There are so many amazing things to do in Orlando, it comes as no surprise it was the #1 destination in 2018. While I write a lot about Disney World, there is an entirely different world just 20 minutes away: Harry Potter World. Universal Studios Orlando is best known for Harry Potter and there is good reason for that. It is 100% worth seeing, even if you are not a Harry Potter fan and even if you have never seen the movies or read the books. The attention to detail in Diagon Alley and Hogsmead are stunning. It is immersive and absolutely breathtaking.
Since you might be planning your first visit, let’s go over the Dos and Don’ts of Universal Studios: Orlando.
Do: Bring a lanyard
Yes, they may seem silly and you might not own one, but go ahead and invest the $5 on amazon for a basic lanyard with cardholder. Honestly, it would be easier on you to get different ones for each member of your family, but the basic ones will be fine. Why do you need these? Universal Studios is a place where you want to have as few items as possible and if you can manage to go bag-free, then you’ll be super happy. There are a lot of rides at Universal Studios where no bags are allowed. Period. They have lockers outside the ride for you to put all your belongings. The small ones are free and the larger ones are a fee, so pack small…. which leads us to the next item….
Don’t: Bring a lot of stuff in the parks
If you can possibly make it in to the parks with no bag at all and just your lanyard, that’s your goal. I know this is not practical for some people, especially those with young kids. If you are going to bring a bag, pack light. As stated earlier, the smaller lockers are free, but the larger ones are a fee. My bag and items from this blog post fit perfectly inside the small/free locker. It was a tight fit, but fit. I had a spirit jersey I kept taking on and off as I got hot and cold and if the spirit jersey was in my bag making it puffy, then it would not fit in the locker until I removed it.
Do: Plan your day
Have a game plan. Study the park map the day or week before and have an overall plan of attack. The beautiful thing about Universal (unlike Disney) is you can just show up the day of without the 6+ months of planning. It’s a beautiful thing! However, you will get more done if you think it through before you walk in the gates.
Don’t: Waste the extra hour in the morning – Use it accordingly
This advice is different for those with the Express Pass vs. those without the Express Pass. For those without Express Pass, head straight to the ride line and do not stop. The line will only get longer the longer the park is open. For most of the first hour the Express Pass lane will not be open, resulting in a shorter wait time for you. For those WITH the Express Pass, DO NOT stand in the stand by line for the ride. You spent all that money on the Express Pass, so wait until you can use it. Instead, enjoy the world. Walk around and admire the detail, go to Ollivander’s to see the show and purchase a wand and have fun with the magic. The area will get super crowded as the day goes on, so take this time to enjoy the smaller crowds in the shops and using the wands.
Do: Have some Butterbeer
This has almost become a rite of passage and it is well worth the insta picture. Pro tip: The frozen Butterbeer sold from the street carts is also available inside at Hog’s Head without standing in the heat of the sun to order it. And while you are there, order yourself a craft beer exclusive to Hogsmead, for those 21 and older.
Don’t: Ride the water rides unprepared
You will get SOAKED on several of the water rides, so wear appropriate shoes or pack some flip flops in your small bag. Wet sneakers are a recipe for a rough day(s), so plan accordingly. You are NOT allowed to be barefoot on the water rides. If you are staying at one of the resorts, you could also plan a morning of water rides with appropriate clothing and then go back to the room and change for an afternoon of non-water rides.
Do: Contact me to book your trip
Ok… Shameless plug, I will fully admit it. But, did you know it will cost you exactly the same to book directly through Universal’s site as it does to have me book it for you? And you get to have my personalized service and help throughout your vacation. Seems like a no-brainer.