Universal's Islands of Adventure will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2019. In those twenty years, it's certainly expanded, but many things about the park remain, and the tips and tricks to get the most out of your visit have both remained the same and evolved with the growth of this family fun locale. Minus the studios that its sister park has that include actual studios in Hollywood, there are many similarities between the two locations, and it's essential that you optimize your time on a vacation that doesn't come in cheap on either coast.
Islands of Adventure gets packed year-round given Florida's climate, and it's better to regret things that you've done rather than things you've failed to do in life. An early arrival will virtually guarantee that you get the most for the day you've chosen to have, you simply started earlier than you might like to optimize the visit. You can sleep at home.
Seven specific islands comprise Islands of Adventure, familiarize yourself with each by downloading maps and do some planning with your family, which is quite fun and builds anticipation. Work out who is going to go with whom when and when and where you will meet up during the day.
Just like it's California-based location, to get the most of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter requires a near sprint from the entrance to this part of the park. It remains the biggest draw, and if your stamina holds out after a day of walking in the sun, you'll be best served getting there early and staying late. Families frequent this park, and thankfully, one kid losing it means the whole family leaves early and the lines are greatly reduced.
Pack some snacks, bring some water and plan to not even begin to think about lunch until at least 2 PM. A meal at this time will give you the energy to make it to close and the shorter lines that await you which close the park. These shorter lines will challenge you to see what you missed during the day or afford you the time to re-ride your new favorites.
A day in the sun will dictate that you keep yourself hydrated. Refills are considerably cheaper than buying a new drink each time. You're essentially paying for a souvenir and charged that price. If you have a cup purchased in the park, you'll save a fortune with affordable refills throughout the park. While most refill their Butter Beer cups, there are larger cups on offer, get one and fill it for the same price.
Bring don't buy, you'll see plenty of people sporting this intelligent attire around the park when they discovered just how wet they were getting on some of these rides. You likely own some rain gear so save yourself some money and bring your own. Popeye’s Bilge Barges, the Jurassic Park River Adventure and Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls will get you wet, and there are some seats on each that will leave you soaked and miserable.
If you stay at the Universal Orlando Resort hotels including Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, and Loews Royal Pacific Resort every member of your family will receive a free or seriously discounted Express Pass. Talk to the hotel ahead of your arrival to get this squared away in advance. You won't regret the decision. A 15-minute wait compared to nearly two hours is the difference between family fun and a day from hell.
Universal Rider Switch is available at all rides that have a height restriction. It allows one adult to stay with a small child or children, usually indoors with air conditioning, while the rest of the family rides. Then adults switch position and avoid the line and enjoy the attraction themselves. This works for two people, so if mom hangs back with the youngest another can wait with her, and they can then both enjoy together when the party swaps spots.
You'll have plenty of time at lunch, dinner or the drive back to Ohio to get closer to your friends and family. Take advantage of the Single Rider Lines. This is especially when larger lines loom ahead of you. Split up, save the wait, and talk about your individual experiences as you walk to the next line together. No, you won't enjoy the ride together, but you'll cut a lot of time off each ride's wait time. It's really easy to get tired of someone quick when waiting two hours in the sun with them.
Universal came up with this brilliant idea about ten years ago, and you should take advantage of it. Anything you purchase throughout the day at the park can be picked up as you leave as long as you give them about two hours. Your Elder Wand is useless against the water of the Jurassic Park River Adventure Ride which will find you. Why lug a new purchase around all day if you can grab it on the way out the door from your day of fun?