15 Brilliant Universal Studios Hacks for your Best Vacation Yet

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If you are planning a trip to Universal Studios Orlando in Florida then I’ve got some amazing hacks for you! I’m all about saving money, time, and effort. If you are, too, then you are going to love these tips for maximizing your time, dollar, and energy while at the park(s). Since I’m a planner, I put together my best insider tips to help you plan your trip to Universal Studios including what to plan ahead, how to save money, what to know before you go, tips about Universal Studios rides, and information about Universal Studios hotels.  Big thanks to Family Forward for hosting an annual retreat that gets my family there! {wink}

planning a trip to Universal Studios Orlando in Florida

What is Universal Studios?

The Universal Studios Orlando Resort, which you may know as Universal Orlando is in Orlando, Florida. It consists of Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, and Universal CityWalk Orlando. Additionally, there are five on-site hotels including Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort.

Islands-of-Adventure-Tip-Junkie

What to Plan Ahead

1. Use an app to plan your trip. Download The Official Universal Orlando Resort™ App to buy and redeem tickets, see wait times in real time, plan your day with a Universal Studios Map, secure your Virtual Line™ pass, get alerts to get in line, find out what’s going on in the parks, and best of all, connect to their WiFi. FREE. Seriously. This app has so much functionality, and it’ll save you so much time and frustration.

universal city walk

2. Avoid weekends and holidays. Weekends and holidays are going to be more crowded so it’s going to take you longer to get on rides and you’ll simple get to see and experience less.

Universal Orlando Resort App for your Phone

3. Use an app to track wait times on rides at Universal Studios Orlando (including all parks). I mentioned using the app above, and I can’t stress it enough. Not only will the app tell you the wait times in real time, it’ll alert you 5 minutes before it’s time to get into line.

How to Save Money

4. Bring water and snacks. You can bring water and snacks into the park. If you don’t feel like lugging them around all day, you can rent a locker. Camelback’s {affiliate link} are great if you want a hands-free option for water.

Universal Studios Cat in the Hat Tip Junkie

5. Kids Under 3 are Free! Well, I should revise that by saying that you don’t have to purchase a ticket for kids under 3. We all know that in all likely hood you are going to have to shell out some cash for a treat for your sweet little one while in the park. {wink} However, you don’t have to break the bank buying them souvenirs and snacks. Bring snacks from home be mindful of your wallet when you do get them something fun!

Amazing Food at Diagon Alley at Universal Studios

6. Plan Park Restaurants in Advance. Don’t wait until everyone is having a breaking down to eat so that you have to eat at the closest restaurant you can find. Before you go, check out menus and prices so that you know what to expect. If the food at the park is not in the budget for every meal, then pack snacks and lunches so that you can enjoy the meal that you really want. This will give you time to check out menus and prices before your visit. They even have a Universal Dining Plan that may work for you! If you want to try off-site options, try eating at some of the best restaurants in Orlando!

universal studios orlando

7. Purchase tickets online rather than at the gate. The savings for purchasing online is about $20. That’s like getting Universal Studios Discount Tickets for nothing! To me, that’s huge, especially if you are buying multiple tickets. Also, the more days you “play” at the parks, the less you pay per day.

universal-studios-orlando-insider-secrets

Know Before You Go

8. September, as well as mid-January-March are good times to visit. Shhh. Don’t tell. I don’t want everyone to know. {bawahh} Count on the parks being busier around holidays and school break times.

Welcome to Hogsmeade

9. Arrive early. I’m sure you are groaning hearing this since you want to sleep in while on vacation. I do, too. However, so do most people while on vacation which means that the park is less crowded in the morning right when they open. Do you see where I’m headed? If you get to the park early, you’ll get to enjoy the park before it fills up. I even recommend getting to the park an hour early so that you are the first in the gate. Then, head to the back of the park and make your way to the front.  It’s best to hit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter either at 8 am {if you have early park admission by staying at an on-site hotel} or after 4 pm when the park clears out a bit. The areas of the park for younger children are going to be less busy when younger children are less active, e.g. nap time and closer to their earlier bed times.

Harry Potter World

10. Head to the busiest areas of the park right when you enter and before closing.

If you have kids that are interested in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it is generally recommended to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter later in the day – mid to late afternoon. Note: reservations are not available for Ollivander’s in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter {to watch the wand-choosing ceremony} and lines fluctuate based on time of year and weather.

Remember, the areas of the park for younger children are going to be less busy when younger children are less active, like during their nap time and closer to their earlier bed times.  For instance, I noticed that Seuss Landing is packed during lunch, but not so much in late afternoon. Also, most people tend to travel on Sunday, therefore Sunday’s are not as crowded and a great day to play at the parks.

Harry-Potter-World-Butter-Beer-Eat-Lunch-Later

11. Eat lunch in the late afternoon when the ride waits are the longest. This allows you to avoid long ride wait times AND long lines at restaurants.

Bring-a-cross-body-purse-sinch-sack-or-fanny-pack-for-your-belongings

12. Bring a cross body purse, cinch sack, or fanny pack for your belongings. You don’t want to lug around a huge purse if you can avoid it.

Universal Studios Rides

13. Get express ride access and SKIP THE REGULAR LINES at each of your favorite participating rides and attractions in the theme parks.  These are FREE for each person in your family if you stay at one of these three Universal Orlando Resort hotels including Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, and Loews Royal Pacific Resort.  It’s just one of the many hidden values, you can see all of my Top 5 Perks of a Hotel Key in my quick video here.

universal-studios-orlando-single-rider

14. If you are 10 years or older, then you have the option of grabbing a quicker spot as a “single rider”.  Since most people ride in groups of two or more, if there is an extra spot available the attendants will ask for a single rider and you’ll be able to skip ahead in the line.

Saphhire Falls Resort in Orlando Florida

Universal Studios Hotels

15. Stay at one of the on-site hotels. I can’t stress enough what a good idea it is to stay at an on-site hotel. Not only are they really nice, the exclusive perks make them well worth it.

Family Forward 2016_Water Taxi

All of the hotels are within walking distance or a shuttle bus ride to all three theme parks and Universal CityWalk™, which is really nice. A little about the 5 Loews on-site hotels:

  • Loews Portofino Bay Hotel includes the Universal Express passes and early park admission.
  • Hard Rock Hotel includes the Universal Express passes and early park admission.
  • Loews Royal Pacific Resort includes the Universal Express passes and early park admission.
  • Loews Sapphire Falls Resort includes early park admission.
  • Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort includes early park admission.

Universal Studios Hacks

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15 Brilliant Universal Studios Hacks for your Best Vacation Yet {save time and money!}

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