4 Ways to Maximize Your Day at USH - Minimum Waits


You have your tickets, your sunscreen, and your snacks. You’ve traveled to Hollywood and parked in a classic-movie parking structure ready to immerse yourself in movie magic. You’re ready to conquer Universal! But how to maximize your experience so that you spend your day doing, and not standing in lines?


An efficient 1-day visit at Universal is all about timing. Unlike Disneyland’s Fastpass, the service to shorten your line waits, Universal Express, has a surcharge of almost $80 (this service allows a shorter wait once per attraction—to get unlimited line-skips you’ll pay almost $350 per person!). To avoid it as a necessary expense, we’re going to show you how to use the art of good timing to have the smoothest day possible with minimum lines.


Avoiding Crowds via Park Tickets: due to the advent of expected-crowd-based ticket pricing, many theme parks including Universal now do the homework for you by letting you know what days you should avoid, both to save money and to save on wait times. The more expensive the admission date, the more crowds you can expect, so step one is trying to schedule your visit on a day where crowds are minimal, and pricing is most favorable. The annual pass community is not as dense as it at Disneyland, so comparing blackout dates is not as necessary as simply aiming for a lower-priced day.


Attractions: if you’re not using Universal Express, you need to be strategic about when you do what. Our recommendation is to arrive at Park open, and head straight for the lower lot—it takes a while for visitors to trickle down there, and many families are slowed at the animation-themed draws in the upper lot by their children upon making it in. Many of the ‘E-ticket’ rides like Jurassic Park, Transformers, and The Mummy are borderline vacant as visitors make their way down the extensive cliffside escalators, and early AM is the perfect time to seize them, freeing up the latter part of your day to explore the upper lot.


Our exception in this advice is if you are traveling with Harry Potter fanatics – in which case we would recommend hitting up Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey on your way down – but many visitors start here as it is and you’ll still get the best value for your time by starting in (and essentially completing) the lower lot circuit.


Dining: as with all theme parks, the key to success is avoiding peak mealtimes. If you’ve followed our standard advice and enjoyed a large breakfast before park open, you and your family will get hungry right around 10:30-11, when you’ve about finished the drops, motion-simulating, and backwards flying rides you’d likely not want to enjoy after a meal in the lower lot. Grab your lunch then and enjoy a similarly early dinner to avoid long delays at dining options both in the park and more so in the adjacent CityWalk, where waits can get out of hand.


Shows and Entertainment: surprisingly, the best time to visit these are during the ‘busiest’ times of day—between 12-4, or 6-8. Crowds tend to run for the rides during the peak parts of the day, while waits for shows tend to stay constant throughout the day—time your visits for these when ride waits are excessive and enjoy the AC while others bake in the sun.


Getting your Universal Hollywood wishlist done in a day can be overwhelming for one-day visitors who may not be able to splurge for the Universal Express front-of-line pass. Thankfully with these tips, we’re confident you’ll get a VIP experience enjoying your favorites without the VIP price tag.