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Universal Orlando Resort 2022 Money Saving Hacks!

Jenny Geska logo: MainLogo Jenny Geska 7/31/2022 Jenny Geska

So, you want to book a trip to Universal Orlando Resort but you want to do it all on a budget.  Well, let me first be honest with you, this trip is not exactly a cheap and frugal trip overall, but what I am going to share with you are tips and tricks that you can use to make your trip cost a lot less than it would without the addition planning.  From food, to ticket prices, to in-park little hacks, I’m going to lay it all out and get straight to the point here, so grab a pen and paper, or have your phone ready for screenshots because this will save you a lot of time and brain power, and hopefully some money $$ 

One thing to keep in mind while reading this, my family and I travel to Universal regularly in order to give you the most up-to-date information, but things change.  Prices and deals fluctuate regularly.   Make sure to subscribe to get the most up of date information when traveling to Universal Orlando Resort from out of town!

© Provided by Jenny Geska

Okay.... let's talk tickets!

Okay, let’s talk tickets.  Now – there are a few ways that you can do this, and although I do not have experience in working with a travel agent, it may be helpful to check with one and compare what they can provide with the following information I am about to present.  I have also heard of people snagging single day passes on discount sites such as Groupon, but again, I go directly through the park to avoid any possible confusion on blackout days, conflict, etc.

We are going use a 5-day, 4 night trip as an example in each ticket scenario just to have a steady comparison, and of course, these numbers could vary with less days, so use these as a guide if you will.  I picked 5-days  in park mainly because most of the all-inclusive packages and bulk day ticket packages are based on that.  But first, a quick pause to explain the parks….

Photo of Diagon Alley, the Harry Potter themed world in Universal Studios Florida © Provided by Jenny Geska Photo of Diagon Alley, the Harry Potter themed world in Universal Studios Florida

There are technically 3 parks to think about, and yes, each one requires it’s own ticket  There is Universal Studios Florida – which houses areas like The Simpsons, Diagon Alley, the Marvel Super Hero World, etc.  There is also Islands of Adventure, where you can find Jurassic Park and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and then of course, the water park Volcano Bay.  Having one park pass does not automatically get you into the other, and in fact, having a park-to-park ticket will be required to take advantage of some things, such as the Hogwarts Express.

When booking individual tickets, the prices vary by date, but the range for an individual one-park ticket can range from $100 – $140/day while a two-park pass can range from $160-$200 per day, and volcano bay running about $80 per day, sometimes more. With individual passes in mind, you could do one-park passes and stay right around $500 per person for 5 days of activity, maybe even take a day or two off and save more, but keeping in mind that one and two park passes, even over just few days, will add up.

Further exploring the non-resident prices, there are a few little bundles to help you save, including a two-park, 3-day ticket starting around $300, and a two-park, 5-day ticket staring around $335  – which brings far better value financially over a 5 day visiting period.  There are three-park options available as well which include Volcano Bay, so if you plan on visiting that, I’d compare these packages to the individual ticket options depending on how many days you plan on visiting that park as well. 

The Hogwart's Express, which allows 2 park pass holders to hitch a ride between parks, and with a few suprises too! It runs in between Diagon Alley & The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. © Provided by Jenny Geska The Hogwart's Express, which allows 2 park pass holders to hitch a ride between parks, and with a few suprises too! It runs in between Diagon Alley & The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Annual & Seasonal Pass Options

Now, let’s discuss annual passes.  My family and I have  Premier Annual Passes, even though we live out of state.  Why, you ask? Because we visit at least 2 times a year for at least 3 days at a time, and we also enjoy the hotel discounts, the savings on food and merchandise inside the park, and most of all, the express passes. Even if we did the individual passes or one of the 3 or 5 day bulk passes, it would still cost us at least $300 per person each trip, and annual passes – which come with a ton of perks – start at $449, which could even amount to less than paying for a full 5 days worth of individual passes depending on the time of year.  There are also 2-park seasonal passes starting at $399, so you can see how a quick comparison of pass options may point to a seasonal pass or annual pass being more sensical financially. 

Let’s talk the Universal Express Pass…. Is it worth it?  We think so.  

We have a family of coaster freaks and an 11-year old adrenaline junky who loves rides, so yes, we take full advantage of the express passes, however, less ride-enthusiastic attendees that are more excited about the food and the scenes than the rides may feel otherwise.  In terms of saving time, we usually spend 15-30 minutes in a line, sometimes even less, versus 30-120 minutes in a line versus no express line, so call us spoiled, but it makes busy busy days far more tolerable and adventurous!  Keep in mind, you cannot currently use express passes on the Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure or Velocicoaster.  

Another note.  There are two types of express passes – the Universal Unlimited Express Pass and the Universal Express Pass.  The Unlimited Express Pass basically allows for repeat express rides on each ride daily, while the Universal Express Pass allows for 1 express ride per ride, per day – so basically you cannot get off and on over and over in comparison to the Unlimited Express Pass. Our Premier Annual Passes include a Universal Express Pass after 4pm every day, which is wonderful for us!

What is the cost of Universal Express passes?  Well, again, are many options to add it on, and many packages. Of course, you can add the Express passes on at a daily rate starting around $89.99 per day for a Universal Express Pass, and $119 per day for a Universal Unlimited Express Pass in addition to the general admission pass.  As I mentioned before, my family recently upgraded to the Universal Premier Annual Pass, which yes, it starts around $714 annually and is the only annual pass that includes a Universal Express Pass every day after 4pm.  As I said before, two trips of daily passes and annual passes amount to more than $700 by themselves, so our pass pays for itself in just two trips.  With that being said, there is one more way to obtain a Universal Express Pass or Unlimited Express Pass, and that leads me to my next section…

© Provided by Jenny Geska

Universal Orlando Resort All-Inclusive Packages

One more option is staying at a Universal Orlando Resort on-site hotel.  Each hotel varies in terms of benefits, but you can count on easy access to either walk, or shuttle to the park for free, early admission to the parks, and with some of the resorts, a complimentary Universal Unlimited Express Pass.  My family took advantage of one of the all –inclusive vacation packages at a premier hotel the first time we went and we definitely appreciated the ease of bundling, plus, we did find that overall, it saved us money in comparison to purchasing everything separately.  Check out this blog post that I previously wrote, comparing costs of purchasing everything separately versus a vacation package.  I found it to be a great option for those who plan on going just one time over a year period.  Keep in mind that if you fall in love, like we did, you can always apply the ticket portion of the vacation package towards an annual pass as well. 

© Provided by Jenny Geska

Now that we have tickets, and bit of hotel information, we can get to the next topic.  Think of this as a bonus.  We get a little personal here but I love this part, mainly because I love cutting costs and making my life, and hopefully yours, a little easier.  Now that we have an annual pass that includes the Universal Express Pass, we tend to stay in the less pricey onsite hotels….. specifically Cabana Bay Beach Resort. We can still walk to the Universal Orlando Resort parks but do take advantage of the shuttle, and we enjoy the pools, shop, on-site vacation planning center, and food options, but the main reason is because of the affordable family suites!  For right around $200/night, sometimes more, sometimes even less, the family suites offer an amazing separate kitchenette and living space with a great size refrigerator, sink, and microwave. 

The first thing we do upon arrival is put an Instacart grocery order in and have it delivered to the  hotel – consisting of readily made meals, breakfast foods, beverages, snacks to go, etc and it has been a game changer for us!  It saves us a ton of money and spares us the morning chaos of having hangry folks, or rushing out of the door just to try to get food!  We can literally make coffee, microwave a breakfast sandwich or grab a bowl of cereal and fruit and done!  We are on our way out.  We have found it so helpful for prepping late night meals and snacks as well, plus, no one goes hungry, and in comparison to buying all of our meals, $70 can go a long way from the grocery store – not to mention we can eat MUCH healthier. We get lots of pre-made salads, oatmeal, fruit, veggies, hummus, and snack bars and it is so helpful!  You can get $10 and free delivery using my code JGESKA1EA1A5 – just sign up here!

© Provided by Jenny Geska

Packing and prepping is KEY, and you can bring food and beverages within accordance to guidelines into the park as well, plus, there are larger all-day locker options available that could easily store some needed foods and beverages.  I always bring an easily carried refillable water bottle and snacks into the park and refill my water bottle at the water fountains throughout the day.  We also invest in the Universal Coca-Cola Freestyle Cup, which is initially $16.99, then rechargeable for just $10.99 per day.  It allows for a refill every 10 mins, with Coke products, Powerade and VitaminWater, as well as just water and Icees! With fountain drinks starting around $4.00 a pop, we find this a reasonable and practical way to seep ourselves hydrated throughout the day, plus, we kind of love the cups! Can you share? The official answer is no, however, I doubt anyone will be walking around policing this. 

There are lots of refillable and souvenir cup options throughout the park, so make sure to ask, as it can add up over a few days.  In addition, Universal Orlando Resort Annual Pass holders receive discounts on food, beverages, and merchandise as well as hotels, so always try to remember to take advantage!  I hope that you found these tips helpful – please comment below with your favorite tips and tricks as well – sharing is caring, and don’t forget to visit my post HERE for comprehensive list of items to buy ahead and pac

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Jenny Geska

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