The Wizard World of Harry Potter (WWoHP) is one of the main reasons we visit Universal Orlando. Just come back from our third trip to the theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (the third park Volcano Bay will be open to public the summer of 2017), I like to share a few tips to maximize your experiences there.
Before the time of WWoHP we did both parks in one day with park-to-park admission plus express pass. It was a FULL day adventure, totally doable then. But today, you need at least two days to adequately enjoy the parks.
You have two options for two-day ticket: the park-to-park or single park admission. In order to board the Hogwarts Express, you need the park-to-park ticket since the train connects the two theme parks, from the Diagon Alley in Universal Studios to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure.
I strongly recommend staying in one of the five on-site hotels. All on-site hotels, categories of value, preferred and premier, offer early admission to the parks–you get in the park one hour before the general admission. However, if you are not a Harry Potter fan, it is not necessary to take advantage of early admission since the only rides open in the early hour are the WWoHP attractions.
In my experience, staying in one of the on-site hotels that offer complimentary unlimited express pass, which allows you to bypass lines in many attractions, gives you the best value! These on-site hotels are Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. This is especially true if you come to the theme park during high seasons. But one thing to remember–many WWoHP rides do not honor Express Pass!
One more money-saving plus of staying in the on-site hotels: the unlimited express pass is effective for BOTH the check-in and check-out days. In another word, one night stay in the on-site hotel can give you two days of express pass!
For families, especially those with young children, an additional advantage of staying on-site is that you may go back to the hotel to swim or rest when the parks get over-crowded and too hot in the summer months, usually from late morning to afternoon, then back again in the later hours when the parks are thinner and the day is cooler.