Are you planning to visit Universal Orlando in 2023? Here are our latest Universal Orlando Resort Tips & Tricks, updated for 2023, to get the most from your vacation. Universal Orlando includes two theme parks, a water park, several hotels, and an entertainment district. It is also a growing resort, with Universal’s newest park scheduled to open in the Summer of 2025. 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 required to enjoy Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure fully. Plus, if you plan to visit Volcano Bay, make it four. However, there is plenty to do to make it a longer vacation.
Get tickets in advance.
Tickets for Universal Orlando are always cheaper to purchase before your vacation. Exclusive tickets are available for specific countries if you buy before you travel, e.g., UK tickets usually work out much 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.
Get a hard ticket, not a voucher, for whatever ticket you purchase. Vouchers must be exchanged on arrival at Universal, which 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.
First-Time Visitors should buy a Park-to-Park ticket
I wonder why Universal still sells individual park tickets. However, if you don’t buy a Park-to-Park ticket, you can’t 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, and you should take both journeys.
Record your ticket numbers.
What do you do if you lose your ticket? It is easy if you have recorded your ticket number. If you visit Theme Park Services, they will issue new tickets.
We learned hard 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. If you have visited Walt Disney World recently, the system differs greatly from Genie+.
Universal Express Pass allows you priority boarding at most 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 a pass is essential for many guests during peak periods. However, for a family of 4, depending on the pass bought, this can add almost $1000 a day to the cost of your vacation. Not purchasing will mean longer waits and riding fewer attractions, but a cheaper vacation.
Several different types of Express Pass are 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.
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 party member. Indeed, if 3 or 4 of you are 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 often has quite light crowds. Early admission can be 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. Make sure you check the Universal Resort App for 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 rides. Once the first group is off the ride, parents swap supervision, and the rest of the family rides 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 recently and is available throughout Universal Studios Florida, Volcano Bay, and Islands of Adventure.
The Universal Orlando Resort App is available at 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. 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. This feature 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.
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 does not operate a park reservation system.
Avoid the summer storms!
There are usually daily afternoon storms during the summer, 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, a hat, and a waterproof might all 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!
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 will have to carry it all day, also make sure your bag isn’t too big.
Many 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, larger, expensive lockers are 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.
Restaurants at Universal Orlando accept advance reservations, including those inside the park. Advance reservations are highly recommended, and you can book reservations here.
Use the Single Rider Line.
Assuming you are happy to ride alone, the Single Rider Line can be another way to skip the regular lines. Also, unlike Express Pass, it is free. 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.
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 visits Harry Potter.
Remember, if you are staying in one of the Universal Resorts, you get early entry to Harry Potter before the crowds arrive. Early entry for these guests is recommended.
Relax and have fun!
Universal Orlando can be a little overwhelming. The resort is busy and can be fairly loud. However, it is great fun. Remember to have fun; you’re on vacation!
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