• Universal Orlando Express Pass Guide

Universal Orlando Express Pass Guide

Luiz Alberto H.

Created: Mar 06, 2024

Last Updated: Apr 25, 2024

Universal Orlando Express Pass Guide

So, are you thinking about buying a Universal Express pass to either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure and save time in the queue for some of the most popular attractions? I already know what you are thinking and asking yourself right about now.

Is the Express Pass worth it?

It depends. Most of the time, it isn’t, but it can offer you a lot of value depending on some specific variables. Which variables are those? Let’s say that if you are visiting Universal for a single weekend and you are short on time, you should probably get one of those to optimize your experience.

There are certainly situations where the Express Pass can be a game-changer and turn the tides of your vacation for the better so you can have a memorable time riding the Jurassic World VelociCoaster, or saying hi to Spider-Man in Marvel Island, or becoming a special agent in Men in Black: Alien Attack.

In this guide, we will:

  • Tell you more about the Express Pass
  • List hotels that give a complimentary Express Pass
  • Present strategies for your Express Pass
  • Show how to use it in Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Ready? Let’s go!

Islands Adventure Comic Strip 1.webp

What is the Express Pass?

As previously mentioned here on Famvia, the Express Pass serves as Universal Orlando's Fast Pass system, designed to expedite your wait times for select attractions in both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. This handy service comes in two variations:

  • The Universal Express Unlimited Pass: According to the website, this one lets you “skip the regular lines at most popular rides and attractions as many times as you want. Separate theme park admission is required”. At the time of this writing, the starting price is $109.99 plus taxes, and you still need a separate ticket to enter the park.
  • The Universal Express Pass: This time, the official website reads: “skip the regular lines at most popular rides and attractions once per ride. Separate theme park admission required”. The starting price is $79.99 plus taxes, and, yes, you still need a separate ticket to enter the park.
  • Two rides are not part of the Express Pass: Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and Pteranodon Flyers, both located in Islands of Adventure.
  • The Express Pass is good for one day and for one guest only. Express Passes can sell out, so it’s advisable to buy them in advance for days like Christmas, Thanksgiving and the New Year.
  • You have multiple options for purchasing the Express Pass: you can buy it online, through the Universal Orlando Resort App, or even at designated locations within the park. It’s usually a good idea to see if a park is packed or not before buying your Express Pass.
  • Unlike Disney’s Disney Genie+, the Express Pass is (thankfully) super easy to use. Once you buy it, you can just head to the Express Pass Entrance in front of your favorite attraction and scan it. No need to pre-book a spot for rides or anything similar to that.
  • While the Express Pass offers convenience, its main drawback is undeniably its high cost. It's important to note that the Express Pass is priced per guest, per day, with a starting price of $79.99 plus taxes. During peak periods such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, the cost can skyrocket to $350-$400. Paying more than $300 for a Fast Pass perk is, indeed, very expensive and probably not worth it.

Universal Premier Hotels that offer a FREE Unlimited Pass

Portofino Bay Resort Universal (2).webp

Good news, friends. You don’t need to think about getting an Express Pass if you are staying in one of Universal Orlando’s premier hotels. You can get one for free!

These are the hotels that offer a free Universal Express Unlimited Pass, for the day of your check-in and the day of your check-out.

  • Loews Portofino Bay Hotel ($780 per night in early March)
  • Hard Rock Hotel ($750 per night in early March)
  • Loews Royal Pacific Resort ($680 per night in early March)

The prices above were researched for a single night in early March. You can pay less per night if you book for two nights or more, but what a lot of people do is book a single night in those hotels, and then get a complimentary Universal Express Unlimited Pass for two days!

That’s a pretty good strategy if you are short on time and staying in Florida for just a weekend. You are probably saving a lot of money on Express Passes AND staying in an awesome hotel. Best of both worlds. 

Islands Adventure Ride Hippogriff 4.webp

Should you get an Express Pass or an Express Unlimited Pass?

Another good question, which comes down to personal preferences. As we told you before, you can only enter the special queue once with the standard Express Pass, but you can live inside it with the Express Unlimited Pass. The price difference between the two options is approximately $30, which could be considered significant for some guests.

Do you enjoy riding the same attraction over and over again?

Maybe your kids are big fans of Harry Potter and want to ride Escape from Gringotts over and over, or maybe your family is all about roller coasters and your brothers want to go to the VelociCoaster three or four times without wasting hours in the queue. In that case, you should probably get the Express Unlimited Pass. Now, if you are visiting Universal Orlando for the first time and want to check every attraction, then go for the standard Express Pass.

Universal Studios Orlando streets 2.webp

Express Pass in Universal Studios

Here is a ranking of Universal Studios attractions included in the Express Pass, based on their Fast Pass value

Great value:

  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
  • Transformers: The Ride – 3D

Ok value:

  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • E.T. Adventure
  • The Bourne Stuntacular
  • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
  • Fast & Furious – Supercharged
  • Men in Black Alien Attack
  • The Simpsons Ride
  • Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
  • Hogwarts Express (park-to-park ticket required)

The good thing about Express Passes is that they are incredibly easy to use. You get one, then you just head to the entrance of the special queue and you are good to go. Your itinerary doesn’t even need to have a lot of changes from a traditional ride strategy: you ride the same stuff in the same order, just faster. Which is good. You will be able to finish every ride rather quickly, giving you precious time to experience your favorite attractions again.

Of course that, if you have the Express Unlimited Pass, you can just ride the same attraction over and over again.

So, how much time do you actually save with an Express Pass in Universal Studios?

It’s hard to say but, usually, you are looking at 30-50% of the standard waiting time. If Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts shows a 50 minute waiting time, expect to be in line for 25 minutes for the Express Queue. Rides with lower waiting times tend to be even faster if you opt to enter through the special queue. A 30 minute waiting time in Revenge of the Mummy usually means only 10 minutes for the Express Pass holders. Rip Ride Rockit had a 40 minute waiting time that became 20 minutes. Of course that these examples can drastically change during Thanksgiving and Christmas, when more guests are buying Fast Passes.

Only you can determine whether purchasing an Express Pass for Universal Studios is worthwhile. While queues at Universal Studios attractions typically aren't excessively long, with even the popular Escape from Gringotts rarely exceeding a one-hour wait, the pass can still be a valuable investment if you're pressed for time and eager to experience everything the park has to offer in a single day.

universal jurassic park islands adventure.jpg

Express Pass in Islands of Adventure

Here is a ranking of Islands of Adventure attractions included in the Express Pass, based on their Fast Pass value

Great value:

  • Jurassic World VelociCoaster
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls

Ok value:

  • Jurassic Park River Adventure
  • Flight of the Hippogriff
  • Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
  • Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges
  • Caro-Seuss-el
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • The Cat in the Hat
  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!
  • Storm Force Acceleration
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong
  • Hogwarts Express (park-to-park ticket required)

The Express Pass for Islands of Adventure holds more appeal than its counterpart for Universal Studios, primarily because the rides in Islands of Adventure are generally superior and more popular. However, it's important to note that Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure and Pteranodon Flyers are not covered by the service, which can be disappointing, particularly given that wait times for Hagrid’s often extend to around two hours.

Islands Adventure Seuss Sky Trolley 1.webp

Good news, though. Jurassic World VelociCoaster, one of the best roller coasters in the world, is included in this service, which means that you can save precious time if you want to ride it.

Okay, how much time do you save for the VelociCoaster, though? I went to Reddit to do some research, and it seems that waiting times vary a lot.

Some people say that, when the Velocicoaster had a 50 minute waiting time, they waited only 20 minutes in the Express Queue. Other guests say that during peak times, with the standard queue taking 150 minutes, they still had to wait in line for 55 minutes. Sounds like a lot of time for a single ride by paying extra, but you are still saving a whole hour.

One funny  observation that often goes unnoticed is that the Express Pass doesn't seem to offer much advantage for Kong: Skull Island. Even when regular wait times are as long as 70 minutes, those with the Express Pass still find themselves waiting around 45 minutes. Some guests even report that an 80-minute queue only shaves off about 10 minutes with the Express service. Perhaps this is tied to how the ride operates, or maybe park operators need to ensure that safari cars are filled to capacity. No idea.

For Doctor Doom’s Fearfall, what was advertised as a 30-minute wait turned out to be just 15 minutes with the Express Pass. Similarly, River Adventure, with a posted wait time of 20 minutes, transformed into a mere 7 minutes. Forbidden Journey provided a particularly pleasant surprise: a wait time of 50 minutes was reduced to just 15 minutes. I guess I got lucky there.

Bourne Stuntacular universal show (3)1.webp

So, is it worth it?

Well, only you will be able to answer that. There are some strategies that can be better than just buying an Express Pass, like:

  • Rope Dropping
  • Staying at a Premier Hotel to get a complimentary Express Pass
  • Buying multi-day tickets so you don’t have to see everything in a single day

We hope we were able to help you out when it comes to buying an Express Pass for Universal Orlando. Understandably, it's a nuanced decision given the initial cost, yet it can prove invaluable in saving time, especially if you have limited days to explore Universal. Don't hesitate to seek our opinion before making a purchase, we're here to lend a helping hand whenever you need it.

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