Why You Should (Almost) Never Buy a Universal Express Pass Online

Caroline Knowles Avatar

Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal Orlando - SheBuysTravel
Incredible Hulk Coaster. Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando

Getting the most out of day at Universal Studios Orlando can require the strategic planning skills of a great general going to war. Or you can buy a Universal Express Pass and save a boatload of time by skipping the long ride lines. But an Express Pass is expensive. And it isn’t always the right thing to do. Find out when you should and shouldn’t buy your Universal Express Pass online, how much it costs, what rides it covers and how you can get your hands on one for free.

What is the Universal Express Pass?

The Universal Express Pass is a ticket add-on (as in, it costs an additional fee) to access privileges like skipping lines and accessing priority seating for shows.

Everyone in your party will need their own Universal Express Pass. It is not a group pass and is not transferrable.

Is a Universal Express Pass Worth the Splurge?

The Universal Express Pass isn’t free. Far from it. Universal Express Pass prices start at $79.99 per person for a one-park single-use pass. And that doesn’t include fast access to the most popular rides and attractions, like Fievel’s Playland at Universal Studios Florida or Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and the Jurassic World VelociCoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

Multiply that number by each person in your party and then multiply that by the number of days in the parks and you will end up looking at a very expensive package — on top of the admission ticket price.

So why would it be worth the splurge? In cases like these:

  • You only have one day at Universal and want to experience as much of Universal Studios as well as Islands of Adventure as you can.
  • You’re visiting at busy times of the year — holidays, school vacations, and spring break weeks — and don’t want to wait in the long lines at the regular queue for rides. If you know you’re going to be visiting at those busy times and you know you will want to buy Express Passes, it’s OK to buy them online when you book your trip. This is one of those times when you should buy them before your visit. Why? Because only a limited number of Universal Express passes are available each day and they can sell out.

Key Things to Remember about Universal Express Pass

  • Regular park admission is not included. You still need to buy a park ticket.
  • The Express Pass is valid only on the date printed on the ticket.
  • It is not valid for separately ticketed events.
  • If you get to the parks and find the crowds are bigger than expected and you regret not having bought one in advance, you can buy them there. The parks will sell Express Passes until they are sold out for the day.
  • The Express Pass cannot be used for certain attractions including Fievel’s Playland at Universal Orlando, Pteranodon Flyers, the Jurassic World VelociCoaster or Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

Read More: The Complete Guide to Planning a Family Vacation at Universal Studios Orlando

Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando - SheBuysTravel
Stay at a Universal Resort like Loews Royal Pacific Resort and your Universal Express Passes are included in the room fee. Photo credit: Universal Orlando

How to Get the Unlimited Express Pass FREE

You can score free passes by staying at select Universal Orlando Hotels. Rooms at the three Universal Premier category hotels — Loews Portofino Bay HotelLoews Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort  — come complete with two-park unlimited Express Passes. Your hotel room key doubles as the Express Pass.

Even better, the Universal Express Pass is good on the day you check in and the day you check out. That means a one-night stay gets you two days of Universal Unlimited Express Passes. If there are 4 people in your family and you can snag a Universal Premier Category hotel room for $300 a night, you still would save money over the cost of a budget-friendly hotel like Loews Cabana Bay Beach Resort and two days of Universal Express Passes for everyone.

SheBuysTravel Tip: The least expensive Premier Hotel is the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Here are our favorite hotels at and near Universal. 

Universal Orlando Resort Hotel Perks

Staying at a Universal Orlando on-site hotel offers another perk in addition to your free Universal Unlimited Express Pass: early park admission. That means you might be able to ride all of the hot rides — like those at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — without an Express Pass because you get into the parks before the crowds arrive.

Need help planning your Universal trip? Join our Universal Orlando Tips & Planning Facebook Group!

How Much Does a Universal Express Pass Cost?

Express Pass prices vary by date. Every member of your party must have their own Express Pass, regardless of age. Prices and details listed were accurate for March 2022.

1-Park Universal Express Pass

Starts at $79.99 per person

The Universal Express entitles one person one-time express ride access at participating rides and attractions via an express access line with shorter wait times. This pass is good for only one (1) park. It does not include express access to Fievel’s Playland in Universal Studios Florida or Pteranodon Flyers, the Jurassic World VelociCoaster or Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

2-Park Universal Express Unlimited Pass

Starts at $109.99 per person

The Universal Express Unlimited Pass entitles one person unlimited express ride access at participating attractions and rides via the express pass line. This pass is good for only one (1) park. It does not include express access to Fievel’s Playland in Universal Studios Florida.

3-Park Universal Express Pass

Starts at $89.99

This ticket offers one-time express ride access at participating rides and attractions in both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure via the separate queue line with shorter wait times. It does not include express access to Fievel’s Playland in Universal Studios Florida or Pteranodon Flyers, the Jurassic World VelociCoaster or Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

4-Park Universal Express Unlimited Pass

Starts at $119.99

This Express Pass offers unlimited express ride access at participating rides and attractions in both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure via a separate queue line with shorter wait times. It does not include express access to Fievel’s Playland in Universal Studios Florida.

This is the Express Pass that is complimentary to guests staying in one of the three (3) Universal Premier Resort Hotels.

5-Volcano Bay Universal Express Pass

$19.99

The Volcano Bay Universal Express Pass allows you to skip the “virtual line” one time at these rides and attractions at the water park:

  • 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
  • Tonga of Taniwha Tubes
  • Raki of Taniwha Tubes

It does NOT include express access to:

  • Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
  • Ko’okiri Body Plunge
  • Ohyah of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
  • Ohno of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides

6-Volcano Bay Universal Express PLUS Pass

$39.99

The Universal Express Pass PLUS for Volcano Bay is good for the right to skip the “virtual line” one time for each attraction at the water park.

The Single Rider Line Hack

If you and the kids are OK riding separately, consider choosing the single rider queue. It often can be as fast at the Express Pass line and it’s free.

What Attractions and Rides are Included in the Universal Express Pass?

Most, but not all, attractions at Universal are included in the Express Pass program, even some attractions in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Here’s the list, as of March 2022.

Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket at Universal Orlando - SheBuysTravel
Use your Universal Express Pass to ride the Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket. Photo credit: Universal Orlando

Universal Studios Florida

  • The Bourne Stuntacular
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • E.T. Adventure
  • Fast & Furious – Supercharged
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
  • Hogwarts™ Express (Park-to-Park admission ticket required)
  • Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
  • MEN IN BLACK™ Alien Attack
  • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • The Simpsons Ride
  • TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D
  • Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster
Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Universal's Islands of Adventure - SheBuysTravel
Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Photo credit: Universal Orlando

Universal’s Islands Of Adventure

  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
  • Caro-Seuss-el
  • Doctor Doom’s Fearfall
  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
  • Flight of the Hippogrif
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!
  • Hogwarts Express (Park-to-Park admission ticket required)
  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure
  • Poseidon’s Fury
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong
  • Storm Force Accelatron
TRANSFORMERS ride at Universal Orlando - SheBuysTravel
Use a Universal Express Pass to skip the long line for the TRANSFORMERS ride. Photo credit: Universal Orlando

Why You Should Never Buy Your Express Pass Online

One of our friends learned this the hard way. She spent $300 buying Express Passes for her family online the night before their first visit to the parks. Why? Because they only had one day and wanted to see as much of both parks as they could in the limited time they had.

It turned out to be a costly mistake. They were visiting in the off season — mid-week in February — on a rainy day. The parks were nearly empty, the lines were short and the Express Passes weren’t needed.

So wait until you get to the parks to buy the passes. And don’t even buy them at the entrance. Wait until you get inside and get a feel for the crowds. Express Passes are available for sale at gift shops throughout the parks. They’ll be available if you need them.

If you did buy them ahead and don’t need them, you may be able to get a refund if the passes have not been used.

The exception to this rule is visits during holiday weekends and Spring Break. In those cases Express Passes can and do sell out.

Where to Buy Discounted Universal Tickets

SheBuysTravel recommends purchasing your Universal tickets through Get Away Today. Not only does the company have the lowest prices, it offers a best price guarantee. If you ever find park tickets cheaper, Get Away Today won’t just match the price, the company will beat it. (If you’re wondering why we choose to partner with Get Away Today, read our review of the impressive customer service we got when we booked Disney tickets through Get Away Today.)

6 responses


  1. Don’t even bother trying the park at Spring Break (March) without one. We thought we’d try with and get one later as suggested, but we couldn’t get one because they sold out and then we’re $339 per person USD per day. Not only did the express pass have a way, way, way shorter line, they often get sat twice as fast once in line. It’s a real VIP treatment (perhaps in response to this type of criticism), but if you don’t have one, you sit and watch them getting funnelled through very fast and waiting about 20 minutes, while we pushed 2 hours. The balance is off as it really de-valued the regular pass on busy days. This post may be good advice for non-busy days or past operations (we went March 2022) , but I wouldn’t even bother going to this park during peak times without one.

    1. Yes, Stephen, that’s why the post is titled “almost” never! As we say several times, the exceptions are extra busy times like spring break and holidays.

  2. Hey just a reminder to everyone that Disney no longer has free fast pass+ and now has a new system called genie+ that costs $15 per day per person and works like fast pass+ used to except you can only book one fastpass ride in advanced at a time the day you visit the park.

  3. This is ABSOLUTELY wrong advice. If you know you’re going at a busy time, buy your Express Pass online along with your park tickets. The more express passes that are sold, the more expensive it is and they do sell out oftentimes before the day of. Just take a look at the express passes now – the website says starting at $109 but they are going for $250-350 apiece if available at all.

    And I’d say it was totally worth the price we paid upfront. Pretty well halved the amount of time we would have stood in line over Presidents Day weekend.

    1. Yes, Eric, that’s the advice we offer in the post!

  4. Hi I’m visiting Florida in July for a family reunion and wanted to bring my son to Island Avenue adventures to read but I will not be staying on a resort it will be just us showing up thevday that we wanna go to the park can I buy an express ticket for my son and I without staying on the resort and since it will be in July should I purchase online before we get there