Tickets for both parks cost the same and multi-day tickets are more expensive if you buy at the gate. As you can see by how prices scale, Universal wants to force you into a multi-day commitment. If you want to ride the Hogwarts Express train that links the two parks, you must have a park-to-park ticket. Gate prices before tax:
* 1-day ticket for one park: $96 adults, $90 kids ages 3 to 9
* 1-day park-to-park ticket: $136 adults, $127 kids ages 3 to 9
* 2 days of 1-park tickets: $146 adults, $136 kids ages 3 to 9 *
* 2-day, park-to-park ticket: $176 adults, $166 kids ages 3 to 9 *
* 3-day, park-to-park ticket: $186 adults, $175 kids ages 3 to 9 *
* 4-day, park-to-park ticket: $196 adults, $184 kids ages 3 to 9 ** Minus $20 per ticket if you buy online ahead of time
If you buy a 1-park ticket and change your mind midway through the day, there are ticket kiosks at the Hogwarts Express train stations that simply charge you the difference in price for a park-to-park ticket; you won’t pay a penalty for waiting.
If you’re doing a full complement of the non-Disney parks, including both Universal parks, SeaWorld, Aquatica, Wet ’n Wild, and Busch Gardens, then you’ll find value in the FlexTicket, also sold on Universal’s site ($320 adults, $300 kids 3–9 for all those parks), which gets you into all of them for 2 weeks.
ORIENTATION—IOA’s 101 acres are laid out much like Epcot’s World Showcase: individually themed areas (here, called “islands,” even though they’re not) arranged around a lagoon (called the Great Inland Sea). To see everything, you simply follow a great circle. The only corridor into the park, Port of Entry, borrows from the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A., in that it’s a narrow, introductory area where guests are submerged into the theme. In this case, you’re gathering munitions for a “great odyssey,” so, in theme park logic, it’s where you do things like rent strollers and lockers and grab free maps. Most guests beeline through Port of Entry. Because attraction lines are shortest after opening, explore this area later, maybe before closing.
STRATEGY—Once you reach the end of Port of Entry, which way should you go? Right. That’s the way to Harry Potter. Lines peak in late morning and early afternoon, then taper off again after that, but they’re rarely short.
Some Practical Advice for Island Adventurers
1. The Shorter They Are . . . : Currently some 13 of the 15 major rides at Islands of Adventure (including those in the Wizarding World) have height restrictions. The Dragon Challenge and the Incredible Hulk Coaster, for instance, deny access to anyone shorter than 54 inches, and unless you're at least 48 inches tall you can forget about Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. For those who want to ride but have come with kids, there's a baby or child swap at all of the major attractions, allowing one parent to ride while the other watches the tykes. But sitting in a waiting room isn't much fun for the little ones. So take your child's height into consideration before coming to the park or at least to some of the islands. Think about splitting up for a while, and then meeting up again a bit later.
2. Cruising the Islands: If you hauled your stroller with you on your vacation, bring it with you to the park. It's a very long walk from your car, through the massive parking garage and the nighttime entertainment district, CityWalk, before you get to the fun. (Universal, however, does a good job of disguising just how long it is thanks to all of the covered walkways near the parking area.) Carrying a young child and the accompanying paraphernalia, even with a series of moving sidewalks, can make the long trek seem even longer -- especially at the end of the day.
3. The Faint of Heart: Even if you don't have children, make sure you consider all of the ride restrictions. Expectant mothers, anyone prone to motion sickness, and those with heart, neck, or back trouble will be discouraged -- with good reason -- from riding most primo attractions. There's still plenty to see and do, but without the roller coasters, Islands of Adventure is far less adventurous.
4. Beat the Heat: Some rides require that you wait outside without any cover to protect you from the sizzling Florida sun, so bring some bottled water (freeze it the night before) for the long waits, or take a sip or two from the fountains placed in the waiting areas. Also, beer, wine, and liquor are more available at the Universal parks than the Disney ones, but booze, roller coasters, and hot weather can make for a messy mix.
5. Cash in on Your Card: You can save 10% on your purchases at any gift shop or on a meal at Islands of Adventure by showing your AAA card. This discount isn't available at food or merchandise carts. And tobacco, candy, film, collectibles, and sundry items aren't included.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.