Universal Studios Orlando
Arguably my favourite parks in the Orlando area, Universal Studios offer a nice blend of roller coasters and entertainment shows for all ages.
Universal Studios is made up of 3 parks (Universal, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay) all located on Universal Blvd, Orlando. This post will be highlighting the deals to be had and show ways in which these amazing parks can be enjoyed to the fullest without breaking the bank.
Volcano Bay is the newest addition to the Universal franchise and the first water park. But faces tough competition from other water parks in the area like Sea World’s Aquatica and Disney’s Typhoon lagoon. I am pleased to say that Volcano Bay does more than enough to compete with the others and in my personal opinion is the best of the three. Here are a few tips so you can get the most out of your visit:
My first tip at Volcano Bay begins the night before, setting the alarm for an early start the next morning. As Volcano Bay is still the newest park in the Orlando area, many tourists are keen to see what the hype is about and the park has been known to be filled on multiple weekends and holidays throughout the year so to avoid disappointed i would arrive at the latest of 10am. But for the most choice of sunbeds i would recommend getting there as the park opens at 8am, leading me onto my next tip:
Choosing a place to sit
Volcano Bay has enough sunbeds to cater for the whole park when full, but the majority of this seating is located on the main beach in front of the volcano and wave pool. Although this seems like the perfect location in front of all the action, the sunbeds here get little to no shade from the sun with only a select few having umbrellas between them. This is great if you’re the kind of person who loves sunbathing but if, like myself, you can’t stand being in the sun all day, then there are other options open to you. Being early will give you the choice of sunbeds in the park and i recommend heading to the back of the park (Behind the volcano) straight away. Back here you will find little pockets of sunbeds with plenty of umbrellas all surrounded by palm trees providing much more protection from the sun, ideal for families with young children.
There are premium seating and cabana options available for those willing to pay the price.
Making the most of your Tapu Tapu
On arrival, all guests will receive a “watch like” device to be worn on the wrist at all times called a “Tapu Tapu”. Your Tapu Tapu is your ticket to use Volcano Bay’s “virtual line” feature. The virtual line works by scanning your Tapu Tapu at a check in point at the entrance of a ride with a large queue and a time will be given to you to return when it is your turn to ride. This is a great feature because no one likes queuing right?
Many people think that if you’re waiting for a ride time that all you can do is wait elsewhere, e.g the beach, a bar, restaurant etc, but this isn’t true. There is no problem with riding other rides while waiting for your Tapu Tapu time. For example, if you checked into a ride with a 40 minute wait, you can quickly jump on a different ride with no queue and you will not lose your space on the Tapu Tapu.This is a great way of cramming all the action the park has to offer into a short amount of time.
All day dining plan
Volcano bay offer an all day dining plan for $40 per Adult, $25 per Child. This deal allows you to have 1 entree, 1 side/dessert every hour of their stay in the park and unlimited drinks. To save some money i would suggest sharing this deal between your party. For example, when i visited in June this year, me and my girlfriend shared the deal and took it in turns to eat. If we didn’t have the deal we would of spent upwards of $90 worth of food as portions are very big for the prices they charge.
Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios offer a glimpse in the “movie-making” world of Hollywood with guest appearances from the likes of the Blues Brothers and Marilyn Monroe at pre-scheduled times throughout the day. Suitable for all ages, Universal Studios is a great family day out with attractions from movies such as Fast and Furious, The Mummy and Men in Black.
Islands of Adventure is located next door to Universal Studios and in fact have the same entrance. But don’t let that fool you, Islands of Adventure is not simply an add-on to Universal, it’s a very good theme park in it’s own right. With areas like, Marvel Superhero Land, Toon Lagoon, Skull Island, Jurassic Park and the world famous Harry Potter Land, Islands of Adventure really does have something for everyone. Now onto the tips:
This is a recurring theme through most of the parks in the Orlando area due to the crowds of tourists who visit the area, especially during the Summer months. Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are no exception, if you want to get the most out of the parks then you will want to be there when the park opens. My recommendation is to head to “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade” as soon as you get in and ride the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride or take the Wand experience at Olivanders. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is arguably the biggest attraction in Universal as a whole and therefore becomes the busiest very quickly and long queues for all attractions are formed. Try to beat the queues by heading here first.
If you are driving to Universal on your visit then you will need to pass the car parking kiosks, Normal parking cost $25 whereas Premium parking costs $35 which is advertised as being closer to the park and therefore a shorter walk. But the truth is, if you are arriving before 10:30, then the walk from the general car park is not much further, if any further at all. Therefore, you can save $10 before getting into the park.
P.S the car park is pretty big, so don’t forget to remember what section you’re in, determined by multiple film character e.g King Kong, Spider-Man and Jaws etc.
For those travelling alone, or don’t mind riding the rides without their party, many of the rides in Universal Studios offer single rider queues which are usually much shorter than the general entrance queue. So if your goal is to squeeze all the excitements of these parks in a short time period, or just hate queuing, I advise you join the single riders queue.
P.S All riders in the single rider queue must be over 10 years of age.
There are many hotels in the Universal area of Orlando to choose from but for this tip i will be highlighting the hotels with a few offers to consider during your stay.
If you’re the type of person who loves the rides and hate queuing then you’re going to need a Universal express pass to allow you to skip the queues on participating rides (Most rides have this feature) Guests of the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort Hotel all receive an unlimited Universal Express tickets for the duration of their stay, including the day of arrival and departure. Even if you are not staying in these hotels these offers can be very useful, for example, a friend of mine stayed in a villa on the outskirts of Orlando during his holiday, but he planned to do Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure on consecutive days. He therefore booked one night in the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel for $450 (Family of 4) but received express passes for both days worth a total of $600 ($150 each).