Universal Studios Orlando Resort is made up of two theme parks, a water park, an entertainment district and a number of on-site hotels. People from around the world flock to this resort for a well-earned, thrilling and highly entertaining vacation.
As a result, the two major theme parks within the resort Universal Studios and Universal’s Island’s of Adventure see a high number of daily visitors which often leads to waiting times for their major rides in excess of 1.5 hours.
However, there is a way to combat the wait times of these major rides and that’s with a Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass. An Express Pass allows you to skip to the front of the line of the majority of the rides (once or more depending on the exact Express Pass you choose), saving you hours of waiting around during your visit.
However, this all comes at a price which can vary from $69.99 per person plus tax, up to $189.99 per person plus tax.
Your wait time for major thrill rides at Universal Studios Resort Orlando can be reduced by up to 90% when using an Express Pass. Taking a 2-hour wait down to a 15-minute wait multiple times across the day makes for a better experience and in my opinion, makes the Express Pass worthwhile.
In this post, I’ll be discussing the in’s and out’s of the Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass based on my experience visiting the resort both with and without one multiple times across the years.
I’ll also be sharing a little known secret as to how you can get Universal Studios Express Passes completely free for your entire party by staying in a select few of the on-site hotels.
Table of Contents
- How Does The Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass Work?
- How Much Does The Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass Cost?
- Universal Express Unlimited vs Universal Express Pass?
- Universal Studios Orlando Hotels With Complimentary Express Pass
- What Rides Accept The Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass?
- Universal Studios Florida
- What Rides Are NOT Included With The Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass?
- Can You Share The Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass?
- Do Universal Studios Orlando Express Passes Sell Out?
- Is Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass Worth It?
How Does The Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass Work?
The Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass is used in addition to your park ticket and allows you to skip-the-line at any of the participating rides at both Universal Studios and Island’s of Adventure.
Upon arriving at a participating ride, you’ll be able to join a separate significantly shorter queue with other ‘skip-the-line’ ticket holders when presenting your Express Pass and park ticket.
The shorter line means that your wait time will be reduced by around 90% when compared to a standard line. This can result in a two hour saving on some of the more popular rides at the resort.
How Much Does The Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass Cost?
The Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass costs between $49 + tax and $189 + tax depending on how busy the park is when you visit, and whether or not you would like to have an Express Pass for just Universal Studios / Island’s of Adventure or both parks.
The Unlimited Pass is available for an additional $20 and an Express Pass for the resort’s newly opened waterpark Volcano Bay also start from $20 + tax.
The Universal Studios Orlando website has a calendar that you can scroll through to find the exact cost of the Express Pass you’d like for your visit.
Universal Express Unlimited vs Universal Express Pass?
The difference between a Universal Express Unlimited and Universal Express Pass is the number of times you can use the pass on the same ride.
With the standard Universal Express Pass, you can only use the Express Pass once. If you wanted to ride the same ride again you wouldn’t be able to use the Express Pass and instead would have to queue in the standard queue.
The Universal Express Unlimited Pass often costs around $20 more than the standard Universal Studios Express Pass and allows you to ride the same ride an unlimited number of times.
Depending on how many days you’re planning on spending at Universal Studios Resort is going likely to impact whether you decide to purchase the standard Express Pass or the Unlimited Express Pass. Personally, I’ve found that for the additional $20 or so it’s worth just getting the Unlimited Express Pass just to protect yourself if you did want to ride anything twice without queuing.
Universal Studios Orlando Hotels With Complimentary Express Pass
You can get free Universal Studios Unlimited Express Passes for all guests if you stay at one of the three premium on-site hotels when visiting Universal Studios Orlando Resort. The hotels included in this promotion are; Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and Hard Rock Hotel.
This is a huge saving compared to the regular retail cost of the Unlimited Express Passes and can be used not only at Universal Studios and Universal’s Island of Adventure but also at the newly opened Volcano Bay waterpark.
The promotion runs all year long, with no blackout dates and applies to all guests in the room. As each room sleeps up to five people this can be a more affordable way of purchasing the Express Passes for families or for those undecided as to whether or not the investment in the Express Pass is right for them.
All with the added benefit of staying in one of the three most premium resorts on-site. The complimentary Express Passes run inclusive of the check-in and check-out date which means that just one night at any of the three hotels can give you two days worth of Express Passes.
This four-star hotel opened back in 2013 and is located just a short, complimentary boat ride away from City Walk. One night in a king-size standard view room suitable for up to two people retails for around $299.99 per night (excluding tax, prices are higher during peak season; Christmas, New Year etc.).
Meanwhile, a standard view room suitable for up to four people over two king-size beds retails for around $379.99 per night (excluding tax, prices are higher during peak season; Christmas, New Year etc.).
This hotel boasts six on-property restaurants, as well as 24-hour room service and each room, has a flat-screen TV, an iPod docking station and a Keurig. With more expensive Club level rooms also offering complimentary snacks and cocktails in the Royal Club Lounge.
This Italian inspired four-star hotel opened in 1999 and is often costs 20% more than a night at Loews Royal Pacific Resort despite them being of a very similar calibre and both offering complimentary Universal Studios Unlimited Express Passes.
For example, a standard view room over the gardens is roughly $349 for up to two people in a king-size bed for one night, meanwhile, a room for four, with two king-size beds roughly retails for $449 per night.
However, for some, the additional features of this hotel may make it the better option. Those features include; an on-site art gallery, three themed outdoor swimming pools, a fully-equipped fitness centre and a full-service spa.
Last but by no means least, the Hard Rock Hotel. This luxury 4-star hotel is just a 5-minute walk from CityWalk, the heart of entertainment at Universal Studios Resort in Orlando, which alongside it’s sleek design and youthful brand make it the primary choice for young couples looking to stay on-site.
One night here for two is around $399 before tax, while one night here for four is usually around the $499 before tax mark. Again, the prices adjust depending on the time of year.
However, for many, the additional costs may be worth it as it’s a chance to experience the unique 12,000 square foot pool complete with underwater music and see some incredible rock-and-roll memorabilia which is hosted throughout the interior of the hotel.
What Rides Accept The Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass?
Below is a list of all the rides in both Universal Studios and Island’s of Adventure that accept the Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass.
It’s worth noting that while the newly opened Volcano Bay waterpark does accept Express Passes these are to be purchased separately to the Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass and currently retail online for $19.99 + tax.
Universal Studios Florida
Below is a complete list of the rides at Universal Studios Florida which accept the Express Pass and Express Pass Unlimited;
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
All the rides inside either end of the Wizarding World’s (Universal Studios and Island of Adventure) are incredibly popular. As such you’ll be grateful to know that all rides except the newly opened Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure accept the Express Pass and the Express Pass Unlimited.
This includes my personal favourite ride at the Wizarding World, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
This ride often see’s standby wait times of in excess of 180 minutes but this can be dramatically reduced without compromising on the experience of being in the standby queue (which features details from inside Hogwarts).
The Hogwarts Express connects Universal Studios Florida, with the other theme park in the resort, Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
You’ll only be able to ride this ride if you have a park hopper / park entry to both of the parks. Without this, Express Pass or not, you’ll be turned away.
Much like all of the Harry Potter rides at Universal Studios Resort in Florida, this is incredibly popular and can often see wait times in excess of an hour and a half, therefore, an Express Pass, particularly the Unlimited Express Pass is a worthwhile investment if you plan to go back and forth between the two parks.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
An incredibly popular family-friendly ride is the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem which is located near the front of the park. Both of these factors frequently lead to a standby wait time of more than an hour and a half.
TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D
One of the most popular 3D / simulation rides at Universal Studios Resort is the TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D. As a result, you’ll often find wait times of over an hour and a half but can cut this down by 80% with an Express Pass.
Fast & Furious – Supercharged
One new ride which has failed to live up to the hype is Fast & Furious – Supercharged. However, you can determine whether this ride is a winner or a looser yourself without taking out too much time from your day at the park with an Express Pass.
MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack
A super fun family-friendly ride that involves you shooting aliens and competing against your car mates to get the highest score makes this an incredibly popular ride despite it not being a thrill ride. This makes it being an Express Pass incredibly rewarding for holders.
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
My all-time favourite ride at Universal Studios Resort in Orlando has to be Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. This ride physically stands out from the rest and results in thrill-seekers flocking here. As a result, the wait time can easily reach the two hour mark during the peak season.
It’s this ride alone why I opt to get an Express Pass Unlimited over a standard Express Pass, as I’ll ride it at least three times each day during a visit.
Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
One of the newest rides in Universal Studios Orlando is Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. This ride has an interactive queue area which certainly makes standby more fun, however, you can avoid this all together with an Express Pass.
The Simpsons Ride
Personally, I skip this ride the motion sickness is super strong. However, if The Simpsons Ride is one you’d like to experience during your visit to Universal Studios then you’ll be pleased to know that it accepts Express Passes and Express Pass Unlimited to allow you to skip to the front of the line.
Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
Opposite Mo’s Bar, you’ll find Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl. This is a fun little ride, that often doesn’t see wait times in excess of half an hour but still accepts Express Passes to allow holders to skip to the front of the line.
Revenge of the Mummy
My personal second-time ride at Universal Studios Resort in Orlando is Revenge of the Mummy. An I’m not alone, plenty of other visitors agree which often results in standby wait times of more than an hour. The good news is you won’t have to wait anywhere near that long with an Express Pass.
Fans of the E.T. Adventure ride flock to Universal Studios in Orlando, as it’s the only place in the world where this ride remains. You’ll notice the nostalgia of this rides results standby wait times of around an hour, significantly more than other rides of this calibre.
Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster
Located inside the Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone is the Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster. Children will need to be 91cm to ride this ride. As a result, this ride is often skipped by thrill-seekers and is often seen as not exciting enough by those who reach the height in which they can ride. All this leads to standby wait times of near enough zero.
Universal’s Islands Of Adventure
Below is a list of all the rides at Universal’s Islands of Adventure which accept both the Express Pass and Express Pass Unlimited;
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Easily one of the most popular rides at Universal’s Islands Of Adventure, the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride can often exceed a two-hour wait time. Luckily, you can surpass this and reduce the wait time down to nearer 20 minutes with an Express Pass.
The Hogwarts Express connects Universal Studios with Universal’s Islands of Adventure and has a queue at either side. You’ll need to have a park hopper to travel between the parks in this manner, however, it’s a worthwhile investment as this is a fan favourite with many regular park visitors.
As a result, the wait time for the Hogwarts Express at either side can often run in excess of an hour and a half. Luckily, this is an Express Pass ride which can allow pass holders to skip to the front, and ride the train despite waiting less than 30 minutes.
Flight of the Hippogriff
Much like the other rides within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure, the Flight of the Hippogriff can easily surpass a one-hour standby wait time. Luckily, it’s another ride where you can use your Express Pass to skip to the front of the line.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
This 3D ride is suitable for those taller than 1.02 metres and is of a similar format to the Men In Black ride which is located inside the adjacent Universal Studios theme park.
On a busy day, this ride can easily surpass a standby wait time of an hour, however, during the off-season or at early / late times in the day you’ll find this wait time can go down to around 20 minutes.
The Incredible Hulk Coaster
One of the primary attractions inside the Island of Adventure park is the big, green Hulk Coaster. As a result, you’ll often see wait times in excess of one and a half hours.
The good news is you can use an Express Pass or Express Pass Unlimited on this ride and skip almost to the front of the ride cutting your wait time down by around 80%.
Storm Force Accelatron
Another mediocre ride (in our opinion at least) is the Storm Force Accelatron which is based on X-Men and located inside the Marvel Super Hero Island. This carnival-inspired ride is sure to make you feel sick so Express Pass or not I’d advise you against riding if you’ve recently eaten.
Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
A pretty mediocre ride by the rest of the park’s standard, you’d be inclined to skip this ride with a standby wait time of more than 20 minutes. That said, you’ll rarely see the wait times for this ride more than this which means you’ll be walking onto the ride almost instantly when using your Express Pass.
Jurassic Park River Adventure
Skip to the front of this super fun water ride with your Universal Studios Express Pass. Despite being over 20 years old, this ride still attracts water-loving thrill seekers young and old, and can often see standby wait times in excess of an hour.
Skull Island: Reign of Kong
If you’re looking at riding Skull Island Reign of Kong during your visit to Universal Studios Orlando then you’ll be incredibly grateful to have an access to an Express Pass.
This is one of the most popular rides at Universal’s Islands Of Adventure and as a result, often has a wait time in excess of one hour. This can be reduced to nearer 20 minutes with the use of an Express Pass.
During our most recent visit to Universal Studios Orlando, I found that it was this ride I waited for the longest even with an Express Pass. The standard wait time was 200 minutes and with an Express Pass, I waited 25 minutes.
On the outside of the ride, it will only show the standard wait time and not the Express Pass wait time. I only know how long you roughly wait and how long I waited for this ride specifically based on my personal experience using the Express Pass.
The focal point of Seuss Landing is the Caro-Seuss-el. This ride only has a maximum height limit of 48″ and does permit the use of an Express Pass however much like the other rides in this area it’s often not required as the wait times between the two are usually no different.
The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!
Certainly one of the slower-paced rides at Universal Studios Resort is The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!
Situated inside Seuss Landing, this ride has a minimum height requirement of 36″. In most cases, I’ve found that the kids in our party who reach this height actually aren’t interested in riding on this ride anymore and instead opt to ride slightly more thrilling rides. As a result, with or without an Express Pass I’ve found this ride to be a ‘walk-on’.
Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
This is one of two waterbased rides at Universal’s Islands Of Adventure and one we often skip when visiting the park without an Express Pass as the wait time is often between 40 minutes and 2.5 hours.
As a result, having an Express Pass will save you a significant amount of time if you’re looking to go on this ride during your visit.
This is one of many live-action shows at Universal Studios Resort. The shows run on a schedule which is pre-set but varies depending on the time of year.
As a result, the Express Pass doesn’t quite let you ‘skip-the-queue’ in the same way in which you would be able to do on a more traditional ride at Universal Studios Resort.
Instead, the Express Pass will guarantee you a space at the showing that you arrive for and you’ll be able to sit in some of the best seats in the house (most often right at the front unless you would like otherwise).
What Rides Are NOT Included With The Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass?
Below is a list of the rides which do not allow you to skip-the-line with a Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass or Unlimited Express Pass;
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
The first ride at Universal Studios Orlando to have a virtual wait line was Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. At this time, Universal has stated that they will not be allowing the Express Pass to be used on this ride and instead will be sticking with the virtual line only for the time being.
This ride is designed for children, therefore adults (or those over the height of 56″) are not permitted to ride this ride without accompanying a child. The ride does not use Express Passes, however, the way in which the ride is set up means that the wait time is often under 20 minutes.
Sadly, you can not share the Universal Studios Express Pass. Upon arriving at the first ride, you’ll be asked to present both your park admission ticket and the express pass.
From this point on the two will be linked and you’ll be requested to present the two moving forward.
Do Universal Studios Orlando Express Passes Sell Out?
To ensure the waiting lines for Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass holders remains relatively small thus providing value to those who purchase the pass there is a limit to the number that are sold each day.
As a result, Express Passes can sell out.
It’s, therefore, recommended you purchase the Express Pass online in advance of your visit to guarantee the availability.
This is especially true in the peak season (Spring Break, Halloween & Christmas / New Year) as there are more people visiting the Universal Studios, Orlando parks the value of the Express Pass increases (as the standard queues are longer, and therefore you’ll save significantly more time by having an Express Pass).
This value is then coupled with the demand of the pass itself (more people visiting the pass, more interest in purchasing the pass).
Is Universal Studios Orlando Express Pass Worth It?
If you’re a thrill-seeker and travelling as a couple or group of friends then the Express Pass is definitely worth it as it will save you a significant amount of time during your trip to Universal Studios Resort in Orlando.
However, if you’re travelling as a family with young kids then the rides you’ll likely be using an Express Pass on will only have a standby wait time of 30 minutes or less. As a result, you wont get the same level of value when compared to someone who is looking to ride the ‘thrill-seeker’ kind of rides at the park.
That said, if you’re staying on-site then consider upgrading to one of the premium hotels to get complimentary Express Passes. This gives you an Express Pass for both the day of check-in and the day of check-out which means just one night in a premium hotel with complimentary passes can give you two days of Express Passes.
An with each of the rooms accomodating up to five guests, you can often get Express Passes cheaper this way than you can purchase them individually. All while staying in an incredibly luxurious hotel – what’s not to love!