This guide to face masks at Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and CityWalk covers official rules, our recommendation for the best masks, answers to frequently asked questions on wearing masks, and differences between policies and enforcement at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. (Updated May 28, 2021.)
Essentially, this goes beyond answering the question of “are face masks required at Universal?” We’re well aware that this is a highly controversial topic. This post exists to inform, not critique. At this point, the policy “is what it is” and shouting on the internet won’t change that one way or the other. If you want to argue, join a local debate club. If you want your voice to be heard about Universal’s rule in a meaningful way, contact them.
You might notice a lot of overlap between the info and advice here and that in our FAQ & Guide to Face Masks at Walt Disney World. Quite simply, that’s because there are tons of parallels. Universal, Disney, SeaWorld, Six Flags, and every other theme park operator likely collaborated on these rules. With that said, Universal’s rules are more laid-back and guest-friendly than Disney’s. Additionally, as of May 28, 2021 there is essentially no face mask “rule” at Universal Orlando. We’ll explain…
The easiest explanation can be gleaned with a look at Universal Orlando’s official face covering rules, which are pulled directly from the Universal website:
- Face coverings are no longer required for fully vaccinated guests
- We do not require proof of vaccinations
- Guests who are not fully vaccinated are still expected to wear face coverings while indoors
- We encourage all guests to keep a safe distance between travel parties
- We remain focused on maintaining the highest cleanliness and sanitization standards
For guests who are not fully vaccinated, an appropriate face covering is defined as the following:
- Cover your nose and mouth and be secured under your chin
- Fit snugly against the sides of your face and be secured with ear loops or secured around your head
Previously, Universal Orlando Resort recommended that face coverings consist of at least two layers (2-ply masks). Additionally, neck gaiters are considered an appropriate face covering as long as it covers the nose and mouth (gaiters are prohibited by Disney).
Next, let’s address some of the more frequently asked questions about masks…
Will Universal be asking mask-less guests whether they’re fully vaccinated?
For one thing, it’s prohibited under Florida law. For another thing, virtually no businesses anywhere–even in other states–are differentiating between vaccinated and unvaccinated guests beyond the honor system policy. It’s simply not worth the hassle and headache. It would be asking a lot of Universal Team Members at a time when there’s already a labor shortage and frontline employees everywhere are at about their wits’ end. This is why the new rule is, essentially, “there is no rule.”
When will Walt Disney World update its face mask rule to “keep up” with Universal?
Two weeks before Universal Orlando effectively dropped its face covering rule, it made masks optional outdoors. Walt Disney World followed suit a few hours later and did the same.
Both were based on a combination of new CDC guidance and (more importantly) Orange County ending its outdoor mask mandate. Before either theme park made an announcement, we had heard rumblings it was coming. We have heard nothing of the sort this go-round. Our expectation is that Walt Disney World will keep its current indoor face mask rules in place through at least Memorial Day weekend, and potentially up until Independence Day. We could be wrong, though–just because we haven’t heard any rumors doesn’t mean the conversation isn’t occurring within Disney.
What caused Universal to make face masks optional?
Per a statement from Universal, this is “in accordance with CDC guidance.”
As indicated above, Universal dropped its outdoor mask rule when Orange County progressed to the second phase of its reopening plan. It’s worth noting that Orange County has now qualified for phase 3 by virtue of a 4.8% rolling test positivity rate. The county has not yet announced that it has entered phase 3, which is the lifting of all mandates and health safety rules.
Are masks required for guests while waiting in line or on rides?
Not anymore as of the latest rule change. At least, not for fully vaccinated individuals.
It is also worth noting that Universal has ended on-ride physical distancing, meaning that mixing of parties now occurs and guests could be seated directly adjacent to strangers.
What is face mask rule at Volcano Bay water park?
It’s essentially the same everywhere at Universal as of May 2021.
However, face coverings are not permitted on slides and in pools.
Are Universal employees still required to wear masks?
While onstage, Team Members are required to wear face coverings both indoors and outdoors. Backstage, fully vaccinated Team Members are not required to wear masks, with limited exceptions. Universal has been quick to change its policies in the last few weeks, so our expectation is that Team Members will not be required to wear masks anywhere by some point in June 2021.
What’s the best mask for Universal Orlando?
Our favorite breathable mask is from Suay LA. These are still great, especially for hot weather when the KN95 mask might be more uncomfortable. These are constructed from medical grade non-woven polypropylene surgical wrap and have a nosepiece that should offer a degree of protection to the wearer.
We also carry disposable 3-ply face masks. These are great as a back-up, or if you opt to double mask to give you a more secure fit or better filtration. Additionally, the Auliné Collection Mask is a good reusable option for adults. If you have other recommendations, we’d love to hear them in the comments.
Does Universal Orlando sell masks?
Yes. Face coverings are available for purchase at select merchandise locations in CityWalk, Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and the hotels. They are available in various sizes for kids and adults.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to wear a mask to enter any of the retail locations to purchase these masks, so you will want to bring your own.
Are the masks sold by Universal any good?
The designs are a 10/10, especially for those who love ‘classic’ Universal Studios Florida attractions like Kongfrontation, JAWS, E.T. Adventure, and Earthquake: the Big One.
Comfort-wise, they’re also pretty good, like an 8/10.
How many masks should we pack?
If you’re going to wear a face mask, our recommendation would be to carry at least two reusable masks per person each day. Perhaps 3 if you sweat a lot.
Many reusable masks can be hand-washed and dried overnight in your hotel room. In addition to whichever reusable masks you choose, we’d recommend some disposable ones. Failing that, you can always buy the Universal-branded masks in the parks if you need more in a pinch.
Any other mask-related accessories that are worth carrying?
Essentially anything that will help cool you down. Another absolutely necessary accessory is the Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad. We’ve been praising these things for years, as they’re basically space age magic. Great for keeping cool–but staying dry.
Another must-have accessory is the Life Straw Go Filter Water Bottle. Drinking fountain water in Florida is sourced directly from the swamp, and is actually 3% alligator urine. This bottle filters out the pee, and it’s BPA-free! It also uses a 2-stage activated carbon filter to reduce odor and chlorine, leaving zero aftertaste! (If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, Brita Filter Water Bottles are great, too.)
Is Universal Orlando still fun despite face masks and all the changes?
We think so, but that’s in the eye of the beholder. Beyond the masks, there’s a far greater sense of normalcy at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure than at Walt Disney World. Pretty much everything is operating at Universal Orlando, and there’s a full slate of entertainment in the parks. Universal feels alive and full of energy, even while working within the parameters of health safety protocol.
Nevertheless, it’s totally understandable if you don’t want to visit Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure while the face mask policy is in place. You’re certainly not alone, and it’s no secret that Americans are divided on the topic of face masks.
Need trip planning tips and comprehensive advice for your visit to Central Florida? Make sure to read our Universal Orlando Planning Guide for everything about Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida. Also check out our Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Guide for everything about those parks, resorts, restaurants, and so much more. For regular updates, news & rumors, a heads up when discounts are released, and much more, sign up for our FREE email newsletter!
Do you have any questions this FAQ failed to answer? If you’ve visited since Universal Orlando reopened, what was your experience wearing masks? Are you happy or disappointed that Universal is effectively dropping its face mask rule as of May 28, 2021? Do you think there’s anything else guests should know before visiting in during this ‘temporary abnormal’ time? Will you be attempting to visit Central Florida this year, or are you waiting until 2022 or beyond? Do you agree or disagree with any of our advice or answers? Please keep the comments civil. This is not the place for arguing about efficacy, politics, and so forth–all such comments will be deleted, irrespective of perspective. Not only are you not going to change anyone’s mind via the comments section on this blog, but you’re not going to change Universal Orlando’s policy.