If there’s one thing my family doesn’t like to do, it’s wait in line. When we opt for theme park vacations, I do whatever it takes to avoid them. Most recently, our travels took us to Universal Orlando Resort. These are some of the strategies I used to skip the lines at both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure theme parks.
Buy Tickets in Advance on TripAdvisor
I partnered with TripAdvisor (a site affiliate) for the ticket portion of our trip to experience first-hand how to buy theme park admission tickets on TripAdvisor. It could not have been easier.
I made the purchase online and, at the time, tickets were a few dollars less than anywhere else on the internet. I printed the voucher. After arriving to the park, I scanned the printed voucher and my credit card at a kiosk (which thankfully, unlike the ticket booths, did not have a line). The tickets were dispensed within seconds.
I didn’t realize this at the time but the same style of ticket kiosk was at Loews Portofino Bay. I could have picked up the tickets there, too!
Stay at a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel for Early Park Admission
Guests of Universal Orlando Resort hotels are granted Early Park Admission to a Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure parks in addition to a variety of other perks.
Here’s what you need to know about Early Park Admission.
- Early Park Admission begins one hour prior to the regularly scheduled park opening to either Universal Studios Florida or Universal’s Islands of Adventure, as determined by Universal Orlando. This will also apply to Universal’s Volcano Bay when it opens this summer.
- Only a handful of rides and attractions will be open early. At the time of our visit to Universal Studios Florida, open attractions and rides during Early Park Admission included Despicable Me Minion Mayhem as well as Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
- The line for the Hogwarts Express train opened a little early, too, during our visit. You should have a park hopper pass if you have a Harry Potter fan with you. This is the only way to ride the train which runs between both parks. You should do this as early in your day as possible as there are otherwise big lines for it throughout the day.
We chose Universal’s Loews Portofino Bay Hotel as our Universal Resort Hotel. It is modeled after Portofino, Italy and guests take a free and convenient water taxi to the theme parks. It is a busy hotel, but there is a club level, nice pools and our room was comfortable. Staying here also granted us BOTH Early Park Admission and a Universal Express Pass (more on this benefit below).
Buy the Universal Express Pass
In addition to regular park admission, you can buy a Universal Express Pass that allows you to skip the regular line once or an unlimited amount of times, depending on which pass you buy.
The cost of the pass is $49-$59 per person and rises based on how many days you need it.
Eligible rides will have a general admission line and an Express Pass line. It is important to note that these are not skip-the-line passes. During peak season, even the Express Pass lines can be long. We faced at least a 90-minute wait at Skull Island: Reign of Kong even with the Express Pass but that was shorter than the regular line. We were able to more or less walk on to most rides. Note that Harry Potter rides are do not have Express Pass privileges.
Overall, we were pleased with the convenience these passes provide for the money and I would recommend them during your visit. As these passes were included with our rate at Loews Portofino Bay, this made the hotel a greater value. Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort also include the Express Pass with their rooms. Many people in line made the mistake of thinking that the Express Pass was also their park admission. I’ll say it again… you need both.
Book a VIP Experience
Universal Orlando Resort offers their own VIP Experiences for those who would like red carpet treatment. You can book a private VIP Experience for $2899 or join a group for $189 per person. To be honest, I did not see the latter option which would have been wise for us given that we visited Islands of Adventure in the afternoon during peak season when it was difficult to just walk through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.
The VIP tours do provide front-of-the-line access, meet and greets, preferred show seating and a myriad of other benefits over the course of 5 hours.
Get There Early
I would highly advise arriving to the parks at least 15 minutes or so before they open. In our case (and, we also experienced this at the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios) they started letting people in early. Go deep into the park and to tackle those rides and attractions first before people trickle in.
How do you skip the lines at Universal Studios Florida theme parks?