Back in October/November, we visited Universal Studios and Disney for Halloween. Today’s post is about our trip to Universal and Disney World in the fall. I shared a little bit about our plans in my reading plans for last year. One of my goals was to finish the entire Harry Potter series before visiting Universal in October, and I was successful! For our trip, we stayed at Loews Royal Pacific Resort for three nights. Then, we moved over to the Caribbean Beach Resort for the Disney portion of our trip. We stayed five nights. This trip was in the works for well over a year, and we were looking forward to it so much!
If you’re curious about other trip to Disney World (from 2020), you can find those posts here.
Here’s an overview of our trip to Universal and Disney World in the fall, so you can click on the area you’d like to read:
Table of Contents
- Day 1 Travel day, City Walk and Disney Springs
- Day 2 Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, Disney Springs
- Day 3 Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, City Walk
- Day 4 Early pick up to Caribbean Beach resort, Animal Kingdom Day
- Day 5 Hollywood Studios Day
- Day 6 Epcot Day
- Day 7: Halloween, Epcot & Magic Kingdom Day
- Day 8: Magic Kingdom
Day 1 Travel day, City Walk and Disney Springs
We arrived pretty early in Orlando. We booked private transportation through our travel agent, so the wait was minimal once we got off the plane. Our driver was waiting for us at baggage claim, so we got our bags and got right into the suv. We used Mears Global. If you’re looking for transportation to Disney, we were very happy with the service. In fact, our flight was early and the pick up was so quick, we were on the road before our plane was originally scheduled to land.
We stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. It was about a 20-30 minute drive to the airport. We gave our bags to bell service since our room wasn’t ready. By 8:30, we were already walking to Orlando City Walk. That’s the way I like to start vacation! Our plan was to grab breakfast in City Walk, hang out for a while and then head over to Disney Springs to shop and eat lunch.
When we got to City Walk, we got breakfast at VooDoo Donuts and shopped for a little bit. After that, we walked back to Royal Pacific and caught a Lyft to Disney Springs. At Disney Springs, we shopped for a bit before heading to our lunch at The Boat House. This ended up being one of our best meals of the trip. We would definitely eat there again. After lunch, we headed over to the Coca Cola store to get their Coca Cola flight of sodas from around the world. It was so much fun to try each soda and rate them. It was also a great way to stay out of the sun and also see everything. The rooftop bar has a great view of Disney Springs.
Our room at Royal Pacific was ready, so we got a Lyft back to the resort. We were very happy with the our room. Fitting five people into one room is always a challenge, but the room and the bathroom were big enough for us. It was really cool to see the parks from our window, because that’s not something you get at Disney unless you’re staying at a Deluxe resort (which we haven’t done yet).
After hanging out in our room and waiting for our other family member to land at the airport, we headed to dinner in City Walk. Our first dinner was at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. It was so fun! It was a great start to our trip. We got the tater tot appetizer for the table, and it was delicious! Their milkshakes are huge. We ate so much, we didn’t have room for dessert. But, the boys wanted to try the milkshakes, so we got 2 to share. After dinner, we walked around the entrances to the parks so we could get our game plan together for the next morning and then headed to bed!
Day 2 Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, Disney Springs
The next morning, we met up at the entrance of Islands of Adventure. We knew we wanted to ride Hagrid’s Magic Motorbike ride, and riding it first thing in the morning is the shortest possible wait. After park opening, we headed straight to the ride and were off the ride in 1 1/2 hours. It was a long wait, but it is a really great ride!
We were starving, so we headed to The Three Broomsticks for breakfast. That was another great meal of the trip. The breakfast was so good. We tried a couple different butter beers, the frozen and the warm. It’s so hard to pick a favorite. I couldn’t drink the frozen one fast enough. It kept giving me an ice cream headache. The warm butter beer was so delicious!
After breakfast, we went to Dervish and Bangles to get wands. We could have bought them without watching the show, but I’m SO glad we waited for the wand experience. Our oldest actually got picked for the wand!
As a side note, our kids each have a cell phone and brought them on the trip not only in case we got separated but also just to document the trip for themselves with photos and videos. Throughout the trip, we had quite a few people comment about our kids’ phone usage. They would say something to the effect of “better put the cell phone away and enjoy your vacation!” It happened enough that it stood out to me. Of course we should all put our cell phones away and enjoy our vacations, but we’re also taking pictures and videos! Anyways, little rant aside … our oldest got his phone out to record the wand ceremony. I saw the wizard who does the ceremony notice our son with the cell phone … and he got picked! My husband and I couldn’t stop laughing. Our oldest didn’t even want to get a wand, but he bought the one that was chosen for him because it was rare. Plus, it makes a great memory! After that, we all got wands in the shop.
And here’s a tip! If you don’t get chosen for the wand ceremony, head into the shop and ask one of the shop workers to help you. There was the kindest gentleman who helped each of us and basically acted out our own little wand ceremony. It was completely unexpected and cool!
After we were done at the wand shop, we met up with another family member who just happened to be in Orlando at the same time! A few of us rode The Forbidden Journey. Our daughter and I chickened out, but we did get to experience part of the Express Pass line. My favorite part was the talking portraits. Next up was Velocicoaster.
Now. I am not really a rollercoaster. I will ride them to go along with everyone else, but I usually hit a point where I’m too nauseous to ride them. Prior to this trip, I watched the Velocicoaster ride throughs videos on YouTube to prepare myself.
Y’all, nothing prepared me for that. It is an amazing rollercoaster, and the theming is awesome. But, I will very happy if I never ride that rollercoaster again. So, we all rode it once and then everyone wanted to ride it again. I just couldn’t do it. The boys and I found a quite spot to sit down and I closed my eyes to feel better. We shopped in the Jurassic Park shop for a little bit and then headed back to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Since we had park-to-park tickets, we decided to take the train over to Diagon Alley and ride Escape From Gringotts. That ride was amazing! It gave me goosebumps and made me tear up a little at the end.
Since we had such a long trip, we were really trying to fit in a ton of experiences. That night, we had dinner plans at Disney Springs at Morimoto Asia. Unfortunately, I could only get a reservation at 4:45. We were hoping for a later time, so we could stay at Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure longer. But, honestly, a full day at the park was just enough. We were super hungry and ready to sit down for a while. Our dinner at Morimoto was so delicious. Their sushi was amazing, and the kids and I tried their duck ramen.
We wandered around Disney Springs, shopped, at some pretzels and dole whip and a made-to-order s’more, and even met up with a couple family members who were staying at Disney Springs!! It was so funny, meeting up with family so far from home. After we got a (very scary) Lyft back to the resort, we were so tired and went to bed.
Day 3 Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, City Walk
Our game plan for our second parks day Universal was to go to Universal Studios first. We thought rope dropping that side made sense, because most people are trying to ride Hagrid’s Magical Motorbike first thing in the morning. After a quick breakfast at VooDoo Donuts, we blasted throught the Universal Studios rides that aren’t Harry Potter themed. We rode Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Rip Ride Rocket (not all of us rode that), Escape From New York With Jimmy Fallon, Transformers 3-D (another ride I skipped out on), Revenge of the Mummy, Fast and the Furious and had even gotten a pizza at Louie’s Italian Restaurant before it was even lunch time. The pizza was actually very good! It was much better than the standard theme park pizza. Our daughter and I were hungry when everyone wanted to ride Fast and the Furious, so we got a pretzel and Powerade and sat on a bench in the shade to watch the Beat Builders.
After lunch, we rode Men in Black Alien Attack (SO FUN!! It felt like we were in the training scene of the first MIB movie), The Simpsons Ride, got a Duff Beer and then rode the E.T. Adventure Ride and Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster. Since we’d done most of the rides on ‘non Harry Potter’ side, we went through to Diagon Alley to shop a little bit. We stopped by Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and got some candy at Sugar Plum’s. I also tried butterbeer ice cream. That was a risk worth taking (I need to eat dairy-free but will risk stomach problems for ice cream)! After that, we played with our wands for a little while and went through Knockturn Alley again.
Since we’d taken the train going to Diagon Alley the day before, we decided to take the train one last time to Hogwarts. That way, we could go through Islands of Adventure to exit and end up in City Walk for dinner. We sped through to the Avenger area of the park, where four of us rode the Hulk Coaster back-to-back two or three times. After that, we headed to our diner at Antojito’s in City Walk!
We were in a bit of a time crunch, because three of us were going to Hollywood Horror Nights. They needed to finish dinner in time to get back in line at Universal Studios. Antojito’s was so, so good. We opted to get their fresh guacamole made at our table. We would definitely eat there again! Our group split up at that point. Two of the kids and I went back to our resort. We walked around, found the arcade and pool, but opted to head back to the room and get ready for the next day.
Although our focus of this trip was to experience Disney World in the fall, Universal Studios was a major highlight of the vacation. It was so much fun. It might have converted me to being a ‘rides’ person. There were many times I felt sick, but I was enjoying myself so much on the rides that I tried real hard to ignore that sick feeling and just focus on how much fun we were having. Honestly, that worked 90% of the time. The only time I felt bad enough to stop riding was after Velocicoaster and, well, that ride is intense!
Day 4 Early pick up to Caribbean Beach resort, Animal Kingdom Day
Our next day was check in at the Disney resort, Caribbean Beach! We had stayed there once before, back in 2020. We love the relaxed vibe of the resort. It’s a stark difference from being in the parks all day. It feels like ‘our resort,’ so we’ll be staying there again for Spring Break. Anyways, this particular morning we had a very, very early pick up with Mears Global again. Our goal was to make it to Animal Kingdom for rope drop. Our driver got us to CBR before the sun came up! We checked in, got our bags to bell services since (obviously) our room wasn’t ready that early, and then headed to the bus stop.
When we booked our trip to Disney World in the fall, Genie+ was still $15 per per/day and you could add it to your trip in advanced. So, we already had Genie+ for each day of our trip. Our first park was Animal Kingdom. At 7am, we were still at the bus stop. We were all (our group plus others at the bus stop) trying to reserve our rides in Genie+ and it wasn’t working for anyone. The bus was also taking forever, so it was a hectic few minutes. The bus showed up, Genie+ start working, and we were walking onto Expedition Everest by 8:15. The wait was so short, we rode it twice back-to-back before heading over to the Safari for our first Lightning Lane.
After the safari, we had breakfast at Tusker House. That is my favorite breakfast at Disney World! It’s so fun, and the theming is beautiful. While our breakfast settled, we watched The Festival of the Lion King. That show is amazing!! After the show, we headed over to Dinoland to ride Dinosaur for the first time. Y’all, that ride is crazy! I would definitely ride it again, though.
After Dinoland, it was time for our ILL at Flight of Passage and a LL at Na’vi River Journey. A few of us wanted snacks, so we grabbed some Pongu Lumpia, pretzels and Apple Blossoms. Some of us needed a little more sustenance, so we headed to Satu’li Canteen and tried cheeseburger pods for the first time. They were so good and I would get them again!
It was getting a little bit later in the afternoon when we realized the Animation Station and the train were about to close, so we booked it over past Dinoland to watch the last Finding Nemo: The Big Blue … and Beyond! Y’all!! This show was spectacular. It’s so well done and funny! We will definitely make sure to watch it when we’re back there for Spring Break.
After the show, we were a little early for our dinner at Tiffin’s. They were able to seat us, though! This restaurant is not one that I hear mentioned a ton online. It might be the price, but I will say it was 100% worth it. Everything we ate was so delicious. My husband and I got the shrimp and grits. Our kids love their meals. One of our sons got the brownie, and it was so rich three of us couldn’t eat it. It was SO good!
After shopping at Discovery Trading Company and Island Mercantile, it was time to get on the bus back to the resort. Riding the bus is not my favorite mode of transportation, but I do love that it’s included in the resort price. We might take Lyfts to/from the kingdoms during Spring Break. I am all for saving time where we can.
Day 5 Hollywood Studios Day
On the next day, we went to one of my favorite parks. Hollywood Studios! I just love this park. This day was exhausting, because we did a lot of zig-zagging across the park to get to our Lightning Lanes. I will say, Genie+ definitely allowed us to do more. We prefer to not wait as much as possible, so the lightning lanes really help with the popular rides. We would fill in the rest of our time with less popular experiences and rides.
Our priority is always to do all the Toy Story rides and all the Star Wars rides. We did pretty good this time! The only Toy Store ride we didn’t ride was Alien Swirling Saucers. In fact, the only other attraction we didn’t ride was Rockin’ Rollercoaster. We rode Toy Story Mania, Slinky Dog Dash and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway twice each, and that’s all due to Genie+ (and early entry rope-dropping).
We had breakfast at Woody’s Lunchbox. Honestly, I can’t imagine going to Hollywood Studios and not eating there. It’s my favorite Disney breakfast, aside from Tusker House. For lunch, we ate at Docking Bay 7 and Ronto’s Roasters. My husband wanted a ronto wrap so he ordered and picked up his food and then met us at Docking Bay 7.
In between lunch and dinner, three of us made droids at the Droid Depot. That was a lot of fun. I made a BB droid in the traditional BB8 colors. We had the droids shipped home from the Droid Depot, which was super convenient. After our droid appointment, we had a reservation at Oga’s Cantina. That was a ton of fun! We plan to go there during our Spring Break trip, too.
For dinner, we ate at Hollywood Brown Derby. That was okay. The food was fine, but I felt like I’d built it up in my mind too much prior to the trip. We were also on day 5 of the trip, so we were feeling pretty tired by then. I got the famous cobb salad. It was really good! Both my husband and I felt pretty ‘meh’ about eating there again.
After dinner, we made our way down Hollywood Boulevard and shopped along the way. We took the skyliner back to the resort and went to bed.
Day 6 Epcot Day
Our sixth day of the trip was our first Epcot day. Since Epcot is so big, we decided to split it into two days. The first day we spent in the World Showcase. Our priority was to ride Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, and Frozen Ever After. As far as food, the Food & Wine festival was going on so we wanted to try any food and/or drinks from that as well. We also did two scavenger hunts. One was the Remy’s Hide & Squeak Scavenger Hunt. That one was so cute! There were Remy’s hidden with different foods across the park. The second scavenger hunt we did was Pluto’s Pumpkin Pursuit. For that one, you had to find different pumpkins across the park. The prizes were really cute. For the Remy scavenger hunt, you had a choice between different cups. For the Pluto scavenger hunt, you had a choice of tiny Mickey jack-o-lantern buckets. Emphasis on the tiny! It’s really more decor than a bucket.
First things first, we rode Cosmic Rewind! We got the song Disco Inferno. That was, hands down, the best ride of the entire trip. It’s just so good. As someone who gets nauseous on rides, I didn’t feel sick one bit. After that ride, we walked through the Canada and UK pavilions. We met Mary Poppins! I am not one for characters. They’re just not what I get excited about. But, y’all! This Mary Poppins was literally the best. She was so believable! We were in awe of her!
By that time, it was time for our Remy’s lightning lane. That was a ton of fun. When we got off, I said it was a ‘one and done’ for me, but I’m actually excited to ride it again in a couple weeks. It made me a little nauseous, but it wasn’t bad. After Remy’s, we worked our way through World Showcase country by country. By lunch time, we were near the America pavilion. We ate at Regal Eagle Smokehouse, and it was delicious! We would definitely eat there again.
We made our way through the rest of the countries until we got to Norway and rode Frozen Ever After. Honestly, we just ate and drank our way through the World Showcase, which I guess is the point of Epcot. We walked all the way around the loop, back to Canada for dinner at Le Cellier.
My steak at Le Cellier was literally the best steak I’ve ever had in my entire life. My number one goal for Epcot, food wise, was to get the charcuterie board with the beef fat candle. And we got it! It was so good. My only regret was that I was so full, I could not finish my steak. But, our waiter said that all the unfinished food is composted. That made me feel a little better. But, it did feel like a waste. My husband and I probably should have split a plate.
Earlier in the day, at 1:00, I scored a spot in the virtual queue for Cosmic Rewind. After dinner, we headed back that way to ride it a second time. This time, we got the song Conga. We were so tired by the time we got off the ride, it was time to just sit and wait for the fireworks at 9 pm. Harmonious is the 50th anniversary firework show for Epcot, and it did not disappoint. We all have Magicband+, so our magic bands interacted with the fireworks. That was pretty cool. After the fireworks, it was back on the skyliner and back to Caribbean Beach!
Day 7: Halloween, Epcot & Magic Kingdom Day
This was the day where we all started melting a bit. All these days were basically rope drop to fireworks and, honestly, to make it to day 7 before we really started feeling really tired was pretty good. But, it was also our longest day. So, there’s that.
We started out the morning a little slower than the rest, with a breakfast at Ale & Compass. We took the skyliner and booked it over to the boardwalk for our reservation. It was so good! I really like that they offer the buffet, along with an entree. That way, you can try a few different things.
Of course, I booked us an ILL for Cosmic Rewind. We were hoping to get a different song, but we got Disco Inferno again. I think that song really works well for the ride, but I had been hoping for the song September. Since we spent the previous day in World Showcase, we focused more on World Celebration. We rode Journey Into Imagination With Figment (that was weird), Cosmic Rewind, Mission: Space, Soarin’, Spaceship Earth, and Test Track. We did a little shopping as well in some of the pavilions and the Connections store. We had a delicious lunch at the San Angel Inn in the Mexico pavilion. I can’t wait to eat there again next week, when I’m there for the Princess Race Weekend!
We had a lightning lane for Turtle Talk and actually made it into the Aquarium right before we decided it was time for a break. Part of our group was in front of Turtle Talk and the rest of the group was riding Mission: Space. We decided to just meet back at the resort, but we all ended up making it to the skyliner at the same time. After a couple hours at the resort, we took the bus to Magic Kingdom for the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!
This was our first time going to a ticketed event in Magic Kingdom. First things first, we should have gotten there at 4 pm. We got there right at 5 pm, right before the last normal cavalcade was going to come down Main Street. Imagine all the people there in Magic Kingdom for Halloween, plus all the people coming into the park for the Halloween party, and then imagine all of those people crammed right in between Casey’s Corner and the ice cream shop across the street. It. Was. Chaos. It was not the greatest start to the Halloween party.
After the cavalcade passed by, the crowds started to thin out. That was a relief. First, we got some pictures in front of the castle before headed into Tomorrowland. The Halloween overlay wasn’t on Space Mountain yet, so we went to grab our Halloween trick-or-treat bags before heading over to Pirates of the Caribbean. The Halloween overlay wasn’t available on that ride yet, either, but the wait was so short we decided to ride it anyway. After Pirates of the Caribbean, we rode Jungle Cruise (our first time!). One of the Halloween treats we wanted was the Jack-o-Lantern Float at Sunshine Tree Terrace. It was about 7:30 by the time we got that, and then it was time to find a spot for the show in front of the castle.
Y’all, the show was so good! The Sanderson sisters sounded just like they do in the movies, somehow! We really enjoyed the show. When the show was over, our daughter’s legs were sore from all the walking and standing. We decided to take a break and sit on the stone wall in Liberty Square, near where the parade starts. We grabbed a Zero popcorn bucket (one of our other must-buys!) and a Chamber Maid Chill Pop and waited for the first parade. The rest of our group went and rode Pirates of the Caribbean with the Halloween overlay. They said it was hilarious!!
They met up with us in time for the parade, which did not disappoint. I just love all the floats and dancing and music! It was exactly what we needed — we sat and rested for about an hour between the show and the parade, and then the parade was 30 minutes.
We were all hungry, so stopped by Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn for dinner before heading over to Haunted Mansion. We somehow timed it perfect. The first fireworks show was happening, so we walked right onto Haunted Mansion. We were off by 10:40 and heading back to the front of the park to go back to the resort. After the fireworks, the line for Haunted Mansion was wrapped around almost to Columbia Harbor House. It was the most popular ride of the night!
Ideally, we should have gotten there at 4, stood in line to meet Jack & Sally, gone the back way down Main Street near the train station, mobile-ordered dinner, and then headed straight to Tomorrowland to start riding rides. I also would have watched the second show in front of the castle, because the crowds would have died down by then. We will remember that for next time! That being said, we would absolutely pay to go to the Halloween party again, and we would love to attend a Christmas party. The wait times for rides were pretty low (aside from Haunted Mansion, which is to be expected on Halloween night).
Day 8: Magic Kingdom
Our next day was our last park day, sadly! One of our goals for this trip was to see the switch over from the Halloween decorations to the Christmas decorations. Did you know Disney switches the decorations over night? We left the park around 11 pm the night before and entered the next day around 9:45 am, and the Christmas decorations were already up! They do the decorations in stages, so the huge tree wasn’t up yet. But, the garlands and wreaths were up. They were even brand new red flowers planted in the flower beds, and The Emporium had been stocked with all the new Christmas merchandise. It was insane!
We started off the morning a little slower, since we’d been up so late the night before. We ate breakfast at Centertown Market the lobby of Caribbean Beach Resort, which is called Port Royale. They do a really great quick service breakfast. We would place our order while walking over and it would be ready soon after arriving to the lobby.
We arrived to the park, via bus, around 9:45a and immediately ooh’ed and ahh’ed over the Christmas decorations. As we walked through the train tunnel, we saw the Dapper Dans come around on the trolley, singing! It was a great start to the day. The park was significantly less crowded than the day before, so that was nice.
First things first, we had an ILL for Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train. We were on and off the ride by 10:16 am. Next, we headed to Tomorrowland to ride Buzz Lightyear’s Ranger Spin. Space Mountain was down at that moment, so we rode the People Mover. That was fun! If Space Mountain is ever down, hop on the People Mover because it’s very likely you can see the ride with all the lights on! It’s really cool.
After that, we walked around a bit. We had booked an early lunch at Skipper Canteen. That was a cute restaurant, and we really enjoyed the banter from the server. Everyone enjoyed their food and drinks. I had booked us a LL for Peter Pan’s Flight (it’s really not worth more than a 10-minute wait). I love that ride, but the wait is insane. We were in the LL for maybe 10 minutes. After Peter Pan, we headed over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. That ride makes me a little nauseous, so I rested on a bench while everyone else rode it.
After that, we headed over to Hall of Presidents to cool off for a bit. We didn’t time that well, because the next show wasn’t starting for another 20 minutes. It’s a lengthy show, so we decided to use the time to shop at the Christmas ornament store. We caught a little cavalcade in Liberty Square before headed over to Adventureland. We finally saw The Tiki Room! I haven’t seen the Tiki Room show since the 90’s. It’s so cute! Of course, if we’re in Adventureland, we’re going to ride Pirates of the Caribbean. It is definitely my favorite ride, right up there with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
By that time, it was almost 3 and we were hungry again. We decided to get food at Casey’s Corner. We did not intentionally time it like this, but we walked up just as two tables opened up and right before the Festival of Fantasy. If you are ever in that area before the parade, just snag a table and sit there for a bit. It’s just a good viewing spot for the parade!
Since we were on Main Street (and melting), we decided to shop for a bit. We took the next hour to make our way through the shops. By 4:30, we were feeling done. We had a dinner reservation at Liberty Tree Tavern but, honestly, we were so hot that we needed a break. We said good bye to Magic Kingdom and headed back to the hotel.
By 7, we were hungry again so we headed back to Port Royale to eat at Centertown Market. While we were walking through the resort property, we noticed all the fun activities that are planned throughout the week. We went by an outdoor movie spot, too, that was playing Anastasia. Next time, we’ll definitely plan a rest day so we can take advantage of all the resort activities!
The next morning, we had an early 6 am pick up with Mears Global and we were home by lunch time!
Overall, it was an amazing trip. This had been in the works for such a long time. Our previous trip had been February 2020, right before the pandemic. If we had done anything differently, we would have cut the trip down a day or two. It was just a long time to be away from home. We were all excited and grateful for the ability to have such a long trip, but it definitely felt like a ‘one and done’ trip. I would love to go back for Halloween, but for a shorter time.
That being said, we are going back for Spring Break. We’ll only be there four days, which is the perfect amount of time. We are ‘rope drop to fireworks’ people through and through, so going full speed for four days is much more manageable. Thanks for checking out our itinerary for our trip to Universal Studios and Disney World in the fall! It was such a memorable trip. If you have any questions at all, I’m happy to help.