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Universal Express Pass Hotel Trick: Best Hack for Visiting!

Universal Express Pass Hotel Trick: Best Hack for Visiting!

The Universal Express Pass is SO worth it, but it’s expensive, even if you get the Single Express Pass that only allows you to skip the line ‘one time per ride’.

Is Universal’s Express Pass worth it?

Lines are long at Universal pretty much all year round so an Express Pass is a must in my opinion, especially if you’re coming with kids who aren’t patient.

Quite frankly, even without the kids I probably wouldn’t go to Universal without it. Universal’s version of a skip-the-line pass lets you bypass the traditional standby line on most Universal attractions and hop in what is usually a much shorter line.

During our visit, the line for a simple carousel at Seuss Landing was 35 minutes in the afternoon! The line to the Hulk roller coaster was 75 minutes by 10 AM without the fast past, but we waited 8 exactly minutes with the Express Pass. It was a true game-changer!

NOTE: Universal Express Pass does NOT work on all attractions, but things keep changing. Currently, Express Pass works on everything excluding two rides: Pteranodon Fliers and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.

Mother and son enjoying a boat ride with a scenic view of palm trees and waterways, perfect for those with a Universal Express Pass looking to relax after skipping the lines at Universal Studios.

Types of Express Passes

  • Standard Universal Express Pass – lets you skip the line one time per attraction.
  • Universal Express Unlimited – lets you skip the line an unlimited number of times.

How to Get an Express Pass

You can get Universal Express as an add-on to your park tickets when you make your purchase or you can add it when you arrive at the parks, but…

You could also get $349-per-person VIP tour that lets you skip the line for all attractions, gives you an Express Pass Unlimited, valet parking, two meals, water, large lockers, and stroller rental.

DON’T DO IT! There’s a better way!

Express Passes start at $134.99 and go up on weekends, holidays, busy days, and so on. From my understanding, they can cost up to $300 per person!

ALL guests are required to have Express Passes, even kids under 3 that aren’t paying entrance fees, so even if all adults have Express Passes and the baby or toddler doesn’t, you cannot take them on a carousel using the Express Line.

Hand holding a collection of Universal Express Unlimited passes featuring attractions, a savvy trick for hotel guests to maximize their time at Universal Studios.

Secret to Getting Express Pass for Less

Here’s the best-kept secret to getting Express Pass to Universal Orlando in the cheapest way…

Although, it’s really not a secret because Universal openly states it on its website, but many people don’t seem to notice.

Universal has nine total hotels on its property but only 3 give out this perk. If you stay at one of Universal’s Premier hotels then the Universal Express Unlimited Pass is included for all guests staying in the room for the entirety of the stay.

Premier hotels are:

Express Pass includes the day of check-in and check-out as well. You can check in as early as 7 AM to get your Express Pass and it will be valid until midnight the next day. Meaning a single overnight can get you two days of the Express Unlimited Pass.

This is why many people often book something called a “Universal ghost room“.

Let’s say you want to spend two days in the parks, but naturally, you don’t want to go to parks the day of your arrival, or departure. Instead of booking the whole stay at a Premier Hotel, you can get a mid-range hotel nearby Universal for $80-200 per night and some even offer a free shuttle service to the parks.

Considering that a night at Premium hotels ranges around $450-550 in the simplest rooms, it’s a huge difference. This is why they book ONE night at Premium Universal Hotel but don’t actually stay there, just check in for fast passes – hence why it’s called a ghost room.

You could also move hotels if you want to take advantage of your one night, but many people, understandably, don’t want to keep moving their things and deal with luggage, check-ins, and check-out times.

Using the example of a family of four visiting for two days with park-to-park tickets, the cheapest Express Passes (single use) were around $200 (but during Spring Breaks I know they were $330). That’s $800 for passes along for a single day!

The room at the cheapest universal hotel with Express Pass costs less than $500. See what I’m getting at? It’s 100% worth it because it can save over a thousand dollars for a family!

Busy arrival terminal with visitors pulling suitcases with hotel guests strategizing to use their Universal Express Pass for skipping lines at the theme park.

Cheapest Universal hotel with Express Pass

The cheapest Universal hotel with Express Passes included is Loews Royal Pacific. The hotel is just fine, but similar to other ones at the park, it’s nothing special.

We stayed there for a few days and the rooms are clean, there’s a pool to use and the boats are running to/from the hotel to the City Walk, but one could say that the hotel is surely overpriced and I agree, but it is worth the perks.

Family poolside at the Lowes Royal Pacific hotel which includes free Universal express passes in it's rates.
Pool at Loews Royal Pacific

How to Utilize Express Pass Best

Some attractions will have longer lines later in the day than others.

Staying at a Universal Hotel also gives early access to the park. Official park opening is at 9 AM, which means 8 AM for Universal Resort guests.

You have to arrive before the gates open to be one of the first guests on the rides. 7:30 AM the latest, but you won’t be first. Gates open at 7:45 AM but we didn’t manage to get it until 8:10 AM, even though we were in line since 7:25 AM.

Universal Express can be used in the form of a physical ticket that resembles a standard Universal park ticket or a digital QR code within the Universal Orlando app. Or your hotel room key.

Most importantly, many rides require you to leave all your belongings in a free locker near the ride but you still need your Express Pass to get scanned while in line. I bought myself a card and phone holder (this specific one) and I was never told that this wasn’t allowed.

I saw various people wearing simple chest strap with their key cards.

Women in pink dress standing in front of the Hogwarts Castle at Universal Studios with no lines.

These days it’s nearly impossible to visit a theme park without being on your phone to check wait times, order meals, and see the map, but with an Express Pass, we weren’t too worried about that and could focus on our experience more without constantly checking and feeling like we had to rush somewhere knowing that the lines were going to be short either way.


Tuesday 20th of February 2024

Do you know if the free Universal Express pass will allow park to park or is it just one park per day? Thanks


Tuesday 20th of February 2024

It's valid for both parks as long as you have tickets for both parks :)


Thursday 25th of January 2024

Very interested in the Universal Express pass trick. I think we will stay in the HR hotel for one night during August so we can get the pass. I gather you get a 2 day pass? And how do we receive them? Do we pick up from hotel when we check in?



Thursday 29th of February 2024

@AnnaEverywhere, I LOVE the idea of a ghost stay. We'll be using points to stay at a Hyatt nearby, and I don't want to move luggage for one night. Do we need to go to the room at Lowe's at all? Does the room need to look used or do they know this is something people do and they don't care if we never actually go to the room after check in? Thanks!


Friday 26th of January 2024

Correct, you get 2 days worth of fast passes. Check-in starts at 3pm, but you can go to the hotel at 7am that day and get your passes already before your room is ready.

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