As you frog friends know, we're big fans of staying on-site at the theme park resorts. Universal Orlando Resort is one of our very favorite resorts to stay on-site (and you can book directly from us!).
There are some terrific benefits, such as proximity to the parks, free transportation, free pool hopping at select hotels, delivery of your in-park souvenir purchases to your room and more.
All of the Universal Orlando Resort hotels offer Early Park Admission (EPA). Early Park Admission allows you to enter select parks up to an hour early during your stay. This benefit can be a huge help to get a hop on the crowds, especially during busy peak times! Let's walk through all of the details of when and how to use this perk. That way, you can take advantage of it on your next trip!
Universal Orlando Hotels Offering Early Park Admission
- Universal's Hard Rock Hotel
- Loews Royal Pacific Resort
- Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort
- Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
- Universal's Aventura Resort
- Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
- Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites & Dockside Inn and Suites
It's worth noting that select Universal Orlando Resort hotels — Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Universal's Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort — offer free Universal Express Unlimited, another amazing benefit.
Understanding Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando
Universal's Early Park Admission allows all Universal Orlando Resort hotel guests and select annual passholders one-hour early entry to Universal Studios Florida or Universal's Islands of Adventure (during extra busy times, it can be both parks) AND one-hour early entry to Universal's Volcano Bay water theme park every day. Preferred annual passholders are granted Early Park Admission on select days and Premier passholders are granted Early Park Admission on all dates. Valid theme park admission is required. Universal partner hotel guests only receive the benefit if they've purchased a vacation package that includes a hotel stay and park admission (staying at a partner hotel alone is not enough to grant EPA access).
Universal Orlando can get pretty busy during peak seasons. During these anticipated busy times, Universal encourages guests to take advantage of Early Park Admission.
During Early Park Admission, select rides, attractions and areas are open one hour before the park opens to the general public. To make it easy for you, we note which park is hosting Early Park Admission, general park hours and Early Park Admission hours on our Orlando Crowd Calendar. It used to be that the one-hour Early Park Admission was limited to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter rides, but that is no longer the case. The rides that open early now vary, but usually include Jurassic World VelociCoaster at Islands of Adventure and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem at Universal Studios Florida. You can double-check which rides are being offered on Universal Orlando's website.
Universal's Early Park Admission is available every day of your hotel stay, including days of check-in and check-out! Using EPA on your check-in day is a little bit trickier, so we don't recommend it UNLESS you are only spending one night at a Universal Orlando hotel and it's an extremely busy time. If you want to take advantage of EPA on your check-in day, note that you will need to check in to your hotel first — which means very, very early in the morning. EPA begins an hour before the official park opening time which can be as early as 7 a.m., so you would have to check in before that, then allow time to get from the hotel to the park. Your hotel key is what grants you early admission, so each member of your party will need to be listed under your room and have a key to show. In our family, I am the key holder for the whole squad so that nothing gets dropped or lost in our mad dash to Hagrid's.
How to Use Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando
To make the most of your time inside the park, we recommend you arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of the start of Early Park Admission to allow that extra time needed to pass security, walk through Universal CityWalk and get through the turnstiles. (Our personal preference is to arrive closer to an hour early to be able to be some of the first at the turnstiles. If you are using bus transportation from your resort, that means you'll want to be in line for that first shuttle of the day!). You'll need your park tickets and your hotel room keys when you enter the park that's hosting Early Park Admission! A hotel key is needed for each family member or friend who is staying with you at the resort. The parks typically start allowing all guests in up to a half-hour before the official opening time, so you definitely want to be in the park hosting EPA before then if you want to ride with the lowest waits.
Here's a rundown of our most recent experience with using Early Park Admission to enter Islands of Adventure an hour early: After going through the turnstiles and walking through Port of Entry, we headed left toward Seuss Landing. Seuss Landing is not available during EPA, but there is a pathway around it to get to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Team members block off Seuss Landing to check credentials (i.e. hotel room keys or annual passes), and then let guests through onto the pathway.
We successfully went on Hagrid's with only a 20-minute wait (during spring break!), so we think it's toadally worth hopping to Hogsmeade bright and early! Afterward, we made a beeline to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which only had a 10-minute wait.
Even if you aren't a thrill-seeker, Early Park Admission grants you into the Wizarding World with low crowds, which makes for some amazing (and empty!) photo-ops.
When to Use Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando
As you know, the early frog gets the fly, so you'll likely need to sacrifice a little shut-eye for Early Park Admission. Most vacationers don't want to do this, so use it to your advantage! You definitely should use Early Park Admission in these scenarios:
- You only have time for one day at Universal. This is especially true if you are park hopping!
- You are visiting during an extremely busy time — the peak of summer and around holidays. Use our Crowd Calendar as your guide. If it's a level 8, 9 or 10 day, consider using EPA to jump-start your day in the parks before the crowds reach their highest levels.
- You're spending the day at Volcano Bay. Early Park Admission gets you first access to the rides, but it also gets you dibs on prime seating at the wave pool and other places around the water park.
- You want to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with limited crowds.
- Any time you visit and want to get a hop on the crowds!
If you arrive early, you will be able to ride the two or three rides open for EPA and you can move on to the next most popular ride on your list. It may already be in operation in the 15 minutes before the park officially opens. Even if it's not, you can be one of the first in line!
For example, with EPA at Universal Studios Florida for Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, you should be able to ride both before all park guests arrive. If you start with Minion Mayhem and then move onto Gringotts, you will then be in the back of the park and in prime position to ride TRANSFORMERS: The Ride — 3-D or MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack with little to no wait.
Are you ready to hop on Early Park Admission at Universal Orlando Resort? We toadally recommend it ... and staying on property isn't too bad, either! Book your Universal Orlando Resort hotel today to make the most of your next trip.