Going to a place like Universal Studios should be an exciting way to make enjoyable memories with your family or friends. However, the stress and pressure that often comes with trying to plan an unforgettable experience can set the tone of your whole trip. We’re here to help with some insights and tips that will make the process as painless as possible.
Scheduling Travel Dates
Picking the dates of your visit is obviously the first step of vacation planning. Look at the calendar carefully when choosing dates, because different times of year require different tickets. Universal has two “seasons”, value and peak. Peak season is classified by high crowd volume and typically requires higher prices of park tickets and hotel reservations. Summer 2017 peak dates fall on June 1-30, July 1-31, and August 1-26. For guests using Florida resident tickets, some dates are unavailable each season. This summer’s blocked out dates are July 1-31.
Once you’ve selected your travel dates, it’s a good idea to purchase your tickets in advance. Special promotions and discounts occur often, so ordering in advance allows you more time to shop around for the best deals. If you are interested in purchasing tickets from a third party seller make sure the site is an authorized seller, such as Tickets2You, before you submit any personal information. There are several different types of tickets available, and it is important to ensure that the tickets you’re purchasing will fulfill all of your needs so you don’t have any issues when you arrive to the parks. Below is a break-down of each Universal Orlando ticket
· 1-Park 1-Day Base: Entry to one of Universal’s three parks for one day
· 2-Park 1-Day: Access to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in one day
· 2-Park Base: One park per day for each day of your ticket
· 2-Park Park to Park: Access to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure whenever you want for each day of your ticket
· 3-Park Base: One park per day for each day of your ticket, including Volcano Bay
· 3-Park Park to Park: Access to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay whenever you want for each day of your ticket
Choosing a Hotel
Staying at one of Universal Orlando’s five on-site hotels has many added benefits. Guests of these resorts have access to free transportation to and from the parks via shuttle bus or water taxi and have the opportunity to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Volcano Bay one hour before the parks open to the regular public. Other perks include resort wide charging access with hotel room key, free merchandise delivery from the parks to your hotel room and club-to-club entry at Citywalk. Guests staying at the resort’s Premier hotels, Loews Portofino and The Hard Rock, also receive free Universal Express Unlimited passes with their reservations. If you’re not interested in staying at one of Universal’s Resorts, consider making a reservation at an official off-site partner hotel and get discounts on theme park merchandise, food, and non-alcoholic beverages as well as scheduled transportation to and from the parks.
Just like purchasing tickets in advance, it is highly recommended to think about the potential additional features and experiences you may like to include in your trip. For guests concerned with experiencing all of the attractions Universal Orlando has to offer, an express pass is worth considering. Universal offers the Express Unlimited Pass, which can be used as many times as you’d like for all included rides and attractions on each day that your pass is valid, and the Express Pass, which can be used one time for each included ride and attraction for each day that your pass is valid. Both passes are available at Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. If you’re not interested in purchasing a fast pass, try to make a plan of action with your friends or family. Have everyone pick the #1 ride they’d like to try and plan to hit those lines first; the earlier you start the day, the better chance of avoiding crazy lines. Reference the Universal app or the marquees that are found around the park for regular updates on wait times and closed rides.
Another thing to consider is whether you plan on purchasing a dining plan or buying meals individually. There are few different meal plan options available for people who would prefer to pay for their meals upfront.
· The Universal Dining Plan includes 1 full service meal, 1 quick service meal, 1 snack from a food cart or quick service restaurant, and 1 non-alcoholic beverage for each day purchased. This plan is only available with a Universal vacation package.
· The Universal Quick Service Dining Plan includes 1 quick service meal, 1 snack from a food cart or quick service restaurant, and 1 non-alcoholic beverage for each day purchased. The cost of this quick service plan is $22.99 plus tax per day.
· The Universal Quick Service + Coca Cola Souvenir Cup Dining Plan includes 1 quick service meal, 1 snack from a food cart or quick service restaurant, and 1 refillable cup with all-day unlimited refills for each day purchased. This dining plan costs $28.99 plus tax per day. You can forego the dining plan and just get the refillable Coca Cola Souvenir cup for $13.99 plus tax
There are also a few different character dining opportunities that are worth looking into, especially if you’re traveling with kids. Because Universal does not have scheduled character meeting times, character dining is a great way to guarantee your chances of encountering the. The Hard Rock Hotel offers characters breakfasts and dinners at The Kitchen restaurant. There’s also a character dinner at Trattoria del Porto at Loews Portofino Bay and a breakfast at Loews Royal Pacific‘s Islands Dining Room. You don’t have to be a hotel guest or Universal ticket hotel to make a reservation for any of the resort’s character meals.
Expect rain. Florida’s rainy season begins in June and it’s very typical to experience daily showers every afternoon, so it’s a good idea to save some space in your bag for a poncho or travel sized umbrella. Another tip to consider is packing a few empty ziploc bags, so you can keep important items like your cell phone someplace dry and safe in the event of a heavy rainstorm or an attraction with major splash potential.
One last thing to think about is how you plan to spend your time at the parks. It’s natural to want to fill your days with a packed schedule, especially if you can’t visit Universal often. However, you may want to try not to schedule every second of your trip. The combination of large crowds and extreme heat can be very overwhelming and exhausting, especially if you’re visiting with kids. Try to leave some down time to just relax at the hotel pool or take naps so your overall experience isn’t ruined by crankiness. Additionally, unexpected issues like inclement weather and rides breaking down are likely to happen every once in a while, and can be much harder to handle if you’ve planned each day down to the minute.