Visiting the Universal Orlando Resort during Covid-19

My name is Tia and I’m delighted to guest post today! I’m so excited to share my tips for visiting the Universal Orlando Resort during covid with you. I love theme parks and just returned from a whirlwind 4-day vacation at the Universal Orlando Resort. My husband and I took our oldest daughter, age 9, and left the littles at home with Grandma (more on why we left them at home later). Are you considering a visit to Universal Orlando Resort during the Covid-19 pandemic? Hopefully I’ll provide information that will help address your questions and concerns. So, let’s jump right in! 

Universal Orlando Resort Covid-19 Safety Precautions:

Visiting the Universal Orlando Resort during Covid-19 is a little different. Universal Orlando Resort has property wide safety measures in place to keep guests healthy and safe.

Temperature checks are required. They will be taken at your hotel (if you are staying on property) or at the security check-point when you arrive at City Walk. 

Social distancing is in full force! You will find clearly marked spaces every six feet or two meters all over the property. You will find them everywhere from the hotel lobby, shuttle bus stops, security check-points, ticket turnstiles, line ques and restaurants. 

Hand sanitizer is provided throughout the park. A ride operator personally gives each person some just before riding. 

Masks are required at all times. They must cover the nose and mouths. The only exception is if you are eating or drinking. Additionally, there are locations throughout both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure where you can rest and remove your face covering (at a safe distance from other guests, of course). 

How did it feel to visit the parks during a pandemic? For the most part I felt perfectly safe. The park employees were very friendly and kind in reminding guests to follow protocols. Once in line for a ride, it was easy to stay apart from other groups, it is only in the walkways and shops where things got a little crowded at times. 

What rides or attractions are closed or changed due to Covid-19?

All play areas for small children are closed. This is the primary reason we decided not to bring our youngest children on this trip. There are plenty of things for older kids and adults around the park, but not much for the younger children.

Modifications have been made on some rides to allow a constant flow of park guests through the line. There are several rides that would have you enter a room, view a video and then continue in the line. The video presentations help to provide background and context to the rides. Even without the video you still get a fabulous ride experience. Small modifications have been made on some rides . For example, in Escape from Gringotts there is a point in which you would get sprayed with a little bit of water that they have suspended for now. Additionally, they are not allowing anyone to use the Single Rider Line.

Where should we stay when visiting Universal Orlando Resort?

The benefits to staying at a Universal Orlando Resort hotel are clear. We chose to stay at Universal’s Endless Summer Resort: Surfside Inn and Suites. It is a brand-new hotel and is considered a value property. Getawaytoday is my preferred place to book our vacations. They have great deals on hotels and discount park tickets! I recommend checking them out.

A few of my favorite amenities at Surfside Inn and Suites:

  • Complimentary shuttle services to and from the Universal Orlando Resort parks and City Walk. It is just a quick 5 minute ride to the park. There was always a shuttle ready and waiting for us.
  • Early park entry at Universal Orlando Resort parks. This was one of my favorite perks! Those first few hours in the park have the lowest wait times.
  • Our room had a microwave, small fridge and a table to sit at.
  • The food in the café was well liked by everyone and reasonably priced. 
  • Your room key can be used to make purchases in the park.
  • When you stay on property you can have purchases made in the park delivered to your hotel so you don’t have to carry them around all day. 

Although we loved our stay, there were a few things I wish had been different. Keep in mind we stayed at their value hotel. If you are a light sleeper, like me, you’ll want to request an interior room since the highway nearby can be loud. The towels provided are small and not very fluffy. Lastly, there isn’t a hot tub. I love to soak my tired legs after a long day walking the parks. But really, considering the price we paid and the other amenities offered, these were not a big deal at all. 

One important item to mention, if you like us, are flying in and need to pick up a few supplies for your trip, there is a Walgreens located directly across the street. We purchased breakfast items, drinks, snacks and lots of souvenirs! The had an entire aisle of the store dedicated to Disney and Universal themed souvenirs. They had items like hats, sunglasses, towels, shirts, magnets, keychains, mugs, bags, Harry Potter wands, and more at a fraction of the cost inside the parks. 

How many days do I need at Universal Orlando Resort?

Opinions vary on this, but my personal opinion is that you only need one day for each park. If you choose to add on the park-to-park option (meaning you can visit both parks in one day) then you can experience riding the Hogwarts Express. This train will take you between parks. Make sure you ride it going both directions since it is different depending on the direction of travel. For our trip, we knew there were several rides that we couldn’t do based on height requirements and motion sickness issues, so one day in each park was plenty. We had a few hours to visit on our last day and just went back to our favorite and picked only our favorite things to do again before leaving for the day. 

Which rides should I avoid if I get motion sickness?

Depending on the type of ride, you will want to really pay close attention to the ride guides provided on the app and website. I don’t get sick on most roller coasters, but if it is 3D, 4D or spinning, I have to sit it out (with a few exceptions). I’ve learned from experience that there are a few rides that ruin my day. I have to take Drammamine or Bonine before I even leave the hotel to prepare for my day. Here are the rides I have to avoid and you should consider skipping if you get motion sickness. 

Rides at Islands of Adventure that cause me motion sickness:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong
  • Storm Force Acceleration

Rides at Universal Studios that cause me motion sickness:

  • The Simpsons Ride
  • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
  • Shrek 4-D
  • TRANSORMERS: The Ride 3-D
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (they do offer non-moving seating, but even that wasn’t enough for me)
  • Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
  • Fast & Furious – Supercharged

What should I pack for a day at Universal Orlando Resort?

Visiting the Universal Orlando Resort during Covid-19 doesn’t require you to pack much differently(other than a mask!) However, If you are a frequent Disneyland or Disney World visitor, this is one area that is quite different. Visit the website to see the full list. Universal Orlando Resort does not allow you to bring in food that requires refrigeration or heating. That said, I packed in water bottles, cans of soda, bagels, granola bars, nuts and candy without any trouble. 

Packing light for a day at Universal Orlando Resort is essential if you don’t want to rent a locker. There are several rides that do not allow you to bring any items on the ride. These rides provide a small locker at the entrance of the ride to place your items in. However, the locker is very small. Make sure you measure your park bag prior to packing it to ensure that it will fit inside, or come prepared to rent a locker. For more information on their locker sizes, and rental information, click here.

Other things to consider packing:

  • Sunscreen
  • Hats
  • Sunglasses
  • Motion sickness medicine
  • Ponchos (those water rides will soak you!)
  • Drinks & Snacks
  • External Phone Charger
  • Extra face masks
    • Tip about facemasks: bring an extra for each person and swap them out mid-day! Trust me!

Is the dining plan worth it?

I researched the dining plans available and we determined that we preferred the flexibility of purchasing food and drink items ala carte. If you love to plan ahead and know exactly the kind of food you’ll be eating, make sure you look at the menu prices and see if it is a cost savings to purchase the dining plan. There is also the Coke Freestyle mug available. We knew that we were going to primarily be drinking Butterbeer, so we would not need it. However, if you love soda pop and plan on drink it throughout the day, it costs about the same as purchasing 4 soda’s in the park. 

Can you still meet characters and see shows?

Yes! There are character meet & greets throughout the park. They have the characters roped off and at a safe distance with a marked spot where you can stand to take a picture. So, jump in line and see the Simpsons, Transformers, Dr. Seuss characters and Spider-Man! The shows are also still going! Due to social distancing measures, seating is limited for each show. Guests are seated every other row and six feet apart. This means that you will need to arrive for a showtime 30-45 minutes early to get a spot in line on busy days. Luckily, most shows have a few show times throughout the day so if you miss one, you can come back for a later time. 

Do I need the Universal Orlando Resort app?

YES! I can’t stress this enough! When planning your trip, the app is so valuable. In fact, while I was preparing for our trip, the app and the website showed different park hours! When I contacted the park they confirmed that the app had the latest and most accurate park hours. If I had relied on the website, we would have been 2 hours late to the park each day! The app has information about rides, including height requirements and virtual line access (meaning you don’t get to get in line for the ride unless you first use the app to reserve a time to get in that line).

The app is also very helpful with planning where to eat. In addition to menus and prices, most locations offer mobile ordering. Mobile ordering your food is a great idea anytime you visit the park, but it was essential during our last visit. We ate lunch at the Three Broomsticks and the Leaky Cauldron. In both locations you had to stand in line to wait for a table. Once at the table a waitress would come and either collect your mobile order confirmation number (which you placed while waiting in line) or took your order. Our food arrived much faster because we used mobile order. If you’re visiting the Universal Orlando Resort during Covid-19 the app is a game changer!

Is Express Pass worth the cost?

I don’t think so. If you go with a good plan and are willing to get to the parks early, you don’t really need it. There were times while standing in line that I envied the Express Pass guests walking by, but overall, the cost isn’t worth it to me. We visited on a busy weekend and accomplished everything we wanted to do without using it and without waiting more than 30 minutes for each ride. However, visiting the Universal Orlando Resort during Covid-19 can make wait times longer than usual on some days, so you may want to consider it if you’ll be there at a busy time.

What is the best park strategy?

  • Research the rides. Make sure you know the height requirements, motion sickness possibilities, etc. 
  • Watch the free YouTube videos Touring Plans has that give you a one-day park strategy. 
  • If you have early park entry as a hotel guest – USE IT! You can sleep in when you go back home. 
  • Arrive at the park 45 minutes prior to gates opening ready to go. 
  • Use the first 2-3 hours in the park to ride rides. Not to eat breakfast, not to browse the shops – to ride the rides! You will notice at about the end of 2 hours the crowds start to show up and wait times increase dramatically. 
  • After lunch spend time seeing shows, browsing shops and enjoying the entertainment. 
  • Take a late afternoon break. Go swimming at the hotel pool or take a nap or go to City Walk for a restaurant dinner reservation. 
  • Make good use the the last 2 hours of the park. It is always less crowded than the middle of the day.

Thank you so much to Tia for sharing her tips about Visiting the Universal Orlando Resort during Covid-19 and planning strategies with us! She is a master planner and I’m so grateful for her knowledge on Universal! She has an entire post dedicated to all things Harry Potter at Universal Studios that you don’t want to miss! You can find it here.