Planning a Universal Orlando Vacation on Short Notice

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Time, the ever-flowing river, it always seems we never have enough of it. Especially when life throws surprises, like a surprise Universal Orlando trip, at us. Maybe your child was picked to travel to a jai alai tournament or you and your spouse need to go getaway, quick. Whatever it is, planning a Universal Orlando vacation on short notice is nothing to stress about. In this article, I will cover tips for making the best of your trip, including touring tips and restaurant recommendations.

Determine the Trip’s Who, What, When, and Where

Your mind is probably racing right now, but do not worry we will talk you through everything. Take a moment, breath, and think through these questions:

  • Who is going with you on the trip?
    • This sets your travel party and will guide your choices later in the article. Keep in mind any special accommodations or needs such as wheelchairs, medication, allergies, and diets.
  • What is the goal of this trip?
    • Know why you are going to avoid disappointment. Is this a trip to the theme parks, Aunt Mildred’s 50th birthday, or a cheerleading competition? How does Universal Orlando fit your goals?
  • When is the trip?
    • A trip during the week in September will have different expectations and costs than a trip during Christmas.
  • Where are you staying?
    • Do not take chance flying down to Orlando without a room reservation. Our travel agents can help you find the best deal for free.

Keep these answers in mind when you make decisions throughout the rest of the planning.

Understand the Attractions

Universal’s attractions are among the most popular and impressive in the world. Here you will ride through New York with Spider-man, party with the Minions, escape a vengeful Mummy, and even fly above Hogwarts. Their attractions are also more intense, focusing on scary imagery like spiders or physical forces like a rollercoaster.

We consider these attractions are not to be missed:

Universal Studios Florida

Islands of Adventure

Express Pass is Universal’s paid line skipping service. While the service is significantly more expensive than Genie+ and Lightning Lane it allows you to ride whichever attraction whenever you want. We find Express Pass is great for trips where you have one or fewer days per park.

In one of the more devious plans executed by an entertainment company, the Hogwarts Express requires a park-to-park ticket to ride. While you will have access to both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida it will cost you at least $60 more per ticket. If you are traveling with any Potter heads this might be a required purchase.

Research the Restaurants

(photo by Brandon Glover)

Universal’s quick service and table service options are on par with Disney’s non-signature restaurants. Most Universal restaurants are easy to book a few days out, with only Toothsome requiring reservations weeks out.

We recommend these table service restaurants for same-day availability:

Dining reservations can be made online or by calling 407-224-3663.

Determine A Goal

(photo by Mike Sperduto)

Planning a short notice trip will make anyone’s head spin. Keep in mind (or write down) the goal of your trip, the one reason you are down there. Is it to escape the cold? Ride a brand new attraction? See relatives? This objective is the big stone the smaller stones of the trip will move around. For example, if you are escaping a snow storm you might want to build in extra pool time and dine at outdoor locations.

Make a Touring Plan

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

We love touring plans so much that we named the company after them! Our touring plans are built using patented software and data gathered in the parks. You can access our plans by purchasing a Touring Plans subscription or The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. If you purchase tickets or a hotel through our travel agents you will receive that Touring Plans subscription for free.

If touring plans are not your party’s style, make sure to follow these three tips:

  1. Arrive Early! – Arriving 60 minutes prior to park opening will cut down hours of waits later in the day.
  2. Take a mid-day break – Leave the park after lunch, or grab lunch off property, and return to the parks after a rest.
  3. Hit Major Rides Hour Before Closing – Experience the major attractions you did not see in the morning before the park closes. All rides close their queue at the park close and will let anyone in line ride.

Buy Your Tickets Ahead of Time

Resist the urge to purchase tickets at the gate and save money by buying ahead. Tickets sold at the gate cost $20 more than buying online or through a travel agent. Online tickets can be printed out at home or picked up at the parks. Also, tickets purchased through our travel agents also come with complimentary Early Entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

But Most of All, Have Fun!

Theme park vacations are expensive beasts where people stress about getting their money’s worth. But they should be a time to relax and have fun with people we love. Follow our guide, showed up early, have a plan, and you will have a great time.

Do you have any planning tips for Universal Orlando? 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.

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