While I am obviously a Disney fan, I also enjoy a trip to the Universal Orlando theme parks. Harry Potter is as high on my list as Disney.
Everything I do is strategic, such as where I eat, how much I spend, etc. When I go to Universal Orlando, I am constantly googling where I should eat, drink, and more.
Here, I’ve put together some of the tips I feel you need.
Table of Contents
Quick Universal Orlando Overview
It’s a common mistake to refer to Universal Orlando Resort as Universal Studios, but in reality, Universal Studios is just one of the many theme parks within the resort.
Universal Orlando Resort is a popular theme park destination located in Orlando, Florida. It comprises three theme parks: Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. Each park offers a unique experience, from thrilling roller coasters to immersive themed lands and water attractions.
Additionally, Universal Orlando Resort offers on-site hotels, restaurants, and shopping areas.
Universal Orlando Tips and Tricks 2024
Parking Garage to the Parks
After parking your vehicle in the garage, it will take approximately 20-30 minutes to walk to either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure, depending on the location of your parking spot.
If you prefer, there are moving walkways available throughout the parking garage.
Once you reach the HUB and go through security, you will still need to walk for about 10 minutes to reach the parks. Keep in mind that during peak hours, it may take longer to walk through the garage and clear security, so it’s best to allow extra time.
Free Universal Resort Parking
If you park at one of these restaurants and spend over $25 at one of their restaurants, they will validate your parking. Park your car at the Hard Rock Hotel or Portofino Bay. You can either walk to City Walk or take the water taxi.
Don’t forget to take your parking ticket with you and keep it safe, as parking rates at the hotels are higher than the parking garage. Also, make sure to treat yourself to a delicious meal at one of the restaurants in the hotel during your day.
It’s important to note that this option may not be suitable for overnight parking, and there’s no guarantee of finding a parking spot during peak season, especially when hotels are at full capacity.
Only some restaurants will validate, so you can call ahead and double-check.
Download the Universal Resort App
Make sure to download the Universal Resort App before your trip. The app is a great tool to help you navigate the park, stay up to date on ride wait times, make dining reservations, and even purchase tickets.
Plus, it’s completely free to download and available on both the App Store and Google Play. So don’t forget to download the Universal Resort App and make the most of your visit!
Bringing a backpack to the Universal Orlando parks can make your visit much more comfortable and convenient. Not only can you carry all your necessary items, but you can also store souvenirs and snacks.
With so much walking and standing in line, it’s important to have a few essential items with you. These may include sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, a refillable water bottle, a portable phone charger, and any medication you may need.
Additionally, having a backpack can save you money on lockers. Some rides require you to store your bags in a locker before boarding, and these lockers can add up in cost if you need to use them multiple times throughout the day.
By bringing a backpack, you can avoid these additional costs and keep all your belongings with you.
Change of Clothes
There are a few rides at Universal Resort that are known to get you wet. Some of the most popular ones include Jurassic Park River Adventure, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges. Be sure to bring a change of clothes or a poncho if you plan on riding any of these attractions!
It’s a good idea to bring a poncho with you to the Universal Orlando parks. As mentioned earlier, some rides are known to get you wet, and a poncho can protect you from getting soaked.
Additionally, Florida is known for its unpredictable weather, and rain showers can occur at any time. By having a poncho with you, you can stay dry during a sudden downpour and continue enjoying the park without any interruptions.
Furthermore, buying a poncho at the park can be expensive, so bringing your own can save you money.
Visiting Universal Orlando can be an amazing experience, but ride closures can put a damper on the fun. To stay on top of ride closures, there are a few things you can do.
Firstly, make sure to check the park’s website before your visit. Universal Orlando typically lists any scheduled ride closures on their website, along with estimated reopening dates. You can also check the park’s social media accounts for any ride closure updates or announcements.
Secondly, if you’re already in the park and notice a ride closure, be sure to check with a park employee for more information. They may have a better idea of when the ride will reopen and can provide suggestions for alternative attractions to visit in the meantime.
Lastly, consider downloading the Universal Orlando app. The app provides real-time information on ride wait times, show times, and ride closures. You can also use the app to set up alerts for any ride closures or changes in wait times.
Unique Beers Only At Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando is known for its thrilling rides and attractions, but did you know that it also offers some unique beers that you can’t find anywhere else? If you’re a beer lover, you won’t want to miss out on trying these one-of-a-kind brews.
One such beer is the Wizard’s Brew, which can be found at the Hog’s Head pub in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This dark stout has a rich, chocolatey flavor and is perfect for those who enjoy a heavier beer.
Another must-try brew is the Duff Beer, which is inspired by the popular drink from The Simpsons. You can find this beer at Moe’s Tavern in Springfield, USA. It’s a classic American-style lager that’s easy to drink and perfect for a hot day.
If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, try the Dragon’s Scale Beer. This beer is exclusive to Diagon Alley and is only available at the Wizarding World. It has a hobby, refreshing taste with hints of caramel.
Harry Potter Swag
It’s a great idea to purchase your Harry Potter gear before you go. There are a few reasons why this is a good idea.
Firstly, it can save you time and money. When you purchase your Harry Potter gear before your trip, you won’t have to spend time shopping and standing in line at the theme park.
Additionally, prices for Harry Potter merchandise can be higher at the park than they are online or in other stores.
By purchasing your gear beforehand, you can take your time considering your options and choosing the items you really want without feeling rushed.
Lastly, if you’re looking for specific Harry Potter merchandise, it may not be available at the park. Shopping online or in specialty stores can offer a wider selection of items, including unique and hard-to-find pieces.
Universal Studios Money Saving Tips
Typically, a day at Universal Studios will cost you over $95. Fortunately, there are several ways to enjoy time at the amusement park at a lower price.
Use a Travel Agent
Travel agents are a free source of information and the best deals. Make sure to link up with someone you trust.
Buy Tickets Ahead of Time
A great Universal Studios Florida tip is to buy tickets ahead of time. Typically, you can get passes at a discounted rate this way. Just by going online to the Universal Studios website, you can save at least $20 on tickets right away.
You don’t have to buy your tickets several days in advance to get a discount. In fact, you can take out your phone and buy them while in line at Universal Studios and still save money.
Best Universal Ticket Deals
Ticket prices for all theme parks fluctuate depending on where you get them. We all know that. I get all my theme park tickets from GetAwayToday mainly. They have both the best deals and the best customer service.
Stay At A Hotel With Amenities
Some hotels collaborate with Universal Studios to offer special deals such as included Express Passes or complimentary shuttle rides to the park. Here’s a list of some of the hotels that offer fast passes with your stay:
- Hard Rock Hotel
- Loews Portofino Bay
- Loews Royal Pacific
Visiting Universal Studios usually involves costs that go beyond the park entrance fee; if you’re traveling, you have to pay for airfare, hotels, transportation, and more.
Instead of booking everything separately, consider getting a package deal. You can get a hotel, transportation, and perks such as free rides or express passes by paying one set price that is lower than the added cost of all the amenities.
Visit Universal CityWalk
There is a slew of entertainment and retail stores right next to Universal Studios. Admission is free, and there are a ton of complimentary activities, such as:
- Water Taxi Rides
- Splash Zone Areas
- Nightly DJs
If you’re at Universal Studios for a few days but spending all your time at the park is a bit pricey, consider heading to the CityWalk for some complementary entertainment.
Visit During Off-Seasons
Universal Studios has peak seasons when the park tends to be the most crowded. This causes a surge in airfare, hotel, and transportation prices.
If you have the liberty to choose when to visit the park, you can save money on amenities by visiting during a less popular season (such as early fall).
Universal Studios Ride & Attraction Tips
Plan Your Schedule
Universal Studios often holds live shows, which include comedy skits, theatrical performances, and acrobatics. However, you can’t enjoy a live show if you’re busy enjoying a ride while it’s occurring.
Look up the timings of live shows before you go to the park. By following this Universal Studios Florida tip, you can arrange your schedule to make sure that you’re free so you don’t miss any shows you want to see.
Get Express Passes Inside
If you want express passes but didn’t buy them ahead of time, you might be dismayed at the long lines. Express passes involve waiting in a separate line, thus losing time that could be spent at the park.
Fortunately, express passes are sold just inside the park as well. Since most people purchase them outside of the park, the lines here typically go by faster.
The cost for the express passes increases as you get closer to your visit date.
If you’re only going to be at Universal Studios for a day or two, it’s helpful to research the rides beforehand so you know which ones you definitely need to try. Familiarizing yourself with the layout of the park can help you figure out the order, too.
Universal Studios offers three parks: Universal Studios Florida, Island Adventure, and Volcano Bay (a waterpark). If the majority of rides and attractions you’re interested in are in one of the parks, then consider only buying passes for that park.
Wait in a Virtual Line
Universal Studios Volcano Bay and select attractions at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Island of Adventure feature “virtual lines.” With this system, you can reserve a time for yourself and your group, then simply show up at the ride when it’s your turn.
You can read more about the virtual line system and how to go about reserving your place here.
This Universal Studios Florida tip is for anyone traveling with a young child or toddler. You don’t have to make someone wait outside of the ride or attraction with the child. Most rides have a “child swap” option where one parent goes on the ride while the other waits with the child. Then, you swap places without having to wait in line again.
This is a bonus for older kids traveling with their parents and younger siblings because they get to try out the ride twice.
Visit the Souvenir Shops… But Not Right Away
One of the best things about Universal Studios is the cool merchandise that is offered. You can get souvenirs that represent your favorite movies or remind you of your favorite rides. However, the downside is that you have to lug bags around, which is inconvenient when you’re walking for long periods of time and going on rides.
If you save your souvenir shopping until the end of the day, you can minimize the amount of time you spend carrying a bag, thus conserving your energy. Alternatively, you could rent a locker for about $15 a day.
Tips and Tricks Universal Orlando Dining
Part of the Universal Studios experience is the food. If you’re spending the entire day there, you’re bound to take a couple of breaks for refreshments. Here are some helpful Universal Studios Florida tips when it comes to dining.
Before visiting the park, it’s a good idea to research the dining areas so you can figure out what you want to eat and take your budget into consideration. This way, you don’t waste time searching for the food you want.
Don’t narrow it down to just one or two options; give yourself at least three or four dining locations to choose from. At the park, you can make your decision based on factors such as lines and proximity.
Universal Studios offers amenities such as refillable mugs, soda cups, and popcorn buckets. For a one-time price, you can buy a reusable container and receive unlimited refills of a certain food or drink item at the park.
One of the most popular refill benefits is the Coke Freestyle program, where you can get unlimited sodas. It’s perfect for a hot day when you have to quench your thirst often.
If you plan on eating frequently or spending a considerable amount of time in the park, consider purchasing one of Universal Studio’s meal plans.
With this Universal Studios Florida tip, you can save money by getting a set meal (that includes food, sides, and drinks) for a discounted price. You can view the available deals at Universal Studio’s website.
Don’t Eat at Popular Hours
Most people have lunch between noon and 1:00 and enjoy dinner anytime between the hours of 5:30 and 7:30. Eating before or after these times means the dining locations will be less crowded, thus saving you valuable time that might otherwise be wasted on lines.
As an added bonus, rides and attractions may be slightly less crowded during popular eating times.
Bring Your Own Food
While you can’t bring full meals into the park, you can bring water and small snacks with you. If you get hungry during the day, keeping a bag of chips or some candy in your bag can save you both time and money.
If you’re uncertain whether or not you can bring a certain food item into the park, you can consult Universal Studio’s rules here.
Minimizing Lines At Universal Studios Orlando
Universal Studios is known for its entertaining rides and attractions, but long lines can negatively impact what should be a fun experience. Here are some tips on how to minimize lines.
Visit During Slow Seasons
A great Universal Studios Florida tip that will minimize the time you spend waiting in long lines is to visit during months when the park is not as populated.
Universal Studios tend to be most crowded in the summer and less crowded from September through November.
Get to the Park Early
The park is less crowded when it opens, so getting there early can minimize some of the time you spend in lines. Early doesn’t just mean five minutes within the opening; if you really want to cut down on line time, you should get there before the park is even open.
You might encounter a line even thirty minutes before opening. However, this will still be shorter than the lines that start forming later during the day.
Universal Studios offers touring plans that strive to optimize the amount of time you spend on rides and attractions. Based on the knowledge of experienced Universal Studios visitors, these plans give you step-by-step instructions on how to navigate your way through the park.
They even offer strategies on how to avoid lines and what times to visit certain rides.
The touring plans are available online for anyone to use.
Express Passes and VIP Experiences
Universal Studios offers Express Passes that let you skip lines at participating rides for an additional price, which makes it a very useful feature and Universal Studios Florida tip. Options include:
- Universal Express: skip the line once per ride
- Universal Express Unlimited: unlimited line skipping
You can take a deeper look at express passes and the included amenities here. Alternatively, you can sign up for a VIP Tour. This option is more pricey than an express pass but comes with added perks such as priority entrances to rides, reserved seating at shows, and discounts at certain stores within the park.
Stay At A Universal Studio Hotel
The earlier you get to the park, the shorter the lines will be. You can minimize the amount of time it takes to get to the park–and thus minimize the lines–by staying at a hotel right by Universal Studios.
Some hotels will offer transportation straight to the park, saving you the trouble of figuring out how to get there. You can view affiliated resorts here.
Be a Single Rider
If you don’t mind riding with a stranger, it’s not a bad idea to go in the single rider line. This line, designed for people who are riding alone, goes by faster than the main line.
Here’s another Universal Studios Florida tip: if you’re lucky, you can go in the single riders line and still wind up enjoying the ride with family and friends. If you and your friend and family member are both placed with random people on the same ride, you can ask one of them to switch with you.
What Should I Do First At Universal Studios Orlando?
If you’re willing to get up early, you can reach the park before it gets too busy. Once you get there, try to target the most popular rides first. This way, you’re guaranteed to try out the top attractions while avoiding the long lines that are bound to form later. These rides include:
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
How Many Days Do You Need At Universal Studios Florida?
For the fullest experience, you need at least three days at Universal Studios. This lets you visit all three of their parks: Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. You can buy tickets specifically for the park you want or buy bundles that grant you access to all three.
Ideally, you should spend three to four days at the park. This gives you an extra day or two to go back and visit any attractions and rides you may have missed the first two days.
What Can You Not Miss At Universal Studios Orlando?
With so many attractions available, it can be hard to decide what to do. Follow these Universal Studios Florida tips to guarantee that you don’t miss out on anything great.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, this attraction (located in the Island Adventure Park is a must-see. Even if you’ve never read the books, you’ll have a great time exploring the magical recreations, browsing through the themed stores, and sampling some butterbeer.
While there, make sure to check out the fire-breathing dragon in Diagon Alley. Have your phone ready so you can snap a photo.
Take A Studio Tour
This hour-long tram ride has been a tradition at Universal Studios since it opened. Famous filmmaker Steven Spielberg actually collaborated on this project, so you know it’s going to give some great insight into the movie-making business.
It’s not your typical tour; you’ll experience an earthquake, run into King Kong, and catch glimpses of some famous historic movie stars on your way.
Special Effects Show
This show offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how movies are made, from stunt doubles to sound effects. You get to witness firsthand how special effects completely transform films and turn them into magical experiences. You even have the chance to volunteer in the show. Here are some of the things you’ll get to learn about:
- Fight and combat sequences
- Outer Space scenes
- Live animation
- Behind-the-scenes of horror movies
Universal Studios is all about movies and stars. Sometimes, these stars happen to have four legs. This special show lets you see how animals are trained for movies and television shows.
Follow this Universal Studios Florida tip and check out this show to get a glimpse into the world of movie-making while also getting to see some cute animals. You’ll see everything from dogs and cats to owls and exotic birds.
Universal Studios gives you a chance to interact with some of your favorite movie characters… Or at least replicas of them. Either way, it’s a fun experience for children and adults alike.
Don’t miss the chance to take a selfie with Optimus Prime at the Transformers Ride, pose with a raptor by the Jurassic World attraction, or hang out with Spider-Man at the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride.
What Should I Wear to Universal Studios Florida?
The way you dress for Universal Studios partially depends on the weather. While Florida tends to have sunny, warm weather, some days can get chilly. It can especially get cold at night, so it’s not a bad idea to bring along a light sweater or jacket.
You want to be comfortable on the rides, so it’s best to dress casually. Since you’ll be doing a lot of walking, you’ll definitely want to wear sneakers. You may want to bring a poncho in case it rains or if you want to avoid getting wet on water rides.
Following these Universal Studios Florida tips can help make your experience at the park much more enjoyable.