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If you’re planning a trip to Universal Studios Orlando soon, there are several decisions you need to make. Where to stay. Where to eat. How to get there. What kind of Universal Studios tickets to buy. How many days at the parks. There’s a lot to think about, and the costs can be considerable depending on your answers to those questions.
One thing that is certain is that if you are headed to Universal Orlando, you will run into crowds. Several years ago, there were pockets of time throughout the year you could consider as the park’s offseason. Not anymore. It’s almost always busy, especially as people have returned to regular travel.
One way to deal with the crowds is to purchase Universal Express Passes. These passes allow you to bypass the regular queues at many of the park’s most popular attractions. Skipping lines sounds amazing, especially in the hot Florida weather or if you’re traveling with kids. However, there’s an added cost for Universal Express Passes on top of the already- pricey park tickets.
Is the Universal Express Pass worth it?
Way to sit on the fence on this one, right?! The reality is that everyone who visits Universal Studios would benefit from having cut-to-the-front-of-the-line privileges. Nobody wants to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a Universal Studios vacation only to spend their time weaving back and forth for hours passing the same strangers over and over until they reach the front of the line.
But is it worth the added cost?
Let’s find out.
What is the Universal Express Pass?
- Universal Express: Skip the regular lines one time per participating ride; prices range from $89.99 -$349.99 per person per day.
- Universal Express Unlimited: Skip the regular lines an unlimited number of times on participating rides; prices range from $99.99 – $379.99 per person per day.
- Volcano Bay Express: Skip the virtual line on time per participating ride at Universal’s Volcano Bay water park, prices range from $19.99 – $149.99 per person per day.
- Volcano Bay Express Plus: Skip the Virtual Lines at ALL participating rides and attractions at Universal’s Volcano Bay; from $49.99 per person per day.
What Universal Ride Lines Can You Skip With Express Passes?
Universal Studios Florida
- The Bourne Stuntacular
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
- E.T. Adventure
- Fast & Furious – Supercharged
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
- Hogwarts Express (Park-to-Park admission ticket required)
- Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
- MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack
- Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
- The Simpsons Ride
- TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D
- Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster
Universal’s Islands Of Adventure
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
- Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
- Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
- Flight of the Hippogriff
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride
- Hogwarts Express (Park-to-Park admission ticket required)
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster
- Jurassic Park River Adventure
- Poseidon’s Fury
- Skull Island: Reign of Kong
- Storm Force Accelatron
Universal’s Volcano Bay
- Honu of Honu ika Moana
- ika Moana of Honu ika Moana
- Krakatau Aqua Coaster
- Maku of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
- Puihi of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
- Punga Racers
- Taniwha Tubes
The Express Plus version of this pass also includes:
- Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
- Ko’okiri Body Plunge
- Ohno of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
- Ohyah of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
Find Discount Tickets to the Universal Orlando Resort
No Hidden Fees
Pros and Cons of Universal Express Passes
- You will save time: You won’t spend your entire day or days standing in the longest lines.
- Access to popular rides: The passes get you VIP line privileges on many of Universal’s most sought-after rides.
- Free passes: You can score free Express Passes by staying at select Premier Universal Studios resorts.
- No set times: Unlike Disney’s Genie+ system, you’re not assigned ride times. You can enter Express Pass queues anytime during Univeral’s operating hours.
- Doesn’t include every attraction: Express Passes won’t get you to the front of the line on Velocicoaster, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, and Pteranodon Flyers.
- You still have to wait in line: Express Passes get you into the Express Pass line, but it’s still a line. Your wait time could depend on how many people purchased Express Passes that day and when they choose to ride specific attractions.
- You miss themed ride queues: Bypassing the regular lines means you may miss out on some if not all of an attraction’s theming or storyline, which is often almost as good (if not better) than the ride itself.
- You may get lucky: While Universal is packed most days, there’s always a chance that attendance is lighter than normal. Shorter regular lines mean your Express Passes aren’t as beneficial.
Do Express Passes Sell Out?
Universal Studios limits the amount of Express Passes available every day. They have known to sell out of Express Passes, especially during peak times like around the holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas week) and spring break weeks.
Should You Buy Universal Express Passes?
We didn’t buy passes the last time we were at Universal Studios Orlando. We were with other people and only going for one day, so we weren’t going to ask them to pony up for the added cost. On our previous trip, though, we bought Express Pass Unlimited for our entire family. Normally, on our Orlando family vacations, we end up at theme parks for 4 to 5 days. We were only doing 2 days at Universal Studios this time, so we opted for park-to-park Universal tickets and Express Pass Unlimited. We used the money we would’ve spent on more park days to buy the passes. We also visited the parks in June, one of the busiest months of the year.
When deciding to purchase Universal Express Passes, consider these factors:
- Your budget: Does buying the passes fit within your travel budget for your Universal Orlando vacation?
- Your time: If you are at the parks for several days, you may be able to ride every attraction you want without the added cost.
- Your goals: If you’re a ride enthusiast, Express Passes will help you knock out way more rides during the day than waiting in standby lines.
- Your experience: If this is your first time at Universal Studios, it’s probably worth it to buy the passes to ensure you get to ride everything you want. If you’re an experienced Universal fan, you may be able to navigate the park quickly depending on the timing of your trip.
- Your hotel: You can get free passes for staying at specific Universal Studios resorts, but it may not be worth it if you can save money staying elsewhere or you need accommodations for a larger family.
Theme Parks are ridiculously expensive, but we love them. Are they worth the admission price? I don’t know. For us, Universal Express Passes were a huge time saver. It comes down to the matter of cost vs convenience and whether it is worth it to you to spend more money and spend less time in lines.
What are your favorite Universal Orlando attractions? Let us know in the comments below.
Kevin Payne is the co-founder and budgeting and family travel enthusiast behind FamilyMoneyAdventure.com.
Kevin is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and travel. He is a regular contributor to Forbes Advisor, Bankrate, Fox Business, Credible, CreditCards.com, and Student Loan Planner.