Taking on Universal Orlando is serious business, one that we’re trying to get down to an exact science, which is why we try to visit every spring break – it has nothing to do with being adrenaline junkies, we promise. Last year, we discovered the beauty of Fast Passes and the free entertainment of visiting during the Mardi Gras celebration. This year, we tested out the dining plans and a photo card too; all with the goal of creating the ultimate Universal Orlando experience.
Get Express Passes (Better yet, get them free!)
Universal Express Passes start around $40 a day and there is no question in my mind that they’re worth it, especially if you’re traveling during a high season. It makes getting on the most popular and your favorite rides, easy and quick. We even went on a few multiple times! They can be purchased with your tickets or separately once you arrive at the park.
Pro Tip: Guests staying at participating Universal Hotels including: Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay, and Loews Royal Pacific GET FREE EXPRESS PASSES EACH DAY.
Another great way to make sure you spend the least amount of time waiting in lines is by downloading Universal’s free Wait Times app (iOS, Android). Use the app to see what rides are nearest you and plan your ride order according to wait times. We also used it to figure out the best time to take snack and meal breaks!
Take Advantage of Dining Plans
As we all know, it’s meals, snacks and drinks that can really put a hole in your wallet. For just $19.99 per adult and $12.99 per child, the Universal Dining Plan Quick Service plan is a great deal that takes some of the stress out of a long day at the theme park. This is what you get:
- 1 Quick Service Meal (Adult)
(includes 1 entrée, 1 non-alcoholic beverage)
- 1 Snack (Churros, Popcorn, and the famous pink sprinkled giant Lard Lad Donut are just a few of the options!)
- 1 Non-Alcoholic Beverage (that makes two beverages!)
Plus, there were over 100 places to use the passes, so it wasn’t like we were limited to just one or two restaurants. I found that it was perfect for grabbing lunch and a snack during our day at the park. The dining plans are loaded onto a type of gift card which makes it easy to redeem and unlike cash, it’s water proof!
With lunch and snacks taken care of, that leaves the dinner hour to take advantage to one of the great sit-down restaurants at City Walk before taking on the City Walk night life or heading back to the hotel for the night.
Pro Tip: Spend a day between park visits lounging at the hotel pool. It will keep you from becoming burned out.
Check Out All of the 3D and 4D Rides
Classic coasters have their place at Universal Studios but to be honest, I go there for the incredible 3D and 4D rides. A few of our favorites include:
- Amazing Adventures of Spiderman*
- TRANSFORMERS: The Ride*
- The Simpsons Ride*
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (Fun for the whole family!)
- Shrek 4D
See More of Our Favorite Old School and New School Rides.
*These rides were a bit too intense for some of the younger members of our group, even though they passed the height requirement, as 4D rides can feel very real. Which is why we also have a list of the best rides kids under 40in and adrenaline-junkines-in-training.
Get ALL The Photos
There are so many opportunities for character meet and greets at Universal Orlando, not to mention all of the in-ride cameras. If this is something that’s important to you, I recommend going with a Photo Connect Package. We chose the 3-Day Universal’s Photo Connect® Star Card. It’s perfect for families or groups. A few of the perks include a free 5×7 or 8×10 print and a free 4×6. Plus, unlimited digital downloads of your theme park photos and character meet and greets. It also offers discounts on extra prints.
Pro Tip #1 : Request an additional card and you can use the same package for everyone in your group!
Pro Tip #2 : Purchase this package online before your visit and save $10.
Save Money on Tickets
Universal Studios offers a variety of ways to save money on tickets for select groups of people.
- Florida Residents can save up to $64 per day off gate prices.
- Military Discount thru your MWR/ITT Office
- Choose Multi-Day Park Tickets for more savings. For instance, right now they have a 3rd day free option!
- Tickets purchased online are usually cheaper than at the gate.
A big thank you to Universal Studios and Island of Adventure for providing complimentary passes to the SAS family for review purposes. All opinions are original.