6 reasons to splurge for an onsite resort at Universal Studios Florida

Royal Pacific ResortDuring her first visit to Universal Studios Florida, my daughter was just a wee bit too short to ride the newly opened Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I promised her that one day I’d take her back.

I planned to fulfill that promise this summer since I had some available time.  However, I didn’t realize that this visit would fall three weeks after the opening of the second Harry Potter theme land, Diagon Alley.

While you may think I’d be thrilled at this timing, I also didn’t realize that the average wait time for the new ride would be three (or more hours) long!

Since there was absolutely no way I was insane (or young) enough to stand in line for three hours, I began to think that perhaps we should reschedule.  But after some in depth research from the awesome folks at The Orlando Informer, I learned it would be manageable if – and only if – we stayed on site at one of Universal’s resorts.

Why? Universal resort guests are granted one precious hour of “Early Park Admission” before anyone else can enter.

But it was going to cost me.

There are a ton of great hotels for under $150 per night in Orlando.  On site resorts at the parks aren’t that affordable.

Turns out, the premium we paid to stay onsite at the Royal Pacific Resort was worth every penny.  Here’s why:

Early Park Admission

Taking advantage of our early park access, we rolled out of  bed at 5:15 to get to the park for 7am entry time.

Word of warning:  Get up early.

As early risers, we were one of the first groups at the turnstiles. But behind us was a LONG line of other early admission hopefuls.

We successfully made it into Diagon Alley and the dreaded line for Escape to Gringotts.  But due to our speed-walking talents, and unlike the majority of visitors to Diagon Alley, we had no wait at all for the brand new, highly anticipated ride.   Then, because everyone else was in line at Gringotts, we basically had most of Diagon Alley after we got off the (awesome!) ride all to ourselves during Early Park Admission.  This meant no lines for the other attractions, no crowds in any of the totally fun shops, access to park staff who guided us to some of the secret spots in the new park. It was truly an awesome experience, which we especially appreciated when we witnessed the crowds later that afternoon.

Express Passes

Througout the rest of our visit, the lines were crazy long at many of the top rides.  But no matter.

As guests of the Royal Pacific we had express passes for all attractions other than the three major Harry Potter rides. 90 minute wait at Despiciable Me?  Not us!  We were in in 5 minutes.

Only guests of the Royal Pacific, Hard Rock, and Portofino Bay Resorts (not the budget Cabana Bay Resort) get express passes included with their stay.  But you can purchase an upgraded park ticket which gives you the same benefit.  It is worth it.

Park Transportation

One important ingredient for an enjoyable vacation, at least for my family, is not having to drive ourselves around.  Because our focus this trip was Universal only, staying on resort property allowed us to get around without a car.

The park provides a pleasantly landscaped, 10-minute walking path from Royal Pacific to their City Walk entertainment area (and then to either of the two parks). Or you can take a water taxi to City Walk for access to both parks or hop on another boat to the other resorts. Only once did we have any wait at all for a water taxi. We found this to be a low-stress, relaxing way to get back to your hotel after a long day at the park or to dinner at City Walk. There are also pedicabs waiting to haul you down the walking paths for whatever you choose to pay.

Pool Hopping

Guests at any of the universal resorts have access to and room charging privileges at any of the other resort properties.  We took advantage on our first day and checked out the Hard Rock Hotel Pool, where we enjoyed the poolside live music, a great waterslide and dinner at the poolside beach club.

Rainstorms & Water Rides

One of my favorite benefits of staying onsite is that when the inevitable Florida thundershowers hit, you can just duck into your room for a break (and a change of clothes if you didn’t quite make it) then head back out when the sun comes out and after the crowds have dissipated a bit.

The ability to change clothes also made it reasonable to ride the water rides we’ve always wanted to ride, but previously avoided (ever since I was forced to spend $40 on a new outfit once after getting drenched at Sea World). We hit those rides just before we were ready to head back to the room for a break. Sure enough, we got soaked.  But we simply changed at our hotel and headed back for more dry rides a bit later.

Late Night Visits

If we hadn’t stayed on site, we would have missed easily heading back to the park after-dark when the crowds have thinned and the park is all lit-up and lovely.  Usually by that time we’re in for the night, so it was an exciting treat for my daughter to head out at 9pm and walk right into Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey with no wait.


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