For most of the year, I’m not an early bird.
Given the choice, I’m a stay-up-late, sleep-late kind of guy. Ben Franklin would be disappointed.
But when I take my family on a Universal Orlando vacation, all of a sudden I’m an up-at-dawn kind of guy.
Will I wake the family up with a rousing version of Reveille? I can’t say I haven’t and I won’t say I have.
We’re there at rope drop ready to beat the crowds. If there is early admission? I’m there extra early.
Look, we paid a lot for this vacation and any minute that we can get in the park with reduced crowds is worth it. Ain’t nobody got no time to sleep.
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How early is early admission for Universal?
Not incredibly early.
Early park admission for either Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Volcano Bay water park begins an hour before the park opens.
What does early park admission mean at Universal?
It means you and several hundred – maybe thousand – of your closest friends get into whichever Universal theme park is open for early admission that day.
This allows you access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter before the even larger crowds arrive.
What attractions are available during early admission?
While the focus is on the Wizarding World, typically, Jurassic World Velocicoaster in Islands of Adventure and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem in Universal Studios Florida are open during early admission. But that is subject to change.
Universal usually posts a list of what attractions will be available months in advance to help you plan.
How does Universal early admission work?
First, you have to be staying at a Universal Orlando Resort. It does not matter which tier resort you choose.
On check-in day, you’ll be issued hotel room key cards at the front desk for everyone in your party.
At the park’s opening, you and however many other Universal Orlando Resort hotel guests will scan your park tickets and begin the march.
There will be a checkpoint – in Universal’s Islands of Adventure near Suessland – where they will need to see your room key or pass if you’re a member of one of the other select groups that get early admission.
If you’re wearing your hotel room keys in your lanyards, early entry is a quick process.
Then, you continue on to the Wizarding World.
Is early park admission worth it at Universal?
Yes, it’s worth it. I wish it was the whole park like it is at Walt Disney World. That would be a game-changer. But anytime you can get access without the full paying public, it’s something.
Diagon Alley is breathtaking when it isn’t packed to the gills. Hogsmeade is too, but it’s especially noticeable in Diagon Alley.
Also, if you don’t have Express Pass, early entry is a good way to knock some rides off of your list.
Escape from Gringotts, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff are all essentially walk-ons during the early entry hour.
And Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure will frequently have its shortest wait time of the day in the first minutes of early entry.
Remember, you will still need park-to-park tickets to ride the Hogwarts Express.
Even if you’re not going to the Wizarding World, you can use your early park admission to get ready for rope drop for the other worlds.
Is Ollivanders open during early admission?
Yes. The first of our many, multiple trips through Ollivanders began in the first few minutes of early admission.
We have three kids who wanted to be chosen to get a wand, so we are basically experts on Ollivanders.
We didn’t get chosen that time, but it was cool.
Do I have to get a special vacation package to get early entry?
No. You just have to stay at a Universal Orlando hotel and have valid theme park admission.
All Universal hotel guests, even those in the value tier hotels – Universal’s Endless Summer Resort Dockside Inn or Endless Summer Resort Surfside Inn – have a chance to get through the turnstiles an hour early.
Do I get any other perks if I spend my Universal Orlando vacation at a Universal hotel?
Yes. Perhaps the best one is those who stay at the premier level hotels get free Unlimited Express Passes for the entirety of their stay.
Editor’s Note: Check availability when you make your purchase.
If you have a large family and you’re planning to get Unlimited Express Passes, it might even be cheaper to stay at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel or the Loews Royal Pacific Resort.
Guests at those hotels also get priority seating at select restaurants throughout the resort.
Other than the general quality of the hotel, there isn’t much difference perk-wise in the other tiers.
Guests at the preferred Loews Sapphire Falls Resort and the Prime Value Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Universal’s Aventura Hotel get the same perks as Surfside and Dockside.
What about Universal Partner Hotels?
The Partner Hotels also have benefits which include discounts and scheduled transportation to the theme parks.
Check the website for a list of hotels and current offers.
What time is best to arrive at Universal?
Generally, half an hour before the park opens – or taking advantage of early admission – is about right.
You really want to be at the front of the line to get to Hagrid’s.
Do both Universal parks have early admission every day?
No. Each park has select days that it will be open early. Check Universal’s website for more.
Have you arrived at Universal’s parks with early admission? How did it go? Let us know in the comments.