Today we're going to talk about an extremely easy way to avoid the long lines at Universal Studios Orlando Parks attractions, the Universal Express Pass!
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Enjoying the day at one of Universal's theme parks is always a very pleasant thing to do.
In fact, we have seen a growing increase in queue times at attractions at all Orlando parks in recent years and it seems that we will not see this time decrease anytime soon.
One of the ways to minimize the impact of long lines on your day is by purchasing the pass Universal Express Pass.
Universal's skip-the-line access is a big help in the parks, especially on busy days.
It works very similarly to the new Lightning Lane from Disney.
I actually believe that Lightning Lane was inspired by the Express Pass (Although I think the Express Pass is better).
Understanding how and when to use the Universal Express Pass is key to an even better visit, especially in high season.
In this post we will explain everything you need to know for this as a good connoisseur of the subject.
After all, in addition to having worked at Universal Studios, the Express Pass was sold at my store.
Also, I've used it a few times on our trips to the park.
So let's go!
The Universal Express Pass
Universal Express allows you to skip the lines at most attractions at Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure and get priority access to seats at shows.
There is also a separate Universal Express Pass option for Volcano Bay called the “Volcano Bay Express”.
Universal offers Universal Express passes to most popular attractions in the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, including Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey and Harry Potter Scape from Gryngotts.
The only attractions that do not have express access in any of the parks are Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Pteranodon Flyers and the Velocicoaster, all of which are located on Universal's Islands of Adventure.
How Universal Express Pass works
When approaching an attraction with the Universal Express Pass, show your pass to the Team Member in line.
Some attractions like Storm Force Acceleration or Flight of the Hippogriff, will validate your pass immediately when you arrive at the attraction entrance.
For popular rides with more elaborate and long lines, a Team Member will verify your pass and let you join the Express line (usually a separate line).
Then, closer to the entrance area of the actual tour, a second Team Member will validate your pass.
Therefore, always leave your pass somewhere within easy reach.
We recommend that you buy a Lanyard so you don't lose your pass and make it easier to activate it at attractions.
You can buy it at the park or order on amazon and pay less by clicking here.
We always use it, as you can see in the photo below:
Some Universal Express queues will eventually merge with the queue for a ride, such as the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.
On the other hand, other Express Pass queues are completely separate from the waiting queue for a ride, such as Skull Island: Reign of Kong.
An exception is Race Through New Yorkstarring Jimmy Fallon, who uses a virtual queue.
You can pick up the return time or use the express pass to enter the building immediately.
The difference between the queue is that there is an outside part of the queue before you enter the building.
However, unless it's a busy day at the park, most waiting guests will enter the building quickly, not offering much of a time-saving advantage.
Once inside the building, Express and Standby visitors will receive a color-coded card on the first floor before ascending to another waiting area.
When the lights are the same color as the card, you are in a short queue before entering the simulator.
Important information about the Universal Pass
This is a very common question within our travel consultancy clients.
Many ask if a Universal Express Pass is valid for the whole group?
The Express Pass is an individual pass, that is, everyone in your group needs one if they want to ride together on attractions through the skip-the-line.
In case you have won the Express Pass for the accommodation, all guests indicated at the hotel will receive their pass!
Single Rider Queues at Universal Orlando
“Single Rider” lines can be as fast as Universal Express Pass lines.
If you don't mind splitting up during some attractions, try out some of the more popular rides much faster.
The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Single Rider line, in particular, is the best time-saver and is usually faster than the Express Pass line.
Single Rider queues go straight to the loading area, though exact speed may depend on group flow.
You and your group will be in line together, but you will be separated on the way to fill an empty seat (you may be lucky to go together anyway).
It is important to note that, as in Disney, not all attractions in the parks have this “Single Rider” line.
Below is a list of all available so far:
Single Rider Attractions at Universal Studios Florida
Single Rider Attractions at Islands of Adventure
– The Amazing Adventure of Spider-Man
– Doctor Doom's Fearfall
– Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
– Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
– Skull Island: Reign of Kong
– Incredible Hulk Coaster
We understand that the purpose of all this is to spend less time waiting.
However, some of the lines are spectacular and help define the attraction's plot.
For example, if this is your first time at Skull Island: Reign of Kong or at the Mumia attraction, we recommend trying the regular queue.
This is because the Express queues skip the main parts of the regular queue.
If you've been there, do it, choose the best path for you.
If you're a Harry Potter fan, good news.
The Express line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey skips the greenhouse part outside and small details inside.
But the Express Pass line will pass through key parts of the castle, such as Dumbledore's Office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. However, you will surely pass through them very quickly.
For Harry Potter and the escape from Gryngotts, the Express queue is essentially the same as the normal queue, just moving faster.
Universal Express Pass Types
There are two types of Universal Express passes they are: Universal Express Unlimited and
Universal Express Standard.
The difference between the 2 is simple and the name says it all.
You can use the Universal Express Unlimited Pass an unlimited number of times at participating attractions, each day your pass is valid.
The Universal Express Standard Pass can only be used once per attraction, each day your pass is valid.
Both types of Universal Express passes are available for one park per day or both parks per day.
It can be purchased online in advance through Universal or at the parks themselves.
There are advantages and disadvantages to purchasing the Express Pass in advance.
First, its price may vary.
So if you buy it before, you will certainly pay much cheaper and besides, you won't waste time in the park making this purchase.
If you would like a free Express Pass quote for your trip, send us a message clicking here.
The only disadvantage worth mentioning here is that the Express Pass is not always necessary to do all the attractions at Universal's parks.
Different from Magic Kingdom Although it's always full, Universal parks often have much shorter lines overall (especially out of season), and you may not even need to buy an express pass.
These days have been increasingly rare, but it's possible that you don't need one to avoid giant lines.
As stated earlier, Universal offers separate passes for its water park. Volcano Bay.
They are daily, and you have the option to skip the virtual lines at select attractions and rides, or you can pay more with an Express Plus pass to skip the virtual lines at all rides and attractions within the water park.
How Much Does Universal Express Cost?
Not everyone knows, but I've worked at Universal Studios parks.
Specifically, I worked at the stores that are right at the entrance and exit of the Islands of Adventure park.
The Christmas candy store, Port Provisions that is glued to the exit and some carts near the entrance to the park as well.
In all of them I sold the Express Pass, and I saw clearly how it wasn't worth it every day.
On the empty days, we had promotions for visitors to buy.
However, that changed drastically as this was in 2007 and since then the crowds have grown, so much so that these promotions have never been seen again.
I emphasize that the opposite is also true, on days of maximum capacity, expect an increase in the value of the pass, that is, if possible, buy in advance!
But even so, there is a price list for each type of Pass mentioned above.
Express Pass Prices
– Universal Express Pass: from $79.99 + fees
– Universal Express Unlimited: from $109.99 + fees
– Volcano Bay Express: $19.99 + fees
Where to buy the Express Pass
Well, of course you can buy the Express Pass inside the theme parks.
They are sold in several places in the park, practically all stores in the park allow this purchase.
If you prefer, you can also buy the Universal Express Pass before your trip to the park.
There are several places that sell, we recommend our agency, you can buy the express pass by clicking here!
Get the Universal Express Pass for Free
If you're staying at one of Universal's premier resort hotels, Universal Express Unlimited is included free of charge for every day of your visit.
This includes your check-in and departure date.
The value of this cannot be underestimated, especially if it is high season.
Yes, hotel prices are based on expected crowds, but if you're already thinking about buying the Express Pass, do the math and see if it makes sense to stay.
For larger groups of three or more, it's often even cheaper to stay onsite with Unlimited Express than to stay out and buy Unlimited Express separately.
You get the added benefit of being so close to the parks when you stay on-site, plus access to all the fabulous pools, luxurious rooms and other on-site amenities.
We have already stayed in one of the hotels that offers this benefit and our experience was incredible, we show a little bit on our youtube channel:
Hotels Offering Free Universal Express Pass
Below we will talk about all the hotels that offer the Express Pass for free when staying there.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando
One of Universal Studios luxury hotels that offers a space as if it were an Italian villa.
The theme of this hotel is really impressive.
The Portofino Bay Hotel also has 4 different restaurants.
It is a very beautiful and luxurious hotel, accommodation here starts from $438 per night.
And you can make your reservations clicking here!
Loews Royal Pacific Resort
A wonderful hotel that we had the opportunity to stay at.
It is also one of Universal's Luxury hotels and by staying in it you can reach Citywalk and Universal Studios parks in 10 minutes walking along a very pleasant path.
It is the cheapest of Universal's luxury hotels that offer the Express Pass. And you can stay there for from $ 370 per night.
And you can make your reservations directly on Hotels.com Clicking here!
Universal's Hard Rock Hotel
A hotel that needs no introduction.
There are several Hard Rock hotels around the world and they are well known.
You can stay at Universal's Hard Rock for from $ 404 per night.
And just like the others, And you can make your reservations directly on Hotels.com by clicking here!
The others Universal hotels, Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal's Aventura Resort and Universal's Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites & Dockside Inn and Suites do not offer Universal Express Unlimited, but they do offer early entry to the park (which is well worth it in itself).
Remember that you still need the tickets to enter the park and if you want to buy the Express Pass you will have to buy it.
Keep in mind that Universal Express passes may sell out, but that will likely only be on the busiest days.
Unlike most tickets, Universal Express is date specific, so you need to know which days you plan to be at the parks.
When to Buy the Universal Express Pass
We will list here some of the alternatives when the Express Pass will be worth your trip.
When Parks Are Expected to be Overcrowded
When our Crowd Calendar predicts high crowds, these are the best times to consider the Universal Express Pass.
You might even consider it on mid-range days if you're particularly averse to queues, or if money isn't an issue for you.
If you only have one day and you want to see as much as possible
If you are taking a short trip (or just a day to Universal) and need to do the park very quickly or do both parks on the same day.
If it is any of these cases, the Universal Express pass will be a good idea.
If you're going on one of those super busy days, these are essential to make the most of your time.
Is Universal Express Pass worth it?
No matter when you visit, having Universal Express saves you time.
How long may depend on the tour and certain situations.
If you buy an Express Pass, avoid using it immediately if you have the standard one-time pass.
Many people will queue and increase the waiting time for the normal and express queues. With that even the Express will be full.
We once got into the Express queue for The Incredible Hulk when the normal queue's wait time was 60 minutes.
We waited, rode the roller coaster and were back in our locker in 15 minutes!
Same thing with Flight of the Hippogriff – it was a 45 minute wait, and we were in and out in 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, for Skull Island: Reign of Kong, we waited about 35 minutes on the Express, when the standby indicated 55 minutes by the time we got off the tour.
With the Express, we waited 30 minutes for Harry Potter and Escape from Gringotts when the standby said 50 minutes.
Even if it took a little longer, it still saved time, but is it worth the money invested?
The big question really is how much you value the time you save.
It is actually a very personal choice.
There are other ways to save time at Universal Studios parks
If you don't want to buy Universal Express Pass, or if they're out of budget, don't worry!
There are still great ways to save time at the parks.
The first one is Buy Your Own tickets in advance!
You don't want to waste any of your precious time queuing to buy tickets at the park entrance to start your day.
Plus, you'll save more money if you buy in advance.
Get to the parks before the official opening.
The gates often open even before the official opening time, so you can enjoy your day even more.
This is the least busy time the parks will have all day, so it's the best time to visit the most popular rides.
If you're staying at one of Universal's hotels, take advantage of Early Park Admission to the parks, especially Universal's Volcano Bay where you can enter the park before they officially open to other visitors.
Plan your day at the park
We have several guides to Universal's parks here on the Blog, be sure to check them out here.
And of course, if you need professional help, contact us to set up your Custom Travel Script!
Use the Single Rider Queues
We talked a little about them in the middle of our post.
And as we mentioned, Single Riders lines usually go even faster than Universal Express.
As long as you are ok with splitting up the group, Single Rider queues can save you a lot of time from your trip.
I hope again that this post helped you in your research for your trip to Disney or Orlando.
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About the Author Carlos Braga:
Unparalleled experience in Orlando and Disney! As a former Universal Orlando team member and a passionate devotee of the magic of Disney, I have become a true Orlando travel expert. Before becoming a renowned travel consultant dedicated to Orlando, I had already made hundreds of visits to the parks, cultivating my knowledge and passion mainly over the last 7 years as a consultant and specialist in Disney travel.
My journey into this enchanted world began in 1995, when I took my first trip to Orlando. Since then, my love for Disney and the city has only grown. In 2023, we celebrate the sixth anniversary of 'Partiu Disney Parks', consolidating our role as one of the main sources of information about Disney and Orlando Parks.
During these six years of existence, we have continued to offer quality and updated content, being the reliable source for all those looking for essential information to plan their trip to Disney and Orlando. With my vast experience and passion for this magical destination, I am here to guide you every step of the way towards the most incredible Orlando and Disney experience!