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Honest Review: Is Universal’s Express Pass Worth the Price?

Honest Review: Is Universal’s Express Pass Worth the Price?

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Like Disney, Universal also has a paid “skip the standby line” service. Unlike Disney, Express Pass is quite expensive. Here is our honest review in determining if Express Pass is worth the price. You will definitely want to check this out if you are planning to head to Universal.

What is Express Pass?

Credit: Monica

Universal Orlando offers Universal Express Pass Access for its theme parks including Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, and its water park Volcano Bay. It essentially allows you to skip the standby line for attractions and instead wait in a much shorter line.

According to Universal, “When you add Universal Express access to your theme park admission, you get to skip the regular lines at most of your favorite rides and attractions. So you can fit way more fun into your day.”

There are different kinds of Express Passes, attractions that are NOT included, and other important things you should know about. For all of this, I am going to guide you to Kate’s very detailed guide HERE.

Honest Review

Credit: Monica

For the purposes of this article, I am going to focus on my day at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure in early March 2024. Please note this trip was taken about a week before Spring Break crowds arrived.

I had one day to fit both parks in, which is quite a day to try to squeeze many of the big attractions. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in both parks was on the top of my list to experience, so that was a big priority for me.

With needing to fit in so many rides into one day, I knew Express Pass would be necessary. There was simply no way I would be able to get anything done without the pass.

Universal Studios Florida

Credit: Monica

I started my day at Universal Studios Florida because it did not have Early Park Admission on that particular day, and I was not staying at a Universal hotel.

To start, I completed both Despicable Me attractions at park opening. I did not use Express Pass for Minion Blasters because there was literally no line. Despicable Me Mayhem already gathered a line within the first 10 minutes of park opening, so I was glad to use Express Pass already.

Credit: Monica

Next, I used the pass on Rip Ride Rockit, which did not have a huge line already because it opens up slightly after the park opens. I probably could have gotten away with not using it.

For Transformers, Revenge of the Mummy, and Race Through New York, I used the pass. By using it on these three rides, I saved myself almost two hours of waiting. Transformers in particular had a substantial line even for Express Pass. I remember hearing the loud speaker suggest people use the single rider line as the standby wait so long.

The first time I attempted to ride Escape from Gringotts, it was delayed. The second time, the standby wait was 55 minutes. I was through the line very quickly – about 15 minutes with Express Pass.

Credit: Monica

There were a few rides I decided to skip after quicky realizing 3D rides were too much for me (even with medicine). I skipped Fast and Furious and The Simpsons Ride. In addition, I met several characters and watched the Horror Makeup Show.

Islands of Adventure

Credit: Monica

By late afternoon, I made my way over to Islands of Adventure via Hogwarts Express. Both Flight of Hippogriff and Forbidden Journey had 30+ minute waits. I saved myself an hour by using Express Pass.

Next, I rode The Incredible Hulk Coaster via single rider to perform an experiment. There were 10 people ahead of me in that line while Express Pass had a whopping 0. Yep, 0! I learned a lesson: when in doubt, use the Express Pass.

Credit: Monica

Around 5:00 pm, I headed back to Universal Studios Florida to watch the Mardi Gras parade. You can read about the celebration HERE.

I wish I had more time in Islands of Adventure. Unfortunately, I did not make it to VelociCoaster as I needed to make it back to Hogsmeade to ride Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure. VelociCoaster had a 120 minute wait, and I was worried even with Express Pass that I would not make it Hogsmeade before park close.

I also skipped Kong and and Spider-Man due to the fact that they are 3D rides. My stomach probably could not have handled more 3D attractions!

Credit: Monica

Hagrid’s is a ride that does not allow Express Pass. When I got in line at 7:00 pm (park closed at 8:00), single rider was also not available.

The posted wait time was 80 minutes, but I made it through in about 60. Looking back, I likely would have had time for VelociCoaster as well. But, Hagrid’s was much more important to me!

Final Thoughts

Credit: Monica

In all, I am very glad I invested in Express Pass for the day. If you are short on time like I was, you will definitely benefit from it as well.

Likewise, going during a peak season like Spring Break, Fall Break, or Christmas will undoubtedly increase the value of the Express Pass. In my opinion, time is money and you won’t accomplish a lot when you are waiting 2+ hours for every ride.

universal hard rock hotel lobby
Credit: Susan

If you are planning to enjoy both parks over the course of multiple days, you may not need Express Pass with some strategic rope drop planning. Completing those big headliners first thing in the day when wait times are their lowest will save you precious minutes.

Guests staying at Premier Hotels receive Unlimited Express Pass at no additional cost. These are more expensive hotels but may actually save you money vs buying Express Pass on its own. I can help you decide if you should book a Premier Hotel! Check out details below for contacting me:

Using a Travel Agent can help you navigate the ins and outs of planning! I am here to help! Please fill out this form and put my name (Monica) in the Special Request box.

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Sunday 17th of March 2024

What was the price of your Express Pass?

Monica Street

Monday 18th of March 2024

It was $160

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