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How to Save Money on a Universal Orlando Vacation

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If you have been to Universal Studios parks you know that it can be pretty pricey. If you have not gone, I’m sure you have heard what these types of trips typically cost. I am happy to let you know that there are many ways that you can Save Money on a Universal Orlando Vacation.

There are so many ways out there to save money when planning any kind of trip but in relation to Universal Studios Orlando, there are great savings to be had. We have gone to Universal in Orlando Florida many times and each time found and used different ways to save money on our trips. These are the best tips that I have (and I have used) for saving money when you are visiting Universal Studios in Orlando Florida.

how to save money at universal orlando

How to Save Money on Universal Theme Parks Orlando Vacation

Not every way to Save Money on a Universal Orlando Vacation is going to work for each person each of the ways to save money won’t work for each trip that you personally take either. In all our trips that we have done, the ways that we saved money have varied. Each trip had different things going on it that made some of the ways to save money work while not having other ways to save work for that trip.

The best thing to do is plan your Universal Studios Vacation and then what you want to do after researching all you want the trip to be and then pick the ways that work for you to save money on your trip.

There is no right or wrong way to do Universal.

You can do Universal on a budget or you can go all out. No matter HOW you do Universal there are many ways to Save Money on a Universal Orlando Vacation. While it sounds like a lot of hard work to save money on your trip I promise you there are so many ways that it is easy.

Find the best ways to save money for how you want to do Universal Themeparks and it will be an amazing trip.

Picking your Time for travel

The best way to save money on your trip is to pair the best deals with the best time to visit that works with your schedule. There are different ways that you can save money depending on the time that you visit. Of course, going during slower times will always be cheaper than going during the peak times or during special events. No matter when you are visiting Universal theme parks in Orlando there are ways to get a great deal and save money on your trip.

Plan your budget

When you are planning your vacation and your trip to Universal start with planning your budget. Knowing how much money you have to work with and how best to use that money you have to get the vacation that you want with the kids will make things easier.

Figure out what is important to you

You can not Save Money on a Universal Orlando Vacation if you don’t know what you want. Saving money on express passes you won’t use is wasting money no matter how much of a deal you get on them. Staying at a hotel that costs more than a cheaper one that doesn’t meet your needs is going to be wasting money instead of saving money.

If you have a Harry Potter fan in the house then you are going to have to add a trip to Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley, and of course a ride on Hogwarts Express.

If no one in your family likes Harry potter then you might find out that the best place for you to spend your time is Islands of Adventure. Doing the things that your family enjoys while you are there is going to make the most of your trip.

Questions to Ask yourself before planning your trip to Universal

There are a few questions that you should ask yourself before getting started with your planning. Having these covered will make it easier on you. It will be easier to make your choices if you have answered them before getting started with the planning.

Do I want to ride a lot of rides?

If getting on the best roller coasters at Universal like the Jurassic World Velocicoaster then you might want to use the ways to save money on the Universal passes so you can spend more time on rides instead of waiting in long lines. If you are ok with riding in the single rider lines instead of with your group and waiting in the regular lines that is another option for getting on rides that have long lines.

Do I want to go to the water park?

If you are wanting to visit a waterpark then you will want to make a trip to Universal’s Volcano bay, but if you don’t want to visit Volcano bay then you can skip buying the ticket that includes it. You are not Save Money on a Universal Orlando Vacation if you are buying tickets to a waterpark even at a deal if they are not something you are going to use.

Do I want to eat at Full-Service Restaurants?

If dining is important to you then you have to plan for that. Do you want to do fun quick service locations like Leaky Cauldron? Do you want to sit down places in the parks or on City walk? Make the choices that work best for you and find ways to save on them.

Do I want to Do Special Events?

Universal has special events like Halloween horror nights that have an extra cost. When you are picking your dates if there is a special event that you want to do? Are you looking for a date that is in the slower season?

Do I want to stay at a Universal Hotel?

Compare the costs of staying on property to off property. Also, compare the benefits of staying at a Universal Resort hotel compared to the local hotels. There are some hotels that are not on the property but are close enough to walk from. Walking will also save you the cost of paying for parking. Some hotels offer free shuttles to the parks even if they are not Universal hotels.

Will I fly or Drive?

Driving means you will have your car with you but you also want to account for hotels along the drive. Flying is quicker but you might need a rental car, a taxi, or uber to get to and from the airport.

Look for Vacation Packages

While you are doing your planning keep an eye out for universal orlando vacation packages, sometimes you can find a deal that makes the cost of staying at hotel with the tickets included less than buying them apart.

If you are a member of Bj’s, Sam’s Club or Costco you might be able to get a deal on a Vacation package.

Some companies might offer deals for their employees on vacation packages.

Checking out the cost of a vacation package compared to buying the individual items is important when looking for Save Money on a Universal Orlando Vacation.

Skip High Peak Times

The biggest tip I have for saving money on a Universal Orlando resort vacation is to go during a time when most people are not and skipping peak season. I know this is not possible for everyone, but going during “off season” times for your visit to Universal Studios Florida will save you a lot of money on your trip. The room rates are less, the park tickets cost less (and you can find better deals) and even the Express Pass will cost less. You will also find better pricing on flights and rental cars if you are traveling at a time that many others are not.

Skip Holidays

Holidays and Spring break are when many people are there in the parks because it is time when the kids have off of school and one that I would recommend avoiding if possible. I do know that not everyone can skip going during the busy times due to schedules so then there will be different ways to save money.

Skip going on the weekends

No matter what time of year it is the busiest and most expensive days are the weekend days. If you are looking for the cheapest days to visit then plan your visit for a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday (or a combo of the three). You will always Save Money on a Universal Orlando Vacation when you are skipping the weekends.

Skip the Summer months

If possible skip the hot summer months where everyone is vacationing and well its HOT. I am not a fan of HOT and large crowds when it is hot so the bonus of it being cheaper not to go during that time is a double reason for me that we skip going during the summer months.

Not only will going during the slower times save you money you will also be able to get more done in the time that you are there with less wait times to get on rides and not as many people in the parks. The slowest times to go to the theme parks is September, November (with the exception of Thanksgiving week), January, and February.

How to Save Money on Universal Orlando Theme Park Tickets

Park tickets are a must have when going to universal and when you want to save money on a Universal Orlando Vacation this is the first thing you are probably going to look for.

When you are talking about purchasing tickets to Universal Studios know that there is no such thing as cheap universal Orlando tickets, there are ways to save money when buying them but they will never be considered cheap.

Buy Universal park tickets from Groupon

Groupon is an authorized seller of Universal Park Tickets and they many times have deals for when you buy multi-day tickets.

Buy Universal Tickets from Tripster. You can find deals on themepark tickets on Tripster.

Buy Park tickets in advance

Purchasing your UNiversal tickets online will always save you money. Even when you are buying a single day pass if you buy the tickets online ahead of time you will save money on the park tickets compared to buying them at the gate.

Buy Multi-Day tickets

If you are buying tickets, the more days you are spending at Universal the cheaper per day the cost is.

Military Discount

Universal Studios has an awesome military discount that you can purchase from Shades of Green, military base ITT offices, and at the front gate of Universal Studios. For 2022 they have the Military Freedom Pass where a one year pass with unlimited visits was just $200 per person.

Buy Tickets at AAA

If you are a AAA member then you will be able to buy discounted tickets both online and in your local AAA office.

Watch the Universal Website for Discounts and Deals

Universal Studios is great when it comes to running promotions and deals that allow for savings for their guest. Check out the Deals & Savings page on the Universal Orlando website to see what current promotions they have running.

Florida Resident tickets

If you are a Florida resident then you can get passes that are priced just for those who live in Florida.

Buy annual passes

If you plan on making multiple trips to Universal then you might be better off buying a Universal Studios Annual Pass.

How to Save Money on Universal Express Pass

If you are wanting to get the skip the line Express Pass for Universal Studios then you are going to want to get the Express Pass. While you do get to skip the line with this pass it can be expensive but there are a few ways that you can save money on the Express Pass.

Stay at a Universal Premier on-site hotel

There are 3 hotels on Universal resort hotels (Hard Rock Hotel, Lowe’s Portofino Bay Hotel, and Lowe’s royal pacific) that will give you free universal express unlimited passes for everyone who is staying in the room. The good thing about this is that you get it the day of check in, the day you check out, and any other days that you are staying at the hotel. While at first when you look at the prices of the hotels you might think that it is not worth it, but if you have a family of 4 or 5 the higher cost hotel along with the Express Pass included ends up being a savings vs staying at a cheaper hotel and the Express passes separately.

Buy Universal Express Passes ahead of time

The more people that buy a Universal Express pass the higher the cost goes up. Peak park days will cost more than non peak park days. The farther out from your trip that you buy them the cheaper they will be, as time gets closer for the park days the cost does go up.

How to Save Money on Hotels at Universal Orlando

It is important while you are planning your trip to figure out what you want your trip to be and to research hotels. Staying on property doesn’t always cost more than staying off property. The Cabana bay Beach Resort is often priced in the $100ish a night range which also includes the early park admission to the parks and free shuttle to the parks. Staying at a place like Loews Portofino bay hotel will give you free early admission but also give you free express passes. While you are researching the hotels pick which items are important to you and look for the ways to save money on them.

Use your American Express Fine Hotels Benefit

If you have an American Express Platinum card then you can also find the Lowe’s Portofino hotel in the Amex travel portal and get $200 cash back when booking the hotel stay thru the American Express Travel portal. You also get all the perks that come with the Fine Hotels Benefit including $100 resort credit, early check in and late check out.

Stay at lower priced Universal Orlando Hotels

If you do not plan on getting the Universal Express pass then there are the other hotels on the property that are great to stay at and many times you can find special offers for staying at those on property resorts. While these hotels don’t come with all of the extra perks that the higher priced ones do you will get the free shuttle perk.

Stay off Universal property

There are many hotels that are close to Universal city walk that are not universal hotels. If you have a credit card that you earn points on and can cash in the points and get a free stay that is a great way to save money. You can also book hotels that are near Universal Citywalk for cheaper then you can within the Universal Orlando hotel area but are still within walking distance of the hotel and many of them have shuttles to get you to and from the Universal parks from the hotel.

How to Save Money on Food when in Orlando

There are many different ways that you can save money on your food costs when you are in Orlando and you are at the Universal Parks. When picking the ways to save money on food in Orlando pick which works best for you and your family.

Stay at Hotels with free breakfast

If you are staying on Universal property you will not find breakfast included at the hotels unless you are booking a club level room. Which to be honest will not save you money unless you are booking thru your American Express card and using the Fine hotels discount. However if you are booking hotels off property then many of them include free breakfasts.

Stay in a hotel with a kitchenette

Many offsite hotels will have rooms with kitchenettes and that is a great way to save money on your meals. Order groceries from the local grocery store and pick them up or have them delivered. When doing this I like to have. breakfast foods and snacks in the room. I plan on a quick snacky type meal for lunch (since normally my kids are to busy having fun to want to eat) and then a full meal for dinner.

Shop local Grocery stores

If you are staying at a Universal hotel or an offsite hotel you can use InstaCart to order groceries and have them delivered. This is a great way to have snacks in your hotel room and ones that you can bring into the parks with you. You can also order breakfast items and eat breakfast in the hotel room before starting your park day which will save money as well.

Stay Club Level at a Premier hotel to Save Money on a Universal Orlando Vacation

If you are going to be staying at a premier hotel there are times that staying Club level is well worth it and will save you money. I have found at times it can be as low as $40 more a night to have a club level room and with our large family the free drinks, free continental breakfast, hors d’oeuvres and complimentary beer and wine, dessert and snack times we end up saving a lot of money on snacks and breakfast and at night having a dessert before bed and a glass of wine or beer that is included in your stay can save a lot of money.

While it may not always make sense to stay club level don’t ignore the option and be sure to compare prices. For us the $80 more (because we book 2 rooms as we travel with either 6 or 8 people always) is cheaper than buying breakfast, snacks, and drinks during the day.

Save Money on Transportation to Orlando and Universal Themepark

There are many different ways to get around in Orlando, there are many options to pick from when you are deciding how to get to Orlando from home. There are also many options of travel to get from the airport to the themepark. Again I suggest picking the best way that works for your family and how you like to travel.

Compare the cost of driving to flying

There is no free transportation from the airport to Universal Orlando so you may want to rent a car. When you are figuring out the best option for getting to Orlando Price out the cost of flights and airport parking to driving and the hotels that you might need on the way while driving.

Save money when flying

You can save money on flights by booking in advance or by booking close to departure flights. If you are booking a last minute trip to Orlando you can find last minute deal flights, but the earlier you book the flights the better chance you have at finding cheap flights. The best days to fly for lower costs for flights is Saturdays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.

Use credit card points for flights

If you have a credit card that you earn points with then you can cash in the points for just about free flights to Orlando.

How to Save Money in the Universal Theme Parks when Visiting

We have covered how to save money on getting to Universal and how to save money on your park tickets and hotels but then it comes time to visit the parks. There are quite a few ways that you can save money during your trip.

Use the free lockers

While you can pay for lockers in the parks, you can save money by using the free lockers at select rides to store your belongings.

Plan your meal times

Planning your meal times on off times doesn’t sound like a way to save money but it is a great way to save time which in turn gets you more time in the park for the money you are spending instead of waiting on lines for food. Planning your meal times also means you can plan to eat breakfast in the hotel room, then a smaller lunch and then a bigger dinner which will save money.

universal popcorn bucket

How to Save Money on a Universal Orlando Vacation Dining at the Parks

If you are looking to stick to a budget for food when you are visiting the Universal Parks in Orlando there are quite a few ways to save money and still enjoy tasty food.

Eat at Quick-Service Restaurants.

When you are in the parks the cheapest meals are going to be the snack stands and the quick-service restaurant options. A sit down place is going to cost more.

Get free water

If you are big water drinkers buying bottled water in the parks will add up quickly. You can bring a water bottle and refill it with the water refill stations around the park or ask for a cup of ice water at a quick-serve restaurant and fill your water bottle back up. There are 2 Starbucks locations inside the Universal Parks and just like any other Starbucks water is always free. You can also get cups of free ice water at any of the counter service restaurants.

Bring snacks

The food policy at Universal is that small snacks and water are allowed to be brought into the parks. The rule is not written in black and white and there is not a definitive answer on what is considered snacks aside from it saying that it can not be food that needs to be reheated.

Order cheap snacks

One of our family’s favorite things to snack on at the parks is popcorn, we buy a popcorn bucket and then get cheap refills on it throughout the trip. We also head to Simpson world and get the Big pink donut that is not only budget friendly, it is big enough for a few people to snack on. There are many other cheap snacks at universal Orlando to enjoy.

Get a refillable mug to Save Money at Universal Orlando

Getting a refillable mug will save money if you are a big soda drinker, if you are a water drinker then you won’t save as much money as water is free in the parks in many locations.

Split Meals

Some meals in the parks are large portions, if you have people with smaller appetites you can save money by having people share a meal.

Frequently Asked Questions about Universal Studios Orlando

There are many questions that people ask about visiting the Universal theme parks and to make life easier I am giving you the answers to them here so you can better plan your trip and of course doing things the easiest way is making sure you have all the answers to the questions you are probably thinking about.

What are the 3 Universal Themeparks?

  • Universal Studios Florida
  • Universal’s Islands of Adventure
  • Universal’s Volcano Bay

What is the cheapest Universal Hotel?

The cheapest hotels on Universal property are Endless Summer Resorts which has Dockside and Surfside. From there the next 2 lowest cost per night hotels are Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Adventura.

What days of the week are best to visit Universal?

Weekends no matter what time of year is going to be busier than weekdays. While the best times to go are September and November (excluding Thanksgiving week), January, and February. If you are going other times of the year you want to avoid the weekends as much as possible. The weekend days are when we like to plan our down days where we just spend the day at the resort or at the pool. Visiting during the week even during busier times you will find less crowds and cheaper prices than going on the weekend days.

How much is the parking at Universal?

Parking for the theme parks is $26 per day.

Is it Cheaper to buy Universal Park tickets online?

Yes. Even if you are buying them from the Universal website without a deal you will get them cheaper online than you will at the entrance gate ticket booth.

Is it possible to do both Universal Parks in One Day?

While I do not recommend it, it is possible to do it. If doing so I highly suggest getting the express pass so you can avoid long lines and get thru your list of to do rides. The walk between the parks is easy, but our favorite way to go between the parks is using the Hogwarts Express (as my kids call it the Harry Potter train). If you are going to attempt both parks in one day I suggest getting there as early as possible, going thru one park, and then taking the Hogwarts Express and doing the second park in the afternoon.

How many days is best for Universal Themeparks in Orlando?

Personally, I think 4 days is the best amount of days. On days 1 and Days 2 do all of your must do and must see things one park at a time. Then day 3 slower pace but checking off anything you didn’t get to on the first 2 days even if it means jumping back and forth and then day 4 being the day you go and do the rides that you loved the most again.

If you are a Harry Potter fan then I would keep days 1 and 2 the same, then day 3 spent divided between the 2 Harry Potter worlds and day 4 for anything you missed or want to do again.

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