Universal Studios Orlando has two large parks Universal Studios and Islands Of Adventure, which can be a lot to manage, even if you choose to do one day at each park. There is so much to do and see and not forgetting all the rides you can go on you might feel a little overwhelmed.
Instead of worrying about what to prioritise and do on your trip, why not look at where you can save time. As both parks are doable providing you have one day per park, but with some added tips and tricks you can have all the fun of the parks without having to sacrifice anything.
That’s why we put together this helpful guide to help you save time on in the parks so you can see and do everything you want during your trip. The best of all you don’t have to sacrifice any of the good stuff to achieve a fun filled day in the parks.
Table of Contents
- 1. Stay On-Site
- 2. Eat Breakfast Before Arriving
- 3. Get There For Opening
- 4. Buy Tickets In Advance
- 5. Use Express Pass
- 6. Valet Parking
- 7. Download The App To Check Wait Times
- 8. Use Child Swap
- 9. Choose Where To Eat In Advance
- 10. Check Heights And What Rides You Want To Go On
- 11. Take The Hogwarts Express To The Next Park
- 12. Stay Late – Fewer Crowds
- 13. Take Single Rider Line
- Bonus Tip: Visit In The Off-Season
- Bonus Tip: Book A VIP Experience
1. Stay On-Site
The easiest and most convenient way of saving time at Universal Studios Orlando is by staying on-site. There are a number of resorts in which you can stay at that are on Universal Studios property.
Staying on-site won’t just save you time travelling to and from the parks but can also give you an extra hour within the parks. As many of the hotels come with an extra hour for on-site guests to explore the parks this can give you more time to get on the more popular rides before the park opens to general admission.
The on-site hotels are also close by which is easy walking distance or you can get the water taxi or free shuttle which saves you time on travelling to Universal Studios and parking.
2. Eat Breakfast Before Arriving
One way of making sure you have a great start to your day at Universal Studios Orlando is by having breakfast before getting into the parks. You can do this by bringing your breakfast with you, eating at CityWalk or getting breakfast included in your hotel stay.
This will save you time going to find breakfast within the park and give you a better start to the day. There are also limited places within the parks that offer breakfast so you are better eating beforehand and using the time in the parks for the fun stuff.
3. Get There For Opening
While Disney have rope drop where an actually rope is dropped, Universal have the gates opening. While it isn’t as magical as Disney it is fun to do at least once in your lifetime.
Getting to Universal Studios Orlando for opening is a great way of saving time during your stay. You can get into the park fairly early and make the most of the opening hours. This is key if you only have one day to do both Universal Studios and Islands Of Adventure.
You may find it a little busy at opening with many others having the same idea as you but once you actually get into the park, the crowds disperse to their favourite rides and areas. This is also great if you want to get on one of the more popular rides that often have a long wait time.
4. Buy Tickets In Advance
Hours within the parks can be precious and so one of the best ways to save time at Universal Studios Orlando is to buy your tickets in advance. You can buy your tickets online or part of a package stay at one of the on-site hotels which will either be posted or can be collected as you arrive.
This will cut down your time getting into the park and queuing at the ticket counter. This can often be quite busy, especially during peak times so you can spend more time in the park and checking out the rides.
5. Use Express Pass
Something we found really useful when we went to Universal Studios Orlando was getting the Express Pass. The express passes are an additional cost on top of your park tickets but are worth it if you plan to get around the parks and onto the majority of the rides.
The express pass can be used on most rides and also on the Hogwarts Express which connects Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
The express pass will get you to the front of the lines of each ride so you can save time on waiting, especially for the more popular rides such as Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, The Mummy and The Hulk ride. The express pass is also amazing if you want to get on all the rides in the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, as these are often the longest wait times in the parks.
6. Valet Parking
Valet parking is probably the most premium parking you can get at Universal Studios Orlando and rightly so costing $55 for 2 hours or more before 6 pm. Prices vary depending on the length of time you stay and if you are before of after 6 pm.
This is another way to cut down on time while you are at the parks, though the parking can be a little pricey it can save you time. I would only suggest this if you are looking to only spend one day at both parks and want to do everything possible.
The Valet parking area is actually separate from the other garages for premium parking and self-parking. Going for Valet parking will get you closer to the CityWalk entrance, giving you a shorter walk to the entrance itself. There is also your own security checkpoint making your entrance into the park quicker.
7. Download The App To Check Wait Times
If there is anything that can really steal your time away it is waiting for a ride. We have a general rule that we won’t wait more than 30 minutes for a ride as you can often go back to the same ride at a different time of the day and it will be much quieter.
If you are looking to hit most of the rides and save time on waiting, download the app and keep an eye on the wait times from there. That way when one comes up with a short time you can walk to the ride and get on and only wait a fraction of the time you would have done otherwise.
8. Use Child Swap
Child swap on any ride is a time saver, it cuts down the times you have to wait for each ride. If you are with younger children but they are not permitted on the ride, you can simply queue as normal (for most rides) and then as you get closer there will be a section for child swap.
The first rider(s) would go on the ride and when exiting the ride they can nip into a room for child swap and then the other person(s) can go ahead and jump the queue and get on the ride. As you technically queued once the second time you don’t have to queue the full length again.
This is perfect for families with smaller children that can’t go on the ride or don’t want to but the older children/adults do want to go on. This saves you waiting outside to swap over and queue again, saving you a lot of time and it means you don’t have to skip any rides.
9. Choose Where To Eat In Advance
Universal Studios Orlando is busting with great places to eat and so it can be a little difficult to know where to eat and what to eat. With so much good food to choose from you could spend an enormous amount of time deciding when you could be casting spells or on rides.
We found looking at the selection of restaurants and fast food places beforehand gave us a good idea of what we would want to eat and where.
If you aren’t too sure where you will be in the park at the time your hungry, find one place in a couple of areas so you can go there if you are nearby. Still choose one in each area so you don’t have to spend too much of your time walking back and forth to the restaurant and to where you got to in the park.
Note these on your phone and circle on your map so when your in the area you can quickly see where it is and what is it next to. This will also help you save money on food and drinks as you can predetermine what you will eat and how much it will cost.
10. Check Heights And What Rides You Want To Go On
One of the things that can really slow you down when you are in the parks is checking heights and what rides you can actually go on. As adults is was something we never really had to do but we used the same technique when taking children to Disney World.
Some of the rides will have restricted heights for safety measures, it is a good idea to run through the rides you want to go on and check the heights against everyone in your party before you go. Then as you are walking around the park and see a ride, you can be sure that it is one you are able to go on or not.
This will cut downtime as you can stroll past the ride or won’t have to stand and measure each person in your party before going on.
11. Take The Hogwarts Express To The Next Park
One of the easiest ways to save time during your trip to Universal Studios Orlando is to use the Hogwarts Express to travel from Universal Studios to Islands Of Adventure and vice versa.
The Hogwarts Express counts as a ride but also is a great way of getting to the next park and is a great transport link. This saves you walking to the front of the park, out and into the next park.
You must have a park to park ticket to be able to go onto the Hogwarts Express. To make this even quicker as it is a very popular attraction at Universal Studios you can use your Express Pass to push you nearer the front of the line and cut down your wait time.
12. Stay Late – Fewer Crowds
Another way of saving time or making the most of your time at the parks is to stay late. Many families with smaller children will leave the parks earlier or those who started early may leave earlier will filter out some of the crowds. This will then result in the rides being quieter and general areas of the park less crowded.
If you don’t like early mornings staying later in the park may be better for you than getting there for the opening. You can make most of the time people would be leaving for the evening, going for dinner or have younger children who would be tired.
You can take advantage of the fewer people in the park and enjoy the last remaining hours before closing. The benefit of this is that many of the attractions will light up in the evening sky and look amazing.
13. Take Single Rider Line
The final way to save time at Universal Studios Orlando is to take advantage of the single rider lines. These are only allocated to a number of rides at Universal Studios and are extremely useful. The single riders are primarily used for those who are a single person going on a ride and to fill up empty seats on carriage going round.
It doesn’t just make the queue go faster but it can also cut your wait time down by half if not more. We often use the single rider lines to get on a ride that has a long wait time. Some of the rides we don’t mind sitting apart so we can get on the ride and save time waiting in the normal queue.
This is a great tool to use especially if you are going as part of a group, solo person or if you don’t plan to buy an express pass to get you closer to the front.
Bonus Tip: Visit In The Off-Season
A bonus tip to save time at Universal Studios Orlando is to go in the off-season. When there are no school holidays or major public holidays that would increase the number of people visiting the parks.
We often go to Orlando in the spring and find it much quieter as the main school breaks are not on. Many families will only be able to visit during school breaks so you can see a clear dip in crowds in the off-season.
If you plan to visit in the off-season crowd levels will be lower, wait times will be lower and you will have more time to get to everything you want and more.
Bonus Tip: Book A VIP Experience
Another great way to save time at Universal Studios Orlando is by booking a VIP experience. If you are looking to upgrade your visit and make it a visit to remember you can book one of these experiences.
You will be accompanied around the park by a Universal Orlando expert and be guided through Universal Studios or Islands Of Adventure or both with a park to park experience.
With the VIP experience, you can get backstage access, hear insider information and enjoy the parks amazing rides without waiting in line.
You will need to purchase general admission tickets in addition to the VIP Experience tickets.