If you are considering a trip to Universal Orlando, you may be wondering what it’s like to visit during COVID. Recently, my family was able to visit Universal to celebrate my daughter’s graduation and I want to share with you my firsthand experience of what it’s like with the new changes.
Where to Stay
Staying onsite is even more important now than it has been in the past. Universal is limiting capacities in the parks. When calculating the number of guests they will allow in the parks each day, they include all guests staying onsite. To ensure you have access to enter the parks with your admission, staying onsite will guarantee it. Also, park reservations are not required for entry like they are at Walt Disney World. Staying onsite will also give you the perk of early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Volcano Bay. While we were there, Universal Studios was open at 8 am with the general public having access to the parks at 9 am. We were able to enjoy Diagon Alley with hardly any other people around, take photos of a nearly empty park, enjoy breakfast and ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts before the general public entered. It was amazing!
Temperature checks are required each day. Once you have been temp checked you will receive a wristband in the color for that day and will not need to be checked again until the following day. They will check for your wristband when entering your resort, CityWalk, the parks and when taking Universal transportation. When staying onsite, you will be temperature checked when leaving your resort to head out for the day. If you are coming from offsite, you will receive a temperature check before entering CityWalk.
Face coverings are required at all times for guests ages 2 years and older with the exception of when you are actively eating or riding a water ride. Currently, you are allowed to take them down briefly for a photo, but must replace them immediately following. Universal themed face coverings are sold at the shops for $6 each or 4 for $20. If you are looking for the very popular black and neon Universal Studios face covering, those are only found at Universal Studios and sell out fast. Universal face coverings are available in adult medium or large. The face covering size is the same, the ear loop size is what varies in size. I highly recommend bringing multiple masks for sanitary purposes or in case they get damp from humidity or the daily pop up showers Florida is known for.
Pro Tip: Bring a Ziploc baggie for each person to put their face covering in while you dine. This will keep it clean and prevent the spread of germs.
An appropriate face covering for a visit to Universal Orlando must fit the following criteria:
- Must cover your nose and mouth and be secured under your chin
- Must fit snugly against the sides of your face and be secured with ear loops or secured around your head
We recommend that face coverings be at least two-ply (consist of at least two layers). Also, a gaiter is considered an appropriate face covering as long as it covers your nose and mouth.
The following are NOT permitted at Universal Orlando:
- Face coverings with exhalation valves
- Face coverings that are not secured with ear loops or secured around your head
- Face coverings that include mesh material or holes of any kind
- Face coverings that are unable to be secured under your chin, such as bandannas
- Costume masks or veils, per our costume guidelines
Universal has set up U-Rest Areas throughout the parks for guests to safely remove their face coverings. They are very spacious and have seating spread out to social distance while taking a break.
Universal has made social distancing a top priority. They have markers in ride queues every 6 feet, outside shops for waiting in line, inside when checking out and a marker to let you know where to stand to distance from the cashier during your purchase. The majority of the shops have designated entrance and exit doors.
Most quick-service restaurants are encouraging mobile ordering. Arrive at the restaurant, be seated by the host and you will receive instructions on how to order through the Universal Orlando app. It’s really easy! If you are having any difficulties, they will allow you to order in the line, but will only allow one guest per group to stand in line. Whether you are dining at a quick-service or full-service restaurant, you are seated every other table or the tables are spaced apart within the appropriate distance. Hand sanitizer is given before you are seated.
While waiting to get into an indoor show, the queues are marked off, so you know where to stand to wait. Seating is spaced apart with several seats in between you and other groups and no one is directly in front of or behind you. Many times they will seat you every other row. Audience capacities are limited as well. For outdoor shows, socially distanced markers are placed in the viewing area so guests will know where they should stand.
Universal has done an amazing job of making sure you can still get photos with the characters. We saw so many characters out during our trip and it was super easy to get photos with them. Each character location is marked off to keep a safe distance while you grab a selfie or have a friend or family member take your photo. Also, there are character floats that come out, so you can take a socially distanced photo with a few characters at one time.
Ride queues are marked from the beginning of the entrance until you reach the ride. Each group has its own car or if the ride holds a larger group, you will be seated in every other row. When riding the Hogwarts Express, each group will have their own train car. If you need to store personal items in a locker while you ride, one guest per group is allowed in the locker area. Each guest will receive a squirt of hand sanitizer before getting on the ride and self-serve sanitizer is located when you exit. Face coverings are required while riding except when the ride includes water. Crowds were fairly low while we were there. We had Express Passes and were pretty much able to walk on most rides which I loved! When crowds are higher and ride wait times increase, some of the more popular rides will offer a virtual line option through the app. You can have one virtual line reserved at a time in addition to Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure which only offers a virtual line option. If you would like to ride Hagrid’s, you must get a virtual line time. Be sure to download the Official Universal Orlando Resort App. You will use the app to join the virtual line. The times are released about 15-20 minutes before the ride opens. Be ready to reserve right when they are released as they can go quickly. If there are not any times left, keep checking. Some may open up during the day.
Pro Tip: Have each person in your group download the app and check for a time, it increases your odds. You could get more than one return time. I recommend selecting an earlier time in the day. The ride will shut down if rain or lightning is in the area and it may not open again if the weather is not favorable.
It may look a little different to visit the parks right now, but we had an amazing experience! I was worried about having to wear a face covering all day in the Florida heat, but I was surprised that it wasn’t bad at all and you adjust quite quickly to wearing it. Also, with the U-Rest areas, it makes it very easy to take a break from wearing them when you need it.
When deciding if now is the right time for you to make travel plans, I always recommend that you consult your doctor first and refer to the current CDC guidelines. Visitors from out of state should be aware of and comply with government guidelines regarding travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines before visiting the Universal Orlando Resort. When you’re ready to travel, I’m ready and I can’t wait to help you plan an amazing vacation to the Universal Orlando Resort!
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