First Timer at Universal, subscription or no?

I have a sub to WDW and DL (LOL). Our Dec trip (fingers crossed) will be 4 days of Universal, 2 with Express Pass 2 without. I know very little about Universal. Is the TP upgrade worth it? For just those 4 days? And is there any kind of discount because I see it’s $7.95 to add-on, which doesn’t appear to be any kind of discount.

What would you hope to get from a TP subscription?

I do have one, and I check in the chat section of that app but since I have never felt the need to create a Universal touring plan. Others might feel differently.

Are you going to make decisions on which days to visit which parks based on crowd levels or use standard touring plans? If so, worth it. If not, you can still use the personal touring plan creator without the subscription if you want to have one. I will say do not believe what it tells you when you say you have express passes and it says you’ll wait 1 min in line, etc. I’d guestimate a 10-15 min wait per ride to be on the safe side so you’re not disappointed not fitting it all in/especially with ride cleaning and social distancing. I believe we waited about 30 min for the log ride with express pass and touring plans said 1 or 5 min or something way off. It may be more accurate without express pass but I always get EP for Universal so I don’t have to have a touring plan. That’s the beauty of Express. :slight_smile:


Also my advice is to do shows on your non-Express pass days. You can ride rides the first two hours or so (maybe three if you have early entry) but lines will get long around by 11am. Then do shows (Bourne didn’t even offer Express pass when I was there so you’re going to wait probably 1-2 shows for it) and wands activities and such the days you don’t have express. You can always get Virtual lines passes too.


Great- thanks so much!

I feel like I have a good idea of how to navigate WDW even if I don’t have a plan- but for Universal all I know is start with harry potter. After that, then? I followed a plan (undercover tourist) for Universal hollywood and it was such a help- it had us jumping all over the park, but it really did make a Thanksgiving day with crazy crowds and no express pass super easy.

When is your trip? Do you already know what days are express/non express? Are you spending one night at a deluxe resort?

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I have heard others suggest that unless you are going to Hagrids, if you have express pass, you might avoid the early entry crowds rushing to FJ or Gringotts.

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Yup, but if you’re going early entry get to the park 45-50 min before early entry and you’ll only use 10-15 of it for Hagrids (which still puts you at an hour wait but you’re gonna wait an hour to 90 min if you get there 30 min prior to early entry and about an hour if you do it with virtual pass). If you do Hagrids during early entry then since you’re there go ahead and knock out the rest of Harry Potter Hogsmeade and either take the train over to USF when early entry is done or make your way around IOA heading over the bridge to Jurassic Park and ride what you get to as you pass it. This is of course with Express Pass. I am sure if you do not have Express Pass you should do some bouncing back and forth. I’d also go to either Harry Potter land first thing in the morning or late in the evening for wand activities.

We are going to be there from 22 Dec to 25 Dec (each of those days). We have Express Pass for 24 and 25 Dec. We are staying at the Cabana Bay for the first 2 nights, so we can use the early morning if we have it in us. I was tentatively planning to try to get a feel for the parks on the first day, focus on shows, entertainment, decorations, what not, and then really hit attractions on the last 2 days with the Express Pass. I feel like it may be busy there but with 4 days and 2 of them being Express Pass, I feel like we hopefully can get everything done.

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Do you think the wand is worth it? If we decide to do it, I’d want it at the start. I think only my youngest (12) would be into it at this point- the others are aged 16 and above. LOL.

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If Hagrid’s has the same cold weather issues this winter, it could be a much longer wait.

I’m 30, and on my last trip, I brought my wand to do magic all four days on my last trip. If this coming trip happens, December 6, I will be doing the magic spots again.

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I bought my own wand and did it even though my 13 and 16 you seem to have outgrown it. And I’m 41. I think it’s so much fun. Especially knockturn alley. Make sure to grab the door knob on the alohamora.


You most definitely can. And even during Christmas Universal doesn’t feel as crowded as Disney when you have express because the walkways seem less crowded to me. However that was precovid. I will say it felt more crowded to me in oct because I wanted social distance and I believe Universal is letting a higher percentage of people and locals got buy one day get the rest of the year free.


Knowing that your dates are in the highest peak of the holiday season, I’d like to temper your expectations of Express Pass. Typically, as previously mentioned, on a regular day you’d wait 10 minutes or so at most. On these crazy crowd levels days, even at the COVID capacity limits, expect waits of 30+ minutes per attraction using UXP. While Universal doesn’t get as insane as WDW during Christmas, it’s still going to be extremely busy.

I also recommend doing more shows & “less popular” attractions on day 1 & 2 to conserve the attractions you “must do” with UXP.

With Early Entry the only attractions, usually, open are in the WWOHP. (That’s why ppl say go there first.) I, too, think like WDW you need to get to the entrance about 45 - 60 mins early before RD due to the holiday crowds. The WWOHP fills up and doesn’t empty until late afternoon / evening.

My daughter got her first wand at 15 and still uses it. (she’s 19 now) Even I, age 45, love to play with it in the parks. I’m “that Dad” waving his arms around saying, “Aarrrggghh! Why can’t I get this to work!” (I exaggerate… once you get the “feel” for casting spells, it get’s easier.) They are $60 each, so if you’re kids can share that can be an option - if price is an issue. Early Entry is also a great time to do this before the Land fills up.

Do you need a subscription, probably not. I’ve used it before, on my first trip to UO, and loved it. However, USF / IOA is much smaller overall compared to WDW and after that first trip a TP felt more like a checklist. (Just download the Universal park app and, like WDW, knock about 20% off the posted wait times for standby queues and 40% off for UXP queues)


Also I like Cabana Bay too if you got the Family Suite. I’m not sure about the regular room but I liked the size of the suite and my kids preferred to sleep on the couch than share a room with mom and dad. It’s a cute hotel. Much better IMO than Surfside. We did the walk from cabana bay and it wasn’t that bad if you’re inclined. We walked to early entry ourselves. I will say don’t do early entry every day…it will exhaust you. I’d do two early entry days up front and then do two later morning days when you have the express pass and don’t need the early hours at the end when you’re more tired too and need it.


Early entry attractions are Everything WWOHP (except Hogwarts Express) and The Incredible Hulk in IOA and Despicable Me in USF. If you do early entry and you get to the park 45+min before early entry, hightail it to Hagrids if you’re at IOA and you can do Olivanders right after if you want that wand first. I’d honestly do the interactive wand stuff over the other Harry Potter rides during early entry. You don’t have to do the wand show to get the wand but it’s cute. Better to do the wand show in Diagon Alley if you go there first day. I’m betting that week both parks have early entry? If so at USF I’d go Despicable Me, Gringotts and then Olivanders during early entry. I think otherwise you have to sign up for a return time for Olivanders.

One morning my daughter and I got to IOA 50 min before opening and were out the door of Hagrids 12 min after early entry and on Hulk before 30 min into early entry and they are clear across the park. Hulk will get long lines with Express Pass too so it’s not a bad one to try to do during early entry either if you want to just get a virtual pass for hagrids and do hulk first. It’s a walk on during early entry. So if you don’t want to get to the park 45+ min before early entry begins but do want to do early entry do Hulk, then go to Hogsmeade and do wands and get the Virtual Line pass for Hagrids.


Also, remember that if you use early entry and are in the Harry Potter area at the official open, you are in the back of the park away from the hordes.


Great info! I hadn’t looked into early entry very much (early entry at WDW is sometimes not very productive for us), but this is great to know. My youngest will likely want a wand-- the others bought them before they had the interactive wands, and they still cost about $40 each. :slight_smile: Oh well!!!

I’m looking forward to it. Will be a new challenge!