Universal Orlando Resort, Florida, comprises three theme parks (Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, and Universal Studios), an entertainment complex (Universal CityWalk Orlando), and eight resort hotels. This Orlando attraction offers a whole lot of fun for the entire family. There is a lot of ground to cover when visiting, so we have developed these Universal Orlando Resort Hacks to help with your planning.
Our hacks are primarily for Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios but can offer assistance in saving money or making the most of your time at this family-friendly Florida attraction.
1. Download the Universal App
The Universal App will be your best friend when visiting the Universal Orlando Resort. The app includes an interactive map, wait times listed in real-time, park hours, a virtual line for the Race Thorough New York ride at Universal Studios, and a parking reminder, so you will remember where your car is.
You can also purchase park tickets, Express Passes, dining plans, and photo packages through the app, plus explore the theme parks, CityWalk, and on-property hotels. Best of all, the app is free!
This is the most beneficial of our Universal Orlando Resort Hacks.
2. Buy an Express Pass
Purchase a Universal Express Pass (in addition to your theme park ticket or Annual Pass) and skip the regular lines at participating rides and attractions. Express Passes start at $49.99 and are available for Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Opt for the Express Unlimited Pass to skip the regular lines as often as possible.
With an Express Pass, adults can cover Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in one day. It will be a busy day, but it is doable!
3. Use Single Rider Lines
Single-rider lines are generally significantly shorter than regular lines. Even if you are traveling with multiple people, opt for the single-rider lines. Sure, you won’t be able to “ride together,” but you will be ready to move on to the next ride much quicker!
4. Ride the High in the Sky Seuss Trolly Train Ride
For great pictures of The Incredible Hulk Coaster and other attractions on the water at Islands of Adventure, ride the High In The Sky Seuss Trolly Train Ride. This slow-moving trolley takes you around Seuss Landing, either telling the story of the Sneetches or the ABCs of Dr. Seuss’s stories.
This is also an excellent resting opportunity!
5. Meet Your Favorite Characters at Breakfast
Start your day at Universal Studios’ Cafe La Bamba. Have breakfast with characters from Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Despicable Me. Universal’s Superstar Character Breakfast takes place from Thursday to Saturday, 9 to 11 AM.
The price for adults is around $34.99 (plus tax and gratuity) and $20.99 for children nine and under.
6. Stay On Property
The Universal Orlando Resort has five on-property hotels: Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. Staying on-site comes with a lot of benefits:
- One hour early admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Volcano Bay before the park officially opens
- Transportation to the theme parks and Universal CityWalk
- Charging privileges with your room key
- Complimentary delivery of merchandise purchased throughout Universal
- Character appearances
7. Buy Tickets Online
Save more than $20 on multi-day tickets when you buy them online. You will also receive a Coupon Book with up to $150 in savings from select in-park restaurants, shops, on-site hotels, and more.
8. Have Lunch at the Universal CityWalk
Universal CityWalk is outside Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios; take advantage of it! The CityWalk has several excellent restaurants, so venture out when it is time to eat lunch. Take a break from the Florida sun in an air-conditioned, sit-down restaurant.
Our favorite favorite sit-down restaurant is Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. The Crab Rangoon Dip with wonton crisps is a great starter, and for your main course, try the Cowfish Bento Box or original Bison Burgushi.
For a quick-serve experience, try the gourmet sandwiches at Bread Box Handcrafted Sandwiches. The BBQ Brisket Melt is savory and filling, while the Hot Turkey is an all-around fave. Vegans will find several choices on the menu, too.
But you can’t go wrong ever with dessert, dinner, or appetizers from Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. They even had chocolate bread! Adult boozy shakes are all the rage, but I prefer the Chocolate Brownie Bark Sundae.
9. Buy a Coca-Cola Freestyle Souvenir Cup
Purchase a Coca-Cola Freestyle Souvenir Cup and receive FREE unlimited fountain refills.
10. Meet Your Favorite Characters
Right inside the entrance to Universal Studios is the Hollywood Character Zone. You can meet characters from Scooby-Doo, The Simpsons, Despicable Me, Curious George, Go Diego Go, Dora the Explorer, Back To The Future, and more.
The long list of characters for meet and greets at Islands of Adventure is as follows:
- Captain America
- Green Goblin
- Dr. Doom
- Thing 1 and Thing 2
- The Cat in the Hat
- Sam, I Am
- The Lorax
- Woody Woodpecker
- Popeye and Olive Oyl
Wait times are short, and the meet and greets are laid back. Note that character appearances are subject to change at any time.
11. Use the Park’s Free Wi-Fi
Use Universal’s free Wi-Fi to post pictures on social media and the Universal Orlando Resort app.
12. Ride Hogwarts Express
The most fantastic way to travel between theme parks is on the Hogwarts Express. Travel aboard the Hogwarts Express between King’s Cross Station in London (Universal Studios) and Hogsmeade Station (Islands of Adventure).
Harry Potter fans will love the experience!
Park-to-park admission or an Annual/Seasonal Pass is required.
13. Don’t Forget a Map!
Be sure to pick up a printed park map when you enter the parks. Character meet and greet, parade, and showtimes for the day are listed on it.
14. Bring a Backpack
Pack a backpack full of everything you might need for the day so you do not have to leave the park: sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, mobile charger, pain reliever, bandaids, and tissues.
You may want to include a beach towel and a change of clothes and shoes if you plan to ride water rides or visit Universal’s water park.
15. Pick Up a Celebration Button
Visit Guest Services (at either park) to pick up your birthday or celebration button!
16. Take Breaks
Pounding the pavement at the Universal Orlando Resort in the Florida sun is exhausting. Be sure to take breaks periodically throughout the day. Get a drink and a snack while resting your feet. There is a lot to see and do, but your day will be much more enjoyable if you pace yourself.
Pick up a Lard Lad Donut in Springfield and eat it inside Cletus’ Chicken Shack/Lisa’s Teahouse of Horror/Luigi’s Pizza in the comfort of air conditioning.
17. Become a Seasonal Ticket Holder
Love visiting the Universal Orlando Resort? Buy an Annual or Seasonal Pass! Four Passes are available: Premier Annual Pass, Preferred Annual Pass, Power Annual Pass, and Seasonal Pass. Receive discounts to dining and shopping locations, special offers at on-site hotels, and more.
18. Utilize the Child Swap
If your kids are taking turns on a ride, you don’t have to wait in line twice. Instead, take advantage of the Child Swap program.
One adult waits in line with the child who is riding while the other parent and siblings relax elsewhere. When it’s time for their turn in line, one adult switches off with the other.
19. Catch a Show
During your visit, take some time to relax and watch one of the many shows available at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. The Blue Brothers show is always a favorite!
Other great performances include Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue and Universal Horror Make-Up Show. Enjoy some comedy or drama during your busy day at the parks.
20. Ride the Water Taxi
If you’re staying at one of the on-site hotels, take advantage of the water taxis that operate between them and Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. These free boats offer a convenient way to get from your hotel to the parks. It’s also a great way to enjoy beautiful views of Universal Orlando Resort!
The service typically runs from 8 AM to 2 AM. Hop aboard and enjoy an stress-free ride.
Happy Park Hopping
These tips will help you make the most of your time at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Be sure to plan ahead and purchase Express Passes if you can. With a little bit of preparation, you are sure to have an amazing experience!
So what are you waiting for? It’s. Ride Hogwarts Express, time to get your wizarding world on!