FAQ Orlando

Universal’s Express Pass needs a heart

Wizarding World of Harry Potter waiting queue line Universal Studios Islands Adventure

Guests without Express Pass wait in a long, long line to ride with Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure

While Disney’s Fast Pass system favors the young and healthy, Universal Studios’ Express Pass favors the rich.

Under both systems, guests with proper I.D. may enter a secondary ride line and enjoy a substantially shorter wait time. At Disney, this I.D. (a Fast Pass) is distributed democratically, or at least it appears that way to visitors. At Universal, however, the I.D. (Express Pass) isn’t distributed, it’s purchased.

And Express Pass isn’t cheap. Upper crust guests pay as much as $87 per day to thumb their nose at the poor folks they pass on their way to the front of the line. The rich know who they are all day long; so do the poor. Add in the cost of a regular admission ticket, and Express Pass visitors could spend over $160 per day.

Granted, Orlando attractions exist to make money. This is, after all, America. It’s what we do. The problem is one of perception – Express Pass makes Universal look cheap and creates bad feelings as it nickels-and-dimes visitors and creates

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a caste system. How can you lose yourself in the moment ­– pretend you’re really in Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – when you realize that everyone who passes you will, somewhere up ahead, make your wait that much longer? It’s the same way you feel when the airlines nickel-and-dime you for an early seat assignment, a piece of checked luggage, etc.

The details
Universal charges a sliding fee for an Express Pass and sells it from the regular ticket booth. The cost goes as high as $87 during the busiest seasons, but could be half that in slow times.

Express Pass is also a free perk offered to all onsite Universal hotel guests, and a major selling point for staying in a Universal hotel.

Posted in: Tips: Save money – beat crowds, Universal Studios/Sea World

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