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So, this is kind of a lazy guide, but also a guide to help you have the most stress-free trip to Harry Potter World possible. Is some of it a little lazy? Maybe. Is some of it actually helpful? I like to think so.
When I was researching Harry Potter World, I read just about everything I could about it and felt like it all gave the same advice: buy an interactive wand, eat at the Three Broomsticks or Leaky Cauldron, and get there before it opens so you have ALL DAY. I mean, it’s not bad advice, it’s all just the same and includes a lot of planning, which I don’t always love.
I totally get planning it all out if it’s your big vacation of the year, don’t get me wrong, but be flexible in what you do and when you do it. You’re there to have fun. So, I suppose if you’re a big planner, this might not be the best guide for you. But if you like to fly by the seat of your pants, welcome!
Don’t stress over tickets
We just bought our tickets at the gate since they were almost the same as everywhere online. If it’s just you and one other person and you’ve scoured the Internet for cheaper tickets from a reputable place and can’t find any, just get them there. When we went, the line to get the tickets wasn’t very long. We didn’t wait more than 15 minutes.
If you need to buy multiple tickets, I would probably buy them ahead of time. Undercover Tourist is a reputable place to buy discount tickets. If you’re going at a busy time, I would buy ahead of time so you don’t have to wait, but if it’s a Tuesday in January, I would worry less. Either way, make sure you get the park hopper tickets so you can see Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. This is also the only way you can take the Hogwarts Express.
If you can only pick one side to go to, I would go with Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure just because there is more to do (I think) in that park versus Universal. It was a lot more fun for me and the rides also looked better there. Plus, Jurassic Park. I would highly recommend doing the thing in the Jurassic Park building where it turns you into a dinosaur. It is hilarious.
Definitely, stay at a hotel on-site
This way you don’t have to get up even earlier and drive there. You’re already there! This way, if you want to go to the park before it opens, you can. You could also go in the morning, then go nap and come back in the evening much easier than if you’re staying off property.
If I go back, I would definitely do this. There are hotels for people on a budget and higher-end options, so there is something for everyone. You could stay at one of the more budget-friendly options so you can spend more in the park. You can find hotels at Universal Orlando here. If you do stay off property, I liked this hotel near Disney and if you want to be closer to Universal, this is a great option.
Get there later and stay until close or get there right when it opens and leave early
Props to everyone that walks around Universal and Disney for days on end, especially with kids. I am impressed. I think we spent maybe five hours there and I was ready to throw in the towel. Instead of staying from open to close, I would consider getting there right when it opens (or before if you’re staying on property) and leaving earlier in the day or getting there later in the day and staying until close.
If you want to ride all the rides, you may need the entire day. You could also go in the morning for a few hours, leave during the day, then come back in the evening for a few more hours.
Or at least nothing too detailed. it’s good to go in with an idea of what you want to see and do, but overplanning, I think, can almost be more stressful since you probably have a packed schedule. Figure out where you’d like to start and go from there. I would start with what you want to see most just so you know you won’t miss it.
Look at a map and see what is where. Decide what you really have to see and what you might be willing to skip. I’m not a huge ride person and gasp skipped them. I was more interested in seeing the insides of the buildings and shops and trying the butterbeer and other goodies. I knew I wanted to see Ollivanders and for me, it was totally worth it because I was the one picked for the little show thing! I like to think it was because of my shirt. And in case it matters, I was standing in the front row, two or three people in on the side by the stairs in the Hogsmeade shop.
I didn’t get the wand that chose me (an interactive one) but I ended up getting a non-interactive Luna Lovegood wand since she’s my favorite and I didn’t really care about doing the spells. I watched enough people try (or fail) the spells and it was still cool.
Also, I had read before going that you can walk through Hogwarts even if you’re not riding the ride, but I asked and she said it’s not allowed. Or she just wouldn’t let me, I don’t know.
You don’t need to be dropping a thousand dollars on your day here, but going with a bigger budget will be much less stressful since one butterbeer is at least $7, a non-interactive wand is at least $46, and a chocolate frog is at least $10 in a paper box. In a ceramic container, it’s like $25. If you want a house sweatshirt/pullover, plan at least $50 and at least $100 if you want robes.
If you don’t want to buy anything, perfect, but it’s fun to get things there even if they are a little overpriced. If you are on a budget but still want some HP merch, you can always shop online before your trip.
Don’t eat there
Ok, this one was mainly for me. Everyone says the food at the Three Broomsticks and Leaky Cauldron is really good, but none of it that I’ve seen online looks great. Or it’s just not for me. If you like English food and meaty stuff, it’s probably pretty great. After we ate at the toon cafeteria thing, we saw the taco truck on the Universal side and it looked so good. Like, way better than what I had. You can always leave for lunch and come back, too.
You can also bring snacks in if you don’t want to buy everything there. Snacks have to be things that don’t require heating, which makes sense. Whatever you do, try the butterbeer. It’s worth it. I preferred the frozen version.
Have you been to Harry Potter World? Is there anything you wish you did that you didn’t get to do? Would you go back?