The Merrell family vacation week to Orlando is down to the last couple of days.  We did the Universal Theme Parks for a couple of days and have now made the switch to Disney World.

I'll have some tips and ideas on how to better your trip to Mickey's place in later blogs, but I thought I would pass along some important findings when it comes to having a better family vacation to Universal. 

Both Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World are reporting record crowds over the past year and a half, due in some part to the drastic increase of South American tourists to the parks, but there are still great ways to ride the most popular rides and in the vast majority of cases, never have to wait more than 15 minutes in line.

How?    It all starts with booking your stay on resort park property.

Yes, you will have to save more money in order to pay the extra price of staying at any of the Universal Resort hotels (we stayed at the Royal Pacific), but the perks you get above the 'regular tourists and park goers are well worth it.

As an on-site resort guest the best perk is that everyone gets a Universal Resort Unlimited Express Pass.  This little card has allowed my family to basically jump towards the front of the line at pretty much all the rides at Universal.  These are available for sale as an add-on to anyone, but if you spend the money  for those for everyone in your group or family, you might as well stay at the resort hotel, you may even save money by doing so.


There are a few of the newest, most popular rides that these Express Passes  is not accepted.  So, do you have to wait the 90 minutes to ride the Harry Potter ride in Hogwarts or the hour at the Rip, Ride, and Rockit?

Nope.  As an on-property resort guest, you also are allowed to enter either park, Universal Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios, a full hour before everyone else, and therefore go enjoy the rides before the park even opens to anyone else.  You may wait up to 15-20 minutes for these most popular rides, but that's a lot better than over an hour.

Universal Orlando is a wonderful place and you'll find so many things to do with or without an Unlimited Express Pass, but if you're wanting to ride the hottest rides with the least amount of waiting time, this is the way to go.  I have no way to put a specific number on this, but I would estimate that we rode at least 75% more rides than we would have without the pass.

Spend more money, stay on property, have a better experience.