Last week, I dove into what to pack for a four day vacation to Universal, which you can read here if you missed it. This week, I want to share my exclusive advice on how to conquer Universal, from Harry Potter World to the newest ride, Race through New York. I have lived in Orlando, FL for about two years now, and I’ve visited Universal several times during my time here. I figured, since I may be moving away in a few months, I should share some of my Florida Resident advice. It would be selfish to keep my tricks and tips to myself, wouldn’t it?

01. The Cleanest Bathrooms

The unfortunate side effect of a theme park is junk food and soda, which means yucky bathrooms. Compared to most other theme parks, I find Universal’s bathrooms to be relatively clean, but there are some that are WAY cleaner than others. It’s important to mark these on your map for when you’ve really got to go.

 

In my opinion, the cleanest bathrooms are typically the ones found in kid-ride areas, such as Dr. Seuss Land. This is because there is a lot less foot traffic due to the lack of rides. However, I have also found that bathrooms near the front of the park are generally kept cleaner than the ones toward the back.

 

Bathroom to Avoid: Avoid the bathroom in New York. It is horribly taken care of and gets a lot of foot traffic because it is centrally located in Universal Studios, meaning a line. Also, the bathroom is Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade aren’t great either. Again, this is because these two parts of the park receive a lot more foot traffic than the rest, resulting in full stalls and a more disgusting environment.

 

***Please, note that these are my personal opinions.

02. The Rides Worth the Wait & The Rides That Aren’t

 

Having been to the park multiple times, I definitely have a favorite ride and a least favorite ride. If you don’t have an Express pass (and, really, even if you do), the wait for some rides can be ridiculous. Fortunately, several of the attractions have implemented cool aspects to their wait lines that make the wait not seem as bad, because you’re getting to look around at stuff. Still, standing up on your feet all-day can lead to irritation. So, which rides are actually worth the wait?

 

Best Ride: My absolute favorite ride is The Mummy, located in the central part of Universal Studios. Plus, The Mummy typically has a short wait if you go for it in the morning or an hour before the park closes. It is an indoor roller coaster, and I suggest trying to get in the front row. However, this isn’t a ride to put your hands up! Spaces are tight, and most of the ride is dark, but it is by far the most enjoyable ride. I could ride it over and over again.

 

Worst Ride: My least favorite ride, which also has a crazy long wait the majority of the time, is the Gringots ride in Diagon Alley. It was really cool to do the first time, because I’m a huge Potter Head (Shout out to the Ravenclaws). So, the first time around it was kind of a nostalgic thing. However, even the first time I rode the ride, I came off of it a little disappointed. It is really short, maybe about three minutes, and the wait is always like an hour long, even with an Express Pass. I highly prefer the ride within Hogwarts at the Hogsmeade park. It is much longer, and in my opinion, better made.

03. The Best Times to Tackle the Park

 

Universal Studios Orlando is located in sunny Florida. I know plenty of people come down for the sun, but I don’t think they realize just how hot it really gets. Slathering on sunscreen won’t keep the heat away, and the sun can be extremely draining, causing you from enjoying the park. My recommendation is to get up early and tackle the park when it first opens. The temperatures will be cooler and lines will be short.

 

Around noon, I recommend retiring to your hotel for a few hours. From noon to three are when Orlando gets to its hottest temperatures. Then, around three thirty, after a refreshing nap or relaxing by the pool, head back to the park and enjoy it as the sun goes down. The parks close around 8, and if you make yourself a clear plan, you can do what you want to do without too much fuss.

04. What to Bring Inside the Park

 

I go into greater detail in last week’s article, which you can read here, but I wanted to go back over a couple things. Bringing in a small backpack and packing some snacks and a refillable bottle of water will be the smartest decision you can make. If you’re trying to do the park on a budget, bringing in your own food is the way to go. Food and water is ridiculously priced in the park. Just make sure that your bottle is empty when first entering the park, and then fill it up at a water fountain. That way, security won’t confiscate it from you. Also, pack dry, sweat-resistant sunscreen, and don’t wear sandals unless they have backs to them. You don’t want to burn, and you don’t want to lose your shoes on a ride.

05. How Long to Book a Stay

 

Knowing how long to stay at Universal really depends on your budget and what you want to do. If you want to visit Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, do all of the rides, see all the performances, check out all of City Walk, and use all of your hotel’s amenities – I suggest a week and a half, two weeks if you’re going with a very large group of people.

 

If you only plan on getting all you can out of the park and nothing else, then I suggest four days ( Monday = Universal Studios; Tuesday = Islands of Adventure; Wednesday = Rides You Missed; Thursday = Purchase Souvenirs and Pack-up to Leave/Catch a Show ).

 

Again, both of these options would need to be adjusted if, for example, you aren’t used to being on your feet all day or you have little kids with you. You have to walk everywhere in the park, with the exception of waiting for the train that takes you between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Also, it majorly depends on what time of the year you visit too. If it is during Spring Break, for example, you will have much longer wait times and a bigger crowd to push through, meaning it will take much longer to do the park.

 

If you can, fly to Orlando and book a stay at one of the five hotels that are on property. Then, you’ll just have to pay for a Lyft or taxi from the airport to your hotel. You won’t have to worry about paying any parking fees, and you’ll be within walking distance (or a short ferry ride) of the park.

Use this search bar to find a great hotel for your stay. It is completely through Acadia, a well-trusted  travel company.

06. My Best Advice to Stay Positive

 

If you aren’t the most patient person in the world, I recommend mentally preparing yourself for Universal Studios Orlando. Just like any theme park, there are lines for everything (even ice cream!), and there will be times people will step on your toes or just stop walking in the middle of the pathway to take a picture. You really can’t go to Universal with the expectation that it will be all fun. Of course, the park is fun, but some of it can be annoying, like the absurd prices.

 

My best advice is to make all these facts known to yourself and the people you’re going with, and to make a zero complaint policy. Trust me, if one person starts to rant, the whole crew might start to argue, and there’s no fun in that. Remind yourself and your partners in theme park crime to have patience, and if you get too annoyed, nibble on a snack your brought.

 

Keep yourself preoccupied by starting conversations with those you’re in line with, and interact with shows and rides when they tell you to. Sure, some things may be embarrassing, but you’re likely to never see the people around you (besides the people you came with) ever again. So, just let loose and have fun! Don’t stress too much about things and be an optimistic person to be around. A little bit of positivity can rub off on the whole group.

That’s it folks! I hope you find this guide helpful when journeying to Universal, and I hope you’ll give it a share. Universal is pretty darn fun, and I highly recommend it to those considering to go. It’s a fun experience as long as you have a plan first. Going into the park with no idea where to start can instantly become frustrating. So, have a plan and tackle that plan. Follow my guide, and you might just find yourself making some of your best memories.

Always,Jinapher J. Hoffman