Looking for tips for Universal Orlando? We’ve got you covered!
Let me start by saying you’ll probably never see your kids more excited than when you first walk through the gates to Universal Orlando, or Universal Hollywood when you go and do all the fun things to do in LA with kids!
Especially into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, if they are big Harry Potter fans like our eldest daughter!
I’ll never forget the look on Kalyra’s face as we entered Hogsmeade on our very first day at Islands of Adventure. She’s read all the books and watched all the movies, and I think she could have cried.
In fact, we all couldn’t believe how magical it all made us feel.
It was like we were stepping into the movie. Universal has done an incredible job bringing the Harry Potter series to life.
Watch our video, then continue reading this blog post for all our Universal Orlando tips:
But Universal Orlando Resort is much more than Harry Potter!
In this post I’m sharing our top tips for Universal Orlando to help you plan for the most memorable and magical vacation you can have!
We had an incredible three days exploring everything that Universal Orlando Resort has to offer, and writing down these Universal Orlando tips brought back cherished memories!
First of all, in case you are confused like I was before visiting, Universal Orlando Resort consists of three parks:
And then there is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is located in both Universal Studios (Diagon Alley) and Islands of Adventure (Hogsmeade).
No, it is not called Harry Potter World, or Harry Potter theme park, or Universal Studios Harry Potter World as I kept calling it pre-trip. But I soon got that out of my system.
So you have three Universal theme parks plus City Walk. You can find the best combo Park Hopper tickets here.
We visited Universal Florida in mid-November 2017, shortly after the craziness of Halloween and it was a relatively quiet time at the parks and at our hotel.
Read this Guide to Universal Orlando so you learn all the things you need to know before you visit Universal Orlando Florida.
18 Tips for Universal Orlando
1. Plan for 3 Days, Minimum
This would be one of our top tips for Universal Orlando.
We spent three days exploring all of the Universal Orlando Resort parks, and I think that was a perfect amount of time.
Coming from a family of four with kids aged 10 and 6, I highly recommend you also plan for a minimum of three days!
Essentially we spent one day at each of the three parks!
Our kids have different levels of bravado when it comes to what rides they will go on, and our 6 year old was restricted due to height requirements for some rides as well.
So three days gave us ample time to cover all the rides and attractions for everyone to enjoy.
You know what theme parks are like, they can be long and tiring days, especially if you are dragging young kids around with you, so don’t try and do it all in a sprint.
We spent our first full-day at Universal’s Volcano Bay, which was awesome and the best water park we have ever been too.
Then we had two days hopping between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios on a Multi-Day Pass (see tips down below).
2. Get a Multi-Day Pass
We had a 3-Park 3-Day ticket which allowed us to visit Volcano Bay + Islands of Adventure + Universal Studios at any time each day!
There are several options available for Multi Passes from 2 to 5 days in duration. So if you plan on visiting all three parks, I recommend you choose one of these passes.
3. Ride Hogwarts Express
Our eldest daughter Kalyra is a MASSIVE Harry Potter fan, our youngest is getting there, and one of our kids favorite Harry Potter experiences at Universal Orlando was riding Hogwarts Express.
By getting a Park-to-Park ticket, it allows you to ride the Hogwarts Express between Hogsmeade Station (Islands of Adventure) to King’s Cross Station in London (Universal Studios) unlimited times in either direction.
It’s a fun and convenient way to move between the parks. We park hopped several times using Hogwarts Express and it worked out perfectly.
I won’t spoil it for you, but you never know who – or what – you might see out the trains window during the journey. And it’s a different experience going from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley, and vice versa. So do both!
But you’ll need a park-to-park ticket.
To ride from Hogsmeade to London in Universal Studios, head to Hogsmeade Station inside Islands of Adventure. When you arrive in London, pop around the corner to find the secret entryway into Diagon Alley.
From Diagon Alley:
To ride to Hogsmeade, head to London in Universal Studios and board the train at King’s Cross Station.
4. What If You Only Have One Day?
If you only have one day at Universal Studios Orlando Resort, make the most of it with a Park-to-Park ticket – another one of our top tips for Universal Orlando!
This ticket gives you access to Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure including both lands of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.
You’ll also be able to ride the Hogwarts Express connecting these two parks.
See all ticket options and prices for Single-Day tickets and Multi-Day tickets through our booking partner, aResTravel.
5. Get a Universal Express Pass
What is a Universal Express Pass?
First off, a Universal Express Pass is an Add-On ticket. They don’t actually give you access to any of the parks.
You still have to buy your theme park admission ticket first, then add-on a Universal Express Pass!
Basically, these Universal Orlando Express Passes allow you to skip the regular lines at most of the rides and attractions – now including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
So you get “express access”.
You may be familiar with these types of passes from other theme parks who call them Fast Passes etc. At Universal, they are called Universal Express.
Depending on the time of year and day you visit, instead of standing for hours in the regular queue, with an Express Pass you could only be waiting 5-15 minutes (or less).
Regular lines can be anything from 45+ minutes, and Universal Express Passes allow you to go on your favorite rides multiple times and maximize your time.
There are different types of Express Passes:
- Universal Express Pass – Skip the regular line ONE TIME PER TIDE at participating rides and attractions each day that your pass is valid.
- Universal Unlimited Express Pass – Skip the regular lines an UNLIMITED NUMBER OF TIMES at participating rides and attractions.
- Single Park Universal Express – You buy one of these Add-On passes only for either Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, or Volcano Bay.
- 2-Park Universal Express – use at both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios.
- 2-Park Park-To-Park + Express Unlimited – admission to Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, plus Universal Express Unlimited access.
- 3-Park Park-To-Park + Express Unlimited – admission to Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay, plus Universal Express Unlimited access.
Participating Rides & Attractions:
Wondering what rides and attractions you can use your Universal Passes at to beat the long lines?
There are 18 participating attractions at Universal Studios, 18 at Islands of Adventure, and 10 at Volcano Bay. See the full lists here.
Are Universal Express Passes worth it?
I believe so. I don’t like standing in long lines, especially with kids, and especially in the heat, and you all know Florida!
Obviously the extra costs of these passes on top of your admission tickets and accommodation adds to your budget, especially if you are a family of four.
But if your budget allows, and this is your dream trip, having these passes can dramatically improve your overall experience at Universal so you have the vacation of a lifetime!
Seriously, I don’t know how many times we said to each other as we walked past the long regular lines that we were so glad we had these passes.
Without these passes there would have been a lot of precious time wasted, and restless and frustrated kids.
Find a way to cut back in other ways in your travel budget to free up money for Express Passes. What are your priorities?
- Staying in a 5 star hotel?
- Flying business class?
- Eating out three times a day?
- Shopping at the outlets?
- or having the best Universal experience?
When you really look at your expenses and consider your priorities, you can find a way. And I have more tips on accessing these passes for better value down below!
See all the options and prices for Universal Express Passes on the Universal Orlando website here.
Watch our video for our top 11 Universal Orlando tips:
6. Stay On-Site at a Universal Resort Hotel
One of our best tips for visiting Universal Orlando would be staying on-site at one of the Universal Orlando Resorts.
There are key benefits to staying on-site as I will explain below, and these benefits can make a world of difference to your family’s Universal vacation.
Staying on-site can be the best way to experience all that Universal Orlando Resort has to offer.
Here are the five current Universal Resort Hotels to choose from (in order of Budget to Luxury):
- Cabana Bay Beach Resort (Book directly on Booking.com / Read reviews on TripAdvisor)
- Loews Sapphire Falls Resort (Book directly on Booking.com / Read reviews on TripAdvisor)
- Loews Royal Pacific Hotel (Book directly on Booking.com / Read reviews on Trip Advisor)
- Hard Rock Hotel (Book directly on Booking.com / Read reviews on TripAdvisor)
- Loews Portofino Bay Hotel (Book directly on Booking.com / Read reviews on Trip Advisor)
Plus, Universal’s Aventura Hotel opens in August 2018.
I know, figuring out where to stay on any family vacation can be stressful, especially in Orlando where there are endless options!