How to Spend 2 Days in Universal Studios Orlando

by Female Abroad for Tripster

Universal Studios Orlando was quite the sight to see as we pulled up in our car rental. Our plan on this trip had been just to do Disney World but we decided that the weekend before we would split it between Orlando and Universal Studios Orlando as the flights were cheaper if we went earlier. After all, we had loved Universal Studios Hollywood so the Florida version must be better as it had a lot more space right?

Planning a day at Universal Studios Orlando

Universal Studios has three parks, Universal Studio's Florida, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay but this article will just focus on the two main, side by side theme parks. As we had been to Universal Studios Hollywood a few times before we figured that we could get Universal Studios Orlando done in a day but figured two days would give us enough time to enjoy ourselves. We also knew that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter usually got so busy during the day it was closed down but besides that, we were going in blind.

After doing some research we found that there are multiple hotels on the Universal Studios Orlando resort property and a few local hotels in the area that were cheaper so I started looking at value - why should we stay on site and not at a local hotel? My research quickly answered my question. A few things that helped us decide to stay on-site was the length of our stay, parking, and perks. Staying on site would give us an Express Unlimited Ride pass if we booked a Premier hotel stay, on-site hotel guests receive early morning access before the park opens to the public, the hotels have kiosks in the lobby to pick up your pre-purchased tickets, and there was a water taxi that would take us to / from the gate (it was faster to walk but very handy if you are tired).

Universal has about five on-site properties but as I am a sucker for all things Pacific Islander, I picked Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Since it is a Premier resort, it allowed us to qualify for the free Universal Express Unlimited (value of $129 per person, per day), one hour early morning access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (may be cancelled, depends on COVID rules), and we decided to pay the little bit more to get on the Club Floor as it included breakfast, afternoon snacks, evening wine & beer, complimentary soft drinks (my husband is addicted to cola), Wifi, a mini fridge, and club lounge access with snacks. In the end, it was about $100 per night more for the Club Floor but ended up being well worth it for us especially since we snuck some food out of the lounge and kept it in the mini fridge or brought it with us into the park. Another nice surprise was that they upgraded us to a One-bedroom Royal Hospitality Suite for free. We really did not need that amount of space, especially for one night, but it was a super nice gesture!

Universal Studios Orlando Theme Parks

I briefly mentioned Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures above and you may be interested in knowing what popular items are where as this can help you decide what type of theme park admission you will need.

Universal Studios features The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley with Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Springfield: Home of the Simpsons with a Simpsons ride, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Revenge of the Mummy (closed until late summer 2022), and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.

Islands of Adventure features Jurassic Park with Jurassic Park River Adventure, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade with Hagrid’s Magical Motorbike Adventure, and Marvel Super Hero Island with the Incredible Hulk Coaster.

There is also Volcano Bay, their waterpark, which is about a five minute drive from Universal Orlando Resort and is treated almost like its own theme park.

Park Tickets

Once settled in, we headed to the lobby to collect our early morning pass at the kiosk which took our photo and then printed out the ticket for us. While Tripster offers a variety of ticket types, since we were there for 2 days, 1 night we were pretty limited on the options so we ended up purchasing a two day, two park ticket as we had the Express Unlimited pass due to staying on site. If we had not had this line skipping pass then we had the option of buying it or going with the VIP Experience.

The park tickets come in one park per day or two parks per day and the longer your stay, the cheaper the tickets. One thing to take into consideration - if you are a Harry Potter fan or have Harry Potter fans in your group, you have to have the two parks per day ticket to be able to ride the Hogwarts express as it transfers you between Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure.

If you are trying to get everything done in both parks in under a day then you will want to take a closer look at the VIP Experience as it allows you to skip lines, provides lunch, and gives up exclusive seating at select shows.

Universal Orlando Itinerary

“How many days do you need at Universal Studios Orlando? Can you do both Universal Parks in one day?” was a question I used to get asked quite often when I was in the Travel industry and after visiting the parks myself, I can now finally provide an educated answer.

Yes, you can do both parks in one day but it will not be very enjoyable and you will miss a lot. If you want to go just so you can say you went or you can afford the VIP Experience then one day will be enough as long as you do not have kids. Two days will give you a really good feel for the parks, even if you do one park per day. I enjoyed two days and we got a lot in as it was off season but I am not a big Universal fan so we did skip large pieces of the park like Marvel Island to spend time in other places. Do I regret skipping a few thrill rides? Not at all but my likes may not be the same as yours or your party’s so it is worth sitting down and deciding what are your “must”, “maybe”, and “skip” items. Another thing that made a huge difference was that we were two adults so decision making was super easy and we did not need to stop because one of us got cranky or needed a diaper change.

If you are two adults then I would say two to three days is more than enough time to enjoy Universal and see everything that you want to see. If you are going during peak seasons then I would add a day as you are going to be waiting in lines unless you book the VIP Experience as even the single rider line and Express Unlimited pass lines can be quite long. For families I would recommend closer to four or five days and if you have younger children that need breaks then it may make more sense for you to stay on-site then renting a car to go to an Air BnB or an off-site hotel. On-site hotels provide transportation from the park entrance so you just hop onto it and then get off at your resort. It may cost a bit more but you will spend more time in the parks and get back to your resort faster which will make your trip more enjoyable.

Universal Orlando 2 Day Touring Plans

This itinerary is based on our trips so you may need to adjust it slightly if you are not a couple or people with teens, interested in shows, do not have Early Admission, and are not travelling during off season when the parks close earlier. The Early Admission park sometimes changes so I am basing these touring plans / itinerary off of our experience with each day being in a different Harry Potter half (The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is spread across both parks) but you may want to tweak it to fit your needs and what the park has planned for the season / day you visit.

DAY 1 - Start in Islands of Adventure, Hop over to Universal Studios

7am: if you have an Early Admission pass and the parks are honoring it, start lining up at the park gate (if it is off season then getting there by 7:30am should be fine), then go through security.

8am: park gates open for Early Admission, follow the crowd to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Go for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (one of my favorites) as the line gets super long as the day progresses. After that, explore the area and jump on Flight of the Hippogriff if you still have time - if you have been to the park before, it used to be the Duelling Dragons but they changed the theming. As this is the slowest part of the day, now is the time to make “magic” happen so if using a wand is your thing then pop into Ollivanders wand shop, purchase a wand, then start interacting with the area.

9am: the park opens to the public so finish up with Harry Potter and jump on the Hogwarts Express to do Escape from Gringotts in Universal Studios as the line up for this also gets ridiculous. After, continue north and do Men In Black then The Simpsons before sneaking in Woody’s Woodpecker Coaster and/or ET’s Adventure.

11/11:30am: Grab something to eat, meal service takes a while so use the mobile app to order some food nearby or pick something quick; I recommend Chez Alcatraz.

12pm: a lot of people will be having lunch so lines will be slightly shorter. If you eat at Chez then you can do Fast & Furious Supercharged which is almost right across from the restaurant before heading into New York to do Transformers, Revenge of the Mummy (currently closed until late summer 2022), Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon, Hollywood Rip Rockit, and Despicable Me Mayhem.

4pm: You have completed Universal Studios! Since you did not really have a chance to enjoy a meal today, why not head to CityWalk, enjoy a sit down meal and then head to either park if it is not too late. If this is off season the park will usually close 5/6pm but if it is summer or peak season then you have until 10pm so lots of time!

DAY 2 - Islands of Adventure

7/7:30am: Arrive for the Early Morning Admission and go through security

8am: Head to Harry Potter and complete anything you did not see yesterday (like Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure) or repeat your favorite activities.

9am: park opens to the Public, finish up Harry Potter and head to Jurassic Park to do the River Adventure and the VelociCoaster (both super popular). Skip the Pteranodon Flyers and head for Kong: Skull Island followed by Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls and Popeye: Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges.

11/11:30am: you will now be soaking wet and need a break so either head back to your hotel to quickly change and grab a bite from there or if the weather is warm enough, grab something to eat and sit out in the sun for a bit.

1pm: Marvel Island time. If you are still a bit wet then head for the Incredible Hulk Coaster then Storm Force Accelatron (spinning tea cups) both of which should dry you off. If not then hit up Doctor Doom’s Fearfall before heading into the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (it is air conditioned so a little cold if you are wet).

4pm: The only area of the park left is Dr. Seuss but depending on the ages of the people in the party, this might be an area you can skip (we did). If it is, then you have finished Islands of Adventure! Congratulate yourself with dinner and an adult beverage (if you are legal, 21+ in the USA) before hitting up either park to catch things you have missed unless this is their slow season as the park will be closed by the time you finish dinner so might want to eat in a couple hours.