So you’re going to Universal Orlando? Excellent choice! Whether this is your first time or you’re a seasoned pro, there are some tips that everyone should know before heading to the parks. That’s what we’re talking about in today’s post – 20+ Universal Orlando tips to make your visit as awesome as possible. Here are tips and tricks that I certainly wish I had known before visiting Universal Orlando. No matter what you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered! So without further ado, let’s dive in.
Choose Less Crowded Dates
As with most theme parks, the peak season at Universal Orlando means long lines, expensive tickets, and a generally less enjoyable experience. To get the most out of your visit, try going during less crowded times.
Check out a Universal Orlando crowd calendar before choosing dates. The park tends to be crowded on days when students are out of school. This would include spring break, summer break, and winter vacations. Keep in mind that the park tends to be less crowded on weekdays than on weekends.
If you can’t avoid visiting during peak season, consider purchasing Universal Express passes which allow you to skip the lines on select rides and attractions.
Visit During Special Events
Visiting during special events can make your trip extra special. Universal Orlando offers special events throughout the year that are not to be missed! The events range from holidays like Halloween and Christmas to special celebrations like Mardi Gras and the Fourth of July. There is always something going on at Universal Orlando Resort, so be sure to check out the event calendar before your visit. You won’t want to miss out on all the fun!
Universal Orlando offers special events throughout the year that are not to be missed! The events range from holidays like Halloween and Christmas to special celebrations like Mardi Gras and the Fourth of July. There is always something going on at Universal Orlando Resort, so be sure to check out the event calendar before your visit. You won’t want to miss out on all the fun!
Note: You need to purchase a separate ticket for Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Night.
Have A Plan
When you’re planning your visit to Universal Orlando, there are a few things you’ll want to make sure you do. First, map out your route and make sure to check the showtimes for each of the attractions you want to visit. If you want to watch shows, look at the showtimes beforehand and plan your day around them. You’ll also want to account for meal times, as the park can be quite overwhelming if you’re trying to eat on the go. Be sure to take advantage of the Universal Express Passes if you’re willing to pay a little extra, as they can save you a lot of time in line.
No, you don’t need an hour-by-hour schedule. Talk about must-dos with your party/family before heading out.
Note: Check ride height requirements if you’re planning to go with younger children.
Download The Official Universal Orlando App Beforehand
This app will be your friend at Universal. With the app, you can do anything from mobile food/drink ordering to buying/managing tickets. The interactive map will help you check wait times/showtimes and join Virtual Line for select rides.
You can also make contactless purchases using Universal Pay. Just add your credit card to your account and use the QR code from Universal Pay to pay for items throughout the park.
Be sure to turn on notifications to get the latest updates on any schedule changes when in the park.
Note: Download the app for Universal Orlando Resort and not Universal Studios Hollywood!
Ticket And Add-On Tips
Buy Discounted Tickets, Express Pass, VIP Experience
You can save money by purchasing discounted tickets and Express Pass. Just make sure that they are authorized resellers. Here are some of my recommendations:
- Undercover Tourist
- AAA Discounts and Rewards (if you’re a AAA member)
Purchase An Universal Express Pass
The Universal Express Pass (UE) is a time-saving ticket that allows guests to skip the regular lines at participating rides and attractions at both Universal Orlando Resort™ theme parks- Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. This can be such a time-saver allowing you to ride as many rides as possible in a day.
Just show your pass to the attendant at the ride entrance and you’re on your way! Guests who do not have a pass must wait in the regular line, which can often be quite long.
You can purchase the pass online or at the ticket gates.
Note: Some rides, such as Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, are excluded from the Express Pass. Check to see which rides are included before purchasing.
Express Pass Vs. Express Unlimited Pass
There are two types of Express Pass- Express Pass and Express Unlimited Pass.
Express Unlimited Pass will allow you to re-ride attractions, while the regular Express Pass allows you to use it once per ride.
I recommend purchasing the express pass if you’re planning on visiting two parks in one day. It’s tough to re-ride attractions in such a limited amount of time.
Extra Tip: You’ll receive a free Express Unlimited Pass if you stay at a Premier Category hotel at Universal Orlando.
Consider The VIP Experience
VIP. The word itself may sound expensive, but if you’re looking to make the most of your time at Universal Orlando, I highly recommend purchasing the VIP Tour. It’s an excellent way to maximize your fun while minimizing your wait time!
The VIP Experience allows you to have front-of-the-line access to every attraction. You can get exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences, complimentary meals (breakfast and lunch), and complimentary valet parking.
There are two types of VIP tours- VIP Experience and Private VIP Experience. If you sign up for the VIP Experience, you have to share the tour with other guests. Private VIP Experience is a private tour only for your group with a customizable itinerary, which is much more expensive.
Note: You will need to purchase either a 1-day 2-park experience or a 1-day 1-park experience ticket. The duration of the tour will depend on the type of ticket you buy. Park tickets are not included in the VIP Experience.
Print And Take A Picture Of Your Tickets
There’s nothing worse than not being able to enter the parks because your phone glitches. Just as an extra precaution, print out your tickets and take a screenshot. If you have a screenshot of your tickets on your phone, you’ll be able to easily show them at the gate. Plus, if something happens to your phone or the battery dies, you’ll still have your tickets with you. Better safe than sorry.
Stay At An Official Universal Orlando Resort Hotels
Did you know that there are so many perks to staying at a Universal Resort (on-site hotel)? The following are some of the benefits of staying at on-site hotels.
Early Park Admission
Early Park Admission is great for Universal Orlando because you can get to the parks before they open and avoid the crowds! This gives you more time to enjoy the rides, shows, and attractions. Plus, you can ride some of your favorite rides twice since there is usually a shorter line in the morning!
This will also allow you to take pictures of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when it’s less crowded.
Although many of the hotels are within walking distance of the theme park, you can use free transportation such as water taxis and shuttles to get to the park, hotel, and other areas of the resort. This makes it easy to get around and enjoy your stay.
Package Delivery To Your Hotel
Hotel guests can have their purchases delivered to their hotel free of charge.
Package delivery is a great way to get your hands on those coveted Harry Potter souvenirs without having to carry them around all day.
Note: The package will arrive the next day at the luggage services or the front desk of your hotel.
Charge Your Purchases With Your Room Key
If you’re staying at a Universal Resort, you can charge your park purchases to your room.
Tip: Charging purchases to your hotel room can be great for some credit cards. All purchases will be considered hotel charges. For example, Sapphire preferred credit card awards 2x total points on travel purchases.
Stay at a Premier Hotel Category Hotel
If you’re looking for an extra special Universal Orlando experience, staying at one of the premier category hotels is a great way to go. These hotels offer exclusive benefits and amenities that can make your vacation even more enjoyable.
The Premier category hotel at Universal Orlando Resort is the perfect place to stay if you want to be close to all the action. Hotels in this category include the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel, and the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Here are some perks of staying at a premier hotel.
Free Universal Express Unlimited Ride Access
If you’re a Premier guest at one of Universal Orlando’s deluxe hotels, you’ll get complimentary unlimited universal express privileges. This pass allows guests to skip the regular lines. Unlimited access will enable you to re-ride rides an unlimited number of times!
Purchasing passes for all of the members of your party can certainly add up! If you’re thinking of staying at an official Universal hotel free express passes could be an important factor to consider when deciding where to stay at.
When visiting Universal Orlando Resort, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to make the most of your visit. One of those is priority seating at the restaurants in the parks. If you’re a guest at one of the Premier Category hotels, you have access to a reserved seating area at some of the restaurants in theme parks, Universal Citywalk, and hotels. This includes places like Lombard’s Seafood Grille in Universal Studios Florida and Mythos at Islands of Adventure. Just be sure to show your room key when you arrive at the restaurant and let the host know you’re with the Premier Category hotel group.
Even with priority seating, you may find that some of the more popular places fill up quickly. Make your reservations through the Universal website or by calling (407) 224-FOOD (3663).
Bring Your Own Stroller Or Rent Strollers/Wheelchairs From An Off-Site Vendor
Renting strollers or wheelchairs at the park can be expensive. If you’re going to stay in Orlando for a while, consider bringing your own stroller or renting one from an outside company to save money. Just make sure that your stroller’s size meets the Universal Orlando rule.
There are a few reasons why renting a stroller from an off-site vendor might be a better option than using the ones provided by Universal Orlando.
First, off-site vendors typically have a wider selection of strollers to choose from, including double strollers and jogging strollers.
Second, they often offer lower rates than the on-site vendors. However, this can vary on the number of days you’ll be visiting the theme parks. Calculate an estimated price to see which option could save you the most.
Third, Volcano Bay does not offer stroller or ECV rentals. (Volcano Bay is the water park at Universal Orlando Resort.) If you’re planning on visiting Volcano Bay you’ll want to rent strollers off-site or bring your own!
And finally, renting a stroller allows you to continue using the stroller even after your child falls asleep when leaving the theme park. This is a great convenience, especially if you are touring the park for an extended period of time.
An off-site stroller rental company I recommend is Universal Orlando Stroller Rental. You can have the stroller delivered to the hotel or pick-up at Orlando International Airport at the pickup and return counter.
An off-site ECV/wheelchair rental company I recommend is Buena Vista Rentals, the preferred Loews Universal Hotels ECV Provider. They have a wide variety of ECVs with scooter accessory options such as a cup holder, cane/crutch holder, and rear basket. They also offer stroller rentals as well!
Pack Small And Light
I certainly wish I knew this before going to the Universal Orlando parks! Some of the rides will require you to store all of your belongings in a locker. These rides will have lockers near the ride entrance.
Some rides require you to go through the metal detector, so keeping your phone in your pocket is not an option for rides that require you to put your belongings in a locker!
The standard-size lockers are free under a specific time limit. This time limit takes into account the wait time, ride duration as well as a few extra minutes. You won’t have to worry about paying extra if you pick up your belongings soon after you exit the ride.
They do have larger lockers, but it requires an additional fee.
I couldn’t fit my backpack into the standard-size locker, so I had to empty some of my stuff into another locker so that it would fit for every ride. Also, be careful before buying popcorn buckets because they won’t fit inside these lockers.
Standard-size lockers are 14 in x 5.5 in x 16.9 inches. Measure if your bag would fit before your trip!
Bring A Refillable Bottle
It’s essential to stay hydrated at the park! You can refill water at the freestyle machines or drinking fountains located throughout the park.
Water can be expensive at Universal, and a bottle of water can set you back nearly $3. This is a great way to save money and avoid having to buy bottled water every time you get thirsty.
Pack Flip Flops And Ponchos For Water Rides
When you are packing for your trip to Universal Orlando, it is important to make sure you bring along some essentials. Besides sunscreen and water bottles, you will also want to pack ponchos and flip-flops.
Ponchos can come in handy during rainy days. It is always good to be prepared for when the weather takes a turn for the worse.
If you plan on visiting Volcano Bay or riding the water attractions at Universal Studios Orlando, such as the Jurassic Park River Adventure, flip-flops are a must-have! You don’t want to walk in soaking shoes like I had to. I also recommend packing some extra clothes if you don’t want to wear ponchos for the water attractions!
You can buy ponchos and flip-flops at the park, but they will be more expensive than if you purchase them beforehand. Save yourself some money by packing them in your suitcase!
If you don’t want to carry them around all day, you can always store them in all-day lockers.
Prepare For Motion Sickness
Universal Orlando is a great place to visit, but for some guests, the motion of the rides can cause motion sickness. My friend, who is usually not prone to motion sickness, had to rest for a while after riding the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Here are a few tips to help you prepare for and avoid motion sickness at Universal Orlando.
– Prepare motion sickness medicine, sea bands, ginger chews, or mint. These remedies may help to alleviate your symptoms.
– Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration can worsen symptoms of motion sickness.
– Avoid eating greasy or spicy foods. These types of food can make you feel sicker faster.
Park Tips – Universal Studios Florida and Island of Adventure
Connect To Park Wi-Fi
Universal Orlando has complimentary Wi-Fi. Connect to the park Wi-Fi as soon as you get there to save phone data and battery. Your phone will be your friend, especially when using the Universal Orlando Resort app for checking ride wait times and joining the virtual queue (explained later). The WiFi network is available in all of the parks and resorts at Universal Orlando.
Use The Virtual Line Experience
Note: Universal Orlando has stopped using the virtual line experience for most rides and is only currently offering it for The Grinch Meet & Greet at Honk Honkers and rides at Volcano Bay. The reservation system is supposed to open at park opening time, but many guests report that it opens a few minutes later. I would recommend refreshing the app until the system opens.
You can reserve a ride time for your party for specific rides. This is a free service for all park guests on the Universal Orlando app.
There are a few things you need to know about the virtual line experience. First of all, you can’t just show up and expect to get right on one of the popular rides. You’ll need to download the official Universal Orlando app and create an account. Then, you can select the ride you want to go on and add it to your virtual queue.
However, you have to be on the Universal property to reserve a virtual line. Once you’re on the property on the day of, immediately open up the app and reserve a ride!
Once you’ve done that, you can head to the ride and scan your phone at the entrance. This will automatically add you to the virtual queue and show you how long the wait is. If the wait is too long, you can always cancel your place in line and try again later.
The virtual line system is definitely a lot more efficient than waiting in line for hours on end, so be sure to use it! The availability of the virtual line experience depends on the day, so check the app throughout the day.
I recommend using it for Hagrid’s Ride, one of the rides you can’t use Express Pass.
Single Rider Line
Take advantage of the single-rider lane to get on rides faster than the regular line.
This line is typically much shorter than the regular line, and since you’ll be splitting up your party, it’s perfect for those who don’t mind being split up. Just be sure to let your group know where you’re going!
I recommend using the single rider lane if you have already been on the ride before because some standby queues are attractions themselves. For example, you do not want to skip the queues for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Escape from Gringotts.
Use The Child Swap
Child swap allows one adult to stay with a younger child who’s unable to ride or doesn’t want to ride. Once the rest of your group gets off the ride, the remaining adult can swap places with the other without having to wait in the regular line.
Always ask the ride attendant before hopping into line.
Ride Popular Rides After 4 PM
This tip will depend on the date, but the park usually calms down after 4 PM. Consider riding popular rides towards the end of your day for fewer wait times.
Use Mobile Food And Drink Ordering In The Universal Orlando App
There are a few reasons you should use mobile food ordering while at Universal Orlando. First, it’s super convenient – you can place your order right from your phone. Simply choose the restaurant you want to eat at and place your order on the app. Once you’re near or at the restaurant, tap the “prepare my order” button. It’s that simple.
It’s also great way to save time – with mobile food ordering, you can avoid the lines altogether and get your food faster.
Use the Package Pick-Up Service
As mentioned earlier, the package pick-up service at Universal Orlando is a great way to avoid carrying all of your souvenirs throughout the day. This service is free for all park guests and allows you to pick up your packages on your way out of the parks.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter Tips
Ride The Hogwarts Express
Harry Potter fan? You need to ride the Hogwarts Express. This train takes you on a journey from King’s Cross Station near Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade Station near Hogwarts. You can even ride the train both ways, so be sure to plan your trip accordingly! Each train ride is different, so make sure to ride it twice.
There are a few things to keep in mind when riding the Hogwarts Express. You’ll need a valid park admission ticket for both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure – a Park-to-Park ticket or Annual Pass. A park-to-park ticket is a 1-day, 2-park ticket where you can enter both parks on the same day.
Buy An Interactive Wand At Ollivanders
Get your own wand if you want the complete Harry Potter experience.
These wands are a lot of fun and can be used to interact with certain parts of the parks. You’ll be able to cast spells throughout both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Each wand will come with a map that shows spell locations.
Look for the special symbols that are located throughout the parks. These symbols indicate that you can use your wand to interact with that spot. There are also some hidden interactive wand locations throughout the theme parks!
Hold your wand up to the symbol and make sure to cast the spell.
An important tip is to use small motions when casting the spell!
Be prepared to have a lot of fun! The interactive wands are a great way to add an extra bit of excitement to your visit to Universal Orlando.
Buy Harry Potter Goods Beforehand
It’s just soo tempting to buy Harry Potter outfits in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
(Maybe there’s a spell cast throughout the Harry Potter area).
Buying Hogwarts gear at Universal Orlando can be pretty expensive.
You’ll be able to buy them at a lower price on Amazon.
Here are some of my recommendations:
Looking for something more subtle to wear? These Harry Potter-themed headbands are great!
Tour Inside The Hogwarts Castle Without Riding The Attraction
Ask the ride attendant, and they’ll help you guide you to a non-rider path.
This way, you could take time walking through the castle, unlike the regular line.
I hope you enjoyed my favorite Universal Orlando tips! If you’re planning a trip to Universal soon, be sure to check out my other posts on Universal Orlando Secrets and Hidden Gems. And if you found this post helpful, please save and share – I would really appreciate it! Thanks for reading!