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Is Universal Express Pass Worth It? A Comprehensive Guide

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Universal Express passes are Universal’s way to give park visitors a chance to do more in less
time by skipping the standby lines on most attractions.

But is Universal Express Pass worth it?

Put simply, it is a way to spend less time in line so that you can experience more of the attractions in Universal Orlando.

Instead of waiting in the usual standby line, you are able to use the Universal Express Entrance.

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I have visited Universal Orlando many times, both with and without the Express Pass.

It’s not an inexpensive choice so you need to know whether or not it is the right option for you. Is the benefit worth the cost?

Here is a guide that will help you decide whether or not to buy the Universal Express Pass.

What Does the Express Pass Do at Universal?

It will save you time.

Most likely, a lot of time.

It seems that these days it is increasingly rare to encounter a “slow” day at any of the Universal parks. Therefore any ways that you can cut down the amount of time spent in line certainly have to be worth exploring.

There are no publically available figures as to what percentage of guests in the Universal Parks have Express Pass, but you can be sure more people don’t have it than do.

univeralorlandoexpresspass

When you visit a Universal theme park there is typically more than one line for a given
attraction.

  • The Traditional Standby Line
  • The Single Rider Line
  • The Universal Express Pass Line

Every attraction has a Standby Line, but not all attractions have a Single Rider or an Express Pass Line.

The Single Rider option is a free alternative that lets one person ride at a time in exchange for faster boarding.

The logic behind this is in order to fill the capacity for each load opportunity and reduce wait times overall, Universal needs to fill in leftover spaces on vehicles after standby groups have boarded them.

Universal v Islands of Adventure – Which is the Best?

Single Rider Lines can certainly save you time in line.

Single Rider Lines at Universal Studios Florida

  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Fast and Furious: Supercharged
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
  • MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack
  • Revenge of the Mummy

Single Rider Lines at Universal’s Islands of Adventure

  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
  • Dr. Doom’s Fearfall
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong

A Single Rider Line at Universal Orlando will certainly get you on the ride more quickly than using the standby line.

However, the Single Rider Line has one disadvantage. You will not be seated with your party. You will experience the ride on your own.

Having a shared experience is part of the enjoyment of the attractions at any theme park. Therefore as a Single Rider, you will miss out on this experience in exchange for spending less time in line.

There are some attractions that are more suited to Single Rider participation. These are the limited attractions where you really don’t know who you are sitting next to, and being with someone you know won’t particularly enhance the experience.

For instance, in Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, you could experience Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey as a Single Rider and it wouldn’t matter that you were not seated with your party.

wizardingworldofharrypotter

Riders on Forbidden Journey are all seated in a row on a bench and because of the nature of the ride and the seats, you really don’t know who you are sitting next to. So if you want to save time in line, consider using the Single Rider Line.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is another ride where you could consider using the Single Rider Lane. This attraction has ridiculously long lines almost from the minute Universal Studios opens. Consider the Single Rider option as a way to save a considerable amount of time.

Whilst the Single Rider Line can save you some time on a limited number of attractions this option isn’t for everyone.

The Universal Express Pass Line

The third option is the preferred treatment for riders who have paid a premium to have a Universal Express Pass.

The Express Pass Line option essentially gives you access to a priority line.

However, although your wait time is significantly reduced it is not eliminated completely. You still
may have to wait a fraction of the posted standby wait time.

Usually, your wait time in the Express Line is minimal.

What is a Virtual Line at Universal Orlando?

There is another type of line I didn’t mention above. The Virtual Line.

Don’t get too confused about this as the only attraction that uses it right now is Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.

It’s not the same as the Express pass, but it does reduce wait time by letting you schedule your arrival. The Virtual Line is available through the Universal app.

It lets you select a return time from a list of available attractions – at the moment the only attraction is Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.

When your time comes to return to the ride you reserved, you will get a QR code to scan at the entrance.


Virtual lines are free but access is not guaranteed because reservations are subject to
availability.

Which Universal Orlando Rides Have an Express Pass Line?

Most, but not all, of the Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure rides have an Express Pass Line.

Universal Studios Express Pass Lines

  • The Bourne Stuntacular
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • E.T. Adventure
  • Fast & Furious – Supercharged
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Hogwarts Express
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
  • The Simpsons Ride
  • Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
  • MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack
  • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D
  • Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster

Universal Islands of Adventure Express Pass Lines


Islands of Adventure also has an extensive list of participating Universal Express attractions:

  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
  • Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster
  • Storm Force Accelatron
  • Caro-Seuss-el
  • Caro-Seuss-el
  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride
  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
  • Flight of the Hippogriff
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Hogwarts Express
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure
  • Poseidon’s Fury
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong

These rides do not have an Express Line:

  • Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
  • Pteranodon Flyers
  • Jurassic World VelociCoaster

I would give the Pteranodon Flyers a miss unless your child is absolutely begging to go on this ride! The lines are very long, often even when the park seems quiet, as this attraction is incredibly slow loading.

What Types of Universal Express Are There?


There are two levels of Universal Express Pass.

The basic Universal Express Pass allows you to skip the line on any participating attraction one time per day.

The only drawback to this pass is that you can only experience each ride one time using the Express Pass. The only exception to this is Hogwarts Express which you can ride each way as each station is considered separately.

The Universal Express Pass Unlimited gives you access to the same ride multiple times during the day.

If your Universal Orlando vacation includes multiple days you will need to buy a separate Express Pass for each day you are there.

Universal Studios Hotels with Express Pass

canitakefoodtouniversalstudios
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts Line

Some, but not all of the Universal Studios Resort Hotels offer the Express Pass included for hotel guests.

The Universal Orlando Hotels which include Express Pass are:

  • Loews Royal Pacific Resort
  • Hard Rock Hotel
  • Loews Portofino Bay Hotel

These are the hotels at the higher end of the price range for Universal Resorts.

These Universal Hotels do not have Express Pass included:

All the Universal Hotels have Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter up to one hour before the park opens. This is a perk that will save you some time standing in line for the Wizarding World attractions.

Do I Miss Anything By Going in the Express Line?

It can be that the Express Pass Line takes a very different route to the standby line.

Most of the Express Lines are themed, but with some of the rides, you will miss quite a lot of the elements of themeing of the standby line.

I know it can be a small sacrifice to make so that you don’t spend as much time in line, but you do need to be aware that you will miss some things in the Express Line.

One tactic is to experience these attractions at least once in the standby line if you have time.

  • Men in Black Alien Attack
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Surprisingly this is not a consideration at most rides. You won’t miss out in the Express Line.

In particular the Wizarding World attractions Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Escape from Gringotts have Express Pass Lines running alongside the stand-by lines, for the most part, so you won’t miss anything.

How Much Does Universal Express Pass Cost?

Remember that the Express Pass is separate from your admission ticket. You will still need a Universal Orlando theme park admission ticket to access the parks.

For prices and options of tickets see the Universal Orlando site.

The basic Express Pass for Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios Florida starts at
$79.99
per person per day.

univeralexpresspassprice

The pass is added to your purchased park ticket so if you want access to Universal Express attractions in both parks, you still need to buy the Park to Park enhancement that lets
you visit both parks per day.

The Universal Express Unlimited Pass varies in price according to the day that you want to use it. Prices start from $109.99 per person per day.

The Basic and the Unlimited Pass can be purchased for either one park or two. The cost of a two-park pass will be higher than for just one park.

The price of all the Express Passes depends upon crowd projections. The busier the day is predicted to be, the higher the price.

Here are some illustrations of the prices of the Universal Express Unlimited Pass which were correct on May 9, 2022.

As you can see from these prices in May 2022 they are the same for each park if you are buying a one-park Express Pass.

Here you can see that it can be advantageous to buy your Express Pass far in advance. August will most likely be busy, but the prices are lower than in June and July. This is because this guide was written in May and you can still buy your Pass well in advance.

Here is an example of the prices for a two-park Express Pass:

The two Park Pass tends to be an additional $10 than the one-park pass.

Is There Any Way To Save on Universal Express Pass?

One way is to plan in advance as far as possible as the prices tend to go up the closer that you get to the date you are visiting.

Another way is to consider whether or not booking a Univeral Orlando Resort Hotel that has an Express Pass included would be a good option. Sometimes the price of the Express Pass for your group will be close to the nightly rate of a hotel room.

Remember that only the top three Universal Orlando Hotels have an Express Pass included:

  • Royal Pacific Resort
  • Hard Rock Hotel
  • Portofino Bay Hotel

Let’s have a look at some hotel pricing to see how much a 2-night stay from Friday, May 20 to Sunday, May 22, 2022, would cost a family of 4 with 2 adults and 2 children.

Here is how much the stay would be for those dates if you booked on May 9, 2022.

All 4 guests staying in the room would get Express Passes from the day of arrival to the day of departure. So that would be Express Passes for 3 days.

The total for the hotel room is $942.72.

If you bought 2 Park Express Unlimited Passes for 3 days for those dates you would pay:

  • $159.99 for Friday 20 May
  • $259.99 for Saturday 21 May
  • $219.99 for Sunday 22 May

The per-person price for the Express Passes would be $639.97. For 4 people the total just for the Express Passes would be $2559.88.

Even if there were only 2 guests and the Passes would cost $1,279.94 which is significantly more than the cost of the hotel room.

If you are thinking about buying an Express Pass always check first if it would be a good idea to book one of the deluxe Universal Orlando Resorts as it may be the cheaper option.

How to Buy Universal Express Passes

You can purchase Universal Express either in advance or at the many kiosks located inside and
outside the parks.

Buying tickets in advance saves money and time, but you can change your mind about Universal Express if you decide you want to purchase it after you have already arrived.

How to Use Universal Express

When you get to the parks all you need is your Universal Express pass which is on your ticket.
Both your ticket and Universal Express are accessible through the Universal Orlando app.

When you get to any participating attraction, just show your pass at the Universal Express line entrance.

cabanabaybeachresortsizzlebar
Universal Cabana Bay Beach Resort


If you don’t have the Unlimited Pass, you may want to use discretion when approaching a ride
with a wait time below 20 minutes.

It might be worth it to save the pass for later and just use the standby line instead, otherwise, if you do want to ride again later, you may have to wait in a longer standby line.


Is Universal Express Pass Worth It?

As we have seen, the Universal Express Pass is not an inexpensive option. The cost even for a party of 2 guests can quickly add up to many hundreds of dollars.

The option to book one of the deluxe Universal Orlando Resort Hotels is certainly worth considering if that can be within your budget.

Not only do you get to use the Express Lines, but you will also be staying in an extremely nice hotel with very easy access to the Universal Parks.

Suess Landing Islands of Adventure

I have spent countless days over the years in the Universal Orlando parks. Both with and without Express Pass. It definitely saves you time and I would say this makes your day a better experience. You can ride and experience many more of the attractions that you would if you did not have the Express Pass.

However, it is by no means an essential part of your Universal Orlando theme park visit. You can still have a great time even without Express Pass.

However, if it is within your budget I would say it is definitely worth the splurge. Particularly if you think that this is a once and for all visit. It will give you the time to enjoy the maximum amount of attractions.

Here is a great illustration of where money really can buy you time.

Do you think Universal Orlando Express Pass is worth it? Or have you paid the extra for Express Pass and wished that you didn’t?


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