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January at Universal - park capacity and off-site lodging

NC
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19 reviews
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January at Universal - park capacity and off-site lodging
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Our family of three is planning our first trip to Universal Orlando and we’re aiming for lower crowd sizes and plan to go in early (after New Year's) - mid-January, 2022. Our teenage daughter is a huge Harry Potter fan, and we know she'll have the best time!

Is Universal limiting park capacity numbers now? Is it likely we'd be turned away for January dates because the parks reach full capacity and we'd be staying off-site? That would make for a sad day!

If park capacity is being limited, is there a general rule of thumb for gate arrival times in January?

Besides having to drive back and forth each day to Universal, as there will be no shuttle, and having to pay the daily parking fees, what are the cons of staying offsite? We aren’t early risers, so we won’t be arriving at the parks for early admission anyway.

We are considering staying offsite at a VRBO condo, like Vista Cay for example. Our trip will be for 7-10 nights, and we will have our car. We would like 2 separate bedrooms, a full kitchen, more space, and a washer/dryer, so a VRBO is the most economical choice for us.

We also want to visit some FL state parks to see manatees and make a day trip to Clearwater, so we're allowing some extra days for those side trips.

Thank you for any advice and suggestions!

12 replies to this topic
Wemyss Bay, United...
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1. Re: January at Universal - park capacity and off-site lodging
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Yes, Yes, None, Agreed. 😂

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2. Re: January at Universal - park capacity and off-site lodging
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It might be fun to do 1-2 nights at Royal Pacific, Hard Rock or Portofino so you can enjoy Express Passes. 1 night in one of those hotels comes with Express Passes from check in through check out night. Spend a day or 2 knocking out almost all the rides then you can simply re-ride, enjoy shows and soak in all the great HP details in the parks on your non-Express Pass days.

I get wanting space. I also really like not having to drive on vacations and just simplifying things. To that end, I would look at the suites at Sapphire Falls and Cabana Bay too while researching your trip. Great resorts and they are right inside that bubble. No car rental expense except maybe the days you want a car for your outside Orlando excursions. That's a money saver. You can have groceries delivered via Instacart or Whole Foods so you don't have to buy all your meals out (many of the suites have kitchenettes).

Or, back to my original idea of doing your off site option but consider a night or 2 onsite for those Express Passes. Someone else can cover the math benefits to one person buying an annual pass for the hotel discounts too. Once you hit 3 days in the park, the annual passes start to barely be much of an extra expense and those AP perks/discounts can be pretty good.

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3. Re: January at Universal - park capacity and off-site lodging
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Capacity- I wouldn't worry. I think people traveling around the holidays might have issues but you should be fine. It will be crowded around MLK if that was your plan but crowds will just peak on the long weekend days.

Texas
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4. Re: January at Universal - park capacity and off-site lodging
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How many days at Universal?

Express Passes at the premier hotels are included.

Before you buy tickets compare either a night or two at Universal premier hotels to get Express. Or bundling your tickets with express, the Universal website has a separate link for that.

I don’t know how busy it will be then but I always like to have express pass.

I looked for two bedroom options at Universal and there are not many that are truly two bedroom.

Sounds like you are driving your own car, no rental?

Edited: September 05, 2021, 11:32 pm
NC
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5. Re: January at Universal - park capacity and off-site lodging
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Thanks for all your replies so far!

Yes, we will be driving our own car. We will not have a rental, so that's not an expense.

We plan on 4 or 5 days at Universal. We're tossing around 2 parks or 3, and wonder if Volcano Bay would be a good idea in January. Will the weather and water be too cold then? We will purchase park-to-park passes, for either 4 days or 5 days.

As far as express passes go, having them should be great anytime; however, we've read in non-peak times, they're not really necessary - with wait times on even popular rides less than 30 minutes on non-weekend days.

Thank you for your suggestions and advice. Please keep your thoughts coming! Thank you!

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6. Re: January at Universal - park capacity and off-site lodging
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Imagine if the wait times were 5-10 minutes? You could ride everything over and over again. That's pretty fun!

Definitely research annual passes. You are very likely to break even if you are comparing 4+ park days.

I wouldn't count on Volcano Bay. I've been in January when it has been 80 and sunny one day and 55 and dreary the next. You just never know.

chicago
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7. Re: January at Universal - park capacity and off-site lodging
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I wouldn't plan on swimming in January.

Pre covid we went to Universal on a weekday in low season and walked on all the rides. We stayed off site and took Uber. Easy breezy. No issues whatsoever. And we have only stayed onsite for all of our Disney trips.

Valley Stream, NY
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8. Re: January at Universal - park capacity and off-site lodging
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We spent 5 days easily in the two main parks (and we had express passes from the hotel) and a day in Volcano Bay so 6 days altogether. As mentioned though weather is iffy in the winter so wouldn't count on the water park and wouldn't count on a beach day. We like to stay on site but 10 days would be a lot on site. If you avoid MLK weekend in January you should be okay. :)

NC
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9. Re: January at Universal - park capacity and off-site lodging
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Thank you guys so much for your help!

Wren341, you are so right about annual passes practically breaking even with the cost of a 5-day pass. Thank you for that advice!

We don't mind driving, so we'll most likely stay offsite in a larger property. We plan to make some daytrips to various other locations as well (state parks, beaches just for the scenery, etc.) But we will certainly compare options of staying onsite in a larger room/suite. Annual passes may offer some discounts as well. It will be hard to beat a new condo less than 15 minutes away, with multiple bedrooms, kitchen, washer/dryer, etc. However, we totally understand how the convenience of staying onsite would be very nice! We're looking at both options.

Thanks again for everyone who wrote with your advice!

Va
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10. Re: January at Universal - park capacity and off-site lodging
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Yeah mid January, you mean MLK day weekend? Surely no one would vacation mid January.

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