Universal Orlando Resort is an exciting vacation destination with two theme parks, one water park, eight hotels, and an entertainment district. Whether planning a family vacation or an adults-only getaway, you’ll want to get the most out of each day.
It can be stressful to plan a vacation, especially when you need to book accommodations, buy tickets, plan meals, and ensure you are getting your money’s worth. Using a travel agent is a great way to eliminate much of that stress. We recommend using Jessica with ET Family Travel.
Top Tips for Universal Orlando Resort
Start Planning Early
You will want to start planning your Universal Orlando trip relatively early. It’s recommended to start planning six months to 1 year before your projected travel dates. Booking early will ensure you get the best deal and all the necessary reservations you need.
Pro Planning Tip: We recommend using Jessica Lieb with ET Family Travel to book your Universal vacation!
Pick the Best Times to Visit
Before you plan your trip, check the crowd calendar to avoid traveling during peak seasons if possible. Universal Orlando can get extremely busy during peak seasons, increasing waiting times and prices. If your schedule allows, try to plan your visit during the off-season.
Stay at a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel
Universal Orlando offers eight excellent hotels with unique theming, comfortable beds, delicious restaurants, and relaxing pools. However, there are added benefits to staying at a Universal Orlando Resort hotel.
Perks of Staying at A Universal Orlando Resort Hotel
- Transportation – Getting to the parks is a breeze with Universal’s shuttles or water taxis. Several hotels are within walking distance of Universal CityWalk and the parks.
- Early Park Admission – Staying at a Universal hotel means getting Early Park Admission. Guest staying in Univeral Orlando Resort hotels can enter Universal’s Islands of Adventure and/or Universal Studios Florida one hour before the park opens OR Universal’s Volcano Bay 30 minutes before the park opens.
- Free Unlimited Express Passes – If you stay at any of the three Premier hotels (Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Royal Pacific Resort), each guest in your room will get free Universal Unlimited Express Passes. The Unlimited Express Pass allows guests to skip the lines at most popular attractions.
- Package delivery to your room – Avoid carrying purchases you make in the park and have them delivered to your hotel room.
- Resort-Wide Charging Privileges With Room Key – Easily charge all your dining and purchases to your room with your room key.
Choose the Right Ticket
Choosing the correct ticket type for your trip is critical. It can be difficult to decide how much time is needed in each park and which ticket option fits. A two or three-day park-to-park ticket will typically allow you to see and do most of the attractions.
If riding the Hogwarts Express is essential, you must purchase park-to-park tickets. The Hogwarts Express connects Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, so you must have a park-to-park ticket to ride.
Using a travel agent experienced with Univeral Studios will simplify the ticket-purchasing process.
Adding on Express Pass
If you’re visiting during the peak seasons, consider purchasing Universal Express.
Universal Express Pass Options:
- Universal Express – Skip the regular line one time per participating ride at Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
- Universal Express Unlimited – Skip the regular line an unlimited number of times on participating rides at Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
- Volcano Bay Express – Skip the virtual line once per participating ride at Volcano Bay.
The Universal Express Pass is pretty pricey but may be worth the amount of time you avoid standing in line. You will want to purchase these passes in advance as they occasionally sell out on busier days.
Remember, Universal Studios’ Premier Resorts guests get Free Universal Express Unlimited per person daily.
Consider the VIP TOUR
If you plan to buy Universal Express passes, consider the VIP TOUR.
The Universal Orlando VIP Tour is the best-kept secret to having the perfect day at Universal. The VIP Tour Experience is also a fantastic deal.
The VIP Tour includes:
- Priority access on all rides
- Reserved seatings at shows
- Behind-the-scenes experiences
- Complimentary breakfast and lunch
- Valet parking
- Merchandise Discounts
- And more…
Arrive at the Park Early
Arrive at the park entrance about half an hour before the official park opening. The beginning part of the day will be the least busy, resulting in low wait times.
Also, allow time for parking, transportation, and security. The security line can get long in the morning. After security, you must still walk through CityWalk to get to Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios.
Download the Universal Orlando Resort App
It’s a good idea to download the Univeral Orlando Resort App before your trip. The Univeral Orlando Resort App allows you to check wait times, place a mobile order at select restaurants, and navigate the park quickly. The app also has a Wait Time Alert feature you can activate to let you know when the lines have gotten shorter.
Familiarize yourself with the app before your trip and add attractions and dining to your “favorites.”
Eat Breakfast Before You Arrive
If you plan to arrive at the park opening, you will want to take advantage of the low wait times. Eating breakfast before you arrive will save you valuable time in the parks.
If you want a slower-paced morning, there are plenty of places to grab a quick breakfast or enjoy a nice sit-down meal.
Bring Your Own Water Bottle and Snacks
You can save time and money by bringing your food and water. Universal Studios Florida allows you to bring up to 2 liters of water and foods that don’t require heating in a small soft-sided cooler. There are plenty of water fountains around to refill your bottles.
TIP: Check out our Packing List for the perfect day at Universal Orlando.
Join the Coca-Cola Freestyle Program
Universal has a Coca-Cola Freestyle program that allows you to purchase a souvenir cup from any participating location and refill it once every 10 minutes throughout the day. You’ll find Freestyle machines throughout Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay (except in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and The Simpson’s Fast Food Blvd).
Plan to Attend Shows
You can catch great entertainment in the parks at no additional charge. However, shows run on a specific schedule, so if you want to attend a show, you must plan your day accordingly. Showtimes are posted daily on the Universal Orlando Resort app and posted at the location of each show.
Use the Single Riders Line
Universal offers a Single Rider line on most attractions. The Single Riders line is the fastest way to get on a ride outside of purchasing a Universal Express pass. Utilizing the Single Rider line is an excellent option if you are OK with not riding with your party.
Eat Lunch During Off-peak Times
You can save the most time at Universal Orlando if you dine outside peak meal times. Spending less time ordering and waiting for your food means more time riding rides.
Know the Height Requirements
Many of the Universal Studios rides have a minimum height requirement. Check the height requirements before visiting the park to know which rides everyone in your party will be eligible for.
Universal’s Child Swap – If a member of your party is too short to ride a ride, utilize Universal’s Child Swap program. It allows one party member to wait in a family room with the child while the rest of your party rides. Once the ride is over, you can switch places.
Plan Your Day
It’s good to arrive at Universal Studios Florida with a general idea of what you want to do and prioritize experiences. Before your trip, familiarize yourself with the rides, entertainment, and dining available. Select a few must-do items to prioritize during your trip.
Don’t over plan your day, as wait times, weather, and maintenance can alter your plans. Flexibility is key.
Prepare for Water Rides
There are three water rides in Islands of Adventure: Jurassic Park River Adventure, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and Popeye & Pluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges. If you plan to ride these rides, prepare to get wet. Bring ponchos to wear during the ride to keep your clothes dry.
How wet Will I get on this Ride?
Jurassic Park River Adventure – Moderate
Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls – Drenched
Popeye & Pluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges – Drenched
Use the Lockers
Many of the rides at Universal Orlando do not allow guests to bring bags onto the rides. They offer free small lockers to store your belongings while on the ride.
On Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, The Incredible Hulk Coaster, and Jurassic World VelociCoaster, guests are required to pass through metal detectors before entering the ride. All items and bags must be stored in the Attractions Locker, including items in your pockets. The only exception at these rides is a lanyard holding your park ticket, which you may be asked to tuck under your shirt.
Lockers are provided at Revenge of the Mummy, Men in Black Alien Attack, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. On these rides, larger bags must be stored in the Attractions Lockers. However, belt bags and items in your pockets do not need to be stored in the lockers.
Learn more about the Attraction Lockers and All-Day Lockers at Universal Orlando.
Be Aware of Festivals and Special Events
Universal Orlando Resort has some fantastic parties and celebrations throughout the year. Check out the Universal Orlando website to see if a festival or event occurs during your trip. If so, takes advantage of the seasonal events and offerings. Some special events like Halloween Horror Nights are special ticketed events that may require advance purchase.
Don’t Rely on Hogwarts Express to Change Parks
If you have a park-to-park ticket, you can quickly move between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. However, riding the Hogwarts Express isn’t the only way to move between parks. During peak times, the wait time for Hogwarts Express can be upwards of an hour. The two parks are close enough to walk between.
Book Your Universal Vacation
Ready to book your Universal vacation? We recommend using Jessica Lieb with ET Family Vacations to find you the best deal on your Universal vacation. Jessica’s services are 100% FREE FOR YOU!