Along the same lines as Walt Disney World and Disneyland’s Disney Genie+ system, Universal Orlando has Express Pass.
For an additional price, guests can purchase Express Pass, which allows them to bypass the Standby Line for certain attractions. This also helps reduce wait times.
There are several types of Express Passes available for purchase and, of course, they each have different offerings.
Understanding how Express Pass works will help you not only maximize your park touring, but also figure out if the add-on is worth your time and your money.
Below we go over Express Pass at Universal, along with the price, what each pass entails, where you can use it, when to use it, and much more.
3 Different Ways To Ride
There are two (even three, depending) different ways to ride attractions at Universal. They include:
The Standby Line is just like what you find at Walt Disney World. This is the line with the longest waits and the one guests use if they don’t want to use Single Rider or if they don’t have an Express Pass.
The Express Pass line at Universal is for guests who have an Express Pass. This line is usually much shorter than Standby.
Depending on the attraction, there might also be a Single Rider line available for all guests.
This can be a time saver, but there are both pros and cons to this line. Keep in mind if you use Single Rider, you and your party will be split up and you will fill in available spaces. This means, you will most likely end up riding with a stranger.
When visiting Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay, you want to avoid standing in any long Standby lines. Enter the Express Pass, which can help you save time (and all that standing and waiting).
Stay tuned for our guide on how Child Swap also works when riding attractions.
What Is Express Pass?
Express Pass is a service that you can add on to your theme park admission.
If you choose to do so, you can then skip the regular Standby Line at select attractions at each theme park and Volcano Bay by entering a separate Express Pass queue.
You can purchase Express Passes online, via the Universal Orlando app, at theme park ticket windows, and even inside the park at the bigger stores located near the front of each park and in most major gift shops. There are also kiosks around the parks.
How It Differs From Disney Genie+
Genie+ is the new paid-FastPass system that’s set to debut in fall 2021 at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
This means, Disney World’s FastPass+ and Disneyland’s FastPass and MaxPass systems are officially retired.
Now, for a daily fee ($15 per ticket per day at Disney World and $20 per ticket per day at Disneyland), Genie+ gives guests the chance to skip the line for select attractions.
Guests choose the next available time through Genie+ (which is built into both the My Disney Experience and Disneyland apps) for a variety of attractions.
When their return time is called, they enter the attraction via the Lightning Lane (the former FastPass line).
There are also individual Lightning Lane attractions selections that are not included with Genie+. They are pay-per-use and sold separately.
If you opt to pay for this option, you schedule a time to arrive at up to two “highly demanded” attractions each day using the Lightning Lanes. Pricing for this option varies by date, attraction, and park.
Unlike Genie+ and individual Lighting Lane attraction selections, Universal Express Pass doesn’t require guests to select return times or pay extra for more popular attractions. Universal guests simply pay for an Express Pass and then enter that line at the available attractions.
Categories & Price
The price varies for Express Pass, especially if you only have a ticket, if you have an Annual Pass, or if you’re staying at a Universal Premier category hotel (it’s included FREE in the price).
Remember, you need valid theme park admission as well in order to enter the theme parks and water park and to be able to purchase an Express Pass.
All guests starting at the age of 3 will need valid theme park admission.
Also keep in mind that Express Passes aren’t valid for separately ticketed events, like Halloween Horror Nights. There is a limit of 8 tickets per transaction, tickets are non-refundable, and parking is not included.
Below is a breakdown of each pass, along with pricing (park admission is not included and there is one Express Pass price for all ages).
Keep in mind that prices are per person per day. If you want to use Express Pass for multiple days, you have to purchase the pass for each day you plan to use It.
Universal Express Pass for 1-Park
- From $69.99 per person (plus tax), Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure
Universal Express Pass for 2-Parks
- From $79.99 per person (plus tax), Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
With Universal Express, you can skip the regular lines one time per participating ride at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
Universal Express Unlimited
Universal Express Pass Unlimited for 1-Park
- From $89.99 per person (plus tax), Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure
Universal Express Pass Unlimited for 2-Parks
- From $109.99 per person (plus tax), Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
With Universal Express Unlimited, you can skip the regular lines an unlimited number of times at participating rides at both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
Volcano Bay Express
1-Park Universal Express PLUS Pass
- Volcano Bay Express Pass: From $19.99 per person (plus tax)
- Volcano Bay Express Pass Unlimited: From $39.99 per person (plus tax)
With the Volcano Bay Express Pass, you can skip the virtual lines at select participating rides and attractions.
With the Volcano Bay Express Pass Unlimited, you can skip the virtual lines at every participating ride and attraction.
It’s also important to note that pricing depends on the time of year. During the busier seasons, like summer, prices are higher. Whereas during less busy times, like September, prices are lower.
Here is what prices look like in July 2021 (a summer month) compared to September 2021 (a less busy month) for a 1-park Express Pass.
1-Park Universal Express Pass: July 2021
1-Park Universal Express Pass: September 2021
Of course, the price is increased if you purchase a 2-park pass or the unlimited pass.
Pricing is the same for both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. As for Volcano Bay, it’s much cheaper.
Here is what prices look like in July 2021 (a summer month) compared to September 2021 (a less busy month) for a 1-park Express Pass to Volcano Bay.
1-Park Universal Express Pass: July 2021
1-Park Universal Express Pass: September 2021
For more on pricing and to compare costs, check out the Universal Express Pass purchase page.
Universal Premier Category Hotel
A free Universal Express Unlimited Pass is included for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (not at Volcano Bay) when staying at one of Universal’s premier hotels.
These hotels include: Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Royal Pacific Resort.
This is a value of $129 per person, per day (based on an average price of a 2-Park Universal Express Unlimited pass ranging between $84.99 and $189.99).
Valid theme park admission is still required.
Universal Annual Passholder
Those with a Premier Annual Pass receive the Universal Express Pass benefit at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, but only after 4 p.m. and they can only use it one time per participating attraction.
TIP: Universal has been known from time to time to sell unadvertised Express Passes to all guests that are valid after 4 p.m. for about $35. You can ask any Express Pass sales locations to verify and for more details.
How To Use Express Pass At Universal
Express Pass is very simple to use.
All you have to do is purchase the Express Pass type you want. You don’t have to make bookings ahead of time, nor do you have to grab an Express Pass prior to getting in line for an attraction.
You simply pay for Express Pass and get in the Express Pass line at the available attractions.
You will have to present your Universal Express Pass to the Team Member working to have it scanned.
There might even be two scan points for Express Pass: one at the attraction entrance and another halfway through the queue (this is similar to the now retired FastPass+ entry points at Disney World).
Keep in mind that for select attractions, phones are not allowed (like Rip Ride Rockit or the Incredible Hulk).
If that’s the case and you have a digital Express Pass, before you enter the line, show your digital Express Pass to the Team Member working the attraction and they can give you a receipt. You’ll then be able to put your phone in a locker and use the receipt as an Express Pass.
You may even want to get a physical ticket for Express Pass to make the process easier.
How Many Attractions Can I Ride With Express Pass?
Those with Express Pass entitlements can ride all of the attractions where Express Pass is available, including the following:
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott
- Hogwart Express (Park-to-Park admission 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
- Shrek 4-D
Islands of Adventure
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Hogwarts Express (Park-to-Park admission required)
- Flight of the Hippogriff
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster
- Storm Force Accelatron
- Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
- Jurassic Park River Adventure
- Skull Island: Reign of Kong
- One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
- The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!
- Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
- Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges
- The Cat in the Hat
- Poseidon’s Fury
- Krakatau 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
- Raki of Taniwha Tubes
- Tonga of Taniwha Tubes
Express Pass PLUS
- Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
- Ko’okiri Body Plunge
- Ohyah of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
- Ohno of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
When Should I Use Express Pass?
It really depends on several factors when — or if — you should use Express Pass, especially when it comes to time and money.
First, let’s list the pros and cons of Express Pass:
- Avoid long waits and bypass lengthy Standby lines
- Better chance of experiencing more attractions on a daily basis (or for the duration of your trip)
- Included in every day of your visit (check-in and departure days too) if you book a stay at one of Universal’s premier hotels (this might save you money, even though these hotels are more expensive)
- Don’t have to purchase for every day (can use it when you want and only if you want)
- Aren’t restricted to specific return times and can hop in Express Pass lanes whenever it fits your schedule best
- Far from affordable, especially for the average family (you still have to pay for park admission)
- Depending on crowds and season, Express Pass may be a waste of money
- Sometimes works better for certain attractions compared to others
- Have to take your chance that an Express Pass line isn’t long
So, when should you use it? Be sure to take into account the following.
- You should, obviously, factor in money. Remember, you don’t have to purchase it for each day of your visit. You can choose to use an Express Pass once, twice, or not at all.
- If you’re staying at one of Universal’s premiere hotels, the Express Pass is included in every day of your visit, including check-in and departure days. This is a good value, especially during peak times.
- Typically, for larger groups (usually of three or more individuals), it is cheaper to stay on-site with an Express Pass compared to staying off-site and then purchasing Universal Express separately. Be sure to do the math and see it if makes sense for you stay on-site and whether or not you can actually save money this way.
- How long is your trip? If you’re only going for one day, you might want to take advantage of Universal Express. It might be worth your time and money to purchase the pass so you can squeeze in as much as possible.
- Think about what you want to see and do. Do you want to do the most popular attractions? Then, this could be a good enough reason to get the Express Pass.
- The time of year matters. Are you visiting during a busier season? Then, Express Pass may be your best bet to avoid lengthy wait times. But, if you’re visiting during a slower time of year, you may be able to get away without having to fork over money for the pass.
There are many factors that come into play when deciding if you should make this kind of purchase, especially when you already are paying for lodging and regular park admission (which is yet another added expense).
If you can’t afford or don’t want to spend that extra amount (because it certainly adds up), here’s a tip:
- If you stay at other select Universal Orlando resorts (Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal’s Aventura Resort and Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites & Dockside Inn and Suites ), Express Pass isn’t included, but Early Park Admission is for select attractions. You can always use this time (up to 1 hour before official park opening) to your advantage.
Another tip: If you’re unsure about purchasing an Express Pass, wait until you arrive at the park. This way, you can get a feel for the crowds and get a better idea if the pass will be worth the extra deduction from your bank account.
How Does Express Pass Work With Attraction Assistance Pass?
What Is Attraction Assistance Pass?
Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP) is along the same lines as Disney’s Disability Access Service (DAS).
Unlike DAS’ digital system, AAP is a paper-based system for guests with either a cognitive or physical disability or condition that prevents them from being able to wait in a conventional queue.
You’ll go to Guest Relations as you enter either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure (located to the right at both entrances).
You can then speak to a Team Member about AAP, who will then in turn evaluate the information you provide regarding your or your family member’s disability or health problems.
You don’t have to give a doctor’s note, but it may help, especially since you should give as many details as possible about your specific issues.
If you meet the requirements, you’ll be issued the AAP.
Once acquired, the AAP allows the individual with the disability and a maximum number of people (usually up to an additional 5 guests) to wait in an alternative queue (sometimes even the Universal Express Pass queue).
How Do Return Times Work?
If a wait time is less than 30 minutes, the Team Member working will send you to an alternative queue.
If the posted wait is more than 30 minutes, you’ll be given a specific return time that will be written on the back of your AAP.
You can only hold one active AAP return time reservation at once. But, it works differently for attractions with a virtual queue.
When an attraction is using a virtual line, you’ll have to use the Universal Orlando app to join the virtual queue for that specific ride.
You’ll be given a 30-minute window and when it’s time to ride, show your AAP to the working Team Member. You’ll then be directed to the alternate queue.
TIP: You can hold an AAP return time for a ride that doesn’t have a virtual queue and also join a virtual line at the same time.
Can You Use Express Pass With AAP?
Yes, you can use AAP with Express Pass, but it still remains an additional cost.
Be sure to use AAP for attractions that don’t have Universal Express (Pteranodon Flyers, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, The Bourne Stuntacular).
TIP: You can use the Express Pass lane at the attractions that offer it, while you’re waiting for your AAP return time for a different attraction.
Can You Arrange AAP Before Your Visit?
Not usually, but it depends on the circumstance.
You can try reaching out within 30 days (no sooner of your arrival date) via phone (407- 224-4233; press option 5, or toll free at 877-589-4783) or by sending an email to [email protected]..
AAP is good for the length of your stay. If you’re a Passholder, the AAP can be issued for up to 14 consecutive days.
If you have questions or concerns, the best place to go is Guest Relations in either park and they can assist you.
Stay tuned for our guide on Universal’s Attraction Assistance Pass.
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