You're starting to plan your trip to Universal Studios, and you're beginning to feel overwhelmed! But don't worry; to help you make the most of your visit, we've put together a list of our top tips and tricks for Universal Orlando.
You might be asking questions like these:
When should you visit? How long should you stay? What should you do while there? What are the best rides and attractions? What should you wear? Should you purchase express passes? Where should you stay?
Well, if you're asking all those questions or just one, you're in the right place because we will be answering all of them in this article about useful Universal Studios Orlando tips and tricks.
Visiting the parks should be fun, not stressful!
Ready to get started?
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One of the top tips for visiting Universal Orlando is to decide the most appropriate time of year you should visit.
If you've already chosen dates, you can skip this part, but we definitely recommend verifying that the dates you chose are good ones.
The best time of year to visit tends to be in mid to late January and February (except for the week of Valentine's Day).
However, before we move on, we want to take the time to explain why this is the best time to go so that if it isn't possible for you to visit during that time, you can pick another one that is adequate.
When picking dates to visit Universal Studios Orlando, you want to choose dates that allow you to avoid two things: heat and crowds.
Both of which can make your vacation miserable.
So, in order to avoid the biggest crowds and the hottest heat, don't visit during the summer.
Just don't do it if you can avoid it.
Spring and fall can also be rather hot in Florida, so if you plan on visiting during one of those seasons, make sure you pack light clothes for during the day and a jacket for at night. In fact, we'd recommend workout leggings and a t-shirt or a tank top. But we'll talk more about that later!
Also, try to avoid weeks surrounding holidays. Those tend to be incredibly crowded.
Plus, check for special events at the park, such as Holloween Horror Nights and Mardis Gras, because these events draw a large crowd (unless, of course, you're interested in attending one of these special events).
If all of that information totally overwhelms you, you can check this crowd calendar to help you pick dates.
If you can't avoid visiting in the midst of the Florida heat (aka summer), we have some great Universal Orlando tips to help you stay safe!
The sun is incredibly strong in Florida during the summertime. For example, in July, the Mean UV index for Florida is 8. To put this into perspective, Forefront Dermatology says that, with a UV index of 8, you can burn in about 15 minutes.
We know that wearing sunscreen sucks because it can be greasy, but it's totally necessary if you're visiting in the summer, late spring, and early fall.
If you hate wearing sunscreen as much as we do, We're sorry.
But, we've got some solid suggestions for you.
Use this Banana Boat sunscreen for your face. It's literally the best stuff on the planet.
And this is our favorite sunscreen for the body. It can get a little greasy, but it works the best!
It'll most likely be bright, so we highly recommend wearing these no matter what time of year you visit.
However, they're especially important when the sun is at its strongest.
The hat will protect the top of your head and help shade your face.
The sunglasses will (obviously) help protect your eyes.
Plus, the park is a lot more fun when you can actually see it. Being blinded by the sun is no fun!
Jessica Simpson has some of the best sunglasses. They last long enough (if you don't lose them or break them, that is). And they're super cute and don't break the bank. Win-Win!
This is important when it's hot.
Honestly, we've found that the most comfortable theme park clothes are workout clothes.
You don't feel self-conscious or gross when you start sweating in them because that's literally what they're for.
Additionally, they'll be so much cooler than regular clothes.
And lastly, most workout clothes have stretchy waistbands, which is perfect for enjoying theme park food! Just saying...
Leggings are the favorite thing to wear wherever we do a lot of walking.
Check out this pair of versatile Nike Leggings. (Hint: they're not as pricey as you think!)
If you prefer shorts, these rocks. You won't even notice you're wearing any. Unless you start chaffing, of course, then you'll be acutely aware of the fact you're wearing shorts. This anti-chafe balm works miracles to save skin.
However, if you choose not to wear workout clothes, we totally get it. Just don't wear jeans or jean shorts. Seriously.
You didn't know that Universal served free water, did you?
Well, they do!
But, shhh: they don't really like to talk about it.
They do have to serve it according to Florida law, so no dirty looks will be given from team members. Although, other visitors might look upon your free water with envy.
How do you get free water?
It's easy! Just ask.
Yep. If you're at a restaurant or snack bar that has a soda fountain, just ask for a cup of water.
It'll be pretty small, but you can technically ask for as many as you'd like as often as you'd like.
You don't even have to buy anything to get one.
Universal Studios Resort Hotels are great places to stay because you have access to food, buses, and express passes (if you stay at a premier resort).
If you plan on spending most of your time in Orlando at Universal Studios, this is a great option!
Plus, Universal does offer some affordable hotels (starting in the low $100 range).
If you really want Unlimited Express Passes, we highly recommend you do the math and see if it's worth it for you to stay at one of the Premier Resorts.
Those express passes start at $90 per person per day and only go up on busy days. You'll probably find that getting one of the expensive hotel rooms (that includes the express passes) doesn't cost you much more than if you got a cheaper hotel and purchased the passes separately, and you get to stay in a nicer room!
Staying off property doesn't always have the same benefits as staying on property (like avoiding parking fees and getting free express passes).
However, if you choose wisely, you can find a great hotel at a fraction of the cost off property.
Our best money-saving tip is staying nearby the parks so that you can Uber to and from them.
The closest hotels you can book are located on Major Blvd.
Most recently, we stayed at Fairfield Inn and Suites Near Universal Studio. It was nice, clean, and super close!
If you're looking to stick to a strict budget, we definitely recommend staying at the Fairfield Inn.
Comparison of Hotels
|Hotel||On Property?||Available Transportation||Free Express Passes?||Price|
|Loews Royal Pacific||Yes||Shuttle||Yes||Check Pricing and Availability|
|Hard Rock Cafe||Yes||Shuttle||Yes||Check Pricing and Availability|
|Loews Portofino Bay||Yes||Shuttle||Yes||Check Pricing and Availability|
|Cabana Bay Beach Resort||Yes||Shuttle||No||Check Pricing and Availability|
|Fairfield Inn and Suites||No||Uber, Drive, Limited Shuttle||No||Check Pricing and Availability|
You might be wondering where you can get the best deal on Universal Studios Orlando tickets and passes.
Well, the answer is quite simple.
The best place to get tickets and passes for Universal Studios is from Universal.
The tickets they sell are guaranteed to work.
Buying tickets from discount retailers can be risky.
However, we understand the draw: we mean, who doesn't want to save money?
So, to help you out, here are a couple of reputable sites that sell discounted Universal Studios Orlando tickets:
Honestly, we think that these sites often just offer the same deals that Universal Studios is running, so we're not sure how much you'll actually save. Make sure you compare prices and read all of the fine print!
We've never tried using these sites for discounted tickets, so we have no idea how safe buying tickets is from them. But, we do know that they're reputable in other ways. In the end, the choice is up to you!
And, keep in mind that if you're a Florida resident, you can get discounted tickets directly from Universal.
If you're planning on a lengthy stay, it might be more economical for you to purchase a season or an annual pass.
Or, if you intend on returning later in the year, it will also likely be cheaper for you to just purchase a pass instead of tickets.
You'll notice that Universal offers two kinds of passes: season and annual.
So, what's the difference?
Season passes have black out dates, which means you can't visit the parks during the most popular times, which won't be a big deal if you plan on avoiding them anyway.
Season passes are typically cheaper than annual passes because of the restrictions.
When you purchase an annual pass, you can visit the parks any time during the year (excluding special events). This will include the summer months. And, because of its flexibility, it's more expensive than the season pass.
If you stay at a Universal Studios Resort hotel, you can skip paying for parking by just taking one of the shuttles.
These shuttles are great because they run frequently enough to where taking one is never inconvenient.
If you miss it, there'll be another in a few minutes.
Similarly, you can choose a hotel that isn't associated with Universal Studios but still offers a shuttle to and from the park.
These shuttles often only make a couple of daily trips, so you need to plan your day around the departure times for these shuttles.
If you're strategic about booking your hotel, you can Uber to and from the parks and spend less than you would on parking.
If your hotel is close to Universal Studios, it will likely only cost about $5 per Uber ride. And, considering that it costs $23 to park (per day) at Universal, that's a huge saving.
These hotels are close enough to the park that you should be able to Uber for about $5 per ride. (Please note that prices change based on supply and demand. To get exact pricing, please check Uber directly.)
If you want the closest hotel possible, look for one on Major Blvd!
Take a look at the comparison table below to find a hotel that will save you money on Universal parking fees.
The following hotels can save you money on parking fees at Universal. Some hotels in Orlando will charge nightly parking fees, so if you're trying to avoid those altogether, make sure you check for details.
Another tip for visiting Universal Studios Orlando is walking to the parks.
If you stay at one of the hotels that are super close to the parks (located on Major Blvd and listed below), you can actually walk to and from the parks.
It's about a 20-30 minute walk depending on your pace.
While it can be exhausting, the walk is pretty once you get onto Universal Studios property.
Plus, you can always Uber if you walk there and feel too tired to walk back.
Walking one way cuts your Uber bill in half!
One of the many perks of having an American Express card is that you can get access to the American Express Lounge, which is located inside Universal Studios.
If you purchase your tickets with your Amex card, you can gain entrance to the lounge for yourself and everyone you purchased the ticket for.
The lounge is amazing.
Now, it's nothing special, but when you're hot, tired, and thirsty, you'll think it's pretty damn amazing, too.
The lounge offers clean bathrooms, free water, free snacks, A/C, and a TV.
While we don't recommend wasting your time in the lounge, it's a great place to stop for a quick break.
One of the magical tips for visiting Universal Orlando is to walk in with a plan.
Otherwise, you'll just end up spinning your wheels and wasting time.
You might also find that you didn't get around to doing all the things you really wanted to.
Having a plan is always important, but it becomes particularly helpful when you're short on time.
Before entering the park, you should definitely have a list of rides that you want to make your top priority.
This will help plan your day in the park and ensure you get around to doing the most important stuff.
Sometimes, things don't go according to plan.
For instance, sometimes you might wait in a line for a ride that breaks down after you've already been waiting for half an hour.
If they don't think they can fix it quickly enough, they will make an announcement, and you will have the opportunity to leave.
If this happens, feel free to ask a team member for an Express Pass so that you can ride it without having to wait again. This works particularly well if you've been waiting a while.
Now, they may say no. But, a few years ago, this happened on the Mummy, and they were more than happy to hand out Express Passes to those who continued to wait after the ride had broken down.
So, you might as well ask.
Universal Studios doesn't offer Express Passes for free as Disney does.
While this might suck if you aren't interested in spending more money, it is great if you want to splurge on them. You'll be glad to know that the Express lines tend to be super short! (Much shorter than Disney's.)
The price of the Express Passes varies depending on how busy Universal expects the parks to be.
So, on a busier day, the tickets will be expensive, and on a slower day, they will be cheaper.
The cheaper the Express Passes, the less likely you'll ever need them.
Of course, it's totally up to you.
If you're not sure, you'll need them, check out this crowd calendar to help you make up your mind.
Lastly, if you're still not sure if you'll need them, wait to purchase them.
We're not aware of any advantage to purchasing the Express Passes ahead of time other than you're guaranteed to have them.
If you want Express Passes, we will encourage you to look into prices for staying in Universal's Premier hotels because they provide complimentary Express Passes.
These hotels tend to be pricey.
However, add up all your expenses for staying off the property before you just assume it will be cheaper.
Add the cost per night, parking (or transport), and Express Pass costs for each day you plan to visit the park.
Once you do this, we think you'll find that the Premier hotels are pretty comparable in price.
You can stay at the following hotels and get free Express Pass Unlimited:
All of these hotels are amazing and offer incredible service and amenities.
In addition to Express Passes, you'll get access to free transportation, including Shuttles and Ferries.
If you don't want to spend the money on express passes, we totally get it. We have never purchased express passes before, although we have been tempted.
Below are some valuable Universal Orlando tips for how you can still avoid the long lines.
You don't need to plan out your entire day, but you should have about 5 rides picked out for each park that you know you don't want to leave without riding.
This will help you prioritize the rides and manage your time more effectively.
The Universal Studios app will give you up-to-date wait times for all of the rides and attractions in the park.
This makes it easy for you to pick the shortest lines possible every time.
Additionally, this app will give you access to some of the virtual lines Universal has. For example, you can jump into the virtual line for Minion Mayhem using the app.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is large, and many details will make you squeal with excitement, assuming you're a Harry Potter fan.
While you're sure to be spending some time in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we encourage you to do your best to explore every nook and cranny.
You'll be surprised at all of the hidden gems you'll find.
Plus, there's a secretive section, which a lot of people seem to miss in Hogsmead.
It's super cool.
We won't tell you where it is or what it is, though, because stumbling upon it is the best part.
You'll want to ride the Hogwarts express twice: once going to Hogwarts and once to Hogsmead.
Your destination determines what happens on the train ride, which makes for a fantastic and tailored experience.
It really sets the tone for when you arrive at your destination.
So, don't miss out on a thing and make sure you ride it twice!
Universal Studios has some wonderful restaurants. But, not all of their restaurants are great.
In fact, at many, you'll find nothing but generic theme park food (e.g., pizza, chicken fingers, fries, etc.)
In order to get something special, you need to enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Springfield, or visit one of the finer dining restaurants, such as Mythos.
The restaurants in these areas of the park offer a unique dining experience that you'll love. It goes way beyond generic theme park food.
Before you book your tickets, make sure you check the park's schedule for special events. (E.g. Halloween Horror Nights, Mardi Gras, etc.)
Special events tend to start sometime between 5 pm and 6 pm, and unless you purchased the pass that includes the special event (yes, it costs more), you'd be forced to leave early.
So, to avoid the entire problem, and get the most out of your day at the theme park, choose days to visit that don't have special events happening at night.
On the other hand, if you're interested in accessing a special event, you'll definitely want to ensure that it's happening on the nights you plan on going.
For example, Halloween Horror Nights start in September and end in November, but it doesn't happen every night.
One of the essential tips for Universal Orlando is to dress appropriately for water rides.
Islands of Adventure has a few water rides (3 to be exact), and it's important to dress properly if you plan on riding them.
If it would be comfortable, wearing a bathing suit underneath quick-drying clothes is your best option.
However, activewear is another good choice because it usually dries quickly.
Also, don't forget about your shoes. Either pack a pair of flip-flops in your backpack or take your shoes off before getting on the ride. (we've no idea if you're technically allowed not to wear shoes on the water rides, but we've seen shoeless people do it before, so who knows!)
If all of that seems too much work, just wait to ride them until the end of the day.
At that point, you'll care less about being soaked because you're on your way back to your hotel to change.
In this section, we're going to share our favorite rides and restaurants in Universal Studios.
Universal Studios has a wide range of rides.
It has a couple of amazing roller coasters but mostly includes simulators and 3-D rides.
This ride is a fun mix between a roller coaster and a 3-D ride!
It is certainly not the most intense roller coaster at Universal, but it has a fun story that takes you through the ride.
If you love Harry Potter, you will adore getting the tour of Gringotts! The line takes you down in the heart of Gringotts before sending you on a wild ride.
This is our favorite roller coaster ever!
It’s indoor and dark. You'll love this exhilarating ride with tons of flashing lights, sharp turns, and a fun story!
While this ride is fast and intense, it doesn’t flip you upside-down, which is perfect for those who like to stay upright!
We always have a smile on our faces when exiting this ride.
Everything about this ride is fun if you enjoy watching the Simpsons! You’ll even have fun if you don’t care for the show; we promise!
While in line, you get to watch funny clips from various episodes of the Simpsons. Then, right before you get on the ride, you watch a short video that sets up the ride. Get bored watching safety videos? Well, the Simpsons manage to make it enjoyable! We won’t say any more on the subject; just know that they put a lot of effort into the details of this ride.
Once on the ride, you get into a car and are lifted up into a large simulator.
This ride is fun for all ages, especially if you enjoyed any of the Despicable Me movies! This ride is 3-D, and your seats move, but there is stationary seating available. This ride is similar to the Simpson’s ride; however, since you’re not as close to the screen, it’s not nearly as intense.
Plus, there's a virtual line, which makes it even more amazing.
This ride is similar to the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman (located in Islands of Adventure). You get into a cart that drives you through mayhem as you try and help the Transformers kick the bad guy’s butt.
Even if you don’t care for the movies, this ride is still fun.
Keep in mind that this ride can be a little nauseating, so you might not want to eat right before you get on.
This is easily one of Universal’s most popular roller coasters! The line for this ride can be incredibly long!
Still, it’s a beloved ride, and if you enjoy roller coasters, you won’t want to miss it!
This ride isn’t for the faint of heart; personally, this ride intimidates me more than the Hulk.
Still, even those who aren’t big on roller coasters should try everything once, right?
If the Shrek movies were as big a part of your childhood, you will adore this attraction.
It's a 3-D movie with some physical elements that make it 4-D.
In the movie, the quirky gang of misfit fairytale characters takes you on a fun adventure.
You’ll sit in a theater, put on your 3-D glasses, and watch the story unfold! Just look out; it’s a 4-D attraction, so don’t think you’re safe.
This restaurant is quick-service, which makes it pretty affordable compared to some of the other options.
The atmosphere is incredible.
You'll feel like you're eating where Harry stayed in the 3rd book in the series (Prisoner of Azkaban).
The food is delicious.
If you've heard terrible things about traditional British food, don't let it stop you from eating here.
You will seriously love it. There's nothing gross on the menu.
In Springfield, there's a building that has a ton of different counter service restaurants that, of course, are Simpson themed.
We usually order food from Cletus' Chicken Shack or Krusty Burger, but there are a ton of other places to get food, such as Luigis, the Frying Duchman, and Lisa's Teahouse of Horrors.
It's such a fun place to grab a bite.
(Btw, we highly recommend the Clogger from Krusty's, but heads up, it will clog you up. 😂)
In this section, we're going to share our favorite rides and restaurants in Islands of Adventure.
While technically a roller coaster, this ride doesn’t move like your traditional coaster. Instead of facing forward, you sit facing the right-hand side. Then a mechanical arm moves, tilts and sways you through the ride.
It’s a fantastic ride, but it can be a bit nauseating, so keep that in mind.
Also, one of the best parts of the ride is that the line exists inside Hogwarts! So you get to see some pretty iconic rooms as you move through the line.
This is essentially a kiddie coaster, but it’s so much fun!
We definitely would not recommend waiting more than 20 minutes for this ride for three reasons: (1) it’s a short ride, (2) the line is hot because it’s outside and shade is scarce, and (3) the line is slow moving.
Still, if you can catch it when the wait time is below 20 minutes, you should definitely ride it! The coaster always makes me laugh, so hopefully, you’ll enjoy it too.
This ride is an incredibly intense roller coaster. It shoots you off at a high speed right into a huge drop. While this coaster isn't for the faint of heart, it's a blast.
This roller coaster is incredibly popular, so be prepared to wait in a long line to ride it. However, we believe there is a single rider line, which is always almost always shorter.
This is a 3-D ride that wheels you around as you help Spiderman save the day!
This ride is a classic and is always enjoyable!
The line is outdated. After you go through some of the newer lines, you’ll wonder how such bad props were allowed to be used in the Spiderman ride. Just remember that it was built a while ago and just hasn’t been updated. Don’t let the lousy props make you think that the ride isn’t fun, though!
What the line lacks, Universal makes up for with the ride!
This ride is especially great if you have children. They will LOVE it!
Have you ever ridden or heard of the Tea Cups ride at Disney’s Magic Kingdom? This is essentially the same thing.
You can fit a max of 4 adults in one of the carts (it's a bit snug). But, we’d say you could comfortably fit 2 adults and 2 children. However, the more adults you have, the faster you’ll spin around because, let's face it, adults are stronger than children.
This restaurant is where Harry tried his first Butterbeer, which means it's the perfect place for you to try your first one, too!
This restaurant serves some traditional British food, such as Fish and Chips (yum).
Plus, with fantastic decor, you'll have plenty to gawk at.
This restaurant is a bit pricey and requires a bit of a time investment.
It isn't quick service like many of the other restaurants we've mentioned.
However, if you're interested in sitting down for a bite to eat, Mythos is a great spot.
It's located in a relatively quiet area of the park. The building is made of stone (or at least, what looks like stone).
They serve great food and offer an awesome atmosphere. Plus, the view from the back of the restaurant isn't bad; it overlooks a pond.
This is another full-service restaurant.
It serves a wide range of food, from Italian to Mexican to Greek. This makes it great for groups or families that can't seem to agree on what to eat.
The restaurant is decorated with confiscated goods from all over the park.
Don't worry; they're not actually confiscated. But it makes for fun decor!
The bad news: as you can clearly see from the length of this post, there is a lot you need to know before visiting Universal Studios.
The good news: since you're reading this, you've finished this post and now know everything you need to plan an epic vacation to Universal Studios Orlando! YAY!
These Univeral Orlando tips should help you avoid making rookie mistakes and prepare you for a great vacation.
Since it was a lot of information, let's do a quick recap.
Well, that's it in a nutshell.
You should feel totally ready to book your vacation now. Don't forget that the most important thing is to have fun!
So, don't get too meticulous with your planning.
If you're planning a trip to Universal Orlando, you should know a few things. First, purchase your tickets in advance. Second, download the official Universal Orlando app. And third, be prepared for the summer heat.
There are many lesser-known secrets about Universal Orlando that even the most diehard fans may not know.
One secret is that there are certain times when the parks are less crowded, and it is possible to get on more rides with shorter wait times. These times are typically early in the morning or later at night when most people have left the park.
Another secret is that there are a few places where you can find discounts on Universal Orlando tickets. Check with your hotel concierge or the ticket booth at CityWalk for more information.
Finally, be sure to download the official Universal Orlando app. This can help you plan your days and make the most of your time in the park.
There are many ways to save money and time at Universal Orlando. First, buy your tickets in advance online. This will save you time waiting in line at the ticket booth. Second, take advantage of the free shuttle buses that run between the theme parks and hotels in the area. Finally, make sure to hit all the big rides during the early part of the day when the lines are the shortest. This will help you avoid wasting time waiting in line later in the day.