I spent a lot of time deciding what to wear to Universal Studios. My packing list was pretty spot on – we didn’t need things I didn’t have, and I wasn’t carrying so much I couldn’t have fun. Theme park days are long days, and you don’t want to bring an ounce more than you need. So, how do you keep it functional, comfortable, and yet still cute for all those family photos? Read on for all my packing tips for Universal Studios. Note: we went for the Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience Tour and I have not visited Universal Studios Florida, so all my tips have only been tested in California. That said, I think they would work equally well as a Universal Orlando packing list.
What to Wear to Universal Studios
We went to Universal Studios Hollywood over Memorial Day. The weather was surprisingly mild, which kept us cool enough to enjoy the full day. We were so happy to escape the rainy weather of Seattle and finally break out the shorts and tshirts.
I wanted my outfit to be many things – casual, comfortable, functional, and cute. This was our first time at Universal Studios, but I’ve been to enough theme parks to know that function is the key to a good time. For that reason, I went to pick up some new things at Athleta. I’ve never shopped there before but I’m so glad I found it!
I picked up a skort – and let me tell you, if you haven’t worn skorts since the 90s like me, they have come a long way! This skort was incredibly comfortable and the built-in shorts were not too tight around the legs, yet they allowed me to ride all the rides without flashing people. They have zippered pockets which came in handy throughout the day. Truly I fell in love with this skort. I would highly recommend one when you’re thinking about what to wear to Universal Studios.
For the top, I wanted something with a few important features. I love tank tops, but I needed something that would cover my shoulders. They burn easily! I also wanted something high-necked, because of the burn factor but also because I didn’t want to be worried about leaning down and things hanging out. I chose a tshirt from Athleta in a performance fabric that I knew would dry quickly after water rides, and has a ruched cap sleeve to add some cuteness. I was so happy to find some comfortable clothes that also looked good.
Our weather was cool enough that I needed a jacket, so I added my jean jacket. This was annoying because it was more restrictive than I would have liked when I was wearing it, and bulky when packed away in my backpack. But, it’s the only jacket I brought on the trip. If I were to do it again, I would bring a light sweater or less structured jacket. If you’re going around spring break or in the winter months, a light jacket is going to be necessary in Hollywood, so plan for both what you’ll wear and what you’ll do with it when the temperature does warm up throughout the day.
Lastly comes shoes. Comfortable walking shoes are an absolute must at Universal Studios. The park is big and you will be on your feet pretty much the whole day, either doing a lot of walking or standing in long lines – unless you do the VIP tour, which I highly recommend! My most comfortable shoes are tennis shoes, so even though I really don’t love skirts and tennies, I bit the bullet and wore my Brooks running shoes. The last thing you want to do is wear flip flops, even if you know you’ll be in the hot sun. Flip flops will easily come off your feet on some of the more vigorous rides, and they don’t offer enough support to keep your feet from hurting.
I wore my hair up from the start, but it would be a good idea to bring a hair tie if you plan to start with it down. By the end of the day, you may be annoyed at it and needing it out of your face.
Universal Studios Packing List
Everything I brought fit into a pretty small backpack that I picked up at Target before a trip to New York last summer. Here’s what I brought for a family of 4 (kids are 5 and 8) for a full day at Universal Studios:
- Cell phone
- Portable power bank
- Lip balm
- Sunscreen – this is our favorite and works with my son’s sensitive skin. Bonus is that it’s not liquid so it’s great for a carry-on!
- Epi pen travel case and Benadryl for my son with food allergies
- Bandaids – an important item I almost didn’t pack, and which we did need!
- Motion sickness medicine – kids version and adults version
- Extra snacks – small non-perishable things like granola bars are a great option if you’re bringing your own snacks
- Hand sanitizer
- Refillable water bottle (we didn’t use these either but that’s because we did the VIP experience where they gave us water bottles)
- Wallet with photo id, credit cards and park tickets
- Pack of ponchos (included with our VIP tour and really only needed on the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Hollywood. I can’t speak to how much a rain poncho would be needed at Universal Studios Orlando)
- Necessary medications – no one wants to test how good the emergency personnel are in the park!
- Wet bag for keeping wet things away from the rest of the backpack. Pro tip: This is a holdover from our baby days and is one of the first things I throw in the suitcase on any trip, even though we’re long past the diaper phase
Additionally, I dressed my kids in shorts with tshirts and a long-sleeved shirt on top. This was the best way to handle the chilly morning air and warmer afternoon temps. I knew they would want to take the long-sleeved shirt off partway through the day, so I left room in the backpack for these as well. A lot of people carried much less than this, including our neighbors who joined us on the trip. However, they also lost their sweatshirts, borrowed our sunscreen, etc. If you have a family and you’re there for the entire day, I would plan to bring a backpack. Even a fanny pack is not big enough for all the personal items you’ll need, though I applaud the sentiment to keep your hands free.
If you’re worried about what to do with your backpack on the rides, don’t be. There are free lockers at the rides where you can’t bring a backpack with you. It will take a little more time to store and retrieve your stuff – and at one ride, the locker wouldn’t take my husband’s fingerprint until about the 12th try! – but it is so much more convenient to have a pack large enough for all the stuff you need.
Should You Bring a Bathing Suit to Universal Studios?
In Hollywood, there is one water ride (Jurassic World) and a water park that was partially open during my visit. I imagine during the summer months, the water park portion is in high demand. The water park is definitely designed for small children, so adults won’t get much out of it. I would not bring a bathing suit unless it’s for kids, and unless you are sure the water parks are open. If you don’t bring a swimsuit, make sure to bring a change of clothes if you think they will want to enjoy the water rides!
Should You Dress Up for Universal Studios?
There were lots of people dressed up as witches and wizards for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and…I admit that I was jealous of how great their photos are going to turn out! Even though the wait times were the longest in Harry Potter, it was hands-down my favorite ride. I mean, walking down Diagon Alley? Come on. Hard not to get excited about that. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Universal Studios for good reason, and it makes sense that you would want to dress up for it.
If you are going to bring a cloak or a wand, you’ll definitely want that backpack so you can pack them away in other parts of the park (or if you get too hot). A great alternative for the HP fans might be a themed tshirt, a temporary tattoo, or a Harry Potter accessory, rather than the full costume.
What Not to Bring to Universal Studios
First, take a look at the prohibited items and make sure that you leave those at home. That includes things like any type of explosive or weapon, alcoholic beverages, marijuana, illegal drugs, clothing likely to create a danger or disturbance, clothing that may create a false impression that you are Universal team members or as emergency personnel, segways (unless utilized as an ADA mobility device), hoverboards and drones.
On the food and drink front, you can bring in your own things, except for:
- Glass containers
- Open containers
- Large coolers of food
- Hard-sided coolers
- Soft-sided coolers larger than 8.5” wide x 6” high x 6” deep (a small cooler is ok…but really best avoided so you don’t have to haul it everywhere)
- Coolers, suitcases, and bags with wheels
There’s a bit of a grey area with cooler bags – these could easily pass as regular purses, but everything is inspected before you enter the park, and depending on its size, you may not be allowed in with it. Unless you have special dietary needs that require that you bring your own food, or need to keep something cold for medical purposes, you will appreciate the freedom of not carrying quite so much with you.
Another thing I would say to avoid bringing is bottled water. Bring a collapsible, refillable bottle and visit the many water fountains throughout the park. The nice collapsible bottles are flexible, lightweight, and most have a carabiner so you can hook it to the outside of your backpack and save space if needed. You can buy these here or at any dollar store.
Do You Need a Mask at Universal Studios?
Good news! As of this writing (June 2022), face coverings are optional at Universal Studios Hollywood. When we were there in May, we saw very few people wearing masks, though it is of course entirely up to you what you are comfortable with. Be sure to check the Operations and Safety Updates page on Universal Studios for the latest information before your visit.
Best Time to Visit Universal Studios
This really depends on what you consider to be the best time of year, and the schedule your kids are on. We went over Memorial Day and it was busy, but because we did the VIP tour, we rarely waited in line and were able to see everything we wanted in just one day. The VIP tour (or the Express Pass if you are just looking to optimize your waiting time in line) is a great idea and makes it doable on a holiday weekend. Otherwise, I would avoid the Universal parks on such busy weekends.
If you leave with just two thoughts, I hope they are that cute athletic gear is a great way to look good and stay super functional on all those thrill rides (and I think Athleta is the best place to grab them), and that a backpack is a must-have. With just a little advance planning, you’ll be prepared for a fun, safe, amazing day at Universal.
Looking for more great content on LA? Check out these posts:
- A Family Stay at the Beverly Wilshire (2022) – Review and Photos
- Family-Friendly Restaurants in L.A. (2022)
- Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience Review
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