The Best of Universal Orlando in 72 Hours

Photo by M. Timothy O'Keefe

Shortcuts to big experiences at Universal Orlando Resort

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Is it really possible to experience the very best of Universal Orlando Resort in 72 hours? Yes, I’ve done it several times with family. That you can do it in such a short time does not mean most people would like the hectic schedule. For those with limited time, here’s how to see the best of Universal Orlando Resort in 72 hours.

Universal Orlando Resort’s two theme parks, The Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida, are conveniently located next to each other. Walking between theme parks is quick and easy. The resort offers three nearby on-site hotels with frequent boat shuttles to the parks.

To experience both parks in 72 hours, purchase online three day park-to-park tickets and have them sent to your home before departure.

Book a room for two (or three) nights at the theme park’s Hard Rock Hotel, closest to the theme parks and only a 10 to 15 minute walk to Universal Studios Florida. Staying at the Hard Rock and other select Universal resort hotels include a valuable perk: free Universal Express Unlimited passes (up to $89 value) for each hotel guest.

Express Unlimited passes allow you to skip the regular lines and have unlimited theme rides on most attractions in both parks. They also provide you one hour early entrance to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. Booking a third hotel night is optional but something you may want to consider unless you’re a local resident who simply can drive home. Even on a two night stay, the Universal Express passes are valid for three full days: the day you check in, the next day when you also overnight at the hotel and the day you check out. Families with children need to be aware of the ride height restrictions. However, this schedule is not really suited for young children.

Day 1 at Universal Orlando Resort

Arrive early at the Hard Rock Hotel for check-in, at 9 a.m. if possible. Your room will not be ready until the afternoon so come dressed for a day in the theme parks. Luggage will be stored for later pickup. Then take photos needed for the Universal Express Unlimited passes.

Within 45 minutes of arriving at the hotel, you should be ready to enjoy both parks. Take the special Express pass lines where available; the newest, hottest rides may not have an express line. Leave Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey for the next morning. Upon return to the hotel, arrange for luggage to be sent to your room.

Day 2 at Universal Orlando

Rise early for special admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Arrive 15-20 minutes before the gates open since guests from the other Universal hotels will be there, too. Everyone needs to have their passes scanned before entering. Then it takes about 20 minutes to walk from the turnstiles to the village of Hogsmeade and Harry Potter. Any backpacks need to be stored in lockers before lining up for the Forbidden Journey ride. Assuming the line for the Hogwarts Express is not long, take the train ride to Diagon Alley before Universal Studios becomes more crowded. The rest of the day is up to you.

Day 3 at Universal Orlando

If you booked only two hotel nights, check out of your room and store your luggage before going to the theme parks. This morning, take the single rider line at the Forbidden Journey for fastest boarding. This line eliminates the castle tour and takes you directly to the boarding area. Then, do whatever you like at Universal Orlando until the park closes.

You will probably be very tired when you depart. But you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing you enjoyed the very best of Universal Orlando Resort in 72 hours.


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