5 Things to Know Before You Go - Universal Orlando Resort

If you are planning a trip to Universal Orlando in Florida, these tips will help you save both time and money.

1. Stay onsite for Early Admission and Free Express Passes

It is worth it to stay onsite. True, the Loews onsite hotels can be more expensive than other nearby hotels, but 3 of them (Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel, and Royal Pacific Resort) give you both early access to the park AND front of the line passes (Express Pass). If you are traveling during the summer especially, you’ll want those front of the line passes that will save you hours of waiting! I’d recommend checking the crowd calendar at touringplans.com and if it’s over a 5, consider staying at a hotel that offers Early Admission and the Express Pass.

 The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

2. If you will be at Universal Orlando for 3 days or longer, buy an annual pass

Annual Pass benefits are fantastic. You can even save some money staying onsite if you are an Annual Pass holder. And the passes are not as expensive as you might think. If you are going to the parks for 3 days and want park-to-park access (which I recommend so you can ride the Hogwarts Express), the Seasonal Pass for both theme parks costs the same as a 3-day ticket. There are blackout days, so check those before you purchase. If you are traveling during those blackout days, you might consider the Power Annual Pass. With any of the Annual Passes (including the Seasonal Pass), you can get heavy discounts at the onsite hotels. Check the rates before purchasing your Annual Pass here  but keep in mind that only three of the hotels (Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, and Royal Pacific) offer the Express Pass benefit.

Universal Orlando Diagon Alley

3. Skip the rental car

It might be cheaper to use Lyft than renting a car. On our last trip, we did the math, and once we accounted for the rental car fee, gas, hotel parking fees, and tolls, we saved over $150 by taking Lyft. We never waited more than five minutes for a ride and our drivers were courteous and helpful. If you are signing up for a Lyft account, use the code SIMPLETIPS for a discount on your first three rides. Discounts vary by market, but at the time of posting they are offering $10 off each of your first three rides in Orlando.

4. Make a lunch or dinner reservation for Mythos

Located in Universal Islands of Adventure, this is not your typical theme park restaurant. In my opinion, it rivals some of the best food at Walt Disney World. Our favorite dishes are the Gnocchi Bolognese and Cranberry Blue Cheese Crusted Pork, each for under $20. Pair that with some air conditioning, and it’s our favorite summer stop in the park! Keep in mind that Mythos does NOT accept same day reservations, so you’ll need to reserve your table at least a day in advance using Zomato.

5. Pro Tip: Enter through the Gift Shop

When you ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you’ll need to put your belongings in lockers before you board the ride. Ignore the long line that starts down the hill from the castle. Instead, enter through the gift shop to the right of the castle door, find a locker, then make your way into the entrance hall from there. On crowded summer days this can save you an hour of wait time.

What are your favorite Universal Orlando tips? Please share them in the comments below!


The Lyft links above are affiliate links, which means Lyft gives me a little love (and pocket money to help pay for this site) if you sign up using the SIMPLETIPS code. It doesn't cost you anything and, in fact, you get a discount for using the code. So it's a win-win.