Are you planning to visit Universal Orlando in 2020? Here are our latest Universal Orlando Resort Tips & Tricks to get the most from your vacation. Universal Orlando is a growing resort and now features two theme parks, a water park, several hotels, and an entertainment district. Due to the size of the resort, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Our helpful Universal Orlando Hacks will make sure you have a great vacation.
Don’t attempt Universal Orlando in one day
Once upon a time, you could do Universal in one day. However, in recent times the parks have expanded rapidly. You will now struggle to complete either park in one day even with an Express Pass.
We think three days minimum is now required to enjoy Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure fully. Plus, if you plan to visit Volcano Bay make it four.
Get tickets in advance
Tickets for Universal Orlando are always cheaper to purchase in advance of your vacation. Exclusive tickets are available for specific countries if you buy before you travel, e.g. UK tickets usually work out a lot cheaper.
Universal Orlando has several ticket options, but the most significant decision is whether you want to buy a Park to Park Ticket. Guests who do not buy this option cannot ride the Hogwarts Express.
The Hogwarts Express takes you from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure and vice versa. Each direction is a unique adventure. We recommend most first time visitors should purchase a park to park ticket.
Whatever tickets you decide to purchase, get a hard ticket, not a voucher. Vouchers have to be exchanged on arrival at Universal, and this can mean joining a very long line at the ticket booths.
To learn more about Universal Orlando Tickets and how to get the best value for your money visit our Guide to Universal Orlando Tickets.
Record your ticket numbers
What do you do if you lose your ticket? It is easy if you have recorded your ticket number.
We learned the hard way and had to phone the UK to get them back.
Buy a Park to Park Ticket
It is surprising that Universal still sell single park options. However; if you want to ride the Hogwarts Express, you must have a Park to Park ticket.
Get an Express Pass if the parks are going to be busy
Universal Orlando like many theme parks has a system for priority boarding of attractions. At Universal Orlando, the system is called Universal Express Pass and unlike Fastpass+ at Walt Disney World is not free.
Universal Express Pass allows you priority boarding at the majority of attractions at Universal Orlando Resort. Simply present your pass at participating attractions at either Universal Studios Florida or Universal’s Islands of Adventure to bypass the regular lines. You will join a shorter Express Pass line and have reduced wait compared to the regular line.
There are 2 types of Express Pass available:
- Universal Express Pass allows one admission to each attraction a day via the Express Pass line.
- Universal Express Unlimited Pass allows unlimited admissions to each attraction via the Express Pass line.
You also have a choice of choosing whether to book a 1 park only ticket or a 2 park ticket.
Unfortunately, Express Pass is not cheap, but during peak periods having a pass is essential for many guests. However, for a family of 4, this can add $700 a day to the cost of your vacation. Not purchasing will mean longer waits and riding fewer attractions.
There are 3 additional ways guests can receive a Universal Express Pass:
- Guests staying at select Universal Resorts get Complimentary Express Pass Unlimited included as part of their package. Currently, this is only a benefit for guests staying at Portofino Bay, Hard Rock & Royal Pacific Resorts. Staying in one of these resorts can work out cheaper than buying an Express Pass especially if there are 4 of you in a room. Your Express Pass will be valid on both arrival & departure dates.
- Guests who purchase one of Universal’s costly VIP Tours receive an Express Pass as part of their package.
- The final way of getting an Express Pass is purchasing the top-priced annual pass called Premiere Pass. Premiere Pass comes with a list of benefits including daily Universal Express Pass from 4 pm until close.
To learn more about Universal Express Pass visit our dedicated guide.
Stay in one of the Universal Resorts
Universal Resorts are great fun, and you get early admission into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as part of your package.
Also, if you stay in Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, or Royal Pacific, an Express Pass is included in the price. Often this can work out cheaper than buying an Express Pass for each member of your party. Indeed, if there are 3 or 4 of you in the same room, this can be a very cost-effective option.
Use early park admission
Each day either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure opens for one hour before the scheduled opening for Universal Hotel Guests and Select Groups.
Early Park Admission at Universal attracts much smaller crowds compared to Extra Magic Hours at Walt Disney World. Early admission is a fantastic opportunity to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with fewer guests.
The park opening early does vary, and so does the attractions which open. Click the link to get the latest information.
Most attractions have height restrictions at Universal Orlando. However, all rides at both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure have a Child Swap facility. Child Swap allows the rest of a family to ride an attraction when a child is either too small or young to experience the ride.
The young child sits, usually in a dedicated waiting room, with a parent while the rest of the family ride. Once the first group is off the ride, parents swap supervision, and the rest of the family ride without waiting. Usually, attendants will allow an older child to ride again.
To use Child Swap at Universal Orlando, speak to the cast member on the entrance to the ride who will advise of the procedure to follow. How you access child swap does vary on each attraction.
Download the Universal Orlando Resort App
Free WiFi is available at Universal Orlando. Park WiFi has improved in recent years and is available throughout Universal Studios Florida, Volcano Bay and Islands of Adventure.
The Universal Orlando Resort App is available at both the Apple App Store & The Google Play Store. You should download the App before you visit.
The App allows you to store tickets, access wait times, showtimes and more. There are handy interactive maps, and the app will even save where your car is parked. You can now preorder food from select restaurants using the Universal Orlando Resort App.
Use Single Rider Line
If you decide against purchasing an Express Pass, use the single rider line. Guests ride apart, but waits are usually significantly less. Often these waits are even less than the Express Line.
Consider skipping some attractions
Make a list before you visit what your must-do attractions at Universal Orlando are. Here is a list we have previously made.
If time is limited at Universal Orlando, you may need to skip the odd attraction. It is better to plan these than miss your must-do attractions.
Arrive at Universal Orlando early
Parks are quieter in the morning and waiting times will be less.
In addition, mornings are cooler & you can avoid those daily summer afternoon storms.
Avoid the summer storms!
During the Summer Season, there are usually daily afternoon storms, and attractions will close during these periods. There are a lot of attractions which will be closed in Universal Orlando.
Plan your day to have a mid-afternoon break to avoid the bad weather.
Be prepared for every type of weather
Sunscreen, hat & waterproof all might be needed on any day at Universal Orlando. Have a plan for what to do if the weather turns.
Read our guide to Orlando Weather for more tips & tricks.
Don’t bring a large bag to the park!
Make a list of what you need, e.g. camera, autograph book, poncho. Pack your bag the night before and recheck it in the morning. Don’t bring too much into the park as you will have to carry it all day, also make sure your bag isn’t too big.
Many of the attractions at Universal Orlando make you use free lockers to store your belongings before you ride. However, the lockers are not very big, and recently they became even smaller at many attractions. If your bag is too big, there are larger “expensive” lockers available. Avoid using one bag for the whole family and split your belongings into several smaller bags.
Plan meal and drink breaks
It gets very hot in Orlando, especially during the summer. Make sure you have plenty of breaks and drinks when in the parks.
Not all restaurants at Universal Orlando accept advance reservations. However, the restaurants inside the parks all do. Advance reservations are highly recommended, but there is usually no rush to book, unlike Walt Disney World. Often, you can easily book a reservation on the morning of your arrival. You can book reservations here.
Skip Poseidon’s Fury
In 2017 we wondered why we had not done this for over 10 years.
We now know!…..Skip it.
Avoid Harry Potter first thing
Crowds are larger, and waits are longer in the early morning at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Visit in the afternoon when crowds will have reduced. Plus you will get more rides done when everyone else is visiting Harry Potter.
Remember if you are staying in one of the Universal Resorts you get early entry to Harry Potter before the crowds arrive.
Read the latest on Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is currently one of the hottest attractions in Orlando. However, you probably will have seen that Universal has been having a few teething issues since the attraction launched. Even at the time of writing after six months of opening, there are regular interruptions.
Have a look at forums before you visit, including this one, to see the latest advice.
Read More from Universal Orlando
Our Guide to Universal Orlando is a great place to start planning any vacation