Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in the time of Covid

If you are going stir crazy like I was and looking at stateside vacations, Universal might be on your list. Actually, it wasn’t on mine. I was looking at taking a road trip to TN and KY to see the fall color. Then I saw some videos of how crowded the state parks were and decided that it didn’t look peaceful and the hotels were booked up or really expensive… out of curiosity, I checked prices at Disney and Universal. For the first time, Universal prices beat our military Disney tickets by a landslide. They have a buy 2 days get 3 days free promotion. If you happen to be a Florida resident, there are even better deals to be had.

Of course, Covid adds some questions. Is it safe? Disclaimer, I had Covid in March. Frankly, I don’t give a crap anymore. If you do care, you probably aren’t looking at going to a crowded theme park and won’t be reading this. If it’s a small concern, then I think you’ll be happy how it’s being handled.

All Security Check lanes open, social distance markers are easy to follow.

The obvious, masks are required. You can wear the neck gator type. My son and I preferred neck gators in this heat and humidity as they were easier to breath through and dry fast. Hand sanitizer is required and provided before boarding all rides. Lines have markers to help maintain social distancing and plexiglass dividers where you line up to board rides. Some rides only allow your party in the vehicle, others don’t. No single rider lines.

Social distancing in ride lines.

The parks are supposed to be maxing at 25% attendance. That was what I found on their website. Some locals told me they heard it was 50% now. I can’t verify anything for sure. I can say that the crowds were low and easily managed tues-thurs. Friday started getting crowded, but Saturday doubled in numbers and the park never closed. Most ride times during the tues-thurs time frame was 10-20min. Friday, Saturday and Sunday you had a brief time in the morning for those 10-20min waits and then it jumped to 45-80min. Some rides went to “virtual lines.” I don’t know why they don’t do this for all of them. The only downside is that you’ve got to keep an eye on the app. They don’t give warning when one goes virtual and the spots can fill up. Which means you won’t get on that attraction that day. Don’t confuse virtual lines with their extreme fast past. You will still be waiting in line for an undetermined amount of time. It just gives you a time to enter the line so they can keep the physical line small enough to social distance.

You won’t have any issues maintaining social distance on the slow weekdays. Expect that to change drastically by the weekend. We felt packed in like sardines at times. What was crazy to me is that we left at noon on Saturday, yet as crowded as it was, hundreds of people were still coming in. It felt equal to a busy summer weekend. People are great about wearing their masks and there are plenty of employees reminding you to keep it over your nose as well for those who pull it down. You are allowed to remove it for water rides.

Crowded Fri, Sat and Sun.
We left at noon on Saturday and the crowds were still pouring in.

I think the biggest downside was having your 3D glasses fog up while wearing your mask on the ride. We did end up pulling the mask off our nose or we couldn’t see anything.

Indoor dining locations have you order through the app. Once seated you will hit the button to start your order and a server will bring your food. Some seating had plexiglass up between tables, others had tables removed to keep distance. You’ll also find lines to get in on the weekends.

I do believe they removed some seating in hopes of keeping people from congregating close to other parties. It didn’t fix anything, people are just perched on decor, buildings, curbs, etc. All surfaces that don’t get cleaned as often…

So is it safe to go? Honestly, it’s probably the cleanest it will ever be… I don’t foresee an end to social distancing and mask wearing for another year in public places like this. No one knows what really helps and they are all just trying to do their best. Go have some fun, have a little patience and tolerance, and you’ll have a great trip.

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