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Universal Studios Hacks
No matter when you travel to Universal Orlando Resort, you can create an epic vacation with these 15 Universal Studios hacks. If you’re looking for Universal Orlando tips and tricks, you’re in the right place. I share plenty of Universal Orlando vacation tips on this blog and on my YouTube channel and I am so glad to have you here.
Although this was initially written a couple of years ago, it is regularly updated and is up to date to reflect Universal Studios hacks for 2022.
What is Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando Resort, also commonly known as Universal Studios (although that is incorrect, Universal Studios is one of the theme parks,) is located in Orlando, Florida.
No longer a one-day stop away from Disney, Universal Orlando now consists of Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, and Universal CityWalk.
Universal Orlando is also home to eight resorts; Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Loews Royal Pacific, Aventura Hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, and Universal Endless Summer Resorts – Dockside Inn and Suites and Seaside Inn and Suites.
I like to get around as needed while on vacation so I like to rent a car. I recommend renting a car from Discount USA Car Rental. They offer the best rates available whether you’re flying into Orlando or Sanford.
We typically fly into Sanford and Discount USA Car Rental is always the best deal. You can book now and pay upon arrival.
15 Universal Orlando Hacks
After you read these tips and tricks, you may want a complete guide to planning a Universal vacation.
Universal Orlando will be expanding again with Epic Universe; although there is no official timeline of that park’s opening, construction has resumed in 2021. Who else is excited?!
The addition of Epic Universe will likely double the parks’ size, which is very exciting news. Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter for all the latest news about Epic Universe.
Now, let’s get to the Universal Studios hacks.
1. Download the Universal Resort App
The Universal Resort App is so useful. You can use it to check on ride times, navigate the parks, secure Virtual Line passes, connect to wifi, and more. The map alone makes it worth a download.
After the re-opening of the parks in June 2020, using the app is more important than ever. Mobile ordering is now encouraged and can be done via the app. Well, sometimes it’s encouraged and sometimes it isn’t. Either way, you’ll want to have the app just in case.
Universal can also send notifications via the app, so it’s a must-do Universal hack.
The Universal Orlando Resort app is also used for rides with virtual lines.
2. Avoid Traveling During Holidays
If you can, avoid traveling during any school holidays. This includes summer, winter holidays, and spring and fall breaks. If this isn’t possible, consider #3.
3. Consider an Express Pass
If you must travel during a busy time of the year, consider an Express Pass or even a VIP tour.
It’s important to note that the Premier resorts do include an Express Pass, so it may be worth doing the math and seeing if that makes the most sense for your family.
You can check the pricing for the Express Pass resorts; Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay, and Loews Royal Pacific.
You also might want to check out my Loews Royal Pacific Resort Tour or Loews Portofino Bay Resort Review.
Whether you stay at a Premier Resort or purchase Express Passes, it will cost more. However, no one wants to stand in line all day, which is precisely what can happen during the times when the parks are very busy!
4. Plan your Dining in Advance
Universal Orlando has a dining plan that can make sense in some situations. The best way to know if the dining plan is right for you is to weigh your options and consider your unique family situation.
In many cases, the dining plan saves time and money. Universal Dining Plan options include:
- Universal Dining Plan (only available as part of a package): Includes 1 full-service meal, 1 quick-service meal, 1 snack, and 1 non-alcoholic beverage. Meals include beverages, and the full-service meal includes dessert.
- Quick-Service Dining Plan $25.99/day: Includes 1 quick-service meal (with beverage,) 1 snack, and one non-alcoholic beverage.
- Quick-Service Plan + Coca-Cola Souvenir Cup $34.99/day: Includes 1 quick-service meal (with beverage,) 1 snack, and one non-alcoholic beverage. Plus, one day of Coca-Cola Freestyle refills. Additional “Freestyle refill” days can be purchased for $9.99 per day.
- Coca-Cola Freestyle Souvenir Cup $16.99: Includes the Freestyle refillable cup and one day of refills. Additional days can be purchased for $9.99 per day.
You can learn more about the dining plan in my Universal Orlando Planning Guide.
5. Arrive Early
No one wants to wake up early on vacation, but arriving early at the parks is ideal for several reasons.
First, the parks tend to be slower in the morning. This means you can walk on some of the most popular rides, something you can never do in the afternoon.
Another reason to arrive early is for the chance to be “First Family.” A family at the front of the lines will be chosen to announce the opening of the park.
My son got to announce the park opening for Islands of Adventure a few years ago, and it was so much fun!
For the best chance of being chosen, stand in the front of the line, smile a lot, and wear Universal clothing (Harry Potter, Minions, Jurassic Park, etc.)
6. Stay in a Universal Orlando Resort
Yes, it costs more to stay in a Universal Orlando Resort, but the cost is almost always worth it. Universal is always running transportation between the resorts and parks, which you won’t get at a partner hotel.
I have hotel reviews and room tours for every single hotel at Universal Orlando. Check out my YouTube channel to find them.
You can still drive yourself, but you’ll have to pay for parking. The partner hotels do run shuttles, but they are very limited, which no one will tell you (except for me.)
Click the links below to check current prices for all of the resorts.
- Loews Portofino Bay
- Hard Rock Hotel
- Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
- Loews Royal Pacific
- Aventura Hotel
- Cabana Bay Beach Resort
- Endless Summer Resorts – Dockside Inn and Suites and Seaside Inn and Suites.
You can also check Universal package prices with Undercover Tourist. Sometimes you’ll find great hotel-only deals on Expedia, but you have to be careful with park tickets.
There are many shady ticket sellers out there, so make sure to book through an approved Travel Agent or an approved partner like Undercover Tourist.
Although Aventura is currently closed, you can check out our YouTube video comparing Cabana Bay Resort vs. Aventura.
7. Take a break (at least for lunch) in the afternoon
If your family needs some downtime, take a break in the afternoon. The parks are the busiest, and the temperatures are the hottest in the early-mid afternoon.
If you need a break, head back to your resort for a nap or some time at the pool. Even if you don’t need a big break, mid-afternoon is a great time to sit down and eat lunch with some A/C.
8. Bring water bottles and snacks
Don’t buy those $4-5 bottles of water, don’t do it! First of all, you can get free water at most restaurants. Second, there are plenty of places to fill your water bottles.
Bring a sturdy water bottle, like a Hydroflask, and fill it up throughout the day.
If you look at my First Family picture above, you can see that I practice what I preach with the water bottles. Hydroflask also offers fun and sturdy water bottles for kids.
9. Bring a fanny pack/hip bag
Many rides, including the new Hagrid coaster, will allow guests to wear a 3-prong fanny pack on board. If you don’t need to carry much, this can be a great way to save time by not using the lockers.
Families with younger children may not be able to take advantage of bringing so little into the parks, but adults or families with teens may be able to get away with only using a fanny pack.
Check out Amazon for some great prices on fanny pack/hip bags, but make sure to purchase one with 3-prongs.
10. Take advantage of “single rider” lines
Single rider lines returned in the summer or 2021 – yay!
If your party members are ten years and older, you can take advantage of single rider lines. Yes, your party will be split up for the actual ride, but you can still wait together in the queue. This is one of the best Universal Studios hacks for busy days!
Occasionally you will even ride together, especially if you only have two people and the ride seats more than 2 such as Kong or Transformers, etc. This is not guaranteed, so make sure that everyone in your party is okay with sitting separately.
We have compared wait times and have found that single rider lines can sometimes be even shorter than Express Pass lines.
11. Buy the refillable bottles and popcorn
If you’re looking for Universal Studios hacks to save money, this is a good tip! Buy the refillable soda bottles and popcorn on your first day. They’re initially pricey, but the refills make an inexpensive snack. Of course this may not be a good tip if you don’t drink soda/gatorade but if you do, it will save you a lot of money.
12. Make sure you have Park-to-Park tickets
You can’t ride the Hogwarts Express without a Park-to-Park ticket, so make sure you have one! If you’ll be staying for several days or planning more than one trip in a year, it may be worth it to look into annual passes. The longer your visit, the less you’ll pay for tickets per day.
13. Plan for three days minimum
Plan for a minimum of 3 days in the parks. A lot of people think of Universal as a smaller park, but it isn’t! Four to five days are even better. It’s very difficult to enjoy the entire park in only one or two days.
Since reopening in 2020, Universal has offered lots of “buy X days get X days free” deals, which are a great value! If you work with a Travel Advisor, we can always make sure you are getting the best deal during your Universal vacation.
14. Use the “secret” entrance
If you’re visiting on a day when it isn’t jam-packed, you won’t need to use this Universal Studios hack. However, if you’re visiting on a busy day, there is another entrance to the parks by the (former) Blue Man Group Auditorium.
I’m not sure if they have opened this entrance with the limited capacity, but it’s worth checking if it seems like a hectic day.
15. Know the secrets of the Wizarding World
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is one of the most popular attractions at Universal Orlando. Make sure to know plenty about it before you go. Fortunately, I have a blog post with 25 Wizarding World of Harry Potter Tips.
I also have a post with the hidden secrets of the Wizarding World, so make sure to check both posts out before your next Wizarding World adventure.
*Bonus* Universal hack for 2022
As of 2022, neither the brand-new Velicoaster nor the slightly-less-new Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure are available for Express Pass.
I recommend riding Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure first thing in the morning, especially if you have early park admission. Typically Hagrid’s has longer lines throughout the day, so it’s best to take advantage of shorter queues in the morning.
While the Velicoaster can also has long lines, it’s easy to find it at 60 minutes or less vs. 90+ with Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure. Also, I have found that a 60-minute wait for Velicoaster is closer to 35-45 minutes, so keep that in mind! If you want to best chance of a short line on Hagrid’s, head over first thing in the morning.
Universal Orlando Hacks
I hope that these 15 Universal Studios hacks are helpful! Let me know in the comments, or share your favorite Universal Studios hack. I also have lots of Universal Orlando hotel room tours and other tips on my YouTube channel, so make sure to check that out.
If you want to see more of my Universal content, check out the following posts:
- 7 things to buy at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
- The 7 best rides at Universal Studios.
- 7 things to buy before visiting Harry Potter World.
- 25 Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips.
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit Secret song list.
- 20 things to know before going to Universal Orlando.
- Is it worth it to visit Universal in 2021?
- 30+ movies to watch before going to Universal
Are you planning a Universal Vacation?
Although I am a graduate of the Universal Orlando Resort Travel Agent Training Program, I’m not taking on many new clients for 2022. However, you can contact me to check availability.
I highly recommend buying your tickets through Undercover Tourist if you are not working with a Travel Agent! There are a lot of really scammy sites out there, so make sure you’re booking through an approved partner (like Undercover Tourist) or an approved Travel Agent!
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Excellent hacks about Universal. I am in love with the 3 parks in the complex and I think everyone who visits Orlando should know it. The Harry Potter areas are sensational !!
How can some one enroll in the Universal Orlanda Travel Agent School?
You have to be a Travel Agent first, and then you can go through the training with Universal Travel Agents!
Hi!! Great tips with the hip bags and water bottles!! But… what about a cross body 3 prong Kavu bag?? Do you know/think this would be acceptable?? And do you have to put water bottles in lockers for each ride??
Thanks so much!
You won’t be able to wear a crossbody on the rides that only allow a fanny pack, no. However, there a few rides (like the 3D rides) where you can have any kind of bag. Yes, you have to put water bottles in lockers for rides. It’s pretty different from Disney!