The original plan was to spend 48 hours at Universal but due to a cancelled flight we ended up with just 24 hours there. It was still definitely worth it even though we would have loved to have longer.
We had tickets for both parks and express passes so that we could try and fit in a much as possible in the day that we had.
Island of Adventure:
IOA had early park access so we were in the line by 7:30am waiting for the park to open. They opened the gates about 7:45am and once we were through we were on a mission to get in to the queue for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventures. We stashed our stuff in the lockers and then got in the queue which moved really quickly and I think we managed to get on it at about 8:20am, it was definitely up there in our favourite rides and I won’t spoil it but we’d watched videos and still managed to be surprised by it. We then went straight to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey again you need to put stuff in lockers for this ride. The express queue isn’t open during early access but we didn’t wait too long, the only downside to this is that you walk through the queue so quickly that you don’t get to see everything in as much detail as if you were queuing properly. Again we loved this ride although it did make Andy feel motion sick.
Next up was a walk around Hogsmeade and a look in some of the shops before catching the Hogwarts Express over to Diagon Alley.
We came back to Islands of Adventure towards the end of the day when Universal Studios was closing for Halloween Horror Nights and ate at the 3 Broomsticks. Pip and I rode Harry Potter and Forbidden Journey again and still loved it. We also managed fit in Jurassic Park River Adventure, which we got soaked on and we met a baby dinosaur. We finished off the evening by watching the light show on the castle. The light show was really spectacular but there isn’t really an area for everyone to stand and it got very crowded.
When we got off the Hogwarts Express we headed towards Diagon Alley stopping to knock on the door of 11 Grimwald Place and say hello to Stan and Ernie and the Knightbus. We then spend time exploring Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley which Pip particularly liked, watching the dragon and visiting the shops. We visited Ollivander’s and weren’t chosen for the wand selection but it was still really fun to watch.
We also rode Harry Potter and the escape from Gringotts which we enjoyed but not as much as the other two Harry Potter rides. We were very glad that we had express passes so that we didn’t have to queue for too long.
After Diagon Alley we headed to Springfield to do the Simpson’s rides and have some lunch. The Simpson’s ride was fun but it was the one ride that made me feel quite motion sick.
We then had a wander, bumped in to Shaggy and Scooby, did the Bourne Stuntacular (which was Andy’s favourite), watched Animal Actor’s on location, met Bumblebee, rode Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Men in Black and generally just explored. By this point the park was starting to get ready for Halloween Horror nights so we got back on the Hogwart’s Express to return to Hogsmeade (this was the longest queue we waited in all day even with express passes).
Looking back at that we managed to do more than I thought although I am very glad that we had express passes otherwise we would have just spent all day waiting for rides.
During the day Andy drank his own body weight in Butter Beer of various types. Pip and I however needed a little more variety. We started with Starbucks from our hotel which was open before the main food court, that kept us going until we’d done the main rides that we wanted to do during early access.
For lunch we had hot dogs from the stand in Simpsons land, I went on the hunt for something vegetarian and wasn’t very successful as everywhere seemed to have sold out of pretzels and anything else I could eat. I eventually found a stand with pretzels but unfortunately no cheese sauce.
We bought a refillable cup so used that during the day at the various Coke freestyle machines. There is a big selection of drinks available with ice, which was greatly appreciated in the hot weather. You can also use the machines to refill your water bottles for free.
We ate dinner in the 3 Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, the food was good for quick service and the lines not too long. We would have liked to have tried somewhere in city walk but we didn’t have the time.
We took an Uber from Orlando airport to Cabana Bay and it was very quick and easy. Booked on the app, came in minutes and took about 20 minutes to arrive at the hotel. the journey cost us $35.
We used the Universal shuttle bus to get from Cabana Bay to Universal and back again. Again it was very easy and free to use The only slight downside was that it was supposed to start an hour before early access but the first bus didn’t arrive until 7:15am so it depends on how early you want to get there.
We rented a car from the rental desk at Cabana Bay to drive down to the Port of Miami. We had to pick the car up by 4pm so it did mean that Andy had to go back to the hotel to sort it out. This wouldn’t have been so annoying if we had had the 2 park days as planned but it ended up being fine. We dropped the car off at the Avis office near the port in Miami and used their shuttle service to take us to the port.
We were still on UK time and had to fit two days in to one so were up really early to get the bus to the parks. The morning was cool and we were grateful for sweatshirts while we stood in the dark waiting for the bus at 7am. As soon as the sun came out though it started to warm up, the middle of the day was very warm and we were glad we had dressed in shorts and that we were able to queue indoors in air-conditioned queues. I know heat is subjective but in summary the mornings and evenings are cooler when there is no sun
Lockers: There is a charge for some of the larger lockers so we packed light! We had a bumbag with the essentials (ponchos, hand sanitiser, tickets etc) and that was it. We didn’t end up using the poncho although if we had rode Jurassic Park later in the day they would have been a good idea. Because we travelled light, everything fit in the small, free lockers.
Lanyards: These are a really good idea. Your ticket is the key to your locker, you scan it to open the lockers. You also need to have your express pass on you for the rides so a lanyard is the best way to keep both ticket and express pass safe. they do sell the lanyards in the park but if you are on a budget then they would be cheaper to get before you go.
Universal’s customer service:
We booked directly with Universal so when we know that we were going to be 24 hours late we gave them a call to make sure that they would hold our hotel room for us. Not only did they sort out the hotel but they also refunded the park tickets that we wouldn’t be using along with the express passes and airport transport. It wasn’t possible to change the airport transfers to the following day but the person we spoke to was so helpful and advised us to get an Uber instead and even gave us an idea of how much it should cost.