Tips & Tricks for Universal Orlando

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I'm excitedly planning our family's first visit to Universal Orlando and HARRY POTTER WORLD and I can't wait! We're going as a surprise for Max, so I'm having to do all of my customary obsessive research and reading in secret so he doesn't know.

It's our first visit to Universal Orlando!

Similar to when I was planning our first Disney trip 5 years ago, I'm going to compile all the tips and tricks I get from friends or find online, and then we'll compare them when we get home and see how it all actually went down.


  • We're doing 4 days, because it's the same ticket price as 3. I booked through, and get 1.5% back through Ebates. (BTW, if you aren't using it yet WHY NOT? You get $10 free if you join through my referral link) We're also down to the last handful of months before Max turns 10, qualifying him for a kid's ticket. It only saves about $20, but that's a couple bags of popcorn and an Icee! LOL
  • We're staying off-site at a Marriott property, but only because we have points to cover the whole stay, so even if we pay $20 a day to park, we still come out ahead compared to staying on-property. (We're actually torn between driving in and taking a Lyft; it's most likely a wash, money-wise)
  • You need a park-to-park ticket if you want to ride Hogwarts Express; the Harry Potter elements are separated across two parks, so you need multi-park access to ride the train to the other park.
  • Buy ponchos ahead of time; $10 for a six-pack on Amazon vs. $10 each at the park.
  • Place Amazon Prime Pantry order of snacks and waters to be delivered to hotel. Still don't have Amazon Prime? Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial
  • I've been reading up on how the return ticket passes work, because we do expect the park to be crazy busy when we're there.

At the parks: Harry Potter

  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter spans both Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, so be sure to purchase a park-to-park ticket.
  • Buy your butterbeer at Hog’s Head and drink it on the back patio in view of Hogwarts. We're lucky that we'll be there when HOT butterbeer is available! It's a seasonal offering, so we'll be sure to try it.
  • Avoid Harry Potter first thing in the morning, save it for the afternoon
  • Enjoy some traditional pub fare at the Three Broomsticks. As I look at the menu, I'll probably make the case to order the Great Feast, which, at $60 serves four, but Max and Jamie can surely polish it all off.
  • Head to The Three Broomsticks and Hog’s Head Pub and order a Pumpkin Fizz off the secret menu.
  • Dial 62442 (MAGIC) in the phone in Diagon Alley, it will connect you directly to the Ministry of Magic.
  • Don’t miss the Butter Beer Flavored soft serve at Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour
  • Take the Hogwarts Express in BOTH directions because it's different going each way.
  • Exchange your money for Wizard’s Gold and chat with the Goblin: To the left of Gringotts is a small shop where you can go and exchange your muggle money for real Wizarding money that can be used in the park.

At the parks: Everything else

  • Must eat: giant Homer doughnut from Lad Lard’s, only $5!
  • Pick up the payphone outside the Simpsons ride and listen to who's calling.
  • We'll stop and get a handful of “I'm Celebrating” buttons to commemorate our first visit; I hadn't read much about this, but my friend Kailynn, who went to Universal for her honeymoon, said that they got all sorts of special treatment when wearing their buttons, so it's totally worth the effort!
  • We'll get a refillable Coke Freestyle cup for the family to share; it's $16 for the first day, $6 each additional, but you can get unlimited refills at the Coke Freestyle machines throughout the park. Lemonade for daysssss.
  • Go to the Jurassic Park Discovery Center; if you’re there when a baby dino breaks out of its shell, you might be lucky enough to name the newborn and get an official birth certificate.

Special thanks to my friends Colleen from A Madison, and Adam Reimer for the use of their photos.

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  1. I’m interested in the suggestion about ordering snacks/waters via Amazon….can you explain how you do this? Do I just have it sent to the resort hotel and they will hold it for me? I would love to do this for our family of 5 vacation next week!

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