Chances are, if you’ve tried to price out tickets for Universal Studios Orlando, you’ve realized there’s way more to it than it might seem. No worries though! We’ve got you covered. Here’s the 101 for ticket options at Universal Studios.
There are many options for Universal Studios so let’s start with the basics. Did you know that Universal Studios Orlando now has 3 theme parks to choose from? In addition to Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, in 2017 they added a 3rd park called Volcano Bay. Volcano Bay is a water theme park and is a full day park as well.
With 3 parks to choose from, your first decision will be how many parks do you plan to visit? If you’re only visiting for a day and want to get in loads of fun, you may opt to choose just the two main theme parks. If you’re looking to stay and play (which I highly recommend as it’s a huge savings) then you may want to add the water park too.
One Park Only
The options will be listed as either a One Park per day (no park hopping) ticket or a Park to Park ticket. You’ll want to be sure you’ve made the right decision when it comes to park hopping. The Park to Park tickets are the ONLY (no exceptions here) way to ride the Hogwarts Express from one park to the other. As both parks feature Wizarding World lands, if you have a Harry Potter fan in you group, you’ll want the Park to Park tickets. Don’t worry if you opt for the One Park tickets and then decide you’d like to park hop! You can upgrade your tickets while at the park.
One Park tickets can be purchased for Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. These tickets are based on seasonal pricing, so you’ll need to request a quote from your travel agent or price them out directly from the Universal website for your specific dates. You can also view and purchase tickets from within the Universal Orlando app.
Hot tip: Purchasing tickets from a Universal Partner Travel Agent will gain you early entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as well as Volcano Bay and guarantees you the lowest price that’s directly from Universal Studios. Only tickets purchased through a travel agent and on-site hotel guests have access to this perk! The Universal partner hotels can’t even offer this exclusive access!
Park-to-Park tickets can get a bit trickier as there’s a couple of options. This is essentially a park hopper ticket. You can choose either to park hop only to the two main theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, or you can opt to visit both the two main theme parks as well as Volcano Bay water park. These will be listed as either 2-Park, Park-to-Park or 3 Park, Park-to-Park tickets respectively.
With most of their ticket options, the more days you stay, the more you save per day. They’ve even got ticket promos! They almost always have some sort of promo going on, so be sure to ask your travel agent or check the Universal site for the current promotions.
Once you’ve chosen your tickets, you’ve still got more options! Let’s talk about Universal’s Express Pass options.
Universal Studios Orlando offers their Express Pass ticket feature that can be purchased along with, or separately from your admission tickets. That means you can decide if you’d like to purchase them upfront or wait until you’re in the parks. What is the Express Pass you ask?
Universal Studios’ Express Pass option allows you to skip the regular stand-by queue and enter a much shorter, express line. If you’re familiar with Disney’s FastPass, then you’ll know a bit about skipping long lines. However, it’s good to know that Disney’s FastPass+ is much different than Universal’s Express Pass. For starters, Disney’s FastPass+ allows you to select 3 rides per day and this option comes included with your admission ticket.
For Universal’s Express Pass, you’ll have to pay for this option in addition to your admission ticket. That said, you’ll be able to use it at almost every attraction and ride Universal offers! (It doesn’t work for the Pteranodon Flyers and the Fievel’s Playground). Don’t want to pay for this separately? No worries! If you book a stay at one of Universal’s Premiere Hotels- Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific, or Loews Portofino Bay- you’ll automatically receive Universal’s Unlimited Express Pass!
Unlimited Express Passes
Whoa, Meredith you say, but what does the Unlimited part mean? Universal’s Express Pass has two options: the regular Express Pass and the Unlimited Express Pass. While the Express Pass allows you entry to the fast line once per ticket per ride per day, the Unlimited Express Pass affords you the opportunity to use the short line as many times as you like for as many rides as you like per ticket per day. That means if you have a favorite ride and want to go again and again, the Unlimited option is like your golden entrance ticket to that ride. This option is great for kids that may have a favorite and will want to ride over and over.
Each option, regardless of which you choose, must be purchased for each ticket and is good for one day’s admission. This means you’ll need to purchase Express Passes for multiple days if you plan to enjoy Universal’s parks for several days and wish to skip the lines the entire time. This option isn’t cheap either as it can run up to $169/ticket/day so booking a Premiere Hotel is most definitely the most cost-effective way to gain access to their Express Pass feature.
If you book a stay at one of Universal’s Premiere hotels, not only will you be given Unlimited Express Passes for your entire travel party, but you’ll receive them for everyday you’re booked including check-in and check-out days! That means booking even a single night at a Premiere hotel gives you access to the Unlimited Express Passes within the parks for two days!
Water Park Express Passes
But wait, there’s even more options for Universal Studios tickets! Let’s not forget about Universal’s Volcano Bay too! It has its own Express Pass option! While you’ll gain access to the Unlimited Express Passes at the two main theme parks with a Premiere Hotel stay, you’ll want to purchase the Volcano Bay Express Pass option separately if you’d like to use this feature there as well. Premiere Hotel stays do not include the Express Pass for Volcano Bay.
I don’t generally recommend purchasing this option however, because Volcano Bay utilizes their virtual queue on most of the slides and you won’t really need this option. Simply use your Tapu Tapu (we’ll discuss what that is in a later post but think electronic magic band) to check-in to a slide or ride and it’ll show a return time for you. Go swim or grab some food while you wait in the virtual queue then head back when it tells you to.
Universal Studios Tickets: Final Thoughts
What does this all mean? Basically, you’ll need to decide a few things before purchasing your tickets:
- How many days would you like to visit the parks?
- How many parks would you like to visit?
- Do you want to stay in a premier on-site resort?
- Would you like to have the benefit of Express Passes or Unlimited Express Passes?
- Would you like to have Express Pass for the water park as well?
Excited to visit Universal Studios Orlando and ready to start planning now? Check out our Universal Studios playlist on spotify to jam while you plan!
Did you know?
As with most travel options, utilizing a good travel agent is always the best way to go. There’s even an amazing perk to booking tickets with Universal partner agents! You’ll get Early Entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios when you have your Travel Agent book them for you! Only on-site resort packages and TA tickets have that benefit! And best of all, Universal Travel Partners already know all of this information and will be able to advise you on what’s best for you and your travel party. If you’ve already got an agent you work with, then great! Contact them today! Need an agent? We’d be happy to help you plan! Check out our bio page for information on how to contact us and get your own vacation planning going!
Bonus Tip: Be sure to purchase some sort of lanyard or card holder for you and your travel party that has a clear window. This window will allow you to scan your Universal Studios tickets without having to continually get them out and put them back up. You can buy these before you travel or purchase while at Universal from their huge selection of themed lanyards. These are incredibly handy!