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Universal Orlando Trip Planning Timeline

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See those fun ads on TV promoting Universal Orlando and think, “Hey, I wanna go there, but I have no idea where to start planning.” Wonder no longer, as I will go over important milestones and trip planning timelines for your big vacation. Even if you are familiar with booking a Disney vacation, Universal has different milestones and planning periods. No matter if it is your first trip or your hundredth, this article is for you.

If you are frantically searching the night before your trip for advice, we have you covered. Read Planning a Universal Orlando Vacation on Short Notice for hotels and restaurants with last-minute reservations, things to do before you arrive, and more.

Universal Mardi Gras takes place every spring.

7+ Months Before Trip

  • Is Universal Right for Us? Think about what sort of books, movies, TV shows, and video games your family likes. Are your kids tall enough to ride Universal’s headliner attractions? Universal’s rides aggravate motion sickness and are more intense than Disney’s rides.
  • Establish a Budget & Trip Length. By determining a budget, you can determine a trip length and vice versa. Our articles on budgeting for your Universal Orlando vacation are a great place to start to determine your budget.
  • When Should We Go? Start with Touring Plan’s crowd calendar to find the quietest days at the parks. Then look at your calendar for school schedules and personal events. While traveling over a long weekend sounds fun it also sounds fun to 60,000 of your closest friends too.
  • What Hotel Should We Stay At? Universal’s hotels span a huge range of price points and amenities, from bowling alleys to spas. Start by reading our article on the overview of hotels and choosing a hotel.
  • Research Travel Insurance. If this is a big trip you might want to purchase travel insurance for your big purchase.
  • Apply for Visas and Passports. If you are traveling from outside the United States this is the time to apply for the appropriate visas and check your passports.
Holidays at Universal Orlando run every November to January. (photo by Michael Carelli)

6 to 4 Months Before Trip

  • Book a Hotel and lock in your rate now. If the price for your stay drops anytime between booking and your trip call up Universal to receive the lower price.
  • Purchase Admission Tickets through Touring Plans Travel or online on Universal’s website. Discounts and special offers on admission such as upgrades or additional days for free are offered in the spring. Watch the Touring Plans Blog for the latest ticket discounts.
  • Review Universal Orlando’s Attractions with your party to determine what you want to see. Our reviews of attractions, the Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando, and attraction videos on YouTube are fantastic assets. Also, read our guides on the highest-rated attractions for age groups.
  • Research your Travel Options like driving, flights, rental cars, and parking. Airline prices fall from now till 7 weeks before your departure date, so pick your flights now and book later.
Universal Monsters: Gallery of Legends.(photo by Michael Carelli)

3 Months Before Trip

  • Create preliminary Touring Plans based on your must-see attractions. Once we get closer to our trip we will finalize these plans, more on that later.
  • Start Booking Dining at character dining, Wantilan Luau, and Toothsome Chocolate Emporium now. Yes, Universal has more same-day restaurant reservation availability than Disney but we still suggest booking you must-eat-at places now.
  • Airline prices are the cheapest around this period, Book Your Airfare and Finalize Transportation now. If you are driving to Orlando finalize your route, book any hotels, and have your car inspected and tuned up.

2 Months Before Trip

  • Install the Universal Orlando app on mobile devices. Universal doesn’t push the app as much as Disney but it is handy for mobile ordering, viewing wait times, and booking dining reservations.
  • Create a Universal Orlando Account to sync tickets and a credit card for mobile ordering or TapuTapu.
  • Schedule Delivery for food, stroller, and other items now. Many services offer discounts for booking early, so take advantage of those savings. Read our article on Grocery Delivery at Universal Orlando for recommended services and more information.
  • The average guest walks 5-10 miles a day during an Orlando theme park vacation. Start a Walking Regimen now to improve your stamina while in the theme parks.
  • Ok, not everything is exercise and spending more money. Watch Films and TV Series that inspire the attractions at the resort. Some personal favorites include Jurassic Park, The Mummy (1999), Men in Black, and E.T.
(photo by Michael Carelli)

1 Month Before Trip

  • Use the Universal Orlando app or website to Confirm Theme Park Hours for the days of your visit. Note any attractions closed during your trip for maintenance and adjust your plans.
  • With the updated hours it is time to Finalize Your Touring Plans. Add dining and break times to your plans, remove any closed attractions, or add attractions to your plans.

2 Weeks Before Trip

  • We are down to the wire. Finalize Plans for travel, hotel, admission tickets, dining reservations, and deliveries. Universal hotels allow cancelations up to a week before your trip.
  • Decide if MyUniversalPhotos fits your trip. We think it’s great for attraction and character photos but sub-par for other in-park photo opportunities.
(photo by @bioreconstruct)

1 Week Before Trip

  • Check the Weather Forecast for rain and also the highs and lows, Orlando in the winter can reach into the low 30s.
  • Make a Packing List based on the weather and your party’s needs. Touring Plans has great packing lists to start with and customize.

48-24 Hours Before Trip

  • Ahhhh! It’s almost here! Check Into Your Flights online and confirm your departure time and gate.
  • Confirm Your Travel Details and place them all in one location. I suggest using a free spreadsheet application like Google Sheets to store reservation numbers, times, and parking locations. It is easy to use and can be shared between party members.
  • Finish Packing. Trust me, better now than later.
  • If you are staying at a Universal Hotel look for an email or text message to Check Into The Hotel Online. For more information read our article on Universal’s online hotel check-in.

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Joseph Matt

Joe covers theme parks through the lens of his quality engineering day job. He has over five years of writing experience at Touring Plans and has gone on dozens of trips to Orlando over his life. When not at amusement parks you can find Joe at breweries, enjoying live theater, playing video games, and cooking.

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