With two amazing theme parks, a world-class water park and incredible on-site hotels, Universal Orlando Resort is one of the best vacation destinations around. Experience some of the country’s most revolutionary theme park attractions, visit two different lands of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and brave the world's tallest water slides in Volcano Bay. With these 10 helpful tips, you can vacation like a pro and get the most out of your next trip to Universal Orlando.
Stay at an on-site hotel
One of the easiest ways to make the most of your Universal Orlando vacation is to stay at one of their beautiful on-site hotels. Not only will you receive complimentary transportation to the parks, but you'll be able to get into the parks early too. If you stay at either the Hard Rock Hotel, Portofino Bay or Royal Pacific, you'll also receive free Universal Express passes for everyone in your party! That will allow you to skip the regular ride lines as many times as you want. Depending on the time of year, that could save you around $100 per person!
As noted, all guests staying on-site at Universal Orlando receive early entry to the parks. Hotel guests can always get in early to Volcano Bay, but depending on the day, you can only get early entry into either Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios Florida. Check the official website to see which is offering early entry that day. If you are not staying on-site, it's always a good idea to head to the park not offering early entry first thing in the morning – that way, the lines will be shorter since you won't be entering a park already crowded with hotel guests.
Wait to buy Express passes
If you are not staying on-site, you have the opportunity to purchase Express passes for an additional cost. There are two types of passes you can buy: Single Use Express allows you to ride every participating attraction once without waiting in the regular line and Unlimited Express allows you to skip the regular lines as much as you want. Sometimes the waits aren't very long and you may not need to pay for something you'll hardly get much use from. Wait until you get to the park and actually see how busy it is before buying Express. You can always buy it later from most gift shops inside the park if you do find the lines are too long.
Single Rider Lines
Nearly all of the big attractions at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure offer Single Rider Lines. These lines allow the ride operators to fill empty seats. While you won't be able to sit with the rest of your party, you can save a ton of time not waiting in line this way. Single Rider lines can be great for re-riding rides you already rode once together. This way, you can enjoy the second thrill – without the long wait!
It's important to stay hydrated when spending the day under the hot Florida sun. One tip that can save you money while keeping you refreshed is to ask for a free cup of ice water from any restaurant or snack stand throughout the day. Save the money you would normally spend on bottled water for something a little more exciting – like ice cream.
Two rides at Universal Studios Florida sometimes offer secret tours. At Men in Black: Alien Attack you can try asking the attendant out front if anyone is available for an "Immigration Tour." If someone is, they will take you down to the Immigration Floor in the queue and you can get your photo taken with the alien twins. The other secret is the "Mummy Production Tour.” If a Team Member has the time, they will show you around the queue and parts of the ride pointing out props used in the filming of the Mummy movies and hidden secrets around the ride. Both of these tours are not guaranteed, but it never hurts to ask. Plus, you may get to go on the rides without standing in line afterwards!
Eat late and ride early
Most people eat around noon to 1pm, so that's a great time to hop on the rides. Having your lunch a little later, like around 2:30pm, will mean a much less busy restaurant while you eat. Fill up on a big breakfast before heading to the park so you can get lots of rides in without needing to stop to eat until late afternoon. Be sure to check out the operating hours for your desired restaurant in the park map or from the official app when planning your day as some tend to close earlier than others.
It's not advertised, but when you stay at one of the on-site hotels, you can actually swim at any of the other Universal Resort pools! All you need is your room key to open the pool gate and you're good to go. Bring a backpack with your swimsuits to the parks and you can stop by a different pool each afternoon before heading back to your room. They even supply towels near the pools so no need to bring your own. Swim in a pool that plays music underwater at the Hard Rock Hotel, float down the lazy river at Cabana Bay, enjoy a relaxing dip at the Portofino Bay and more. They're all yours to explore.
When to visit
The parks will always be less busy on weekdays. If you can plan your trip around visiting the parks on a weekday and saving weekends for travel or enjoying the hotel, you'll likely have less crowds to deal with at the parks. Avoid taking your vacation during school holidays if possible. If you do plan to visit during a peak season like spring break or in the middle of summer, staying at one of those on-site hotels where you get free Express passes will really come in handy.
Get a Park-to-Park ticket and book early!
To experience everything the Universal Orlando theme parks have to offer, you'll need Park-to-Park tickets. The best rides are spread out across both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and a park to park ticket will let you hop between them in the same day. Plus, that's the only way you'll be able to ride on the Hogwarts Express. This train ride in the Wizarding World not only transports you between the two parks, but it's also an amazing attraction that's not to be missed. Save money by booking your Universal Orlando tickets in advance here at BestofOrlando!