August 07, 2014

Yándary's Guide to Universal Studios (and how to get cheap tickets)

I got back earlier this week from a trip to LA for my friend Maricela's wedding. (Don't worry; I'll dedicate an entire post to that later!) I stayed with one of my mission friends (Garrett), y aproveche estar en Los Angeles to do a few other fun things. Like.... Go to Universal Studios! (On Harry Potter's birthday! Too bad HP World hasn't come to Hollywood yet... :-/)
  Universal Studios Hollywood

How to Get Cheap Tickets

It was my first time there, and I had a lot of fun! Especially because I was able to get a good price on tickets.

As you all know, I love a good bargain, and after some online research, this is the best deal I found. But first some background info. on normal prices:

  • a 1-day pass normally costs $92 ($87 if you buy online)
  • a 2-day pass is $109 (has to be used within a 30-day period)
  • Front of line pass (to bypass all the lines) costs $139
I paid $79 for a 3-day pass (don't need to be consecutive, good through July 31, 2015 with a few blackout dates). Here's how:
  1. Sign up for the Premium Outlets VIP Club. (h/t to for the tip) It's free. AND you get coupons and sale notices for your local outlets!
  2. When you "select your center," add the Carlsbad Premium Outlets.
  3. Once you've verified your account, go to your profile and click on the tab that says "VIP Club."
  4. Under Club Offers --> Deals Around Town, click on the promotions listed for the Carlsbad Outlets.
  5. Scroll down to Universal Studio Hollywood, and click.
  6. Follow the links, buy your tickets, and enjoy! (Sidenote: Make sure you have access to a printer OR a smartphone to show your tickets when you get to the theme park.)
And a heads up -- if you buy the 3-day pass (or any other pass that allows you to return to the park on multiple days, you have to get in line to activate your pass BEFORE you get in the line to the park. I waited in the theme park line and then had to be sent to the other line. Learn from my mistakes. Ask for the line to activate your pass first. (Trust me, you'll be standing in line plenty the rest of the day.)

Now that you know how to get a good deal on tickets, here are a few snapshots from my day at Universal -- with my best pieces of advice sprinkled throughout.

Tip #1
You're allowed to bring in water and fruit. So bring some! Food and bottled water at the park cost a million dollars, so having a little snack to tide you over and some water to keep you hydrated will save you $$ AND time waiting in crazy lines.

Shrek and Fiona
That way, you have more time to wait in line to meet Shrek & Fiona.
Universal Studios
But watch out for monsters!

Tip #2
If you get tired of waiting in line for rides (seriously, some rides had more than an hour of wait time...), take a break to meet some of your favorite characters! The back of the park map has info. on when and where you can find them. Make a list of your favorites, and go check 'em out! They take a "professional" photo, but you totally don't have to buy it. Taking pictures on your own camera or cell phone is free, and there are at least two employees per character line, meaning the one who is NOT taking the pro photo can take the one on our cell phone. :)

I Love Lucy
Scooby Dooby Doo
OK, after I got my normal photo with Scooby, I wanted a photo giving him a kiss. You can see that didn't work so well... I feel like this is probably a metaphor for so many other things in my life. Lol.

Tip #3
Go during an off-peak time. I went on a Thursday, and the lines were crazy. Imagine what it's like on a Saturday??

Universal Studios
Apparently, part of Universal Studios is in Britain!
Universal Studios Universal Studios

Tip #4
Ride the Minion Ride. The line is crazy long, but it's worth it. The ride is awesome! It's a virtual roller coaster, and it's incredible the way it works. I 100% FELT like I was on a real roller coaster, even down to the sinking feeling in my stomach when we went "down" a steep part, but then I would look off to the side, away from the screen and remember that oh, right. I was just strapped to a chair in a theater. I promise the wait is worth it. Ride the Minion ride, friends! Just do it.

Minions!! And, uhhh... They're taller than I am. :-/ 
Despicable Me Minions
When I saw them walk past me, I thought, "Awww, they're tiny! Did they find kids or little people to wear the costumes?"
And then I stood next to them. And yeahhhh.... They're taller...
Universal studios

Universal Studios
When the ride ends, you exit to a little carnival, modeled after the one in the movies.
Azucena y familia
I had an AMAZING experience at the end of the Minion ride. I ran into one of the families I taught on my mission! Oh, I loved this family so much. Azucena became such a dear friend, & I loved her babies so! It was incredible to see them again after five years! I can't believe how big the boys are! I hope to see them again soon when I *hopefully, fingers crossed* visit in the fall!

Tip #5
You'll find all sorts of apps, websites, etc. to tell you the wait times for each ride. But honestly, I found the best thing was to either look at the park's official wait time website (mobile-friendly) OR to look at the kiosks found around the park. However you look up wait times, use them to plan your best route around the park. If there are two rides you want to go on, and one has a significantly longer wait time, go on the shorter one. The wait times fluctuate throughout the day, so I'd recommend the strategy I took, which is to try to get the most bang for your buck. (OK, this is turning into a really long and jumbled tip.) But essentially, I made a list of my "must rides" and my "would be awesome to go on" rides and then used the wait times to plan the best way to ride as many as possible. I averaged about one ride per hour (with time in between to take photos with characters, etc.), and I felt pretty good about it!

Universal Studios
Another part of Universal Hollywood appears to be in France.

Tip #6
Universal Hollywood has two levels -- uppper and lower. Start your morning on the lower level, and then work your way up. Most people will do the upper level in the morning, so your wait times downstairs will be way shorter in the morning than in the afternoon. And the lower level has some good rides, the classics -- like Jurassic Park and Revenge of the Mummy. And Transformers. So you'll want to ride those. Oh, you will!

Universal Studios Jurassic Park ride
Jurassic Park was great! And wet! Plan accordingly.
Tip #7
If you're going to ride Jurassic Park (or go to Water World --  more on that in a minute), plan to get wet. Wear something you can get wet in (ie- no white tops), and plan to have your hair get messed up. Oh, and learn from my mistakes and keep in mind that black suede purses bleed when wet and will leave your skin and lighter-colored clothing nice and black.

Tip #8
Speaking of things you should wear... WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES! You're going to be standing a lot, so make sure you're comfortable. I saw women in platforms and heels, and I know those girls' feet were killing them by the end of the day. As for me, I wore my trusty Saltwater sandals, and I did just fine. (And got a KILLER Saltwater tanline. Holy moly,  you should have seen my feet...)

Water World Water World

Tip #9
The photos above? They're from a show called "Water World." GO SEE IT! It's incredible! You get to see LIVE stunts, pyrotechnics, and all sorts of action! I honestly couldn't believe what I was seeing was LIVE. And plan to get wet. No, not just wet. SOAKED. Plan to get soaked! (And uhhhh, I just YouTubed "Water World Universal Hollywood" and found a video of the full show... But seriously, even if you watch the YouTube video, this is SO worth seeing live!)

Tip #10
The park map tells you to see Water World in the morning. Don't do it. Plan to see Water World mid-day, when the sun is blazing, you're super hot, you're starting to feel tired, and you need to just sit and cool off. You get to watch an amazing show for 20 minutes, AND you're going to get wet (ie- you will cool off).

Universal Studios
There's a Simpsons ride, but I didn't go on it.
Tip #11
Don't waste time sitting down to eat. Eat while you're standing in line for your next ride. Trust me, you'll be there for a while. You may as well be doing something productive.

Tip #13
This one is possibly kind of lame, but if you're like me and you use your phone as your only camera, bring your phone charger with you. Find a gift shop, look for an outlet, and plug in as needed! Feel not guilty about Instagramming, bc you know you just charged your phone, and it's now at full battery life. And remember to be discreet.

Tip #14
If you're by yourself or with a larger group of friends, ride the single rider line. I can see if you're going with family or little kids, or even on a hot date ;) this option might not be for you. But if you can swing it, you'll get through rides MUCH, much faster as a single rider. And if your whole group breaks up and goes through that way, it's not so bad, right? :)

Tip #15
OK, last one. Bring a zip loc bag. You're gonna want to put your cell phone/camera/phone charger in it when you're at Water World or riding Jurassic Park!

And there you have it. My top tips for making the most of your day at Universal Studios Hollywood!

P.S. I get a lot of compliments on this necklace. I snatched it up the second I realized it's made without metal (since I'm allergic to any metal that isn't gold or sterling silver.) The brand is Panacea and I got it at Nordstrom. I love it!


  1. And you are RAD! Thanks for all the help...taking two 11 year olds tomorrow...wish me luck! ;-)

  2. Thanks girl that help a lot. Going for a week on Sunday.

  3. Very energetic post, I enjoyed that a lot. Will there be a
    part 2?


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