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The Universal Express Pass is the key to seeing both of the parks, riding all of the rides and getting the most out of a visit to Universal Studios Orlando. But it can be a pricey investment. Learn when it’s worth the splurge, when it’s not and why you should hardly ever buy your Universal Express pass online.
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Is a Universal Express Pass Worth the Splurge?
Unlike Disney’s FastPass system at Walt Disney World, the Universal Express Pass is not free. Far from it. The cheapest Express Pass is $69.99 per person per day (in mid-January 2020). Multiply that by a family of four, add the cost of the park admission and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.
(You can buy an Express Pass inside the parks. Unless you’re staying in a hotel that offers the Express Pass as a perk, you almost never want to buy your Express Pass online before you go to the park. More on that in a minute.)
So why would it be worth the splurge? In cases like these:
- You only have one day and want to experience as much of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure as you can.
- You’re visiting at busy times of the year — holidays, school vacations, and spring break weeks — and don’t want to wait in the long lines at the regular queue for rides. If you know you’re going to be visiting at those busy times and you know you will want to buy Express Passes, it’s OK to buy them online when you book your trip. This is one of those times when you should buy them before your visit. Only a limited number of passes are available each day and they can sell out.
Key Things to Remember about Universal Express Pass
- Regular park admission is not included. You still need to buy a park ticket.
- The Express Pass is valid only on the date printed on the ticket.
- It is not valid for separately ticketed events.
- The Express Pass cannot be used for fast admission to:
Fievel’s Playland at Universal Orlando Resort
Pteranodon Flyers or Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
How to Get an Express Pass for Free
You can score free passes by staying at select Universal Orlando Hotels. Rooms at Universal Premier category hotels — Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Royal Pacific Resort — come complete with two-park unlimited Express Passes. Your hotel room key doubles as the express park pass.
Even better, the Universal Express Pass is good on the day you check in and the day you check out. That means a one-night stay gets you two days of Universal Express Passes. If there are 4 people in your family and you can snag a Universal Premier Category hotel room for $300 a night, you still would save money over the cost of a budget-friendly hotel like the Cabana Bay Universal Resort and two days of Universal Express Passes for everyone.
Staying at an on site hotel offers another perk: early park admission. That means you might be able to ride all of the hot rides — like those at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — without an Express Pass because you get into the parks before the crowds arrive.
The Single Rider Line Hack
If you and the kids are OK riding separately, consider choosing the single rider queue. It often can be as fast at the Express Pass line and it’s free.
What Are the 5 Express Pass Options?
Editor’s Note: Express Pass prices vary by date. Prices and details listed were accurate for mid-January 2020.
1-Park Universal Express Pass, $69.99 per person
The Universal Express entitles one person one-time express ride access at participating rides and attractions via an express access line with a shorter wait times.
1-Park Universal Express Unlimited Pass, $89.99 per person
This Express Pass entitles one person unlimited express ride access at participating attractions and rides via the express pass line.
2-Park Universal Express Pass, $74.99
This ticket offers one-time express ride access at participating rides and attractions in both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park via the separate queue line with a shorter wait times.
2-Park Universal Express Unlimited Pass, $89.99
This Express Pass offers unlimited express ride access at participating rides and attractions in both Universal Studios Florida an Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Park via a separate queue line with a shorter wait times.
1-Park Universal Express PLUS Pass, $39.99
This is the pass for Volano Bay. It’s good for the right to skip the “virtual line” one time for each attraction at the water park.
What Attractions and Rides are Included?
Most, but not all, attractions at Universal are included in the Express Pass program, even The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Here’s the list, as of January 2020.
Universal Studios Florida
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
- Hogwarts Express (Park-to-Park admission ticket required)
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
- TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D
- Fast & Furious – Supercharged
- MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
- Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
- The Simpsons Ride
- Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
- Revenge of the Mummy
- E.T. Adventure
- Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster
Universal’s Islands Of Adventure
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Hogwarts Express (Park-to-Park admission ticket required)
- Flight of the Hippogriff
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster
- Storm Force Accelatron
- Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
- Jurassic Park River Adventure
- Skull Island: Reign of Kong
- The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!
- Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
- Poseidon’s Fury
Universal’s Volcano Bay
- Krakatau Aqua Coaster
- Punga Racers
- Maku of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
- Puihi of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
- Honu of Honu ika Moana
- ika Moana of Honu ika Moana
- Tonga of Taniwha Tubes
- Raki of Taniwha Tubes
Additional Rides Available with Express PLUS:
- Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
- Ko’okiri Body Plunge
- Ohyah of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
Why You Should Never Buy Your Express Pass Online
One of our friends learned this the hard way. She spent $300 buying Express Passes for her family online the night before their first visit to the parks. Why? Because they only had one day and wanted to see as much of both parks as they could in the limited time they had.
It turned out to be a costly mistake. They were visiting in the off season — mid-week in February — on a rainy day. The parks were nearly empty, the lines were short and the Express Passes weren’t needed.
So wait until you get to the parks. And don’t even buy them at the entrance. Wait until you get inside and get a feel for the crowds. Express Passes are available for sale at gift shops throughout the parks. They’ll be available if you need them.
If you did buy them ahead and don’t need them, you may be able to get a refund if the passes have not been used.
Where to Buy Discounted Universal Tickets
Traveling Mom recommends purchasing your Universal tickets through Get Away Today. Not only does the company have the lowest prices, it offers a best price guarantee. If you ever find park tickets cheaper, Get Away Today won’t just match the price, the company will beat it. If you call to make your purchase be sure to mention TravelingMom! (If you’re wondering why we choose to partner with Get Away Today, read our review of the impressive customer service we got when we booked Disney tickets through Get Away Today.)