Universal Orlando Resort is one of the most popular (and most busy) theme parks in the world. Hosting some of the most incredible franchises like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Simpsons, UOR is a must-do attraction when visiting Florida! Here are 22 tips to help make your first Universal Orlando Resort trip stress-free and fun!
When To Go!
- The best time of the year to visit the parks and beat the crowds are between September and January! Despite the holiday crowds in Mid-December, September through January tend to be the slowest times of the year for the park (ticketed events like Halloween Horror Nights can get VERY busy, but those events begin when the park closes for regular admission guests!)
- If you can’t make it in the slow season, the best time to go over the summer is in June - July! The park will be very busy during this time, however they are usually open later (sometimes till 12am), giving you plenty of time to ride the popular attractions!
Where to stay!
- Staying on property hosts MANY benefits like free park transportation and early park admission, but these come at a cost. The most affordable UOR resorts are Endless Summer- Dockside and Surfside. Located just 1 mile away from the parks, the two endless summer resorts offer all the benefits of a UOR resort without hurting the bank! They offer free shuttles to CityWalk that run all day.
- If you’re looking to stay off property, there are tons of affordable hotels located down International Drive! One of my favorites is The Best Western Orlando Gateway hotel,which is located next to Endless Summer Dockside. From the Best Western, you can take a short 5 minute walk over to Dockside and take the free shuttle over to the resorts, saving you a hefty $29 parking fee!
Before going to the parks!
- Read ALL Height Requirements! Save time (and unwanted frustration) in the parks by reading the height requirements BEFORE arriving. This will give you an idea of what rides your kids will and will not be able to ride! Here are Universals current height requirements!
- Decide which ticket type is best for you! The cheapest single ticket is a 1-day 1-park ticket, but depending on how long you are staying it might be the most expensive in the long run. If you have Harry Potter fans in your group, and want to ride the Hogwarts Express, you have to purchase a park-to-park ticket OR have an annual pass! The cheapest option for park-to-park tickets are typically 3-day 2-park tickets, but the pricing fluctuates year round so definitely double check to get the best deal!
- Download the Universal Orlando app! The free UOR app provides SOO many useful benefits. From being able to check wait times, to mobile ordering from restaurants, the Universal app is definitely a lifesaver for first time park goers. During busy days, you can even reserve a virtual queue for select attractions!
- Check park hours BEFORE visiting! Universal usually posts their park schedules about a month in advance, but the hours are subject to change until the day of. Using the UOR app or the website, double checking the park hours will ensure that you get the most out of your time in the parks!
- Pack a decent size day bag! Packing a day bag with all the necessities will help you save a lot of money at the parks. Remember no outside food or drinks can be brought in the park, but you can pack reusable water bottles, special dietary requirements, and medicine!
- Plan out your day before entering the park! Know what attractions and shows are must do’s for your party and make a game plan of when to visit them! The parks can get EXTREMELY busy, especially during peak months, so having a plan of action will help you optimize your day. Tips 16 to 19 below offer some advice for getting on the most popular attractions in the park!
Arriving at the park!
- Do you have early park admission? Knowing if you have early park admission could help you get the most out of your time at the park.They are available 1 hour before park opening at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, and 30 minutes before park opening at Volcano Bay! Early park hours are only available for certain attractions and are applicable to guests staying on property resorts and select annual pass holders!
- Arrive 30 Minutes Early! If you are trying to get into the park right at rope drop GET THERE EARLY! Universal has a very complex parking and security system in place, so arriving at least 30 minutes in advanced can help you get into the park at the time you want!
- Remember where you park! Universal Orlando has signs in every parking structure with a character and a number so you can remember where you parked (E.g. Jaws 406 or Cat in the Hat 210). Write this number down! Remembering where you parked will help you ALOT since Universal has two massive parking garages which can make finding your car very difficult.
- Avoiding parking fees! If you aren’t looking to spend the entire day in the park, coming later in the day will save you parking fees. After 6:00pm, parking is free!(excluding during HHN) Another way to avoid parking fees is to take a resort shuttle if you’re staying at (or near) a UOR resort.
Inside The Parks!
- Understand the locker systems! Unlike Disney, Universal does not allow you to bring bags and phones on most attractions, and will require you to place your items in a free locker! The lockers are pretty small but can fit a medium size backpack in it just fine!
- When to ride popular attractions! The best time to get on popular attractions like Hagrids, Velocicoaster, Rip Ride Rockit, and Escape from Gringotts, is early in the morning! These rides get busy very quickly, so getting these attractions out of the way at the beginning of the day is definitely the best option!
- Enter ride queues right before park closing! If for some reason you can't get on the popular attractions in the beginning of the day, try to get on these rides right at park closing! Typically, as long as you’re in the line before the park closes (even a minute before), you will be able to ride the ride! Saving rides like Velocicoaster till the end will allow you to still experience these headline attractions, while opening up the rest of your day for other experiences!
- Take advantage of single rider lines! If you don’t mind your party being separated, utilize the single rider lines in the parks! They’re available at every roller coaster (excluding the kiddie coasters) and other major attractions! The single rider lines are typically shorter than the normal queue, depending on how many uneven groups there are. This could cut your wait time down tremendously!
- Buy A Wand and Experience the Wizarding World! If you’re a Potterhead this is a must-do! First, go to Ollivanders in either Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley to do the full wand experience, or head over to Wands by Gregorovich in Diagon alley to pick up a wand! Getting an interactive wand will allow you to cast spells all across the Wizarding World and give you a fun souvenir to bring home!
- Have little ones but still want to ride rides? Use Child Swap! Nearly every attraction has child swap available, allowing a member of your party to wait with your little ones, while the rest of you ride! The child swap areas are typically air conditioned and have water fountains available!
- Utilize mobile ordering! Mobile ordering makes it extremely easy to get food in the parks at participating restaurants. Using Mobile Ordering will help you save a lot of time at restaurants. Quick hack, order your food while in line for an attraction, so when you're done riding, your order is ready to pick up!
Leaving the park!
- Leaving the park will no doubt be one of the most stressful parts of your day! There are a few options to help make the exiting process easier. 1. Leave the park early! Leaving an hour before the park closes will help you avoid the rush of people exiting and will give you ample time to get back to your car before the garages get backed up. 2. Waiting an hour AFTER the park closes. Even after the park closes, CityWalk is still open 2-3 hours after. Spending some time here exploring the shops and restaurants can help you avoid the crowds on your way out of the park!
Those are 22 tips to help make your first Universal Orlando Resort trip stress free! During the peak season, planning will be your best friend! Having a good plan before entering the parks will let you get the most out of your time in the park, and allow you to explore all the magic of Universal Orlando!
Written by Mycah B.