So firstly I would like to apologise for my lack of posts the last two weeks.. this was meant to be a daily thing, especially all my posts for Christmas in Orlando, and honestly work and life has just got on top of me the last couple of weeks. But I’m back! And I promise a post everyday until my Christmas in Orlando series is complete!
Alrighty, I covered the basics for our Christmas trips in my last post (go check that out first if you haven’t already), today I wanna talk about what we do, my tips and tricks for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure over the Christmas weeks.
Days, etc: If we are going to Orlando for around 2 weeks, we will normally give two full days to Universal. You can choose if you wanna make that 1 full day at Studios and 1 full day at Islands of Adventure, or hop between the two parks on both days. We have hopped around the two parks on both days previously, and we enjoy it like that.
We normally go all out the first day, going on every ride we want to go on, staying there for most of the day. Then we do it a little bit more chilled the second day, doing bits we missed, or hitting our fave rides again. We’ll normally go one day in our first week, and then our second day in our second week.
If you’re more of a Universal fan then maybe you’ll want to go more on your trip, but as you know I’m a Disney addict, and because they have more parks, we naturally spend more time there.
Express passes: As I mentioned before, I do always purchase our park tickets in advance, as a group ticket. But also both times we have been for Christmas, I have purchased ‘express passes’. The week between Christmas and New Years in the busiest time of the year for the parks, it’s crazy! But if you’re prepared you can still have an amazing time. I head over to the Universal Orlando’s site itself to purchase our express passes – these are expensive! I think for that time of year it normally costs us about £100 per day per person for a 2 park express pass. If there’s a group of you, this obviously increases costs a lot, but there are serious perks.
Now my mentality when going on a trip like this, especially if you only wanna do Christmas once, is to go all out. The holiday itself is gonna cost a lot, so I like to save extra hard to be able to treat myself to the express passes and hard ticket events etc. I would never go to Universal at this time of year without purchasing an express pass, but there are a number of ways you can purchase them.
You can just purchase them online https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/tickets-packages/express-passes/index.html
You can also get them for free if you stay in some Universal hotels… or something a friend of mine did for their last trip, which I thought was an amazing idea, is they booked a Universal hotel, that offers the express passes for free, but just for one night. If you book the hotel for one night, you get two days of passes for free! Now obviously you might not particularly want to do your visits to Universal two days in a row but you can always go back another day of your trip if you need another Universal fix. Besides, I’d happily take advantage of the express passes if they’re there, and this worked out cheaper for them because they also used their Tesco Clubcard vouchers to book the hotel! So they barely paid anything for the room, which was a hell of a lot cheaper than paying for 4 people to have express passes for one day let alone two!
So yes, however you need to purchase them, purchase them! There are different options available to you:
Express pass or Express pass unlimited. The unlimited pass allows you to use it on the participating rides several times, the express pass only allows you to use the fast lane once per participating ride. As I also mentioned you can get one park or two park passes also.
In 2015, we purchased the express pass for 2 parks and for 2 separate days. In 2017, we purchased it for just 1 day but again for both parks. In future I would probably just purchase it for 1 day, unless I have 2 days free from a hotel booking, spending the day with the express passes as a day to do everything you wanna do. Be there all day, and get it all done. I’d then use our second day, without the passes, to do certain rides we’d like to do again, or just see bits maybe we missed the first day.
Early Harry Potter entry: This is one of the reasons why we always book with Virgin Holidays. When you book with them, you get early entry for one day into Universal Studios, and one day into Universal Islands of Adventure. This extra hour into the park is only for entry into the Harry Potter areas in each park. The main Harry Potter rides do not have express pass options, so this is a great way to get in the queue for these rides before they get super busy. I would suggest being at the gates early, a quick paced walk into the Harry Potter area, and getting straight in the queue for either Gringotts or the Forbidden Journey ride (depending on what park you are in). Then enjoy the Harry Potter area whilst you can… by midday they’re normally stopping people going in until people have left.
I believe you also get this early entry if you are staying in a Universal Hotel.
Other details: Personally we’ve never really sat and watched the Macy’s Christmas parade at Universal Studios, we’ve just seen bits of it in passing. For me Universal is more about the rides, they have great rides! However there is a Grinch show I’d like to see, and I’m always in the queue to meet the Grinch 😂 love him! He’s hilarious.
Also, both times we have been we’ve never made it to closing. We’ve normally had to get to the park for around 6.30am, for the extra hour starting at 7am. By early evening some of our group were wiped out. In 2017, they had the Christmas projection show on Hogwarts which started once it was dark, so we hung around for that and then left. Buuuttt… if you have the room at universal for the night then there’s no reason why you can go back during the day for a quick power nap, then come back out again in the evening! These are things I definitely wanna try on my next trip!
Christmas Day at Universal Studios 2015
Hogwarts at night after the projection show 😍
Volcano Bay: Water parks are still open at this time of year, 9am-5pm, normally full of Brits because we’re the only ones that think it’s warm enough lol! This is another reason why I try and make sure we do have some days that can be changed or okayed around with, you don’t wanna plan a water park day and then have bad-ish weather, you may need to swap it around with something else. So as organised as I am, I still like to have a little bit of flexibility so we can check weather and change days if we need to. I also like to use water park days as a bit of a rest day in between busy/long park days. You can normally get up a little later, they’re very chilled, and they close at 5pm so it’s nice to head to dinner after, or do something relaxing.
Christmas Eve 2017 in Volcano Bay
- Be prepared for crowds
- Definitely consider express passes for at least one day/two park or two days/one park
- Try and get the early hour for Harry Potter
- Get a good nights sleep the night before if you have the early hour or wanna get most of it done in one day
- Consider the parade if that’s something you wanna see.. might be good if you have younger kids with you
- Watch the Grinch show
- Meet the Grinch!
- Stay until it’s dark to see the projection show on Hogwarts
- Check ride heights before you travel if you have kids with you
- Try and use the Hogwarts Express to travel between parks – it’s different both ways and is like a little ride in itself
Please feel free to comment if you have any other tip/tricks for Universal at Christmas. I hope that helped and gave you some ideas for your trip. Tomorrow I’ll be posting about Busch Gardens and Seaworld!
Speak soon… Rachel xo