Five Mistakes To Avoid at Universal Orlando

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We receive more and more guests with questions about vacationing at Univeral Orlando. Sometimes they are Disney fans looking to try something new, people excited to visit the new attractions, or even those making their first trip to the Orlando area. Here are five mistakes we frequently see guests make (or make ourselves!) and what to do instead.

Near mirror glass reflection of the Universal Orlando Resort globe. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Buying Admission at the Gate

Tickets and passes are $20 more expensive at the gate than online. Instead, purchase tickets online through Touring Plans Travel, a resell agent, or Universal’s website. If you are already at the resort and need tickets immediately purchase them through the Universal Orlando website or app and choose Will Call or Print Out at Home options. Will Call tickets are picked up at the far right of Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure at a kiosk, Print At Home will provide you a barcode for scanning.

Over Planning Dining Reservations

One time I was trip planning for Disney-focused family friends and casually mentioned we had not booked dining reservations yet. Their reaction was priceless.

Universal does not require the amount of dining reservation planning as Disney does, but it is advised to book some high-demand restaurants before your trip. The biggest mistake people make is overbooking their vacations full of dining reservations. Instead, we suggest making reservations only for the most popular restaurants ahead of your vacation (see this article for Restaurants You Need to Book in Advance) and booking the rest during your trip the day of. If you do get stuck there are many great restaurants that have last-minute availability at CityWalk and the resorts (Blog: Four Last Minute Table Service Reservations at Universal Orlando).

Skipping Mid-Day Breaks

In May I took a trip with my friend Brian to WDW and UOR. We made use of daily mid-day breaks at Universal and loved it. In September I went with friends and didn’t take breaks and felt miserable. Universal’s small size allows guests to access all onsite hotels within 15 minutes by bus, boat, or walking.

Head back to the resorts, enjoy the pool, grab a drink, or check out an arcade. Guests staying at Premier, Preferred, and Prime Value resorts can also pool hop, so Aventura guests can jump to Sapphire Falls’ much larger pool. Then return to the parks once rested and the weather has cooled down.

(photo by Mike Sperduto)

Booking Your Hotel Shortly Before the Trip

Every year our group goes down to Universal for Halloween Horror Nights. And every year one person always books their hotel at the last minute. While many of us locked in low rates back in the winter or spring, they end up paying a premium. Universal allows rebooking of hotels under lower rates or Annual Pass discounts without penalty up to a week before your trip, so take advantage of this and book your hotel as soon as possible to lock in a rate. There are countless times I booked a resort at one price and was able to rebook under a much cheaper rate, and all those rates were lower than if I booked a few weeks out.

Buying Express Pass

Express Pass is a nice perk to have but it starts at $79 per person per day! Instead of buying an Express Pass, book an onsite stay at a Premier hotel and receive a complimentary unlimited Express Pass per person for each day of your stay (Blog: Universal’s Best Secret – Complimentary Hotel Express Pass). This includes check-in and check-out days, so a one-night stay at a hotel provides two days of Express usage. If Express Passes are a must then price out the savings by staying on-site over buying Express separately.

What are your favorite tips for first-time visitors? Leave them in the comments below!

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Joseph Matt

Avid amusement park and video game fan. Enjoys picking up rare beers at breweries, exploring cities, cooking, and sports.

2 thoughts on “Five Mistakes To Avoid at Universal Orlando

  • November 11, 2022 at 12:36 pm

    Good article, but I feel like rope dropping Hagrid’s should be on here as well. EVERYONE does it, and the wait often drops later in the day. Plus, waiting in such a long line coupled with potential downtime can eat up a LOT of optimal touring time.

  • November 11, 2022 at 1:14 pm

    A great day can be had WITHOUT express passes with a good ol’ fashioned touring plan. I know the express passes at the premiere hotels are “complimentary”, but you are paying for the perk by staying at a premiere hotel.


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