Are you heading to Universal Orlando Resort during your Orlando vacation? If so, that’s great news!
Maybe you’re visiting in the fall for Halloween Horror Nights or looking at a trip to celebrate the Holiday Season at Universal. But no matter the time of year you visit, having a solid plan in place before you go can really help you make the most of your time. To that end, we’re talking about choosing the BEST itinerary for YOUR trip to Universal Orlando Resort!
Park Touring Basics
Universal Orlando is currently home to two theme parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Here’s a closer look at them!
(Heads up: In 2025, these will be joined by a third major theme park: Epic Universe!)
Volcano Bay water park and Universal CityWalk (dedicated to shopping and dining) are additional Resort offerings.
Maximizing Your Time
There are a couple of extra ways to maximize your time at the Universal theme parks. One is Early Park Admission for eligible guests. Universal Orlando Hotel guests and Annual Passholders can get into the designated park offering Early Admission up to one hour prior to regular park guests.
This is a GREAT way to get a jump on the day! You can visit the Universal Orlando website to see which park is offering Early Admission (even Volcano Bay water park offers this perk), as well as which rides are available before the official park opening.
Universal Express Pass is another tool, and it’s available at an extra cost.
As Universal’s website explains, “When you add Universal Express access to your theme park admission, you get to skip the regular lines at most of your favorite rides and attractions. So you can fit way more fun into your day.”
Universal Orlando offers two variants of the Express Pass for their main theme parks, each of which is variably priced based on seasonal crowd levels. The Universal Express pass allows guests to “skip the lines” one time per participating ride and ranges from $89.99 to $349.99 per person. There’s also the Universal Express Unlimited option, which ranges from $99.99 to $379.99 per person and allows unlimited skips of the line at participating rides. Guests of Universal Orlando’s Premier tier resorts (the Hard Rock Hotel, the Royal Pacific Resort, and the Portofino Bay Hotel) are given complimentary use of the Express pass lines as part of their stay.
Universal Theme Park Tickets
Universal Orlando theme park tickets are date-based, meaning the specific date or start date you choose will affect the final price you pay. You can search the prices for your specific dates on the Universal Orlando Resort website.
You can choose a ticket option like One Park Per Day, and can extend that option by the amount of days you wish to visit. But remember: if riding the Hogwarts Express is a non-negotiable for your trip, then you MUST purchase a Park-to-Park ticket (which grants entrance into BOTH Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure on the same day).
For one adult, your ticket will cost:
- One Park Per Day: $109-159
- Park-to-Park (2 parks, 1 day): $164-214
- Two parks, Two days: $108-148 per day
- Two days, Park-to-Park: $276 ($138 per day) – $351 ($175 per day)
For one child (ages 3 to 9), your ticket will cost:
- One Park Per Day: $104-154
- Park-to-Park (2 parks, 1 day): $159-209
- Two parks, Two days: $103-144 per day
- Two days, Park-to-Park: $266 ($133 per day) – $341 ($170 per day)
Now, we’ve previously provided detailed itineraries for One-Day, Two-Day, and Three-Day visits to Universal Orlando:
- Click HERE for the BEST 1-Day Itinerary for Universal Studios
- Click HERE for the BEST 2-Day Itinerary for Universal Orlando
- Click HERE for the BEST 3-Day Itinerary for Universal Orlando
Each of these itineraries helps you know how to prioritize your specific amount of time so you can experience the most from your day — or days! — at Universal. But perhaps you’re wondering which one is the BEST itinerary?
Simply put: the best itinerary is the one you can afford. If you’re on a budget, you may reach the conclusion that the 2-day itinerary allows your group to experience everything you want while still being able to stay within your budget goals. Up for a splurge? The 3-day itinerary may be right up your alley!
That said, you may be considering an itinerary based on different factors than simply your budget and time. So let’s explore a few other approaches.
Universal with a Family
Is your family your Universal traveling crew? And are one or more kiddos in the mix?
In that case, we do want to suggest opting for two days to complete the attractions, shows, and character meets we’ve included below in our suggested itinerary for families. (Remember, you can check any ride height requirements on the Universal Orlando website or app ahead of your visit in case your family still has a wee one!)
Also, note that we have included Volcano Bay in our suggestions for families if you do happen to have some extra time to enjoy this fun-filled water park!
One more thing to address: we’ve included Hogwarts Express in our itinerary. Remember, Park-to-Park tickets are the ONLY ticket type that allow you to ride Hogwarts Express, which transports guests between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
We suggest that you start off in Islands of Adventure. (You’ll see notes here and there below of things that may be handy to know. For instance, if your group doesn’t enjoy, say, water rides, you can omit those types of rides, if you wish).
Here, you’ll want to hit up the following attractions:
- Ride Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure (A roller coaster that packs a thrill)
- Ride Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey
- Ride Flight of the Hippogriff (Child-friendly roller coaster)
- Ride Pteranodon Flyers, if eligible (A ride that’s just for kids and ONE accompanying adult companion)
- Ride Jurassic Park River Adventure (water ride with one drop splash)
- Play in Camp Jurassic
- Ride Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls (Universal describes this as “part roller coaster, part water flume,” and you will get wet on this one)
- Ride Storm Force Accelatron (Spin, Spin, Spin!)
- Meet Super Heroes
- Ride The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
- Ride The Cat in the Hat
- Check out Mystic Fountain (Interactive entertainment)
- Ride Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley (As noted above, this requires Park-to-Park tickets)
Next up? Universal Studios, where you’ll take on the following:
- Ride Harry Potter & the Escape from Gringotts (Thrill)
- See The Tales of Beedle the Bard
- Visit Ollivanders Wand Shop
- Make time for ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s!
- Watch Blues Brothers/Marilyn & the Diamond Belles street entertainment
- Ride Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
- Ride Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast
- Meet a Minion
- Ride Transformers The Ride-3D
- See The Bourne Stuntacular Show
- Ride E.T. Adventure
- See Animal Actors on Location
- Meet characters like SpongeBob SquarePants and The Simpsons
And finally? Make a splash at Volcano Bay and enjoy the following:
- Swim in Runamukka Reef
- Play at Tot Tiki Reef
- Wind down Kopiko Wai Winding River
- Chill on Waturi Beach
- Splash in Puka Uli Lagoon
Universal for Thrill Seekers
Are you ready for THRILLS? When it comes to Universal Orlando, you are in the RIGHT place!
To complete the proposed itinerary below all in one day, you’ll need the Park-to-Park tickets and Universal Express Pass, or you can spread it out over two days for a mellower pace. You’ll also notice that we’ll start this itinerary in Volcano Bay for its seriously thrilling water slides, which requires its own park ticket should you opt to tackle this entire thrill-filled itinerary.
Start in Volcano Bay and get soaked on the following (if you dare…) :
- Ko’okiri Body Plunge
- Tai Nui of Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
- Krakatau Aqua Coaster
- Honu of Honu Ika Moana
- Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
Head with your fellow thrill seekers to Islands of Adventure next to ride the following:
- Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster
- Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
- Jurassic Park River Adventure
Final stop? Universal Studios where you’ll take on the following thrills:
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
- Revenge of the Mummy
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
- Transformers: The Ride – 3D
- Bourne Stuntacular
Universal for Harry Potter Fans
Oh, did you know that Universal has a teeny, tiny little something called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter?
Juuuust kidding… we know, of course, that visiting and experiencing everything in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the biggest draw of all for many wizards and witches heading to Universal! And for you, my wizarding friends, we present this itinerary, especially for Harry Potter fans.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is divided into TWO sections — one in each park, with Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios.
So, to do this itinerary all in one day, you’ll need the Park-to-Park tickets to ride Hogwarts Express. (P.S. Having Early Park Entry by staying at a Universal Resort helps as well!)
Start in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley (in Universal Studios) to begin your Wizarding World of Harry Potter Itinerary:
- Attend the Wand Ceremony at Ollivanders Wand Shop (and purchase a wand, if you wish!)
- Ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
- Cast spells around the wizarding world with your new Interactive Wand
- Shop for wizarding school supplies at the stores around Diagon Alley (don’t forget to explore Knockturn Alley)
- Have lunch at the Leaky Cauldron (the fish and chips with a Pumpkin Fizz are always a winner in my book!)
- After lunch, head over to King’s Cross Station to take the Hogwarts Express to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure) (As noted above, requires Park-to-Park ticket)
- Ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
- Snack break at Honeydukes
- Ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Watch the Frog Choir in Hogsmeade
- Ride Flight of the Hippogriff
- Have dinner at Three Broomsticks
- Take the Hogwarts Express BACK to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
- Get ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s
- See the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts or Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration
- AAAAANNNNDDD… Make Butterbeer stops throughout the day as needed 😉
Oooh, I feel the magic in the air just THINKING about it! How about you?
So now you have even MORE ways to explore Universal Orlando Resort! Which one will YOU choose?