Fall 2013 update
Just as a general “hey we want to make sure you know”, Early Park Admission was offered at both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure during this past summer. However, as of September 3 Early Admission is no longer offered at USF, just at IOA as described below. That’s it, now let’s explore this topic in detail and get you some expert advice…
Early access to the adventure
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is by far the most exciting thing to happen to Orlando’s theme parks over the last decade. Its tremendous attention to detail, and the one-of-a-kind experiences it offers Central Florida visitors, has made Universal’s Islands of Adventure more popular than ever.
If you are planning a visit to the Wizarding World during a time when there are moderate to busy crowds (see our Universal crowd calendar) — and the Wizarding World is one of your top priorities at Universal — then we strongly recommend that you get Early Park Admission.
This page offers a complete guide to Universal’s Early Park Admission, from an explanation of the basics to every detail you need to know to maximize its effectiveness. Let’s begin, well, at the beginning…
Why do I need Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World?
I can quickly answer this question with the following video:
While the video above may present a stronger contrast than you will likely see on a average day, the crowds you saw at the end of that video do occur quite often. The truth is, Wizarding World is the most electrifying thing to happen in Orlando in years, and its popularity only seems to grow. When the parks are slow, WWoHP is usually busy. When the parks are busy, WWoHP is crushed.
How does Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World work?
Guests with Early Park Admission have the benefit of entering Islands of Adventure an hour before the park opens to the general public. For most of the year, this means 8:00am, and the park opens to everyone else at 9:00am. During very busy times, it shifts up an hour, and guests with EPA get in at 7:00am while everyone else gets in at 8:00am.
How do I get Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World?
Right now there are only two methods for getting Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World. There is quite a bit of confusion about this, so I’ll explain all of the details. The first method is to stay on-site at one of Universal’s three on-site hotels: Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Portofino Bay Hotel. All guests staying on-site, regardless of how they booked their rooms, get Early Park Admission as a on-site benefit. There are other benefits as well, such as unlimited Express Pass access, resort-wide charging privileges, and more. You can learn about them by clicking here.
The second method to secure Early Park Admission is to book a Universal Orlando vacation package. A vacation package must include at least accommodations and theme park admission tickets. As far as accommodations go, you can choose from over 40 Universal Orlando Partner Hotels. These Partner Hotels range from economical (EconoLodge, Best Western) to luxury (JW Marriot, Peabody Orlando). Villas, or family-suites, are also available at some properties (Floridays). With such a broad selection, you should definitely be able to find something to match your budget and style. Visit our guide to Universal vacation packages or our Universal Partner Hotels page for more information.
IMPORTANT: Please note that booking a Universal Orlando Partner Hotel on your own is not enough to get Early Park Admission. You have to book a Universal vacation package including accommodations at a Partner Hotel to get the Early Park Admission benefit.
Another note: Booking a Universal Orlando vacation package does not necessarily mean that you have to book it directly through Universal Orlando. Many third-party sellers and travel agents can sell a qualifying package to you. If you’re using a third-party, just be sure you get your E-Travel Document before you travel that states your Early Park Admission benefit.
One more note for clarification: You can also book a Universal vacation package including accommodations at one of Universal’s on-site hotels, and if you do so you will receive Early Park Admission. However, if you are staying on-site, you are not required to book a vacation package to get the benefit. You could book your room directly through Loews, through a third-party like Hotels.com, or any other number of ways. As I mentioned above, Early Park Admission is a benefit that all on-site guests receive, regardless of how they booked their rooms.
During my stay, when can I use Early Park Admission?
The Early Park Admission benefit is available seven days a week. It is also important to know that you can use it each day you are checked in to your hotel, including your check-in and check-out days. So, if you book one night at Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort, you actually receive two days of Early Park Admission: the morning you check in and the morning you check out. I have helped many guests book one night at a hotel — even an economy Partner Hotel — just for the two days worth of Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World.
How do I go about using Early Park Admission on my check-in day?
There are two somewhat different answers to this question, depending on whether you are staying on-site or off-site. First, we will address the question for guests staying at one of Universal’s three on-site hotels.
Guests checking into one of Universal’s three on-site hotels are able to check-in as early as they please. Now, it is good to know that rooms are generally not available until after 1:00pm. However, you can check-in as early as you’d like. When you do so, each member of your party will be given a room key, which serves several functions: it is your unlimited Express Pass, proof for Early Park Admission, it can be used for resort-wide charging, it opens the security gate when exiting the hotel’s parking area, and of course it is a room key.
Since your exact room will not be able to be assigned to you until later in the day, the front desk team member will ask for your cell phone number. Later in the day, when your room is ready, you will receive a text like the one below and your keys are automatically activated.
But what about your luggage? That’s no problem either. Each of Universal’s on-site hotels have a Luggage Service Desk, and they will gladly hold your bags in a secure area free of charge while you head out to see Harry. The Luggage Service Desk is located adjacent to the Front Desk at each hotel.
Finally, how do you get your theme park admission tickets? If you purchased your tickets directly from Universal Orlando, they will be waiting for you at an electronic will call kiosk. There is a kiosk located near the Front Desk at each of the hotels (see the image below). There are also electronic will call kiosks located at the front of each Universal theme park — on your left-hand side as you approach the theme park entrance.
Please note that if you are staying on-site, you must check-in to your hotel before you go to the parks for Early Park Admission. If you do not go to your hotel first, you will not have your room keys — and that means you will not have your unlimited Express Passes and your proof for early entry.
By the way, if you have a car, you are not charged any additional amount for parking so early in the morning — just the regular nightly fee for that night.
Guests staying off-site at a Universal Partner Hotel
If you have booked a Universal vacation package with accommodations at a Partner Hotel, you’ve got Early Park Admission! So how do you take advantage of it on your check-in day.
This is definitely a different procedure than I just described for on-site guests. If you are staying off-site, you do not need to check into your hotel room. Instead, you can proceed directly to the parks. You will pick up your tickets at the Electronic Will Call Kiosks located in front of Islands of Adventure, on your right-hand side as you approach the entrance (first photo below). There is also a set of kiosks in front of Universal Studios Florida, which you are free to use if needed, and they are also on your right-hand side as you approach the park entrance (second photo).
Once you have your admission tickets, you can proceed with them to the Early Park Admission entrance. It is also a very good idea to carry your E-Travel Document with you — that’s the document Universal or your travel sales professional provides to you, which lists your package benefits. If there happens to be any confusion with your tickets, your E-Travel Document will show that you have paid for the Early Park Admission benefit.
What if I want to check-in to my off-site hotel before going to the parks?
If you want to check-in to your off-site Universal Orlando Partner Hotel before you use Early Park Admission on your check-in day, you will need to verify directly with the hotel as to what their procedures are. Depending on the hotel, they may or may not be able to stow your bags, etc.
IMPORTANT: For off-site guests, there is one very important thing you need to know about the “complimentary transportation” that may be a part of your vacation package. In almost all cases it will not get you to Universal early enough to take advantage of Early Park Admission. Here is the language directly from UniversalOrlandoVacations.com:
(Travel Dates 04JAN12- 31DEC12) SCHEDULED THEME PARK TRANSPORTATION: Provided based on regular park operating hours* (does not run continuously) to UNIVERSAL ORLANDO® theme parks, SEAWORLD ORLANDO®, WET ‘N WILD® and AQUATICA via Super Star Shuttle. Seating/standing space is limited and on a first come, first served basis. Boarding passes required from the Attraction Ticket Center located in the hotel lobby one day in advance and up to 30 minutes prior to departure. *Not valid for Special Events, Groups or Early Park Admission.
If you are relying on the complimentary transportation provided as a package benefit, you need to verify exactly how it works with your hotel, travel agent, or with Universal Orlando’s vacation package department. (The good news is that most Universal Partner Hotels are very close to the parks, so a cab ride will be inexpensive.)
If I use Early Park Admission, do I still have to get to the park early?
Yes! I can’t stress this enough. I recommend that you get to the Islands of Adventure turnstiles 30 to 45 minutes before Early Park Admission begins. This may sound very early, but it’s what you need to do to make the most out of the first hour before the general public is let in.
Remember, Universal generally starts to let guests in 10 to 15 minutes before the scheduled opening time. So getting to the turnstiles 45 minutes early may mean that you are only waiting for 30 minutes. But, don’t think that means you get an hour and 15 minutes inside the Wizarding World, because they do the same thing with the general public opening time.
What if I am not able to arrange Early Park Admission?
I recommend that you read through our How to ensure you trip to the Wizarding World is a success! page for more advice.
WWoHP Early Park Admission – photo gallery
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