A note from Leap: Universal Studios Hollywood closed temporarily in March to control the spread of COVID-19. Hop over to our What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen post, which we will continue to update with the latest news and dates.
What could be better than a day mingling with Minions in the morning, experiencing behind-the-scenes movie magic in the afternoon, followed by the wonders of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the evening? The only thing we can think of would be to do all of that without waiting! With the Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass (formerly known as the Universal Studios Hollywood Front of Line Pass), you can breeze through all of your favorites with priority access. Having this gem is just one part of a fun day here!
The Frog Family jumped at the opportunity to use the Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass last summer, and it toadally made our day. Even though these tickets cost more than regular admission, the benefits are well worth it. The park limits the number of Universal Studios Hollywood Express passes sold each day, so the awesome perks are always maintained. This post will explain all of the Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass benefits!
It's important to note that a Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass is a full ticket that includes admission to Universal Studios Hollywood, plus one-time access to each ride, show and attraction, which is different than the add-on passes sold in the Orlando parks. You present the paper ticket (about the size of a credit card that you receive upon park entry) to be scanned at each ride. There is also an add-on option at Universal Studios Hollywood — more on that further below.
Do You Need Universal Studios Hollywood Express Passes?
We get lots of people asking if they really need Universal Studios Hollywood Express passes to enjoy their day at the park. And the answer really depends on when you are going. You don't usually need Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass on weekdays and even some weekends in the off-season, but you'll sure thank your lucky stars for having it on peak summer days and school holidays. Even though the lines are shorter in the off-season, the park hours are shorter, too, so shaving off wait times with Universal Express can still come in handy if you want to squeeze it all in during less crowded times. (Need help deciding when to visit? Check out this post on the best and worst times to go to Universal Studios Hollywood.)
Universal Studios Hollywood Universal Express — Peak Vs. Non-Peak?
Universal Studios Hollywood sells a peak, mid-peak, and non-peak version of the Universal Express Pass. What we like about this is that you can buy the non-peak (lower cost) or mid-peak (middle priced) option during some of the busy times of the year. For example, the non-peak Universal Express is valid all of February, March, October and November (when the holiday celebrations are underway). Plus, the non-peak Express Pass is also good most of January, half of April, most of May, most of September and the first half of December (before the holidays). Non-peak might happen to fall during your spring break! We like using Express Pass even during non-peak times because the theme park may have shorter hours. It's a lot easier to fit everything in before the park closes at 6:00 p.m. with Express passes.
The non-peak Express Pass can be used on the following dates:
2020: July 1-31, Aug. 1-31, Sept. 1-30, Oct. 1-31, Nov. 1-30 and Dec. 1-18.
2021: Jan. 2-31, Feb. 1-28, March 1-18, April 19-30, May 1-30, Sept. 7-30, Oct. 1-31, Nov. 1-30 and
2022: Jan. 6-31, Feb. 1-28 and March1-31.
The mid-peak Express Pass is required on the following dates:
2021: March 19-31, April 1-18, May 31, June 1-18, Aug. 18-31, Sept. 1-6 and Dec. 11-17.
If you are not yet certain when you are going, you'll want to opt for the peak ticket — it is valid any time!
The peak Express Pass, also known as the anytime ticket, is required on the following dates:
2020: Dec. 19-31.
2021: Jan. 1, June 10-30, July 1-31, Aug. 1-17 and Dec. 18-31.
2022: Jan. 1-5.
Hop back for future dates!
Even though Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass costs more than a normal ticket, the benefits can toadally make the expense well worth it. (Psst ... We sell these prized tickets at a discount!) Using the Universal Express Pass is just one of the ways to maximize your time at Universal Studios Hollywood. On peak days in the afternoon, the lines can reach up to two hours long for big draws such as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. But if you have a Universal Express Pass, you literally walk — or in our case, hop — right onto rides without even having to wait. That is what sets Universal Express passes apart from say, Disney’s FASTPASS, which reduces your wait time, but does not send you straight to the front of the line.
Universal Studios Hollywood Universal Express Tips
Enhance your show experience.
The Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass gets you one-time priority access to each show. It gets you priority seating. It may include some special meet-and-greets or up close and personal experiences following shows after the rest of the audience exits. Lily and Tad really enjoyed meeting some of the animals after the Animal Actors Stage show. (That includes a famous owl from the Harry Potter movies!)
Consider buying Universal Express strategically.
While it's always great to spend time together as a family, your whole family might not need to purchase Universal Studios Hollywood Express tickets. If your family is only interested in rides, but you have some younger children who won't meet the height requirements (or might be too frightened for the big rides), you probably don't need to purchase Express for them. Or, if you are prone to motion sickness like Flora, you might buy just your older kids an Express Pass and opt out of the pass and thrill rides for yourself. With the much shorter waits thanks to the Universal Studios Hollywood Express passes, the family will be reunited in no time!
One of the season pass options includes Express access. The Platinum Season Pass comes with one-time per day Express access to each ride, attraction and seated show.
Use Universal Studios Hollywood Universal Express only during long wait times.
The Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass can only be used one time per ride. If you know your froglets want to ride Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem twice, choose your ticket wisely. We rode Minion Mayhem early in the day when the wait was under 15 minutes without scanning our passes. Then, Mommy Frog and Lily rode again later by utilizing Universal Express when the wait was over an hour.
Universal Studios Hollywood limits the amount of Express passes sold each day, so if you are concerned about crowds, buy in advance (plus, you'll save money since we sell them at a discount). It’s a gamble, but if you wait until you are in the park to decide the lines are not for you, it could be too late. The good part of limiting pass sales is that it means you truly go to the front of the line. Plus, you'll get a better value experience when you use the pass.
Save money by visiting at "off-peak" times. The pass can help make your day much more enjoyable if you are visiting during a peak time. But if you purchase the Universal Studios Hollywood Express non-peak ticket, you can save money. Some other affordable time-saving tips include the following:
- Arriving at park opening.
- Staying until park closing.
- Utilizing Child Switch.
- Using Single Rider for rides such as The Mummy, Transformers, Juarassic World — The Ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff.
- Using the Virtual Line (via the free Universal Studios Hollywood app) for Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash (opening March 27, 2020).
Upgrade in the park.
If you are really not sure if a Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass is for you, or you already have your ticket or an annual pass without Express access, you can take a chance on upgrading in the park. Express tickets can sell out on crowded days. On a summer day, we noticed that it was up to $130 to upgrade to a Universal Express ticket for one-time use for each ride. No matter how you bought your park ticket, you can purchase an upgrade in the park. The cost to upgrade is the same for everyone.
The price may vary — even throughout the day! If you are finding higher waits in the afternoon, on some days Universal may drop the price after 3:30 p.m. So definitely check back if you want to upgrade in the afternoon. You can't count on it being available, but it's worth looking into. You can purchase and upgrade in the Upper Lot at the Box Office or at a kiosk at the bottom of the escalator in the Lower Lot.
Upgrade to Unlimited Universal Express.
If one-time access is simply not enough, there is an Unlimited Universal Express option. Unlimited Universal Express is available in the park. You can upgrade a Universal Express ticket, a regular park ticket or a season pass (subject to availability). If you already have a Universal Express ticket, the cost to upgrade to Unlimited Universal Express is $30-40. Peak days will be pricier than non-peak days, and they will sell out much faster on peak days. If you have a regular park ticket, it can cost about $110-$170 to upgrade to Unlimited Universal Express. Prices can vary, depending on the day. We recommend purchasing discount Universal Express tickets in advance (through Undercover Tourist, of course!) to lock in express access, and then if you decide you want even more access, you can inquire about Unlimited Universal Express early in the day inside the park.
Consider bringing a lanyard.
The old Front of Line tickets were given to guests as a lanyard worn around the neck. The current Universal Express tickets are paper tickets about the dimensions of a credit card. You have to pull it out each time you need to have it scanned for rides or shows. It can be cumbersome to always pull it out of pockets and backpacks. If you have a lanyard with a clear pocket, bring it along for quick, almost hands-free scanning. Universal Studios sells souvenir lanyards in the park if you don’t have one.
Buy Universal Express for Horror Nights or special events.
Buy Universal Express for special events such as Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. Horror Nights draws scary huge crowds. Some of the most popular attractions can have waits that last two to four hours! We have been there without the pass, and it is frustrating. We have also been there with the pass and were able to hop through every maze and ride. The pass was well worth it! It's really the only way to do Halloween Horror Nights.
These Universal Express passes are limited, and they will sell out early. If you plan to attend Horror Nights, make sure to buy early and be sure to get a Universal Express Pass for each member in your party. And remember to bring a lanyard to simplify your night. Otherwise you need to pull the Universal Express ticket out in the dark for scanning at each maze. The only way to get Unlimited Universal Express at Halloween Horror Nights is to purchase the R.I.P. Tour.
The Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass is a great way to help you manage your day. The Express Pass will allow you to experience everything in the park at least once. With the time savings that comes with the pass, you can hit your favorite attractions a second time. It also allows you to relax and enjoy more of the sights, take photos, see shows, meet characters, enjoy your meals, calmly sip Butterbeer, shop for treats and explore Universal CityWalk. Buying the Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass buys peace of mind. That way, you know you can get it all in, and that equals a good family value.
Did you know the Frog Family offers discount tickets to Southern California attractions? You'll find discounts on Universal Studios Hollywood tickets, as well as more tickets for Universal and other Los Angeles and San Diego attractions.