Universal Studios Orlando Tips

Universal Studios Orlando Tips You NEED To Know

We’ve recently returned from Universal Studios Orlando and I have to say I went in pretty blind, with only a little bit of research as we had so many other things to do in Orlando.

However, now we have been and will definitely go again, I’ve learnt a few things that will make your visit easier and perhaps a bit cheaper too!

Universal Studios Orlando Tips

1. Download the Universal Studios App 

It is really useful and with free wifi in the park, you don’t need to worry about data. You can purchase and redeem select theme park tickets and Universal Express™ passes, see the latest wait times, access maps, and so much more. Get familiar with the app before you go.

Universal Studios Orlando Tips

2. The best time to go to universal studios is on a weekday, avoiding Fridays and weekends.

3. Don’t rush to buy the Universal Orlando Express Pass or to buy a more expensive ticket

You may not need need it depending on when you visit. The best time to avoid peak times for the parks are January, February, September and the first couple weeks of December.

These times avoid the main school summer holiday and the busy school break up period before Christmas. We visited in the UK February half term and hardly had to queue- the most we waited was 20 minutes.

Also look at when USA holidays fall. We avoided President’s Day and the proceeding weekend. Buying the express pass at this time would have a been a waste of money at $69 per person for one use per ride or $89 per person for unlimited use.

Not sure what ticket to buy?

If you are not sure whether you want to purchase park-to-park tickets, or 2 day etc buy the less expensive option. Then, if you decide you want more, you can pay the difference and upgrade.

We upgraded to a park to park ticket whilst at the park as we were keen to experience the Hogwarts Express and Hogsmeade over at Universal Island of Adventure.

By 3 pm we knew it was the Harry Potter bits that captured us all the most and we only had a day allocated ‘to do’ Universal. We enquired and it was simple to do, however you MUST upgrade while your ticket is still valid.

In other words, if you have a 2-day single park ticket, and you want to upgrade to a  2 day multi park pass, you MUST do it by the end of day 2. Otherwise your ticket will expire and you will have to buy a full-price for any additional admission.

Where can I buy an Universal Orlando Express pass?

The fast pass or express pass (as it is known) is either available to buy separately online, via the app, at various outlets and on site OR is given as a free extra if you stay in certain Universal hotels on site Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and the Hard Rock Hotel®

The Universal Orlando Express pass is NOT available as part of your stay at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, or  Universal’s Aventura Hotel. The express pass is also NOT valid for  Universal’s Volcano Bay.

Another reason not to rush to buy it, is the weather. A rainy day means less crowds and less queues. You can upgrade your ticket in the park if need be.

4. Do consider purchasing a dining plan. 

There are varying options depending whether you are staying on site or not but it could save you about 30% if you are planning on eating on site. I was also wondering if you can bring food into Universal Studios and the answer directly from their website is,

“Visitors may bring into Universal Studios Hollywood bottled water (maximum 2 liters), small snacks, any food required for medical purposes and medically-indicated nutritional supplements, any food required for special dietary needs, baby food/baby formula and soft-sided insulated bags no larger than 8.5” wide x 6” high.”

If you don’t wish to purchase a dining plan – head out to Universal City Walk for more choice and for something more substantial. It is really quiet around lunchtime and gives you a break from the park. Definitely do bring at the very least water with you!

5. Get there before it opens! 

Plan on extra time to park the car, go through security and walk through the entry gate. The most popular attraction is by far the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride. ( More tips on this area including a map further below)

If you are staying on site you can enter the park at 8am. We stayed off site and got to the park for 8.15.

Universal Studios Orlando parking tips:
  • We didn’t pay for premium preferred parking as we arrived early. Do factor in walk times to your arrival times. Standard parking at 8.00 in the morning was about a 10 minute walk to the security bag check and then another 10-15 to the main Universal Studios entrance. With moving walkways, the walk was even easier and not a problem for my 3 & 6 year old. This could be different at peak visiting times though.
Universal Studios Orlando Tips, Universal Studios Map

Universal Studios Orlando Map – credit Universal Studios

What Time Does Universal Studios Open?

On site hotel guests can enter from 8am, and off site it officially opens at  9am.


As mentioned above we arrived for 8.15 and there were about 10 people in the queue ahead of us. By 8.45 there were about 50 people behind us.

However, it is normal for the park to let people in BEFORE the official 9am opening time, which is what happened with us.

Universal Studios Orlando Tips

6. Make use of the Child Swap lane

Child Swap works differently at Disney World. At Universal Studios Orlando, if any of your children cannot ride a ride, an adult can wait with the child in the attraction’s Child Swap room.

When the rest of the party returns, you can switch and have your turn.  Once you get near to the front of the queue, mention to the attendant that you need Child Swap and they will point you in the direction of the room.

The non riding child and accompanying adult wait in a room (which has a TV showing a clip of the movie the ride is themed on and also a baby changing table) and the rest of the family go on the ride. Once they return, the adult waiting, gets to go on the ride straight away without lining up again.

7. Consider using Single Rider Lane

This lane is at it implies, is for single riders or for people who don’t mind being split up. This is a great option if you have older kids (over 10). Basically, you all get slotted in to fill the empty spaces on a ride. These lines move pretty fast too.

8. Pack a $1 poncho from Walgreens or CVS as they are $10 to purchase from the park.

If rain is predicted you will be grateful!

Universal Studios Orlando Tips

9. Consider hiring a stroller at the park even if you have a very able 6 year old or older.

We went with a 3 year old and 6 year old and floated the idea of buying a cheap $20 single stroller form Toysaurus or Walmart once in the USA, but instead opted to hire a double stroller for $23 at the park.

It was a good investment as we don’t use strollers at home anymore and it provided shade and rest for their weary legs. You can hire them from the entrance and at other points in the park.

We picked ours up near Kings Cross in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you hop on the Hogwarts express to Universals Islands Of Adventure, you simply drop your stroller and keep the card and hand the card to the stroller pick up as you disembark from Hogwarts.

10. Plan which shows you want to see first

Since the rides run continuously, but the shows do not, it’s best to schedule your day around the show schedule. We really enjoyed the Animal Actors on Location show which depicts some of the movie tricks of the trade and how they get dogs, birds, cats etc  to do the amazing performances that they do.

Universal Studios Orlando Tips, harry potter, Diagon Alley

More tips for Universal Studios Orlando – Wizarding World of Harry Potter Tips

It’s everything you expect it to be and more! I was blown away and my 6 year old fell in love with the story at Universal Studios Orlando. It was hands down all of our family’s favourite parts. So much so, that we upgraded our ticket at 15.30 to include the Islands of Adventure so that we got to go on the Hogwarts Express and visit Hogsmeade! We didn’t regret it! 2 parks in one day is hard with young children BUT possible if you are there during an off peak time.

It’s not uncommon for Hogsmeade’s ( Islands of Adventure) and Diagon Alley’s ( Universal Studio’s) most popular attractions, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, respectively, to have wait times up to and over two hours- so if you are visiting during a busy time an express pass on single rider option could be better for you.

Diagon Alley is at the top end of the park- about 15-20 minutes walk from the entrance. Most people will be heading there first!

Universal Studios Orlando Tips, Ollivanders

11. Get to Ollivander’s early or much later in the afternoon.

At Universal Studios there is the triple decker purple Knight Bus, Diagon Alley with all the stores including Ollivander’s. ( Hint Ollivander’s is also at Universal’s island of Adventures too) The queues for Ollivander’s can be just as busy, but at 9am we were the only ones inside. There are wand selection opportunities too, where you may get chosen to have a wand especially selected for you. However, the main reason why it gets SO busy later on, is this is where you can buy interactive wands which work at certain Harry Potter areas in the parks. (Search for the boxes with the gold label as they are the interactive ones- however they are not cheap!)

Once you are back inside Diagon Alley (or Hogsmeade) just look out for the golden medallion on the floor and the infrared light on the wand will activate the magic, when you move it to make the spell. All the spots are also clearly marked on a map which comes with your wand.

Universal Studios Orlando Tips, wizarding world of harry potter tips, Tips for universal studios orlando.

This caused a great deal of excitement with my two! There are also hidden spots to look out for which are off-map. One is called Scribbulus in Diagon Alley. If you flick your wand near a piece of parchment, invisible ink appears on the empty scroll.

Universal Studios Orlando Tips

12. Pick up the phone in the red telephone box and speak to the Ministry of Magic!

13. Look for platform 9 3/4 as you queue for the Hogwarts express and disappear through the wall.

Universal Studios Orlando Tips, Hogwarts Express sign

14. When queueing for Gringotts look at the displays as you pass, magical paintings and newspapers images that move just as described in the books.

Have you any more Universal Studios Orlando tips? What were your favourite rides? You might like these budget saving tips if you visit with older kids.

Did you find my tips for visiting Universal Studios Orlando useful? Pin for later? 

Universal Studios Orlando - top tips you need to know for planning your visit! #Florida #familytravel

Like theme parks? Read my first timer tips on Peppa Pig World

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  1. I like the look of the Harry Potter parts, really enjoyed visiting the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in London and I bet it’s magical at Universal. Pretty dreadful that they restrict what food you can take in so you can’t just have a picnic, one of my kids’ favourite things about theme parks in the UK is going with a picnic and enjoying it at the park. Great tip on the dining plan to make eating a bit cheaper though.

    • My 3 year old could only go on 2 or 3 of the rides of the but she still had a brilliant time! The play areas are good and of course ET is a form family favourite She even came in King Kong and enjoyed it despite it being a little scary in my eyes. BUT they both LOVED Harry Potter. Being immersed in the land even though the youngest coudn’t go in the ride was wonderful to see. I would say younger than 3 they wouldn’t get a lot out of it. 6 was a good age to do a lot more of the rides.

  2. We had our first ever experience of Walt Disney World in October last year and opted to leave Universal for another time. I’m so glad we did as we could never have fitted it all in during the ten days we were there! The Harry Potter areas are definitely the main reason we’d be going – we love the Warner Bros Studio Tour in Hertfordshire (and are planning to visit for a second time this summer) – but in Florida they go the extra mile don’t they? Really helpful tips here – thanks for sharing them. I’ll be sure to read this post again when we do eventually make it back to do Universal.

  3. Universal looks amazing. We have been to Magic Kingdom but not anywhere else (my inlaws live in Florida, and my older two were too young last time we visited!)… Brilliant tips, especially for Harry Potter World, thanks so much! 🙂

  4. It sounds like you had an incredible time and great tips! I really feel like you need a degree to visit the American theme-parks – there’s so much that you need to know! I think your last minute idea to visit in February massively paid off!

  5. This is so useful – I’m not a massive fan of theme parks, but Universal would definitely be an exception, especially the Wizarding World when my daughter is older. They do all seem to have so many options and variations, I can be overwhelming, so this is really useful.

  6. I think my two are getting to the age now where they would fully appreciate Universal. These tips are very helpful – good to know they can let people in a bit before the opening time, so it’s worth getting there mega-early. Sounds like a job of work to plan it all, but worth it!

  7. Thanks for reminding me how much I Love Universal Orlando. I haven’t visited since Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened…yep, that’s too long.

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