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The Major Money-saving Hack You Need to Know If You're Going to Universal Orlando

Travel + Leisure logo Travel + Leisure 10/8/2018 Carlye Wisel
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Universal Orlando Resort is now offering up to six months free with the purchase of an annual pass. And that means you may want to plan now to get the best value.

Theme park insiders know that you can save loads if you purchase an annual pass instead of a gate ticket, especially if you plan on visiting more than once. With Universal’s current promotion, which can cover admission from now until 2020 with one payment, you can essentially pay for this year’s visit and get your next two visits for free.

Even if you only plan to visit Orlando once, you’re likely to save money. 2-Park annual passes, which grant admission to both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure, start at $304 per person (before tax) and top out at $559 (before tax) to visit any day of the year. Compared to a five-day ticket — which costs $314.99 (before tax) per adult — you’ll save just by approaching your vacation differently.

Planning a trip for this winter or spring break? You’re in luck. To activate the promotion, annual passes need to be used before April 4, 2019 — meaning this year’s visit to see the towering Macy’s Holiday Parade floats and awe-inspiring Christmastime decor at Wizarding World of Harry Potter will set up your summer vacation to cost much less.

Even the most expensive option, a 3-Park Premier Pass, sounds expensive at $734 (before tax), but it’ll get you on Island of Adventure’s sky-high Hulk coaster, Universal Studios Florida’s cinematic attractions and Volcano Bay’s mind-bending water coaster as many times as you want, any day of the year, from now through Spring 2020.

Universal Orlando Resort is offering the promotion on all four tiers of annual pass admission, with Seasonal and Power passes offering three free months and Preferred and Premier passes offering six months on both 2-Park and 3-Park passes. The free months of admission are added to the end of your annual pass, extending year-long admission from the first date of use to 15 or 18 months of access to Gringotts, Hogwarts, and beyond.

If you prefer visiting Universal for its world-renowned spooks, you’re also in luck. Halloween Horror Nights fans should take note that Premier Passes even include a free ticket to select nights of the spine-chilling event, essentially saving another $60.

Not sure if it’s a good fit for your travel plans, or just scared to commit? Consider having just one family member sign up. With benefits like hotel room discounts and higher-tier passes offering free parking and discounts on food and merchandise, you’re likely to save in the long run.

Be sure to check the blackout calendar before taking the plunge. If you plan on visiting the parks in mid-to-late April or during July, you’ll have to have a higher-tier pass to enter the front gate at Volcano Bay, Islands of Adventure, and Universal Studios Florida.

Buying an annual pass instead of admission is a weird trick theme park fans know well, but Universal’s unprecedented promotion makes the deal even sweeter. With a new Harry Potter-themed roller coaster coming next year and plenty more on the way, the best thing you can do for next year’s vacation might very well be to visit this year, too.

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