Lots of fun times are to be had in Orlando, especially if it’s your first visit.
Universal Studios Orlando is home to three theme parks, Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure and the water park, Universal’s Volcano Bay. This really is a place for the entire family, from the littlest kid that’s content with shows to thrill ride seekers.
If you haven’t been in awhile, or you’ve never been, it’s important that you check out 10 tips from the experts who can save you time and money.
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10 Things you Need to Know about your next trip to Universal Studios Orlando
1. Ticket options
If you plan on taking the Hogwarts Express Train, you will need a Park-to-Park ticket.
This ticket allows you admission to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure or you can choose the Park-to-Park pass that allows you in all three parks.
The train connects Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley and back. You will want to ride it both ways, as it changes depending on where you are riding!
Part of making a Stress Free Universal Orlando Vacation is knowing what expect and having those tricks up your sleeve to make the most of your trip.
2. The Universal Express Unlimited Pass
Staying at an eligible Universal hotel entitles you to the Universal Express Unlimited pass.
This pass allows you to bypass regular lines to a shorter line with much less wait times for select rides and attractions. Looking for more information about staying on property (and which resorts have the Express Pass?) Talk to a Travel Agent about resort options, ticket options, and Express Passes.
The Express Unlimited Pass has a tag price of $79-109 each! If you were planning to stay on property anyway, this pass is the perfect reason why!
3. Best times to visit
When is the best time to visit?
USO tends to be busier when kids are on break from school. That means that historically, one of the best times to visit is in September.
By then, summer break is over and kids have returned to school, which means smaller park crowds and lots of halloween fun has started!
It’s also a good idea to visit in January and February. Not only are the crowds lower, but the weather is better too! Connect with a Travel Agent to go over details and options
However, if you do visit in the warmer months (since this is when most people go on vacation!) just remember to go prepared.
I’ve got my portable fan, my portable charger for my fan, my kids have their own stroller fans (and NOT the ones from disney because they break easily #askmehowIknow) and a cooling towel… but it’s TOO MUCH. The Florida Heat is here 10 months outa the year
This is especially important if you only have One Day to do everything you want in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
4. Bring these three items for top success.
The number one thing people forget is… underwear?
NO, (lol) it’s staying hydrated.
People get seriously sick at Universal when they don’t drink enough. You will get a headache, your whole body will hurt, and you might even pass out.
I’m also a fan of bringing some snacks and food in (die hard foodies, don’t @ me) and I love using this cooler. It collapses and it’s so easy to tote around and clean!
The second thing I recommend bringing is a Fan. Or a Hat. Or Sunglass. Or a Cooling Towel. Basically… bring whatever you need to stay cool (or a jacket if you come during the two months it’s actually cold here). The heat is BRUTAL. It will cut your time in the park SO fast, and you won’t be able to take advantage of all the money you spent!
We bring a neck fan (This is the one I’ve been testing and loving all spring) and we also wear hats. But we’re Florida Natives. Do whatever you need to stay cool on your trip!
the number three item I recommend to everyone is a very small fanny pack! You can’t bring regular bags or purses on rides, but you can take a small fanny pack that has a clip (it MUST have a clip). I cannot recommend this enough as it means I can take my wallet, and phone to have on hand at all times in case of an emergency. (and for epipen users, or inhaler users, or anyone with essential meds- this is literally a life saver!)
OH and with kids? Even kids under the age of 8? Bring a stroller. It stores all your junk. It keeps your kids from complaining. It gives you a place to put the fan and water and toys and snacks.
This is what the strollers look like (they are pretty rain friendly). Though I highly recommend renting an actual stroller from somewhere like Kingdom Strollers (or bring your own with you!)
Your walking 10+ miles a day, and kids under 8 just can’t keep up! (Yes, you can bring the stroller on the hogwarts express)
5. Imma tell you a few secrets for shorter lines
Are you ready?
- Get on the rides during typical meal times.
BOOM. This trick saves you soooo much time!
If you are open to eating a little earlier or a little later than usual, you can hit lots of rides while most people are heading for lunch and dinner.
Lines will be shorter and once you are ready to eat, the crowds will be returning to get on rides, which means less wait time in the restaurants as well!
2. Stay on property and take advantage of early morning hours. You can get in half an hour early if you plan it right (and that means taking transportation at least 1.5 hours early, and planning to wait after getting through security)
Last big tip
3. Go on rides at the end of the night… especially a weeknight. People are sunburnt, tired, dehydrated, and ready to head back to the resort/hotel/home. When you come in around 5PM, and refreshed, you can do a lot of the lines for shorter waits. JUST REMEMBER to check the times- universal is known to close early for events.
6. The parking situation really sucks for the Universal Parks
I don’t normally have many complaints as I go to the Orlando Theme Parks weekly… but my one big complaint about Universal is the parking.
Not only is the line long, but then you are parked so far away from security and then you still have to walk through City Walk to get to the parks.
And of course, you’re still paying for parking when staying on property.
There isn’t really a tip or solution here, besides being mentally prepared that parking takes time, costs money and isn’t ideal at all. Show up early early (or later in the afternoon) and remember that parking takes a lot of time and energy!
7. Bring the kids!
You don’t need to wait till the kids are older to take them to Universal (my toddlers love it there BTW!)
Universal has you covered with child swap!
Child swap is something you definitely want to take advantage of if you are visiting the parks with children that aren’t able to get on the rides.
At the ride entrance, tell the ride attendant that you would like to utilize the child swap. One member of your party will get on the ride and the other will wait.
There is a waiting area or room with seating. Once the first adult is off the ride, he or she will come to waiting area and switch spots with the other.
That person then goes to the front of the child swap line when directed. This is a great way for everyone to get to ride and participate in the fun without standing in long lines separately.
There are a number of hacks we’ve learned taking our kids to the Universal Orlando parks, but here are the top hacks we’d recommend.
8. Whatcha gonna eat?
There are two dining options. The first is the Full Universal Dining Plan. This plan is only available to guests that pre-purchase a vacation package or on-site guests that purchase it from the Universal Ticket Center at the hotel.
The first plan includes: 1 full service meal, 1 quick service meal, 1 non-alcoholic drink and 1 snack per guest, per day. The cost is about $63 for adults and $25 for kids (3-9 years).
The second plan is the Universal Quick Service Dining Plan, and this can be purchased by anyone. For about $25 for adults and $17 for kids per day, you get 1 quick service meal, 1 snack and 1 non-alcoholic drink.
The catch with the plans is that none of the on-site, resort restaurants accept the plan, so if you don’t have park tickets for every day of your stay, you can’t eat at your resort unless it is out of pocket.
CityWalk’s most popular restaurants don’t accept the plan either. So, no Hard Rock Cafe Orlando, The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium or Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Character dining is also a “no go” with the dining plans and gratuity is not included either.
The quick service plan can save you a few bucks if you choose to get the higher priced meal items, but having a dining plan to save so little just doesn’t seem worth the hassle.
Basically, I don’t recommend the dining plan. I do recommend this list of great restaurants at Universal tho!
9. Here’s how to deal with motion sickness
While the rides are thrilling, if you’re like me, you can get motion sick easily. Or a raging headache (refer back to number 4).
Take along some Dramamine or Bonine pills to keep the queasiness at bay. Sea Bands work wonders as well. Wear the bands on your wrists and the plastic studs attached will put pressure on your P6 acupressure points to help relieve nausea and vomiting.
These worked wonders during my pregnancies, so a ride should be no problem for them! (Yes, I went to universal pregnant, but I didn’t ride anything 😜)
Speaking of, whether you’re pregnant or not, you may run into a different problem: chafing.
And a little TMI- this could save you on your visit if you’ve got the thunder thighs like I do. The solution to chub rub and hating your thighs- I always bring this with me when I go to Disney World.
10. Download the Universal Orlando Resort app
Get this before you go!
It’s a free app and easy to use. You can use it to:
- Buy Express passes
- Make mobile food orders (YASSS save yourself some time!)
- Check park calendars and hours
- Check ride and show wait times
- Locate restrooms (Double YASSS, some lines are crazy long!)
- Get park maps
- Set parking spot reminders with your section, level and row
- Make a park “to-do” list
Of course, you’ll want to make sure your phone is charged up all day. You don’t want to miss out on all the perks of the app because of a low battery!
Portable Phone chargers are great to bring with you to a full day at the parks. I really like this one from amazon because theme parks don’t have the best wifi and it sucks your battery (even with the new iphones and galaxy’s because we have both and it theme parks kill my phone!)
Basically, just enjoy your trip!
Listen, you can read everything you can about Universal and still see something new or learn something to make your life easier. It’s a big place!
Just make sure you pack accordingly and you make the most of your trip by having fun! You WILL LOVE it there!