Travel Tips Universal Orlando

Is Universal Express Pass Worth It? (A Detailed Look!)

By
on
June 22, 2021

I get it…you’re wondering, “Is Universal Express Pass worth it?”

After all, Universal theme park tickets are already expensive, and standing in long lines can’t be all that bad, right?

In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at whether or not Universal Express Pass is worth it by examining the qualifying rides, Express Pass prices, and exact wait times associated with Universal Express Pass.

Next, we’ll let you know exactly why, or why not, we think Universal Express Pass is worth it!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. For more info, see disclosure.

Is Universal Express Pass worth it?  Find out from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
Hogwart’s Castle

Universal Express Pass Rides

When considering if Universal Express Pass is worth it, the first thing to note is that not all rides and attractions accept Express Pass.

This means that it is inevitable that at some rides and attractions you will have to wait in the regular (typically long) line no matter what.

Here is a list of the rides and attractions at both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure that participate in the Express Pass system.

It is only at these rides that you’ll be able to enter a separate, quicker, Express Pass queue and skip the regular line if you have Express Pass privileges.

When arriving at the entrance of the rides and attractions at Universal Orlando Resort, each ride has two line queues: 1 regular line (for the general public), and 1 express pass line (for those guests who possess Express Passes). You MUST show physical proof of an Express Pass in order to be let into the Express Pass line.

Please note that Universal always makes a point to mention that participating rides are subject to change without notice.

Is Universal Express Pass worth it?  Find out from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Universal Studios Florida Express Pass

  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Hogwarts™ Express (Park-to-Park admission ticket required)
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Transformers: The Ride-3D
  • Fast & Furious – Supercharged
  • Men In Black Alien Attack
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
  • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
  • The Simpsons Ride
  • Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • E.T. Adventure
  • Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster

As you can see, most headliner attractions at Universal Studios accept Express Passes.

Notably missing from the list, however, are Fievel’s Playland and the shows The Bourne Stuntacular, Fear Factor Live, Horror & Make-Up Show, and Animal Actors on Location.

In other words, there is not an Express Pass line for preferred seating or to enter these theaters before general admission. All guests use the same line.

Is Universal Express Pass worth it?  Find out from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
The Incredible Hulk Coaster

Universal’s Islands Of Adventure Express Pass

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Hogwarts Express (Park-to-Park admission ticket required)
  • Flight of the Hippogriff
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster
  • Storm Force Accelatron
  • Doctor Doom’s Fearful
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong
  • Caro-Seuss-el
  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!
  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
  • Poseidon’s Fury

Most notably missing from this list are two of the best rides at Islands of Adventure, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, and the new Jurassic World VelociCoaster.

Due to their immense popularity, it’s fair game for all looking to ride Hagrid’s and VelociCoaster.

Your best bet for getting on Hagrid’s is to book a line reservation time via Universal’s Virtual Line Experience system, and as for Jurassic World VelociCoaster – expect a 2 hour wait minimum beginning immediately upon park opening.

The other attraction at Universal’s Islands of Adventure that does not participate in Express Pass is Pteranodon Flyers.

Is Universal Express Pass worth it?  Find out from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!

Universal Express Pass Price

Unlike at Disney, where a set amount of Fastpasses are included with each theme park ticket, Universal Express Passes are purchased separately, in addition to, a theme park admission ticket.

In other words, Universal Express Pass is a park ticket add-on.

This means that each person wanting Express Pass benefits must first purchase a Universal park ticket as well as the Express Pass add-on. (Cost of park ticket + Cost of Universal Express Pass = Total price.)

Something to note is that there are two different types of Universal Express Passes, and each comes at a different cost.

They are Universal Express and Universal Express Unlimited.

Merchandise counter with Express Passes for sale.
Express Passes available at merchandise counters

Universal Express:

  • From $69.99 (per person, +tax)
  • Bypass the regular line one time per participating attraction
  • Can be purchased online, in-park at the front gates of either theme park, or at select merchandise locations throughout both parks (as pictured above)

Universal Express Unlimited:

  • From $89.99 (per person, +tax)
  • Bypass the regular lines an unlimited number of times per participating attraction
  • Can be purchased online and in-park at the front gates of either theme park, or at select merchandise locations throughout both parks
  • Included when you stay at a Universal Premier category hotel (more on this, coming up!)

With Universal theme park tickets ranging in cost from $109 (1-park-1 day) to $164 (2-park-1 day) plus tax per person, adding on an Express Pass Unlimited to a 2-park ticket, for instance, brings the total cost per person to $254 + tax PER PERSON!

(Prices relevant as of 9/12/21.)

Is Universal Express Pass worth it?  Find out from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
Room keys double as Express Pass

Universal Hotels With Express Pass

Universal Orlando has three stunning on-site Universal Premier category hotels that offer complimentary Express Passes for each registered guest included with your hotel stay. (Your room key doubles as the Express Pass that you must show to get on rides.)

They are Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.

It’s also worth noting that when you stay on-site at Universal’s Royal Pacific, Hard Rock, or Portofino Bay, you receive complimentary unlimited Express Pass access and Early Park Admission on your check-in and check-out days.

In other words, when booking a two-night stay you get Express access for three full days at the theme parks (check-in day, the day mid-stay, and check-out day).

(This is a huge deal if you truly factor in the cost of purchasing daily express passes vs. the nightly cost of Premier hotels.)

Check out these amazing hotels that offer Universal Express Unlimited included in your stay!

**Click here for our complete review and a detailed explanation of the additional perks of staying at Loews Royal Pacific Universal Orlando.**

Is Universal Express Pass Worth It?

In our firm opinion, Universal Express Pass is worth it.

We feel that the additional cost associated with Express Pass abundantly covers the time saved from having to stand in long lines.

Not only did these short wait times allow us to maximize both our Universal Studios touring plan and Islands of Adventure 1-day itinerary, but it meant that we never got crabby or restless while having to wait in long lines.

Express Pass also allows you to be able to ride your favorite rides multiple times with little to no wait in a fraction of the time if being done without Express access.

In order to make this happen, our top suggestion is to sacrifice by paying a higher room rate in order to stay at a Universal Premier hotel, in order to have Express Passes included with your stay.

If staying on-site is not an option, be sure to purchase the Express Pass Unlimited vs. the standard Express Pass for only $20 more per ticket than the standard Express.

Is Universal Express Pass worth it?  Find out from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!

Universal Express Pass Wait Times

Here is a breakdown of the posted wait times at Universal’s most popular rides. We kept track of them during our visit which landed on a Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in March 2021.

In monitoring the app, these wait times were consistent at all times throughout the day (minus the first hour after park opening when all lines are fairly short).

In addition, we have included the time we actually spent waiting in line upon using our Universal Express Passes to enter through the Express Pass queue.

As you can see, the time savings is huge.

RidePosted Wait TimeExpress Pass Wait Time
Fast & Furious55-90 minutes5 minutes
Skull Island (Kong)60-110 min.8 min.
Escape from Gringotts70-120 min.9 min.
Simpsons90-120 min.12 min.
Mummy45-60 min.5 min.
Jurassic Park River Adventure60-130 min.9 min.
Rip Ride Rocket55-125 min.5 min.
Forbidden Journey60-120 min.10 min.
ET40-85 min.5 min.
Spiderman40-75 min.6 min.
Despicable Me80-120 min.15 min.

As you can see, we never waited for more than 15 minutes to board a ride when using Express Pass.

In fact, we most commonly waited only 5 minutes to board a ride despite the parks bring extremely busy (Spring Break week).

Is Universal Express Pass Worth It During COVID?

In our opinion, Universal Express Pass is still worth it during times of decreased park capacity related to COVID.

There are still going to be long waits during peak traveling times despite that the overall capacity of the park is decreased.

We experienced all of the general wait times and Express Pass wait times listed above during March of 2021 when Universal Orlando Resort was operating at a limited capacity.

So yes, Universal Express Pass is worth it…even during COVID.

After reading our article, do you think you’ll get Universal Express Passes for your visit? Let me know in the comments if you plan to pay per ticket, or to stay at a Universal Premier hotel?

Jen

If you liked reading about Universal Express Pass, continue planning your Universal Orlando vacation here:

Universal Orlando Touring Plans:

Universal Orlando Tips:

Universal Orlando Rides:

*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*

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Is Universal Express Pass worth it?  Find out from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!

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10 Comments
  1. Reply

    David

    September 13, 2021

    I was buying tickets considering if it was worth it or not. That list of wait times sold it for me. 2 hours or 15 minutes, I will take the 15 minutes, thanks. Great post, thanks for the help!

    • Reply

      Jen

      September 13, 2021

      Glad you found this article helpful! Have fun at Universal! EP is totally worth it if the park is expected to be busy when you’re going!!

  2. Reply

    Amanda Emmerling

    August 16, 2021

    I haven’t been to Universal in years but the Universal Express Pass looks like it would be great with younger kids who have trouble waiting in long lines!

    • Reply

      Jen

      August 17, 2021

      Yes, Universal Express Pass is definitely the way to go! I just hope that we’re not too spoiled now when it comes to going to theme parks 🙂

  3. Reply

    Lillie

    August 16, 2021

    I will do most anything to save time waiting around! Useful to get this detailed review.

    • Reply

      Jen

      August 17, 2021

      Me too!!! My son recently went to a theme park where the lines were incredibly long, and they only got to go on 5 rides the entire day 🙁

  4. Reply

    Gwen

    August 16, 2021

    Great tips to consider for our next visit to Universal! Thanks for the good info 🙂

    • Reply

      Jen

      August 16, 2021

      You’re welcome! We loved having Express Pass and would do it over again 🙂

  5. Reply

    Landon

    June 26, 2021

    These wait times with express pass are spot on!

    • Reply

      Jen

      June 26, 2021

      Thank you! Yes, it is amazing how much time we saved!!

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Welcome Friends!

We are the Brommer family from Minnesota, and I'm Jen - the travel planner for our family of 5! We are passionate about traveling together for it's what keeps us happy and healthy at home. The free family vacation itineraries and tips you'll find here are crafted with love to be shared with you. We hope our experiences inspire you to start planning your next family adventure!

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