Are you planning to visit Universal Orlando in 2021? Universal Orlando is open and welcoming guests, but a few things have changed after last year’s closure. Here are our latest Universal Orlando Resort Tips & Tricks, updated for 2021, 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. Our helpful Universal Orlando Hacks will make sure you have a great vacation.
Read the latest safety information
Hopefully, the world is slowly returning to normal, but there are currently added precautions at Universal Orlando to keep you safe. Everyone over the age of three must wear a face covering, and all guests will have their temperature checked. If your temperature is over 100.4 degrees, you will not be admitted. Be prepared to social distance, follow more signs than usual, and follow team member directions.
Make sure you check the Universal Orlando website before you visit for the latest information.
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.
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. Also, unlike Fastpass+, it is currently operating.
Universal Express Pass allows you priority boarding at the majority of attractions at Universal Orlando Resort. 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 a reduced wait compared to the regular line.
Unfortunately, Express Pass is not cheap, but during peak periods having a pass is essential for many guests. However, for a family of 4, depending on the pass bought, this can add $700 a day to the cost of your vacation. Not purchasing will mean longer waits and riding fewer attractions.
There are several different types of Express Pass available, and there are a few ways to obtain a pass as part of a package. To learn more, visit our dedicated guide to Universal Express Pass.
Use Virtual Line Experience
Universal has been using Virtual Lines for several years. The concept is simple, reserve your place using the Universal Resort App and then join a much shorter line later in the day.
Since the parks reopened, the number of attractions offering Virtual Lines has increased, but the attractions offering it can change throughout the day. However, to ride Universal’s hottest attraction, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, you will need to use a Virtual Line.
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.
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 do the open attractions.
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 at 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, join Virtual Line Experiences, access 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.
Universal Pay is a new feature that allows you to add a debit or credit card to the App. This feature then allows you to use the App throughout the park for contactless payments.
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. Remember, not all attractions are available in the resort reopening period.
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. Also, mornings are cooler & you can avoid those daily summer afternoon storms.
Unlike Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando is not operating a park reservation system. Capacity within the parks currently is reduced, and it isn’t unusual for maximum capacity to be reached.
Avoid the summer storms!
There are usually daily afternoon storms during the summer season, and outdoor attractions will close during these periods. 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. For 2021 you will also want to bring spare face masks and hand sanitizer.
Many of the Universal Orlando attractions make you use free lockers to store your belongings before you ride. However, the lockers are not very big. 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.
Remember, due to social distancing it currently takes longer to access lockers.
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.
The majority of restaurants at Universal Orlando accept advance reservations, including those inside the parks all do. Advance reservations are highly recommended, and you can book reservations here.
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.
Relax and have fun!
Universal Orlando is a little different at the moment, but it is still a great place to be. Remember to have fun; you’re on vacation!
Read More from Universal Orlando
Our 2021 Guide to Universal Orlando is a great place to start planning any vacation.