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Express Plus Access Worth Extra $

Universal Orlando: Is Universal's Express Plus Access Pass worth the extra money?

From Linda Ulanoff
Posted July 19, 2010 at 7:12 PM
We will be visiting Universal the week of August 7. For those of us who aren't staying on site (we are visiting Disney as well), is it worthwhile to purchase an Express Plus pass (for an additional $45.99/day p.p.). The pass cannot be used for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, so I'm wondering if it's even worth it, since HP is the main reason we are visiting. It also seems that you can only use it for Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios, not both. Seems like a bit of a rip-off, but wanted to know what others thought.


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

From Aaron Moore
Posted July 19, 2010 at 7:32 PM
It is a big rip-off since it can't be used for WWOHP. It really depends what time of day you're visiting the parks. Take advantage of single rider lines if you don't mind your party being split up. Also if you get to the park right when it opens try and ride the rides that are popular (ie. Mummy & Rip, ride, rockit-USO & WWOHP for IOA). But seriously don't buy the pass especially since it's 45 dollars per person. Save your money.

From Nick Markham
Posted July 19, 2010 at 7:39 PM
^It is no rip-off at all. Seeing as to how all of these attractions are included, it is worth it. Also, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is all about its queue, and an Express Pass line would ruin the experience:

-Shrek 4D
-Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast
-Twister
-Revenge of the Mummy
-Beatlejuice's Graveyard Revue
-Disaster
-Jaws
-Men In Black: Alien Attack
-Simpsons
-Animal Actors
-Woody Woodpecker
-ET
-Horror Make-Up Show
-Terminator 2D

-Cat in the Hat
-One Fish, Two Fish...
-Caroseussel
-High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride
-Poseidon's Fury
-Sinbad
***Dragon Challenge***
***Flight of the Hippogriff***
-Jurassic Park River Adventure
-Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls
-Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges
-Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
-Storm Force Acceleration
-Doctor Doom's Fearfall
-Hulk Coaster

You would be crazy to consider this a rip-off.

From Eric Malone
Posted July 19, 2010 at 8:29 PM
I do agree that FJ is all about the queue, but after the first ten/twenty times through, you know the back story. How many times do you want to walk through the queue? Having an Express Pass option would be nice.

From Charles Reichley
Posted July 19, 2010 at 9:10 PM
First, I wanted to say, don't go that week, that's when I'm going. Actually, my family and I will be doing universal/IOA on the 10th-14th.

I decided NOT to buy the passes, because I'm hoping that with 4 days, we should be able to get on everything, without feeling rushed. The 4-day pass is cheaper than the 1-day 2-park pass with the 2-park express, so assuming I really enjoy being at the parks multiple days, it seems a better bargain.

On the other hand, if I end up taking twice as long in line because of the fast queue, and it makes me mad enough, we might just buy passes for one day. :-)

No, actually, my plan is not to buy them (because frankly I DO feel bad when I get to cut in front of other people, even if I spent money which just means I'm richer than other people or can waste more money than other people). Our plan is to try hitting everything in 4 days, but if after 2 days the crowds are bad enough that we haven't made it on all the rides yet, we will spring for the fast passes for one day -- either for one or both parks.

I presume we'll spend 4 hours waiting for Harry potter one day, that way if it eases up by August we will be pleasantly surprised.

I'm always a big stressed hitting new parks, because I don't know how the lines will work. I love my own parks with my season passes because I go when I want, spend a couple of hours, and leave.

This will be a new experience for us, trying to jam full a week in a set of theme parks (we are also hitting the BG parks with our passes).

From Ruth Honor
Posted July 20, 2010 at 8:44 AM

Linda have you considered changing hotels and staying onsite at Universal for a few nights during your stay? This way you and your family can get head of the line ride acess without having to pay for an express pass. We are heading down the first week in August and planning on visiting Disney as well but are staying at the Royal Pacific. Personally I'd never visit Universal again during peak season without staying onsite for this perk.

From Melissa Faulkner
Posted July 20, 2010 at 11:08 AM
We were at both parks last week and stayed onsite so we had express pass with our room key. I have to tell you, it was a God send. The lines at both parks were all over 75 minutes except Dr. Doom which in itself was over 45 minutes. With express we never waited more than 10 minutes for anything. Some of the rides require you to use a locker, I.E. Men in Black and the Mummy. Problem is they are free for the first 40 minutes and then they start charging. If you are in a line that is 75 minutes long, you will end up paying for a locker you didn't want. Most of the single rider lines were hovering around 20-30 minutes. We only had 2 days to do both parks and would have never got everything in without express pass. By the way, the hotel was a wonderful addition to our vacation. We stayed at Royal Pacific and it was beautiful.

From Judd Hall
Posted July 20, 2010 at 12:38 PM
I was at Universal last weekend and we actually ended up getting to the park around 8AM for IOA and 9AM for Universal Studios the following day. The wait times for Spider-Man, Hulk and Jurassic Park were at 5 minutes on the sign. The reality was that we were able to ride all three of those rides in about 40 minutes. The wait for WWOHP was maybe 15 minutes. And the line was 45 minutes for FJ just because people were taking pictures of the queue. I am all for the express pass here, but you can get around purchasing it by hitting the park early. Plus, it allows you to do a lot more stuff in the park you might not do or at least visit other things in the area.

From Deidre Dennis
Posted July 20, 2010 at 6:11 PM
If you can afford it, definitely go with the Express Pass, if you're not staying on site. We've never stayed on site so we always buy the Express Pass. Not only are we able to go to the front of the line with little to no wait, we're able to do both parks in one day. We do it to try and maximize our time in the parks.

From Linda Ulanoff
Posted July 21, 2010 at 11:05 AM
Thanks everyone for your input--it actually was quite helpful. I am purchasing a 4-day pass for the same reason as Charles (btw, your response was very entertaining). Hoping to do everything in 2 days, but realizing we might need more time. I will probably do what you said as well--not purchase it right away but consider doing it if crowds are really bad.

As for staying on site for a few days, I did consider that, but I have a 9 day reservation at Worldquest Resort, where my family is getting a two bedroom, two bath condo for $100 less than what a Universal standard room would cost. My kids are older and it's nice to have the extra space. I think we'll just plan on arriving early and hope for the best, with a back-up plan to purchase pass if needed. Thanks again, everyone.

From Mike Herman
Posted July 21, 2010 at 8:36 PM
Even with the nicer less expensive room elsewhere, one night at Universal may make sense. The basic Hard Rock room is about $240/night in season - $270 with taxes. $15 savings for parking is an offset, especially if at Hard Rock as it is a shorter walk than parking. With 4 family members, that nets out to only about $55 more than buying 4 express passes. Compared to your main hotel, it cuts the pass cost to about $21 a head and you cut your time needed at Universal by a day with the express line.

You'll be a bit cramped compared to the other room but consider it a significant money and time saver.

A possible plan:
Arrive into town on day 0 and spend evening at CityWalk. Spend first night at Universal hotel. Pack so you can leave most of the clothes in the car and carry in only a night 1 bag.

Visit the parks, except Harry Potter, and use the express pass like crazy. If you like, follow the 4 hour plans online and the pass cuts it to about 2-3 hours. It's the first day so your full of energy.

Transfer to your main hotel in the evening. USF and IOA are typicaly only open until 9-10 PM in season and 7-8 off season.

Plan 1 more day (maybe 2) at Universal later in the trip for Harry and for any rides you missed. If you want to see the shows, save them for the second day without the express pass.

From Linda Ulanoff
Posted July 22, 2010 at 5:23 AM
Thanks, Mike. Honestly, it's more the hassle of switching hotels than the cost at this point. Also, I was thinking we would hit Universal on Monday instead of the weekend. We have friends that will be down there on Saturday when we get in, and they'll be staying at/visiting Disney only, and we might try to meet up with them. We'll just do what we can--I am not a huge theme park person to begin with--really doing this for my family. I'd rather spend an entire week lounging on a beach!

From Melissa Faulkner
Posted July 22, 2010 at 7:38 AM
Switching hotels for a night isn't really that hard. We actually stay in Daytona for our vacation so we have our room there for 10 days but we spend one of those nights in Orlando at one of the park hotels. We've stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Polynesian, and this year Royal Pacific. We just pack a small overnight bag and hit it. Makes going to the parks easier, then we drive back to Daytona to our original hotel. Its like a mini-vacation inside our vacation. And its way less expensive than spending 10 days at a resort hotel and we can say we've stayed there. Next year we're looking at Wilderness Lodge as we're going back to Disney.

From Doug Kelley
Posted July 22, 2010 at 9:34 AM
I just came back from Universal last night and I'd say yes, the pass is worth the money but only in this context: use it to visit both parks in one day. Honestly, both Universal parks are half-day parks and they can both be done in one day, particularly if you take advantage of single-rider lines or the pass. The main trick is to save Potter for the end of the day instead of doing it at the start.

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