You may have noticed fewer vacation tips online for visiting Universal Orlando compared to Walt Disney World. While many of your strategies for visiting any Orlando park are the same, there are some specific things to note when visiting Universal Orlando. If you avoid these common Universal Orlando Mistakes, you will have a great vacation.
Attempt it all in 1 day.
Pace yourself. Universal Orlando is not small. While it might be smaller than Walt Disney World, there is still much to see.
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 1 day, even with an Express Pass.
We think three days minimum is required to fully enjoy Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure. Plus, if you plan to visit Volcano Bay, make it 4. However, we have found plenty to do on even extended Universal Orlando Vacations.
Not getting tickets in advance or only getting vouchers.
Ticket lines are often very long at Universal, often over 1 hour, and if you don’t buy in advance, be ready to wait in line.
Tickets are always cheaper in advance for everyone. If you buy them before travel, exclusive tickets are available for specific countries. These often work out much less expensive than tickets you can buy in the US. We live in the UK, and tickets purchased in the UK offer considerable savings.
Whatever tickets you purchase, ensure you get a hard ticket, not a voucher. Vouchers must be exchanged at Universal, which means joining a long line at ticket booths.
Read our Guide to Universal Orlando Tickets for further information.
Not getting a Park to Park Ticket
To ride the Hogwarts Express, you must have a Park to Park Ticket. Missing this fantastic attraction, in our opinion, is a big mistake. Only consider buying a Single Park ticket if you have ridden the Hogwarts Express and are certain you don’t want to ride again.
Not Riding the Hogwarts Express to get between the parks
The Hogwarts Express is a great attraction but also saves your legs. While you can walk easily between Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure, it does take time. Take a break from the heat and ride the Hogwarts Express.
Not recording your ticket numbers.
What do you do if you lose your ticket? It is easy if you have recorded your ticket number; Guest Services will reissue you a ticket.
We learned hard and had to phone the UK to get our ticket numbers.
Not Getting an Express Pass if the Parks are going to be busy.
If you want to avoid the queues at Universal, an Express Pass is essential.
Universal Express Pass allows you priority boarding at most attractions at Universal Orlando Resort. Just present your pass at participating attractions to bypass the regular lines. You will join a shorter Express Pass line, and have a shorter wait than the regular line.
An Express Pass is probably not required in quiet periods, but it is necessary during summer and holidays. However, it does add a lot to the cost of your vacation.
Visit our Guide to learn more about Express Pass and the other ways to obtain a pass.
Not Pricing up the cost of a Universal Premier Resort
If you plan to buy a Universal Express Pass, compare the cost of staying in one of Universal’s Premier Resorts.
These resorts come with a “free” Express Pass, which can be cheaper than purchasing an Express Pass. If there are four of you in a room, the cheaper this option becomes.
The Premier Resorts are:
- Loews Royal Pacific Resort
- Hard Rock Hotel
- Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
Not downloading the Universal Orlando Resort App.
Make the Universal Orlando Resort App your best friend when visiting the parks.
The Universal Orlando Resort 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. Using the Universal Orlando Resort App, you can now preorder food from select restaurants.
Universal Pay allows you to add a debit or credit card to the App so you can use the App throughout the park for contactless payments.
Free Wi-Fi is available throughout Universal Orlando so that you can access the App anywhere! The Universal Orlando Resort App is available at the Apple App Store & The Google Play Store.
You forget the sunscreen.
Many of the attractions at Universal Orlando are inside, but you will spend considerable time under the Orlando sun.
In summer, many of us will find our skin will burn & the Orlando Sun can be unforgiving. Plenty of sunscreens and a good hat are required when visiting the parks.
Our Guide to Orlando Weather has plenty of tips and tricks.
Wearing new shoes.
Make sure your shoes are worn in and comfortable you will be doing a lot of walking. Did you know the British Queen hires someone to wear in her shoes?
Riding Water Rides first.
Universal Orlando has some of the wettest rides possible. You won’t get wet; you will get soaked!
Bring spare clothes or ride them towards the end of your visit to prevent discomfort walking around the park.
Not having a break.
Many people will take a break during the mid-afternoon when the parks are at their busiest and hottest.
Consider returning to your hotel for a few hours. If you decide to stay in the parks, take plenty of time out & don’t skip meal breaks.
Not bringing park essentials.
List what you need, e.g., a 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 must carry it all day.
Don’t bring a large bag into the park!
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.
Larger, “expensive” lockers are available if your bag is too big. Avoid using one bag for the whole family; split your belongings into smaller bags, and use several lockers if necessary.
Not arriving 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.
If you stay at a Universal Resort, take advantage of Early Park Entry.
Not using Child Swap
Most attractions have height restrictions at Universal Orlando. However, this does not mean you can’t ride!
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 an air-conditioned waiting room, with a parent while the rest of the family rides. Once the first group is off the ride, parents swap supervision, and the rest of the family rides without waiting. If you are lucky, older children can often get an additional ride with the second parent.
To use Child Swap at Universal Orlando, speak to the cast member at the entrance to the ride.
Not using Early Park Admission.
Universal Orlando Hotels are fantastic, and one of the best perks is early park admission. Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure each day opens one hour before the scheduled opening for Hotel Guests and Select Groups. Volcano Bay often offers this perk as well.
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 attractions which open.
Click the link to get the latest information.
Not using the Single Rider Line.
Don’t want to pay for an Express Pass?
Assuming you are happy to ride alone, the Single Rider Line can be another way to skip the regular lines. Although it isn’t guaranteed, you will usually experience a shorter wait.
The list of Single Rider Attractions is subject to change and can even change on the day of your visit. Check the Universal Orlando App for the latest information.
Buying more than one Butter Beer
Have you tasted Butter Beer? They are an acquired taste!
There is usually plenty to share. Buy one before deciding whether to make additional purchases.
Not relaxing and enjoying yourself.
Universal is a fantastic place, but first-time visitors can find the experience overwhelming. Remember to relax and have fun; you’re on vacation!
Read More about Universal Orlando
Our Guide to Universal Orlando is a great place to plan any vacation.
Just got back a week ago from Universal.
Didn’t use/need virtual line for Hagrid. Posted wait was 50 minutes and we were on in 30.
Didn’t use express passes either. It can definitely be done without.
In one part of the article you indicate that getting to the park an hour early when staying at a resort is a great way to see Harry Potter then a few paragraphs later you say not to go in the early morning, wait until the afternoon. Kind of confusing.
It depends on whether you are staying onsite or not. Getting there early if onsite can be an advantage. With the general rush it might be better waiting. I’m going to update this post in the next few weeks and will take your comments onboard