As a Universal Orlando Annual Passholder (UOAP), we were one of the first invited back to ‘preview’ how Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando would handle safety, post COVID-19, while still offering guests a way to have a memorable time.

We admit that we were impressed with how well Universal Studios handled social distancing, hand-washing / hygiene, ride safety, character interactions, and dining, all while following strict CDC-Guidelines for social distancing, mask and health safety!

I should warn you that this post is extensive and fairly long. I may break it into smaller posts eventually, but, all the information is pertinent to those wishing to visit Universal in Orlando anytime soon.

Rules to be followed and agreed to upon being granted access to the Universal Orlando Parks

June 3, 2020, Universal Studios – Orlando, opened for a pass holder preview. Call us the guinea pigs for the COVID-19 ‘new normal’ way of accessing family entertainment for the foreseeable future, but, we were in and ready to go!

Example of what the no-touch confirmation for admittance to the Pass Holder Preview

Prior to being able to access the Universal Theme Parks in Orlando, pass holders were sent an email invite and had to select a date and time for each guest (using our ticketed barcode on our passes). The Universal system crashed immediately upon website opening, so we kept trying. It ended up taking us almost 6 hours of trying to access the Universal ticketing website to obtain our special ticket for our desired day, but, we were able to select the date and time we wanted with no problem.

According to a Universal source inside the park, once the initial previews were complete and they opened to the General Public, that obtaining a time and date for tickets would not be needed and anyone could just ‘go to the park’. I have not been back yet to verify that, but, will once I have verified that is ‘true’.

Once we parked, we were treated to VERY long lines. We weren’t sure what the line was for, but, like good little pass holders, we got in the back of the line. The first lines were eventually managed by Universal Team Members directing us all to follow the correct line queues. Other than the few confused line-cutters, this was a fairly smooth process.

FINALLY, we got to a point in the line that we knew WHY we were in the line. This was for our temperature check. All I can say is thank goodness for this line being ‘in the parking garage and in the shade’. I feel like all of us would have failed the temperature requirement of LESS than 100.4 if we had been standing in the sun.

For those that have been to Universal Orlando before, you know that once you leave the parking garage area, that you head towards the security screening. Nothing about this process was any different, except that we did this with face masks on.

After we left security, we headed into the City Walk area. For our pass holder preview tickets, we chose Universal Studios as our first park entry point, so we headed toward the Studios portion of City Walk. There were a lot of people, but, nowhere near what you would expect on a normal theme park day in Central Florida. Next up, Universal Studios ticket admittance area, until, screech…

Yep, you guessed it… ANOTHER LONG LINE! This one was pretty long and was at least a couple of hundred feet.

As you can see from the pictures, the line was long and there were '2' checkpoints.  I am sure that general admission (non UOAP) will not have the 2nd admission checkpoint verify pass holder preview ticket confirmation.

Make sure to notice above, the plexiglass dividers between the guest services help windows.

First stop after all those long lines was the bathroom!!! It took us approximately 35 minutes from vehicle parking to gain admission into Universal Studios theme park. The soap dispensers were empty at the sinks WITHOUT the blue sign!!

The first stop was Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit! This one doesn’t usually have really long waits anyway (at least not when we go), so we were able to walk right now this ride. Because you can not have a cell phone or anything on you (except your facemask, I have no pictures of the actual ride queue (or ride) process. However, I can tell you that the safety procedures are the same throughout all the rides at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and are outlined below.

You MUST wear your facemask on the rides. If you do not, the entire ride vehicle has to be sanitized.

My best advice to you on the rides that are coasters is to bite down on your mask (if it’s a favorite cloth mask) or hold your ears so it will not fly off. This is harder on some rides than others, but, you do NOT want to be the one that causes holdups on the rides because of the required sanitization process if your mask is not on when you return from the ride.

REMEMBER that there are cameras ALL through the rides, so you can’t just take it off after the ride starts. The team members watching will know you took off your mask.

The next ride was The Mummy! This is always one of my favorites, but, because I usually have my special needs son in his wheelchair, we do not ever get to go through the full ride-queue!

Locker procedure was the same as all other rides we experienced this day. One way in for locker rental and separate one way in for re-accessing locker after the ride.

One of my favorite side-effects of post-COVID-19 at theme parks is social distancing! I LOVE social distancing and I hope it NEVER leaves!!! If you have been to any of the Orlando theme parks in recent years, then invariably, you have probably been subjected to people breathing down your backside and running into you at just about every step of the line queues. Well, thanks to post-COVID safety measures, “social distancing” is my favorite way to bring back “personal space”! If you look in the pictures, you will notice blue line marking on the ground that states “PLEASE STAND HERE / STAY HEALTHY / KEEP 6 FEET DISTANCE”! It did amaze me how long it took people to understand the lines and what they meant and we still had people run into us (on occasion). I’m sure now though, with more education of the public, that this will become something that is easier for family groups to understand.

Another thing you will encounter, before you board ALL rides, will be a squirt of hand sanitizer to ‘wash your hands‘ before boarding.

Diagon Alley was interesting when it came to social distancing. You can see in the pictures above that ‘groups’ and non-social distancing came in spurts. It could have been larger family/friend groups, or perhaps, the larger groups coincided with The Escape from Gringott’s Ride exits? Either way, you can see that for the most part, reduced theme park access STILL brings a much more pleasant way to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Diagon Alley!

As you can see from above pictures, Universal Studios has most definitely reduced crowds, even if the images I took on UOAP preview day looked crowded, they most definitely were NOT crowded by February 2020 standards.

This one actually got me. I’m usually on top of things when it comes to theme parks, and somehow, I missed this, so I want to make sure that you DO NOT miss this!! For me, on this day, we were able to work around it and still be able to access the Virtual Line Queue rides, but, I am betting general admission is increased more than UOAP passholder preview day was and you may not be so lucky.

So, what is Virtual Line Queue? Virtual Line Queue is a technology used by Universal (and other theme parks like Disney) to help control the line queue for some of their most popular rides. In my video below ou will see that I am no longer in the park, and therefore unable to complete the Virtual Line request. However, in my images above about the Virtual Line you will see the final process for selecting ride time and guest total.

It should be noted, at Universal Studios in Orlando, that there are NO STANDBY lines at these rides. I am also unsure of how these virtual lines work with a disability pass and will test these when I bring my son with autism in the near future.

A few important items to note are:

  • You need to have the Universal Orlando app downloaded to your smart device.
  • The theme parks using geotagging, so you MUST be inside City Walk / Theme Parks to begin to access Virtual Line Queues. *I have heard that you can access the Virtual Line Queue feature as long as you are on Universal Orlando property. I can not confirm this, but, will update the next time I visit the park. If someone knows this to be true or 100% false, please drop a line in the comments to let me know.
  • Each guest can reserve 2-rides at a time for up to 8 guests at a time. *Again, I have not tested this feature, but, in theory, if you have a party of 3, you could reserve 6 different rides. If this is true, please drop a line in the comments and let me know so I can update accurately.
  • You can also modify your reservation through the Virtual Line are of the app.
  • If you get an error, keep trying to obtain a time. I kept trying every few minutes and was rewarded eventually. Patience is key!
  • Mouse-Tip; Once you access the parks, immediately open the Universal Orlando mobile app and request a virtual line queue.
  • Mouse-Tip: If at first you do not succeed, try, try again. We were able to score popular rides, such a Hagrids and Gringotts throughout the day. Universal Guest Services informed us that new line slots would possibly drop based on guest capacity at that time.

Finally, we were able to make it into Gringott’s. From the pics, you can see how ‘socially-distanced’ we all were in the line queues AND on the actual ride itself. My daughter and I were the only other people (except the one you see in the pictures) on this particular car.

If you are a fan of the Coke FreeStyle(c) machines like we are, you are in luck! You still have access to your beloved refills as often as you like (within the required time limit waits)! Just know that a line may develop as after EACH person uses the machine (even among the same family groups), the machines are THOROUGHLY WIPED DOWN EACH AND EVERY TIME! Thank you #UniversalStudios for taking our safety seriously!!!

You know what was REALLY nice???? We got to take advantage of numerous chances for photo opps (without other people photo-bombing our shots)!!! Kings Cross Station was set up with social distancing in mind as well. Some people didn’t understand that the rows were staggered to keep the 6 feet spacing in-tact on all 4 sides of you. I think in time, this will get easier for people!

We also did NOT have to share a train car with another family. I love love love love love not sharing my families train car ride with strangers anymore (well, at least post-covid immediate future). You also must still wear your mask the entire train ride, but, I am pretty sure this is an honor system. Regardless, be a good human and follow the rules!

I think my biggest surprise was that Suess Characters were actually OUT and ABOUT for photo opps! In fact, I feel like there were MORE character photo opportunities than normal. This made my inner-kiddo really happy, as I’m a huge fan of Dr. Suess (hence our facemasks we made).

You will NOT be able to physically hug your favorite characters, but, you can line up and have a guest in your party take your pictures (the team members can NOT handle your personal phone to take pictures for you due to COVID-19), or you can take selfies as we did. I love the pictures and am just as happy with these images as I would be if I had gotten a furry hug from them!

We are used to using mobile dining at Disney to save time on those SUPER long lines waiting to order food and then waiting again to pick up food. I admit that I have not really ever used Mobile Dining from the Universal App before.

HOWEVER, if you come to any of the central Florida theme parks, you should expect to have to order your meals via ONLINE dining apps.   IF the restaurant you go to does not have the capability to order online, you will STILL need to access the QR Code to access their menu.  I have a post coming out about Dining at Disney Springs with much more on this topic.

So, again, make sure you have the Universal App loaded to your family mobile phones and go ahead and create an account and set up the payment methods as well. I am sure there is a way to pay cash, but, it is most definitely not preferred in today’s post-COVID environment. Perhaps, if you intend to use cash, you could purchase a gift card instead, but note that gift cards are NOT redeemable as of now to be added as payment for mobile ordering.

All locker access is the same…. one line to go one-way into lockers and another line to re-gain access to your stuff. What you will see while waiting for your locker, or to pick your stuff up out of the locker, is a Universal Team Member monitoring which lockers you left and then cleaning and sanitize that chunk of lockers after each use.

Spider-Man was pretty empty by the end of the day. I actually think we got lucky with no one in the Spider-Man line queue and only 1 other person in the ride-car. The question for the future will be whether the crowds move between both parks like this typically, or if this was just pass holders that were tired by the end of the day? If you have thoughts or recent experiences, please comment so we can update!!

As always, I really feel like Universal thinks of the guest and their possible needs. Case in point is the “U-Rest Area”. This area is a nice ‘quiet’ spot at Islands overlooking the waterfront and the new ‘Velocicoaster’. I’m not really sure if that is the right name of the new coaster, but, it sounds good.

Anyway, in this U-Rest area, there are tables where guests can take off their masks, sit-down at tables that are VERY social-distanced and take a break. This is nice and will probably find itself to be a ‘busy’ area in the future, especially as Florida heat escalates through the summer. Look for U-Rest areas throughout the parks.

Our last ride of the day was at Hogwarts Castle for the Forbidden Journey. As with Spider-Man, the locker line and the line queue were very empty. It was not 5 pm yet (closing day that day), so I do not know if passholders just gave up for the day or what, but, we persevered and wanted to do as much as we could for this one day. We weren’t sure how long the theme parks would stay open and wanted this time to have the park to ourselves to last!

Anyway, as with Spider-Man, one way in to put belongings IN a locker and another line to pick up your stuff OUT of your locker. The really wonderful thing is that we had ample time to take many photo opportunities that we do not normally get because of guests that are in a hurry to keep the line moving. This was a really fantastic time and we enjoyed it!

Once we actually were ready to load onto the ride, we had our own vehicle to ourselves. WE did note that it seems like the ride has changed, although not sure how specifically. If you know of changes to the actual mechanics of the experience, please comment below!

As you can see, at this point, the crowds were super thin, but, the high value of this post is to show the progression of the new coaster rumored to be named “The Velocicoaster“.

EEK! Who’s excited? This coaster looks like it just might be the new “IT” ride and much-needed addition to truly pre-historic Jurassic park!

Regardless of whether you are a newbie to Universal Orlando Resort or a seasoned pass holder, the bottom line is to look for these blue signs all throughout the Universal Orlando Resort area. These signs are your guide to what is happening and how Universal can help you. See a blue sign? Be sure to read it, because it indicates a change to your normal visits from the past!

The shops were fairly empty at the end of the day, so I have no idea what they looked like during the day at peak time. Will update this next time we go to the park.

My daughter and I spent the entire last few months making face masks for friends, families, and customers through my daughter’s ETSY shop. Together, we combined forces to sew over 2,000 masks and are now selling specialty designs online at her ETSY shop. Need a fun theme park mask? We have all kinds of fabric from Universal INSPIRED characters, to Disney, to even Sea-life for SeaWorld. Check out the shop @

Ok everyone! We are thinking of you and hope all of you follow your comfort level and CDC Guidelines for your states and the states you are visiting! We would love your comments below – please keep them G rated, as my daughter will be reading them!

The bottom line is we do feel that Universal did a wonderful job keeping everyone safe and will continue to evolve and make improvements that streamline the process while maximizing your safety!

We can’t wait to go back really soon!