How To Do Universal Studios & Islands Of Adventure In One Day

A trip to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure is a must for many families. However, with both parks being so large, it can be challenging to know how you can fit them both into one day. However, it is possible with a bit of organisation and planning.

Here are a few ways that you can make it happen:

  1. Arrive early.
  2. Leave late.
  3. Get a park-to-park ticket.
  4. Stay on-site.
  5. Plan ahead.
  6. Use fast passes.
  7. Use a map to guide you.
  8. Plan where you will eat in advance.
  9. Pack small and light.

So, let’s talk about how you can get the best of both theme parks in only one day. Then, we will share some tips and tricks we have learned from frequently visiting these fantastic parks and help you get the most out of your visit to Universal Studios Orlando.

These tips can do everything from save time, save money and help you make the most of your vacation not to mention making sure you don’t miss a single thing.

You can also use many of these tricks and tips when visiting Universal Studios Hollywood. While Universal Studios Hollywood is smaller than Universal Studios Orlando, you may still want to plan ahead to make the most of your trip.

1. Arrive Early

Before we get started, I must mention that it will require a lot of walking to do both Universal parks in one day because of the size of these two theme parks.

As a result, those with young families or physical limitations may find it harder to get everything done.

Still, it doesn’t matter what day of the week you visit these parks. Knowing the best time to arrive is always a good idea. Not only will you avoid the crowds, but you’ll also have more time to enjoy the parks and maximise your experience.

The best way to do both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in one day is to arrive at the parks early. Doing so will give you time to explore both parks before it gets too crowded.

In addition, the parks open at 9:00 am every day, so arrive well before that to get ahead of the lines.

We recommend arriving at least thirty minutes early to avoid the long lines at the gates. That means being in line 30 minutes before the park opens, so I usually recommend driving through the park gates around an hour or 45 minutes before the doors open. 

The busiest times of day for the parks are from 11:00 am to closing time, so try and avoid those times if you can. If you cannot arrive early, you’ll want to follow the other tips in this guide to make the most of your day.

Tip: If you are staying on-site at one of Universal Orlando’s resorts, you can take advantage of the Early Park Admission perk. This feature allows resort guests to enter the parks an hour before the regular opening.

2. Leave Late

If you cannot arrive early, another option is to leave late. The parks close at either 6:00 pm or 7:00 pm, depending on the day of the week.

Staying at the parks until closing will give you enough time to visit both parks without feeling rushed. You may also be able to see the firework displays during special events and holidays.

Staying late also has the bonus of shorter lines for rides and other attractions. In addition, most people will start to leave the parks around an hour before closing time, so you can get on some of the more popular rides without having to wait too long.

Tip: The Universal Studios park usually closes a bit earlier than Islands of Adventure. To do both parks in one day, be sure to visit Universal Studios first.

3. Get a Park to Park Ticket

Universal Studios offers two different types of tickets. The one park per day ticket allows guests to visit one park per day. 

However, for those looking to do both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in one day, you’ll need the park-to-park ticket. This ticket allows guests to visit both parks on the same day.

This ticket is essential if you want to do everything these two theme parks offer. You also access the Hogwarts Express ride with park-to-park access, which connects the two parks.

This fun train ride is a great way to travel without walking between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. The wait time for Hogwarts Express is generally around thirty minutes.

If you have a park-to-park ticket, be sure to ride it early in the day, as the wait time will only get longer as the day goes on. If you only have a one-park ticket, you will not be able to visit both parks on the same day.

Tip: park-to-park tickets are also valid for Universal’s Volcano Bay water park, so if you plan on visiting that area as well, then a park-to-park ticket is a must.

4. Stay on Site

If you are looking for convenience, the best way to make the most of your time at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure is to stay on site. Doing so allows you to take advantage of early park admission and be close enough to the parks to walk to them. 

There are a few different on-site resorts to choose from, so be sure to do some research and find the one that fits your needs best.

With a variety of on-site resorts, there is sure to be one that fits your budget and needs. Of course, each hotel has its benefits and amenities, but a few essential perks include extended park hours, free transportation, complimentary breakfast, and more.

Universal Studios offers many on-site accommodations for your stay in Orlando. These hotels include:

  • Portofino bay hotel: This hotel is located on Universal’s property and features a glimpse into Portofino, Italy’s harbor. Its pools feature sandy beaches, cabanas, and a Roman aqueduct-inspired waterslide.
  • Hard rock hotel: This hotel is also located on Universal’s property and has a rock-and-roll vibe. You can personalize a playlist for your stay and even rent a Fender guitar to live out your rockstar dreams. The themed pool is also a great place to relax.
  • Loews royal pacific resort: Universal’s flagship resort offers an island vibe with palm trees and a lagoon pool.
  • Loews sapphire falls resort: This resort offers a Caribbean-inspired experience and has waterfalls throughout the property. It is also home to the largest pool at Universal Orlando.
  • Aventura hotel: This hotel has a modern, sleek design. It is also one of the closest hotels to Universal Studios. Aventura is close to Volcano bay and is an excellent choice for family fun with fire pits and a splash zone for the kids.
  • The Cabana Bay Beach Resort: This is one of Universal’s newest resorts and offers retro-themed rooms. The pool features a waterslide, bar, and cabanas.
  • Surfside inn and suites: This is one of Universal’s economy resorts and offers a simple, no-frills experience.
  • Dockside Inn and Suites: This is also an economy resort, and it offers a laid-back atmosphere.

Tip: If you cannot stay on-site, be sure to leave enough time to get from your hotel to the parks. Traffic can get quite congested during peak season, so give yourself plenty of time to make the trip.

Alternatively, look at staying within walking distance to maximise your time, or stay close to Universal Studios for ease of travel and access.

5. Plan Ahead

One of the best ways to make the most of your time at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure is to plan. That includes deciding what rides you want to go on and what shows you want to see.

Both parks offer a variety of attractions, so it can be challenging to decide what to do first. However, there are many different ways to plan.

For example, you can use the Universal Studios app, available for iOS and Android, or visit the official website.

The app allows you to view wait times for each ride, make reservations for restaurants, and even see a map of the park. Checking everything out beforehand is a great way to plan your day and ensure you can get on the rides you want during the shortest wait times.

The website offers a detailed overview of each ride and attraction and information on where to eat and what shows are playing. Looking at these offerings is a great way to get an idea of what the parks offer.

Both the app and website are updated regularly, so be sure to check them before your trip and right before you enter the parks.

Double-checking frequently will help ensure you make the most of your time at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

If you are not familiar with either park, then be sure to read up on what each one has to offer. You can also choose to quickly search the rides and events you want to see on YouTube. In addition, you’ll likely be able to find walkthroughs of each attraction, allowing you to see what attracts you the most.

Tip: Use the official Universal Orlando App to create your itinerary and have it with you while in the parks. This app also includes wait times for all of the rides so that you can plan accordingly.

6. Use Express Passes

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure offer a variety of shows and attractions that are worth seeing. However, it can be challenging to see everything in one day due to the large crowds, especially when you have to wait hours to get on one ride.

So, make the most of your time in the parks by avoiding long lines.

One way to avoid these long lines at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure is to use Universal Express passes. These express passes allow you to skip the regular line for a ride and come back later.

There are three types of express passes available at Universal Studios. These include:

  • Universal Express: This pass allows you to skip the line for any participating ride one time only.
  • Universal express unlimited: This pass will enable you to skip the line as many times as you want on participating rides.
  • Volcano bay express: This pass allows you to skip the line for rides at Volcano Bay.

Be sure to get your express passes as early in the day as possible, as they tend to run out later when the park is crowded or sold out. 

A Universal Express Unlimited pass allows you to skip the line at both parks on participating rides. This pass is a bit more expensive, but it can be well worth it if you plan on going on many rides or want to ride the same attraction many times.

Tip: Not all rides have an express pass option, so be sure to check the Universal Orlando website before heading to the parks.

7. Use a Map To Guide You

Both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme parks are giant and challenging to navigate. That’s especially true if you are not familiar with the parks. If this is your first time visiting, knowing the layout and attractions is good.

One of the best ways to get around Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure is using a map. Doing so will help you navigate the parks and ensure you do not miss any attractions.

Maps are available at both parks as well as online. The Universal Studios app also has a map function to help navigate the parks.

Be sure to pick up a map when you enter the park and keep it with you at all times. Organising your walk around the parks will help you create a plan for your day, so you can see and do everything you want.

When you get your map, walk to the Islands of Adventure gate. Then, work your way around the circular park until you have come full circle, then move on to Islands of Adventure.

Keeping your route as efficient as possible will ensure that you don’t have to keep walking back and forth to get where you want to go. 

Maps are also updated regularly, so you can be sure that you are seeing the most accurate information possible. However, be sure to get your map directly from Universal Studios to ensure accuracy.

Tip: You can also download a map of the parks to your smartphone with the Universal Studios app, so you have it with you at all times. Using the app is an excellent option if you do not want to carry around a paper map.

8. Plan Where You Will Eat in Advance

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure offer various dining options for their visitors. Unfortunately, eating in the parks can take up a lot of your time.

Not only do you have to find a restaurant that has food that you want, but you also have to wait in line to order and then again to get your food.

There are three basic types of dining available in the parks. These include:

  • Food carts: These carts offer various quick, cheap options such as hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, drinks, and candy.
  • Table service: This type of dining requires you to make a reservation ahead of time and usually has a higher price tag. The types of cuisine will vary but can include American, Italian, and Caribbean.
  • Quick service: This is the most common type of dining in the parks. It does not require a reservation and offers a wide variety of food options, including pizza, salads, chicken strips, themed foods such as UK Classics in the Harry Potter areas, and more.

Universal Studios also offers a Character Dining experience that allows you to have breakfast or lunch with some of your favourite characters from the movies. Be sure to make a reservation for this if you are interested.

If you are looking to save time, it is best to plan where you will eat in advance. You can do this on the Universal Orlando website or the Universal Studios app. 

There are also a few restaurants in both parks that offer express service when using the app. This feature lets you order your food and then head to a seating area where someone will bring your food to you. No waiting in line!

Tip: There are often discounts available for dining at Universal Studios, so be sure to check the Universal Orlando website before heading to the parks.

9. Pack Small and Light

If you are going to be at the parks all day, you will want to have a few things on hand to make your visit a little bit easier. First, always pack small and light. This will help you avoid carrying around a lot of weight all day.

We love to use small backpacks or fanny packs as they are light, easy to access and don’t get in the way during the day.

There are a few essentials that you will want to bring with you, this includes:

  • Sunscreen
  • A hat
  • Water bottles
  • Insect repellant
  • Money
  • Tickets

You will also want to pack items that you can use for more than one purpose. For example, instead of bringing an umbrella, bring a poncho that you can use in case of rain or water rides. Streamlining your pack will save you space in your bag and keep you dry. 

Another great option is to pack a backpack that you can easily carry around. A secure, small bag will allow you to have your park essentials with you at all times.

Be sure to check the weather before you leave and pack accordingly. There are a few places in the parks to store your belongings while on rides or touring the park.

These include lockers and storage areas for strollers. Be sure to ask about these when you enter the park.

Most rides also have lockers for your personal belongings, so make sure your bag is easy to store to save time when going on and off rides. Alternatively, if you have a party member not going on the ride, ask them to look after your bag to save time on the lockers.

Tip: You can buy most of these items in the parks, but they will be more expensive than if you purchase them ahead of time.

How Many Days Should You Visit Universal Studios?

If you plan to visit both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, we suggest spending three to five days at the parks, including a day at Volcano Bay. Taking your time will allow you to experience everything the parks offer while avoiding feeling rushed.

Your vacation should feel like a vacation, not a race to see everything. The best way to accomplish this is to spend a few days at Universal to visit the various parks at different times of the day. 

Spreading your time and enjoying the attractions at a leisurely pace will give you a unique experience because other events occur, depending on the afternoon or evening.

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