Vacation planning guide for Universal Studios Orlando Florida

Universal Studios Loews Portofino Bay Hotel Room

How to vacation at Universal Studios Orlando

We are back from Universal Studios Orlando.  We stayed at all the Universal Studios hotels and have played in all the parks.

Please listen to this weeks Mouse Chat podcast.  We all headed down to Universal Studios Orlando and stayed at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.  We also toured all the other hotels on property at Universal Studios Resort and this weeks podcast will help you decide which Universal Studios hotel to book on your Florida vacation.

Why stay at a Universal Studios Orlando at an onsite hotel?  We really like to stay onsite at Universal Studios instead of just doing a day trip from Walt Disney World.  One main reason is that you get the Universal Express Pass when you stay at the Hard Rock Hotel, Portofino Bay Hotel, or the Royal Pacific Resort.  The Universal Studios Express Pass is like a Disney World FastPass and gets you a special access line for most of the key rides at Universal Studios.  This Express Pass is $90 a person.  So if you bought the Universal Studios Express Pass for four people for two days that’s a bunch of money.  By staying at one of these listed Universal Studios Orlando hotels for just one night, you get an Express Pass for your check in and check out days.  That’s worth the cost of the hotel.

Wizarding World Harry Potter Universal Studios

Universal Studios Park to Park ticket – If you want to experience all of the Harry Potter attractions Universal Studios Orlando has to offer, you have to get the Park to Park pass.  This allows you to  board the Hogwart Express from King’s Cross Station in London, located inside Universal Studios Florida theme park, and travel to Hogsmeade Station, located inside Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park.  You can ride the train in the other direction for a totally different experience also!

Universal Studios Florida is a nice park that is very easy to get around.  Unlike Walt Disney World, you can walk from park to park at Universal Studios which makes it more like Disneyland in CA.  This makes it easy to head out to City Walk for nightlife and back to your hotel room for a pool swim break or meal if you want.

Show correction and great news.  You CAN eat at City Walk with the Universal Studios meal plan.  There are two Universal Studios Dining Plans


Reserved for Guests Pre-Booking a Universal Studios Orlando Vacation Package

Exclusively available for pre-purchase with a Universal Orlando® vacation package or at the Universal Orlando®
Ticket Desk for our on-site resort guests.

This is the only Plan that includes:

Full Service Locations on the Universal Studios Dining Plan:

Antojito’s Authentic Mexican Food LD
Bob Marley – A Tribute to FreedomSM LD
Jimmy Buffet’s® Margaritaville® LD
Pat O’Briens® D
Red Oven Pizza BakerySM LD
Vivo Italian Kitchen LD
The Cowfish® (Coming Soon) LD


•One Full-Service Meal entrée, chef-selected Dining Plan dessert, & non-alcoholic beverage.
•One Quick Service Meal consisting of one of each:
entrée and non-alcoholic beverage.
•One Snack (such as popcorn, ice cream or a frozen beverage) from food carts or quick service locations.
•One Beverage (non-alcoholic) from food carts or quick service locations.

Quick Service Locations at City Walk on the Universal Studios Dining Plan:

Bread Box Handcrafted Sandwiches LD
Hot Dog Hall of Fame® LD


This is the quick service plan that anyone coming to Universal Studios can purchase.

Purchase this plan at the parks anytime during your visit. It can SAVE YOU UP TO 30% on select entrée, snack and beverage combinations.


•One Quick Service Meal consisting of one of each: entrée and non-alcoholic beverage.
•One Snack (such as popcorn, ice cream or a frozen beverage) from food carts or quick service locations.
•One Beverage (non-alcoholic) from food carts or quick service locations.

Upgrade your drink to a Coca-Cola freestyle® Souvenir Cup for unlimited^ FREE refills at participating Coca-Cola freestyle® locations in both parks.

There are restrictions and clarifications to these dining plans so please contact your travel agent for the full details on how each plan works so they can help you get the best plan for your vacation.

Listen to our full Mouse Chat show here for the Universal Studios Orlando Hotels and Park reviews.


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Author: Steve Griswold

Steve Griswold - You can follow Steve Griswold and "The Real Life Griswold Family" here on Mouse Chat - a Weekly Disney Podcast covering everything from Disney World, Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line. Also follow the Griswold Road Trips - Disney Edition show at: and on Twitter and Instagram @GriswoldVac Media Contact: Steve Griswold Phone: 678-815-1584 Email:

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  1. Universal sounds like a ton of fun and I really want to see The Wizarding World of HP but I am a huge Disney fan. I can’t see going all the way to Orlando and not doing WDW and I can’t see Universal being cost effective enough to do both.

    Alas, maybe someday but I just don’t foresee it.

    p.s. I agree – a giant donut really is just cake at that point.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Stephanie,

      Thanks for the comments. Yeah we love WDW too. Universal Studios we have found it just as amazing. I have to say the Harry Potter attractions are even better than what you see at Walt Disney World. It’s amazing what Universal has done with the themeing, food, and attractions around Harry Potter. So a day trip might be in order to give you a taste. We started with a day trip and now stay onsite for just a Universal Studios FL specific vacation.


      Post a Reply
  2. Loved this episode (and all of your other episodes)! It was great to learn more about what Universal has to offer and thanks for the great tip about staying in a Universal hotel to get the park pass! I will definitely take advantage of this when my kids are older since you mentioned Universal is better for kids that are a bit older. Although I love Disney I’m also interested in exploring other options in Orlando so thanks for doing this show!

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Laura,
      The Universal Studios hotels are amazing. We just stayed at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando and it’s a five star hotel in every way. We have stayed at all of the Universal onsite hotels except for Royal Pacific and we love them all. We actually have toured Royal Pacific several times and LOVE IT, we just never have time to go back and actually book that one ourselves. The Express Pass that comes with your Universal stay at the (Hard Rock Hotel, Royal Pacific, and Portofino Bay) is priceless.

      Please let us know about your Universal trip and we would love to see photos.

      Have a great time

      Post a Reply
  3. We are going to our first visit to WDW next spring and have decided to add a day at Universal. The podcast was very welcome and informative.
    I drive Semi truck and your podcast is one of my favorites to listen to, thanks for all the information and the many chuckles!!

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Laura,

      Thanks for listening to us on Mouse Chat. A day trip to Universal Studios Orlando is a great way to get your feet wet. It’s so easy to get around with all the parks and resorts in walking distance. Hopefully a day trip gets you a taste to come back and try one of the hotels and a longer stay on property.

      Have a great week

      Post a Reply
  4. BTW – We are happy to help plan your Universal Orlando Resort vacation. It’s free to work with us, and you are going to love it. We check all the current Universal Studios vacation packages to find the right fit for you and your family and you get our tips and expert advice. Just fill out the Universal Studios Orlando quick vacation quote form and we will help you every step of the way.


    Post a Reply

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