Universal Orlando Resort , Florida, is made up of two theme parks (Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios), a water park (Volcano Bay), an entertainment complex (Universal CityWalk Orlando), and five hotels. This Orlando attraction offers a whole lot of fun for the entire family. There is a lot of ground to cover when visiting the theme parks, which is why we have come up with 19 Universal Orlando Resort Hacks to help with your planning.
Our hacks are primarily for Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Whether you are looking to save money or make the most of your time, our Universal Orlando Resort Hacks have you covered. Enjoy your visit!
If this is your first visit to Universal Orlando, you might find some helpful hints in this first-timer’s guide.
1. Download the Universal App
When visiting the Universal Orlando Resort, the Universal App will be your best friend. The app includes an interactive map, wait times listed in real-time, park hours, virtual line for the Race Thorough New York ride at Universal Studios, and a parking reminder so you won’t forget 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 probably 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/or Universal Studios. Opt for the Express Unlimited Pass to skip the regular lines as many times as you would like.
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 the 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, having 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 (when this article was written) for adults is $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
Receive a free Universal Express Unlimited Pass (up to $149 savings!) when you stay at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, or Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.
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 right outside of Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios; take advantage of it! The CityWalk has several great 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 favorites are Cowfish Burger and Sushi (you have to have the Crab Rangoon Dip!) and the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen (when it’s time for dessert, order the Chocolate Brownie Bark Sundae).
This is my favorite of our Universal Orlando Resort Hacks.
9. Buy a Coca-Cola Freestyle Souvenir Cup
Purchase a Coca-Cola Freestyle Souvenir Cup and receive FREE unlimited fountain refills.
Universal also has some great dining plans, too!
10. Meet Your Favorite Characters
Right inside of the entrance to Universal Studios, is the Hollywood Character Zone. Here, 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. Other characters at Universal Studios include Barney and friends, Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Marilyn Monroe, The Men in Black, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron, the Blues Brothers, SpongeBob SquarePants, Squidward, and Hello Kitty.
At Islands of Adventure, you can meet Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, Rogue, Cyclops, Storm, the Green Goblin, Dr. Doom, Thing 1 and Thing 2, The Cat in the Hat, the Grinch, Sam I Am, the Lorax, Woody Woodpecker, Popeye, and Olive.
Wait times are not very long, and the meet and greets are very laid back. Note that character appearances are subject to change at any time.
11. Use the Park’s Free Wi-Fi
Take advantage of Universal’s free Wi-Fi to post pictures on social media and use the Universal Orlando Resort app.
12. Ride Hogwarts Express
The coolest, and fastest, way to travel between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios 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 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 that you might need for the day, so you do not have to leave the park: sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, chapstick, beach towel or change of clothes/shoes (if you plan to ride water rides), mobile charger, pain reliever, bandaids, and tissues.
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. I know that 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 of Cletus’ Chicken Shack/Lisa’s Teahouse of Horror/Luigi’s Pizza in the air condition.
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, Seasonal Pass. Receive discounts to dining and shopping locations, special offers at on-site hotels, and more.
18. Use the Secret Entrance
Enter Universal Studios by the Blue Man Group auditorium, under the Rip, Ride, Rocket rollercoaster. This entrance isn’t really a secret, just not many people know about it.
This is the best of our Universal Orlando Resort Hacks for summer!
19. Start at the Back of the Park
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the busiest area at the parks. Start your day here so that you can enjoy all that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has to offer before the crowds hit. Plus, you can have lunch at the CityWalk, since you will be at the front of the park around lunchtime.
Well, there you have it, our Universal Orlando Resort Hacks. If you have any additional hacks, please let us know!
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Check out our other Universal posts:
Guide to Orlando (Minus the Parks)