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Best Time to Visit Universal Orlando in 2020 & 2021

by Leap on September 24, 2020 1641 Orlando

Best Time to Visit Universal Orlando in 2019 - Wizarding World - Diagon AlleyThis is what Universal Orlando Resort trip planning sounds like around the frog pond:

"We have to do Forbidden Journey first."

"Are you crazy? Escape from Gringotts!"

"I was thinking of splashing into the pool at Cabana Bay Beach Resort right after we check in."

Yes. Even us savvy trip planners can get hung up on how to tackle a Universal Orlando vacation. One of the few things we can agree on is WHEN to visit. Crowd levels have a big impact on everyone's theme park vacation. This post outlines the very best times to visit Universal Orlando in 2020 and 2021. It also outlines the more crowded times to visit. This year has brought more challenges than most with COVID-19, and now there is more criteria when deciding the best time to visit Universal Orlando. Since the parks reopened, they initially saw the lowest crowds perhaps ever. While things have most definitely picked up, it's still a pretty hoppin' good time to visit.

Universal is limiting park attendance and has introduced health and safety measures to help keep everyone safe. While some of you are waiting for a return to "normal" times, those of you who are OK with a modified experience and a mask requirement may actually find it's a better experience. While we have no crystal ball on when things will return to normal, we expect there won't be a full return to normal until at least the second half of 2021. We can at least give you our best guesses on crowd levels based on our years of data collection and insights. We'll dive into the trends for the rest of this year below.

The Best Time to Visit Universal Orlando in 2020 and 2021

As we've said before with visiting Disney World, there's never a bad time to visit Universal Orlando. The Frog Family has hopped down during every season and successfully managed the crowds. We stick with our basic plan — get to the park at opening, take breaks in the afternoon when the parks are at their busiest, make use of our park plans and wait-time app, and use Universal Express. For those of you who can, we highly recommend visiting the parks on weekdays, especially through the end of the year.

Best Time to Visit Universal Orlando in 2019 - Loews Portofino Bay Resort

We also highly recommend you consider staying on-site at one of Universal’s official hotels that offer Universal Express Unlimited  basically unlimited skip-the-line access on most rides at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The Universal hotels that offer the benefit are Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Universal's Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort. This skip-the-regular line benefit is a big help for saving time in the parks, especially if you are visiting on weekends.

While crowds are currently lower, largely because of lowered caps on attendance to better maintain social distancing, they have picked up considerably since June, July and August. The parks have even hit the new capacity in recent weeks, including over Labor Day weekend. This is in large part due to locals, who are taking advantage of some amazing ticket offers. Universal introduced promo tickets for Florida residents — essentially a mini-annual pass for the price of a one-day ticket — that are valid until Dec. 24, 2020.

Going into the fall and winter, we expect to see crowds remain high, particularly on weekends, when the locals come out. Just how busy? If we're at a level 3 or 4 on crowds now, we'd expect them to go up to a 5 or 6 levels on weekends. That is still considerably lower than "normal" times, but it's not nearly as empty as it was when the parks initially reopened. While Universal canceled Halloween Horror Nights this year, which brings in many, many people, it opened a couple of its houses for a trial run Sept. 19 and 20, and then announced the Halloween festivities — including trick-or-treating for kids at Universal's Islands of Adventure — would continue on select days through Nov. 1. While plans for the holidays have not yet been announced, we expect Universal will have some hoppy holiday events and festivities, although its usual Christmas parade is unlikely. These events will help draw visitors, although again, not at pre-pandemic levels.

As far as crowds go, this is still one of the best times to visit Universal Orlando in years. As mentioned above, Universal has implemented several key health and safety measures, most notably social distancing, attendance limits and mask requirements. You can read more about what to expect if you visit Universal Orlando now. Visiting the parks now isn't for everyone, and you have to make the call on what is best for your family. If you are OK following along with these procedures, it's possible you may just experience the best theme park vacation you've ever had!

Determining the Best Time to Visit Universal Orlando in 2020 and 2021

Before booking your vacation to Universal on our site, we recommend you check our Crowd Calendar. You can get a view of the crowd levels by day, month or the whole year. You'll also find individual park recommendations so you can easily see at a glance the best time to visit Universal Orlando in 2020 and 2021.

There's no denying there are better times to visit Universal Orlando than others. It should come as no surprise that the best time to visit Universal Orlando usually falls along school schedules. While this is not true this year, thanks to COVID-19, generally, when the tadpoles are out of school, there are higher crowds at Universal. This usually applies to one-day holidays such as Martin Luther King Day, weeklong spring break or the big draw — summer vacation.

Special events should also be a consideration in deciding the best time to visit, and they are also displayed on the crowd calendar. For example, Halloween Horror Nights can scare up a good crowd (yes, I went there). Even Universal's scaled-back Halloween event this year, featuring two haunted houses, was enough to bring out more visitors. 

Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure Opening CrowdsBig openings, like we had in June 2019 with Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, can also bring big crowds who want to be among the first to experience the magic. Even openings at other resorts, such as Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney World, have some trickle-over effect. The opening of this new land in a galaxy (and resort), OK, not so far, far away no doubt has brought additional visitors to Universal. I mean, if you are already coming to Orlando for Star Wars, why not experience the Wizarding World too?

While understandably there are reasons for more uncertainty through the remainder of this year, know that ride and land openings do influence crowds.  We expect there will still be demand to visit these new experiences once the parks reopen, but there are still many other factors at play the rest of the year, including coronavirus, the economy, unemployment and potential travel restrictions (international and domestic).

So When Is the Best Time to Universal Orlando in 2020 and 2021?

The very best times to visit Universal Orlando in 2020 are ...

  • Jan. 6-16, Jan. 27-Feb. 13
  • Feb. 24-March 6
  • June through August
  • Most weekdays in September (weekends will be busier)
  • Most weekdays in October (weekends will be busier)
  • Weekdays in November (minus the week of Thanksgiving)
  • Weekdays in December (minus the week of Christmas and New Year's Eve)

The very best times to visit Universal Orlando in 2021 are ...

  • Jan. 4-14, Jan. 25-Feb. 12
  • Feb. 22-March 5
  • The second half of August
  • Most days in September (minus Fridays with Halloween Horror Nights)
  • Most weekdays in October (minus Fridays with Halloween Horror Nights)
  • Weekdays in November (minus the week of Thanksgiving)
  • Weekdays in December (minus the week of Christmas and New Year's Eve)

Historically, September has been the very best month of the year to visit Universal Orlando in terms of crowds because the kids have just returned to school. It is still our pick for best month to visit. The popularity of Halloween Horror Nights, however, has brought in more crowds, and the event regularly sells out. If you're visiting the resort for that time, and specifically for that event, make sure you purchase your tickets first and book your hotel early. Those weekends could see more guests who come in for the event and spend their daytime hours inside the parks.

Best Time to Visit Universal Orlando in 2019 - Incredible Hulk Coaster

Keep in mind that September is the height of Orlando's rainy season. You should prepare for daily afternoon thunderstorms and possibly more rain than that. Come prepared with ponchos. With those caveats out of the way, we still feel that fall is a good time to visit Universal Orlando.

The Most Crowded Time to Visit Universal Orlando

The worst times to visit Universal Orlando in 2020 are ...

  • Jan. 1-5, Jan. 18-20
  • Feb. 14-23
  • Early March
  • The week of Thanksgiving
  • The week of Christmas through the week of New Year

The worst times to visit Universal Orlando in 2021 are ...

  • Jan. 1-3, Jan. 15-24
  • Feb. 13-21
  • March 6-April 11
  • Weekends in May
  • June
  • July
  • The first half of August
  • The week of Thanksgiving
  • The week of Christmas through the week of New Year

The big variable for spring is when Easter falls. When it's earlier in the season, there is generally a shorter, more intense "spring break" as school districts narrow down the week they give kids off. When it's later in spring, there is generally a longer but less intense "spring break" season as school districts have more variance in the week they give kids off. In 2021, Easter falls on April 4, making it a longer season than 2020, when it fell on April 12. These are still more spread out and less intense than when Easter lands in March.

Holiday Crowds at Universal Orlando in 2020 and 2021

Holidays bring crowds, and for good reasons. People are off from work and want to enjoy their time in the parks. Many families make it a tradition to gather at Universal Orlando to celebrate everything from Easter to Thanksgiving. Universal Orlando Resort has festive and frightening holiday events.

We've already mentioned the impact of crowds from Halloween Horror Nights. Christmas has also become a bigger deal at Universal Orlando than in past years with the arrival of Christmas In The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Muggles and wizards alike are flocking to the parks to enjoy the holiday decorations, entertainment and food in Hogwarts and Diagon Alley. While Christmas festivities have not yet been confirmed for 2020, we expect there will be some special holiday hoppenings.

Universal Orlando's Most Crowded Holidays:

  • New Year's Day - Jan. 1
  • Easter - April 12, 2020, and April 4, 2021
  • July 4th
  • Thanksgiving - Nov. 26, 2020, and Nov. 25, 2021
  • Christmas Eve - Dec. 24
  • Christmas - Dec. 25
  • New Year's Eve - Dec. 31

Best Holidays to Visit Universal Orlando in 2020 and 2021

Stock up on those precious personal days and consider visiting on these less crowded holidays. It will still be busy, but not as noticeable as Christmas.

  • Labor Day - Sept. 7, 2020, and Sept. 6, 2021
  • Columbus Day - Oct. 12, 2020, and and Oct.11, 2021
  • Veteran's Day (and Veteran's Day Observed) - Nov. 9, 2020 (observed), and Nov. 11, 2021

Now you know the best time to visit Universal Orlando in 2020 and 2021. Wondering how crowds will be during your trip? Check out our Crowd Calendar. You'll find more resources to help you plan your Universal Orlando vacation on our When to Visit Orlando page inside the Orlando Planning Timeline!

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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1–50 of 1389 comments
Dec 4, 2020 at 2:48 a.m. Steve Lebo Says...

I am torn… I booked a trip to universal staying at the hard rock for December 20 through the 26th. I initially thought not many people would want to go during Covid. I am seeing large crowds… Can anyone give me some insight into what they think the crowds will be like in a few weeks? I have a 10-year-old and a 12 year old and I’m concerned about social distancing and people wearing masks. Also general safety of myself… I am in a high-risk category thank you for any and all feedback and input.

Dec 2, 2020 at 5:23 p.m. GIJoey11 Says...

Thank you guys so much for keeping us informed and updated. Although we are anxious to visit Universal Orlando as a family for the first time, we are patient and can wait :) :) :) We will be able to plan much better thx to your blog :)

Nov 1, 2020 at 2:31 a.m. Shane M Says...

We’re just wrapping up an Orlando trip, and you can definitely tell the difference between weekend and weekday visits. I normally come down around this time anyways, but given with everything going on, this has been an extremely easy trip in terms of crowd levels at both Universal and Disney.

Oct 31, 2020 at 8:11 p.m. Jessica Rademacher Says...

Thank you for all your wonderful information and tips and tricks!!

Oct 31, 2020 at 5:56 p.m. Lucchox Says...

My best travel was in 2012, I get for free the meet plan for all my family and 1 night free only getting 3 and 2 days tickets

Oct 31, 2020 at 4:18 p.m. Renee T Says...

We always check your blog when planning a visit to universal Orlando to plan a great family vacation. Thanks for sharing all the tips.

Oct 31, 2020 at 4:14 p.m. Pam Says...

Can’t wait to visit!

Oct 31, 2020 at 1:24 p.m. SuzEpp Says...

Undercover Tourist has great info and prices. Thank you.

Oct 31, 2020 at 1:12 p.m. Kimberly Anderson Says...

I have bought tickets from you in the past and will certainly do so again but it would be nice to win a free trip so thank you for the opportunity

Oct 31, 2020 at 12:49 p.m. Terri Bollin Says...

Thanks for the chance. I would love to win an go on a great family vacation because 2020 has been a horrible year for everyone!

Oct 31, 2020 at 6:50 a.m. BW Says...

Mardi Gras!

Oct 31, 2020 at 4:36 a.m. Alicia T. Says...

Great resource for planning my trip. Love!!

Oct 31, 2020 at 4:04 a.m. kathleen m hummitsch Says...

have had to postpone our universal vaca two years in a row now! have to go in 2021 if it kills us!

Oct 31, 2020 at 2:45 a.m. Luanne Says...

I'm hoping the fact that a number of Universal hotels staying closed until 2021 makes the crowds more manageable. That's a lot fewer guests being able to advantage of early access right? Or is this wishful thinking?

Oct 31, 2020 at 2:44 a.m. Lisa Boggess Says...

I would love to go back to Universal. We just went to Disney and Universal in August (bought through undercover tourist and would again), first time for universal, 2nd time for Disney. First trip was 11 years ago. Loved it even with all the restrictions.

Oct 31, 2020 at 2:42 a.m. Annemarie Says...

Love Universal and Undercover Tourist! ❤️

Oct 31, 2020 at 1:18 a.m. Ashley Ocasio Says...

Loved Orlando Parks!!

Oct 31, 2020 at 1:01 a.m. Alster Says...

Love this!

Oct 30, 2020 at 10:52 p.m. Jbark Says...

Any time is the best time!

Oct 30, 2020 at 8:11 p.m. Rocío Duharte Says...

Hope we win this!!!

Oct 30, 2020 at 7:54 p.m. Nidhi C Says...

Visiting universal Orlando makes perfect family vacation. Thanks for sharing all the tips.

Oct 30, 2020 at 6:21 p.m. karen mead Says...

This is such a great resource, thank you.

Oct 30, 2020 at 6:19 p.m. Julia Chambers Says...

Great company, easy to work with.

Oct 30, 2020 at 6:06 p.m. Doug_16 Says...

Thank you Underground Tourist for the Vance to win a trip to Universal Orlando. We love Universal and We love Underground Tourist!!!

Oct 30, 2020 at 5:54 p.m. Piper Lang Says...

Pick me! pick me! I LOVE all things Disney and Universal Orlando ❤️

Oct 30, 2020 at 5:42 p.m. PattiL Says...

I haven’t been to Universal Orlando. I would LOVE to see, hear, ride, eat and experience everything!

Oct 30, 2020 at 4:29 p.m. Marissa Says...

I stayed at the Portafino Hotel and loved it!! Highly recommend!

Oct 30, 2020 at 3:52 p.m. Carissa Says...

Your information is always helpful.

Oct 30, 2020 at 3:42 p.m. Pearly Says...

Week days in December is. Perfect ????

Oct 30, 2020 at 3:14 p.m. Desirae Says...

Hoping to use these helpful tips soon!!!

Oct 30, 2020 at 3:13 p.m. BekkyK Says...

I am dying to take my family to Orlando parks, we have been saving for my whole life to be able to visit Disney and Universal theme parks as a family.

Oct 30, 2020 at 3:04 p.m. Nichole Wagner Says...

So bummed that I didn't go right when they opened!

Oct 30, 2020 at 2:58 p.m. Jackie R Says...

LOVE Visiting in October over our kid's fall break! We are pretty much a walk on most rides during the week but just as the article said, Fridays and Saturdays are much busier so we save those days for lollygaggin' :P

Oct 30, 2020 at 2:41 p.m. Melissa G Says...

Is there ever a bad time to visit Universal?

Oct 30, 2020 at 1:36 p.m. Ashley Pelletier Says...

Going next year 2021!

Oct 30, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. Says...

Can't wait to visit again!

Oct 30, 2020 at 7:37 a.m. Josan Says...

Best time is mid sept, great weather and affordable lines

Oct 30, 2020 at 7:32 a.m. Michelle Bush Says...

Lot's of great info here. Can't wait to get back to the Parks.

Oct 30, 2020 at 6:50 a.m. djazgirl Says...

We used your site last year to go to Universal. So VERY helpful! Thank you so much.

Oct 30, 2020 at 6:41 a.m. C Bow Says...

Will be using your calendar on our next visit! Thank you.

Oct 30, 2020 at 5:11 a.m. kimberly forrester Says...

We have bought tickets from Undercover several times. We're Universal/WDW junkies. This sight has endless info! Love it

Oct 30, 2020 at 4:06 a.m. Alexander Pliscofsky Says...

Can't wait to go back to Florida!

Oct 30, 2020 at 3:03 a.m. Irasutex Says...

Love your posts and helpful tips. Thank you!

Oct 30, 2020 at 2:25 a.m. Caterina Levato Says...

FYI~ One of the best times I think to visit the parks are the week end right after Thanksgiving~

Oct 30, 2020 at 2:18 a.m. leeny Says...

this blog is so informative and fun to read. thank you

Oct 30, 2020 at 2:12 a.m. Sanaz S Says...

We do Disney every year in January. We are excited to try Universal now that our boys are a little bit older. Thank you for the helpful information!

Oct 30, 2020 at 2:08 a.m. JS Says...

Most years, right after labor day

Oct 30, 2020 at 1:31 a.m. Brandy Says...

We would love to go. We haven’t been there yet.

Oct 30, 2020 at 1:18 a.m. Alicia Says...

Thank you so much for the chance! A trip here would be amazing!!

Oct 30, 2020 at 12:03 a.m. Katie Says...

My kids love Universal Studios and constantly ask when our next trip will be. Undercover Tourist has the best ticket deals.

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