Even though I live in Utah, my family travels to Universal Orlando Resort at least once a year! We are huge Harry Potter fans, but there is so much more that we love about Universal Orlando. This is my families’ happy place and of course, we always try to get the very best deal. We have found, for our family, it is less expensive to travel to Florida than it is to head to California (which is much closer). Plus, we enjoy the parks in Florida so much more! Here are some of my tips on how to save the most money and enjoy your trip to the fullest!
Travel Off Season
When planning our trips to Universal I’ve done a TON of research on how long we would want to stay and what will give us the most bang for our buck. We chose to vacation this year in February, looking for smaller crowds and nicer (cooler) weather. This was our fourth vacation to Universal Orlando over five years. The other three have been near the end of the summer and while, of course, it was still wonderfully fun, it was HOT HOT HOT!! So my first tip while planning your vacation is to check the crowd calendars and plan to vacation in the off-season if possible! It was Amazing!!
If you can travel the first of the year in January or February that is one of the slowest times in the parks. Also, check out September dates if possible. Florida schools are back in session so the end of August and September (while still hot) are great times for crowds. Plus you will find the hotel prices are cheaper.
Plus, you have a much better chance at scoring pictures with a lot fewer people in them!
Consider Purchasing an Annual Pass
If you plan on visiting Universal Orlando more than 2 days, consider purchasing a Season Pass or an Annual Pass. Coming from Utah, I didn’t understand the difference at first between “Season Passes” and “Annual Passes.” Because we have four seasons, our “season passes” to parks and outdoor locations are usually also “annual passes.” The two words are used interchangeably. NOT at Universal! This is important to note.
Universal Season Passes are CRAZY inexpensive. But they have a lot of blackout dates that usually consist of the summer and any other busy time of year. The Annual Passes (which I purchased) are also inexpensive, do not include blackout dates. These passes are also the best deal if you plan on visiting the parks more than 2-3 days (depending on the time of travel).
You can get Universal 2-Day Park-to-Park Tickets for as low as $276.95 (for adults) after tax. However, depending on the time of year, Universal offers deals like Buy a 2-day pass get 2-days free! Follow THIS LINK to see the best deals available! (I’ve partnered with Undercover Tourist to get you guys the best deals around. They are a great site. I’ve purchased my tickets through them and they are legit and one of the best places to find discount Universal Orlando tickets).
However, Undercover Tourist does not offer Universal Orlando Annual Passes for non-Florida Residents. These passes (at the time of this posting) are as follows:
- Seasonal Pass $269.99 (includes blackout dates) – Which is LOWER than you can purchase the 2-day pass!
- Power Pass $319.99 (includes blackout dates)
- Preferred Pass $359.99 (no blackout dates)
- Premier Pass $509.99 (no blackout dates)
It’s important that you research each pass to see what they include.
I purchased the Preferred Pass for my family. The perks for this pass are great, I recommend purchasing this pass for one member of your party even if you don’t purchase it for the rest.
Why you should purchase at least one Preferred Pass even if you don’t get Season or Annual Passes for anyone else:
I still laugh at this picture of the cute Mitsubishi Outlander Sport that we loaned while on our last trip. We were one of the first ones in the park and one of the last to leave.
If you will be staying off-site, parking can get crazy expensive. Ge the Preferred Pass and get Free Parking!! We went to the parks 6 days and this saved us $150 on our trip! Totally worth the price of one Preferred Pass.
Early Park Admission
If you can swing this pass for your entire group, early park admission is awesome! While you will have some blackout dates during the super busy time of year, this pass will get you in an hour before regular park guests (to select rides and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter). This means you will have little or no lines for the rides that are open early. Plus, it’s so much fun to be in the park early before it gets busy!
Early Park Admission is announced one month at a time, so if you are planning early, you won’t know what is available until closer to your travel time. Here’s where they announce annual passholder early park admission.
Discounts on Food and Merchandise in-park and at Citywalk
This discount also can pay for your upgrade to an annual pass. With 10% discount on food and merchandise, this can REALLY add up! We saved well over $100 just on normal purchases while we were there!
NO Blackout dates.
If you are thinking about an annual pass this is the best pass to grab if you don’t want to worry about Blackout Dates.
Discounts on On-Site Hotel Rooms – Up to 30% off!
All Season passes and Annual passes offer discounts on on-site hotel rooms. These are also offered closer to your travel time. I recommend booking your rooms as soon as you plan on traveling, then watch for prices to drop. You can always modify your current reservation or cancel and re-book at the lower rate.
Get the BEST DEAL!
Here’s how to get the very best deal on your Annual Pass:
- I recommend purchasing the best deal that Undercover Tourist is currently offering. Look for the biggest savings.
- Then, when you get to the park, take your tickets to Guest Services and upgrade your ticket to the annual (or seasonal) pass that you want. You will be credited the higher gate price for the ticket that you are upgrading (even though you paid the lower price through Undercover Tourist).
- Your savings will vary depending on the time of year and which tickets you are able to purchase, but this is a slick way to save the most money and get the BEST DEAL!
Expert Universal Orlando Tip – Come Early and/or Stay Late.
Many people have commented on my pictures that look like we are the only people in the parks. Anyone can get pictures like this and experience the parks when they are a LOT less crowded. Even if you have to travel at a busier time of year.
Come early! Make sure that you are parking (or getting on the water taxi if staying onsite) at LEAST an hour before the park opens. Get in line early and be ready to wait. If you get there and there is already a line behind one of the check-in spots, pick a different one without a line (in my experience they open them all). You will be one of the very first people in the parks and you will be able to ride any ride that you want with little or no wait. Or, you can take awesome pictures without anyone in them!
If you have little ones, head back mid-day to get some rest and then head back to the parks later on in the evening and then “close out the park.” There is nothing like Universal Orlando at night! I love it!
Let me know what other questions you would like to see answered about Universal Orlando.
If you are wondering how I save money on flights to Florida and Hotels. Check out these two posts! I have been able to fly my family of four to Florida for FREE and stay at Hyatt Hotels across the street from Universal for 6 nights for FREE too!!