It’s time to share with you an insider secret about purchasing Universal Orlando Express Pass access. You won’t find this information on any other website or in any travel guide – at least for now! We’re about to show you how you can enjoy the same unlimited Express Pass access that on-site guests staying at select Universal Orlando on-site hotels receive, and for LESS than you were already planning on spending.
A QUICK DISCLAIMER
The numbers used in the scenario below were collected on July 9, 2013. It’s always possible for prices to change, so please be sure to double-check your math before purchasing tickets using the advice below.
I am going to Universal Orlando and its two theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. I am heading there for Christmas 2013, and I know it is going to be crazy busy from looking at OI’s free 12-month Universal Orlando crowd calendar. I want to do it right with Park-to-Park admission tickets and Express Passes. I am going to be visiting on December 24 through 26, and so I will be getting 3-day admission ticket for the parks. Let’s take a look at what this would usually cost for just one person:
3-day Park-to-Park ticket online (ages 10 and up) = $159.00 plus tax and fees.
1-day Park-to-Park Express Pass (same for all ages) = $55.99 on Dec 24, $69.99 on Dec 25, and $89.99 on Dec 26 – total $215.97.
This gives us a total of $374.97.
So what do we have? A 3-day Ticket with Park-to-Park access and a basic Express Pass for each day. It’s important to note that the basic Express Passes sold online are good for ONE USE ONLY per participating attraction. If we want to ride anything again, we will have to use the standby lines. Also, all Express Passes are one-day passes – so if you want Express access for multiple days, you need to buy multiple Express Passes.
And now the secret…
Instead, let’s say we purchase a 3-day PARK-TO-PARK TICKET + UNLIMITED EXPRESS, which includes Park-to-Park admission and UNLIMITED Express Pass access.
3-day PARK-TO-PARK TICKET + UNLIMITED EXPRESS for Dec 24 – 26 = $319.99 per person with tax.
For those of you who like to check the fine print, here’s the description 3-day PARK-TO-PARK TICKET + UNLIMITED EXPRESS right from Universal’s website:
- This 3-Day Park to Park with Unlimited Express Ticket allows one (1) guest to bypass the regular lines an unlimited amount of times by providing Express Access to most attractions at both Universal Studios Florida AND Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme parks for any three (3) calendar days during a fourteen (14) consecutive calendar day period which includes the first day any portion of the ticket is used. Valid at participating attractions only.
This means you truly get unlimited Express Pass access, and you get this for LESS than you would have paid when purchasing regular admission tickets and basic Express Passes (good for only one use per attraction) separately.
PARK-TO-PARK TICKET + UNLIMITED EXPRESS can be purchased online or over the phone by calling 407-224-7840.
Universal Orlando has three stunning on-site hotels that offer complimentary express access: Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Portofino Bay Hotel. For any number of reasons, many guests visiting Universal’s theme parks don’t consider the option of staying on-site at one of these properties, but they should! Forgetting about the unbelievable benefit of Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World, in some cases it just makes sense to stay on-site when you breakdown the numbers. Let’s look at a similar scenario to the one above.
My wife and I are going to Universal Orlando and its two theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. We are heading there for Christmas 2013, and we know it is going to be crazy busy from looking at the Universal Orlando crowd calendar. We want to do it right with Park-to-Park admission tickets and Express Passes. We are going to be traveling from December 24 through 26, and we’re getting 3-day admission tickets for the parks.
In addition tickets, we also need a place to stay. Because we know we’re already going to be spending lots of money on the tickets, we decide we are going to find a moderate two-star hotel in the area – that’s where we’ll save money!
So, let’s take a look at what this could potentially cost us.
3-day Park-to-Park ticket (ages 10 and up) = $159.00 plus tax and fees.
1-day Park-to-Park Express Pass (same for all ages) = $55.99 on Dec 24, $69.99 on Dec 25, and $89.99 on Dec 26 – total $215.97. Please note that these are basic Express Passes, good for one use only at participating attractions.
So by purchasing admission and Express Passes separately, our ticket subtotal for my wife and myself would come out to $749.94.
Now let’s add in two nights at a moderate hotel we found down the street for $89.50 per night. (Remember, this is Christmas, so even 2-star hotels are going to be a bit pricey.) That brings our total for admission tickets, basic Express Passes, and hotel accommodations to $928.94.
But, even though we know it’s going to be really expensive, let’s see what it looks like if we tried staying on-site at one of Universal’s properties which would give us complimentary unlimited Express Pass access.
We start with the same admission tickets, 3-day Park-to-Park priced at $152.00 plus tax and fees per person or $304.00 for both of us.
At this point, we do not need to add Express Passes into our calculation because unlimited Express Pass access is a complimentary benefit offered to all guests staying on-site at select Universal hotels.
So let’s look at the room: Although pricing and availability will change, as we’re writing this now we can get a standard king or double queen room at Royal Pacific Resort – checking in December 24 and checking out December 26 – for $369.00 plus tax per night.
That brings our total for admission tickets and on-site hotel accommodations to $1,042.00.
What does this mean? For only about $100 more than we were going to spend on tickets, basic Express Passes, and a “cheap” hotel, we can instead stay on-site at Universal Orlando in a four-diamond luxury resort that’s just a heartbeat away from the action – and we get unlimited Express Passes – and we get Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
For the vacation of a lifetime, it’s entirely worth it. Imagine getting to take this back to your hotel instead of having to jump into a cab or schedule the motel shuttle…
What’s more, the numbers we used are based on just two guests traveling. If we had two kids with us, by staying at the hotel, we wouldn’t be paying more for accommodations – assuming we don’t mind staying in the same room – but we would get three day’s worth of unlimited Express Passes at no additional cost for the kids. (Do keep in mind, we would have to buy them admission tickets.)
It’s worth clarifying one point here: when you stay on-site at Universal’s Royal Pacific, Hard Rock, or Portofino, you receive complimentary unlimited Express Pass access and Early Park Admission on your check-in and check-out days. This means, looking at our scenario above, by staying overnight for two nights we get three full days of unlimited Express Pass access and Early Park Admission. The only catch is that you have to physically check-in before you get your benefits – so if you want to use Express Pass access and Early Park Admission on the first day, you’ll need to check in around 6:00am. (Keep in mind that the hotel front desks are open 24 hours, so this is only a “catch” in terms of getting your family up and at ‘em so early!)
How this all works
While it’s not really a secret insofar as anyone can do what we’ve explained above, the factor that produces these numbers is the relatively high price of the basic Express Passes. When they are not so expensive, these numbers don’t look quite as good. However, you’ll be surprised how great of a deal the PARK-TO-PARK TICKET + UNLIMITED EXPRESS or on-site accommodations are if you were already planning on buying basic Express Passes anyway.
Check out Universal Orlando’s website to get pricing for your exact dates of travel and see what you come up with – you might be very happy with the numbers you come up with.
HUGE REMINDER: In 2014, Universal opened its fourth on-site hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort. It’s extremely important to remember that, as a “value” property, it does offer the lowest rates of Universal’s on-site hotels, but it does NOT offer unlimited Express Pass access as a benefit – which is part of the reason why it is able to offer the lowest on-site rates.
Sapphire Falls Resort, opening in summer of 2016, also does NOT offer complimentary express. Sapphire Falls is a preferred hotel like Royal Pacific, but does enjoy lower rates thanks to the lack of express.
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