On this page, we are going to discuss official Universal Orlando vacation packages, their benefits, how they work, and whether you can actually save money booking your travel as a package through Universal.
The purpose of this page is to give you the insider tips, tricks, and secrets about these vacation packages. That being said, it’s important to note that any price, procedure, or policy related to Universal vacation packages may change at any time. So please, before you make any final decisions, please contact Universal or your travel agent directly.
What exactly is a Universal Orlando vacation package?
Universal Orlando vacation packages present you with a way to “bundle” the components of a Universal vacation into one package. In its most basic form, a Universal Orlando vacation package must include accommodations (either at one of Universal’s on-site hotels or a Universal Orlando Partner Hotel) and theme park admission tickets.
In addition to these two basic components, a vacation package may also include additional entertainment (Blue Man Group tickets, etc.), car rental, transportation to Disney, and even airfare.
How do I book a Universal Orlando vacation package?
There are two primary methods for booking Universal Orlando vacation packages. The first method, and for many the easiest, is through a travel agency.
The second option is to book your package directly through Universal Orlando. This can be done via their website, UniversalOrlandoVacations.com, or by calling the vacation package department at 1-800-711-0080. When you call the vacation package department, you are actually calling Universal Orlando’s Guest Contact Center, and your “vacation package call” is routed to a Guest Contact Center team member who is trained in vacation packages.
It’s important to note that, in general, the price of a Universal Orlando vacation package is the same for guests whether the package is booked by a travel agency or directly through Universal. In other words, if you decide to use a travel agent, Universal pays them a commission on the money Universal would otherwise keep. The takeaway is that you, as the guest, will pay pretty much the same thing either way you go.
One more idea to consider when choosing a method of booking your package: Travel agents make a living by ensuring each one of their clients’ specific travel needs is met.
What’s the point of booking a Universal Orlando vacation package?
Now we get to perhaps the most important question, what’s the point of booking a Universal Orlando vacation package and is it worth it?
First off, it’s important to dispel a very popular myth: booking a Universal Orlando vacation package means that you are saving money. We’re sorry to say that this is not true. Even though it feels like you are bundling the components of your vacation so you ought to save, bundling doesn’t mean saving in this case. The truth is, if you were to purchase the parts of your Universal Orlando vacation separately, you are likely to come up with close to the same price. And in the times that you come up with a different price, more often than not that price will be lower than the package price – particularly if you are able to get your admission tickets from AAA.
So what’s the point of booking a Universal Orlando vacation package?
There are three real reasons to book a Universal Orlando vacation package: (1) to gain access to Early Park Admission at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; and (2) to make a guaranteed reservation for breakfast one morning at Three Broomsticks and/or the Leaky Cauldron; and (3) to have a single point of contact for the different components of your Universal vacation (at least until you get on-site).
Let’s look at each of these benefits a little bit closer.
Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal’s Volcano Bay
Unless you are coming to Universal Orlando when you are certain it will be very slow, or unless you just don’t care about Harry Potter, having Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World is an essential factor to ensuring your vacation is a success. (Be sure you read our How to ensure your trip to WWoHP is a success! page at some point.) Right now, there are three ways to get Early Park Admission…
The first way is to stay at one of Universal Orlando’s on-site hotels: Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Royal Pacific Resort, Sapphire Falls Resort, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, or Aventura Hotel. All guests staying on-site, regardless of how they booked their room or whether or not they have a vacation package, get Early Park Admission. So, if you are staying on-site, you do not need a vacation package to get Early Park Admission.
The second way is to book a vacation package that includes one of Universal’s 40 or so Partner Hotels, which are hotels off-property that Universal has contracted with to sell their rooms. It’s very important to note that you must book accommodations at a Universal Partner Hotel as part of a Universal Orlando vacation package to get Early Park Admission. So if you want to stay at the DoubleTree across from the entrance to Universal and you want Early Park Admission, you MUST book a Universal Orlando vacation package with the DoubleTree as your hotel. If you just book the hotel on your own, and purchase your own theme park admission tickets, you will NOT get Early Park Admission.
The third way is to have a Universal Orlando Annual Pass. Both Preferred and Premier Passholders receive Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. However, be aware that Preferred Annual Passes have blockout dates for this perk. In addition, Annual Passholders are not eligible for Early Park Admission to Universal’s Volcano Bay.
Finally, keep in mind that Early Park Admission is a benefit included with ALL vacation packages – if you book a Universal Orlando vacation, whether it’s the 2-Park Getaway or any other package, you get Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal’s Volcano Bay.
Reservations at Three Broomsticks and the Leaky Cauldron
Being able to set up a reservation for breakfast one morning at Three Broomsticks and the Leaky Cauldron is a special benefit of the Exclusive Harry Potter vacation package. If you want to make a reservation for breakfast, you need to book a vacation package – doesn’t matter where you are staying, on-site or off-site – and you have to book the Exclusive Harry Potter vacation package. We’ll explain the different vacation packages a little further down.
Please note that, during most times of the year, guests may be able to enjoy breakfast at the Wizarding World restaurants without reservations. Also, keep in mind that, for lunch and dinner, Three Broomsticks and the Leaky Cauldron are first-come-first-served for everyone.
Is there any other reason to book a Universal Orlando vacation package?
You now know that you are not really going to save any money by booking a vacation package – in most cases, you may end up paying a little more. The real reasons to book a package are either to get Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal’s Volcano Bay if you are staying at an off-property hotel, or to get reservations for during your trip.
But there must be other reasons, right?
The truth is, there really are not. For example, if you book a vacation package, you get complimentary access to the nightclubs at Universal CityWalk. But you get that same complimentary access if you purchase a Park-to-Park admission ticket from Universal anyway. Or if you purchase Blue Man Group tickets. Or, you can purchase the pass alone right at CityWalk for about $10. The point is, complimentary access to the nightclubs is not much of a reason to get a vacation package.
The only thing we can add is that, as we mentioned above, booking a package does give you one point of contact. So if you have issues with your admission tickets, or hotel, or if you want to talk to someone about the dining options at Universal, you can just call your travel agent or Universal’s vacation package department.
What are the different types of vacation packages available?
Universal Orlando’s vacation packages breakdown into four main categories:
1 – Splash, Stay, and Play Vacation Package
This is Universal’s basic vacation package. As the basic package, it includes the basic components: hotel accommodations and theme park admission tickets. It also includes Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal’s Volcano Bay.
The Splash, Stay, and Play is the most flexible package, meaning that you can book it for as many nights as you want, and add and adjust components, just as long as there is one night at a hotel and one theme park admission ticket somewhere in the package. All of the other vacation packages offered by Universal Orlando are basically variations of this package.
2 – Exclusive Harry Potter vacation package
Like the Splash, Stay, and Play, this package includes hotel and park admission tickets. But for a slightly higher price that is hidden in with the cost of the hotel, it also includes breakfast at Three Broomsticks and/or the Leaky Cauldron. Because The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is so incredibly popular, Universal often requires a 4-night stay to book this package. If you don’t want to stay for four nights at Universal, book the Splash, Stay, and Play and all you lose is the one-time breakfast at Three Broomsticks and/or the Leaky Cauldron – and remember, you’ll probably be able to walk in for breakfast without a reservation, or you can just have lunch or dinner at these venues.
3 – Florida resident discount packages
Universal’s Florida resident packages are exactly like the Splash, Stay, and Play, except the hotel rates can be slightly less if the hotel you choose is offering a Florida resident discount. It’s worth noting that Universal’s Florida resident discount admission tickets can be added to any vacation package, making the “Florida resident vacation packages” rather unnecessary.
4 – Seasonal & specialty vacation packages
During special events, such as Halloween Horror Nights, or for new promotions, Universal may offer special vacation packages. To differentiate them from the Splash, Stay, and Play, these specialty packages usually offer one additional benefit, such as a complementary character photograph, or access to an otherwise private activity. But be cautious about the complementary or exclusive benefits included in these packages – the cost for them is often hidden with the cost of the hotel (which means you’re paying for them anyway), or, in the case of a private event, there are often other methods for getting in.
For example, the Gory Getaway is the name of the specialty vacation package Universal offers during Halloween Horror Nights. It usually includes 3-night hotel accommodations, 2-day Base tickets, 1-night admission to HHN, and a CityWalk Party Pass. When you purchase this package, the advertising gives the impressive that somehow you’re saving money by bundling. But you’re not. You can easily book all these features on their own, and with a little research, come up with equal prices.
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