Recently my family and I hit up Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida and boy did we have an amazing day. You heard that right! We hit up both Universal Studios AND Islands of Adventure in just.one.day. It was a whirlwind, but we managed to get in EVERYTHING we wanted to see! Read on for my tips on planning your trip if all you have is one day to spend!
- Purchase tickets online ahead of time. This will ensure that you skip the long ticket lines and can head straight to the admission line. I did have a complaint about the admission line – I’m not sure why, but the line we chose took about 3 times as long as the other lines to get through. I’m not even joking. I had a couple behind me finally jump ship to the line next to us (we kept hanging in there thinking it would pick up at some point! As an FYI it was the farthest rIgor line) and they were through about 10 minutes before I was! And that was with them heading to the back of the line. So keep your eyes sharp and look out for any slow moving lines.
- Splurge on the Express Pass if you’re going during the busy season. If you only have one day and you want to hit up both parks, the Express Pass is a must. We went during Thanksgiving week when the crowds were heavy and the lines long. With the Express Pass we never waited more than 10 minutes! Without the passes we would not have been able to accomplish all of the rides that we wanted. The only downfall is that they aren’t good on the popular Harry Potter rides like Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
- Plan ahead. Prior to our day in the park I downloaded the Universal Studios app. I went through section by section and favorited each attraction that my family members and I really wanted to see. This was handy once we were in the park because I simply pulled up the app, chose which ride we wanted to do and then unfavorited it once we were done!
- Choose a weekday if possible. The parks are busier on the weekend, so if possible, go during the week.
- Arrive a bit before opening. If it is a busy time of year, definitely go about an hour ahead of opening so that you can get in line and get inside. If it is a slower time, I would get there at least 15 minutes before.
- Hit up Universal Studios first. We ended up choosing this because of the attractions we wanted to see, but it worked in our favor. It seemed that everyone headed straight to Island of Adventure and although there were still lots of crowds (Diagon Alley was almost shoulder to shoulder!) it was still a lighter crowd. We also went straight to Diagon Alley trying to beat some of the crowd, but because it was Thanksgiving week and lots of people also had early morning admission this didn’t really work as much in our favor as it would have had it not been a holiday week. The line for Ollivander’s Wand Shop Show was small, though my kids decided to skip that and head straight to the regular wand shop, the Escape from Gringotts line was already 45 minutes. Since my two youngest were okay with not riding it, my husband and daughter hit up the single rider line and were back out with us about 20 minutes later! Definitely take advantage of the single rider lines on the Harry Potter rides if you don’t mind splitting up your party. While they were riding the ride, the kids and I were exploring Diagon Alley and putting their Interactive Wands to use. Although we loved the experience, I did notice a lot of frustrated kids (and parents) trying to get their rather expensive wands to work. There were a few park employees at some of the stations to offer assistance, but we found they weren’t super helpful and actually ignored us some of the time! Luckily we got the hang of it (SMALL motions are best – and also finding where the sensors are located) and the kids really enjoyed being able to make things float or make it rain on a persons head (sorry ma’am!). We also checked out some of the fun shops where we picked up a Hedwig and a Pygmy Puff – side note: the Pygmy Puff adoption was adorable. My daughter purchased hers inside Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and there was a whole adoption process that involved the clerk ringing a large bell while my daughter held the Purple Pygmy Puff above her head.
- If you get stuck on a ride be patient, there may be a reward! We rode the Jurassic Park River Adventure and got stuck right before unloading. Literally we could have stepped onto the dock, but we weren’t in the proper unloading spot so were asked to wait. We waited about 8 minutes, and the employees were very nice and joked around with us. Once we finally disembarked they offered us all Express Passes – and the best news?! For those of us that already had them, they gave us a special Express Pass that included all of the normally Non-Express Pass lines – think Harry Potter rides!
Although we did not get to do everything in the two parks, we did hit everything that we wanted to do and had a really great time as a family! The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was the main reason we chose to hit up the two parks and it did not disappoint! (Insider info: when in London make sure to check out the red phone booths! Dial “MAGIC” on the phone and you just may just hear a special message from the Ministry of Magic!) The details are amazing, and for HP fans it is incredible to see everything come to life! All of the 3D and 4D rides were incredible and super fun. Definitely a day we won’t forget anytime soon!
Disclaimer: I received one free media park admission and 5 Express Passes from Orlando Studios. All opinions are 100% my own.