How to Maximize Your Time at The Universal Orlando Parks

Your guide to maximizing your time at Universal Orlando Parks, making sure you get more bang for your buck
Anna Dominguez
Universal Studiios globe

You've been to all the Disney parks. Now you're looking for something to really get your heart pumping. High-speed rollercoasters with big drops and rides that transport you to another world are exactly what you need. Well look no further than Universal Orlando Parks, home to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. With a combination of over 30 attractions, 10 shows, and a variety of dining options, there is so much to do!

But where do you start? What ride should you go on first? How can you pack so much adventure into one day? Keep reading for tips and tricks on how to maximize your time at Universal Orlando, and ensure you get the most bang for you buck.

Side view of a smartphone

Tip #1: Prepare

Whether you're visiting Universal Orlando on vacation, or you're a local looking for a day of fun, preparation is essential. You want to set yourself up for success before even arriving at the park. Preparation can take many different forms, but here are two that can help your day at the parks run smoothly. 

Use Your Smartphone to Your Advantage

Download a wait times app to see how long the wait is for all attractions, no matter where you are. Knowing how long the lines are for your favorite rides can help you plan your day better. You can monitor the lines to find the best time to ride, ensuring you're not spending all day simply standing and waiting. With that information at your fingertips, you also avoid having to go out of your way to check the wait times at the ride entrance. More information leads to less time wasted just walking around. Wait time apps also generally have a park map linked to your phone's GPS location to help you get around. There are three apps you can choose from, free to download. These include the official Universal Orlando app, the Magic Guide: Universal Orlando app, and the Wait Times: Universal Orlando app.

Save Time, Bring Snacks

If you want to take another step toward avoiding lines as much as possible, try bringing food from home. By packing your own lunch and snacks you can bypass the food lines at the park altogether. Sometimes, those can be one of the longest lines of the day! You also avoid spending time deciding and trying to find somewhere to eat. When you bring your own food there is no discussion, and you can stop and eat wherever you want. Less time spent on lunch, means more time for fun. 

Person holding a brown treasure map

Tip #2: Have your plan of attack ready

Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios are big parks so you have a lot of ground to cover, especially if you have the Park-to-Park pass. Try to plan out your day as much as possible beforehand. You can't account for everything, but having a base plan of what you want to do can help you make decisions throughout the day.

Get Your Priorities in Order

With all the shows, rides, and rollercoasters, you have a lot of options for park activities. When you factor in how long it takes you to walk from place to place, time for lunch, bathroom breaks, and the time spent waiting in line, it's impossible to cover every single ride. Set up your priorities to make sure you have the best possible day. What rollercoasters do you absolutely have to go on, and what rides can you do without? This will help you shape what your day is going to look like.

A successful day at Universal Orlando is not about the amount of rides you go on. It's about how satisfied you feel leaving the park in the evening. Think about the attractions and determine what you want out of the day. If you're looking for a thrill day, you're probably going to want to ride The Incredible Hulk Coaster over the Storm Force teacups. As long as you complete your amusement park wishlist, you're getting your money's worth.

New and Busy Are Priority #1

Universal Orlando is consistently upgrading and added new attractions to both parks. When a new ride opens wait times shoot up to three hours long, sometimes more! If you're looking to avoid the lines, try visiting the park a few months after the ride's opening. Technical difficulties will be mostly ironed out and the interest will die down a bit, meaning the wait times go down with it. Keep in mind, if it is the newest ride in the park, the line will more than likely still be longer than any other attraction. 

With all that in mind, you're heading to the park and want to check out the new rollercoaster. To ensure you're not spending all day in that line head over to the new ride first, especially if you arrive early or as the park opens. The same trick applies to the busiest, or most popular, attractions. Lines are shorter in the mornings as people are still trickling into the park. Wait times only get longer as the day goes on. Going to the new ride first, you get it out of the way early and still have plenty of time for the other rides on your list.

Doing the new/busy ride right as you get to the park is also a smart move physically. Since you've just arrived at the park you're not too tired to stand in line for a, potentially, long period of time. This leads to less frustration, thus making the line seem like it is going by much faster. 

People walking in Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Orlando

Tip #3: Think smart before you get to the park

There are several things you can do to maximize your time at the park, before you even get there! Strategic decision-making for your trip is key. Try to avoid big crowds at the parks as much as possible. Less people in the park allows you to enjoy the park more. 

Off-Peak Days Are Best

The day you decide to head to the parks is an important decision. It is tempting to plan a weekend trip to Universal Orlando since it is generally the time everyone is free to go. However, it is highly recommended to avoid this timeframe if you can. Weekends, more specifically Thursday-Sunday, at amusement parks are some of the busiest times. Parks are packed and lines are long. The best time to go is during the week, or Monday-Wednesday, as these days are considered to be off-peak. There will still be people in the park, but nowhere near as many as you would encounter on a Friday or Saturday.

This tip also applies to peak seasons. Try to avoid heading to the parks around major holidays. Many people like to spend Christmas or Thanksgiving in an amusement park. Avoid the crowds and you'll be able to enjoy your day more at Universal Orlando.

Early Bird Gets the Worm

We've covered time of the week and year, but time of day is also important to avoid big crowds. Try to get to Islands of Adventure right when the park opens, or within an hour of opening time. This will be the smallest the crowds will be for the day as people are still arriving to spend the day there. Getting to the park early allows you to take advantage of shorter wait times, so you can get to your favorite rides faster. 

If this is not your first trip to Universal Orlando, arriving early can also mean leaving early and avoiding the evening park traffic. If you're an avid park-goer, chances are you already have a plan and list of attractions to visit. Arriving early and taking advantage of the shorter lines adds efficiency to your park visit. You can get through your day quicker and easier. You don't have to spend all day at the parks in order to get the most bang for your buck!

Aerial view of four people eating lunch

Tip #4: Make strategic decisions throughout the day

When visiting Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios you want to be as efficient as possible to make sure you're using your time wisely. Small things can cut into your park time. Luckily, these things are easily fixed! Below are tips to help you make sure you have time to do everything you want to do at Universal Orlando. 

Lunchtime Isn't Lost Time

Lunch is your time to recharge and take a break from all the walking and waiting. It's good to take breaks from all the excitement! But just because it's time to eat does not mean your day has to come to a complete stop. Lunch is a good time to enjoy the calmer attractions Universal Orlando has to offer. You don't want to jump on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit right after enjoying a few slices of pizza. When you finish eating, let your stomach settle while watching one of the many live shows in Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios. You're maximizing your park time and enjoying a new experience, all while getting ready for the next ride. Downtime does not have to be a waste of time.

Another way to ensure you're not wasting valuable park time during lunch is to strategically choose your lunch spot. You don't want to stray too far from your planned path to grab a bite to eat, only to discover the next ride on your list is on the other side of the park. When you're ready to eat, choose a restaurant near the attraction you want to visit next. This way you can save some time and get right back to your park plan after lunch. It's also an efficient way to cut down on unnecessary walking, making sure you're not too tired for the rest of your day. 

Make Efficient Moves

Speaking of unnecessary walking, that is the number one time waster when you visit an amusement park. As previously mentioned, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios are two large parks. Together, they cover over 200 acres! Both parks were designed in a circle, so walking back and forth in either of the parks is time-consuming and tiring. If you want to maximize your time spent at Universal Orlando, you want to minimize the amount of time spent just walking around. Always walk with purpose at an amusement park. 

Both theme parks are divided into sections, or "lands," each with their own set of themed attractions. To really get the most bang for your buck, work your way around the park. Start in one land and do everything you want to in that section before moving on. This way you're checking things off your to-do list, while also efficiently moving through the park. You will cover more ground and save your energy. 

No matter what, a visit to Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios is always a blast. If you have a trip planned, try using these tips and tricks to bring your experience to the next level. Be efficient, be smart, and always make the most of your day at Universal Orlando.

A rollercoaster during a sunset