A trip to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure is a must for many families when in Orlando.
However, with both parks being packed full of rides and entertainment, it can be challenging to know how you can fit them both into one day.
Thankfully it is possible to visit both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure in a single day. Here are a few ways that you can make it happen;
1. Get a park-to-park ticket
2. Stay onsite
3. Purchase Express Passes
4. Plan ahead
5. Arrive early
6. Stay late
7. Pack light
However, just because you can visit both theme parks at the Universal Studios Resort in a single day, doesn’t mean you should.
We’ve been to the Universal Studios Resort more than ten times over the past decade, and in our experience, two to three days is a better duration for those looking to experience everything the parks have to offer.
1. Get a Park-to-Park Ticket
To visit both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure in one day you’re going to need to purchase a park-to-park ticket.
A park-to-park ticket allows guests to move between the two Universal Studios theme parks throughout the day either by exiting the park at the main entrance and going across CityWalk or by taking the Hogwarts Express.
A park-to-park ticket is on average $60 more (per person, plus tax) than a traditional one-park, per day ticket.
However, without this upgrade, you’ll be unable to visit both parks on a single day.
2. Stay OnSite
The Universal Studios Resort is home to eight different hotels which are broken down into four different categories;
- Prime Value
The cost of staying onsite in a Universal Studios hotel is often between 10% and 20% more expensive than a similar hotel in the area.
However, the extra 10% to 20% to stay onsite is often a worthwhile expense given the number of exclusive benefits you’ll receive when visiting the Universal Studios parks.
- Fantastic location, close to Universal Studios parks
- Early theme park admission
- Complimentary transport to the parks
- Complimentary Universal Express Passes (selected hotels only)
These benefits make visiting the Universal Studios theme parks significantly easier and help you to get more from your day inside the parks.
3. Purchase Express Passes
Express Passes are an additional extra you can purchase to further enhance your general admission to the Universal Studios theme parks.
With a Universal Express Pass, you’re able to skip the standby queue for the vast majority of rides which saves you on average 70% compared to the standard wait time (in our experience).
This means if the standby wait time for Hollywood’s Rip Ride Rockit is one hour, for example, you’d only wait 20 minutes or so on average.
This pass allows you to go on significantly more rides during your single day at the Universal Studios Resort.
However, it comes at a price.
The exact cost of an Express Pass varies depending on the capacity (or estimated capacity) of the parks but often comes in at around $200 per person.
Luckily, by staying in a premier onsite hotel at the Universal Studios Resort you’ll be able to benefit from complimentary Express Passes for all guests.
The premier hotels are the most expensive hotels at the Universal Studios Resort. However, this is often significantly cheaper than purchasing Express Passes separately (especially if you’re travelling as a party of three or more).
The eligible hotels for this service include;
4. Plan Ahead
To experience everything the Universal Studios theme parks have to offer in a single day requires some planning.
You’re going to want to understand;
- What rides and attractions are inside both parks.
- The height requirements of each ride (to ensure all of your party is eligible to ride)
- Personal preferences so you can cover ‘must do’ rides early.
- Which Universal Studios rides are most popular so you can head to them as soon as the park opens.
I recommend spending at least a couple of hours in advance of your visit planning your day by watching videos and referencing the latest maps of the parks.
5. Arrive Early
The best time to arrive at Universal Studios Orlando is before the park opens. This way you’ll be at the entrance of the park ready and waiting as the gates open.
From there you can go straight to the most popular rides in the park when they have the shortest wait times.
We recommend arriving at the entrance to the park itself 30 minutes before the opening time for you’re desired date.
So, if the park opens at 9am on the day you visit, aim to arrive at the entrance at 8.30am.
This also means factoring in the 20-minute walk through CityWalk from the parking lot or getting the bus from your hotel and heading through security at the resort entrance.
Not to mention the actual drive to the resort itself if that applies to you.
All this can mean that in our instance of the park opening at 9am and you’re arriving at the park at 8.30am you’re actually leaving your hotel or villa as early as 7am.
However, this early start is essential to ensuring you maximise your day at the Universal Studios Resort and get to experience as many of the park’s rides and attractions as possible during your visit.
6. Stay Late
People begin leaving the Universal Studios Resort at around 4pm to head back to either their hotel or villa.
Between 4pm and the park closing the capacity of both Universal theme parks will gradually decrease and the standby wait times for rides inside the park will begin to reduce.
If you don’t have an Express Pass then this is the perfect time to go on some of the more popular rides within the park that you might not have already experienced.
Some of our favourites include;
- The Hogwarts Express
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster
7. Pack Light
If you’re travelling with young children then packing light for a day at the Universal parks can seem impossible.
However, I recommend where ever you can you only bring a small bag or a fanny pack.
While you’ll still be required to put these inside a locker during selected rides it’s generally significantly easier and less time-consuming to do so.
Bringing just a small bag also allows you to comfortably and easily move through the parks.