Universal Express Pass | The Best Theme Park Benefit at Universal Orlando

Get ready to experience a completely new way to navigate theme parks crowd with the Universal Express pass.  This is the absolute best way to spend your day at any of the Universal theme parks as you will feel like a VIP, walking by hundreds of other guests that are waiting in the regular stand-by lines for select rides and attractions at Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay water theme park.

Guests utilizing a Universal Express pass will have access to a separate queue line which is typically considerably shorter than the regular lines.  It should be noted that is some cases guests will not go through the main queue line and miss some of the attraction theming.  However, even on the busiest days, wait times are shorter than stand-by lines and typically less than 20 to 30 minutes even during the peak days of the year (spring break, summer, winter holidays, etc).

This pass is somewhat similar to that Disney’s new Genie+ / Lightning Lane system but the guests do have to make specific time reservations.  They can literally walk up to the participating attraction and can ride at whenever time they want.  In some cases, guests can ride as much as they would like to do so using the express queue (see below).

Types of Universal Express Passes

Universal Express

Universal Express pass holders can skip the regular lines one time per participating ride. 

  • Universal Studios Florida: $89.99 to $239.99 per person, per day
  •  Islands of Adventure: $94.99 to $249.99 per person, per day
  • 2-Park Pass: $104.99 to $259.99 per person, per day

Universal Express Unlimited

This pass allows you the same benefits as Universal Express but you are not limited to one time per ride as an UNLIMITED number of participating rides are included in this pass.

  • Universal Studios Florida: $119.99 to $269.99 per person, per day
  • Islands of Adventure: $124.99 to $279.99 per person, per day
  • 2-Park Pass: $134.99 to $289.99 per person, per day

Volcano Bay Express Pass

  • Volcano Bay Express (skip the virtual line one time at SELECT participating ride) Prices range from $19.99 to $109.00 per person, per day.
  • Volcano Bay Express Plus: (skip the virtual line one time for ALL participating rides) Prices start from $49.99 to $149.99 per person, per day.

The prices at the higher end of the range are on historically busy days so although the cost of a Universal Express is very pricey, it may just be worth it if time is a consideration.

Other ways to get a Universal Express pass include:

Purchase a Premier Annual Pass

Universal Express is one of the benefits included with this pass and in our opinion, justifies the $664.99 cost for a the two-park Universal Orlando Premier Pass.  With the Premier level annual pass, passholders can utilize the Universal Express queues one time per day on the participating attractions after 4:00 PM at both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.  The Universal Express queues at Volcano Bay are not included as a benefit.

The Endless Summer Florida family has the Premier level pass and will never go back to having any other type of annual pass as long as the Universal Express (and free valet parking) is part of the benefits.

Stay at a Universal Premier Category Hotel 

Along with a number of other great benefits, Universal Express Unlimited is an exclusive on-site hotel benefit only included for hotel guests at Premier category hotels and resorts (up to 5 guests per room).  Universal Premier level hotels and resorts include:

While these hotels command premium prices, a family of would save more than $400 per day if they were to stay at a different hotel and then purchase Universal Express Unlimited.  

Click here to learn more about On-Site Hotels at the Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Express Participating Attractions

The Universal Express pass is unfortunately not available for everything at the Universal theme parks but is including on most of the popular rides and attractions.  Following is includes some of the more popular attractions that are NOT AVAILABLE at the Universal theme parks.

The Volcano Bay Express Pass Plus is available for the following attractions:

  • Krakatau (TM) Aqua Coaster
  • Punga Racers
  • Maku of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
  • Puihi of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
  • Honu of Honu ika Moana
  • Ika Moana of Honu ika Moana
  • Tonga of Taniwha Tubes
  • Raki of Taniwha Tubes
  • Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
  • Ko’okiri Body Plunge
  • Ohyah of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
  • Ohno of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides

The traditional Volcano Bay Express Pass DOES NOT include the following attractions:

  • Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
  • Ko’okiri Body Plunge
  • Ohyah of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
  • Ohno of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides

Is Universal Express Worth the Cost?

We just can’t emphasize enough how much the Universal Express pass is a game changer for a theme park vacation so we feel it is definitely worth the additional cost.   Guests don’t have to take the time to do advanced planning and make attraction reservations in advance.  They can just show up at the parks and enjoy their day, doing whatever they feel like doing at that moment – it’s the way a theme park vacation is supposed to be.

Is the Universal Express pass system perfect?  Of course not and at times the express queues can get long but on balance, it’s the best way to go and we feel it is considerably better then Disney’s new Genie+ / Lightning Lane system (but Disney is still working out the kinks so we are trying to keep an open mind).

The only better alternative to the Universal Express Pass is the VIP Experience or Private VIP Experience.  These experiences include priority front-of-the-line access to all rides and attractions as well as reserved seating at shows.

A Cost Saving Strategy for Universal Express

If you’re an out-of-state family of four visiting during the peak days, the cost of Universal Express can easily exceed $500.00 per day while Universal Express Unlimited can exceed $1,000 per day.  So how can this family save money while still enjoying the benefits of Universal Express?

This family should stay at least one night at a Universal on-site Premier level hotel like the Hard Rock Hotel (which is our favorite on-site Universal hotel).  As a result they would enjoy at least two full days of Universal Express Unlimited – one being the check-in day and the other the following day.  And with two full days of benefits, this family should be able to hit just about every ride and attraction at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

When using this strategy it would equate to about $1,000 worth of benefits for a Premier level hotel stay in the $500 per night range.  And since the cost of a quality hotel in Orlando area is at least $250 per night, the family can move on to a less expensive hotel either the night before or night after their two-day visit to Universal.

About the Universal Orlando Resort

The Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida features two theme parks, an outstanding water park, eight resort hotels that hold approximately 9,000 hotel rooms, and a massive shopping, dining & entertainment complex in Universal’s CityWalk.  

Learn more about all there is to do at the Universal Orlando Resort with our regularly updated theme park guides, articles and videos.

Click here to learn more about on-site hotels and resorts at Universal Orlando

Jerry Joyce

Jerry Joyce has been a Florida resident since 1988 and has lived in a variety of places in the South Florida area. Jerry is an avid boater & water sports enthusiast, beach aficionado, a lover of great food, muscle car fan and a theme park annual passholder for many years. Some of his favorite places in Florida include the Florida Keys, Walt Disney World, Cedar Key, the Loxahatchee River, St. Augustine and Ten Thousand islands.

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