Are you planning a trip to Universal Orlando Resort? Wondering if Express Pass is worth the money?
My family recently tried the Express Pass ticket add-on at Universal Orlando Resort. We all love Harry Potter, and my kids (ages 10 and 13) are old enough to get excited about big thrill rides, so we used Express Pass on all the most popular rides in both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.
We are frugal, so we would not have purchased the Express Pass add-on if Universal Orlando Resort had not given them to us to review. I still do not think that Express Pass is essential if you are willing to wake up early and plan ahead. However, I have to admit that I loved our Express Passes.
Express Pass took away all the stress and frustration that we typically feel at theme parks when crowds get heavy. We rode any ride at any time without worrying about crazy long lines. No planning. No running to kiosks. No fussing with an app. It was awesome.
Here are my tips for getting the most from Express Pass at Universal Orlando Resort.
Use it at Nearly Every Ride
Universal Orlando Resort extends its Express Pass privileges to practically every attraction in the park. You'll find Express Pass lines at popular rides like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey as well as kiddie rides like The Cat in the Hat. Most shows have Express Pass lines as well.
The only ride we found without an Express Pass line was Pteranadon Flyers in Universal's Islands of Adventure. Volcano Bay does not offer Express Pass privileges… yet.
Express Pass Wait Times
Your Express Pass allows you to wait in a separate, usually shorter, line than the regular queue. Show your Express Pass to an employee at the ride entrance, and he/she will admit you to the Express Pass line. Universal Orlando Resort limits the number of Express Passes they sell to ensure that Express lines stay shorter than regular lines.
We found that the Express Pass didn't help much early in the day or on less popular rides where lines were short anyway. We also found that when crowds became heavy, Express Pass lines grew too.
Our typical wait in an Express Pass line was 10-15 minutes on a “mixed” weekday in October. Our maximum waits were around 30 minutes for Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and Hogwarts Express. Even then, Express Pass cut our wait time by at least half.
Universal Orlando sells a limited number of Express Passes each day, so buy early if you want to be sure to get them. Prices and availability vary depending on the date of your visit. So, you'll probably pay more and need to buy earlier for the holiday break in December than for a weekday just two weeks later.
Express Pass options
Choose between two Express Passes at Universal Orlando Resort: Universal Express Unlimited or Universal Express. Then decide if you want the pass for just one park, or both parks for each day you purchase this ticket add-on.
We had 2-Park Universal Express Unlimited Passes. This allowed us to enter the Express Line in either park for any ride as many times as we wanted for each day the Express Pass was valid. When our kids begged to ride Jurassic Park River Adventure twice in a row, we rode it twice in a row.
The Universal Express Pass is your other option. This allows you admission to the Express Line once per ride for the date the Express Pass is valid. This option is less expensive than Express Unlimited. It's nice to have an Express Unlimited, but honestly, there were only a couple of rides we enjoyed twice on the same day because there is so much to do at Universal Orlando.
To be clear, an Express Pass will not get you into the park. You must also purchase regular admission. Express Pass is an optional ticket add-on.
See options and pricing for Express Pass at https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/tickets-packages/express-passes/index.html
Buy a lanyard
A lanyard is the best way to keep your Express Pass with you at all times. You'll be required to leave unsecured personal items like day packs in a locker before you enter most thrill ride lines, but you'll need to show the Express Pass in the line. Tuck the lanyard inside your shirt before you ride anything that turns you upside down, like the Incredible Hulk Coaster or Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
You can use any lanyard with a secure plastic pouch and a safety breakaway clasp. Here is an inexpensive example at Amazon.com. We purchased souvenir lanyards at Universal Orlando. There are four people in my family and we each picked a different Hogwarts house lanyard. We can reuse them on future cruise and theme park trips.
My family spends most of our theme park time on rides, and we loved using our Express Unlimited Passes at Universal Orlando. The Express Pass didn't eliminate standing in line, but it cut our wait times dramatically so we could ride a lot more in less time.
Disclosure: Universal Orlando Resort provided my family with complimentary Express Passes for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.
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