It’s time to share with you an insider secret about purchasing Express Passes at Universal Orlando Resort. 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 access that guests staying at select Universal on-site hotels receive, and for less than you were already planning on spending.
UNLIMITED Express Passes – a quick disclaimer
The numbers used in the scenario below were collected in March 2018. Prices have definitely changed since then, so please be sure to double-check your math before purchasing tickets using the advice below.
UNLIMITED Express Passes – the scenario
I am going to Universal Orlando and its two theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. I am heading there for the Fourth of July 2018, 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 and Express Passes. I am going to be visiting on July 3rd through the 5th, and so I will be getting a two-park, three-day ticket.
Let’s take a look at what this would usually cost for just one person:
Two-park, three-day park-to-park ticket online (ages 10 and up) = $284.99, plus tax and fees
One-day park-to-park Express Pass (same for all ages) = $119.99 on July 3 and July 4, $129.99 on July 5 (total $369.97)
This gives us a total of $654.96.
So what do we have? A two-park, three-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 passes.
UNLIMITED Express Passes – the secret
Two-park, three-day park-to-park ticket + Unlimited Express for July 3 through 5 = $514.99 per person
For those of you who like to check the fine print, here’s the description of a three-day park-to-park ticket + Unlimited Express right from Universal’s website:
The two-park, three-day park-to-park + Universal Express Unlimited ticket entitles one (1) guest admission to both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure theme parks, and unlimited Universal Express ride access to participating attractions. Ticket is valid for any three (3) calendar days during a seven-(7)-consecutive-calendar-day period, which includes the first day any portion of the ticket is used.
This means you truly get unlimited Express access, and you get this for less than you would have paid when purchasing regular admission and basic Express Passes (good for only one use per attraction) separately.
UNLIMITED Express Passes – another secret
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 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 of Harry Potter and Volcano Bay, in some cases it just makes sense to stay on-site when you break down the numbers. Let’s look at a similar scenario to the one above.
My wife and I are going to Universal Orlando and two of its theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. We are heading there for Fourth of July 2018, 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 July 3rd through the 5th, and we’re getting three-day tickets for the parks.
In addition to tickets, we also need a place to stay. Because we know we’re already going to be spending lots of money on admission, 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:
Two-park, three-day park-to-park ticket (ages 10 and up) = $284.99, plus tax and fees.
One-day park-to-park Express Pass (same for all ages) = $119.99 on July 3 and July 4, $129.99 on July 5 (total) $369.97
(Please note that these are basic Express Passes, good for one use only at participating attractions.)
So, by purchasing admission and Express separately, our ticket subtotal for my wife and myself would come out to $1,309.92.
Now, let’s add in two nights at a moderate hotel we found down the street for $89.50 per night. (Remember, this is the middle of summer, so even two-star hotels are going to be a bit pricey.) That brings our total for tickets, basic Express Passes, and hotel accommodations to $1,488.92.
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 venues, which would give us complimentary unlimited Express Passes.
We start with the same admission tickets: two-park, three-day park-to-park, priced at $284.99, plus tax and fees per person – or $569.98 for the both of us.
At this point, we do not need to add Express into our calculation because, again, it’s a complimentary benefit offered to all guests staying on-site at select Universal hotels.
Now let’s look at the room: although pricing and availability will change, at this particular moment we can get a standard king or double queen room at Royal Pacific Resort – checking in July 3 and checking out July 5 – for $389.00, plus tax, per night.
That brings our total for admission and on-site hotel accommodations to $1,347.98.
What does this mean? For $140.94 less than we were going to spend on tickets, basic Express Passes, and a “cheap” hotel, we can instead stay on-site at Universal in a four-diamond luxury resort that’s just a heartbeat away from the action – and we get unlimited Express, and we get Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Volcano Bay!
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 would be paying slightly more for accommodations, 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!)
UNLIMITED Express Passes – how it 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: Universal Orlando’s latest on-site hotels Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Sapphire Falls Resort, and Aventura Hotel all do not offer complimentary Express. This is part of the reason that these on-site hotels offer lower rates than the original three on-site hotels.
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