It can be a little difficult to find tips, tricks, and hacks for a Universal Orlando vacation. There are thousands of sites devoted to Walt Disney World tips but no where near as many for Universal Orlando. We are going to try and change that here.
Below you will find a couple of tips, tricks, and hacks for your next Universal Orlando vacation. These tips will help you out on a week long Universal Vacation. A split vacation between Universal and WDW or even a short trip when you won’t even be visiting any of the theme parks.
Universal Orlando might not be as big as Disney World. It might not be as fun (really debatable). You might even think it’s just for older kids and adults (you would be wrong).
So how about we jump right into those tips and tricks? While a Universal Orlando Vacation doesn’t take as much planning as a Walt Disney World vacation does. You should still have a loose plan of attack and some of the below tips will help you out with that.
Universal Orlando has some of the best Resorts in the Orlando area. They are big, clean, and still come with some perks. Click here to learn all about the different Universal Orlando Resort tiers.
The different Universal Resorts have refillable mugs just like you would find at Walt Disney World resorts. Just keep in mind that these are only good at the resort. You will not be able to get them filled in the theme parks or CityWalk.
If you are staying at one of the prime value, prime, or premier resorts you can pool hop. You could be staying at Cabana Bay and check out the pool at Hard Rock even though you are not staying there. Just make sure you plan a resort day during your Universal Vacation to take advantage of this amazing Universal Orlando perk.
Now keep in mind if you are staying at either one of the Endless Summer resorts that you can not pool hop to the other resorts. However, you can pool hop to the other Endless Summer resort.
If you are staying at one of the three premier Universal Orlando Resorts you get a free unlimited express pass. This pass is good from the day you check in till the day you check out. Even if you only book one night you get two passes for everyone in the room.
Depending on the time of year you can save a lot of money by booking just one night at a premier resort.
Check in is listed at 3pm. However, you can check in as early as 7am (earliest I have tried). There is a good chance that your room will NOT be ready. However, you will get a room key that can get you early access to the theme parks.
Once your room is ready you will get a text with your room number. You can even keep your luggage at the front desk if your room isn’t ready yet.
There are a couple of different modes of transportation available to you when you stay at a Universal Orlando Resort. If you are staying at one of the Endless Summer resorts you just have the buses. However, the other resorts have buses, Garden Walk, and even some of the resorts have boats.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be staying at one of the resorts to get on the boat. Sometimes I like to jump on the boat heading towards Sapphire Falls Resort and finish the rest of the way by foot to Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
Unlike when you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort. At Universal Orlando you still will need to pay for parking when visiting the Theme Parks. Staying at a Universal Orlando Resort does not get you free parking. Plus you will be paying to park at the resort.
It seems like Universal Orlando is always running a deal on their ticket prices. A lot of the times you can find buy 2 days get 3 days free. That’s even in the summer months when it is prime season. It doesn’t hurt to wait a while till you get your tickets.
The Universal Orlando Annual Pass is also a great deal. Depending on the pass you will get discounts on merch and food. Discounts on Hotel rooms too! Plus you get free parking with certain Annual Passes at Universal CityWalk.
Universal Orlando has some of the best deals on tickets and annual passes. I really feel that your money goes a lot further than the other area Orlando theme parks. Much more bang for your buck if you know what I mean.
IOA and Universal Studios Tips
Below you find some of our tips and tricks for visiting both theme parks. Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure are two amazing theme parks to visit. If you never been or haven’t been in years, you will be surprised by everything they offer.
In our hotel tips we talked about getting a free Unlimited Express Pass by staying at certain hotels. But what if you don’t stay at one of those hotels and have to purchase one. Is it worth paying out of pocket for the Express Pass.
The answer to that one is tricky. First I would suggest you don’t buy the express pass till the day you visit. You might not need it at all. Sure you will get on the ride faster but sometimes the wait times are low. When I visited in December most of the rides had under 30 minute wait times.
I would say look at the wait times on the app for a week leading up to your trip to see if you should really spend the money on the Express Pass. If you do end up buying one you won’t need to reserve a wait time like some of the other area theme parks. With the express pass you just show up and ride what you want when you want.
You won’t need to get there at opening to reserve Escape from Gringotts at 5pm. You can go on it whenever your schedule allows. It doesn’t matter if it is first thing in the morning or your last ride at night. You get to do you.
Getting from Park to Park
If you have a park to park ticket you can use the Hogwarts Express to get between the parks. It is a short ride with some amazing theming. However, sometimes the wait times are extremely high. It is not uncommon to see 45 minute wait times in the afternoon to go from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure.
If you really want to ride it that’s fine. However, it will take you a much shorter time to just walk between the parks. Walking between the two train stations can take you up to 30 minutes (if you are walking slow or with small children). It just depends on how you want to get to each park.
However, you should ride it from London to Hogsmeade at least once. Who doesn’t want to run between platforms 9 and 10? That is one of the coolest parts. Just remember to stand back and watch your family disappear.
Universal Orlando wait times that are posted are the actually wait times. If it says 30 minutes. It will be about 30 minutes from start to finish. I haven’t come across one wait time that was not accurate.
Of course, you can find them to be either 5 minutes shorter or longer. But that is from the time you enter the line to the time you get off the ride. If you see a 15 minute wait time posted. It is pretty much a walk through. The queues at Universal are really long and take a couple of minutes to walk through. Plus the Harry Potter ones you will want to stop in and look around and see all the immersive details.
If you are trying to make the most out of your day at Universal Studios Orlando or Islands of Adventure save time by using Mobile Ordering. Just make sure you’ve downloaded the Universal App and set up your wallet.
Mobile ordering is one of the best things you can do to save time when visiting the theme parks. Just order, walk to the quick service location, pick up your food, sit and eat, and go back to the rest of your day. No need to wait in long lines just to order something to eat.
If you plan on riding either Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges or Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. YOU WILL GET SOAKED! No I am not kidding either. Both of these water rides get you soaking wet from head to toe.
Just be mindful of that. It’s not like some other water rides where you might be the person getting soaked. Everyone on the ride will be dropping wet.
Did you know that there is a secret exit and entrance to Universal Studios? It’s located behind the Hard Rock Café and brings you underneath the Rip Ride Rocket between the Minions ride and the Universal Studios Store. It usually opens around 10am and rarely ever has a line.
Want to see the Dragon on top of Gringotts Bank breath fire? Who am I kidding. Of course you do. Well he will breath fire every 10 minutes…… weather permitting.
Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade
Planning to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Why not try to visit later in the day. When the park first opens is normally the busiest times for both of these amazingly themed areas.
Now it doesn’t matter when you visit Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley. It will be busy. However, the later in the afternoon the less crowded it typically is.
Universal Orlando is a great place to visit. It helps to have an idea of what you will encounter and tips to help make the most out of your vacation. While we could list over a 100 different tips, these 15 tips can help get you started.
Did you find any of these tips helpful? Do you have any tips we should add in our next post? Let us know in the comments below.