I went to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida back in October, and with so many request for details from this trip, I decided I’d do a post on it.
When planning my trip I was trying to research everything since trips like these take a lot of planning, and can seem overwhelming when you’re doing all the research-but in reality, it’s really not that stressful.
To simplify everything for you, here’s all you need to know:
I booked everything through https://www.universalorlando.com
when I was doing comparisons through third party sites and such I found that the package deal straight from universal was a great deal. I paid $2400 for 4 people that included Hotel + Park Tickets. The park tickets that I got were the 3-Park 2-Day Park-to-Park with 2 Days Free Ticket.
My flights roundtrip for two people (My husband & I) were $180 on spirit airlines. You can read more about how I find flight deals here.
* You will need the hopper tickets (Park-to Park) for the Hogwarts Express.
1. Stay on one of these hotel’s on site:
–Hard Rock ($$$$$)
–Loews Portofino Bay ($$$$)
–Loews Royal Pacific ($$$)
We stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific and we loved it. It was nice, and budget friendly for us, and would definitely return to stay there.
2. Universal Express Pass- Unlimited
You get to use the fast pass line for EVERY ride!
These hotels I listed above come with Universal Express Pass Unlimited (fast passes) for your entire stay, which I think is worth it since the 2 day passes start at $89.99/ person and goes up from there depending on if you are going during a peak season.
Universal Express Passes can be purchased on site at each park but the prices vary depending on how busy they are, and sometimes the amount they sale are limited. If you don’t decide to stay at one of the hotels, I would recommend buying them online, you can find all that information here.
* remember: each person needs their OWN pass.
Why I think the passes are worth it- From my experience, I think the pass is totally worth the money. If you’re like my family, and I.. You do not have patiences to stand in a line for 50 minutes, 90 minutes, or even sometimes 120 minutes. I felt like we were able to really enjoy our trip because we weren’t forced to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to the parks early so we can do everything we want because we needed to be there open to close to get through everything.
Staying on site also allows you to get into the parks an hour early before the park opens.
Staying on site allows you to use their complimentary water taxi or shuttle service. To get to and from the parks, it’s easiest to take the water taxi- and they run ever like 5-10 minutes, super fast!
* The only park you would have to take the shuttle to is the new Volcano Bay.
Uber or lyft- They were convenient to use when we went anywhere off site (which we only did for dinner a few times)
4. All about the theme parks- What to do & What to bring
-Comfy shoes are key! I honestly couldn’t find any shoes that didn’t wear me down. I wore Nike free runs one day and some Adidas kicks the next and they both had my calves and shins aching by the end of the day. My husband had gotten these adidas ultra boost and claimed they were extremely comfy.
* Note- You are walking for over 5 miles at these parks each day.
-Water, if you want to bring your own water in- They claim that the seals cannot be broken, but truthfully they didn’t really look when we were there. You are also allowed to bring refillable water bottles in, and can refill them at the fountains.
-Food, you are allowed to bring food in as well, I wouldn’t recommend bring things that has to be refrigerated or heated. We brought snacks like beef jerky, protein bars, and candy to snack.
You can read more about their policy & restrictions here.
-Universal Studios APP- Download this in advanced. It allows you to see wait times for certain rides, and gives you a good map to follow. If you are doing Volcano Bay- I highly recommend you setting up the wallet portion and inputting your credit card.
At Volcano Bay they give you a tapu tapu band, which is basically a watch that serves as your pass and stores your fast passes on there, and also stores your credit card on there if it’s set up through the app- If you’re unsure of how to do this, at the locker’s ($12 to rent) ask the attendant and they have a very easy step-by-step guide on how to do so. Which is very useful since it’s a water park and you don’t want to be walking back to your locker every time you need to pay for something.
Also, bring a towel- they charge $5/towel to rent. (Insane right?!)
Moving on, You do NOT have to plan out which rides to do or first or anything like you would if you were doing Disney.
If you have the Universal Express Pass. Just start where ever you please, the more you try to plan your day at the park the more stressful it gets.
We were there Thursday- Sunday.
This was our order:
Thursday- Volcano Bay (Water Park)
Friday- Universal Islands of Adventures
Saturday- Universal Studios
I planned the order accordingly to this crowd calendar.
We flew in that Thursday and made it to the hotel around noon, took the shuttle to Volcano Bay and got there at about 1 PM after changing and checking in. We were able to get just about every ride in there and they closed at 5 PM.
We ended up finishing up at Universal Islands of Adventures & Studios early, around 5 PM, with some time left at the parks we did the Hogwarts Express to Universal Studios and wandered around for awhile.
*** You have to take the Hogwarts Express from each park, it’s different each way!
The interactive wands were pretty fun. I would just go ahead and go for the interactive wands at Harry Potter World because it was only about $6 more for it. (Approximately: Non-interactive wands- $43 Interactive- $49) They say at the shops that both parks have all the same wands, but we found that was not true. Universal Studios had some wands that Universal Islands of Adventures didn’t, so if you want to shop around to make sure you get the one you like, I’d check both world’s first before purchasing!
& DO NOT FORGET TO GET BUTTER BEER!! Butter beer is the bomb. We had like 4 each, everyday. It’s a must try if you are there. It tastes almost like a root beer float, but 100x better!
We preferred the Disney Springs area ( about $15 uber or lyft ride away) for dining in the evenings vs. the Universal City Walk.
Check out yelp to see what restaurants are hot at Disney Springs, & to plan your dinners. If you go to Disney Springs for dinner, be sure to check if the restaurant takes reservations. Most places at Disney Springs take reservations.
List of restaurants we tried:
* Toothsome food was surprisingly awesome, and there desserts- are to die for. Must try: Milkshakes
6. If you are interested, here was our itinerary:
Thursday- (First day)
12 PM- Check into hotel (If the room is not ready, they have a baggage room where they can hold you things, and will text you when your room is ready.
1 PM- Volcano Bay
7:30 PM- Dinner at Disney Springs- Morimoto Asia
Rest of the night- Walk around Disney Springs area
9 AM- Islands of Adventure
9:30 AM- Breakfast at Croissant Moon Bakery (Inside Island of Adventure Park)
8 PM- Dinner at Universal City Walk- The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
9:30 PM- Dessert at Toothsome Chocolate Factory
9 AM- Universal Studios
12 PM- Lunch at Toothsome Chocolate Factory
1 PM- Return to Universal Studios
7:30 PM- Dinner at Disney Springs- Frontera Cocina
9 PM- Dessert at Amorette’s Patisseries
We flew out this day so we just woke up and went straight to the airport.
Go to the airport early- Orlando Airport is extremely busy. Even with our TSA Pre-check it we still waited at least 30-45 minutes before we even got through security. The regular security lines were even crazier! It could have been the weekend I went, but better be safe than sorry.
Overall, our trip was so much fun. We could’ve definitely stayed an extra day. Normally, towards the end of the trip we are ready to get home. If you have any questions that I didn’t address, please feel free to reach out! I love connecting with you guys.