Your First Trip to Universal Studios Orlando: A Planning Guide -
Award-winning travel guidebooks

   guidebooks   |   news   |   podcasts   |   boards   |   blog   |   worksheets   |   photos   |   articles   |   updates   |   register   |  

Your First Trip to Universal Studios Orlando: A Planning Guide

by Cheryl Pendry, PassPorter Message Board Guide (Moderator)
Last modified 2/22/2007 > Articles > U.S. Travel > Traveling  

With four theme parks, there's plenty to keep you busy at the Walt Disney World Resort, especially if you only have a few days in Orlando. But venture outside those famous purple gates and there's a whole new world of theme park entertainment waiting for you.

Now I'll be honest here. I'm one of the worst for venturing off Disney property during our vacation. The only exception to that are our trips to the mall to pick up some bargains. Apart from those, I'm happiest staying within the boundaries of Walt Disney World. But we have to push ourselves and after ten visits to Disney, perhaps it was finally time to see what Universal Orlando was like. So our last trip was arranged so that we could spend a couple of days there, trying out the various rides and shows. For me, it would be my first ever visit there and unsurprisingly, I had plenty of questions that I wanted answered before we got through the park gates.

As a seasoned Disney veteran, planning my visits to the various Disney parks is second nature for me, but wait... my trusty PassPorter doesn't extend to cover Universal Orlando! Now what? That was really my first question -- where can I find out what I need to know? Fortunately, I found a good substitute for my faithful PassPorter in the shape of Universal Orlando: The Ultimate Guide to the Ultimate Theme Park Adventure by Kelly Monaghan, which is packed full of useful information. And it's available to purchase through the PassPorter store.

Other great places to get information about Universal Orlando include their official web site which has sections on the parks, hotels, nightlife, and tickets, amongst other things. One of the most important things I learned was that if a ride was deemed to be suitable for "ultimate adventurers" in Universal-speak, that was a sure signal that we should keep as far away from it as possible if we didn't want to be turned green!

Now, there's another great addition to the wealth of information about Universal Orlando on our very own PassPorter boards. The recently added Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure section is the place to head if you've got any questions that you can't find the answers to.

Let's be clear. Heading to Universal Orlando is not a small undertaking and it's not some quick day trip. It's second in size only to Disney, with two theme parks, CityWalk, which is their equivalent of Downtown Disney, complete with dining and nightlife and three resorts - the Portofino Bay, Hard Rock and Royal Pacific Hotels. The main difference you'll immediately notice is the size of the place. Compared to Disney, it's tiny and everything is in walking distance, although I'll grant you, it's still a long walk from one end of the theme parks back to the hotels -- I know, as we walked it!

That means there's lots to see and you're not going to do it all in one day. Ideally, you need to allow three days to do both parks, perhaps longer if you want to do every ride or you're visiting at a busy time of the year. And don't forget to put some time aside in your visit to check out CityWalk -- its well worth a visit and has some excellent restaurants.

With so much to do at Universal Orlando, it's worth looking at staying at one of three onsite hotels. OK, so it's not cheap, with prices on par with Disney, but if you're a Universal Orlando hotel guest, you do get a pretty impressive bonus -- exclusive front of the line passes. The Universal Express system allows hotel guests to bypass the regular lines and best of all; this perk is free of charge to hotel guests. It's something worth thinking about, particularly if your visit to Universal Orlando is likely to be at a busy time of the year. Fortunately ours wasn't, so we stayed put at our beloved Beach Club and drove over.

Regardless of whether you stay on Universal property or not, it's worth making time in your schedule to visit the three resorts. They're all unique and beautifully themed and if nothing else, you can admire them and consider staying at one of them in the future. We were exceptionally impressed with what we saw of the resorts and in particular, how you can walk over to the parks in the mornings, although admittedly by the end of the day, the walk back might be a bit too much. Then again, that's what the complimentary water taxi that runs to all the resorts is for!

If you drive over to Universal Orlando from Disney, the drive should take you about 20 -- 30 minutes, depending where you are on Disney property, although obviously it could take a lot longer in the rush hour or if there's been an accident on the I-4. Universal Orlando, as you'd expect, is very well signposted and as a result, it's easy to find. Self parking costs $11 a day and there's also an option to valet park, which costs $18 a day.

The other question I had was, which tickets should we get? Having worked out that we'd be spending two days at Universal Orlando, I knew that at the very least, that's what we'd need. Over the next few months, I watched the Universal web site very carefully, having learned that their park tickets are very different than Disney's. Unlike Disney tickets, which are fixed price at all times, Universal regularly has great offers on park tickets. We ended up paying for two-park, two-day tickets that were extended to five days admission! So if you're planning a trip to Universal, don't just buy the tickets at the first price you see -- unless it is a great deal that you can't pass up! Instead, keep an eye on the web site, as you never know what type of offer might be around the corner.

So now we've looked at tickets, how long to spend in the parks, whether to stay at the resort and where to find more information about Universal Orlando. If you're thinking of a visit there for the first time, that should be a lot of your questions already answered. And if you've got any others -- don't forget to pop into PassPorter's new Universal forums and ask away!

About the Author:
Cheryl and husband Mark live in England and love to travel, particularly to Disney, and they have made numerous visits to destinations across America and Europe. They recently completed their tour of every Disney theme park around the world, which culminated in their visit to Japan, including the Tokyo Disney Resort. Click here to view more of Cheryl's articles!

Recent U.S. Travel Articles:
Take a Walk on The Wild Side at Busch Gardens Tampa (Part 2) - An Orlando-Area Attraction Review last updated 10-01-2015
Take a Walk on The Wild Side at Busch Gardens Tampa - An Orlando-Area Attraction Review last updated 09-17-2015
Honolulu and and Waikiki - Things to Do While Visiting Aulani last updated 04-30-2015
The Eastern Coast of Oahu, Hawaii - Things to Do While Visiting Aulani last updated 04-23-2015
The Pearl Harbor Memorial - Things to Do While Visiting Aulani last updated 04-16-2015

More Related Links:

Traveling Carry-On to Walt Disney World - Avoid Those Baggage Fees last updated 3/2/2011
New York City - Something Old, Something New last updated 01/02/2009
On the Road to Walt Disney World - Doing "The Drive" last updated 01/20/2009
Airline Security - 10 Important Tips and Reminders last updated 1/21/2009
Sick at Sea - (But Not Sea Sick!) last updated 5/14/2009

Reader Comments:

View all comments in forum thread

So what do you think? Click here to share your comments, feedback, and experiences on this article and topic!

(Note: You must be a member of our PassPorter Message Board Community to leave comments. Join today for free!)

Updated 2/22/2007 - Article #312 

Read additional articles from

Subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter, PassPorter News, published for more than 58,000 opt-in subscribers worldwide. As an added bonus for subscribing, you will receive a 20% discount coupon for the PassPorter Store -- no catch!

E-mail Address:

First Name:

E-mail Format:
-Text/Don't Know  



We respect your privacy and never sell or rent our subscriber list. Subscribing will not result in more spam! We guarantee it.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Copyright 1999-2015
by PassPorter Travel Press, an imprint of MediaMarx, Inc.

Learn More With Our Award-Winning Guidebooks


RSS General PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and General Travel - Getting There (and Back!): Your Journey to Walt Disney World
PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disn...
By car, plane, or train -- share your tips, plans, and experiences with others! Forum Sponsored by Quicksilver Tours & Transportation

Spirit Airlines Bag Question [how strict are they about luggage size restrict...
by Geri Alexander
30 Sep 2015 at 10:53am
Has anyone flown Spirit Airlines? We are flying on a direct flight out of DFW here in a week or so. I am interested in any experiences/opinions, as...
(click title above to view replies)

Looking for recommendation - south of ATL hotel
by am03rn
28 Sep 2015 at 10:19pm
Traveling down I-75 to the world, wanting to stay somewhere south of Atlanta, but not too far south. Where would you recommend? Where should we...
(click title above to view replies)

Any experiences renting from Dollar car rental at the Wyndham?
by aliceinwdw
27 Sep 2015 at 5:38pm
DH and I are seriously contemplating renting a car this upcoming trip. We usually use Disney transportation and have been big supporters of it for...
(click title above to view replies)

Just bought airfare!
by Angela531
23 Sep 2015 at 12:45pm
I'm a bit nervous about this as we typically drive everywhere. Last time I flew it was 1999! But it was either cancel Disney completely or fly,...
(click title above to view replies)

Disney Magical Express (DME) [should they be notified of flight changes?]
by patriciabecky
19 Sep 2015 at 12:22pm
I have a question our flight number has changed and our flight arrival time has changed, we are getting in earlier than originally thought do we ...
(click title above to view replies)

Total Visits: 7354

PassPorter ~ 1998-2015 ~ 17 Years of Making Dreams Come True!
Publishers of bestselling travel guidebooks and proud recipients of 13 national book awards
About PassPorter
About Us
Site Map
Privacy Policy
Images & Artwork
News & Updates
Message Boards
Concierge Desk
Books & E-Books
Customs Office
Register Books
Book Updates
Help & Info
Finding Answers to Questions
Help Desk
Using Your PassPorter Forum
Store Customer Service
E-Mail Us
Follow Us Front Page (Updated Daily!)
PassPorter Newsletter (weekly and free)
Latest Posts
YouTube Channel
Questions? Check our Site Map and visit our Help Desk to learn how to contact us online, by e-mail, and by phone.
Please feel free to link to this page so that other vacationers can find it.