• Universal Orlando: Tickets, Express Passes & Parking

Universal Orlando: Tickets, Express Passes & Parking

Luiz Alberto H.

Created: Feb 19, 2024

Last Updated: Apr 25, 2024

Universal Orlando: Tickets, Express Passes & Parking

Tickets

I swear that sometimes you need a PHD to understand how buying tickets for theme parks work, and it’s not different when you’re trying to give Universal your hard-earned money. 

Here is all you need to know when it’s time to open your wallet:

  • Ticket Prices for Universal Orlando’s main theme parks (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure) start at $119 (plus taxes). Children (ages 3-9) pay about $5 less. Children under 3yo do not pay.
  • You can add the Park Hopper option to your tickets, which increases prices but lets you visit more than one theme park on the same day.
  • Ticket prices for Volcano Bay - Universal Orlando’s water park - start at $80 (plus taxes).
  • You can optimize your ticket and save time on rides by buying a FastPass service called Universal Express Pass.
  • Annual Passes come in different options, with prices ranging from $425 all the way to $905. More expensive options may offer perks like discount on merchandise, free parking and Universal Express after 4pm. Florida residents also get special discounts when buying an Annual Pass.

Good, we have a grasp of the basics for now! Let’s delve deeper into the process of purchasing tickets for Universal Orlando. Famvia can assist you with this process, although it's beneficial to understand the overall procedure beforehand.

men in black universal (7).webp

Step 1

Think about the date/period you want to visit Universal. Keep in mind that park hours depend on the time of year: closer to Christmas, expect each park to open early and close near 8pm, but most rides will also be packed. Ticket prices are also higher for special dates like Thanksgiving, Halloween and New Year’s Eve. Check this link to see theme park hours for your destination of choice.

Step 2

Universal Studios Madagascar character.webp

Decide how many times you want to visit Universal Studios and/or Islands of Adventure. The good news is that there is a single ticket type that you can use for both theme parks, so it doesn’t matter which one of the two you want to visit. 
You can buy a ticket for a single day or up to five days. My recommendation – if that’s your first time visiting – is a three-day pass, so you can check everything Islands of Adventure has to offer in two days and then you have one day left for Universal Studios. Yes, you can definitely check everything Universal Studios has to offer in a single day, but Islands of Adventure might require a little more time.

The number of days is exactly what we have been talking about: if you want just a single day to visit a single theme park, or more days for multiple visits. One day equals one theme park admission, basically, unless your ticket type allows you to hop from Universal Studios to Islands of Adventure and vice-versa.

Want to know a little bit more about ticket types? Great, that’s what we are going to explain now.

Hogsmeade UNIVERSAL 2.webp

Step 3

You must also decide if you want a Park-to-Park ticket or a One Park Per Day ticket

The Park-to-Park ticket is about $55 more expensive and allows you to visit both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in a single day. It also gives you access to the Hogwarts Express – a Harry Potter themed train that travels between the two theme parks.  

The One Park Per Day is just what the name suggests: you choose either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure and then you are stuck with that theme park for the rest of the day. You can’t hop from one park to another. 

Personally, I don’t think that Park-to-Park tickets are worth it. There is just way too much stuff to do for a full day at Islands of Adventure for you to hop to another park, and the same can be said for Universal Studios, especially for a first timer. Add to that the time wasted moving from one park to the other, and you need to be Usain Bolt to finish two parks in less than twelve hours. 

Instead of a Park-to-Park ticket, I’d prefer to spend a little bit more and buy a two-day ticket so I can visit both Islands and Universal without needing to run like crazy.

Step 4

Islands Adventure Velocicoaster 7.webp

Now that you know how many days you will spend visiting the Universal theme parks, you need to select the exact date you plan on going there for the first time. This is important since it will impact the cost of your tickets. A date closer to Christmas will be more expensive than if you decide to visit in early November, for example.

You should definitely check theme park hours for your chosen period. As we told you before, sometimes Islands of Adventure will close at 6pm, while there are days that rides will be open all the way to 8pm, which usually falls on a Thursday. On the link above you can also see which attractions will be closed on specific days so you can plan your perfect trip.

Now take a deep breath and pay close attention to this. If you buy a 2-day ticket, your ticket will be valid for the selected day all the way to four days after that one. Let’s say you are buying a 2-day One Park Per Day ticket for October 17, 2023. You can enter either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure one time, valid for two days, from October 17, 2023 all the way to October 21, 2023. The price you will pay for your ticket will be an average of the five days that are available to you. In short, following the example above: you can go to either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure two times, from October 17 to October 21.

You must also decide if you want to add an Express Pass to your ticket or not. This can be bought later on, even if you don’t want to pay for it now, so don’t worry too much about it. We will talk about Express Passes very soon, just know that they are a quick (and expensive) way to cut lines, much like Disney Genie+ in Disney theme parks.

Step 5

You have chosen the number of days you wish to visit both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, you selected a date, awesome! After you pay for it, your ticket will be sent to your email address. 

A good tip that might save you precious minutes is to open your digital ticket and take a screenshot with your phone. This way, you won’t need to rely on an internet connection once you arrive at the park entrance. Just grab your phone, show the screenshot and you are good to go.

Express Passes

Islands Adventure Hogwarts Express 2.webp

Let’s copy and paste exactly what Universal Orlando says about Express Passes. According to them, the Express Pass “allows you to skip the regular lines at most of your favorite rides and attractions”. This is basically a new form of Fast Pass which can make the queue times more tolerable for specific rides… for a price, of course.

You know what’s immediately good about them? Unlike Disney Genie+, you don’t need an app to pre-book a ride or anything like that. You just get to the Universal Express queue, present your ticket and you are good to go! Simple and effective.

There are two types of Express Passes:

  • 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.

Remember what I said a while ago that it doesn’t matter if you buy a ticket for Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure, since they are basically the same and you choose which park you want to go while you are there? The same can’t be said about Express Passes. The one for Islands of Adventure is slightly more expensive than the Universal Studios one, which makes sense, since the first park does have more (and better) rides.

Islands Adventure entrance 2.webp

Now, the real question is: do I recommend an Express Pass for either Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios?

The short answer is: probably not.

The long answer is: probably not. I think the Express Passes are way too expensive and, if you get to the theme park early, you can experience every ride at least once and even repeat most of them. There is also the fact that the Express Pass won’t even give you access to every possible attraction. When it comes to Islands of Adventure, for example, Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure isn’t even included on the special pass, so you end up paying and STILL have to enter the standard queue for the most popular ride in the entire park.

Now, I can see the Express Pass being valuable in some cases, yes, especially if you have the courage to visit Universal during the packed seasons, be it the middle of July or near Christmas. Still, there is a very good chance that even the special lines are full of guests that had the same idea as you did, so you will be waiting in line either way. You will also be paying a lot for an express pass during the busy seasons. I’d say something like $200-$300 per guest, which is a lot of money.

Another case where an Express Pass might prove invaluable is if you are really short on time and you are staying in Florida for a couple of days only. If you have never been to either theme park and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity then I’d say, yeah, get an Express Pass and have fun!

Universal Islands Adventure Flight Gryph.webp

Parking

Parking is not included in your Universal Orlando ticket, in case you want to drive to a theme park. Parking costs $30 per day, and prime parking costs around $50. Keep in mind that these prices are updated every year, so it’s always a good idea to check the official website before your trip or send us a message.

Some premier Universal hotels offer free parking. The good news is that Universal features a good number of hotels that are just a few minutes away from Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, so you can just walk there and won’t even need to drive.

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