back to the resort after dinner and this was the end of their day. 

Universal Parks (August 10)

Gina and her family structured their touring very similar to the day before. They stopped at the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem on their way in but then went to Escape from Gringotts

Gina’s son was able to use his interactive wand while they were wandering around. Just like the day before they took the Hogwarts Express over to Islands of Adventure and went right to Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

They were able to get in the virtual queue today, which was nicer than the day before. Gina and her family also had Express Pass and they used it quite a bit to cut down on their wait times.

After riding all of the rides they wanted to do in Hogsmeade, they stopped for lunch at Three Broomsticks. They had a bit of a wait there because they mobile ordered but no one took their number. The food and service was fine though.

They decided to do the park in reverse order and rode things on the Universal Studios side. They rode the E.T. Adventure Ride and the Borne Stuntacular. They also saw some characters before going back to the resort. 

They grabbed a snack and it started to thunder. They didn’t want to get stuck in a storm again so they ran to the boat and took that back to the resort. They missed going to the pool that night because of the storm. They picked up some club level options that were really good for dinner.

Universal Parks (August 11)

Gina and her family woke up and packed up their car. They went over to Universal Studios at 8 a.m. again and again went straight to Escape from Gringotts

Just like before they took the Hogwarts Express over to Islands of Adventure and went right to Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. They got in line and stood in line for 45 minutes and it never came back up, so they decided to get out of line. 

They went to Three Broomsticks for lunch and it was wonderful. They’d done everything they wanted to do and were ready to get to Disney! 

They got in the car and went straight to Bay Lake Tower. Bell services helped them unload their car. They went to their room. Gina was a little disappointed with the theming at Bay Lake Tower, but it grew on her.

They spread out in their one bedroom. They did some laundry and unpacked. The view of the lake and pool was wonderful. They had a balcony off the master bedroom. There was a full kitchen, two bathrooms, a sleeper chair and sleeper bed in the living room, and a master bedroom with a king size bed. 

They went to the pool and it was really nice. Originally they had a reservation at Kona Cafe but the boys didn’t know what they wanted to eat, so they canceled it. Gina opted to do a monorail trip and got some food from Captain Cooks

Gina and her daughter also got a dole whip while they waited for their dinner to be ready. The boys stayed back in the room to rest while they picked up their meal. 

They took their food back to the room and ate their dinner together. Then they all took a ride on the monorail to the Grand Floridian. They did some shopping over there. It was very quiet at the Grand Floridian. It was silent! 

They got back to their room around 8 p.m. and it was time to get to bed. 

Epcot (August 12)

They got to sleep in a bit because Epcot didn’t open until 11 a.m. They hopped on a bus around 10 a.m. They had the whole bus to themselves that morning! 

When they arrived at Epcot at 10:10 a.m. they were held on the bus for a few minutes before they were able to go through the temperature screening and security.

It was a very seamless process and they were headed to Test Track at 10:45 a.m. They started running the ride about 5 minutes before park opening. They were on and off by 11:05 a.m.

They walked over to Soarin’ and were able to ride that twice without any wait. Then it was time for a snack! They got a kids meal at Sunshine Seasons. It got fairly crowded as they were leaving. 

They saw Pooh while they were leaving and he was playing in the grass. They wandered to the World Showcase and planned to taste snacks around the festival. Their first stop was the World Showplace. 

They slowly took their time around the World Showcase from Canada to Mexico. They were able to really explore the pavilions. They got to the American Garden Theatre and stopped to see some music. They also cooled off at the American Adventure show. 

They continued exploring and took photos along the way. They also saw the Mickey cavalcade. They really enjoyed that. When they got to Norway, the line for Frozen Ever After was only about 20 minutes. It moved very quickly. 

After Frozen Ever After they stopped at the Relaxation Station in Norway. They took a little break and decided what they wanted to do for dinner. 

It started to rain so they decided to go into The Seas with Nemo and Friends. They waited there until Test Track was back up. After riding Test Track several times, Gina’s husband and daughter wanted to get some more snacks. 

They split up and Gina and her son rode Test Track over and over until she could talk him into riding Soarin’ one more time with her before the park closed at 9 p.m. They didn’t rush out and took their time leaving. 

They got to the bus stop and their bus was fairly full. They waited about 10 minutes for their bus back to the resort.

Hollywood Studios (August 13)

Gina was a little bit nervous about this day because they wanted to be sure that they got a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance. They wanted to get there as early as possible so she scheduled an Uber the night before using a gift card she had.

Their driver was scheduled to arrive between 8:45-8:55 a.m. The driver was right on time. Their goal was to be at the front of the park between 9-9:15 a.m. They were a little nervous because he seemed like he didn’t know where he was going. They ended up being dropped at the cast member entrance. 

They hopped out and walked toward the temperature screenings at 9:10 a.m. The security held them until 9:15 a.m. and they were able to go to the temperature screening and security. They entered on the left side and everyone else was coming from the right, so it turned out fine.

They got into Hollywood Studios at 9:30 a.m. Gina opted to not ride anything right away because she wanted to be sure to get a boarding pass. They sat down and waited until 10 a.m. Three of them tried and they did end up getting boarding group 16.

Once they got their boarding group, Gina could relax! They went right to Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run and they didn’t wait more than about 20 minutes. Gina really enjoyed being a pilot! 

They got some photopass photos taken including some magic shots, which was a priority. They kept looking around Galaxy’s Edge and it did get crowded. They left around 11 a.m. and grabbed lunch at PizzeRizzo

It was a little more crowded than they expected, but it was a fine lunch. It was a relaxing space upstairs.

They went to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and the wait time was 60 minutes. They only waited 45 minutes. They really wanted to be sure that they rode it. Gina had avoided spoilers and loved this ride. 

After that they did Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania, and Tower of Terror – Gina hates Tower of Terror but her daughter loves it so they ride together. Then it was time for their dinner at Sci-Fi Dine-In and it was fine. The kids really enjoyed it.

They ended up riding Slinky Dog Dash several times throughout the day, which was really fun! They did Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and then got on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway just before the park closed at 8 p.m. 

Gina says they had a perfect day at Hollywood Studios. 

Magic Kingdom (August 14)

Gina was really looking forward to walking to the Magic Kingdom. The park opened at 9 a.m. and they started walking over at 8:15 a.m. and they were held until 8:30 a.m. to go through the temperature screening and security.

When they got into the park they decided to go to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train first after taking some photos. They were on and off the ride by 9:05 a.m. and they were really glad they did that first! 

They did Space Mountain next. Their goal was to do all of the mountains before lunch! They walked right on Space Mountain and Gina lost her sunglasses. There wasn’t time to put things away like usual because there was no wait at all.

They went to Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin next on their way to do the other mountains. It was a walk-on. They had about a 40 minute wait before 10 a.m. for Splash Mountain

They got on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and were off by 11:30 a.m. They were really pleased with how many rides they were able to do before noon! 

Gina has always wanted to try the chicken and waffles at Sleepy Hollow but the line was always so long. There was a line this time but they decided to wait anyway. They got their food and found a picnic table to eat their lunch. 

After lunch they went over to Haunted Mansion. It looked like a long line and the posted wait time was 40 minutes. They didn’t wait quite that long. 

They went over to Jungle Cruise, get a Dole Whip, and do the Swiss Family Treehouse. They took their time and explored. 

It was around 1:30 p.m. and Pirates of the Caribbean had a 60 minute wait time. They didn’t want to wait so they decided to go back to the resort for a rest. They rode the monorail back and rested for about an hour.

They got back to the Magic Kingdom around 3:30 p.m. It would have been quicker to walk, but they took the monorail because it was cooler. 

Gina’s family went to Space Mountain and she took her time going over there. They rode Seven Dwarfs Mine Train a few times. It’s a small world had a very long wait, so they skipped that. 

They had a 6:55 p.m. reservation at Liberty Tree Tavern with the park closing at 7 p.m. It was a wonderful meal. The food was delicious. They were seated in Diamond Horseshoe, which was fine. 

As the park was closing after dinner, they got some photos taken in front of the castle on their way out.

Departure (August 15)

They got some Mickey waffles at the Contempo Cafe in the morning before heading out! On their way home, they stopped by to see Gina’s son in college before making the rest of the trip home. 

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