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Universal Orlando Vacation Planning Tips

Universal Orlando: Answers to frequently asked questions about how to get the most out of a visit to the Universal Orlando theme park resort.

From Robert Niles
Posted November 9, 2003 at 7:46 PM
First time visitor? Get started with our introduction to theme park vacations.


Universal Orlando opened in 1990 as Universal Studios Florida. In 1999, the resort added a second park, Islands of Adventure, and the CityWalk entertainment complex. Visitors typically stay a full week to take in Universal Orlando, Disney World and SeaWorld. All three complexes are located within easy driving distance of each other, allowing visitors to pick a hotel from among those near any of the three.

Is Universal Orlando the same as Universal Studios Hollywood?
Not even close. Universal Orlando includes two seperate theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. There's no studio tram tour here, unlike at the original Hollywood park, but there are dozens more rides, including several of the world's best roller coasters and flume rides.

Where should I stay?
Check our Universal Orlando hotel listings for reviews and ratings by recent visitors. Universal has three official, on-site hotels, which often offer free front-of-the-line access for the attractions at Universal parks to their paid guests. In addition, you can find many reasonably priced hotels across the street from the parks' main entrance. If you'll be visiting other theme parks while you are in Orlando, check out our readers' reviews of the hotels near SeaWorld and Walt Disney World, as well.

How do I get tickets?
Try to buy your tickets in advance, either through Universal's Web site or through an independent ticket broker. Check with the auto club, the human resources department of your company, the student service desk at your school or your union's local office to see if it sells discount theme park tickets. Buying a ticket in advance allows you to save valuable time in the morning on the day you arrive -- time better spent riding rides before the lines build up.

If you buy a multi-day ticket, you can go back and forth between the two parks on each day of your visit. Single-day tickets are good at only one park. Unused days never expire, so they can be used on future visits. But do note that if you get any free "bonus" days on your multi-day pass, those bonus days will expire within a certain amount of time after you buy the ticket.

AAA members can get a 10 percent discount on admission tickets, as well as meals and merchandise, at Universal Orlando.

Are there any tickets available which are good at other local theme parks?
Yes. Universal offers a four-park "Flex Ticket" that gets you into Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Florida, SeaWorld Orlando and the Wet 'n Wild water park for 14 consecutive days. Or, you can get a five-park "Flex Ticket" that adds Busch Gardens Tampa. No combo Universal/Disney World tickets though.

What is there for kids to do?
Universal Orlando is surprisingly kid-friendly. Parents of toddlers will want to visit the Barney show at Universal Studios Florida, and spend some extra time in the Barney's Backyard indoor playground next door. It's a nice place to allow your young ones to burn off some energy while getting away from the Florida sun and heat. Older kids might like Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure, a themed land with rides and play areas dedicated to the works of Dr. Seuss.

What should I do first?
Check out our "Inside Scoop" tour plans for visiting Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida for specific advice. No matter which park you visit, get there early, before queues build up.

Universal offers a ride reservation system called "Universal Express." This works similar to Disney's FastPass system, with a couple of differences. First, you can buy a booklet of Universal Express tickets at the front gate, eliminating the need to go around to the various attractions to collect passes. Plus, the booklet allows you hold passes for multiple rides at once.

Each booklet is good for only one person, and for one admission to each eligible ride. With either the booklet or the free individual passes, you can expect an up-to-15-minute wait to board after your reserved ride time.

Can I watch a show being taped?
From time to time, Universal Studios Florida allows visitors to be in the studio audience for show tapings. Call USF's Studio Audience Hotline at (407) 224-4233, option 5, to ask about show schedules during your trip.

After I get home, how do I contact Universal Orlando (about something I lost, a compliment, a complaint, etc.)?
Contact Guest Services at (407) 224-4233, or write:
Universal Orlando Resort
1000 Universal Studios Plaza
Orlando, Florida 32819-7610

How do I get a job at Universal Orlando?
Call Universal Orlando's Human Resources Department at 407-363-8080.


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From debra allen
Posted February 17, 2004 at 1:28 PM
universal studios is the best theme park ever. they are so helpful to the disabled and their family. I could never of asked for a better park. their prices are so great.compared to disney, universal will get my business every time.I think they're so much better.

From Matt Rogers
Posted February 26, 2004 at 6:20 PM
I agree. Universal is helpful and they have a great reputation. (ever notice Universal doesn't have near as many accidents as Disney) All the questions I ask Universal get answered. Everyone must do Universal.

From JP parking Guy
Posted February 26, 2004 at 9:06 PM
go to http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com

and watch the pr video for revenage of the mummy!

From Alexander Van Mecl
Posted March 15, 2004 at 2:42 PM
Universal Studios Orlando Florida is a must see theme park. In my opinion, the best theme park in the world. Sure I havn't been to EVERY single theme park in the world but I dont see how anyone can over power Universal. Disney, like many people say, has alot of accidents and injuries while you dont have any at Universal. Also Disney has alot of old attractions while Universal updates there old ones, makes sure there safe, and has plans for the future for them. Disney is so over-rated and Universal is just a wonderful oasis! Universal focuses on helping family members, treating people properly and nice, and they also focus on there rides, attractions, how clean the park is, and definitly security. Disney dosn't do nearly as much as that. Universal is my #1 choice and anyone who loves movies, rollercoasters, or shows will definitly love Universal Orlando!

From patrick sayre
Posted April 2, 2004 at 10:49 AM
A quick question if you don't mind.

What is considered "off season?" I am planning on going for the first time in Nov. but would really like to avoid HUGE HOURS LONG LINES.

From Matt Rogers
Posted April 2, 2004 at 2:41 PM
I'm not positive but I think off season is from New Years to Febuary.Use single rider lines!

From Dave Laber
Posted April 27, 2004 at 12:09 PM
I've not been to Universal Studios Orlando in quite some time. I'd like to go again but I have an 18 month old daughter (27 inches tall); are there very many rides she is allowed to go on? It seems to me that going to Disney is my only choice until she is much taller according to Universal's Web Site. I could be missing something though. Someone let me know.
Thanks.

From Robert Niles
Posted April 27, 2004 at 12:35 PM
Actually, I've taken two 18-month-olds to Orlando, and both preferred Universal to Disney. Keep in mind that a child that age won't be able to handle much time at the parks -- some time in the morning, followed by lunch, then back to the hotel for a nap. You can come back to the park for a couple hours after an early dinner, and that's it.

Here's what I would recommend at Universal for a toddler that age:

At Universal Studios Florida:

  • A Day in the Park with Barney
  • Barney's Backyard playground
  • Animal Planet Live show
  • Curious George water playground... if it is not too crowded and adult is there to help.
  • Fievel's Playland

    At Islands of Adventure:

  • The Cat in the Hat
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • If I Ran the Zoo playground
  • Caro-Seuss-el (though some kids that age might freak out if they are not Seuss fans and thus used to the "look" of the characters.
  • Triceratops Discovery Trail
  • Camp Jurassic (if the child is particularly rambunctious.)
  • Me Ship, the Olive water play area.

    We've bought two-day passes to Universal to allow us to park-hop, and usually go to IOA in the morning and USF in the afternoon. Then we either repeat that on the second day, or save the unused second day for a future trip. (Unused days on Universal Orlando tickets do not expire.)

    Hope this helps.

    From Andrea Galjour
    Posted May 11, 2004 at 1:30 PM
    I have a 3 year old who is 40 inches tall and I have an 11 year old. I'm worried that there are not many rides for my 3 year old to ride.

    From Adrian Walker
    Posted May 26, 2004 at 6:47 AM
    Definetely my favourite park.

    From Mary Ann Nowak
    Posted May 28, 2004 at 7:48 PM
    Just returned from trip week of May 9 - we were there on a Friday/Saturday. My best hints --get there early - no matter which park. For 9:00 opening, try and be there by 8:30. Spiderman and Hulk first at IOA. USF- first ride should be Revenge of the Mummy. Use Single Rider lines when you can,you won't be that far from the rest of your group and sometimes you get done almost at same time.
    I purchased e-tickets from the Universal website. They had a special - 5 consecutive days for the price of 2. Check their website for specials. You print the e-ticket confirmation at home and scan it in at kiosks at the park. This saves time since you don't have to wait in the regular ticket line. It worked smoothly for us. Park starts to crowd up around lunchtime, so try and see as much as you can in the morning.

    From Tyler Upshaw
    Posted May 30, 2004 at 6:24 PM
    I visted Universal about a year and a half ago and had a great time with my my 7 year old daughter. I did have a question maybe someone can anser on the express pass system. When we were there we saw that some people had a coupon book that allowed express access to specific rides. The problem was that the tickets had to be used on that ride and only one was in the book per ride. We however bought ticket books ($25 for a book of 5 or 10)at the fronty gate that allowed express access to any ride, it was basically a general ticket much like the on site hotel room key system, any ride could be used, multiple times if desired. Does anyone know if these open express tickets are still sold?

    From Brad Watson
    Posted June 4, 2004 at 12:13 AM
    The express books seem to be regularly sold at customer care and the front merchandise shops in the park--advertising for these books are increasing for it seems the window that non-resort guests can get a computerized express pass from the kiosks is just a few hours from opening. On the last couple of visits, all kiosks in each park would shut down before noon, which would leave the Loews guests and those that buy the books.

    From Brad Watson
    Posted June 4, 2004 at 12:21 AM
    There's also one more option when it comes to questions to universal: send it electronically thru their website at http://www.universalstudios.com/homepage/html/contact_us/contact_form.cgi?email_id=1 and they'll reply back with 24 hours with plenty of info.

    From Christian Nicely
    Posted August 1, 2004 at 6:24 PM
    I love Universal Orlando. In my opinion Island's of Adventure is the best.
    QUESTION THOUGH: Which is better ICE or Fire on the Dueling Dragons?

    From mike f
    Posted August 15, 2004 at 8:48 AM
    I WILL BE IN UNIVERSAL FOR 3 DAYS NEXT WEEK. I HEAR THAT SOME RIDES HAVE A 90 MINUTE WAIT. IF I GET A UNIVERSAL EXPRESS PASS FOR THESE RIDES - WHAT IS THE WAIT TIME WITH THE EXPRESS PASSES?? HOW MUCH TIME IS SAVED BY GOING ON THE SIGLE RIDER LINES? WHICH IS BETTER (WE ARE A FAMILY WITH THREE KIDS)

    ALSO HAS ANYONE STAYED AT THE DOUBLETREE HOTEL NEAR CITYWALK (OUTSIDE PARK)?

    THANKS
    MIKE

    From Adrian Walker
    Posted August 15, 2004 at 11:09 AM
    Unfortunaly Christian, I can't say which is better out of fire and ice (Being the wimp I am). But remember this...They are NOTHING without the other coaster to duel with.

    From Christian Nicely
    Posted August 29, 2004 at 2:18 PM
    That is true adrain! I only rode fire not ice yet. I love the Hulk best!

    From Jase Ruggles
    Posted October 9, 2004 at 6:15 PM
    In June 2005 me and about 20 other teenagers from skool are going to Orlando to either Disney or Universal. Which should we go to?

    From Mark Fairleigh
    Posted November 10, 2004 at 9:32 PM
    Jase,
    Since your group consists of teens I would definitely recommend Universal over Disney if you had to choose one. Disney is a bit out-dated and caters more to nostalgia buffs wanting to relive the old magic days of the Mickey Mouse Club, etc. For thrills, can't beat Universal.

    This discussion has been archived, and is not accepting additional responses.

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