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10 Tips for a Great Universal Orlando Vacation

Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure are much more than just theme parks. The Universal Orlando Resort has some amazing attractions, gorgeous hotel properties and superb restaurants! With the new Hagrid's Motorbike Adventure ride now open and Jurassic World's VelociCoaster scheduled to open later this year, Universal Orlando is the hottest new vacation destination for families!

I have compiled a list of 10 must-do tips on how to maximize your Universal Orlando vacation.

Top 10 Tips

10. Express Pass - Universal's Express Pass let's you skip the regular line for many attractions. It comes in two forms, Unlimited, or once per ride. You can add the Express Pass Unlimited to your tickets. If you stay on-site at one of Universal's 3 Premier Hotels, you get the Universal Express Unlimited Pass free with your stay! These hotels include Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, and Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal's Aventura Hotel, Endless Summer Resort and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort do not offer this perk. I highly recommend having it, especially with kids, or if you're going in the summer. 
Islands of Adventure
9. Early Entry -  Early Entry is a privilege only for guests staying at a Universal Resort hotel. You can enter the parks one hour before opening, and ride the big attractions such as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey before the lines get very long. It was so nice being there at Early Entry, hardly anybody in the parks makes for great photos!

8. Meal Plan -  Purchasing either the Quick Service meal plan or the Table Service plan can save you money on food in the parks. You can add it on to your package. There are some great quick service restaurants in the parks such as the Harry Potter themed Three Broomsticks at Islands of Adventure and The Leaky Cauldron at Universal Studios Florida.

7. Water Taxis - If you are staying on Universal property at Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel or Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, the water taxis are an excellent way to get back and forth from your hotel to Universal Studios Florida, Universal's Islands of Adventure, or Universal CityWalk.  They take you to CityWalk and then you can walk into the desired park of choice, but both parks are a very short walking distance from where the boat dock is located at CityWalk. You will go through a security check point before boarding the boat, so make sure to leave a few minutes for that. Everything is so close together, you can either walk to the parks, or take the shuttle bus.

6. Club Level - Upgrade your room to Club Level to enjoy the benefit of snacks and drinks in the lounge.  The concierge staff will answer any of your questions, give you bottled water, and even print your boarding passes for you. We loved their fresh baked cinnamon rolls! Also during breakfast hours there were bagels, danishes, croissants, and fresh fruit among other things. At night there were small appetizers and desserts such as cookies and cheesecakes.
Club Level lounge - Hard Rock Hotel
refreshments in the club lounge
5. Park Lockers and Metal Detectors - Each major thrill ride has free "digital" lockers located conveniently outside the entrance. They require ALL belongings to be stored in the free lockers, including cell phones, cameras and sunglasses on some attractions. The large rollercoasters such as The Incredible Hulk Coaster and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit have metal detectors to ensure the safety of guests. Guests cannot ride if they set off the detectors. It's much easier and faster if you don't carry a purse, and just store your ticket, credit card, and dining card in a neck lanyard so you don't have to use a locker.
digital locker bay 

4. Coming soon! (Formerly Blue Man Group)

3. Hogwarts Express - The two parks are only connected by the train in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter known as the Hogwarts Express. The train takes "students" between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. You can only board the train with a Park-to-Park ticket as you exit the train in a different park. If you have a base ticket (one park per day) you cannot ride the Hogwarts Express. The ride itself is so impressive! It's very authentic to the Harry Potter movies. The ride experience is different each way too! 
2. CityWalk - Universal CityWalk has so many shops and restaurants to check out. A favorite of the Kingdom Konsultant agents is Cowfish. It offers many varieties of burgers and sushi.  My kids love Toothsome's Chocolate Emporium too. CityWalk has so many unique stores, booths, and vendors. It also has street performers and a DJ to liven up the atmosphere. It's open later than the parks, so save it for nighttime.
Sushi burger at Cowfish
1. Volcano Bay - The icon of the waterpark is the 200 foot Krakatau Volcano, complete with waterfalls and volcanic eruptions! This is a THRILL park for sure! When it opened in 2017 it was home to 3 of the world's tallest slides. The Ko'okiri Body Plunge set the world record for tallest speed slide in the U.S. Your electronic bracelet called Tapu Tapu holds your place in line, so you don't have to freeze waiting for a slide. All Volcano Bay slides with rafts or tubes have conveyor belts, so there's no need to haul them up the stairs! 

I no longer regard Universal as an "add-on" day to Walt Disney World, but a vacation in itself! There is so much to see and do here, that a 4-night stay is barely long enough!

*Temporarily closed due to COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Summer Squires
Summer's favorite Universal ride is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. She is a member of House Ravenclaw. Email her at Summer@kingdomkonsultant.com.


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