Thanks to some special accommodations and an emphasis on inclusion, your entire family can enjoy a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood. As we learn more about traveling with a disabled family member, we’re uncovering some of the best ways to enjoy this delightful park and to ensure that the whole family has a frogtastic time. We bring you our Universal Studios Hollywood Attraction Assistance Pass overview.
We frogs get a lot of questions about how Universal Studios Hollywood helps guests who might need special accommodations. What we found is that there is a lot of information about using wheelchairs, bringing oxygen tanks, securing casts or a prosthesis, service animals and services for people with disabilities that affect vision and hearing.
But there is not a lot of information about other disabilities. It's harder to research accommodations for autism, cognitive disabilities, sensory integration issues, people prone to overheating, and people who have certain "invisible" medical issues. One common accommodation is the Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP). This pass has replaced the former Guest Assistance Pass (GAP), but the process is similar. Hop along to learn how to acquire and use the Universal Studios Hollywood Attraction Assistance Pass. Keep in mind, if it's been a few years since you have used the service, there are a few changes. Don't worry, though. The pass is even more user-friendly than before!
Universal Studios Hollywood Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP) for Invisible Disabilities
Our friend Adam falls into the category of special needs that aren't visible to others. We hopped along with him on his trip to Universal Studios Hollywood to learn about the process of acquiring and using the AAP card. He has no mobility issues, but he has some nonphysical disabilities, plus he does not sweat. You might think that is a good thing, but it means he has to be careful that he does not overheat and pass out.
The AAP helped Adam stay cool, but we learned that it's best to follow some tips and strategies when using it. He carries a spray bottle with him. In between ride times, he makes frequent visits to the fountains to cool off. He also got a good soaking on Jurassic World — The Ride to keep him cool in the Lower Lot on a hot summer day. For the most part, the AAP helped meet his emotional and physical needs so he could have a toadally great time. Chances are, you may need to make some accommodations of your own to support the person in your group, whether that's noise-cancelling headphones or watching ride videos on our YouTube channel so you know what to expect.
Universal Studios Hollywood Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP) for Autism and Sensory Conditions
Our own froggy niece needs some extra help when navigating the park and is even at an increased risk of wandering away or eloping from our group. She has autism, and we’ve found that the AAP is also incredibly helpful when it comes to navigating the park with this increasingly common condition.
We’ve found that waiting in line seems perfectly fine to the rest of us, but it can be overwhelming for this sweet froglet, so the AAP helps us find a safer, more appropriate option for her and the entire frog family.
FAQs on the Universal Studios Hollywood Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP)
What is an AAP card and how does it work?
The AAP card is a special card that helps guests who find it difficult to wait in a standard queue. People with disabilities and health problems can use the card to get return times. If you use a wheelchair, hop over for more tips and specific information about using a wheelchair at Universal Studios Hollywood.
The AAP is a paper card with the date, the guest's name and the number of guests in the party on the front. It also has a barcode for scanning. The back side has some lines for receiving return times, when necessary. Keep the card with you and present it to the attendant at the ride entrance or the Universal Express line for each ride. The attendant will note your arrival time, the ride's current wait time and the return time to come back and ride (equivalent to the current wait time). You can hold only one active return time at a time. When you arrive to ride the attraction, the attendant will cross off the return time so you may collect a new one. They will scan your card and note the size of your party. If the line is less than 45 minutes, the attendant will scan the card and send you to the appropriate queue without having you come back.
You can also use the card to access shows. You will be directed to a different waiting area and may enter early to choose the right seating to best meet your party's needs.
Universal Studios Hollywood Attraction Assistance Pass Queue
The card is not intended to provide immediate access to the ride or to skip the wait. Instead, it allows you to wait in a separate area and access the correct line based on your needs. Depending on the wait time for that ride, the attendant may direct you to the appropriate queue right away or provide a return time to come back.
If the posted wait time is under 45 minutes (or if the attendant feels that the ride can easily accommodate your party immediately), you'll be sent to the appropriate queue. If the posted wait time is 45 minutes or more, you will likely get a reserved time to come back to the Universal Express entrance. The team member will note the name of the ride, arrival time, current wait time and the return time on the card.
What should I do while I wait for my turn to ride?
You can do other things in the park while you wait for your return time. That may include going on another ride with a shorter wait, seeing a show or getting something to eat. You may want to find a quiet or shady spot to rest and get some needed downtime. The Family Center near Water World offers quiet rooms for people with autism spectrum disorder. People who overheat easily, have sensory issues or have physical challenges may need more rest than the rest of your party.
If you are late for your return time, no sweat. They will still let you in. The time is good until you use it. The AAP card also comes in handy for joining a separate line when meeting characters. Meeting characters is a great activity to do while you wait for your ride return time.
How and where do I get an AAP?
Upon entering the front gates, make an immediate right into Guest Relations. Bring the guest who needs accommodations with you and the entire party's park tickets. Give the employees some background information on why you might benefit from accommodations. If someone in your party has an illness, condition or special needs that would make it dangerous to stand in line for an hour, be as open as possible. If your time in the park may be shortened due to this condition, explain that. In our experience, Universal employees did not want all of the details.
Universal Studios Hollywood complies with the ADA, and you do not need to bring proof of a disability or even give details about a diagnosis. Instead, you should let the team member know the challenges you anticipate. Wandering and elopement, sensory overload or inability to wait in a crowded setting are all reasons to get an AAP.
How many party members can use the AAP with the pass holder?
When you get the pass, a team member will ask you how many people are in your party and note that number on the card. The new rules allow the pass holder and up to three guests (for a total of four) to use the pass to enter the ride. Universal suggests if you have a larger party that the other party members wait in the regular line. You could purchase Universal Express for the extra family members to keep the party together. If you have questions about this, talk to the team members at Guest Relations.
Don’t froget that even if you are using the AAP, you can also take advantage of other ways to maximize your time in the park. Many rides offer child switch if your person with special needs (or another child in the group) is not able to join the rest of the group on a ride. Members of your party who don’t mind being split up (or exceed the number of guests allowed on the AAP) can use Single Rider lines. (Single Rider is subject to availability, but it's a great free option to shorten the wait.) Other party members could also purchase Universal Express tickets. Those do cost more money, but they can keep the party together.
Do all people with disabilities need an AAP?
You do not need the AAP if you are using an ECV or wheelchair. There are already ADA compliant entrances and ride accommodations in place for you. If you have a service dog, you do not need the AAP unless you also require the special assistance outlined above.
The AAP is for special circumstances that are not necessarily covered under other accommodations. The AAP assists all guests who have difficulty waiting in a standard queue. If you have a situation in which you cannot stand or walk for long periods of time, Universal team members may suggest renting a wheelchair.
Universal Studios rents out wheelchairs for $20 per day and electric convenience vehicles (ECVs) for $60 per day. There is a $25 refundable deposit for wheelchairs. Keep in mind that wheelchairs and ECVs often sell out, so if you think you will want one, you should reserve it early in the day. When you rent a wheelchair or ECV in the park, a team member may present you with an AAP card for convenience. And if you arrive in your own wheelchair, you may ask for the card if you feel you need it.
The Studio Tour allows most wheelchairs but not electric convenience vehicles. There are wheelchairs you can use to transfer. There are designated accessible viewing areas for shows, but you’ll have to transfer out of the chair for rides. Employees are not trained to help lift and carry, so people who require assistance need to bring a companion to assist them.
Universal Studios Hollywood has a number of accommodations in place to help people with vision and hearing disabilities. The park offers safety information and show dialogue in Braille and large print for guests with vision problems. There are several accommodations for deaf guests and guests who are hard of hearing. These include headsets, assisted listening devices and show scripts. You can even reserve free sign language interpreters one week in advance. Find out more about how to manage Universal Studios Hollywood with disabilities.
Are there any tips for using the Attraction Assistance Pass in the Lower Lot?
We found the Lower Lot can be the most difficult area of the park when using the AAP. We especially found this challenging when we visited with a friend who rented an ECV for the day. Try to knock out the Lower Lot before the lines and heat build up. It takes about 10 minutes each way to use the four escalators to access the Lower Lot. So ideally you want to maximize time by visiting the Lower Lot only once. It takes even longer to use the alternative wheelchair transport for people who cannot use the escalators.
There is not a lot to do outside the rides in the Lower Lot compared to the Upper Lot. When the lines and return times are long, that means a lot of waiting around for each ride. With heat-sensitive guests, that can be challenging on a hot, busy day. Wait times are usually over an hour by the afternoon but are much shorter in the morning. For kids or adults with autism, a more mobile member of the family may want to check out the Lower Lot first. You should be able to tell if the experience will be an enjoyable one for your whole group and obtain a return time if the waits are long.
Here are a few tips to make your Lower Lot experience go more smoothly with AAP:
- Visit the Lower Lot as soon as it opens in the morning for the shortest wait times.
- When wait times are under 45 minutes, you can join an alternative queue without a wait time. When wait times are longer, you can get a return time. So if you see wait times are 15, 30 and 50 minutes, collect a return time for the longest ride and head straight to the 30-minute and 15-minute rides. By the time you exit those rides, it will be time to ride the ride with a return time.
- Send a runner to collect the return time.
- Plan to eat a meal during one of your wait times. Jurassic Cafe has some tasty themed food and indoor or shady places to sit.
- Visit dinosaurs and Transformers while you wait.
- Entertain young children at the redesigned Dino Play area.
- Consider the Single Rider line for one of the experiences. (As long as your party is tall enough and capable of riding single.) All three Lower Lot rides offer Single Rider lines. Some Single Riders lines require the ability to walk up or down steps (such as Transformers: The Ride-3D). Due to COVID-19, Single Rider lines may be closed temporarily.
- Use Child Switch if you have young children who are not tall enough to ride.
What about using the Attraction Assistance Pass in the Upper Lot or for the Studio Tour?
Compared to the Lower Lot, the Studio Tour and Upper Lot attractions are toadally easier to manage with the AAP. The Studio Tour is accessible via elevator for guests who cannot use the escalator. We were directed immediately to the correct queue at the Studio Tour. We also headed to appropriate Upper Lot rides and shows queues (even when the wait times were over 30 minutes). With shows, characters and other activities, you'll find a lot more to do while waiting for return times. The AAP card can also assist you in accessing a wand pairing demonstration at Ollivanders in the Wizarding World.
Planning ahead allows you to maximize your time and use the AAP for the longer waits. We received a return time for The Simpsons Ride, which tends to have a longer line. Then we headed for the Studio Tour. By the time we exited the tour, it was time to ride The Simpsons Ride. We received a return time for The Secret Life of Pets before heading to Water World. After the show, it was time to ride.
Is there anything else we should know about bringing someone with disabilities to Universal Studios Hollywood?
Just as with other situations, research which attractions may be safe and interesting for your family member with special needs. You can pick up a Guide for Rider Safety at Guest Relations or view it in advance. The pamphlet can help guests avoid smoke and fog or certain lighting. You can also read about which rides accommodate a service animal. Find out which attractions are best for guests who have a fear of heights or small spaces.
If you know your loved one has a favorite character or type of experience, start the day right by heading right to that attraction. In some cases, an acceptable and fun first experience will help your ASD or sensory kid accept other rides later in the day.
Set yourselves up for success by knowing the limitations of your special needs guest. Take frequent breaks, bring spray bottles to keep cool and stay hydrated. Make good decisions about what kind of attractions your friend or family member can enjoy and even handle.
Pack a small bag or backpack full of items you know your child enjoys and finds soothing, but leave any item that cannot be replaced if lost at home. Even if you do not normally use a stroller, consider renting one designed for older kids with special needs. Not only do these roomy vehicles hold all your gear, most have hoods that can shelter the entire seating space, creating a safe sensory zone wherever you go.
If you bring a service animal with you, you can locate service animal stations in the Lower Lot (across from Jurassic World) and Upper Lot (to the left of the Animal Actors Show).
On a recent visit, we saw a child about 7 years old who was terrified for his life on the one-hour Studio Tour. He believed that King Kong, the dinosaurs and Jaws were real and going to get him. Every situation we encountered felt like a real danger and threat to him, including one particular “Psycho” we encountered. This child spent the majority of the Studio Tour on the floor screaming and crying. He put his hands over his ears and was shaking in terrible fear. That is not fun for anybody.
Hollywood is so realistic! If your child cannot distinguish between what is pretend and real and might have this kind of reaction, then avoid putting them in this situation. Make good decisions about what attractions to take them on. There are a lot of loud noises and flashing lights in many Universal attractions. If your child’s sensory system cannot handle this kind of stimulation, then you’ll need to make your own accommodations to keep your child happy and healthy. If that means playing in a fountain for an hour, then go with the flow and embrace a special kind of fun. Team up with another caregiver or family member and use rider switch programs. That will help you all have a toadally safe and fun time at the park.
We hope this information about the Universal Studios Hollywood Attraction Assistance Pass helps you as you plan your visit. Have questions or want to share your experience using AAP? Drop us a line in comments below.