We get a lot of questions each week about the Universal Orlando Resort — from how many days should I spend at Universal to should I stay on-site. We frogs love helping out, which is why today we're talking about the Universal Express Pass. Universal's skip-the-lines access is a big help in the parks, especially on crowded days. But it's not free (unless you stay on-site at one of Universal's deluxe hotels), so it's important to weigh your options. Today we are outlining when to use Universal Express pass.
Let's first start with the basics.
What Is Universal Express?
Universal Express allows you to skip the lines at the majority of the attractions inside Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure. There is also a Universal Express option for Universal's Volcano Bay water theme park.
The only rides that don't offer Universal Express at Universal Studios Florida are:
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts*
- Hogwarts Express - London
- Kang & Kodos' Twirl 'n' Hurl
- Full list of Universal Studios Florida attractions, including when to visit, height requirements and duration
At Universal's Islands of Adventure, the only rides not to offer Universal Express are:
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey*
- Hogwarts Express - Hogsmeade
- Pteranodon Flyers
- Full list of Universal's Islands of Adventure attractions, including when to visit, height requirements and duration
* Both of these headliners do have single rider lines, which are often faster than even Universal Express. Additionally, they are available when their respective parks are open during Early Park Admission for all Universal hotel guests. So if Universal's Islands of Adventure is open during Early Park Admission, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey will be too.
You can see the full list of rides with Universal Express, along with wait times and park plans, easily on our FREE Orlando Planning App for iPhone.
At Universal's Volcano Bay, the only slide that does not offer Universal Express is Krakatau Aqua Coaster. While guests will use the Tapu Tapu wearable to reserve times and wait in virtual lines, Universal Express offers immediate entry into the Universal Express Pass queue.
How Universal Express Works
When you approach a ride with Universal Express, just show your pass to the attendant, who will scan it and then let you enter the Express Pass queue. Closer to the ride loading area (this distance varies by ride), the Universal Express Pass queue will merge with the regular line (you will have your pass scanned again). Keep in mind, that you will still likely wait at this point, but it is usually 5-10 minutes long.
At Volcano Bay, your Universal Express pass will be loaded onto your Tapu Tapu—the free wearable you receive when you enter the park. You'll simply tap your wrist onto the totem at the slide, then head through the Universal Express Pass queue.
Single Rider Lines
As mentioned above, Single Rider Lines are often even faster than Universal Express pass lines. If you don't mind splitting your party up on the ride, then you can experience the most popular rides much quicker. The Single Rider Lines actually goes straight to the loading area, and you will be there to fill an empty seat.
Single Rider Lines at Universal Studios Florida:
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
- MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack
- Revenge of the Mummy
- TRANSFORMERS: The Ride 3-D
Single Rider Lines at Universal's Islands of Adventure:
- The Amazing Adventure of Spider-Man
- Dr. Doom's Fearfall
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Keep in mind that both Universal Express and Single Rider Lines skip major portions of the queue. If it's important that you experience the queues, then these may not be options for you (at least for your first time riding). Especially for your first time on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, we recommend experiencing the regular queue.
Universal Express Options
There are two types of Universal Express passes:
- Universal Express Unlimited
- Universal Express Pass
You can use Universal Express Unlimited Pass an unlimited number of times at participating rides and attractions each day that your pass is valid. For the Universal Express Pass, you can use it one time per ride each day that your pass is valid.
Universal Express is available for one park per day or for both parks per day. It can be purchased online ahead of time through Universal or at the parks themselves. We like this flexibility as sometimes you may not know you want Express Pass until you're already in the parks!
How Much Is Universal Express?
It depends. If you are staying on-site at one of Universal's premier and preferred resorts, Universal Express Unlimited is free for every day of your visit. That includes your date of check-in and departure. The value of this cannot be underestimated, especially during busier times. Now, often the hotel prices rise based on expected crowds, but if you are considering purchasing Express Pass, you should do the math and see if it makes sense to stay on-site. Oftentimes, it is still cheaper to stay on-site with Unlimited Express included vs. stay off-site and purchase Unlimited Express separately. You get the additional benefit of being so close to the parks when you stay on-site, access to all of the fabulous pools, plush rooms and other on-site amenities.
Universal Orlando Hotels That Offer Universal Express Unlimited:
Universal Premier Hotels
- Loews Portofino Bay Resort
- Orlando Hard Rock Hotel
Universal Preferred Hotels
- Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, a prime value resort, and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, a preferred hotel, does not offer Universal Express Unlimited, but it does offer Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Volcano Bay along with the other three.
NOTE: The free Universal Express Unlimited passes you receive staying on-site are not valid for Volcano Bay. You would need to purchase it separately for your Volcano Bay visit.
To get your Universal Express Unlimited passes if you are staying on-site, visit one of the kiosks in the lobby. You put in your room key (every person over the age of 3 in your party should have one), and then it takes your picture and spits out a pass. You're good to go! Keep in mind that you do still need regular admission to enter the park.
If you are not staying on-site and wish to purchase Universal Express passes, the cost varies by day and expected crowds. Prices fluctuate based on demand, so during peak times, prices will be higher. You can purchase these online in advance or while you are in the parks. Keep in mind that Express Pass could sell out, but this is likely only during the very busiest times. Universal Express is separate from regular admission, and it doesn't matter which tickets you have purchased. You can add on Universal Express as needed.
Universal Express is date specific, unlike most tickets, so you will need to know what days you plan to be in the parks to purchase. There is an additional Universal Express Limited bundle available with the Park-to-Park ticket. Again, you will need to know your exact dates for this and book this option directly with Universal.
When to Use Universal Express
Finally, we get to the most important part of the post: When to use Universal Express. Our recommendations are fairly simple.
1. Anytime it's free.
OK, it's never really free, free, but if you are staying on-site, you aren't paying for it directly. Even if the parks aren't super crowded, you will still save time by using Universal Express.
2. When the parks are expected to be super busy.
When our Crowd Calendar predicts crowds of 8, 9 and 10s, these are prime times to consider Express Passes. If you're visiting during the peak of summer or around the major holidays (especially the week between Christmas and New Year), you should give this serious consideration.
3. If you only have a day and want to see as much as possible.
If you have a short trip and only have a day for Universal, and want to experience one or especially both parks, then Express Passes are a good idea. If you are going during one of those super busy days, they are a must.
Is Universal Express Worth It?
I can't answer this for you. No matter when you visit, having Universal Express will be a time saver. The question is really how much you value that time you save? During less busy times, we think it's nice to have but not a must-have. You may feel differently. It's all about what you value.
Is There Any Other Way to Save Time in the Parks?
If you don't want to spring for Express Passes or they are just out of the budget, do not fret! There are still great ways to save time in the parks, and if you follow us frogs often, you probably know these by heart.
1. Buy your tickets in advance.
You do not want to waste any of your precious touring time standing in line to buy tickets. Plus, you will save more money if you buy in advance.
2. Arrive at the parks ahead of official opening.
The gates often open even before their official opening time, so you can get a jump on your day. This is the least busy time the parks will be all day, so it is the best time to visit the most popular rides. If you are staying on-site at one of Universal's hotels, take advantage of Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
3. Follow a park plan.
4. Use the single rider lines.
As mentioned above, the single rider line is often even faster than Universal Express.
We hope you have found this guide to Express Pass helpful as you plan your visit to Universal Orlando. Have a question about Express Pass that we haven't answered? Share it in comments below! Check out our What to Do in Orlando page inside our Orlando Planning Timeline for more tips!