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Tips to Save Time and Money at Universal Orlando

Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, can be an expensive trip, especially if you have children. As I planned our visit, I searched for ways to save time and money, compiling a list of top tips from various websites and YouTube videos, which I am now sharing with you.

1. Order Tickets Online Before the Trip

Ordering tickets online before you go to the park saves time and money. First, it saves time because you don’t want to waste time after the park opens in line purchasing tickets. That’s time you should be enjoying in the park. And it also saves money because tickets at the gate are usually about $20 more per day. You can print your tickets at home or at one of the park entrance kiosks.

2. Download the Universal Resort App

The Universal Resort App is incredibly helpful for navigating the parks, checking ride times, securing Virtual Line passes, and more. It even allows for mobile ordering of food and sends notifications for a seamless Universal experience that saves you time standing in lines for meals. You can also save time because you can download your admission passes before you go to the park, so you don’t have to stand in line to purchase or print your passes.

3. Plan Your Visit

Having a game plan is essential to enjoy your visit to Universal Resort Orlando. If you don’t have several days to spend in each park, mapping out your day is the key to ensuring you enjoy all the must-do activities. You can download a map online or use the Universal Resort Orlando App to plan your day and check ride wait times and show times.

Universal Studios

4. Study the Best Time to Visit

Planning your Universal Orlando vacation during off-season months can save you money. Crowds are highest when schools are on break (i.e., Spring Break and Christmas). January, February, and September are the cheapest months to visit Universal Studios Orlando, with lower prices for theme park tickets, hotel rooms, and airfares.

5. Arrive Early

Arriving early at the park lets you enjoy rides that have long lines before the park gets crowded. Universal’s Early Park Admission allows all Universal Orlando Resort hotel guests and annual pass holders one-hour early entry to Universal Studios or Universal’s Islands of Adventure and a 30-minute early entry to Volcano Bay. Check theme park hours ahead of time. Universal does not release its daily theme park hours until approximately 1 month before any given date. Hours vary by month and day, so be sure to check their website before your visit. Even without Early Park Admission, arriving early is still recommended due to long security lines and opening time queues.

6. Buy Express Passes

Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay have an Express Pass line that allows pass holders to skip the regular line, and wait times of up to 120 minutes can be cut down to 10-20 minutes. Without the Fast Pass, riding every attraction in a day was impossible due to hour-long waiting times. Waiting in line for over two hours in the heat takes away from the enjoyment of the experience.

There are several Express pass options available: 

  1. The Universal Express: Skip the regular lines at the most popular rides and attractions once per ride—separate theme park admission is required.
  2. The Universal Express Unlimited Pass: Skip the regular lines at the most popular rides and attractions as often as you want. Separate theme park admission is required.
  3. The Universal Express Pass: Universal’s Volcano Bay: Skip the Virtual Lines at SELECT participating rides and attractions at Universal’s Volcano Bay once per ride—separate theme park admission required.

There are two easy ways to get a Universal Orlando Express Pass: 

  1. The first is to add express passes onto your existing tickets when you purchase them online, on the phone, or in person. You must buy one Express Pass per visitor, so the cost of the Express Pass for a family could add up.
  2. The second way to get an Express Pass is to stay at a Universal Studios Premier hotel. (We stayed at the Universal’s Loews Royal Pacific Resort.) You get a free Express Pass for each group member from the day you check in until the day after you check out. And considering that Express passes are $100 to $300 daily for each person, it can add up. So, say you spend $500 a night on the hotel room, but you have four members(2 adults and two children) staying in one room; that cuts your room cost down to $100 a night for a premier hotel. 

7. Make Dining Reservations 

While it is not required to make dining reservations at Universal Studios Orlando, it is highly advisable due to the high volume of guests and crowded restaurants. To avoid waiting in long lines or to secure a spot at your preferred restaurant, making reservations is a smart choice. Full-service restaurants accept reservations up to 30 days in advance, and in some cases, larger groups or special occasions may require reservations beyond that timeframe. Many of the restaurants in the park have their own websites where you can book your reservation online, or you can visit the Universal Studios website to make reservations.

8. Buy Coca-Cola FreeStyle Cups

At all three parks in Orlando’s Universal Studios – Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay – you can purchase refillable cups that can be used at Coca-Cola Freestyle machines or select food stands. For $17.99 plus tax, you can enjoy unlimited drinks every ten minutes until park closing time, including Icees. The refillable cups can be reused and reactivated daily for $10.99 plus tax, giving you unlimited drinks every ten minutes until the park closes. If you’re traveling with family or a group, consider purchasing multiple refillable cups to receive discounts and save money during your trip.

9. Bring Refillable Water Bottles

If you only drink water, then all you need is a refillable water bottle. Most of the food stands will provide free water, and all of the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines offer free water. This will save money because a bottle of water at the park averages about $4 each.

10. Pack Snacks

There is always a markup on all items purchased within the park, so bringing your own snacks and drinks can help minimize costs. Small snacks and water are allowed to be brought in, including baby food, water bottles, food for special dietary needs, and medically necessary food. You can bring up to a 2 liter of bottled water, which is plenty because you can reuse your refillable water bottle for free in several locations within Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, and City Walk. For your convenience, soft-sided insulated bags no larger than 8.5″ wide x 6″ high x 6″ deep can be brought in. Remember that you will need to store your bags in small lockers for many of the rides, so it’s best to pack them efficiently. Please note that items that need heating or refrigeration and hard-sided coolers are not allowed. Click here for a complete, up-to-date list of accepted and prohibited items.

11. Make Sure You Have ALL Essentials

It’s not just the food that’s marked up, but all the other items, too. Forgetting important stuff at home and having to buy them at a higher price is frustrating. To avoid this, it’s best to create a packing list and double-check that you’ve got all the essentials before heading out.

Now that I have shared some secrets for saving time and money at Universal, you are ready to plan your trip! For more Travel Tips, please follow our blog.