Is The Universal Express Pass Worth It

Is The Universal Express Pass Worth It

Is the Universal Express Pass worth it or should you just wait in the regular stand by lines?  About 3 years ago I would tell you that if you visit Orlando anytime but the summer, you don’t need to purchase a Universal Express Pass because the lines aren’t very long. 

However, recently I have found that even on off season days, it can be very busy and might be worth purchasing an Express Pass.

If you plan on visiting Universal Orlando during the summertime, purchasing the Universal Express Pass is worth it in order to experience all of the rides and shows in one day. The lines for the big attractions can be up to a few hours wait.  If you visit Universal during non-peak times like September or October, I wouldn’t purchase the Universal Express Pass until you get into the park first and see if the lines are long.

How long could the lines possibly be?  After a long walk through the parking garage and City Walk, you finally make it to the front gates of Universal Orlando and you notice that the line to get in park is extremely long.

Then you think, maybe it’s just the front gate that is busy because they have to scan everyone’s ticket and take your fingerprint.  Once you make it through the gates and look down main street, your biggest nightmare just came true. 

There are so many people inside the park and the lines are super long.  This scenario is so common nowadays that it made me think is buying a Universal Express pass worth it.

Insider Tip

Don’t purchase a Universal Express Pass in advance. Wait until you get to the park to see if it is busy and then decide if you want to purchase the pass. There are many times when we go to the park assuming it is going to be busy and the lines have a short wait.

However, there are other times when we expect there to be no wait and it ends up being long lines. You won’t know this in advance until you get into the park and check out the crowds and view the ride wait board.

7 Best Theme Parks In Orlando x
7 Best Theme Parks In Orlando

Is The Universal Express Pass Worth It

The benefit of a Universal Express Pass is that it allows you to skip the lines to almost all the rides and shows at Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure. 

The Universal Express Pass is a separate pass that isn’t included with your park ticket.  The Express Passes are good for only one calendar day. If you purchase the pass in advance online, you have to specify which date you want to use the pass.

There is a separate Express line at each of the rides and shows that have a shorter wait time.  When you get to the front, the attendant will ask to see your Express Pass and then will let you through to a separate line.

Keep in mind, this line is not the main line for the rides.  If you want experience all of the theming and props for that ride, you will only see that in the regular stand by line and the Universal Express Pass might not be worth it to you.

Are Universal Express Passes Worth The Cost

Knowing the different types of Express Passes offered and how much they cost will help you determine if these passes are worth it to your family.

1-Park Universal Express Pass is $69.99 per person

This Express Pass allows you to skip the lines at participating rides and shows only 1 time per ride.  For example, you can only skip Transformers one time and if you want to ride it again later, you will need to wait in the regular line.

1-Park Universal Express Unlimited Pass, $89.99 per person

This Express Pass allows you to skip the regular lines at participating rides and shows an unlimited amount of times.  You can skip the regular line to The Mummy or any other ride as many times as you want to ride it.

2-Park Universal Express Pass is $74.99

This Express Pass allows you to skip the lines at participating rides and shows only 1 time per ride at both Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure.  You would only need to purchase this pass if you have park hopper and plan to go to both parks in 1 day.

If you do plan to go to both parks in 1 day, I would recommend this pass because it is very difficult to ride every ride at both Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure multiple times. 

When you factor in all of the walking, stopping for lunch and restroom breaks, there isn’t enough time in the day to ride the same rides multiple times if you want to experience them all.

2-Park Universal Express Unlimited Pass is $89.99

This Express Pass allows you to skip the regular lines at participating rides and shows an unlimited amount of times at both Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure. 

This pass sounds good in theory, however we have found that there just isn’t enough time in the day to ride every ride at both parks multiple times.  If you are ok with select rides multiple times and not concerned about having to ride every single ride at the parks, this pass would then be worth it.

The prices listed above are as of 2020 and can change at any time by Universal.

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Is The Universal Express Pass Worth It If It’s Easy To Use

Using your Express Pass is very easy to use however this shouldn’t be a determining factor if you should purchase the passes or not. Universal has created a whole system and separate entrance just for the Express Pass users.

When you approach a ride, show your Express Pass to the attendant. They will scan your pass and let you enter the Express Pass line that is separate from the stand-by line. This line takes you closer to the ride loading area and doesn’t have all of the turn styles like the regular stand-by line does.

When you get closer to the ride, another attendant will scan your Express Pass again before it merges into the regular stand-by line.  The total wait time for the Express Pass lines are usually 5 to 10 minutes.

Which Rides Can You Use The Universal Express Pass On To Make It Worth It

Not all rides are available to use with Express Passes. You need to be aware of which rides are included and excluded from the Universal Express Pass to see if purchasing the passes are worth it for your family.

Rides Included With The Express Pass At Universal Orlando

RideHeight RequirementRide Type
Hogwarts ExpressN/ATrain Journey
Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘N’ HurlN/AKid Friendly
E.T. Adventure34 inchesKid Friendly
Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster36 inchesKid Friendly
Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon40 inchesMotion Simulation with 3D/4D
The Simpsons Ride40 inchesMotion Simulator
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem40 inchesMotion Simulation with 3D/4D
TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D40 inchesMotion Simulation with 3D/4D
Fast & Furious – Supercharged40 inchesMotion Simulator
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts42 inchesMotion Simulator / Coaster
MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack42 inchesMotion Simulation
Revenge of the Mummy48 inchesCoaster
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit51 inchesCoaster

Rides Included With The Express Pass At Islands of Adventure

RideHeight RequirementRide Type
Hogwarts ExpressN/ATrain Journey
Caro-Seuss-elN/AKid Friendly
Poseidon’s FuryN/AShow
Skull Island: Reign of Kong36 inchesMotion Simulation with 3D/4D
Flight of the Hippogriff36 inchesKid Friendly Coaster
Cat in the Hat36 inchesKid Friendly
The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!36 inchesKid Friendly
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man40 inchesMotion Simulator 3D/4D
Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges42 inchesWater ride
Jurassic Park River Adventure42 inchesWater ride
Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls44 inchesWater ride
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey48 inchesMotion Simulator 3D/4D Ride
Storm Force Accelatron48 inchesKid Friendly
Doctor Doom’s Fearfall52 inchesThrill
The Incredible Hulk Coaster54 inchesCoaster

Rides Not Included With The Express Pass At Universal Orlando & Islands of Adventure

At Universal Orlando, there are only 2 rides that are not included with the Express Pass to skip the lines and they are both at Islands of Adventure.

The first ride is Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.  Eventually this ride will make it on the Express Pass, however because it is still a new ride and the wait time can be extremely long, the only option is single riders or wait in the regular stand-by line.

The second ride that is not included is the Pteranodon Flyers.  When my family goes to Islands of Adventure, we almost never ride this ride any ways, so this isn’t a big deal for us.

When Is It Worth Buying A Universal Express Pass

The best time to buy a Universal Express Pass is when the stand-by lines are extremely long for a lot of the rides you want to ride.  Usually this is during the peak time of Summer.  With an average wait time of over an hour, most of your day could be eaten up by just waiting in lines.  If you have smaller children, this might not work for you.

My family has annual passes, so we visit the park regularly and there are a lot of times that we see the park is just too crowded.  Since we can come back next weekend, it doesn’t bother us to just ride a couple rides and then leave.

However, if you are coming on vacation and you only have 1 day at the park, you want to make the most of it and ride all of the rides.  This is when purchasing the Universal Express pass is worth it.

Insider Tip

During the summertime, Florida can get extremely hot. For most rides, a good portion of the stand-by line is outdoors. Make sure to bring water bottles and go to the bathroom before you step into line.

Where Can You Buy Universal Express Passes

Having multiple places to purchase a Universal Express Pass can make it worth it because it’s easy and convenient.  You don’t have to go out of your way and back to the front of the park if you decide to purchase the passes after you get inside.  There are four places you can buy the passes.

  • You can purchase the Universal Express Pass online before you get to the park. When you are buying your tickets to get into the park, Universal will try to upsell you to buy the passes right then.  We recommend not doing this now.  Wait until you get into the park and see if the lines are long and then buy the passes.  It might not be worth buying the Express Pass because the lines are short that day.
  • You can purchase the Universal Express Pass at the front gate. It might be worth buying the tickets here because you can ask the park attendant how busy they are, and the ride wait times.  This still isn’t my favorite place to purchase the passes because the attendant might not know how long the wait times are.
  • You can purchase the Universal Express Pass on Universal’s app. It’s a good idea to download their app anyways because it will give you a lot of useful information about the park, sign up for the virtual rides and you can see how long the ride wait times are once you are in the park. Then you can decide if it is worth it to purchase the passes.
  • Finally, my favorite place to purchase the Universal Express Passes is at kiosks located throughout the park. This way you are already in the park, you have seen the crowd levels and the ride wait times, then you can accurately make a decision if the Universal Express Pass is worth it for you.

Is It Worth Waiting To Upgrade Your Universal Tickets To Include Express Passes

You can always upgrade you park tickets to include the Universal Express Pass.  It doesn’t cost more if you wait until you are in the park to decide. 

Make sure buying the Universal Express Passes is worth it for your family first.  Spending the extra $70 to $90 per person can really add up if the lines aren’t extremely long to begin with.

Is It Worth Buying Express Passes Early So They Don’t Sell Out

The Express Passes can sell out if the park is busy enough.  If the Express lines are getting backed up and the wait times are close to the amount of the regular line, Universal might stop selling the Express Passes. It might be worth buying the Express Passes early just to prevent future disappointment.

We have found that this usually only happens during a weekend of the peak summertime.  If you come on an off time, you shouldn’t worry about the passes selling out.

Is It Worth Staying At A Universal Hotel To Get Free Express Passes

If you are planning on staying at a hotel at Universal, as well as purchasing Express Passes, it might be worth considering to stay at one of Universal’s Premier Hotel’s.  Check out my article Best Onsite Hotel Universal Studios Orlando. These hotels include Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Hotel.

Hotel guests get free Express Passes with their reservations on the day you check in and also on the day you check out.  These means for a 1-night stay, you get 2-days’ worth of Express Passes.

For around the same price as your hotel stay and paying for the Express Pass for 2 days, it is worth staying on Universal property at one of their premier resorts.

Staying at a Universal hotel offers another perk, which is early admission into the parks. This means you can ride all of the big rides that usually have the longest wait times before the normal crowds arrive.

Final Thoughts

No matter when you visit Universal Orlando, purchasing Universal Express Passes can be worth it because you get to skip the lines. The question you need to ask yourself is how much you value the time you save. 

During less busy times, I think it isn’t worth buying Express Passes because the stand-by lines aren’t usually very long.  If you are visiting during peak Summertime, then purchasing Express Passes is definitely worth it.

Drew Thomas

Drew Thomas is the founder of Visit Orlando With Kids and loves going to theme parks with his family. Every year he has annual passes to all Florida's theme parks and loves to share tips and tricks that he has learned over the 35 years living in Orlando.

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