How Disney World vs. Universal Orlando Are Handling Limited Capacity in the Parks

We’ve seen many changes at both Disney World and Universal Orlando since they’ve reopened. From modified ride procedures to updated distancing measures, theme parks are completely different than we’ve known them previously.

Magic Kingdom

However, one of the biggest changes has been the limited capacity at theme parks. Both Universal and Disney World recently upped their capacity from 25% to 35%. However, the way that each has been handling limited capacity is different.

Before you head back to the parks, here’s what you need to know about how both parks are operating with limited capacity measures in place!

Disney Park Passes

Disney Park Passes were first introduced to us back in the summer, and have since become a part of our new theme park normal. Since Disney World has only been welcoming a fraction of their possible guests back into the parks, the Park Pass system guarantees people a spot when they head to their selected park for the day.

EPCOT

Instead of showing up to the parks early with a crowd of people, the Disney Park Pass system lends more to the side of leisure with the ability to enter the a park at any point of the day. During peak season, this can be a big benefit so you don’t have to worry about missing out on the opportunity to go to a park, just because it fills quickly in the morning.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

However, there is a downside to the Disney Park Passes since you cannot enter your first park of the day without one (but you can enter a second without a Park Pass, if the capacity permits). So, if you’ve really been missing Cinderella Castle but there’s no availability during your trip, you might not be able to head to your top choice of the parks.

Cinderella Castle

But, Disney has frequently been replenishing their Park Pass availability since they don’t make all of the spots accessible at once. So, be sure to check back on the Disney Park Pass calendar to see if the parks you’re wanting to visit the most open up to additional guests.

First Come, First Serve

While Disney World is operating with the Disney Park Pass system, Universal Orlando has been working with a more “first come, first serve” situation at the parks. And, if you get there early in the morning, you’re usually in decent shape to head into the parks without all the planning associated with reservations.

Gringotts

For the people who are more laid back, this might be the way to go since you can be more spontaneous by heading to either or both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. If you’re going during a slower season or a weekday, you can a lot done in a day in the parks without the constraints of reservations.

Universal Decorations

However, the most prominent issue we’ve encountered is that Universal Orlando’s parks are filling up very quickly during the busiest times of the year (even 10 minutes after opening sometimes). So, even if you get there earlier in the morning, that might not guarantee you a spot. Universal Orlando does open up the parks again in the afternoon usually, though, so you could come back later in the day to go to the parks.

Hogsmeade

When we asked our All Ears readers which they preferred, many of them felt better knowing they could definitely get into the parks with a reservation. So, it could always help Universal to consider some form of a reservation system during the peak times of the year to accommodate more guests.

Virtual Queues

Disney World might only have stand-by at the moment with FastPasses suspended, but Universal Orlando has implemented a lot more Virtual Queues at its attractions in both parks. While we have seen a few of the virtual waitlists in Disney, Universal’s Virtual Queues are a pretty awesome choice when you’re trying to do more rides in a day.

Virtual Queue

Since you can join a line and return back to it later, it gives you the chance to head to other attractions first before swinging back around to your reserved slot. However, this does mean that some of the stand-by queues in Universal have had VERY long wait times, stretching all the way up to 200 minutes for popular rides like Escape from Gringotts.

Escape from Gringotts

While we don’t mind waiting for our favorite spots, these lines can seem like a lot when they keep popping up around the parks. But, we do think it’s important to note that Universal tends to slingshot their estimated wait times.

Revenge of the Mummy

We’ve seen Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at a 60-minute wait when we’ve been able to actually hop on it in 20 minutes instead. The estimated wait times do fluctuate frequently with waits over two hours dropped down to 40-minutes only 10 minutes later.

Hagrid’s Line

So, we do recommend at least attempting to wait in lines without getting spooked by the number, since the estimated wait time might not be fully accurate.

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

While the theme parks continue to adapt to new measures in 2021, we’ll be sure to give you a look at everything you can expect before you head back to Universal Orlando and Disney World soon!

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What has your theme park experience been like recently? Let us know in the comments below!

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Rachel Franko has been going to Disney Parks since she was a baby, and her love of Disney has only grown into a SLIGHT obsession since! She's been writing for AllEars since 2019 and loves sharing the magic with all the readers. When she's not writing, you can catch her heading to Disney and Universal Studios with a heart full of dreams and a backpack full of themed ears!

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3 Replies to “How Disney World vs. Universal Orlando Are Handling Limited Capacity in the Parks”

  1. We just got back from Universal Orlando and Disney World. As a huge fan of Disney I can say that Universal has taken my heart and my wife and kids heart. We visited both Parks in August and back then Disney was manageable but even then we thought Universal was doing it better, but after this trip we can say unequivocally that Universal Orlando is being run by more sensible people. Express Pass is still in effect as well as Fireworks, water shows, snow, etc offering their guests the best possible holiday experience. Universal is still putting hand sanitizer into guests hands before every ride while Disney is voluntary. Our Disney experience was terrible this Christmas. Lines were LONG, food offerings still anemic and the cavalcades trying to replace the regular entertainment is an insult. Disney blaming the virus for cutbacks in entertainment is a lie and is more of a money saving ploy. Sadly we will not be returning to Disney anytime soon.

  2. I’m confused! I bought a ticket for a certain day at Universal. Does that mean they may not let me in that day if they hit capacity?

    1. Possibly but you can call their capacity hotline: 407-817-8317. Resort guests are usually allowed in even if they’re at capacity from the public…