We are sharing the best universal hotels for families as well as comparing the Universal Orlando resorts to help you choose the best resort for your Universal Orlando vacation.
Staying on-site during your Universal Orlando vacation can be a great addition to the trip. There are 8 different hotels at Universal, but the best hotels for your trip are the ones that fit your family perfectly.
Why Stay On-Site at a Universal Orlando Hotel
Guests staying on-site at the Universal Orlando resort receive perks for being on-site guests. I go into full details later is this post but below is the basics of what you can expect.
- Complimentary transportation to and from the theme parks and CityWalk.
- Early Entry to one of the theme parks each morning during your stay
- On-site pool and dining options
- Premier Resorts include Universal’s Unlimited Express Pass
If a premier resort is in your budget I would suggest booking it. The value of having Express Pass is often more than the extra cost of staying at a premier resort. You will need to do a bit of research to compare prices but it is worth your time if you are trying to save money.
Best Universal Orlando Hotel for Families
We have stayed at multiple resorts on Universal property and these are our top picks for the best Universal Orlando Hotel with a family.
- Budget Friendly and Fits a Family of Five: Universal Endless Summer Resorts. They have spacious family suites that fit 6 and are in the value category. There are two: Surfside Inn & Suites and Dockside Inn & Suites.
- Moderate Price with Great Amenities: Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Family suites and standard room. Two pools, one with a water slide and one with a lazy river, bowling alley, and great retro themed vibe.
- Unlimited Express Pass and Short Walk to the Parks: Hard Rock Hotel
- Minion Themed Room and Express Pass: Loews Portofino Bay
Want more details? Continue reading for more on the best Universal resort hotels for families!
Overview of the Universal Orlando Resorts
When planning a stay at a Universal Orlando resort hotel, guests can choose from standard rooms to family and kids’ suites. They have accommodations that fit 4 to 6 people and these range in cost.
All of the Universal resorts have a standard pool but some have water slides and more amenities. All of the resorts offer transportation to Universal Studios Florida, Universal Islands of Adventure, Universal’s Volcano Bay water park, and Universal CityWalk.
We find the best hotels to be the ones that comfortable fit our family of five. After that we look for resort amenities that we may want during our visit.
Tiers of the Universal Orlando Resort Hotels
The best place to stay at Universal Orlando is going to be the one that meets the needs of your traveling party. Universal Orlando resort offers on-site hotels in different tiers.
They are the Premier, Preferred, Prime Value, and Value Hotels.
We almost always stay on-site when visiting the Universal theme parks, but you may be wondering why stay at a Universal Orlando Hotel?
You can usually find off-site accommodations for less money and more space but we almost always think it is worth the extra money for the perks.
The only time it may not be worth it is if you are visiting multiple Orlando theme parks in one visit.
If you are visiting Universal Orlando and/or Walt Disney World or SeaWorld you will most likely have to rent a car and staying off-site may be a better option.
Personally I like to stay on-site because of the all inclusive feel to it. I like using the resort transportation and not having to drive around for a week.
Perks of Staying at a Universal Orlando Hotel
Early Park Entry
Early Park entry allows on-site guests to enter one of the parks earlier than it opens to the general public. This is typically one of the two parks and almost always includes The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions.
If you want to avoid long lines in the park. Early park admission is a huge perk.
Includes Universal Express Unlimited
Another big perk is for guests staying at a premier Universal resort. Guests staying at a premier will receive Universal Express Unlimited included with your stay.
Guests must have a valid admission ticket but this is a huge perk. Universal Express Unlimited allows guests to skip the regular lines on certain attractions at the park as many times as you would like.
If you take advantage of early entry and have unlimited express pass you will have very short wait times for your visit. If express pass is not included in your hotel stay you can purchase it as an add-on starting at $89.99 a person/per day.
Universal hotels offer bus and boat transportation to and from Universal Studios, Universal Islands of Adventure, Universal Volcano Bay, and Universal CityWalk.
Guests can also walk from their resort to the Universal theme parks.
- Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort: Water Taxi, Shuttle Bus, Walking Path
- Loews Sapphire Falls Resort: Water Taxi, Shuttle Bus, Walking Path
- Universal’s Cabana Bay Resort, Universal’s Aventura Hotel: Shuttle Bus, Walking Path
- Universal’s Endless Summer Resort: Surfside and Dockside: Shuttle Bus
Universal Orlando Hotel within Walking Distance to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Portofino Bay are the closest walking distance to the parks. They are about a 10 minute walk from hotel to gate.
Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal’s Cabana Bay Resort, and Universal’s Aventura Resort are a bit of a longer walk.
We stayed at Cabana Bay Beach Resort and the walk took about 17 minutes for our family.
The Endless Summer Resorts are a bit further and I recommend taking the bus. I have seen people walking but it is a bit further and may be tiring after a long day at the parks.
On-site Amenities at Universal Orlando Hotels
If you are staying at a value resort you can expect less amenities than staying at a premier resort. All of the resorts have on-site pools, game rooms, laundry, and dining options.
- Premier Hotels: Themed pools, poolside movies, cabana rentals available, fitness center, full service restaurant, and quick service dining.
- Preferred Hotel: Themed pools, poolside movies, cabana rentals available, fitness center, full service restaurant, and quick service dining.
- Prime Value: Themed pools, poolside movies, cabana rentals available (Cabana Bay Only), fitness center, full service restaurant (Aventura), and quick service dining, and pizza delivery. Lazy River & Bowling Alley at Cabana Bay only.
- Value: Themed pools, fitness center, pizza delivery, and quick service dining.
Cost of Staying at a Universal Orlando Hotel
The cost of staying at a Universal Orlando hotel will vary greatly depending on when you visit. Expect peak season like spring break and holidays to have busier crowds and cost more. Low crowd season will have more special offers and deals. It will usually cost less.
- Premier: $500.00+
- Preferred: $350.00+
- Prime Value: $146.00+
- Value: starting at $116.00+
If you are a Florida Resident or an annual pass holder be sure to include that when you are pricing out your stay.
Keep in mind the Premier resorts include Unlimited Express Pass for the duration of your stay, including check-in and check-out day.
We used this on a visit recently where we did a split stay. We had an annual pass discount and got a great deal on a room at Hard Rock Hotel for 2 nights. This gave us 3 full days of express pass.
Then we moved to Universal’s Endless Summer-Dockside for the remainder of our trip. Always compare prices when you plan your visit to find the best deal and perks.
Best Universal Hotel for Families of Five or More
When you are visiting Universal with a family of five there are 3 budget friendly options for accommodations. They are Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Universal’s Endless Summer Resorts: Surfside Inn and Dockside Inn.
If you have a larger budget you may want to upgrade to a 2 bedroom suite or presidential suites but for the average visitor the three I mentioned are your best options. Another option is to book two standard connecting rooms.
Our pick for the best Universal Hotel for families are the Endless Summer resorts. We prefer Dockside but that is just a personal preference. The rooms are the same.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort does have more amenities and most would say a more fun theme. They have a bowling alley, lazy river, water slide, and splash pad.
I agree that the amenities are better but the sleeping arrangements is where Endless Summer wins out for us.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort fits 6 people. There are two queen beds and a pull-out sofa. There is a small bar sitting area with stools and a small kitchenette.
The Endless Summer Resort has 3 queen beds, one is in it’s own room. There is also a kitchenette and a picnic style table. The beds win out for us over the pull-out sofa.
Themed Universal Orlando Hotel
Universal resorts have subtle themes and their rooms reflect that. There are also a few resorts that have fun themed kids suites.
- Loews Portofino Bay Resort: Despicable Me themed room, Themed to a seaside village of Portofino, Italy.
- Hard Rock Hotel: Future Rock Star themed room, Themed to rock and roll, Hard Rock.
- Loews Royal Pacific Resort: Jurassic World themed room, Themed to Polynesian paradise.
- Loews Sapphire Falls Resort: Caribbean Themed
- Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort: Retro theme
- Universal’s Aventura Resort: theme is modern and calm vibes to escape the busy theme parks
- Endless Summer Resort Surfside: Surf theme
- Endless Summer Resort Dockside: Dock theme
Best Universal Orlando Hotel Resort on a Budget
The least expensive resort at Universal Orlando will be the Endless Summer Resorts. These also give you the most square foot rooms for the cost.
Best Universal Orlando Hotel Pools
All the pools at Universal Orlando are nice but the best pool probably has to go to Cabana Bay Beach Resort. This is because they have a water slide, lazy river, and splash pad.
Best Luxury Universal Orlando Hotel
The best luxury hotel at Universal Orlando is Loews Portofino Bay Resort. This transports you from the theme parks, is within walking distance, and has great on-site dining options.
Universal Orlando Hotel for Families FAQ’s
Can you stay at a Universal Hotel and Go to Disney World
Yes! You can visit any of the Walt Disney World theme parks and stay at Universal. There is not a shuttle to take you to Disney World. You will need a car or use Uber/Taxi.
Which Universal Orlando Hotel includes Express Pass
Universal’s on-site resorts that include Unlimited Express Pass are Loews Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Royal Pacific Resort.
Is there a Harry Potter hotel at Universal Orlando
There is not a Harry Potter hotel at Universal Orlando. There are two Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas inside the parks. They are located at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Can you Pool Hop at Universal Orlando Resort
Yes you can pool hop but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You will have to pack all of your things to visit another resort. If you are wanting to check out pools at the resorts I suggest planning a split stay.
A split stay has you staying at two different resorts during your vacation.
Does Universal Hotel offer complimentary breakfast
No. Complimentary breakfast is not included in your stay at any of the Universal Orlando resorts. Breakfast is available at all of the resorts at a cost.
Does Universal Orlando Hotel have a shuttle from the airport
No. There is not a shuttle from the Orlando International Airport to Universal Orlando. We have used Mears transportation and have had a positive experience.
Does Universal Orlando Hotel include tickets
No. Your stay at Universal hotels does not include theme park tickets. You can purchase packages that may include tickets.
Is Universal Orlando Hotel part of Disney World
No. Universal Orlando is not part of Disney World. They are separate resorts and separate theme parks.
The best Universal hotels for families offer a lot of perks and should be considered when visiting the Universal Orlando resort.
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Leah has been traveling with her family of 5 since 2012 and sharing her expertise on planning family vacations and visiting theme parks since 2016. Leah has been featured in Visit Rochester, Undercover Tourist, and Home Publications. She has worked with brands like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Hersheypark, Toyota, and various Tourism boards and destinations. Leah creates family travel itineraries based on real trip experiences with her family. Her guides and tips help others plan great family vacations. Learn more about Leah and Five for the Road.