Wizarding World of Harry Potter family tips: How to save money on your visit

Wand held high, a little girl casts a spell: "Wingardium Leviosa!"

She wishes to fly to the front of the queue for the signature ride at the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood.

It's the latest volley in what one analyst calls, "the largest armaments war this business has ever seen": Universal is casting a spell of "Crucio" on Disney. 

Prices for day tickets have jumped and spending on merchandise is expected to double.

So how do you satisfy your witches and wizards, without being beholden to the goblins at Gringotts? (Or drinking your bodyweight in Butterbeer?)
Here are our top Nine and Three-Quarter tips:

1. Buy tickets online. It's cheaper than the front gate, and you can get early admission. Try booking dates from mid-September to November on store.universalstudioshollywood.com/PurchaseTickets.

2. Have breakfast before you go. Three soggy fruit cups and two bottles of water at the Magic Neep cart cost more than $US30 ($A39). (Someone seems to have cast a spell to strip money from our pockets ...)

3. Invest in Front of Line tickets, to use once on each ride. Arrive early to queue up normally for the first go. Then, use your pass when crowds swell later in the morning. 

4. Run to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the 3D-HD ride. Fly high above Hogwarts Castle in a Quidditch match, face a fire-breathing dragon, and duck the Whomping Willow. The Dementors aren't that scary, even for littlies.


5. Visit midweek, rather than weekends, to avoid local crowds. It's really busy during the United States summer break, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The queues are often shorter at lunchtime, between 1 and 2pm.

6. The interactive wands are expensive ($47USD) but a lot of fun. Medallions set in stones in front of the shops explain how to cast spells. Then, the displays in the windows come to life. (The secret is to point your wand at the sensor camera.)

7. Shop at Ollivanders and you might be lucky enough to be chosen by the wand! But beware: the crowds are overwhelming. Better off buying a wand at one of the other stores in Hogsmeade Village.

8. Maybe you're not a thrill seeker, or have young children. Fear not: the Flight of the Hippogriff is a very gentle roller coaster. And it lasts for less than a minute. 

9. Have lunch at the Three Broomsticks, a rustic tavern serving Bangers & Mash, Shepherd's Pie and Fish & Chips: hearty meals at reasonable prices. 

10. Use your phone or camera to take a photo with the conductor of Hogwarts Express, rather than paying more than $US20 for the official one in a compartment. 

The best advice is to become part of the magic: Send a letter through the Owl Post, play a prank in Zonko's Joke Shop, and marvel at the plants in Dogweed and Deathcap.

As the mother says to that little girl with the wand: "Don't worry darling; it's worth the wait".

Tracey Spicer and family visited courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood.