So, you’re going to Universal Studios for an awesome vacation! Whether you’re going to be in California or Florida, these are the top 5 apps that you will find super useful for your trip. While I’ll talk specifically about being in Orlando since that is our experience, these apps will work for either location.
5 Must-Have, Free Phone Apps for Your Universal Studios Vacation
Universal Orlando Resort App
To know everything there is about Universal takes some study and some experience. But Universal has made it easy for you with their app that gives you wait times, start times for shows and attractions (which is great because we missed the Harry Potter shows almost the whole time we were there because we didn’t take advantage of the app the first visit. This time…we’ll hit every show we want to see!).
• Parking Reminder
While we stay on site and don’t have to park (but have a great suggestion for you that applies to garage parking as well as airport parking), there is a parking reminder section where you can input the information of where you parked to help you remember at the end of your very long day.
• Rides and Attractions
There is information on ride restrictions (height, accommodation), locker locations, Express Pass or Child friendly, information on Child Swap, location map, wait times, and more. The only thing that the app really doesn’t address is the Ride Warnings for things like motion sensitivity, etc., but does list if it is a thrill ride or if it is child friendly.
• Shows and Events
I’ll share a story: the last time we traveled to Universal, we missed almost every single Harry Potter show during our visit. I didn’t take full advantage of the app that shows you show times and locations. You can bet we’re going this time! Along with show times are Parade start times and routes, character appearances, etc. There is also a handy reminder feature that can let you know when it’s time to head over.
• Dining Options
With a full listing of all available dining options, restaurant times, and whether the Universal Dining Plan is available, they also give phone numbers of each of the restaurants and suggestions on whether reservations are suggested.
You can purchase your park and Express Pass tickets right over the app instead of waiting through the long lines at the gates.
• Reminders and Favorites
The app allows you to set reminders for show times and favorite particular rides, set wait time alerts
• Guest Amenities
Restroom locations, locker locations, available rentals, general information and Guest Services info (first aid, lost and found, etc) is handy information. Nothing worse than needing to make a bathroom stop and having no idea where the nearest one is located. There is a direct contact line for getting to Guest Services if needed (including their Twitter page for #AskUniversal).
BONUS: As of this writing, there is an awesome new feature! With the Jimmy Fallon ride opening in just a few short weeks in Orlando, they’ve been testing virtual return tickets for Minions. If available (they usually stop the feature by 5:00pm each day), you can choose to get Virtual Return Tickets for the ride for however many people are in your party at a time that is convenient for you. Minions is generally one of the longest lines in the park since it is right at the front gate and fun for the littles, so the virtual passes are a huge deal. Kiosks are available at the ride as well in order to get the virtual
• Additional reading : Our Trip to Universal Studios / Wizarding World of Harry Potter
While having the Weather Underground or Accuweather apps is a great idea, having a local area weather app for your travels is an even better idea. Orlando is infamous for having quick severe weather in the form of thunderstorms that you want to be prepared for. A local radar service will be better for pinpointing time when a storm will hit. There are a few options from all of the local weather stations in Orlando that cover central Florida, but I do recommend one that is weather specific.
While public transportation is available to get around Orlando, for someone not familiar with the landscape or riding buses may have a hard time navigating the schedules and knowing how easy it can be to get to other locations for fun. Uber is an inexpensive and quick way to schedule a ride, without the hassle of a typical taxi service. You can use the app to plan a trip and estimate what your fair is, pay for it on the app, and be on your way as soon as your car arrives to take you. Don’t let staying on park property without a rental keep you from exploring outside the park gates! There’s a big touristy world out there!
Do you want to get an Uber from your hotel and go eat some place special in Orlando, away from the parks? I can highly recommend Cafe’ Tutu Tango, but why take my word for it? Yelp! gives you the run down of nearly every eatery in the area (including those in City Walk), so that you can get an idea of prices, service, quality, etc. And can I recommend…don’t eat at a chain – experience local favorites to experience what Orlando has to offer!
Hopefully, with using the Universal Orlando app to determine wait times, having fast passes for important rides, and taking advantage of early admission if you can get it, you won’t have to wait in too many long lines. But if you do, this is a fun game to play with your family while standing in line that will probably get you participants from the line around you! We’ve played this on the city train with complete strangers and had a great time. It’s Charades on steroids from the Ellen Show.
Your Airline App
This isn’t a specific app, but the app for the airlines you are using to fly home on. You’ll want to be able to keep in touch to check for gate changes, delays and information for your trip home …. sadly.
Additional Apps You May Want to Use
Universal Orlando Lines
This is a third party Universal app that gives you great real-time line waits posted by people actually in the line at the moment. It also is a great planning site on preparing for your Universal Vacation. This does have a paid upgrade for a one year subscription of $6.99 to get access to all the features of the app, but it does do a posted wait time (the sign you see in front of the rides) and actual wait times reported by park goers as there is sometimes a discrepancy.
While Dropbox may not be the storage sharing choice for you, having a backup plan to save your photos and videos is a great idea. There are many options out there, but Dropbox can be your easy and quick go to. We don’t back up every photo we take, but the most precious ones. We keep a hard drive option in our hotel room to upload to every day, plus upload our best photos and videos to Dropbox to save them.
Share those great photos that you’re taking of your holiday with friends and family around the country! Instagram is a great, easy to use, social photo sharing site that you can set up to also share directly to your Facebook page if you’d like. One stop to pop on a quick photo or video of your wonderful experience, and it can rebroadcast to Facebook and Twitter for you. Just be careful about the info you share…. be smart about letting the whole world know that you’re not at home right now! You can follow me there as ThatGeekishFamily or my Funko Pop, Harry Potter inspired WanderingSnape.
Map My Walk
If you’re working on tracking your exercise, Map My Walk is a good app that can track your miles (and miles) of walking and calories burned at Universal. This is particularly good for those who don’t use a Fitbit or might not want to wear those while at Universal. This does track your position via GPS all day, and it is one more thing running all day that can drain your power, so you might want to use it selectively – such as when you walk into the park first, when you’re making major treks to your next location, or leaving at the end of your day. You know you’ve walked more than that, but those line steps don’t count as much!
For my Pokemon Go fanatics, Universal is going to be a treasure trove of fun since it’s not a space we’re in generally. They’re hoping for new creatures, lots of Pokestops and gyms to play in. It’s a fun way to keep young ones entertained during long walks and waits, too. Just please be careful about walking and being involved in the game at the same time. Not only can it be dangerous for you to not pay attention, it’s really annoying to those around you, too.
Amazing Pictures Mobile
If you are purchasing the photo package from Universal, this app allows you to see your photos as soon as they are put into the system, where you can then download them to your phone. Because we don’t purchase the photo package, we’ve never used the app, and can only suggest that you read the reviews and the information here at Orlando Informer.
A word about apps…
One last thing … remember, before you load your phone down with apps, remember that the more apps you run, the slower your phone can be, and the quicker your batter power may go. Be sure to turn apps off when you don’t need them, and have a backup power supply to charge your phone! You don’t want to wait until you can find a place to sit and charge, wasting valuable time experiencing.
Your thoughts? Do you have other apps that you love using while you’re on vacation?