Everyone seems to have a few tips and tricks that they like to use to make their days in the park more enjoyable. For us that’s anything that involves getting on more rides and waiting in the shortest lines possible! We generally spend two to three days in the parks and with these strategies, that’s plenty. We’re able to go on every ride multiple times and still have some down time during the day at the hotel pool. We also take the time to have sit down, a la carte meals at lunch and dinner and still have plenty of time for the parks.
Stay On Site
Universal offers a variety of on site hotel options that span many different price points. There is something for everyone. Major advantages to staying on site from a time saving point of view…
- Proximity – you are not dealing with morning traffic into the parks as you are so close. They are all close enough to walk depending on your level of morning ambition.
- Transportation – all of the onsite hotels offer free shuttles to the parks, some even have boats.
- Early Entrance – when you stay on site you get an extra hour in one of the parks every morning. They will generally limit your access to certain rides/areas of the park but it will allow you to get on a couple rides before the crowds start to build. It can also allow you to move to the back of the park to get to some of the busier rides first! Visit Universal’s website here to see what area’s are currently accessible with early park access. Tip: have your hotel room key handy; you’ll need it as proof that you’re staying on site.
- Break Time – if you need some down time from the parks for a bit in the afternoon, you’re close to your hotel and don’t waste a lot of time getting back and forth.
Get A Universal Fast Pass
Universal fast passes get you into a separate line for rides that moves quicker than the general lines so you get through rides quicker. They will definitely increase the cost of your tickets but can be particularly helpful during busy times of the year or if you have limited days at the park (ie. one or two days only).
Three of the onsite resorts give you complimentary Universal Fast Passes when you stay at them.
- Lowes Royal Pacific Resort
- Hard Rock Hotel®
- Lowes Portifino Bay Hotel
These hotels have a higher price point but are closer proximity to the parks and they will give you up to five fast passes per room with your stay so could be a great option especially for a family.
Get to the Parks Early
This is a really simple tip but it really does make a huge difference. You can get on a lot of rides quickly in the morning before the parks get busy. I recommend being in line at least 30 minutes before the parks open.
Use the Single Rider Lines
Many of the rides have “Single Rider Lines.” Basically, you wait in line with your group but then are used to fill up the cars. Universal is very good at sending the rides as full as possible to keep the lines moving as quickly as they can. If the party if front on you has 3 people but the ride car seats 4, they will use someone from the single rider line to fill the car. Generally you will be a car or two behind the rest of your party and can easily meet up where you exit the ride.
Single Rider Lines will save you the most time in the park if you don’t want to spend the extra money on Fast Passes. As fast passes are quite expensive, we generally pick this option to save time and maximize rides.
Keep in mind that not all of the rides have single rider lines. You may want to prioritize these rides first when the parks are not overly busy in the morning. Rides that stand out to me as not having single rider lines are…
- Reign of Kong
- Despicable Me
- Hogwarts Express
- Simpsons Ride
- Terminator 2
- Poseidon’s Fury
Eat at "Off" Times
As mentioned in my “Restaurants of City Walk” post, eating at off times can be a big time saver. Most people get into the parks around 10:30-11:00am so they’re not ready to leave for food for a couple of hours. Restaurants start getting busy around 12:30pm for lunch and again at 6:00pm for dinner. These are good times to avoid for meal time.
A better approach that we’ve found is to get into the parks early and get on a bunch of rides while the parks are less busy. Then head for lunch around 11-11:30am. You will have zero wait for a table and you’ll get through meal time quickly. Then, when everyone is heading out of the park to eat, you’re headed back in. Same goes for dinner. Eating earlier will avoid waits for a table and food and get you back on the rides when everyone is leaving to eat.
Pick Your Vacation Dates Wisely
This alone can make or break your vacation! The time of year you go or the days of the week you’re at the parks can make a huge difference when it comes to ride wait times.
Check out my favourite crowd calendars to help decide on which dates are best for you. In general around holidays and on weekends are the busiest times. Keep in mind that holidays in the USA may differ from those in Canada.
Here are my two favorite crowd calendars…
Also, keep in mind that the parks themselves often have special events going on that can make the parks busier. Find out more about Universal’s Events here.