Universal Express Passes – complete insider’s guide

Welcome to the world’s most comprehensive, accurate, and up-to-date guide to Universal Orlando Express Passes and Express Pass access.

Let’s get started!


What are Universal Express Passes?

Universal Express Passes allow guests to skip the regular standby line – and use a special Express Pass line – at most of the attractions inside Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.

Express Pass sign at Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.

Express Pass sign at Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.

For example, let’s say the regular standby line for Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit is a 45 minute wait. Then the Express Pass line will likely get you on the ride in about five to 10 minutes. This brings to light our first important point: Express Passes are not “front of the line” passes. When Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure are busy, there will be a wait when using Express Passes. However, the wait will be significantly shorter than the standby line, and you will practically never wait longer than 15 minutes.

Rides versus shows

If the attraction is a ride, the Express Pass line is generally a separate, shorter queue than the standby line. If the attraction is a show, guests with Express Passes are allowed in before guests without them, allowing Express Pass guests to get better seats. However, to take advantage of this, you must be in the Express Pass line before the audience is admitted into the theater (usually 10 minutes before the show). Once both the Express Pass line and standby line have been admitted, your Express Pass benefit is forfeited for that performance.


Which attractions offer Express Pass access?

There are currently about 30 attractions between the two Universal Orlando theme parks that offer guests Express Pass access. Here is the full list:

Universal Studios Florida – attractions with Express Pass access

Islands of Adventure – attractions with Express Pass access

*** Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is the only attraction whose Express Pass line routinely has a wait longer than 15 minutes. In fact, because of the ride’s low capacity, the Express Pass line for Despicable Me usually has a wait time that’s about half of the posted wait time for the standby line.

WARNING: Right now, these are the notable attractions without Express Pass access…

Muggles, please note that the other two attractions inside of Hogsmeade, Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff, do have Express Pass access.


Do I have to pay for Express Passes?

With a few exceptions, Universal’s Express Passes must be purchased. I’ll discuss pricing in a bit; for the moment, what you need to know is that you will most likely have to pay for them one way or another, and that an Express Pass is separate from an admission ticket. So, yes, if you want to go into the park and enjoy Express Pass access, you will need to purchase two separate tickets (again, with a few exceptions, which I will address very soon).


Do Express Passes have return times?

Unlike Disney’s FastPasses, there are no “return times” for Express Passes. You get to use your Express Pass access at whatever time you want to.

Quick tip: if you have a one-use-per-participating Express Pass, best to save it for when there is a line longer than 15 minutes at your favorite attraction – if the wait is shorter than 15 minutes, you might as well jump into the standby line.


Are there different types of Express Passes?

There are indeed several different types of Express Passes – some of which include unlimited Express Pass access – and there are a variety of ways to get them.

Basic Express Passes (Please note that I use the word “basic” – this is not Universal’s language.)

The basic Express Pass is the one sold online here. It’s also the one you will be buying if you just called Universal and asked for Express Passes (407-224-7840). It allows one guest Express Pass access one time at each participating attraction. This means you can use it at each participating attraction listed at the top of this page, but only one time, like a Disney FastPass. If you want to ride anything again, you will need to use the standby line.

In addition, basic Express Passes are good for one day only, and each member of your party needs his or her own ticket, even kids (three years or older). So if you are going to Universal’s theme parks for multiple days and you want Express Pass access for each of those days, you will need to purchase multiple Express Passes. Likewise, if you have multiple guests in your party, and if you want all those guests to have Express Pass access, you need to purchase one for each person.

There are two varieties of the basic Express Passes: 1-Park or 2-Park. This is exactly what is sounds like. The 1-Park Express Pass is only good for the theme park you select, either Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure. It will save you a little bit of money should you only plan on going to one theme park for the day (and it’s the obvious choice if you have a single-park admission ticket). The 2-Park Express Pass is good at both theme parks for the day, and as a result it costs a bit more.

Please note that all basic Express Passes are date-specific. When you purchase the pass, you also need to select the date of your visit. Furthermore, the 1-Park Express Passes are park-specific, meaning that you have to select the date of your visit and which one of the two theme parks you will be entering.

You can purchase basic Express Passes online here, over the phone (407-224-7840), at the theme park gates, and throughout both parks at dozens of locations. Express Passes are not available from third-party vendors, such as Undercover Tourist.

Also, there is no such thing as a “discounted” Express Pass; for planning purposes, they’re the same price everywhere for everyone.


Unlimited Express Passes available for purchase

Universal also sells Express Passes that offer unlimited Express Pass access to all participating attractions. If you purchase one of these, you get to ride and re-ride the participating attractions, and visit the shows, as many times as you would like throughout the day using the Express Pass lines.

VERY IMPORTANT: Unlimited Express Passes as a stand-alone ticket are only sold at the theme parks. You cannot purchase them online or over the phone, again, as a stand-alone ticket. But if you are interested in unlimited Express Pass access, keep reading…


Unlimited Express bundled with Park-to-Park admission

Universal Orlando sells what they now refer to as a PARK-TO-PARK TICKET + UNLIMITED EXPRESS. Guests who have been traveling to Universal for a while will remember these as “VIP Tickets” (not to be confused with Universal’s VIP Tours). As indicated by its new name, a PARK-TO-PARK TICKET + UNLIMITED EXPRESS is admission and unlimited Express Passes combined into one ticket.

What’s important to note here is that, to get access to the online unlimited Express Pass, you need to bundle it up front with an admission ticket. In many cases, this doesn’t work – for example, if you are an Annual Passholder, or if you got your admission tickets as a gift. If you need to purchase unlimited Express Pass access as a stand-alone ticket, you’ll have to wait until you’re on-site.

But if you are interested in the PARK-TO-PARK TICKET + UNLIMITED EXPRESS option, it’s available as a one-day ticket or a multi-day ticket. Admission and unlimited Express Pass access is included for however many days you choose. Please note that a PARK-TO-PARK TICKET + UNLIMITED EXPRESS is date-specific in the sense that you must select non-peak, standard, peak, or holiday based on your travel dates. PARK-TO-PARK TICKET + UNLIMITED EXPRESS must be purchased through Universal, either online here or over the phone (407-224-7840).

Are you wondering what happens if the price of this option changes over your travel dates? Universal says that the date you select when purchasing a PARK-TO-PARK TICKET + UNLIMITED EXPRESS should correspond with the very first date you use the ticket at the parks, regardless of whether the price fluctuates on subsequent dates.

To learn about unlimited Express Passes offered at Universal’s deluxe on-site hotels, whether it’s worth it to purchase an Express Pass, and so much more, continue to page 2

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