Visiting Universal on a Budget can happen if you plan ahead and are willing to make some trade offs. These tips for saving money at Universal Orlando will help you have a great Universal vacation.
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When planning a Universal Orlando vacation there are five main categories where you can save money for your trip. I find these to be valued differently depending on your family priorities.
The basic costs of a Universal vacation are:
- Transportation Costs
Some families may value sit down meals over souvenirs, others may prefer to stay at a premier resort over a value. I’m going to share the ways we save on our Universal vacation, and hope it helps you plan your budget for Universal Orlando.
Need theme park tickets? Check out these deals!
How to Do Universal on a Budget
One of the biggest costs for our family of five are tickets, followed by transportation or accommodations, and then food and souvenirs. We decide before we arrive on the parks what is in our Universal budget and then we plan based on those numbers.
How to Save on Universal Tickets
Tickets are expensive for theme parks and can be over $100.00 a day. If you add park to park tickets or express passes your daily price goes up even more, then times it by the size of your party and you can be spending a lot just to enter the park.
You can shop around for tickets to find your best price. I suggest starting with Universal Orlando Resort website. These prices will show you any deals they are offering and will give you a base line price.
Next I would check out an authorized ticket resale like Get Away Today. We are affiliate partners with them and always check their deals before purchasing tickets.
Universal on a Budget: Purchase an Annual Pass
Another option that we have found to save us a lot of money is to purchase an annual pass. This may not make sense at first, especially since we live in New York state, but it most recently saved us over $1000.00 on our next trip.
For a family of 5 with kids ages 13, 10, and 9 a 5 day park to park ticket cost $1900.00. This would allow us to go between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure for 5 days.
I decided to look at the annual pass options to compare prices. For the five of us an annual pass cost $1624.10. This includes unlimited visits to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure for 12 months.
Passholders also receive deep discounts on the Universal Orlando on-site resorts. We saved over 45% per night and were able to upgrade to a Premier resort for our trip.
There are different tiers of passes and we purchase the most inexpensive one, the seasonal pass. There are blackout dates for this pass but because we live far away we know the dates we will visit and plan accordingly.
Annual passes at Universal are worth it if you know you are going to visit 5+ days in a calendar year. It may not be for everyone but we really enjoy the savings and the perks of having an annual pass.
Universal on a Budget: Visit During the Off-Season
Visiting during the off-season will save you money on flight and car rentals as well as accommodations. Resorts can offer deep discount on hotel rooms during the off-season when they are trying to fill rooms.
The same goes for flights and car rentals. If there is availability there will be discounts. The off-season is typically when kids are in school. Late August-end of September and January-February before winter breaks starts.
This year has really changed the predictability of crowds and deals but those dates are usually the lowest. If you can’t visit during those times you can search discounts.
Again start with Universal’s website for deals on their on-site resorts, like Surfside Beach (value) or Cabana Bay (prime value), then check off-site resorts and discount hotel websites.
There are perks to staying on-site at Universal like early entry and the premier hotels offer express pass included with your stay, but if you are trying to stay on a budget you may want to look off-site.
If you stay off-site be prepared to pay for daily parking. Currently parking is $20.00 a day at the parks.
If you are staying on-site parking ranges from $15.00-$28.00 a night. There are shuttles to and from the resorts and theme parks.
Be sure to include these prices in your budget. We always rent a car and include parking fees in the trip but it might make sense for you take a ride share, taxi, or shuttle to the resort.
Universal on a Budget: Share Meals
This lesson has taken us a few visits to master but when purchasing meals in the park share when you can. Meals are often big enough to share and can be split between an adult and a child or two adults.
I will often split a sandwich with my kids and then purchase a snack later in the day if we are hungry. I also find myself not wanting to eat huge meals during park days because of all the rides and the heat.
We don’t do this at every meal but if does help save some money on meals. We also plan more quick/counter service meals than sit down meals. This will save you money and time when visiting the theme parks.
For breakfast we eat our meals in the room. This usually consists of a breakfast bar or dried cereal. I will bring it from home, stop at a grocery store on our way to the resort, or order instacart to the resort.
These food saving tips may not work for everyone but deciding on what meals are a priority and what meals you can save on will help you stay on budget for your trip.
Don’t Buy What You Can Bring from Home
Everything cost more at the theme parks. If you know you will need something purchase it at home and bring it with you. We purchase character t-shirts, ponchos(we really loved these ones!), sunscreen, and everything you need for our trip before we arrive at the parks.
Of course you can pick something up at the parks but you will spend more money that if you purchased it before.
The last thing is souvenirs. Some people prefer to purchase during vacation because that is the point of a souvenir. Others feel it is a waste of money at the parks.
This is a personal decision. I have given the kids a set amount of vacation money on some trips and we have visited without buying anything. It depends on the trip.
Be sure to think about how you feel about souvenirs before you find yourself in the middle of a gift shop! It will save you stress and everyone will know the expectations ahead of time.
How Much Does Universal Orlando Cost
Most people want to know where they should even start with a budget. What does a Universal Orlando vacation cost?
Based on what I shared above you can see it can be vary greatly depending on your needs and priorities. I try to keep the trip to around $5000.00 and under. I have listed the breakdown of costs below:
- Annual Pass for Family of 5: $1624.10
- Hotels: $1462.00 (2 Nights in Premier/5 Nights in Value, includes parking)
- Food: $150.00/day
- Transportation : $600.00 (Driving from NY to FL, gas and 2 nights in hotel)
We could have stayed all nights in a value resort and saved even more but we decided to splurge on the hotel to have express passes for our first few days at the parks. This budget also allows our next trip to Universal to be less because tickets are already purchased.
Doing Universal on a budget is possible if you break down all the costs and decide what your prioritize are!
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