Universal Orlando Resort for Newbies – Universal Express Pass

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Whether you are a long-time Walt Disney World guest looking to switch theme parks on your next trip or you are visiting Orlando for the first time, planning a visit to Universal Orlando Resort poses a lot of questions. This article will cover the ins-and-outs of Universal’s line-skipping program, Express Pass, and what to expect if you use it.

What is Universal Express Pass?

Express Pass is Universal’s skip-the-line offering for their theme park rides and shows. Universal’s marketing says Express will cut your wait in half but we have seen hour-long waits cut down to 10 minutes.

Express Pass vs FastPass

The biggest difference between Disney’s FastPass system and Express Pass is cost: FastPass is complimentary while Express Pass is an additional charge. Prices start at $59.99 per person plus tax per day with busier days, like holidays, costing more.

Unlike FastPass, Express Pass does not require reservations or feature return time windows to access the attraction. This makes Express a great option for guests who prefer or require more flexibility in their touring style. Express Pass also perfectly syncs up with our customizable Touring Plans.

Express Pass entrance at Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.

Do I NEED Express Pass?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: If you arrive before opening, follow a touring plan, take a mid-day break, and stay till the park closes then you do not need an Express Pass. But the option is a nice feature to have for the added flexibility and peace of mind, or if you want to ride everything between the two parks in one day.

Which Attractions Accept Express Pass?

All major rides and shows accept Express Pass except for Ollivander’s Wand Experience and Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure  (we expect Hagrid to be added in the future).

Types of Express Pass

Similar to park admission options, there are several types of Express Pass offered by Universal.

Express Pass is the standard level option and allows guests to skip the line one time per attraction. Passes start at $59.99 per adult plus tax per day for one park, an upgrade to two parks (Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure) starts at $69.99 per adult plus tax per day.

Express Pass Unlimted lets guests skip the standby line an unlimited amount of times. Prices start at $84.99 per adult plus tax per day for one park or $89.99 per adult plus tax per day for two parks.

Express Pass Plus is like the standard Express Pass but is only valid for Volcano Bay. Prices start at $39.99 per adult plus tax per day. No multi-park options are available.

Hard Rock Hotel stays include Unlimited Express Pass.

Complimentary Express Pass

Two-park, Express Pass Unlimited passes are included with stays at Universal’s Premier hotels: Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, and Royal Pacific. These passes are good for each day of your stay, including check-in and check-out days. Complimentary Express Pass Unlimited is not valid for Volcano Bay.

We advise pricing out a stay on-site along with staying at another hotel and purchasing Express Passes – depending on the number of guests and time of year, you could save hundreds of dollars. Remember: passes are good check-in and check-out dates; if you plan on going to Universal for two days you will only have to pay for one night at a Premier hotel.

Why is it that the best image available of Express Pass sales is a screenshot from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt?

Acquiring Express Pass

Express Passes can be purchased at the following locations:

  • Universal’s website
  • Universal ticket windows
  • Express Pass kiosks around the parks
  • Specially marked stores
  • Hotel vacation planning desks

We advise purchasing online prior to your visit and picking up at will call or printing at home. Print at home is the most convenient choice but keep in mind you will have several pieces of 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper now to carry around the parks – will call tickets are credit card sized.

Complimentary Express Pass Unlimited is tied to your resort room key received at check-in.

How to Use Express Pass

Attractions with Express will have a separate, specially marked entrance. A Universal Team Member will scan your Express Pass and a camera will verify your face to the ticket. No other verification is required in the queue.

Do you have questions about Universal Express Pass? Leave your questions and 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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