If you’re planning your first trip to Universal Orlando Resort, I have some vacation planning tips that will help you navigate the parks, choose where to stay, and which rides to make a priority.
First things first, Universal Orlando has three theme parks: Universal Studios Flordia, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay water park. There’s also CityWalk, which is where you will walk through to get to the theme parks. Think tons of restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. I have been to the parks during their Halloween and Mardi Gras celebrations, though anytime you can plan a trip, I know you’ll have a blast!
Where To Stay
My husband and I stayed at Cabana Bay and loved it! We were so close to the action, were able to get early entrance to the parks, and had access to the free shuttle. A huge perk staying there is that it’s walking distance to Volcano Bay! My feet, ankles, and shins were screaming towards the end of our trip and even I could walk over there.
When To Arrive
If you stay on-site, absolutely take advantage of getting into the park early! Depending on your interests, speed walk over to Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts or Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. Those two get really high wait times as more people enter the park. Once you check off your favorite ride, check the app for wait times.
Universal’s app makes it really easy to determine which ride to go to next – if all the wait times are super high, maybe it’s time for a snack break or to just find a nice spot to sit and relax.
Which Tickets To Get
This is based off my experience, of course. If you love Harry Potter, boarding from either King’s Cross Station in London at Universal Studios or Hogsmeade Station in Islands of Adventure is an absolute must! To do this, you need the park-to-park tickets, so I obviously think they’re worth it. We also enjoyed being able to hit the water park after a half day in the sun at one of the other parks. During our first visit, we actually upgraded our tickets to annual passes. Since then we’ve been back once and are hopefully planning another trip back this fall.
Quick Note on Butterbeer
Prior to our trip, I tried to search how to get a dairy-free/vegan Butterbeer. A few people mentioned they were able to get theirs without the foam. When I asked, I was turned down every time and was told they could get fired for creating the drink incorrectly. Instead, I got the pumpkin juice and it felt just as festive.
My Favorite Rides & Rides I Can Skip
During our first trip to Universal Orlando, we went for four days. We originally planned on five days in the parks but decided to venture to Disney’s Magic Kingdom on our last day. During our four days at Universal, we rode just about every single ride. I’m too much of a wimp to ride Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit but my husband loves it! On our last day, I finally rode The Incredible Hulk Coaster and was obsessed. We rode it for a second time before the park closed for the night.
A few of my other favorite rides are Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park River Adventure, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, and Krakatau Aqua Coaster.
If you’re open to riding fewer thrill rides, The Cat in the Hat, E.T. Adventure, and Flight of the Hippogriff are great. Alright now for the unpopular opinion rides that I can skip out on now that I’ve done them once… The Simpsons Ride, too shaky for me and almost claustrophobic.
Let me preface this last one with: I love the intro to this ride and I love the movies but again, the ride was a bit too shaky for me… Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. Hear me out, it’s a great concept and I wanted to love it but my head and stomach needed some love after that one.
When we go back (hopefully in a few months) I can’t wait to ride Fast & Furious – Supercharged! I follow Universal on Instagram, along with their blog squad and had serious FOMO during the ride release. It looks awesome! Another ride that I wish I could ride is Pteranodon Flyers, the ride for little ones. It’s not recommended for anyone taller than 56″ unless they’re accompanying a child, so one day!!
If you’re wondering where my What To Eat section is, it’s coming in a separate post! I will recommend packing your own snacks though. I get super hangry when I don’t eat enough and having mixed nuts & jerky saved me that week. To continue this Universal series, I’ll share my top tips, where to eat, and more. If you have a specific question or want a post dedicated to a certain topic, leave a comment letting me know!