The Ultimate Vacation: Part 4: Things to Know Before You Go

July 7, 2008

There are several things I learned while there or wish I had known before I went to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  Here are the Top Twelve:

1. Most any day, an Express Pass is necessary. 

   This is especially true if you have young children whose capacity for waiting is limited.  Several days the wait would have been 30-60 minutes on a lot of rides.

2. Staying at a Universal property hotel gives all in the room a key card.  This card is your express pass. 

   When you consider that an express pass is $50.00 a day per person, the cost of the hotel room looks a lot better!  We got a stay four and play more package that gave us the room, 2 7day passes, and a card key for all to be an express pass. 

3. Take a lanyard to hang around your neck and hold your ticket and room card.

   There is a reason that most every shop in the park sells these.  You have to show your room card/express pass at every ride, so you are constantly pulling this out of your pocket. 

4. If you stay at one of the property hotels, you can purchase souvenirs and have them sent to your room.

   If you are not staying on property, you can still make purchases and have them sent to wait for you at the park exit.  Either way, no need to carry this stuff around.  You have to ask for this though, because the shops did not automatically offer this. 

5. The parks have a meal deal that is relatively inexpensive. 

     For around $20 per day, an adult can eat as much as they want at designated restaurants.  I think kids were about $10.  There were stands all through the park selling this deal.  We did not do this deal because we planned to eat in our rooms.  We took a cooler and kept milk, sandwich fixings, etc. in our room.  We carried waters in one backpack and juice coolers.  About the only thing we bought in the park was the occasional large, soft pretzel. 

6. Free lockers that use your fingerprint are available at the rides where you cannot carry anything on.

   There are also large lockers at the front of the park that you can rent for the day.  Good for putting sandwiches in an insulated cooler or anything else you want handy, but don’t want to go to the room to get.

7. The best ticket deal is done online and you must purchase it 2 days in advance.

     Go online to Universal’s official site.  For $90, your ticket is good for both parks for seven days.  You can park hop as much as you want.  The seven day count begins the first day you use it.  When you get to the park, you will see the electronic ticketing and you can pick up your ticket.  YOU MUST HAVE YOUR CONFIRMATION NUMBER FROM THE PURCHASE.

8. Tickets can not be transferred from person-to-person. 

   Unless it is a very busy day, you will be keyed to your ticket by a fingerprint.  So, don’t plan on switching off tickets or giving them to someone else to use any days you didn’t use. 

9. If you stay on property, talk to the concierge frequently. 

     If you are going to eat at a restaurant or or go anywhere, ask for information, they will frequently give you discount coupons or priority seating cards. 

10. Wal-Mart sells neck coolers and they really work!

     I found these bandanas hanging near sporting goods.  You soak them in cool water for about three minutes and tie them around your neck.  Yes, they look dorky, but they work.  They only problem is that out of the five I bought, one of them didn’t have a good seam and so it leaked the little beads and felt slimey. 

11. The Pteranodon ride in Islands of Adventure does not have an express line. 

     If your kids want to ride this, go there first at the park’s opening.  Even at closing, the lines for this were long.  Wait times were up to 60 minutes. 

12.  Have fun above all and save the souvenirs to the end!

     Don’t wear yourself out.  Go back to your rooms, take a nap.  Spend time at a pool.  Don’t exhaust yourself at the parks.  And handle the munchkins’ shopping requests by setting a limit and waiting till the last day.  Even my fourteen-year-old changed her mind multiple times until the last day.  Bring home a good souvenir and fun memories.

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