10 Ways to Maximize Your Time at Universal Studios Hollywood
Whether you’re local or coming from another country, your Universal Studios Hollywood™ tickets are worth making the most of. The park has dozens of memorable rides, attractions, shops, and more, and getting through it all can take longer than you think. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ alone needs a few hours to get through, especially on busy days when lines are longer.
Maximizing your time at the park takes more than a little planning. While there are ticket upgrades that can allow you to breeze through the lines, they are in limited supply and may not be available by the time you plan your trip. Even if you miss your chance to get them, you can still have a fantastic, budget-friendly trip without drowning in long lines and crowds.
1. Buy Tickets in Advance
Like all major theme parks, Universal Studios Hollywood™ sells various types of tickets at the front gate. However, waiting until the last minute to buy tickets means you’ll have to wait in line. It’s easy to assume that buying directly from the park will save money, but travel specialists will often have access to the best deals, including off-season tickets and other discounts. When you’re already at the front gates, the park has no incentive to offer you additional discounts.
Additionally, by buying online in advance, you’ll have the opportunity to bundle hotel reservations and other theme park tickets. Look for an online retailer like aRes Travel that allows you to bundle a wide variety of ticket and hotel types. You’ll be able to save significant amounts of money that you can then put toward souvenirs, snacks, and more.
Just be careful to only buy your tickets from authorized sellers. There have been an increasing number of scams with individuals selling fake or duplicate tickets that won’t get you admission to the park. Sometimes, even well-meaning resellers will accidentally sell you tickets past their expiration date. Always buy from legitimate, established businesses that know the policies and conditions of the tickets that they’re selling.
2. Research Rides and Attractions
Whether you’re bringing toddlers or teenagers, it’s wise to know the contents of the park before you arrive. Universal Studios Hollywood™ has a decent number of kids’ rides, but also has several rides with height restrictions. Some rides, such as Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem™, are kid-friendly overall but have a minimum height requirement that may catch you by surprise.
If you’re bringing children younger than grade-school age, check out other parents’ reviews of various rides before taking your kids on them. There are a number of rides in the dark and rides with sudden drops and loud noises. Many rides also have a child swap system, which allows parents to take turns riding a thrill ride while the other parent waits to the side with their small child.
Thrill-seekers should also check out rides ahead of time, since knowing which rides are the most popular can help you form a strategy for which rides to head to first. Also, make note of which rides are near each other. Try to ride everything in one area before moving on to the next one, or you’ll waste precious time making extra trips across the park.
3. Get Multi-Day Tickets
Naturally, multi-day tickets are the best way to maximize your time at Universal Studios Hollywood™. They’re especially important if you’re traveling from out of state to the park, and don’t have a return trip planned in the foreseeable future. Since the park has such a great selection of rides and shows, you can easily spend two days there.
While California weather is usually sunny and warm, there are occasional thunderstorms. While Universal Studios Hollywood™ generally remains open in light rain, heavy rain or thunderstorms will cause outdoor rides to be shut down. Visiting two days maximizes your chances of getting at least one day of sunny weather.
You may also be trying to visit other theme parks in the area, and may be tempted to only spend one day at Universal Studios Hollywood™ in order to allow more time at other parks. However, while Universal Studios Hollywood™ is not as large as some other theme parks in the area, it’s still hard to enjoy the park in one day. Unless you’re visiting with small children who can’t ride most of the rides, you should definitely book a second day at the park in order to get the fullest experience possible.
4. Arrive Early
Whether you’re driving from home or staying at a hotel the night before, traffic around Universal Studios Hollywood™ can be intense. It doesn’t help that the park is near DisneylandⓇ Resort, too! The rush of traffic heading toward the parks between 7:00 and 10:00 a.m. can take much longer than you think, especially during peak tourist season. Remember that if you use a website or app to get driving times ahead of time, those estimates might not account for the usual heavy traffic.
Arriving at the park first thing in the morning is critical for getting good spots in line on popular rides. Make sure to double-check park opening times, however, as they vary seasonally and on weekends. Everything in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ is very popular, especially since it’s so new, so consider making that area your first stop. (Since the CityWalk shopping area is usually open later than the main park, consider making it your last stop!)
If you have teenagers that are difficult to get moving in the morning, consider having them eat breakfast in the car, or provide blankets and pillows for the car ride if it’s a long drive. Small children may also want to sleep in the car, but they may be too excited to sit still!
5. Get Universal Express
The Universal Express™ upgraded tickets allow you to jump to the front of the line once at each ride and attraction. They also give you priority seating at seated shows. These tickets are only available in limited quantities and should be purchased well in advance.
For the true fast-lane experience, you can also get the Universal Express Unlimited™ passes, which allow you to jump the line an unlimited number of times. These tickets are even more limited in quantity. If you’re trying to buy tickets within a month of your visit, you might not be able to get these!
Both of these upgraded tickets are well worth it if you’re traveling from far outside the Los Angeles area. If this may be your only chance to visit the park, and your family seriously loves Universal Studios™ movies, consider getting these upgrades to maximize your time and minimize your stress at the park.
6. Split Up the Group
While it’s nice to do things as a whole family, it can be hard for everyone to get to do what they want to do at a theme park. This is especially true if you have a wide range of ages and only one day at the park.
If you have teenagers in your group, they may be trustworthy enough to allow to wander on their own for at least part of the day. This can be helpful if you have younger kids or family members who aren’t as tolerant of thrill rides. Ideally, thrill-seeking teens can pursue their favorite rides, while other family members can take their time on gentle rides or seeing stunt shows.
In accordance with local laws, the rule at Universal Studios Hollywood™ is for teens under 18 to be supervised by an adult after 10:00 p.m. Keep this is mind if you’re visiting the main park or CityWalk after that time. Also, there are park policies against disruptive behavior, including loud music and profanity, so make sure your teens know what’s expected of them before you send them off. At the very least, arrange a time and location to meet back up in case of lost cell phones or other problems.
7. Bring an Extra Adult
Tackling Universal Studios Hollywood™ with multiple children can be trickier than you think. Differing age levels can make it hard to split up into groups, especially if your oldest children are only in middle school or elementary school. If you have grandparents, aunts and uncles, or close friends who would like to spend more time with your family, consider inviting them along. They can help take kids to and from the restroom as needed, or even supervise a small group as needed.
Of course, sometimes these extra adults have kids of their own that they’d like to bring! As long as they’re bringing kids around the same age as yours, though, the extra company can be a lot of fun. The presence of an extra adult to help with getting kids fed and to the bathroom can be priceless.
If you have very small children, having an extra adult like a grandparent can also allow you to take young ones back home or to the hotel for a nap as needed. This can be crucial to enjoying a family vacation if you have children younger than 5. Of course, the question of which adult goes home with the kid early should be decided in advance, and shouldn’t fall on the same person every day of your vacation.
8. Use Shows to Rest
Universal Studios Hollywood™ has three shows with seating available. The most famous one is WaterWorld, a stunt-filled action show that’s been at the park for decades. There is also another special effects show and an animal stunt show. Though Universal occasionally tweaks the length and content of the shows, they tend to run around 20 minutes.
There are multiple showings of each show every day, but seating sometimes fills up fast. Try to arrive 15 minutes early to increase your chances of getting good seats. Then sit back and enjoy the show while taking the chance to rest.
There also may be special events like concerts in the summer and winter holidays. Check the park schedule for more information when you arrive. Most events and shows will have at least some appeal across a range of ages, instead of just appealing to small children or adults.
9. Avoid the Lunch Rush
Like any theme park, Universal Studios Hollywood™ has some incredibly good food. These food venues get busy during lunch and close to dinnertime, especially on days when the park is open past 6:00 p.m. While the size of these crowds varies, the peak times for lunch are typically between 12:00 and 1:00 pm, and between 5:30 and 7:00 pm for dinner. Since the Universal Express™ pass doesn’t allow you to jump the line at food stalls, there’s no shortcut to waiting in line unless you time your food breaks well.
Food venues in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ tend to have the longest lines, so these should absolutely be avoided during peak times. To save more time, consider getting fast food like hot dogs instead of eating a sit-down venue. While a sit-down meal gives your legs a chance to rest, it can take considerable time to get food and a table.
Also consider snacking in the morning and late afternoon as needed. The park’s policy is to allow small snacks, so you can feel free to bring something to tide you over until after the lunch rush if needed.
10. Bring Sunscreen and Other Necessities
California is famous for being sunny, and Los Angeles’ warm temperatures allow Universal Studios Hollywood™ to stay open year-round. It’s easy to forget that a day that starts off cool and cloudy can heat up by mid-afternoon, even in the fall and winter. If you look in the mirror in the mid-afternoon and notice your face turning pink, it’s already too late!
While there are shops inside the park that sell sunscreen and hats, you can save time and money by bringing your own. Get a lightweight spray bottle and small hats to keep in your backpack. Use time waiting in line to apply and reapply sunscreen. If possible, apply your sunscreen while waiting for the first ride of the day, as sunburns can happen as early as 10:00 a.m. in the right conditions.
For exclusive deals on discounted Universal Studios Hollywood™ packages, amazing savings on tickets and hotels, and some of the lowest prices on travel, call 1 (800) 434-7894 (international callers use +1 (619) 546-5622) to speak with an aRes Travel planning expert seven days a week, or book online now.
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