When we were recently in Florida over the Eater break, one of the parks that I was desperate to get back to was Universal Studios in Orlando. The husband and I spent a day at Universal when we visited Florida back in 2013. We only went to the Islands of Adventure park but it was so much fun. But now that there are more new rides and attractions (hello Diagon Alley – that gets a whole post of its own), we were keen to get back to visit.
This was one of the parks that we spent the whole day in. Right from the opening time to right at closing time. Yes, we were the people running to get on rides at five minutes before the park closed. We got a hopper pass for the day, meaning we could hope between the two parks (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure). But there is a lot to do. So we wanted to fit it all in. I think one day is totally doable for both parks on a hopper pass. But if you really want to be more leisurely about it, then I think that two days, one per park, would be better.
What else did I find that helped? Here are my top tips for getting the most out of your day.
Pay for Express Passes
The express passes are basically the Universal park’s fast passes. But nearly every ride uses them (apart from the newer Harry Potter rides). So you can get onto nearly every ride quicker. The parks can get some pretty long queues, so this was pretty useful. If we didn’t have them, then I think it would have been much harder to do all the rides that we wanted to in one day.
The only downside I saw to these was on one ride; sometimes, the longest line is the express line. So it can be a good idea to check with the staff at the front of the ride first. As we were swapping on the smaller rides as we had Chloe, we could sometimes use the single rider line which was sometimes faster than the express line. So double check. But the majority of the rides were shorter with an express pass. I think they’re worth it.
Take a Picture of Your Tickets
Unlike Disney, the tickets are card rather than plastic. So they can be a little harder to lose (especially in my husband’s case). Sigh. But luckily, he had taken photos on his phone of the tickets. So they were able to scan the picture of his ticket from his phone, when we went to hop back at the end of the day between parks. They don’t let you do that all day or anything, just if it is lost once.
Use Baby Swap
If you have younger ones like us, it doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on the bigger rides. Max was able to go on a few of them with us. So it would just mean that we would swap with Chloe. On the larger rides, like the Gringott’s Bank ride, we used baby swap. You all queue up but when you get to a certain point, whoever is going second goes off to a separate room with the little one. I like that there is a separate place to go and sit with the baby / toddler. They had TVs on too, so it made it more engaging for the kids. Then you go on the ride when the first person comes over to the room and you get straight on the ride.
Avoid the Popular Rides in the Middle of the Day
Basically, if you want to make the most of your day in the parks, then you need to visit the popular rides either first thing (immediately as you enter the park), or wait until the last hour of the day. You’d be surprised how many people don’t stay right until closing time. So you can get on the really quickly. The Hogwarts ride and the Gringots Bank ride are, as you can imagine, really popular, and they don’t have the use of Express passes on those rides. So those are two that I would definitely go to first thing, or last thing. So much nicer when you can just walk onto the ride – in the middle of the day the wait times can get up to 90 minutes!
Visit Mythos Restaurant
This has got to be one the nicest restaurants we ate at when we were in the parks. You can get so sick of burgers and fries. So a proper sit-down restaurant, that serves things other than burgers is a must. It can get busy, as it is well rated and reviewed (totally worth the hype, though). So it is a good idea to head over and get on the list, from about 11.30am. The wait is about an hour but they just text you when its ready. So you don’t have to stand in line or anything. The food is amazing and the service and setting were really fantastic.
All in all, Universal was our favourite attraction that we went to in Orlando (for the husband and I anyway)! It is much more modern, they update it regularly, and it is all the films that I love. Compared to other parks, it was just the best. Magic Kingdom just feels a little dated to me after visiting Universal.
But the only issue I had was that there was very little for Chloe to go on. Even some of the kid rides in Seuss Landing weren’t suitable for her. So I do think that you should pay by height for little ones, rather than age. She had just turned three so would have been full price. But in reality, she didn’t get to go on too many.
Still, I would go over and over and can’t wait to go back!
*thank you to Universal for gifting our tickets and express passes. All opinions are my own.