Universal Orlando has reopened with new policies aimed at protecting guests against COVID-19, but what exactly does that mean for your vacation plans? Today, we dive into the meat of our first-ever Unofficial Guide to a Socially Distanced Universal Orlando with all the basics you need to know prior to your arrival at the reawakened resort.
First and foremost, all guests and employees will have their temperature checked before being allowed to enter the Universal Orlando Resort. This check will be performed using a touch-free forehead thermometer that gives results in a couple of seconds. Any guests registering 100.4F (38C) or above will be escorted to a secure area and given some time to cool off before being retested; if they continue to read hot, they’ll be offered medical attention and asked to leave until they have been cleared by a doctor.
For most guests, this temperature check will occur in the parking garage, prior to passing through the security checkpoint in the central parking hub. (On-site hotel guests will be checked at their resort, as described below.) In the mornings, a deceptively long line for temperature checks may form alongside the moving walkways, but it moves very quickly and should usually take no more than 5 minutes to pass through. Grab a handful of sanitizer from the dispensers immediately before the checkpoint (the first of many you’ll see throughout the day) and pull your hat up to speed the scanning.
Before reaching that temperature check, you’ll want to ensure all members of your party age 2 and older have on their face masks because face coverings must be worn at all times. The only exceptions are while eating and drinking, while on water-based rides and slides, or in pools. Guests without masks will be offered a free disposable mask, or they may purchase Universal-branded reusable masks for $6 each (3 for $15), with a portion of proceeds going towards local charities.
If you have a medical condition that makes it impossible for you to wear a face mask, speak to Guest Services or any roving employee wearing a “Guest Experience” shirt. After explaining your situation, they may provide you with a wristband that allows you to wear a full-face shield (which you should provide yourself) instead of the standard face mask. However, be aware that face shields are not permitted on most attractions, so you’ll need to switch to a face mask in order to ride.
“U-Rest” outdoor break areas are provided around the resort where unmasking is permitted at your own risk. Despite their scientifically demonstrated effectiveness at reducing viral spread, especially from asymptomatic or presymptomatic carriers, the use of face masks has become a controversial issue. Universal’s staff will strongly encourage unnmasked guests to observe park policy, or at least direct them to a break area, but we don’t recommend directly confronting fellow visitors who violate the rules; simply give them a wide berth, and notify an employee if necessary.
Throughout the Universal property, you’ll see and hear reminders to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) between your party and others at all times. Blue lines delineating proper spacing will have sprouted like mushrooms anywhere a queue might form, and round markers are placed to designate safe standing spaces for street shows and similar gatherings. Social distancing measures also extend to selected sinks, water fountains, and other facilities being marked off-limits.
You’ll also see Universal’s stepped-up sanitation efforts in effect across the property, in the form of an army of employees who incessantly sanitize every handrail and other high-touch surfaces.
As far as personal hygiene goes, hand sanitizer dispensers are found at the entrance to virtually every building, and you can purchase a small bottle of alcohol-based gel in most shops for about $3. It will also be impossible to avoid the audio announcements and signage encouraging frequent hand-washing. Universal team members will take frequent breaks to wash their own hands.
Government travel restrictions may require visitors from certain states and foreign countries to undergo mandatory quarantines upon entering Florida; make sure you’re complying with guidelines before visiting Universal Orlando.
Prior to arriving at the resort, we strongly recommended installing the latest version of the Universal Orlando smartphone app from the Apple or Google stores. Make sure you enable location services and notifications, which are needed to use the mobile ordering and Virtual Line features. It’s also helpful to set up and sign in with your UniversalOrlando.com login and attach your credit card and admission media to your account.
Guests driving into the Universal Orlando Resort will discover that, virus or no virus, the standard fees still apply for self-parking in the central garages. Prime parking will still be available for the usual upgrade fee, and normal Annual Pass discounts apply.
Valet parking will not be available, but a small screening checkpoint in the valet circle will still allow guests to walk to and from the hotels along Major Boulevard near Kirkman Road.
Inside the parking garage, employees will direct drivers to leave empty rows between cars, a courtesy we wish would be implemented permanently. (We’ve noticed that distanced parking isn’t consistently practiced in the Prime section.)
Guest drop-off, bus arrival, and ride-share pick-up areas will all operate as normal. All day guests going to Volcano Bay will need to use the buses departing from the bottom level of the Cat in the Hat parking section.
Finally, animal care kennels will temporarily be closed, along with the food kiosk in the parking hub.
For a look at the new policies in effect, watch this video of highlights from the theme parks’ reopening:
For all there is to see and do at Universal Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.