BY CJ

First of all, let me start out by saying, if you live in Orlando or within a 2 hour radius, and can afford annual passes to the theme parks, I highly recommend you invest in one.

I have been an annual passholder to Universal Orlando Resort since 2009.

Since I’ve been an annual passholder for so long, I know how to get the most of my trip to Universal Orlando Resort’s 2 amazing theme parks.

1. If you can afford the splurge (or have the Premier pass) I suggest you valet park. It takes the hassle out of the long trek from the parking garage and the security line is usually empty whereas the line for the parking garage can be busy.

2. Eat your main meals before arriving to the parks. While there are some delicious restaurants in City Walk and both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, I recommend eating breakfast of lunch prior to arriving to save some money. If you forget, check out the Moe’s, Panda Express, and Burger King Whopper Bar on the second floor of City Walk. They’re inexpensive and quite filling.

3. Bring bottled water. This is a no brainer for most locals who attend theme parks, but by bringing an unopened bottle of water to the theme parks, you can simply refill the bottle when you run empty as opposed to buying one for $5 a piece.

4. Use the side entrance to Universal Studios by Blue Man Group. It’s tucked away underneath the Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster station, but there is hardly ever a line and you enter the park next to Despicable Me and Shrek.

5. Avoid Harry Potter attractions first thing in the morning. Unless you’re staying on property at one of the Universal hotels which gives you early access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I recommend waiting until after lunch time when most people are beginning to eat lunch or explore other areas of the park. (Escape from Gringotts in Diagon Alley usually has a low wait time 30 minutes prior to park closing.)

6. Avoid going to the parks in typical “tourist season” months. These months usually are March, June, July, August, November, and December. While, you can surely go and still have a great time, this is considered “peak season” or when most tourists come to Orlando because kids are out of school. My rule of thumb is, if kids are out of school, chances are the parks will be busy. The best times to go are late January and into February and right after school starts in the summer.

7. Invest in an annual pass. If you are a Florida resident and plan on going to the parks more than once throughout the year, an annual pass really is the way to go. I myself have the 3-park Premier pass which turns into an express pass after 4pm for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

8. Staycations are affordable, especially during “off season.” Often times you can find me at the parks, however during times when the parks try and fill the hotels with lower rates, I will book a room and just stay overnight. Cabana Bay Beach Resort often has incredibly affordable rates for rooms and staying on property has plenty of perks.

9. On-site hotel perks. I can’t stress it enough how much I LOVE the perks of staying at a Universal hotel. If you stay at the Loews Portofino, Royal Pacific, or Hard Rock Hotel, your room key also is an express pass which allows you to skip the lines on the rides! So while the hotel room rate is a little higher, it makes up for it by offering you this expensive perk when you go to the parks.

10. Take advantage of the Florida resident park ticket deals. Universal will often offer a deal for Florida residents where you can get a tickets for a certain amount of days at a lower price. If you can snag those deals, do so and plan ahead and make it a fun little staycation!

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