27+ Universal Orlando Tips: Save Money & Discover Hidden Park Secrets. 1

27+ Universal Orlando Tips: Save Money & Discover Hidden Park Secrets.

Hey there! Are you ready for an amazing Universal Orlando adventure? I have some killer tips to make your trip unforgettable, especially if you bring the kiddos. Let’s dive in!

1. Stay on Property – It’s a Game Changer!

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Okay, so here’s the deal: staying at one of Universal’s on-site hotels might seem pricey initially, but trust me, it’s worth it. 

You’re strolling into the park before everyone else, breezing past long lines with your Express Pass, and taking a quick midday break at your hotel pool without hassle. Sounds dreamy, right?

The three hotels you want to visit are Loews Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel, and Royal Pacific Resort. 

They’re a bit fancier, but here’s the kicker – you get FREE Express Passes for everyone in your room. That alone can save you hundreds of dollars per day!

Imagine walking onto rides while others wait for hours. It’s like having a magical “skip-the-line” power. Plus, you get early park admission, which means you can hit up the most popular rides before the crowds roll in.

And let’s talk about convenience. You can hop on a boat or take a scenic walk to the parks. No parking hassles, no dragging tired kids through endless parking lots. It’s a total sanity-saver, especially with little ones in tow.

2. Use a Travel Agent – Your Secret Deals

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I know what you’re thinking – “A travel agent? Isn’t that so… 1990s?” But hear me out! Universal Orlando can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. There’s so much to figure out – Express Passes, park-to-park tickets, dining plans, character breakfasts… it’s enough to make your head spin!

That’s where a good travel agent comes in. They know all the ins and outs, the secret tips, and the best deals. And the best part? Many of them don’t even charge you! They get paid by Universal, so you’re getting free expert advice.

I’ve had great experiences with Best Day Ever Vacations. These folks are Universal wizards (pun totally intended). They can hook you up with the best package for your family, snag dining reservations, and even give you tips on which rides your kids will love.

3. Timing is Everything

Alright, let’s talk strategy. Arriving early and staying late is key to maximizing your Universal experience.

Even if you’re not staying on-site, get to the parks before they open. They often start letting people in a bit early, and you can knock out some popular rides before the crowds hit.

But here’s a little secret – the parks tend to clear out around 4 pm. So, here’s what I do: arrive early, enjoy the morning, then head back to the hotel for a swim and nap (trust me, you’ll need it).

Then, return to the parks around 3-4 pm when everyone else is leaving. You’ll practically have the place to yourself!

Check the park hours for the days you plan to travel since there are many days during the year that the park closes as early as 6 pm.

4. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – A Magical Must-See

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Okay, Potter fans, listen up! The Wizarding World is absolutely mind-blowing, but there’s a trick to experiencing it without the insane crowds. Ready for this? Avoid it in the morning!

I know, I know, it sounds crazy. But here’s the thing – everyone rushes there first thing. Instead, hit up other areas of the park in the morning, then head to Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade around 4 pm. The crowds thin out, and you can enjoy the magical atmosphere without feeling like you’re in a sardine can.

Take time to really explore. Cast spells with an interactive wand, try the crazy-flavored jelly beans, and sip on Butterbeer (the frozen kind is my fave).

And don’t miss the Hogwarts Express – it’s not just transportation, it’s an experience. The journey is different in each direction, so make sure to ride it both ways!

5. Dealing with Water Rides and Weather

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Florida weather can be… unpredictable. One minute you’re sweating buckets, the next you’re caught in a downpour. And let’s not forget those water rides that leave you soaked to the bone.

Here’s your survival kit: pack a poncho (way cheaper than buying one at the park), bring a change of clothes, and don’t forget flip-flops for water rides. Trust me, squelching around in wet shoes all day is no fun.

If you’re hitting up the water rides (Jurassic Park River Adventure, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges), be prepared to get WET. Like, jump-in-a-pool wet. It’s a blast, but you might want to save these for the end of the day or bring a change of clothes.

And here’s a pro tip: Florida afternoons often bring quick thunderstorms. When you see dark clouds rolling in, that’s your cue to head to indoor rides or shows. The parks have plenty of them, and you’ll stay dry while others are scrambling for cover.

6. Food Hacks and Money-Saving Tips

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Feeding a family at theme parks can be wallet-draining, but I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve. First off, consider the Universal Dining Plan. It can save you some cash, especially if you plan on eating at the parks a lot.

For a cheap, shareable treat, head to Lard Lad’s in Springfield (The Simpsons area) for a giant pink donut. It’s under $5 and easily feeds a few kids (or one very hungry mom – no judgment here!).

If you’re craving pizza, Louie’s Italian Restaurant in Universal Studios is your best bet. A whole pie is around $30 and feeds the whole crew.

And don’t forget – you can always leave the park and head to CityWalk for lunch. The food’s often better, and it’s usually less crowded during the day.

7. Character Meet and Greets – Without the Wait

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Meeting characters can be a highlight for kids, but the lines can be brutal. Here’s the scoop: head to the Marvel Superhero area in Islands of Adventure or Springfield in Universal Studios. These spots often have shorter lines and multiple characters.

The Shrek area is great too – Donkey is hilarious and talks to you! And if you’re lucky, you might catch the whole Simpsons gang in Springfield.

8. Universal Orlando with Toddlers and Young Kids

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Are you worried there won’t be enough for your little ones? Fear not! There’s plenty for the younger crowd. Check out Seuss Landing – it’s like stepping into a Dr. Seuss book, with rides perfect for the little ones.

The Curious George water play area is a great spot to cool off, and Fievel’s Playland is perfect for burning off some energy. Don’t miss the “E.T. Adventure” ride – it’s gentle enough for most kids and totally magical.

And here’s a tip: use the “child swap” program for bigger rides. One parent waits with the little one while the other rides, and then you swap without waiting in line again. Genius!

9. Money-Saving Souvenir Hack

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We all know kids and souvenirs go hand in hand, but theme park prices can be eye-watering. Here’s a trick: buy some Harry Potter gear (robes, wands, etc.) before your trip. Amazon has tons of options at a fraction of the park prices.

The one thing worth splurging on in the park? An interactive wand. It lets you cast “spells” throughout the Wizarding World, and it’s pretty cool for grown-ups too!

10. Best Times to Visit

If you can swing it, aim for the off-season. Early September, early December (before the holidays), and late January through early February are usually less crowded. You’ll enjoy shorter lines and more breathing room.

Avoid major holidays and summer if possible – that’s when it gets really packed. But if summer’s your only option, don’t worry! Just use the other tips in this guide to navigate the crowds like a pro.

11. The Lowdown on Lockers

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Picture this: you’re all set for an epic ride, but suddenly you’re stuck figuring out what to do with your stuff. Ugh, right? Well, here’s the scoop on lockers at Universal. Most of the big rides have free lockers nearby. Yep, you heard that right – free! They’re usually good for about an hour, which is perfect for ride time.

For the Harry Potter rides, the lockers are a bit tricky to find. Look for them before you enter the castle queue. And heads up – these lockers use your park ticket or fingerprint to open, so don’t lose that ticket!

Now, for the water rides, you’ll need to pay for lockers. But here’s a little hack: if someone in your group doesn’t want to ride, they can be the designated bag holder. Problem solved!

Oh, and one more thing – the lockers can be a bit small. If you’ve got a big backpack, you might want to rent a larger locker for the day. They’re near the park entrance and totally worth it if you’ve got a lot of gear.

12. The Secret Menu Items You’ve Gotta Try

Okay, ready for some insider food info? Universal’s got some pretty cool secret menu items that’ll make your taste buds dance.

At Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, ask for a Pumpkin Fizz. It’s not on the menu, but it’s delicious and feels super special.

Over in Springfield, hit up Moe’s Tavern and order a Flaming Moe. It’s non-alcoholic and comes smoking – the kids will go nuts for it!

And while you’re there, grab a Duff Beer (the grown-up version, of course). It’s brewed specially for Universal and comes in three types: regular, lite, and dry.

And here’s a sweet tip: at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour in Diagon Alley, they’ve got this amazing Butterbeer ice cream. It’s like the drink, but in creamy, cold form. Perfect for those hot Florida days!

13. The Scoop on Single Rider Lines

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Single-rider lines can be a game-changer if you’re feeling brave and your kids are old enough (usually ten and up).

These special lines are way shorter because they’re used to fill in empty seats on rides. You might not sit with your family, but you’ll get through much faster.

Not all rides have them, but some big ones do, like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, The Mummy, and Men in Black.

It’s a great way to squeeze in extra rides without the wait. Just be sure everyone’s comfortable riding alone before you jump in line.

14. The Ultimate Restroom Guide

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Let’s talk about something super important but often overlooked – bathrooms! Knowing where the best restrooms are is crucial when you’ve got little ones.

The ones near the front of the park tend to be busiest, so head deeper in for shorter lines.

My favorite spot is the restrooms in Hogsmeade, near the back of Hogwarts Castle. They’re themed like the rest of the Wizarding World and usually less crowded.

Plus, there’s Moaning Myrtle! You can hear her in the girls’ bathroom – it’s a fun little detail the kids will love.

Every restroom has a changing table, but the family restrooms are even better—they’re spacious and perfect for wrangling multiple kids.

15. The Best Spots for a Quick Break

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We all know kids (and let’s face it, adults too) need a breather now and then. Universal’s got some great spots to take a quick break without leaving the magic.

In Seuss Landing, there’s a nice air-conditioned spot in the gift shop with a free coloring station. It’s perfect for a little downtime.

Another great spot is the Animal Actors area in Universal Studios. Even if you’re not seeing the show, the waiting area has benches in the shade and it’s usually pretty quiet.

It’s a great place to regroup, have a snack, and plan your next move.

And don’t forget about the shows! They’re a great way to rest your feet while still enjoying the park. My top pick? The Horror Make-Up Show. It’s hilarious and a nice cool break from the Florida heat.

16. The Inside Scoop on Volcano Bay

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If you’re hitting up Volcano Bay, Universal’s amazing water park, I’ve got some tips for you. First off, get there early! This place fills up fast, especially in summer. If you’re staying at an on-site hotel, take advantage of that early entry – it’s gold!

Now, let’s talk about the TapuTapu wristband. This little gadget is your key to the park. It lets you virtually wait in line while you’re off doing other fun stuff.

As soon as you get in, head to the rides with the longest waits and tap in. Then go enjoy the wave pool or lazy river while you wait.

Oh, and bring your own towels! They charge to rent them, and that can add up quick. If you’re staying at a Universal hotel, you can bring towels from the pool – just ask the attendant nicely.

17. The Scoop on Universal’s Newest Additions

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Universal’s always adding cool new stuff, and right now, the buzz is all about the new Minion land. It’s like stepping into a Minion movie!

There’s a new ride, a dance party with actual Minions, and even Minion-themed food. The little ones will go bananas for it!

And keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming Super Nintendo World. It’s not open yet, but it’s coming soon, and it looks amazing. Think Mario Kart in real life! It’ll be like playing inside a video game.

18. The Best Photo Ops You Can’t Miss

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Sure, you’ll want those classic shots in front of Hogwarts, but there are some hidden gems for great photos too. In Dragon Alley, look for the vanishing cabinet in Borgin and Burkes. It makes for a spooky cool pic.

Over in Seuss Landing, the bright colors and wacky architecture make for awesome backdrops. And don’t miss the big Jaws photo op near the Fisherman’s Wharf area – it’s a classic!

Oh, and here’s a pro tip: the Universal photographers can use your phone to take pics for free. So you can get those great shots without buying the expensive photo packages.

19. The Insider’s Guide to City Walk

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City Walk isn’t just a place to pass through on your way to the parks – it’s a destination in itself! And the best part? You don’t need a park ticket to enjoy it. There’s tons of great restaurants, shops, and entertainment.

My top pick for dinner? The Cowfish. It’s sushi meets burgers in the most delicious way. Sounds weird, but trust me, it works! And for dessert, you can’t beat Voodoo Doughnut. Their crazy flavors and toppings are a hit with kids and adults alike.

If you’ve got some energy left after the parks, check out the mini-golf courses. They’re themed and super fun, even for the little ones. It’s a great way to wind down the day.

20. The Ultimate Guide to Universal’s Special Events

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Universal isn’t just about rides – they’ve got some amazing special events throughout the year. If you can plan your trip around one of these, you’re in for a treat!

In the fall, there are Halloween Horror Nights. This one’s not for little kids – it’s pretty scary. But if you’ve got older kids or can snag a babysitter, it’s an awesome adult night out.

During the holidays, the whole park transforms. A special Christmas show at Hogwarts Castle will take your breath away. And over in Seuss Landing, the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular is a must-see.

In the spring, there’s Mardi Gras. Don’t worry, it’s totally family-friendly! There are parades, concerts, and amazing food. The kids will love catching beads from the floats.

Remember, these events often have special tickets, so check the Universal website for details when planning your trip.

You can check out the Univeral Studios official events calendar to get the dates.

21. The Birthday Button Magic

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Okay, here’s a little secret to make your day extra special. If someone in your crew is celebrating a birthday, head to Guest Services and snag a birthday button. It’s free, and it’s like a magical ticket to awesomeness!

Picture this: your little one, proudly wearing their birthday button, suddenly getting special treatment all over the park. Cast members might sing “Happy Birthday,” and you might get surprise perks like front-of-the-line access; at some rides, they might even announce your kiddo’s big day over the intercom!

My friend’s daughter wore her button at the Men in Black ride. The whole place erupted in a “Happy Birthday” song, and she got to push the big red button at the end of the ride. Her face lit up like a Christmas tree! These little moments turn a great day into an unforgettable one.

22. The Mystic Fountain’s Hidden Charm

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Alright, get ready for this hidden gem. In the Lost Continent of Islands of Adventure, there’s this amazing talking fountain called the Mystic Fountain. Most people walk right by it, but they are missing out!

As you approach, the fountain comes to life. It talks, jokes, and even plays games with you! The best part? It’s different every time. Sometimes it’s grumpy, sometimes, it’s playful. And if you’re not careful, you might get a little splash!

It’s perfect for when the kids need a breather from the rides. They can chat with the fountain, ask questions, or listen to its silly banter. And here’s a pro tip: if it’s your birthday or anniversary, let the fountain know. You might just get a special serenade!

23. The Raptor Encounter: Not Your Average Meet-and-Greet

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Hold onto your hats because this one’s a real heart-pumper! Over in Jurassic Park, there’s this incredible experience called the Raptor Encounter. It’s not just your run-of-the-mill character meet-and-greet. Oh no, this is way cooler!

Imagine coming face-to-face with a ‘real’ velociraptor. The dinosaur looks so lifelike it’ll have your heart racing. The best part? The trainers stay totally in character. They treat that raptor like it could chew their arm off any second!

It’s a bit intense for little ones, but this is pure magic for dinosaur-obsessed kids (and let’s face it, what kid isn’t?). You can get some incredible photos, and the look of awe (or terror!) on your kids’ faces is priceless!

Just a heads up – there can be a bit of a wait for this one, especially on busy days. But trust me, it’s worth it. Bring some snacks, play a game of I Spy while you wait, and get ready for an encounter you’ll be talking about for years!

24. The Sneaky Way to Ride the Hogwarts Express

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All right, Harry Potter fans, listen up! The Hogwarts Express isn’t just a way to get between parks – it’s a whole experience. But here’s the kicker: the ride differs depending on your destination!

From King’s Cross (in Universal Studios) to Hogsmeade (in Islands of Adventure), you see London transform into the countryside, with some magical surprises. But from Hogsmeade back to King’s Cross? Different journey!

Now, here’s the sneaky part. At King’s Cross station, keep your eyes peeled as you walk through the wall to Platform 9¾. If you time it right, it looks like you’re disappearing into the wall! It’s an awesome photo op that a lot of people miss.

And one more thing – the wait times can be way different depending on which direction you’re going. Sometimes the line at King’s Cross is super long, but there’s hardly anyone waiting at Hogsmeade. So if you’re flexible, check both ways and hop on the shorter line. You’ll get the full experience either way!

25. The VIP Tour: A Splurge That Might Save You Money

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Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “VIP tour? That sounds super expensive!” But hear me out on this one. The VIP tour might be a better deal if you’re considering buying Express Passes for your whole family. And oh boy, is it worth it!

You stroll into the park like a celebrity, bypassing all the lines. Your guide knows all the secret shortcuts and cool hidden details about the rides.

You get front-of-the-line access to everything – even the rides that don’t usually take Express Pass. Plus, they throw in breakfast, lunch, and valet parking!

But the best part? The look on your kids’ faces when they realize they don’t have to wait in a single line all day. It’s like Christmas morning, I’m telling you! And for you? No stress about planning, no worrying about wait times, just pure, unadulterated fun.

Now, it’s not cheap, I won’t lie. But if you add up the cost of Express Passes, meals, and parking for a big family, it might come out pretty close. And the memories? Priceless.

26. The Two-Faced Lazy River at Volcano Bay

Alright, water park lovers, this one’s for you. You’ll hear about the lazy river when you hit up Volcano Bay (and you totally should). But here’s the scoop – there are two of them! And they couldn’t be more different.

First, you’ve got your classic lazy river. It’s chill, relaxing, and perfect for a break from all the excitement. Float along, soak up the sun, and maybe even take a little nap (but don’t tell anyone I said that!).

But then… oh boy, then you’ve got the TeAwa, The Fearless River. Don’t let the “river” part fool you – this thing is wild! It’s like a lazy river, I met a water rapids ride and had a baby. The current is strong, the waves are big, and it’s a blast!

Here’s a pro tip: they require life jackets on the TeAwa, even for adults. And trust me, you’ll want one. It’s a workout! But the squeals of delight from your kids (and maybe from you) make it all worth it.

So why not try both? Start with the wild one when everyone’s full of energy, then cool down with the relaxing one later. It’s like two attractions in one!

27. The Magical World of Interactive Wands

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Okay, Harry Potter fans, this one’s gonna blow your mind. In the Wizarding World, you’ll see people waving wands and making magic happen. It’s not just for show – you can do it too!

Here’s how it works: You get an interactive wand from Ollivanders (or any of the wand shops). They’re a bit pricier than the regular wands, but oh boy, are they worth it!

Then, you explore Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, looking for special bronze medallions on the ground. These show you where you can cast spells!

Now, here’s the fun part. You wave your wand in the pattern shown, say the spell (or don’t, it works either way), and boom! Magic happens right before your eyes! Windows frost over, statues move, objects levitate – it’s like you’re a real witch or wizard!

The joy on your kids’ faces when they make their first spell work? It’s pure magic. And let’s be honest, you’ll have just as much fun as they do. I may or may not have spent an hour trying to perfect my Wingardium Leviosa…

Pro tip: Look for a friendly wizard nearby if a spell isn’t working. They’re staff members in disguise and can help you perfect your technique. They stay totally in character, too, which adds to the fun!

28. The Hello Kitty Heaven

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Do you have a Hello Kitty fan in the family? Then you can’t miss the Hello Kitty Shop in Universal Studios. It’s like stepping into a kawaii wonderland!

This isn’t just any old gift shop. Oh no, this place is an experience. Picture walls of the cutest Hello Kitty merchandise you’ve ever seen. Plushies, stationery, clothes – you name it, they’ve got it. But the real star of the show? The sweet treats!

They’ve got a whole bakery section with the most adorable Hello Kitty-themed goodies. We’re talking cookies, cakes, and even sushi rolls that look almost too cute. Almost. Let’s be honest, they’re delicious.

And if you’re lucky, you might even catch Hello Kitty herself hanging out for a meet and greet! What is your little one’s look when they get to hug their favorite character? Heart-melting!

Even if you’re not a huge Hello Kitty fan, it’s worth popping in for the experience. It’s like a little slice of Japan in the middle of Florida. And who knows? You might leave with a new favorite character!

Remember, Universal is all about making memories. Whether casting spells, riding wild water rapids, or hugging Hello Kitty, these are the moments your kids will remember forever. So go ahead, embrace the magic, and have an amazing time!

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