By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

Summary of Instructions for Your First Family Visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

By Dave Shute

(These instructions are  for fitting a visit to Universal Orlando’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter into a first family trip to Walt Disney World.)

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter1. When to Go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter:

The general advice this site provides on when to go to Walt Disney World also applies to Universal Orlando.

(The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located not at Disney World. Rather it is at Universal Orlando, a completely different set of parks. Hogsmeade is in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios.)

See this for more on when to go

2. How Long to Stay at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter:

Universal Orlando is a remarkable place, and easily repays a three or even four day visit, especially if your kids are 12 or older, and/or love thrill rides.

If you are simply trying to fit Harry Potter into a trip otherwise spent at Walt Disney World, use two mornings of your trip for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

See this for more on how long to stay at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

3. How Old/Tall Your Children Should be for Harry Potter:

Pretty much any school-age kid will find be able to find something to enjoy at Harry Potter. Younger kids, or kids without a deep engagement in the books or movies, may find it less interesting.

In Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure

At Diagon Alley in Universal Studios, Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts is scary, and has a 42″ minimum height

See this for more on How Old/Tall Your Kids Should be for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

4. Where to Stay at Universal Orlando:

Families wishing either to guarantee access to Harry Potter’s rides without long lines, or contemplating spending more time at Universal Orlando, should consider adding a night at Universal’s Loews Royal Pacific Resort or its Cabana Bay Beach Resort.

Doing so gives you special morning entry privileges for your visit to Harry Potter on both your check-in and check-out days (and all days in between–but even with a one night stay you get two days of early entry.)

See this for more on where to stay during your visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

5. How Much to Budget for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter:

It is impractical to see both parts of the Wizarding World in one day. Moreover, the train ride between the parks requires a “two park” ticket. Two day, two-park tickets are (online pricing) ~$175 plus tax for adults, and about $10 less for kids.

If you can afford it, budget more for a night at the Royal Pacific or Cabana Bay (the best way to do Harry Potter)

See this for more on what to budget for Harry Potter.

6. When Your Plans for Visiting Harry Potter Need to be Firm:

If you are simply planning to visit Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter during two of the mornings of a trip otherwise spent at Walt Disney World, you don’t need to worry beyond your Disney timing requirements about when your plans need to be firm.

If you are planning to reserve a night at the Royal Pacific or Cabana Bay, you should do so as soon as your dates are firm. .

See this for more on when your plans should be firm.

7. How to Spend Your Time at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter:

  • If checking in to the Royal Pacific, or another Universal Orlando resort, be at its front desk by 7.15a to check in and get your hotel keys, which are also your early entry passes.  Immediately proceed into the park
  • If not a hotel guest, be at the park entrance to by 60-120 minutes before opening

See this for the rest of the guidance on how to spend your time.

8. What to do When to Get Ready for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter:

  • Pick your dates as soon as possible
  • Set your approach—hotel or not

See this for the rest of the details of What to Do When to Get Ready for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter


Follow on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter or Pinterest!!



1 Christine { 03.28.12 at 11:16 pm }

This is great advice! Wish I had known before our trip… we realized once there that getting the early entry and express passes from a one night hotel stay would have definitely been worth it.

2 Ana { 08.23.12 at 8:11 pm }

Hi Dave,

We have planned to go to Harry Potter world/Orlando on Monday 27th & Tuesday 28th August, next week.
From watching the news/reading the internet it looks like Tropical Storm Isaac may become a Cat 1 Hurricane on Monday and may or may not reach Florida.

If this happens, obviously Orlando is further inland, but I can imagine that storms would hit, would they likely close the park? Or close some rides etc.? Considering rescheduling if this is the case, perhaps only to Saturday and Sunday as we’ve come all the way from Australia..

If you could help that would be awesome! 🙂

3 Dave { 08.24.12 at 8:51 am }

Hi Ana, only a couple of days in the last 30 years has the weather been bad enough that they have closed the parks for a day or two, so the odds are strongly on your side!

4 shama { 10.11.12 at 5:50 am }

Hi me and my two-y teenage sons would like,to go wizarding world and how much is tickets for 14 year Old and 15 year Old? And for 2 adults ? Also its our first time and are the rides at wizarding world All rollercoasters and that type?have not berne able to Afford to go. 🙁

5 shama { 10.11.12 at 5:53 am }

How much money do you need to go there ?and souvenirs? and lastly can you stay near there where they have All day buffet.?Sorry too manu questions.

6 Dave { 10.11.12 at 11:10 am }

Shama see this for what to budget: It’s out of date but has links you can use to find the exact cost. There’s 4 rides in the Wizarding World itself–two wild coasters, one indoor ride that’s fantastic, and a kiddy ride. Your tickets also pay for you to se eall the rets of Universal’s Islands of Adventure too (which is where Harry Potter is located.)

7 Dave { 10.11.12 at 11:12 am }

Shama, I don’t track Universal closely enough to be able to comment on hotels other than Universal’s own, which are expensive, and I don’t think they have all day buffets…try whihc is really good on Universal…

8 Yvonne { 06.14.13 at 8:00 pm }

Hi Dave,
I LOVE this site! I’m planning to take my family (me, my husband, & our 2 daughters) to see the Harry Potter attraction at Universal during our WDW vacation in Nov. 2013. We are staying at Port Orleans Riverside and I wanted to know if POR has a shuttle to Universal, if not, where can we go to get a shuttle, and what time should we leave POR to make it to Universal if we want to make it there 30 min before they open? Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me!

9 Dave { 06.15.13 at 8:57 am }

Hi Yvonne, and thanks!!

See this:

Follow on Facebook!

10 Yvonne { 06.16.13 at 12:38 am }

Thanks Dave! One more question, how far is POR from Universal (miles)? I want to be able to decide if taking a taxi would be better than taking the Meats shuttle. Thanks again! Your website is on my favorites & I’ve already told all my friends & fam about it!

11 Dave { 06.16.13 at 8:43 am }

Thanks, Yvonne! The drive is about 13-14 miles, depending on route…

Follow on Facebook!

12 Yvonne { 06.16.13 at 11:49 am }

Awesome! I can’t thank you enough! This website is such a great resource & has eliminated all of the stress of planning my trip!!

13 nathan hall { 06.16.13 at 3:47 pm }

Hi I am thinking of a first time visit to disney
where are the parades and fireworks, what park are they in
what is the best timetable for a 3 day visit

many thanks
Nathan Hall

14 Dave { 06.17.13 at 11:22 am }

Glad to help, Yvonne!!

15 Dave { 06.17.13 at 11:23 am }

Nathan, how old are your kids?

16 Tricia { 01.02.14 at 6:29 pm }

We’re interested in doing a day at Universal and were considering splitting out stay at Disney – 4 nights in one Disney resort, then going to Universal, and wrapping up a few more days at a different Disney resort, for a change of pace. Could we keep our Magical Express in that way?

17 Dave { 01.03.14 at 8:13 am }

Tricia, yes you can–you’d just “arrive” on one reservation, and “depart” on the other…

18 Kate M. { 03.15.14 at 2:45 pm }

Hi Dave,

Thanks for all of your advice so far! I am a HUGE HP fan, so we’re planning to go to Universal for two days during our August 15-24 (15th and 24th are traveling days) stay. Do you know of any really reliable crowd calendars for Universal for that time period? We’re trying to decide which two days to go. We’re staying at POR and will be basing our Disney days on Extra Magic Hours. For SURE we are going to be at Disney parks on Sunday the 17th, Monday the 18th, Wednesday the 20th, and Friday the 22nd. Our open dates, either for park hopping or Universal, are Saturday the 16th, Tuesday the 19th, Thursday the 21st, and Saturday the 23rd. I just don’t know what Universal is like during that time of year – if the weekends are out of control, I’d pick the weekdays… Any advice? Thanks SO much!!!

19 Dave { 03.16.14 at 8:07 am }

Hiya Kate! Here’s a Universal calendar: I think the key point is that with the opening of the second part of Harry Potter, it will be wildly crowded after it opens all summer long. Note that the Disney parks are usually more crowded on their EMH days…

20 Kate M. { 03.16.14 at 8:11 pm }

Dave, my question for you is: since the parks are more crowded on their EMH days, would you suggest going to a different park on those days and then going back to the EMH park at night with a Park Hopper? (For example: Magic Kingdom has EMHs on Sunday from 10 pm – 12 am… would it be better to go to Hollywood Studios during the day and then go to MK right before 10 pm?) Have you tried this out before? Thanks for your help with the Universal calendar.

21 Dave { 03.17.14 at 7:52 am }

No Kate, unless EMH is very late e.g. 1a-3a. The best way to use EMH is to go during morning EMH, stay in that park for 3-4 hours, and set your FP+ for the afternoon or evening for a second park to which you hop. See this:

22 Fredrick { 05.10.14 at 8:54 am }

I all the time emailed this web site post page to all my associates, as if like to read it then my friends will too.

23 Rachel { 07.29.14 at 7:05 pm }

Hi Dave!
Our trip is quickly approaching (11 days!!) and while I have our Disney itinerary planned I’m a little “iffy” about our Universal portion of the trip. We are staying @ Wilderness Lodge from 8/10-8/17 and then checking into Royal Pacific first thing on the 17th (we have two day park to park tickets at Universal).

Here is my question: What time should I plan to head over to Universal from Disney that Sunday am (8/17). Official park opening is 9am but with early entry we can enter @ 8am. My family wants to do all things Harry Potter so I’m thinking it’s going to have to be early…
My plan is to park the car at Royal Pacific, check in and get our room keys/tickets (I’m assuming our room will not be ready at this point) and then high tail it to Univeral.

Second question: What is the best way to get to the park from Royal Pacific?? I’ve read there is a boat, can we walk? What’s the best/quickest most efficient way.

As always, thanks for your advice. This trip has been a year in the making and I cannot believe it’s less than two weeks away! What ever am I going to do with all of my time w/o a Disney trip to plan?? 😉

24 Dave { 07.30.14 at 7:01 am }

Rachel, in the past (I have no evidence that anything is different) you could check in starting at 7a, so I would aim to be at the front desk a little before then. It’s then a bit of a hike to the park, so I’d take the boat…

And after your trip…well first come back here and tell me how it went!!

25 Sara { 04.02.15 at 2:52 pm }

Hi Dave,

This may be a dumb question but I’m such a newbie at all this.

We’re going to WDW the first weekend after Thanksgiving this year, and planning to follow your guidelines for an 8-day trip (Saturday through the following Sunday). We are also intending to follow your recommendation for two mornings at Universal for the Harry Potter stuff.

If we book a night at Cabana Bay, does that mean we’re checking out of our Disney hotel (AoA), into CB, then back to AoA again? Or am I booking CB for that one night in addition to the week at AoA, and not actually staying there (sleeping still at AoA), but just using it for the early admission and line-skipping benefits? I’m so confused. I’m trying to make the AoA reservations today and my brain is so muddled about what I need to do! Any hand-holding appreciated. 🙂

26 Dave { 04.03.15 at 8:05 am }

Sara, you can do it any of these ways–check in and out, be double booked and sleep either place. Simplest (but most expensive) is to be double booked and sleep in the Universal room.

27 Wendy { 05.16.15 at 10:15 pm }

Well, it has been too long! I have had a rough May – to help, we are planning trip to Harry Potter and WDW. I am sure you get a bit tired of thinking for people, but I need some help.

We arrive late on Nov 18th and leave early on Nov 23rd to drive to Sandestin to see family.

I got us “free-dining” at Pop Nov 18th – 23rd…might change the hotel to one walking distance to Epcot (our favorite park…) cannot decide if it is “worth” 1700 more even with the higher eating plan. The size of the room does not matter to us at all…nor does the “posh” element.

At WDW – Epcot and MK (for the Snow White ride and to eat at Be Our Guest again) are our goals.

At Universal – HR only (we are nuts for the books…I mean truly crazy!) because my kids do not love thrill-rides. Space Mountain is about as adventurous as they have gotten.

Can you help me with a plan of attack? Our trip two years ago was awesome with many meals and such – we do not feel the need for that at all this time.

Any ideas/help/advice would be greatly appreciated.



28 Dave { 05.18.15 at 5:34 pm }

Wendy I’ve missed you, and I’m having a rotten May too!! Something in the air.

The core concept for planning your trip is that for Harry Potter stay at least one night in a Universal Hotel, even if this means you are double-booked one night!! The whys of this are noted here. Among the Universal hotels, Cabana Bay is the least expensive. Review here.

Then build the rest of your trip around this. I don’t have any Universal crowd calendars worth noting but see this. In your shoes, I’d do Universal ASAP in your dates–e.g. the 19th and 20th, with the 19th being your sleep-over night. Then build your WDW trip around the confirmed Universal dates. The rest of my Harry Potter stuff starts here.

My suggestion you double book a night also makes the idea of switching from Pop to an Epcot resort seem a bit less sensible…

That said, I forget where you have already stayed, so remind of that…

29 Wendy { 05.18.15 at 7:01 pm }

Well, we will both hope for bright summers.

That is JUST what I thought after reading all you say about HP – start at HP (lowest crowds) and then do Disney. I was thinking of double-booking on the 19th. Not sure we will even stay in the room – we will see. We may head back to WDW for the evenings as HP gets busier – and with FP+. That is just the reason I was not sure the Epcot hotels would be worth it…just as you said. See, I have learned from you!

Last time, we stayed at Wilderness Lodge (also for Thanksgiving break). It was nice, but we were out of our room most of the time. It was very chilly when we were there, so we used the pool less than expected – who knows what the weather will be like this time. We had the free-dining, thanks to info from you, and we really loved it BUT we do not plan on all the planned meals this time, so the quick plan will work well, we think. We love eating at Epcot’s world showcase – and that was top of everyone’s list this time.

How hard is it to get from Pop to Universal? Cab? How much time should we allow? Even with the early-in, I want to be there early. How long do you think it will take to cover just HP on a less-crowded day? All in one day or in two mornings with lower crowds (that is what I found on a crowd calendar for HP those days)?

Last time, I was so on-top of the ins and outs because of you, so I hope to help this trip be just as smooth.

Have a good day – June is around the corner,


30 Dave { 05.19.15 at 1:22 pm }

Yay summer and better, Wendy!!

One night at Universal allows early access the day of check in and check out, and you can check in at 7a (call a week before to double check). So you need to be in line for check in before then, and hop right onto transport to the park. Of the ways to get there–cab, shuttle, rental–I’d spend some of the money you saved on your Epcot resort on a short rental car. The on-site rental car center will pick you up from Pop and drop you off when done wiht the car–get your car the day before, not that morning. See

I’d also return from WDW to and stay at your Universal hotel that night, as it will make the next morning easier and more predictable.

It’s possible to do all in a day if the breaks go right. Be at the Universal turnstiles ASAP–well befroe 7a if you can, rife the headliner of whichever park is open, do Ollivanders (at both HP), take the first run of the Hogwarts Express to the other park, do its headliner..then relax and enjoy everything else.

However any glitch will throw this off (forgetting your hotel key–done that; Hogwarts Express opening late, happened to me), so planning on a second morning gives you the ability to recover from the glitch.

31 Wendy { 05.19.15 at 6:02 pm }

OK – perfect – thanks for doing some of the thinking for me! More questions later, I am sure!

Take care,


32 Dave { 05.19.15 at 6:20 pm }

🙂 Wendy

33 Wendy { 05.20.15 at 7:44 pm }

Is there a way I can share something with you (involving this trip I am planning and a recommendation from this site) that will not be posted on this site?

I know I am being mysterious…sorry about that!


34 Dave { 05.21.15 at 11:43 am }

Mysterious Wendy, see this.

35 Tammt { 10.24.15 at 6:38 pm }

Hi Dave!
What’s the best way to buy tickets to Universal? We are going for one day to both parks. Our goal is to see HP and Shrek.. Of course not in the same park. I looked at Universals website and I’m concerned a) there is a better deal out there from a reliable source and b) that living in Canada departing in 3 weeks isn’t enough time to ship tickets to me. Any suggestions?

36 Dave { 10.26.15 at 8:06 am }
37 Lara { 06.28.16 at 5:37 pm }

Hi Dave, You helped us so much for our last trip two years ago and with your book and all my knowledge gained from last time I am coping quite well this time ha ha! Anyway, the part of my itinerary that I am struggling with is Universal. We arrive late on Sunday, 2 October and will be staying at the Universal Hard Rock hotel 6 nights. So we have five full days (Monday – Friday) to fit in Seaworld, Universal, Busch Gardens and Aquatica. (Planning on doing another few hours on our Aquatica day at Universal too). My question is as the family want to do the Character breakfast at Universal with the Minions and it is only open on Thurs and Friday of our stay which day should we go to Universal? The Orlando Informer says Wed, 5 and Thur 6 October are slow however Undercover Tourist says absolutely NO to Universal on Thursday, World of Fun Universal says 3rd- 6th are quiet and the says least recommended day that week is Thurs,6 Oct. So all the calendars conflict themselves somewhat! Its just that given our main priority of this stay was to do Universal am hesitant to leave one of our full days at Universal till the last day in case of ride closures, weather..etc. Other option is on our Aquatica day to go to breakfast first but as it doesn’t start till 9am we might get to Aquatica too late and I believe it is really busy and you are best to get there before opening time? Aaaaaargh if you can solve this problem for me would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks so much Lara

38 Dave { 06.29.16 at 12:34 pm }

Lara I’m sorry but I don’t have enough expertise on Universal to be helpful. Between the two crowd calendars, I would go with Orlando Informer. You might want to post your other questions in Josh’s forum here.

39 Mike { 01.06.17 at 9:14 am }

Hi Dave

Brilliant site, full of great info !

We are travelling from the UK in October with our kids aged 8 and 5. We have already booked 5 nights each at Polynesian and Animal Kingdom. We were wondering if its worth trying to do a day at Seaworld and Universal during our stay as 10 nights might be too long for just Disney ? If so is it best to just book day tickets and get taxis ?



40 Dave { 01.07.17 at 10:48 am }

Mike, see this for an example 8 night WDW itinerary. With your additional nights, I’d add first add a day off, and then either a Sea World or Universal day–your 4 year old would likely greatly prefer Sea World.

41 Krista { 03.14.17 at 1:12 pm }

Hi Dave,
If we had to choose between the two Islands of Adventure and Universal which would you choose? My daughter 9 is a big Harry Potter fan, whereas my son 6 hasn\’t reached the same level of interest (yet) :). We only have one day to be there traveling from Wisconsin. Thanks!

42 Dave { 03.14.17 at 8:12 pm }

Krista, you’ll find differences of opinion on this, but I think both the Harry Potter material and the rest of the park is a little better for young ones like yours at Islands of Adventure.

Leave a Comment | Ask a Question | Note a Problem

My response to questions and comments will be on the same page as the original comment, likely within 24-36 hours . . . I reserve the right to edit and delete comments as I choose . . . All rights reserved. Copyright 2008-2017 . . . Unless otherwise noted, all photos are by me--even the ones in focus--except for half a dozen from my niecelets . . . This site is entirely unofficial and not authorized by any organizations written about in it . . . All references to Disney and other copyrighted characters, trademarks, marks, etc., are made solely for editorial purposes. The author makes no commercial claim to their use . . . Nobody's perfect, so follow any advice here at your own risk.