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Universal Studios Hacks
No matter when you travel to Universal Orlando Resort, you can create an epic vacation with these 15 Universal Studios hacks.
***Although this was written prior to the temporary closing of the resort, most of these Universal Studios hacks still apply following the re-opening.
What is Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando Resort, also known as Universal Studios, is located in Orlando, Florida. No longer a one-day stop away from Disney, Universal Orlando now consists of Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, and Universal CityWalk. Universal Orlando is also home to eight resorts; Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Loews Royal Pacific, Aventura Hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, and Universal Endless Summer Resorts – Dockside Inn and Suites and Seaside Inn and Suites.
15 Universal Orlando Hacks
Universal Orlando will be expanding again with Epic Universe, although there is no official timeline of the opening of that park. The addition of Epic Universe will likely double the size of the parks, which is very exciting news. Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter for all the latest news about Epic Universe. Now, let’s get to the Universal Studios hacks.
1. Download the Universal Resort App
The Universal Resort App is so useful. Use it to check on ride times, navigate the parks, secure Virtual Line passes, connect to wifi, and more. The map alone makes it worth a download.
After the re-opening of the parks in June 2020, using the app is more important than ever. Mobile ordering is now encouraged and can be done via the app.
2. Avoid Traveling During Holidays
If you can, avoid traveling during any school holidays. This includes summer, winter holidays, and spring and fall breaks. If this isn’t possible, consider #3.
3. Consider an Express Pass
If you must travel during a busy time of the year, consider an Express Pass or even a VIP tour. It’s important to note that some of the higher-end resorts do include an Express Pass, so it may be worth doing the math and seeing if that makes the most sense for your family.
Whether you stay at a more expensive resort or purchase Express Passes, it will cost more. However, no one wants to stand in line all day, which is precisely what can happen during the times when the parks are very busy.
4. Plan your Dining in Advance
Universal Orlando has a dining plan that can make sense in some situations. The best way to know if the dining plan is right for you is to talk to a Universal Travel Agent (like me!) about your unique family situation. In many cases, the dining plan saves time and money.
5. Arrive Early
No one wants to wake up early on vacation, but arriving early to the parks is ideal for several reasons. First, the parks tend to be slower in the morning. This means you can walk on some of the most popular rides, something you can never do in the afternoon.
Another reason to arrive early is for the chance to be “First Family.” A family at the front of the lines will be chosen to announce the opening of the park. My son got to announce the park opening for Islands of Adventure, and it was so much fun! For the best chance of being chosen, stand in the front of the line, smile a lot, and wear Universal clothing (Harry Potter, Minions, Jurassic Park, etc.)
6. Stay in a Universal Orlando Resort
It costs more to stay in a Universal Orlando Resort, but the cost can be worth it. Universal is always running transportation between the resorts and parks, which is something that you won’t get at a partner hotel. You can still drive yourself, but you’ll have to pay for that. The partner hotels do run shuttles, but they are very limited, which no one will tell you (except for me.)
You can contact me for current rates on Universal Orlando Resorts, or check prices on Expedia if you are planning to DIY your vacation. Click the links below to check prices for all of the resorts.
- Loews Portofino Bay
- Hard Rock Hotel
- Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
- Loews Royal Pacific
- Aventura Hotel
- Cabana Bay Beach Resort
- Endless Summer Resorts – Dockside Inn and Suites and Seaside Inn and Suites.
You can also check Universal package prices with Undercover Tourist. Sometimes you’ll find great hotel-only deals on Expedia, but you have to be careful with park tickets. There are a lot of shady ticket sellers out there, so make sure to book through an approved Travel Agent (like me) or an approved partner like Undercover Tourist.
Check out our YouTube video comparing Cabana Bay Resort vs. Aventura.
7. Take a break (at least for lunch) in the afternoon
If your family needs some downtime, take a break in the afternoon. The parks are the busiest, and the temperatures are the hottest in the early-mid afternoon. If you need a break, head back to your resort for a nap or some time at the pool. Even if you don’t need a big break, mid-afternoon is a great time to sit down and eat lunch with some A/C.
8. Bring water bottles and snacks
Don’t buy those $4-5 bottles of water, don’t do it! First of all, you can get free water at most restaurants. Second, there are plenty of places to fill your water bottles. Bring a sturdy water bottle, like a Hydroflask, and fill it up throughout the day.
If you look at my First Family picture above, you can see that I practice what I preach with the water bottles. Hydroflask also offers fun and sturdy water bottles for kids.
9. Bring a fanny pack/hip bag
Many rides, including the new Hagrid coaster, will allow guests to wear a 3-prong fanny pack on board. If you don’t need to carry much, this can be a great way to save time by not having to use the lockers. Families with younger children may not be able to take advantage of bringing so little into the parks, but adults or families with teens may be able to get away with only using a fanny pack.
Check out Amazon for some great prices on fanny pack/hip bags, but make sure to purchase one with 3-prongs.
10. Take advantage of “single rider” lines
If the members of your party are ten years and older, you can take advantage of single rider lines. Yes, your party will be split up for the actual ride, but you can still wait together in the queue. This is one of the best Universal Studios hacks for busy days!
As of the re-opening, single rider lines are not available but will likely be available in the future.
11. Buy the refillable bottles and popcorn
If you’re looking for Universal Studios hacks to save money, this is a good tip! Buy the refillable bottles and popcorn on your first day. They’re initially pricey, but the refills make sure an inexpensive snack.
12. Make sure you have Park-to-Park tickets
You can’t ride the Hogwart’s Express without a Park-to-Park ticket, so make sure you have one!
13. Plan for three days minimum
Plan for a minimum of 3 days in the parks. A lot of people think of Universal as a smaller park, but it isn’t! Four to five days are even better.
14. Use the “secret” entrance
If you’re visiting on a day when it isn’t jam-packed, you won’t need to use this Universal Studios hack. However, if you’re visiting on a busy day, there is another entrance to the parks by the Blue Man Group Auditorium.
15. Know the secrets of the Wizarding World
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is one of the most popular attractions at Universal Orlando. Make sure to know plenty about it before you go. Fortunately, I have a blog post with 25 Wizarding World of Harry Potter Tips
I hope that these 15 Universal Studios hacks are helpful! Let me know in the comments, or share your favorite Universal Studios hack.
If you want to see more of my Universal content, check out the following posts:
- 7 things to buy at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
- The 7 best rides at Universal Studios.
- 7 things to buy before visiting Harry Potter World.
- 25 Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips.
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit Secret song list.
- 20 things to know before going to Universal Orlando.
Are you planning a Universal Vacation?
I know that it can be overwhelming, especially with three parks, new resorts almost every year, and a HUGE new park coming in a few years! I am a graduate of the Universal Orlando Resort Travel Agent Training Program, and I’ve love to help plan your Universal vacation! Contact me now for more info.
If you plan to DIY your vacation, I understand that too! I highly recommend buying your tickets through Undercover Tourist if you choose not to use a Travel Agent. There are a lot of really scammy sites out there, so make sure you’re booking through an approved partner (like Undercover Tourist,) or an approved Travel Agent.
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