Heading down to Orlando for a vacation almost always includes a little time at a theme park or two. Universal Studios Orlando is one of my favorite theme parks. Especially for my two autistic boys. I have found that Universal Studios makes it easy to have fun on the rides and watch the shows without getting my boys overstimulated. And if they do, I have options for getting everyone relaxed and ready to continue on with our day. Today, I want to share with you how autism friendly Universal Studios is and how it is the perfect option for your next autistic family vacation.
Autism Friendly Universal Studios
The Two Theme Parks
Universal Studios Orlando has two theme parks. These two parks are connected out front via CityWalk. Each park is unique in its own way, which makes it necessary to visit both during your Universal Studios vacation.
Over at the original theme park, Universal Studios Florida, you will find rides that include ET, Men in Black Alien Attack, and the Simpsons. They also added some Harry Potter magic to this side of Universal. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is quite the experience.
Islands of Adventure offers even more family fun with Seuss Landing, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and Jurassic Park River Adventure. There is an even bigger Harry Potter area at this Universal theme park. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the most popular of all the rides. However, don’t skip out on the Flight of the Hippogriff.
Hogwarts Express is a train that goes in between both of these Universal Studios parks. You must have a park hopper pass in order to ride the train from one park to the other. I do recommend riding the train each way, because the experience is completely different in each direction.
You can’t visit sunny Florida and not take the time to visit a waterpark! Volcano Bay is Universal’s waterpark. As long as your autistic child loves the water, your whole family will love spending an entire day here.
There are plenty of waterslides and raft rides to choose from at Volcano Bay. If your autistic child isn’t that daring, they can always splash around at The Reef, Puka Uli Lagoon, or on Waturi Beach. Another excellent option is relaxing on a tube on the Kopiko Wai Winding River.
One of my favorite things about visiting Volcano Bay is that there isn’t a lot of waiting in line. You don’t need to carry inner tubes around with you either. I love renting a cabana, so we have a place to relax and enjoy a little downtime in between all the fun.
Universal Studios Attraction Assistance Pass
The Universal Studios Attraction Assistance Pass is an excellent way to avoid the really long lines at these theme parks. It is important to note that this pass won’t give you instant access to all the rides. The pass is simply designed to make your wait times much shorter.
To obtain your Attractions Assistance Pass, you must visit Guest Relations when you arrive at the park. Simply tell the team member why your autistic child has difficulty standing in long lines. You will be given a paper pass that will need to be shown at each ride at Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure.
Show your pass to the team member at the entrance to a ride. They will then direct you on what you need to do. Basically, if the wait time is less than thirty minutes, the team member will have you go to the Express Pass line or the alternative entrance.
If a ride has a wait time that is more than thirty minutes, the team member will write down a return time for you on the pass. Your family can then go do something else until it is time to return. When it is your time, simply return to the ride, show the team member the pass, and be directed to the Express Pass line.
You can only have one active return time at once. Keep that in mind as you are planning your day and what rides you want to do.
Depending on how busy it is at the Universal Studios parks when you visit, it may be more beneficial to purchase the Universal Express Pass or the VIP package. Those two options will allow you to skip past the lines at almost every ride.
Universal Studios Quiet Room
Approximately one year ago, Universal Studios Orlando opened a quiet room for guests with autism. You will find this quiet room near the Studio Audience Center. Inside, there are two hiding tunnels, rubber floor tiles, and an activity wall panel.
Only one family can use this room at a time. While there isn’t a true time limit, autistic families are encouraged to stick with a thirty minute time frame.
If your autistic child really needs a break and the quiet room is occupied, you have other options. There are multiple quiet areas scattered throughout the parks.
At Universal Studios Orlando, head over to:
The Front of the Park - Family Health Services
New York Public Library
Health Services - Located Between Louie’s Italian Restaurant and Fast & Furious
Central Park by the Park Lagoon
At Islands of Adventure:
Front of the Park - Family Health Services
Health Services - Located in The Lost Continent
Port of Entry Plaza - The Lower Landing
Toon Lagoon - Near Me Ship, The Olive
At Volcano Bay:
Volcano Cavern Pathway
Staying on Property
One of the best ways to get the most out of your autism friendly Universal Studios vacation is to stay at a Universal property. There are quite a few places to choose from and the benefits you get from staying at them are wonderful.
Let’s begin with the benefit of free and easy transportation to the parks. While you can walk to any of the theme parks from your room, there are shuttles and water taxis you can take for free too. These are excellent options at the end of the day when the kids are tired of walking.
You might even want to take advantage of that free transportation when you head into the theme parks early each morning. Hotel guests receive early access to the parks. It is important to note that not all rides will be open early. However, it is still a great way to check a few rides off your list before the park gets too crowded.
If you stay at one of the Premier Universal hotels, you get Universal’s Express Pass for free! This is a wonderful perk that will work well with your Assistance Attraction Pass. Definitely, a bonus to keep your day moving along!
Dining at Universal Studios Orlando
Universal Studios can accommodate most dietary needs, including food allergies and intolerances. If I am planning your Universal Studios vacation, I can take care of all this in advance.
The good news is that if you have a picky eater, most of the food at Universal Studios is child-friendly. So, there should be something your autistic child will eat during your visit. You can easily check online to see what each restaurant serves. This will allow you to plan your meal times accordingly.
What to Pack for a Day at Universal Studios Orlando
There are a couple of items that every autistic child will find helpful when they spend a day or more at Universal Studios. I highly recommend bringing noise-canceling headphones. These headphones can be helpful in louder areas of the park, including when the fireworks are being set off.
You may find that a sensory item or two can help your autistic child calm down when they start to feel overstimulated. Squishy balls and stress balls work for some kids. It is important to find a sensory item that will work well for your child and then pack that in your bag to take to the park.
As you can see, it is completely possible to have an autism-friendly experience at Universal Studios. Simply follow the tips I shared above and you will know what to expect throughout your visit. I would love to chat with you and help plan your autism-friendly Universal Studios vacation. During the planning stages, I can make sure you have all the resources your autistic family needs to enjoy all three areas of Universal Studios, as well as the rest of your vacation in Orlando.