25 Tips for planning and booking your vacation:

Dockside Inn and Suites – Room 2-Bedroom Suite

  1. Stay at any of the Universal properties for exclusive benefits such as ticket kiosks in hotels, free transportation to parks, early park admission, resort-wide charging, delivery of in-park purchases to your hotel, laundry facilities. Click here for Universal Hotel Options and park benefits
  2. Stay at a Premium Universal property and get Free Universal Express Passes and priority seating at restaurants. Click here for Universal Hotel Options
  3. Upgrade to concierge level at available premium hotels for complimentary breakfast buffet, snacks, waters and sodas cocktails and desserts
  4. Check out the Discover Universal Blog for up to the minute tips on visiting Universal Orlando
  5. Three of the best times of the year to avoid crowds are one week into January through the first week of February, the month of September and early December once the Thanksgiving crowd has gone
  6. Some of the most crowded times of the year, although fun, are Mardi Gras, Halloween, Thanksgiving and the two weeks around Christmas, Fridays & Saturdays during Spring when Universal closes early for school graduation trips, known as Grad Bash and Gradventure can be crowded. Many schools come for 2-3 days. Also, avoid music festivals. Click here for dates of special events
  7. Purchase park tickets before you travel to Orlando. If staying longer than five days, consider buying one of the annual pass options to save money and for additional benefits. Click here for annual pass options
  8. Get a park-to-park ticket. You will need it to see Hogwarts Express and to jump parks for an afternoon cool off on water rides
  9. The Universal Express Pass is a must for families! Whether you get it as a part of your hotel experience or purchase on your own, you will save so much time not waiting in lines. Please note that Express Pass is not valid on all rides. Click here for Express Pass information
  10. For extra special treatment hire a park guide for the day or sign up for the VIP Experience for a customized park experience. Click here for more information.
  11. Pack lanyards with a plastic sleeve to carry park tickets. At parks, lanyards with plastic sleeve start at $14 for Harry Potter versions.
  12. Pack disposable ponchos for rides or, for the less squeamish, grab used ponchos out of the trash at the rides exit! Note, even with ponchos you still may get soaked at Islands of Adventure.
  13. Pack zip top bags for extra water protection.
  14. Download the Universal Orlando App for park maps and wait times. On the days leading up to your trip periodically check wait times at “must do” rides to find good times to ride.
  15. Research “Secrets” ahead of time. Whether it’s the hidden tracks on Rip Ride Rocket, secret menu at The Three Broomsticks and Hog’s Head Pub or to check out ride secrets to look for
  16. Consider one of Universal’s dining plans to save money. Click here for dining plan and restaurant options
  17. If eating in park, research restaurants ahead of time to ensure food offerings matches your tastes. Make reservations if necessary. Click here for dining options
  18. For families with a special needs member see Universal’s extensive website about accessibility with downloadable guides for safe visits. Click here for more information

Tips for the day of going to parks:

  1. With your phone, take a picture of your park pass in case of damage or being lost. Replacing a ticket will go smoother with the photo. Avoid long lines at park ticket kiosks but using kiosks at Universal Hotels.
  2. Before entering the park, take photos of everyone in your party. In front of the Universal Globe on City Walk is a nice spot. If someone gets separated from the group, photos can be useful to alert park staff of the missing person.
  3. As you enter the park, discuss what to do if a child gets separated. What should the child do, who your child should and should not ask help from and an agreed upon meeting place. I know of some parents who sew into their kid’s clothes parents phone numbers or use a sharpie and write phone numbers and names on child’s shirt or skin. If children are old enough, ensure they know what hotel you are staying at and the name of the person the hotel room is under as well as phone numbers of adults traveling with them.
  4. Get a Birthday Button to receive special treatment if it’s someone’s birthday in your group
  5. Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking A LOT. If going to Islands of Adventure make sure shoes are waterproof and comfortable after getting soaked. If selecting a hotel that doesn’t have transportation to the park expect to pay for parking or grab uber at the end of the day. Walking can be painful after a day in the parks.
  6. Use the Single Rider line for guests 10 years and older to save time
  7. Hit both Harry Potter Worlds later in the day to avoid big crowds. Stick around the park for the parade.

    Universal Superstar Parade

  8. For parents with children too short to ride, use “Child Swap” which allows families traveling with little ones to wait in line together, once, while allowing both adults a turn to ride. Three guests can ride with the adult so several people can ride twice.
  9. Leave the park for lunch. With Universal’s City Walk being central to the parks you have more options and less crowds at lunch time. Click here for a map of City Walk
  10. Bring an external charger. Universal does have FuelRods, a reusable, portable battery system for $30. Once the FuelRod charger runs out you can swap at a kiosk for $3
  11. Several of the more intense roller coasters require guests to pass through very sensitive metal detectors looking for loose change, phones or anything that will fly out of pockets. Guests with medical equipment such as an insulin pump may wear them as long as they have a belt clip, otherwise devices need to go into a locker. Check Universal’s website for details on what’s allowed. Click here for more information.
  12. Have a barf bag accessible on the 3 & 4D rides. One ride attendant shared that on average 5 people a day get sick on the Transformers Ride. Better to be safe than sorry!

    Let us know what tips you recommend!

    Kids Packing List

    Overview of Universal Orlando’s Parks

    Insiders Guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

    6 Things I learned at Universal Orlando