Universal Express Passes allow guests to spend less time waiting in line. For those familiar with Disney’s FastPass system, the concept is similar. Guests with an Express Pass enter a separate queue from the standby line. While this does not mean that you will never have a wait, you are usually guaranteed a wait of less than 15 minutes – most often it will be less than 5. For shows, you will be able to enter before the standby line to get your seats, but you must still arrive in long enough before show time that the standby line hasn’t been seated yet.
Most rides and shows at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are included in Express Pass. These attractions, it should be noted, do NOT currently have Express Pass:
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Ollivander’s Wand Shop Pteranadon Flyers
Note that it is expected that the new additions to Universal Studios, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and the Hogwarts Express, will not have Express Pass.
Universal Express Passes need to be purchased – they are not included in regular park admission. When you are looking to purchase an Express Pass, note that there are two different kinds.
Express Pass: The regular or basic version of the Express Pass allows guests to use their pass once at each attraction in one day. These Express Passes are only good for one day, and each person in your party must have an Express Pass. These Express Passes are date specific and can only be used on the date specified. Prices will vary for these passes based on the day – days that Universal anticipates will be more crowded will have more expensive Express Passes. These can be bought in 1-park or 2-park versions. Think of these as if you are buying a separate ticket, as you purchase them separately from park admission.
Unlimited Express Pass: As the name suggests, this pass allows guests to use their Express Pass at rides as many times as they would like. Unlike the regular Express Pass, the Unlimited version CANNOT be bought as a stand-alone ticket, unless you are buying them at the park gates. You can, however, bundle Unlimited Express Pass with a Park-to-Park ticket when buying your tickets in advance. This option is also date-specific and you must indicate the dates you plan to visit when you purchase.
Unlimited Express Pass with On-Site Deluxe Resort Stay: If you are staying at the Royal Pacific Resort, Portofino Bay Hotel, or Hard Rock Hotel, you will receive Unlimited Express Passes as part of your resort stay. You will use your room key at a kiosk at the resort to obtain your Unlimited Express Pass. Like all the Express Passes, each person needs to obtain their own. It is good for the duration of your stay, from the day you check in until midnight of the day you check out. With the prices of Unlimited Express Passes during peak seasons, it is often worth it to compare the price of an on-site resort stay to the price of purchasing the passes as an add-on to your vacation. Note that the newest on-site resort, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, does NOT feature included Unlimited Express Pass.
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