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Insider Tips to Maximize Your Time at Universal Orlando

universal orlando insider tips

With three theme parks,  a growing portfolio of hotels and countless attractions, Universal Orlando Resort brings Hollywood-level star power to beautiful central Florida.

Whether you plan to stay for one day or four, you’re going to want to do everything you can to make the most of your time – and money – in the parks. Here are 12 ways to get the most bang for your buck when visiting Universal Orlando.

1. Stay at a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel

Staying at one of the resort’s hotels has perks beyond the impressive accommodations. When you do, you get free transportation to and from the resort’s three theme parks (Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay) plus you get an hour of early access before other guests are let in. Some of the hotels even provide free Universal Express Unlimited passes, which let you and every guest on your reservation bypass long lines at most rides.

Universal’s new Aventura Hotel stands out with its sleek, modern design, rooftop Bar 17 Bistro a state-of-the-art virtual reality game room. The destination’s first Value hotel, Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites, will be opening soon in July 2019, and its sister hotel, Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites, is set to open in 2020. Learn more about the pros of staying at a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel.

2. Use Single Rider Lines

Nobody likes to wait in line, but with single rider lines you can board some of the best – like Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Florida and The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man at Islands of Adventure – in way less time.

3. Pick Rides With Fun Queues

Single rider lines are not always an option, but in many cases, the line is part of the experience. Universal Orlando does an amazing job at making the lines fun, with storytelling and interactive elements throughout. Transformers: The Ride 3D and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey do a great job at this.

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4. Make Use of Virtual Lines

Some rides, like the Fast & Furious: Supercharged have a virtual line that gives you the option of returning at a set time to get on. This can greatly cut down on the amount of time you spend waiting – although you’re going to want to make time to see the 15 authentic Fast & Furious cars in the ride queue.

5. Buy a Universal Express Pass

If you don’t get the free pass with your stay at one of the three resort hotels that offer it, you may want to consider adding them to your park tickets. There are different levels, including the Universal Express Pass, which lets you skip the line once per attraction, and the Universal Express Unlimited pass, which lets you skip the lines as many times as you’d like at each attraction.

6. Use the App

The official Universal Orlando Resort app has a handful of handy features like the ability to map a route through a park, read up on restaurants and keep an eye on reservations and queue times. You can even use it to buy tickets and dining plans, make a favorites list, find restrooms and order food to go.

7. Take Advantage of Specials

Universal Orlando is known for providing great deals and specials throughout the year. You can sign up for their email list to be among the first to know when a new deal goes live.

8. Purchase Strategically

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays can be pretty busy at the parks. If you can, try to visit during the week for shorter lines. Similarly, buying lunch later in the day can help you get back to the rides quickly.

universal orlando insder tips
“The Secret Lives of Pets” portion of Universal’s Superstar Parade. (Photo: NBCUniversal)

9. Bust a Move During the Parade

Get down with SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora and Diego and the Minions as they march through the streets of Universal Studios Florida during Universal’s Superstar Parade. The park becomes a giant stage with music, confetti, floats and street performers. There’s even a recreation of some of the best moments from the hit movie “The Secret Lives of Pets.” It’s a great way to meet the stars Universal is known for all in one place.

10. Go All in for Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the crown jewel of Universal Orlando; its magnificent Hogwarts Castle and replicated London streets create a truly immersive experience. The Harry Potter-themed area spans two parks (Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida and Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure) so the Park to Park ticket is a must if you have any Potterheads in your party.

Plus, with a multi-park pass, you can ride the Hogwarts Express between Hogsmeade Station and King’s Cross Station (the ride is different depending on which direction you take it, so be sure to do both!). The two lands tend to get crowded, so go early and get on the rides – like Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts – as soon as you can. (This is where the early park access comes in handy!)

Interactive magic wands are also available for purchase in both lands. Cast a spell with proper wand gestures at special areas throughout the parks and watch the magic unfold. Plus, on select dates, come back for the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle for a dazzling spectacle of music and illumination.

11. Stick Around for CityWalk

Universal’s CityWalk is more than just the gateway to the three parks – it’s a lively downtown-type area full of amazing restaurants, street performers, shopping and more. Carve out some time during your stay to visit its Hard Rock Cafe Orlando, the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen and/or the Hot Dog Hall of Fame. You can even catch a performance from the world-famous Blue Man Group.

12. Watch a Show

On a hot day, you may need a break from the heat, or you might just want to get off your feet for a little while. The shows at Universal Orlando are spectacular, with the Wantilan Luau, Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom and the Caribbean Carnival Dinner show among the many must-see performances.

Now get out there and start making memories!

Save time and money when you book a Universal Orlando Resort vacation with AAA.


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