Our Experience Using Universal’s Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP)
Universal’s Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP) is intended for guests with a cognitive or physical disability or other condition that prevents them from being able to wait in the regular standby lines. It’s similar to Disney’s Disability Access Service (DAS) accommodations. AAPs are assigned on a case-by-case basis by going to a Guest Relations office and talking with a team member about what options are available to meet your specific needs. A doctor’s note is not legally required but it doesn’t hurt to bring one along as long as you’re OK with sharing that information. You do have to state your case and explain why you need the AAP.
To respect the privacy of my family I won’t go into detail on our specific diagnosis, however, I will share that one of my children struggles with sensory processing along with a few other issues that make waiting in long and overcrowded lines a very difficult, overwhelming, and often emotional experience. A few years ago, we took a family trip to Walt Disney World before we were aware of the DAS pass, and that trip was laden with tears and sensory overload to the point of making themselves sick. As you can imagine, this was humiliating for my child and put a damper on what should have been a wonderful, “core memory” trip. Thanks to the Facebook group, Tips for Special Needs at Disney (where tips for Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, Legoland, and other destinations are also shared) we became aware of these programs and it has improved our theme park experiences immensely!
How the AAP works at Universal Orlando
As far as I know, AAP is not able to be reserved in advance, so get to the park early to beat the line at Guest Relations. You can use the Universal Orlando app to easily find guest service locations (under the Menu scroll down to Guest Services, expand it, then select Guest Service Locations. We only had to go to guest services once, as our AAP was good for all four days of our vacation. Party size is limited to five guests plus the AAP holder.
To use the AAP, approach the Team Member (TM) at the entrance to an attraction. If the posted wait time is under 30 minutes, they’ll scan your pass and you’ll join the Universal Express queue (a separate line used for Universal’s “Fastpass” style pay-to-skip the lines system). If the standby line is longer than 30 minutes, you’ll be given a return time. You can come back to the attraction any time after your return time (so no, it’s not a return window as there’s no end deadline as long as it is before the park closes for the day). Once you return to the attraction, you will still have to wait in however long the Express line is at that point.
You can only have one return time for an attraction at a time. If you have a return time, you can still use the pass for Express lane access for any attraction with a wait time of less than 30 minutes. If it sounds complicated, don’t worry, it’s not once you get the hang of it.
Why Use AAP? Here are the benefits of using the AAP
The biggest benefit of being able to use AAP was not having to stand in the hours-long queues for several attractions that currently do not have an Express line. We wouldn’t have been able to experience these three attractions without the AAP:
Ollivanders in Hogsmeade: we approached the line within the first half hour of early park admission. While the number of guests already in the queue appeared small, the TM informed us it was already an hour and fifteen minute wait due to the low capacity of the show and wand shop. So I brought out our AAP and we were immediately walked to the front of the line and brought in to the next show. I’m not sure if this is normal as this was the only attraction with a long line where we weren’t given a return time. It was also the only time I felt uncomfortable using the pass as the entire queue could see us skipping in front of them. To answer one question you might have, yes, the AAP can be used during Early Park Admission.
Pteranodon Flyers is probably the lowest capacity ride in the entire resort, thus it consistently had 90 minute waits throughout the duration of our trip. We were given a return time but since there is no Express lane we were escorted by a TM up the exit ramp and boarded from there after waiting a few minutes.
Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure is the most popular ride at Universal Orlando due to the thrilling yet family-friendly (48 inch height requirement) nature of the attraction. The coaster wasn’t open during Early Entry but that didn’t stop people from lining up for it. Once the park opened, the wait time would immediately sky rocket, as high as 210 min during our trip. We used the AAP and were given a return time. Since the return time was usually 1-2 hours later and lines were so long we couldn’t use the pass elsewhere, we used this time to return to our hotel, relax, swim, nap, eat lunch, recharge, then return to the park for our ride. We walked up the single rider line (which I don’t think was being used for single riders) but still had to wait ~15 minutes to get on.
Express vs AAP: Do You Need Both?
The main purpose of the AAP is to avoid the difficulties waiting in the physical line presents, not to skip lines just to save time. Saving time is *sometimes* a secondary benefit of the AAP, but only if the lines are shorter anyways. If you can afford it, the regular Express passes will get you on rides faster and more frequently than the AAP pass will, especially on busy days when all the waiting times are over 30 minutes.
For example, Flight of the Hippogriff, which was running at reduced capacity as the second train hadn’t returned from refurbishment yet, had a forty-five minute wait shortly after the park opened. Using the AAP, we got a return time to come back in twenty-five minutes. When we returned, the standby line was now posted at 75 minutes. We joined the Express line, which the team member said should be about half the time of the standby line. We ended up waiting in line for 55 minutes before riding. Overall, we essentially had to wait an hour and twenty minutes to ride, nearly double the original posted wait time. Luckily, this was early in the morning when the medicine works the best so we didn’t have any major issues. If we had had regular Express passes, we could have hopped in the Express line immediately when the physical wait was shorter.
Final Thoughts on Universal’s Attraction Assistance Pass
I debated writing this article due to the personal subject matter, but decided that if this article helps even one family to enjoy a trip they otherwise thought impossible or too overwhelming, then this article has served its purpose. I hope by sharing our experience it gives realistic expectations to those who plan on using the AAP. It goes without saying, you should only use the AAP program if you or your loved one truly needs it. When programs like the AAP or DAS become frequently abused, it hurts those who truly need it. We would gladly exchange some of my child’s life-long challenges and wait in a few long lines, however that is not an option for us. Using the AAP greatly improved the quality of our vacation and we’re thankful to Universal for maintaining this program for families like mine.
For more accessibility information visit Universal’s website: https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/plan-your-visit/accessibility-information
Very useful. Short and sweet. Thanks for sharing.
Super useful and much appreciated. The question I needed answered was “If you have a return time, you can still use the pass for Express lane access for any attraction with a wait time of less than 30 minutes.” We are coming during a slow time and I was really trying to decide if we should get express along with the AAP for my husband.
Glad to help! I hope you have a great time.
This was extremely helpful.
Diolch yn fawr.
No problem, glad to help!
Thank you so very much for writing this article. My daughter was partially paralyzed in March 2022. We just discharged from a NJ Children’s Hospital and in celebration for her walking again, we are heading to Universal next weekend. Also it’s her Sweet 16! I am so overwhelmed and nervous because of how long the wait times are and I am overwhelmed with thoughts and fears of Will she survive waiting for even 1 ride! I was told about this pass by her Allstar cheer coach so today I began researching. I found your article. I just wanted to say Thank YOU.
Thanks for the kind words. I hope you have the best time at Universal!
Going soon. Have gotten the Das at disneyland for son hope Universal doesn’t make it harder. I have one kid with mobility issues that uses the stroller as a wheelchair and my other one just got approved for behavioral therapist. But not officially diagnosed so don’t know how it will be at Universal it is our first time going there and getting annual passes for our family. Our pass includes Express line at 3pm. So here’s hoping my family makes it to that time and gets the proper disability access needed.
Thank you for pursuing the writing of this article. It was helpful. Our 13 yr old daughter was just diagnosed with a disease and I contemplated cancelling the trip, although paid for, but the rest of the family refused. However, it is VERY overwhelming to process how this vacation will happen but the AAP helps. Again, thanks and best wishes to you & your family.
Thanks for the kind words! We hope you have a great family vacation. If you have any questions, let us know.
Thank you so much for sharing this! My son is 6 and has Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, and ADHD. So, we will definitely be making sure we get this pass. Thank you for your thorough explanation and breakdown of everything. I was not intending on getting the Express pass, but it sounds like that might be worth the investment as well. This is his first time going to Universal, so I want to make it as enjoyable as I possibly can for him.
Glad to help! You’re going to have a great time.
if you have an express unlimited pass, is their and benefit to getting an AAP? Our family member does need an AAP but do we need both? Our express pass is from staying at a premier universal hotel.
Hi Kari. Not every attraction has an Express Pass, like Hagrid’s Motorbike and the wand shop, so I would still get an AAP. Hope that helps!
Thank you for sharing this info. My son has a sensory disorder and is physically unable to wait in lines for long periods of time without a meltdown of epic proportions. We are going to Universal this fall and it’s good to know that Universal has a pass comparable to the DAS pass at Disney. Disney’s DAS pass made the dream of an amazing, trama free trip to the happiest place on Earth a reality that otherwise that could not have happened. It’s so good to know that Universal offers something similar and thanks again for sharing your knowledge and experience!
Hi, thank you for the article. Can you tell me how long of a process it is at guest services? I am hesitant to even try to get the pass bc I don’t want to be waiting at guest services and miss precious park time. Just curious how long the actual process is of answering their questions and going through the steps to get the pass are (I really, really wish they’d let you do this beforehand somehow)
Hi. Depends on the situation and the team member but should only take like ~10 minutes. Unless things have changed in the past year, go to guest services outside the front gates before the park opens. If early entry starts at 8am, be there at 7:30am. Or you could try getting them a day early as they are good for your whole visit. I read one website claiming you can only get the AAP while inside the park but that was not true for us. Again though, the rules might have changed in the past year. Hope that helps!