Universal Orlando Express Pass: COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE

Well ThemeParkHipster… you asked, so now it’s our time to deliver: To Universal Orlando Express Pass, or not to Universal Express Pass?!

We KNOW it’s a big decision since there are SO many factors to consider when purchasing a Universal Orlando Express Pass; and we totally can’t wait to help you decide!

So – What is the Express Pass? How is it different from the Unlimited Express Pass? And most importantly, is the Universal Orlando Express Pass worth it in general?  

We can’t wait to get to all that – and more – below!

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Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit in Florida sun. Universal Orlando Express Pass.

What is the Universal Orlando Express Pass?

Ok so first and foremost, what the heck is this pass? Well, similar to Disney’s FastPass+ system, the Universal Orlando Express Pass is an add-on to your regular Universal Orlando admission ticket that gives you access to a separate, shorter line, on most rides.

Unlike Disney FastPass+ however, the Universal Orlando Express Pass does not require you to reserve rides ahead of time, and is NOT free. It must be purchased for the specific day of your visit.

How Does the Universal Express Pass Work?

To get your actual Universal Orlando Express Pass, which is a physical card with a barcode, you’ll first have to purchase one. You can do so online prior to your visit (recommended), or at one of the many in-park locations during your park day.

Universal Express Pass Screenshot
Universal Express Pass Screenshot

If you choose to purchase your Islands of Adventure and/or Universal Studios Express Pass online prior to your park visit, you’ll have the option to choose whether you’d like to pick up your physical ticket at the park entry “Will Call” Kiosk or at a specific Merchandise or Guest Services locations. 

Entrance sign to Islands of Adventure. Universal Orlando Express Pass.

This is important because the physical barcode on the paper Express Pass is your key to shortened wait times.

How to Use Your Universal Studios Express Pass

  1. Go to the ride you want to use your Universal Express Pass at
  2. Have your Express Pass at the ready and be sure you’re entering the designated Universal Express Pass ride queue
  3. Allow the park attendant to scan your pass and voila – you’ve now cut your wait time in half… at least!

ORDER NOW to secure your Universal Studios theme park ticket! GET MY TICKETS.

What are the Universal Rides with Express Pass?

This is a great question because it’s important to know up front that NOT ALL RIDES have designated Universal Orlando Express Pass (although luckily, most do).

Velocicoaster ride Entrance

At any rate, the following rides DO NOT have Express Pass at Universal:

Which means yeah, both Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure have over 12 rides each that DO ACCEPT Universal Express Pass.

Express Pass Rides and Attractions at Universal Studios Florida

Islands of Adventure Rides and Attractions for Express Pass

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How Do You Get an Express Pass for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure?

Just like when you’re purchasing your regular park admission ticket for Universal Studios and/or Islands of Adventure, you have a choice to make: single park ticket – or dual? Meaning do you want your ticket to give you entry to both parks so you can park hop, or just one per day?

Seuss Trolley Train Ride Universal Islands of Adventure. Universal Orlando Express Pass.

You’ll (unfortunately) be faced with the same choice when it comes to purchasing a Universal Orlando Express Pass.  But, considering that on average the price difference between a single and double park Express Pass is just $10, we’d recommend getting the double!

What’s the Difference Between a Regular Universal Express Pass and Universal Unlimited Express Pass?

It may sound confusing, but trust me when I say, the difference between a Regular Universal Express Pass and an Unlimited one is quite simple really!

Incredible Hulk Universal Islands of Adventure. Universal Orlando Express Pass.

With a regular Universal Orlando Express Pass, you can only use the Express Line once per day per attraction. However, with the Unlimited Universal Orlando Express Pass, you can Express Line every attraction – you guess it – an UNLIMITED amount of times!

So, what does this mean for you? If you’re someone who has your “go-to rides” that you like to ride two, three, or four times in a row, the Unlimited Universal Orlando Express Pass is DEFINITELY the way to go!

Ready to start planning your next Universal Orlando vacation? Listen to the latest podcast episode on Apple or on your non-Apple device now!

How Much is a Universal Express Pass?

The pricing model of the Universal Orlando Express Pass is quite interesting actually. Because, the more people who purchase Express Passes for any given day, the higher the price gets i.e. busier park days = more expensive Express Pass prices!

Universal Express Pass Price Changes

To give you a general idea of pass pricing though, here’s where each Express Pass category price starts at AKA: the earlier you buy your Express Pass, the closer to these starting prices it’ll actually be!

  • Single Park Regular Universal Express Pass: Starts at $70
  • Double Park Regular Universal Express Pass: Starts at $80
  • Single Park UNLIMITED Universal Express Pass: Starts at $100
  • Double Park UNLIMITED Universal Express Pass: Starts at $110

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Are There Any Universal Express Pass Discounts?

Yes… and no. While Universal Orlando often runs promotions for discounted park tickets to FL residents, when it comes to Express Passes, getting a good deal works a bit differently…

You can get one FOR FREE!

Loews Portofino Bay Resort Universal Orlando
Loews Portofino Bay

That’s right, Universal Orlando gives out FREE UNLIMITED Express Passes to ALL guests who stay in one of their premium resorts: Loews Hard Rock, Loews Portofino Bay, and Loews Royal Pacific. 

And while that may seem like a pricey bundle, it could save you A LOT of money if you’ve been considering staying at one of those resorts anyway and want the Unlimited Express Pass perk too!

Unfortunately, Annual Passholders DO NOT get discounts on the Universal Express Pass. However, keep reading for one perk they do get!

ORDER NOW to secure your Universal Studios theme park ticket! GET MY TICKETS.

Universal Annual Passholder Express Pass After 4 p.m.

Something exciting that you might not know but already have access to, is that with a Premier Annual Pass to Universal Orlando, you get access to Universal Orlando Express Pass everyday after 4 p.m.!

Universal Orlando Annual Passholder Lounge Entrance
Annual Passholder Lounge at Universal Studios Florida

I love that this is an included perk with the highest level annual pass – but just remember, it’ll only work one time per attraction at either park, after 4 p.m.

Should I Get a Universal Express Pass During Christmas?

The busier the parks, the more valuable your Universal Orlando Express Pass becomes. And so, considering that during the Christmas season Universal Studios and Universal’s Island of Adventures can hit park capacity, I’d definitely say YES – a Universal Express Pass will definitely save you LOTS of time and headaches during this time of year.

Majestic Christmas Tree at Universal Studios Orlando Florida in Central Park

AND – if you want to save money on your Universal Orlando Express Pass, use one of my tips above. Either:

  1. Purchase your Universal Orlando Express Pass NOW since the price will only increase as the Christmas season gets closer
  2. Stay at one of the premium resorts listed above for FREE UNLIMITED Express Passes for everyone in your party!
Islands of Adventure touring plan itinerary

Should I Get a Universal Express Pass for Halloween Horror Nights?

Before advising you on if you should get a Halloween Horror Nights Express Pass, I need to tell you one thing: Halloween Horror Nights Express Passes ARE DIFFERENT from regular or Unlimited Express Passes; AKA they’re only valid for Halloween Horror Nights.

Meaning make sure you’re buying the correct Express Pass before you check out.

Halloween Horror Nights 2012 Express Pass HHN
HHN 22

Nevertheless, Halloween Horror Nights Express Passes are valid for one Halloween Horror Night only, and are also sold separately from normal Halloween Horror Nights admission.

The actual Halloween Horror Night Express Pass starts at $70 (in addition to the $71 event ticket).

But the question still stands: should you get a Halloween Horror Night Express Pass??? 

I say YES!  Since Halloween Horror Nights is a MUCH anticipated, limited time event – you’ll literally save HOURS of wait times with one.

Halloween Horror Nights 2013
Halloween Horror Nights 2013 The Walking Dead Series

Considering that the average house wait time is 60 minutes to 90 minutes, perhaps the ONLY way you’ll get to see all haunted houses in one night is with a Halloween Horror Night Express Pass.

Can You Do Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios without an Express Pass?

You 100% DO NOT NEED an Express Pass to enter and enjoy your time at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. Especially if you’re going during a weekday (not during the holiday season) where crowds are moderate.

Dragon Atop Gringotts Bank Diagon Alley

If, however, you HATE lines with a burning passion, or want to get on every single ride in one day, then a Universal Orlando Express Pass is definitely going to maximize your time and enjoyment level.

VIP Tour Experience vs. Universal Orlando Express Pass

At $189 per person, the VIP Tour Experience at Universal Orlando is A WHOLE LOT MORE than just an Unlimited Express Pass.

In addition to complimentary breakfast, lunch, and valet parking, guests who choose the VIP Tour Experience at Universal Orlando are personally guided to the front of 8+ ride lines and receive backstage tours of the Universal Orlando rides and parks.

Universal Studios VIP Experience

The VIP experience itself lasts 7 hours, and for the rest of the day, VIP guests can enjoy their Unlimited Express Pass and discounts at select merchandise locations.

Basically, the VIP Experience is the GO-TO choice for any ThemeParkHipster who wants the royal treatment. But, if your goal is just to get on as many rides as possible, then Universal Orlando Express Pass is all you need!

Is the Universal Express Pass Worth It?

Alright then… drum roll please… our final decision is…. Check the official Orlando Crowd Calendar before buying yours!

Why?

Well, if you see that your desired park day is in the green, then likely a Universal Orlando Express Pass won’t save you much time, since lines are minimal anyway. Better off saving your money and spending it elsewhere in the park.

Transformers the ride entrance

However, if your desired park day is in the orange or red, then YES the Universal Orlando Express Pass will be a HUGE time saver!

And if you truly believe that time is money, then head on over to buy your Universal Express Pass right nowBecause the price is only getting higher every moment you wait!

In Conclusion…

Alright ThemeParkHipsters, I truly hope that this was the Universal Express Pass Comprehensive Guide that you’ve been waiting for!

Universal Studios Express Pass
Save Image for Later on Pinterest!

However, if I’ve left any questions unanswered for you about the pass please don’t hesitate to drop them below! Or, if you have your very own Express Pass experience that you’d like to share, please put those in the comments too!

We can’t wait to hear from you all, and as always, until next time…

Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!

About the Author

Gina Arfi Disney Writer at ThemeParkHipster

Gina is a former Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line Cast Member who enjoys reliving the magic by writing helpful tips and tricks for future guests! 

Check out more about her Disney adventures and writing endeavors at www.ginaarfi.net.

UP NEXT: SMACKDOWN! Universal Studios vs. Islands of Adventure: Which Should You Choose?

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