Skip to Content

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO TIPS to Save Families Money, Time and Enhance the Fun!

Sharing is caring!

Universal Resort Florida is the ultimate vacation destination for thrill-seekers. It’s got everything you need for an action-packed experience, from three theme parks; Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay; and City Walk to eight resorts that make your stay extra cozy and fun with brilliant onsite amenities!

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO TIPS to Save Families Money, Time and Enhance the Fun!

We’ve got you covered with a bumper list of Universal Orlando tips that will help you save money and time.

We’re talking about insider Universal Orlando tips like feeling like a VIP without the price tag, finding discounts, the best places to stay for families, using Express Passes strategically depending on the time of year and day and much more. Our Universal Orlando blog post covers all the Universal Studios tips and tricks you need to make yours the most unforgettable trip ever!  From booking your trip to Universal Studios Florida, saving money and making the most of the fantastic experiences in the parks.

Universal Studios Globe Orlando

Planning a Universal Studios Vacation/ Holiday

When to go, Where to Stay, What Tickets to Buy and Unique Benefits

  • The best time to go to Universal is when you can avoid school holidays/breaks and public holidays, cheer competitions and big conferences. We highly recommend checking out whats on during the time you are planning to visit. Although it is still hot, parts of September can be one of the best times to visit as well as after the typical Christmas/New Year vacation. Not only will you save money on hotels and park tickets, but you’ll also enjoy shorter wait times for attractions.
  • Check Universal Orlando’s official website for discounts and offers before booking your tickets. Universal Orlando often offers promotions and discounts on park tickets, hotels, and packages. By checking the website, you can find exclusive deals that may not be available elsewhere.
  • Buy multi-day tickets to save money on admission. If you plan on spending more than one day at Universal Orlando, consider purchasing multi-day tickets. Can you do Universal in one day? Maybe, but the more days you visit, the more money you’ll save on each ticket!
  • Consider staying at one of the Universal Orlando onsite hotels for added perks and convenience. Staying on-site at Universal Orlando hotels comes with a variety of benefits, including early park admission, free transportation to the park, and discounts on food and merchandise. It’s one of the best ways to go to Universal Studios Orlando.
  • For families of 5, Universal Premier hotels have some themed suites you may like! These include:
    • Hard Rock Hotel -Future Rock Star Suites
    • Loews Portofino Bay Hotel – Despicable Me Kid’s Suites. Minion fun!
    • Loews Royal Pacific Resort – Jurassic World Kid’s Suites
  • If you are staying in a prime value or above hotel you can pool hop your away around all the Universal resorts. Just show your room key to the hotel reception to get a card to access the pool. Prime value resorts are Cabana Bay and Aventura. The Mid Range hotel is Sapphire Falls and Premier Resorts are Hard Rock, Portofino Bay, and Royal Pacific Resort (all Premier Resorts have the added advantage of unlimited Express Passes valid for the duration of your stay, including check out day.) The Endless Summer Resorts, Dockside and Surfside do not qualify for this perk. One of our favourites is Cabana Bay. It is a good price point, has all the benefits of early entry, a lazy river and bowling on site too.

Thinking off site will be better suited for you family? These hotels have 2 bedroom suites near Universal. Alternatively, these hotels are walking distance from Universal Orlando Resort.

Universal park tickets and room keys
Staying onsite gets you early access to the parks!

Saving money on Universal Orlando tickets

  • Look for discounted tickets on third-party websites like Undercover Tourist, Attraction Tickets or Groupon. These websites often offer discounted park tickets for longer visits, which can save you money on admission. If you are visiting for just one day, then purchasing tickets direct with Universal is usually cheaper. Just be sure to read the terms and conditions on the Universal Studios website.
  • Do you need a Multi-Day Trip or a Park to Park Ticket? Park to Park means you can visit both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure on the same day by using the Hogwarts Express. If you are not Harry Potter fans, the you may prefer a multi- day park ticket and visit each park on separate days.  Don’t forget Volcano Bay water park can also be added to your ticket combo.
  • Use a credit card that offers cash-back or rewards for theme park purchases. This can help you save money on park tickets, food, and merchandise, making it easier to navigate to Universal Studios Orlando and the rest of the parks.
  • Purchase tickets in advance to avoid higher prices at the gate. Buying park tickets in advance can save you money compared to purchasing them at the gate. Plus, you’ll avoid the long lines and crowds at the ticket booths.
  • UK guests can take advantage of deals not available to the US. e.g tickets which include all 3 parks, and park to park for up to 14 consecutive days. Prices for 2024 are currently £345 for adults (people over 10 years of age) and kids 3-9 prices are £335.
  • Consider purchasing an Annual Pass if you plan on visiting Universal Orlando more than once. If you plan on visiting Orlando multiple times in a year, an Annual Pass can save you money on park admission and provide added perks like free parking and discounts on food and merchandise.
  • Save money on Express Passes: Express Pass prices fluctuate depending on demand, but on a busy day they can save you LOTS of time by skipping through the Express lane. Look into the cost of staying at one of the Premier Universal Hotels for one night as they come with 2 day Express Passes for everyone staying in the same room! Some people don’t even stay, they just go along to check-in, collect their room card which doubles up as the Express Pass and head to the parks from their value hotel.

Universal Orlando Tips For Saving Money On Food And Drinks

  • Let’s start by answering one question that’s on everyone’s mind; can you take food into Universal Studios? Yes, you can bring your own snacks and drinks to save money on park food at Universal Orlando. But, if you’re looking for more ideas, keep reading.
  • Eat at restaurants outside of the park for cheaper options. There are plenty of restaurants and fast food chains outside of Universal Orlando that offer cheaper food options than the park’s restaurants. Don’t worry, your passes allow re-entry into the parks! If you sign up for a Landry’s Restaurant Card which cost $25 BUT you get $25 credited to it immediately. You can then use this at Bubba Gumps’ at Universal’s CityWalk. That’s not the only advantage – you get priority in any standby queue and are usually seating within 20 minutes or less.
  • Look for meal deals and combos at park restaurants. Many of Universal Orlando’s restaurants offer meal deals and combos that can help you save money on food. Look for these deals when ordering to get the best bang for your buck.
Universal offers refillable popcorn buckets for $12.28 and then $2.19 refills
  • Universal Orlando offers refillable souvenir cups and popcorn buckets that can be used to refill drinks at a discounted price throughout your visit. eg. regular popcorn is around $5.19 but a bucket refill is $2.19. You can bring the bucket and cup back for every visit! This can help you save money on drinks and snacks during your day at the park.

Saving money on Universal Orlando merchandise

  • Look for discounted merchandise at outlet stores outside of the park. There are plenty of outlet stores outside of Universal Orlando that offer discounted park merchandise. Sometimes Universal offers sales in the parking lot with discontinued items. Keep an eye out for those announcements!
  • To avoid impulse buying, wait until the end of your day at Universal Orlando to purchase merchandise. This will give you time to think about what you really want to buy and avoid overspending.
  • If you are planning on spending over $300 during your trip on Universal food, gifts etc, then Universal currently have an offer giving you a free (non-interactive) wizarding wand with the $300 gift card.

Rise and Shine to be the First in Line

One of the best ways to do Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure is to arrive at the park before it officially opens. This strategy can help you avoid the long queues, enjoy your favorite rides without the crowds at Universal Studios, and get a head start on popular attractions inside Universal Orlando. Early entry is for the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter Area.

By arriving early, you can also take advantage of shorter wait times for popular rides, giving you more time later to explore other areas of the park. So set your alarm clocks, grab some breakfast, and get ready to have a blast at Universal Orlando!

Also, head left at the beginning of your park day. Most people tend to turn to the right when queuing to enter the parks, but the left entrances tend to have lower queues!

Before your visit, check out the height requirements so there are no disappointments.

Virtual Line to the rescue (Only available at limited times)

Universal Orlando’s Virtual Line is a game-changer for park-goers who want to avoid long wait times in lines for popular attractions. With this system, you can reserve your spot in line without having to stand in a physical queue. This is not available at all times or at all parks, so keep an eye on the app. Hagrids has been known to be a virtual line on occasion. (Note: All the rides at Volcano Bay feature a Virtual Line experience. Rather than your phone, you use the TapuTapu wearable to get a return time.)

Simply use the Universal Orlando Resort app to join a virtual queue for your preferred ride, and receive a notification when it’s your turn to ride. This means you can spend your time enjoying other parts of the park, grabbing a snack, or taking a break, instead of standing in long lines.

App up your experience

The Universal Orlando app is a handy tool to have during your visit. It allows you to keep track of wait times for attractions, plan a Universal Studios Vacation strategically and pre-order quick service meals. You can also access show schedules and information on park events, so you don’t miss out on any of the fun. Downloading the app is a must-do to maximize your visit to Universal Orlando.

Be Prepared and Pack This!

Be prepared for the fun water rides. Either bring a plastic water proof bag to pop your bag into, use a universal locker (check the sizing – smaller lockers are free and can fit a wand in a box inside) or have a friend hold it. Better still use a bum bag/fanny pack as they can be taken on most rides and worn on you and under a poncho. Avoid the restrooms right next to water rides at the parks eg Popeyes and Bluto, Ripsaw Falls etc as the queues are longer for these restrooms and usually wet! Walk to the next one instead. We often slip into flipflops/sandals for these rides, so sneakers/trainers don’t take as long to dry out. YOU WILL GET SOAKED! Blutos has a space in the middle of the raft for you to pop your bag in and which has a plastic cover to use over it.

Universal Orlando tips to beat the crowds

How crowded is Universal Studios? Very at peak times, but guests staying at a Universal Orlando hotel can take advantage of the early park admission benefit. This allows you to enter the park an hour before Universal Orlando opening hours, giving you a head start on popular attractions in the Wizarding World and a chance to beat the crowds.

Early park admission is available at select parks on select days and is subject to availability. So, make sure to check with your hotel for the days and the parks eligible for early admission into Universal Orlando, Florida!

Most people head to Hagrid’s, but if you do the opposite, you can knock a couple of rides out or experiences like Ollivander’s, saving time. Really want to ride Hagrid’s? You can either queue early or try later in the evening. As long as you join the queue before the park closes, you are good to go!

Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike ride photographed with sunset behind
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike ride

Factor in security time.

Particularly at City Walk to get to the parks. If you are staying onsite at one of the closest hotels to Universal, consider lines before you board boats or walk. Make sure you have your bag ready for inspection and follow the rules for what is allowed and what isn’t. Security Queues can take around 15 minutes and then you will have the walkways, and finally the walk to park entrance via City Walk -you could be an additional 30 minutes or longer from drop off.

Get Smart and Save Your Feet

By planning your route ahead of time, you can save yourself and your family from unnecessary walking and make the most out of your time at Universal Orlando.

Use the park map and familiarize yourself with the layout to determine the most efficient order for visiting attractions. This will help you decide what to do at Universal Studios and in what order so that you can minimize the amount of walking you do and maximize your time on the rides.

Express Pass yourself

Universal Orlando’s Express Passes are a fantastic way to save time and skip the lines for select attractions. With Express Passes, you’ll be able to bypass the regular lines and jump straight to the front of the queue, which means you get to experience more rides and attractions throughout the day. These passes can be purchased for an additional cost in advance or on the day of your visit.

Order online!

With Universal Orlando’s mobile ordering feature, you can save time and skip the line at select restaurants by ordering through the Universal Orlando app.

Just select your desired restaurant, customize your order, and pay through the app. When your order is ready, you’ll receive a notification to pick it up at the designated location. Use this convenient feature and spend more time enjoying Universal Orlando and less time waiting in line for food and drinks. It’s the best way to optimize your Universal Studios dining plan.

Universal Orlando tips for the ultimate VIP experience

Opting for a VIP tour at Universal Orlando can provide you with a personalized experience that includes free valet parking and the option to skip the lines of select attractions.

The tour guides are knowledgeable about the park and can help you plan your day to ensure you hit all of the attractions you want to see. They can also provide insider Universal Orlando tips and information about the park.

While this option does come at a higher cost, it can significantly reduce your wait times and provide a more enjoyable experience overall. Plus, you’ll feel like a VIP for the day!

Men-in-black-immigration-tour-bob-alien universal

VIP too pricey, how about feeling like a VIP but without the price tag? Did you know that several rides have not so well known ‘tours’? If there is a team member free, they will happily escort you through the tour, sharing unique tips and facts so you feel like a VIP!

For example, explore the Men In Black ride and ask as you head in if the ‘Immigration Tour’ is available. The Immigration Tour will take you back stage and through to the Immigration area where Bweryang and Bob are hard at work.

As the above ride queue looks down at you, wondering who YOU are, you get to touch almost all the props and even sign forms and type away, plus take as many photos as you like.. Other tours include Revenge of the Mummy, Race Through New York, Skull Island – Kong, The Incredible Hulk Coaster. (Finally, you can tour both Hogwarts Castle and Velocicoaster but these are both self guided. For these you walk through the queue lines but don’t actually ride.)

men in black tour universal typing at computer

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned Universal Orlando pro, there are plenty of ways to enhance your experience at the park.

From arriving early to beat the crowds to using virtual queues and mobile ordering, these Universal Orlando Tips can save you time, and money, and enhance your fun!

With a little planning and creativity, you can make your Universal Studio vacation unforgettable. So grab your park map app, put on your favorite Harry Potter robe, and get ready for an adventure you’ll never forget!

If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful, here are some ways you can say thanks and support Visiting Orlando With Kids

1. Click here to buy me a virtual coffee (thank you so much!)

2. Join our VISITING ORLANDO WITH KIDS FACEBOOK GROUP here which includes lots of ideas & tips for things to do, places to visit in and around Orlando.

3. Click here to sign up for the latest family travel tips, guides and competitions. 

3. Share this post with your friends. 

4. Follow Visiting Orlando With Kids on the following platforms for exclusive content :

Thank you for your support as always. 

Tips to make the most of your trip to Orlando & beyond!