Planning

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Planning

Getting Here and Around

East on Interstate 4 (from WDW and Tampa), exit at Universal Boulevard (75A); take a left into Universal Orlando, and follow the signs. Heading west on Interstate 4 (from Downtown or Daytona, even), exit at Universal Boulevard (74B), turn right, and follow Hollywood Way.

Both Universal Studios and IOA require a lot of walking—a whole lot of walking. Start off by using the parking area's moving walkways as much as possible. Arrive early at either park, and you may be able to complete a single lap that will get you to the main attractions.

Operating Hours

Universal Studios and IOA are open 365 days a year, from 9 am to 7 pm, with hours as late as 10 pm in summer and at holidays. Wet 'n Wild is also open 365 days a year, weather permitting, but with widely varying hours. Usually it's open from 9 to 6—sometimes earlier, often times much later, with summer hours from 9:30 am until 9 pm. Call for exact hours during holiday periods.

Parking

Universal's two garages total 3.4 million square feet, so note your parking space. The cost is $15 for cars and motorcycles ($5 after 6 pm and free after 10), $20 for RVs and preferred parking. Although moving walkways get you partway, you could walk up to a half mile to reach the gates. Valet parking ($15 for up to two hours, $30 for more than two hours) is much closer.

Admission

The at-the-gate, per-person, per-day rate for either Universal Studios Florida or IOA is $89 (ages 10+) and $83 for children (ages 3-9).

Express Passes

The Express Pass ranges in price from about $20 off-season to $80 in peak season and as high as $100 around Christmas. Why so much? This pass gets you to the front of most lines and saves a tremendous amount of time. If crowds are thin and lines are moving fast, skip this pass. Also, if you're a guest at a Universal hotel, this perk is free; your room key card serves as the pass.

Meal Deals

All-you-can-eat, daylong meal deals are good at three sit-down restaurants in Universal (Mel's Drive-In, Louie's Italian, and Monsters Café) and three in IOA (Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous, Comic Strip Cafe, the Burger Digs). The cost is $21.99 a day for adults, $10.99 daily for kids; an extra $10.99 a day buys all-you-can-drink soda in a souvenir cup.

Universal Tips and Advice

Arrive early. Come as early as 8 am if the parks open at 9. Seriously. Better to share them with hundreds of people than with thousands.

Visit on a weekday. Crowds are lighter, especially fall through spring, when kids are in school

Don't forget anything in your car. Universal's parking areas are at least a half mile from park entrances, and a round-trip hike will eat up valuable time. Consider valet parking. It costs $30 for more than 2 hrs before 6 pm (almost twice as much as regular parking), but it puts you much closer to Universal's park entrances and just steps from CityWalk.

Know the restrictions. A few things aren't allowed in the parks: alcohol and glass containers; hard-sided coolers; soft-sided coolers larger than 8½ inches wide by 6 inches high by 6 inches deep; and coolers, suitcases, and other bags with wheels. But if your flight's leaving later, they will check your luggage at the parks (unless you just leave them in your car).

Look into the Express Pass. Jumping to the front of the line with this pass really is worth the extra cost on busy days—unless you stay at a resort hotel, in which case front-of-line access is one of the perks. A very valuable perk.

Ride solo. At Universal some rides have a Single Rider line that moves much faster than regular lines.

Get expert advice. The folks at Guest Services (aka Guest Relations) have great insight. The reps can even create a custom itinerary free of charge.

Check out Child Swap. At certain Universal attractions, one parent can enter the attraction, take a spin, and then return to take care of the baby while the other parent rides without having to wait in line again.

For People with Disabilities

The Studio Guide for Guests with Disabilities (aka Rider's Guide) details attractions with special entrances and viewing areas, interpreters, Braille scripts, and assistance devices. In general, if you can transfer from your wheelchair unassisted or with the help of a friend, you can ride many attractions. Some rides have carts that accommodate manual wheelchairs, though not motorized wheelchairs or electronic convenience vehicles (ECVs).

Contacts

Universal 407/363-8000 www.universalorlando.com

Universal Dining & Tickets 407/224-7840

Universal (Loews Resorts) Room Reservations 877/819-7884

Universal Vacation Packages 800/407-4275

Wet 'n Wild 407/351-1800 or 800/992-9453 www.wetnwild.com

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