Is the Universal Studios Express Pass Worth It?

If you’re visiting Universal Studios with your family, you might be wondering if you’re in for long, gruelling queues when you visit. There’s a fast way to the front of the line – but is the Universal Studios Express Pass worth it?

Whether visiting the Universal theme parks in California or Florida, you’ll have to decide whether to add the Universal Studios Express Pass to your ticket. Unlike Disney’s Genie+, Universal Express Pass is a significant up-charge from the base ticket price. However, it has a greater capacity to transform your day.

Is the Universal Studios Express Pass Worth It?

In this article, we break down the Universal Express Pass, including what it is, the pros and cons, and when to add it. We also discuss times of the year when it might be more beneficial than others and what other options you have to manage lines.

What Is Universal Studios Express Pass?

The Universal Studios Express Pass is sort of like a VIP pass for your day at a Universal Studios theme park. It allows you to skip the regular lines for most attractions, significantly reducing your wait times. It also provides access to special seating for many of the popular shows in the park.

Instead of waiting in the regular standby line, guests with Universal Express Pass tickets enter rides through a separate entrance that often walks them directly to the ride load area (or the pre-show, if there is one). Wait times in Express Pass lines are almost always under 30 minutes and usually much less.

Universal Studios Express Pass

Universal Studios Express Pass is available at all Universal-owned theme parks in the United States, including Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Orlando, Islands of Adventure (Orlando), and Volcano Bay, their water park in Orlando. 

How much does the Universal Studios fast pass cost? A Universal Studios Express Pass starts at $79.99 per person per day. Everyone in your party must have their own pass to access the privileges, and it’s non-transferable and cannot be shared. Given that, it is a considerable additional expense for what is likely to be an expensive day already. 

Express Pass Pros and Cons

The pros of using Universal Studios fast pass are clear. The biggest advantage is not waiting in long lines for some of the parks’ most popular attractions. Your family could save hours by enjoying shorter wait times or even walking on rides. What’s more, you will get special reserved seating with Express Pass if you like to see shows.

Skipping lines can be a serious game-changer for your day. Express Pass can transform your experience if you have kids who aren’t very patient or easily get bored. It also helps guarantee that your family will have time to do everything they want and make the most of their trip.

While the biggest con for most people is the cost, there are a couple more. In some ways, Universal Express Pass works too well; depending on what your family likes to ride, you might not need to spend the entire day in the park to ride everything. 

That certainly means waiting in fewer lines, but it might not be good if you want to spend the entire day in the park. If your family gets tired because they already rode and saw everything they wanted, you may have to pay more money to find something to do elsewhere, especially if you visit from out of town.

You should also be aware that Express Pass is not available for all attractions. Some of the ones left off the list are among the most popular, including Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Islands of Adventure.  

Should You Add Universal Express Pass Ahead of Time?

In truth, there aren’t a lot of advantages to buying your Express Pass ahead of time, and it may actually make more sense to hold off. That way, you can see the crowds and wait times before spending the extra cash.

There is no difference in price if you buy it at the park on the day of your visit versus at home before you arrive. Further, you do not get any sort of preferential treatment for having bought yours before others visiting on the same day.

On the other hand, you might want to buy Express Pass before arriving because Universal only sells a limited number of them daily. That means that they could sell out before you get the chance to buy yours.

Universal Studios Express Pass

If you’re visiting on a day when you know the crowds will be substantial, it’s a good idea to buy a Universal Express Pass ahead of time. That includes holidays like Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Memorial Day, as well as the days around them. 

In addition, if you know that your family will want them regardless of wait times and crowd size, go ahead and buy them. 

Other Ways To Manage Lines At Universal

There are several other options to avoid or manage to wait in long lines for rides at Universal theme parks. You may want to consider these before committing to the expensive Express Pass.

Visit During the Off-Season

One of the easiest ways to manage crowds is to avoid them by visiting when there is typically less traffic. Some of these times include:

  • January (after the week of New Year’s and other than MLK weekend) and early-mid February
  • Late April and early May (unless Easter falls during this time)
  • Late August and September (other than Labor Day weekend)
  • Weekdays in October and November (except around Columbus Day and Thanksgiving)
  • Weekdays in early December

Stay at a Universal Hotel

Universal offers some serious perks for its hotel guests. 

Universal Studios Express Pass

Anyone staying in a Universal Orlando resort hotel gets early entry to one of the parks every day. That means you have a chunk of time in the morning before the general public is allowed to enter. You can ride the most popular attractions first and not worry about long waits later.

Select Universal hotels even offer the Express Pass free for their guests, which is a significant benefit. This offer is subject to change, so check it out while you’re in the planning phase of your vacation.

Utilize the Universal App

Universal Studios has a handy smartphone app you can use in the parks. It puts current wait times at your fingertips so that you can strategize your day. In addition, you can customize it to send alerts when wait times for your favorite attractions drop, so you’ll know when to ride them.

See If You Qualify for a Medical Pass

If you’re considering buying Express Pass because someone in your family cannot wait in lines due to a diagnosed medical condition, you may qualify for a disability pass instead. These passes allow your entire party to skip the lines whenever practical.

Decisions about these passes are made on a case-by-case basis, and you may be required to document your condition. Be aware that mental illnesses can sometimes qualify. We recommend beginning this process well in advance of your visit. 


Make Lines More Enjoyable

Another option is to embrace the wait times. Try finding games or activities to enjoy as a family while waiting to get on the ride. There are tons of trivia games available on smartphones or you can just entertain yourselves the old-fashioned way. 

So – Is the Universal Studios Express Pass Worth It?

Whether Universal Studios Express Pass is worth it is no simple yes or no answer. It all depends on your family’s needs, preferences, and plans. Read the pros and cons above to help you make the best choice for your vacation.

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