TICKETS—Both Universal parks in Orlando cost the same, and you must specify the day you’re going. Like Disney, Universal charges more on busy days. Unlike at Disney, you can almost always get in. But Universal also gives you a $20 discount if you buy multi-day tickets online, so it’s crucial you do so.

Prices fluctuate daily according to a preset calendar. Prices purchased online; the higher prices are for peak days:

*1-day ticket for one park: $109–$159 adults, $104–$154 kids 3–9
(Make any 1-day ticket park-to-park for $55 more)
*2 days, one park daily: $273–$351 adults, $263–$341 kids 3–9
(Make any 2-day ticket park-to-park for $60 more)
*3 days, one park daily: $233–$316 adults, $223–$306 kids 3–9
*3 days, two parks daily: $327–$376 adults, $317–$366 kids 3–9
*4 days, one park/two parks daily: $247–$328 adults, $237–$318 kids 3–9
*4 days, two parks daily: $312–$393 adults, $302–$383 kids 3–9
*3 parks, park-to-park access (including Volcano Bay): 2 days $315–$386 adults, $305–$376 kids 3–9; 3 days $333–$411 adults, $323–$401 kids 3–9; 4 days $377–$438, $367–$428 kids 3–9

To enter both parks on the same day and to ride the Hogwarts Express train that links the two parks, you must have a park-to-park ticket. If you buy a limited, one-park ticket and change your mind midway through the day, don’t worry. There are ticket upgrade kiosks at the Hogwarts Express train stations that simply charge you the difference in price for a park-to-park ticket, and you can be on your way again.

HOPPING THE LINES—Universal’s Express allows guests to use a separate entrance queue that is dramatically shorter than the “Standby” one, reducing wait times in most cases to minutes; your pass is scanned by an employee. Unlike Disney’s former Fastpass+ system, Express is for sale, and the busier the park is, the more it costs; the Universal app can always tell you how much it is today (look under “Buy Tickets”).

The Express Pass ($70–$289 one park, $80–$300 two parks, depending on crowds) allows one-time-per-ride use, while the more expensive Express Unlimited ($100–$319 one park, $110–$330 two parks, depending on crowds) puts no restriction on re-rides. Both come in two flavors, one-park and two-park. Two-park passes cost about 25 percent more, rising at peak times to as much as double. Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure and VelociCoaster are excluded. Using Express is expensive, but it enables you to see both Universal parks in a single day. Guests can buy Express when they purchase their admission, at entry ticket booths, at a kiosk set up just past the entry gate, or at shops.

The most expensive, but most effective way, to cut the lines is the VIP Experience (866/346-9350), which ushers you onto rides with zero lines. Non-private tours (with up to 12 people you might not know) will visit 10–12 attractions ($189–$449 plus admission, includes a counter-service lunch and valet parking); private guided tours can be customized and take you anywhere you want, even on VelociCoaster, without strangers or waiting (up to $3,500 for up to five people, $400 for each additional person, table-service lunch included). It’s better to reserve VIP Experiences ahead of time, and they don’t include tickets.

But there is also a much simpler way to get an Express Unlimited pass: Guests who stay at Portofino Bay, the Hard Rock Hotel, or Royal Pacific can use their key cards for free Express access—a great value add when you consider a double room can house four people. (Note that the other Universal hotels do not include Express as a perk.)

PHOTOS—Universal also has photographers (not as many as Disney) on hand to take your photo at big moments. Its My Universal Photos works a lot like Disney's PhotoPass but with fewer roaming photographers: 1 day is $70–$100, 3 days is $90–$110, and that includes digital copies of everything and two printed images. You can also check your images as you collect them using an app. Otherwise, you can buy individual photos for $20-plus each.

NAVIGATING THE PARKS—Universal has free in-park Wi-Fi, and its free Official Universal Orlando Resort App is very easy to use. It provides wait times, showtimes, maps, restaurant menus, walking directions, and more. You can also use it to buy online-discounted tickets. Load a credit card into your account, and you can use it to make purchases such as mobile food orders (which aren’t as widely available as they are at Disney); if you activate the Universal Pay feature, it will add a QR code to your smartphone’s digital wallet that enables you to make purchases at Universal-run stores.

WHAT TO WEAR—Dress small children in bathing suits for a day at Universal Studios because Kidzone will get them soaked. At Islands of Adventure, three of the best adult rides are water-based.

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.