If there’s one thing my family doesn’t like to do, it’s waiting 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 we used to skip the lines at both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure Orlando theme parks which will make your vacation in Orlando with kids much easier.

Buy Discount Universal Orlando Tickets in Advance

You can buy discount Universal Orlando Resort tickets in advance from authorized sellers which save time and money.

These tickets can be printed or used on a mobile phone to go straight to the gate.

Stay at a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel for Early Park Admission

Guests of Universal Orlando Resort hotels are granted Early Park Admission to one theme park (and select attractions within it) per day.

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 Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay as determined by Universal Orlando (check the calendar to verify which park this applies to during your stay).
  • 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.
Stay at Loews Portofino Bay to skip the lines at Universal Orlando.

We chose Universal’s Loews Portofino Bay Hotel as our Universal Orlando 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 it has a club level, nice pools, and a comfortable room. Staying here also granted us BOTH Early Park Admission and a Universal Express Pass (more on this benefit below). Read my full Loews Portofino Bay review.

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.

Eligible attractions 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 walk more or less on most rides. Note that Harry Potter rides 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. You need park admission and an Express Pass.

How to skip the lines at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure.

Book a VIP Experience

Universal Orlando Resort offers two VIP Experiences for those who would like red carpet treatment.

You can book a private VIP Experience or join a group for $189 per person. The latter allows for a 5-hour one-park experience or a seven-hour two-park experience. You’ll receive priority entrance to a minimum of eight rides.

The private VIP tours provide front-of-the-line access, meet and greets, preferred show seating and a myriad of other benefits in a manner that is completely tailored to your group.

Get There Early

I would highly advise arriving at 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?

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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