We have made endless memories during our multiple visits to Universal Studios Orlando over the years, however, a vacation to the resort in Orlando isn’t exactly cheap.
A trip to Universal Studios Orlando costs between $684 and $2,539 per person based on two people sharing a room over three nights. This includes flights, hotel, food, park tickets, ground transport and souvenirs.
You can save a significant amount of money on some aspects of a trip to Universal Orlando if you’re able to make some adjustments including; driving instead of flying where applicable, visiting two parks instead of three, buying a limited number of souvenirs and staying in a budget hotel.
Of course, I realise these adjustments aren’t for everyone so I’ve broken down all the different aspects of a trip as well as the cost of each and ways to save money to help you make conscious decisions on how you plan to spend your money when visiting Universal Studios Orlando.
Depending on where you’re travelling from you may have to fly to Universal Studios in Orlando. Flights vary dramatically depending on;
- Where you’re coming from
- The time of year
- The airline you’re travelling with
- How far in advance you book
When we travel from the UK we generally aim to pay no more than £300 per person for a flight to Orlando. When travelling domestically within the US it varies dramatically depending on where you’re coming from.
The price of a round trip to Orlando starts from;
- New York – $40
- Atlanta – $50
- Dallas – $60
- Boston – $50
- New Orleans – $60
- Pittsburg – $60
- Denver – $70
- Minneapolis – $80
- Austin – $80
In both instances, we use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights. We’re not tied to one airline so generally go for the cheapest provided it’s convenient for us.
How To Save Money On Flights To Universal Orlando
You may be able to save a significant amount of money on your flights by looking at different airlines, travelling to an alternative nearby departure airport, choosing different dates and booking in advance. If you have the means to do so you may also want to consider the advantages and disadvantages of taking a road trip to Universal Orlando.
Especially in the peak season where domestic flights can easily exceed $200 per person, a twelve-hour road trip for a family of four doesn’t seem like a terrible idea.
Of course, even if you don’t fly you’ll have to pay for gas and tolls. In most cases, the cost of this will be within the quoted $40 – $400 person that a flight costs. The cost of driving is significantly reduced per person the more people who travel.
If you’re travelling solo consider using a website such as Jakes Kar. This website allows you to share your journey and pick up other riders along the way who will contribute to your costs.
How To Spend More Money On Flights To Universal Orlando
If you’re looking to add a little bit of luxury to your trip to Orlando then consider flying business class instead of economy. Even just a premium economy seat or extra legroom can make a significant difference, especially on a long haul flight.
Of course, all this comes at a cost and the exact price will vary depending on the airline and the distance you’re travelling.
Be sure to consider luggage, especially if you’re travelling for a significant amount of time or planning to buy souvenirs during your trip. Not all airlines offer cabin baggage anymore, in some cases you’ll be ‘hand luggage only’ which often means taking one limited sized bag of between 5kg and 10kg (the exact weight varies between airlines) onboard with you.
Additional checked-in bags usually cost around $30 each way but can be shared between family members if you’re travelling together.
Flights Per Person: $40 – $400
There’s a wide range of hotels in Orlando, from budget motels through to luxury resorts. As discussed in the ground transport section there are some financial benefits to finding a hotel with complimentary shuttles between the hotel and either / or the airport and Universal Studios.
Much like flights you’ll find that the cost of a hotel room will vary significantly depending on the time of year you visit.
We’re never specific about a hotel in Orlando and instead use a hotel aggregator like Booking.com to find the best deals and refine our selection based on a number of preferences.
How To Save Money On Hotels Near Universal Orlando
With so many hotels in Orlando fighting for your business saving money is relatively easy if you know what to look for.
The first tip I mentioned above, using a search aggregator to find all the hotels in the area that meet your preferences whether that be an outdoor swimming pool, car parking or complimentary wifi.
Alternatively, consider exchanging credit card points or loyalty points for discounts or free nights. In the UK you can look to use Tesco Clubcard Points, and worldwide you can use American Express membership points and other major chain hotel award programmes such as Marriot Bonvoy, Melia and IGH.
You can also save money by going down a star rating, there are still a number of fantastic two and three-star hotels in Orlando with great online reviews. We check all the hotels we plan to stay at on TripAdvisor in advance to ensure they have good reviews from past guests.
However, it’s important to take these reviews with a pinch of salt, you get what you pay for after all. We tend to look for an average overall as many of the hotels have thousands of reviews. If the overall review is four out of five, we’ll then check to ensure the reviews over the last 3 months mirror that (ensuring that the hotel hasn’t gone downhill recently).
If you’re flexible consider adjusting your dates of travel. Hotel prices tend to vary depending on availability, which is often mirrored based on previous years. If demand is high then expect the cost of hotel rooms to increase, if demand is low then you can expect prices to be more reasonable. I suggest checking a crowd calendar for the park to see what the dates are like when you plan to visit.
How To Spend More Money On Hotels Near Universal Orlando
If you’re looking to add a little extra luxury to your trip to Universal Orlando then you may want to consider upgrading to a better hotel.
Universal Studios Resort in Orlando has seven on-site hotels. While Universal splits them between the categories of; value, prime value, preferred and premier, all of the hotels are three-star and above.
The premier hotels are five-star hotels which include water-taxis as well as shuttle buses from the hotel to CityWalk where you can enter either Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. If that wasn’t enough, these high-end hotels include complimentary express passes allowing you to skip the standby lines on the vast majority of the rides at the park.
We stayed at the only current preferred hotel, Loews Sapphire Falls shortly after it opened in 2016. A basic room here sleeps up to four people across two queen size beds and costs roughly $300 per night.
The vast majority of basic value hotels on-site and off-site allow you to upgrade rooms from standard double or queen rooms to luxury suites. These upgrades often provide you with more square-footage within the room, a better view and additional amenities.
For example, you can upgrade your room at Loews Sapphire Falls from a $300 per night standard two queen room to a 2-bedroom hospitality suite that sleeps up to eight for a whopping $1,127 per night.
Hotel Room: $270 – $1,200 (price based on 3 nights with 2 people sharing)
Of course, one of the advantages of travelling from your home to Universal Studios Orlando is that you’ll not need to purchase any ground transport either in the form of hiring a car, Ubers, Lyfts or shuttle buses.
If you do fly then you’ll need to consider how you plan to get from the airport to the hotel and then from the hotel to the parks if applicable.
Some hotels offer a complimentary shuttle from the airport to the hotel and the hotel to Universal Studios which reduces the cost of ground transport down to zero.
While hiring a car provides you with some flexibility allowing you to go where you want, when you want the additional costs are a factor you’ll want to seriously consider. Many hotels in Orlando don’t offer free parking, and you’ll also be required to pay for parking at Universal Studios (general parking starts at $25 per day).
A shuttle bus is certainly an affordable option with some companies offering one-way journeys for as little as $15 per person. However, it can often add an additional one or two hours onto your journey as you go around dropping fellow guests off at different hotels in the region.
In most cases, we opt to get a Lyft or Uber. The journey costs around $30 for up to three guests one-way, however, it’s private and direct – exactly what we want after a nine-hour flight from the UK.
How To Save Money On Ground Transport At Universal Orlando
You’ll save the most money on ground transport if you’re able to find a hotel that offers both complimentary pick-up from the airport and shuttles between the hotel and Universal Studios. However, this may increase the cost of your hotel significantly so you’ll want to compare the two.
The majority of hotels on International Drive offer a shuttle to Universal Studios in Orlando at a minimum. However, not all of these shuttles are free (one we stayed at recently charged $3 per person each way so it’s still incredibly affordable) and many run a strict and relatively restricted service which will leave you arriving or leaving the park earlier or later than you’d probably like.
If you want to rule out getting a shuttle altogether then check out hotels within walking distance of Universal Studios. This means that you’ll only have to pay for ground transportation between the airport and the hotel rather than on a daily basis. That said, consider the heat and humidity of Orlando during your visit, I once tried to walk half a mile in June and quickly found it was a terrible idea.
As I mentioned in the introduction to this ground transport section we tend to stick to Uber and Lyfts as they combine affordable transport with convenience allowing us to arrive at and leave the parks as and when we like. The majority of journeys from hotels nearby to the parks cost between $8 and $10 each way although this can increase during peak hours you can reduce the cost by sharing your ride in the UberPool or LyftPool service.
How To Spend More Money On Ground Transport At Universal Orlando
It’s relatively easy to spend more money on ground transport and add a little bit of luxury to your vacation. The two most popular ways are;
Getting a limousine to pick you up from the airport and drive you to the hotel. These private transfer services are really convenient and include a chauffeur. Many of the vehicles can be split between up to six people which actually makes the additional costs relatively small if you’re travelling as part of a group.
In our case, we usually opt to upgrade our hire car. We only hired a car once during our trip to Orlando and that was for our wedding in 2019. Being a special occasion we upgraded from a basic $30 a day hire car to a $100+ a day luxury sports car.
We did however bring the costs somewhat back down again by only hiring the car for a couple of days rather than during the full vacation.
If you are going to hire a car, whether it be the basic model or a luxury sports car be sure to compare the prices using an aggregator such as Skyscanner online in advance.
An if you’re visiting the park for more than four days then look into the cost of purchasing an annual pass for free general parking instead of paying $25 per day as the benefits of having one person hold an annual pass may outweigh the singular costs over the course of your visit.
Ground Transport: $0 – $100 per person
It’s incredibly difficult to save money on Universal Studios park tickets. I always recommend purchasing tickets directly from Universal Studios as you’re protecting yourself from any scams.
However, there are sometimes bundles on offer from reputable retailers such as FloridaTix if you’re also wanting to visit other parks such as Walt Disney World, SeaWorld and Legoland during your visit.
The cost of Universal Studios park tickets will vary depending on;
the number of days you’re visiting
- Whether or not you’d like to visit all three parks or a selected one
- The age of the guests (children are slightly cheaper than adults)
- The time of year you’re visiting
- Whether or not you’re looking to purchase express passes (more on this here)
How To Save Money On Park Tickets
It’s incredibly hard to save money on Universal Studios park tickets without compromising your experience and time at the park.
While there are certain companies that provide you with free or discounted tickets it often means spending a day going around a timeshare property and looking interested.
Alternatively, you could only spend two days at the park instead of three, skip the park to park tickets (more on this here) or only visit the two main parks and skip Volcano Bay.
How To Spend More Money On Park Tickets
While it’s difficult to save money on park tickets, it’s incredible easy to spend more and further enhance your experience.
Without a doubt, the best investment is in an express pass which allows you to save up to 80% of the standby wait time for the majority of major rides. We’ve found that this can save first time visitors up to eight hours when looking to go on all of the rides at the park.
If you do want to purchase an express pass, then you’ll need to remember that it’s one express pass per person, the pass can’t be shared. However, if you stay in one of the premier on-site hotels then you’ll be able to get these passes for free for everyone who’s staying in the room.
As express passes generally start from $89.99 per person per day, the savings here can easily outweigh the additional costs of staying in one of the luxury hotels.
If you’re looking to take your Universal Studios vacation to the next level then consider booking a VIP Experience. VIP experiences start from $189 per person plus tax, however, this is in addition to your standard park entry ticket. The benefits of a VIP experience include;
- Priority front-of-the-line access to all rides
- Exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences
- A dedicated tour guide escorting you around the park
- Complimentary valet parking
- Reserved seating at shows
- Complimentary continental breakfast and lunch
- Universal Express Unlimited ride access
- Exclusive VIP Experiences lanyard and credential
- Universal CityWalk Party Pass
- Discounts at select Universal Orlando owned and operated merchandise locations in the theme parks and CityWalk
You can further enhance your experience with additional tickets for the on-site attractions such as the cinema, Blue Man Group and mini-golf.
Alternatively, you can look at upgrading your park tickets to an annual pass so you can come back to the park a number of times over the course of a year. There’s a lot of information to consume about annual passes so it’s worth reading more online if you’re interested.
Park Tickets: $339.99 per person based on visiting all 3 parks over 3 days
Universal Studios offers two dining plan tiers which start from $25.99 + tax. However, in most cases I’ve found it’s more affordable and flexible to instead purchase the food at the park as you go.
The cost of food is as you might expect more expensive than at a food court in a shopping mall, that said, I’ve never had a bad meal at Universal Studios and the themes of the restaurants and dishes are an experience in themselves.
While the cost of the food varies between restaurants, the amount of money you spend on food is going to significantly increase the longer your vacation. In most cases, we budget between $50 and $100 per person, per day when visiting Universal Studios.
How To Save Money On Food At Universal Studios
You can keep the cost of food at the lower end of the budget by having a quick-service lunch and a table service dinner instead of two table service meals, sharing meals as the portions are huge, and eating breakfast at the hotel instead of in the parks.
All the information about the restaurants including the menus with prices is available online at the Universal Studios website. I suggest using this resource to get an idea of where you’d like to eat when to understand exactly how much you’ll want to budget.
Keep in mind that you’ll also want to budget for drinks and snacks including incredible doughnuts from LardLad and Butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
How To Spend More Money On Food At Universal Studios
With so many incredible restaurants to choose from it’s incredibly easy to spend more money on food during your vacation by visiting some of the best table service restaurants at the resort including; the Three Broomsticks at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Cowfish at CityWalk.
Food: $50 – $100 per person, per day
There are some incredible souvenirs available to purchase at Universal Studios, like most theme parks the cost of which are significantly more expensive than you’ll find at shopping malls etc.
While you can go home without souvenirs, it’s unlikely that’s going to happen, so it’s important that you budget accordingly for an impulse purchase or two whether that be a photo frame, t-shirt or keyring.
You’ll likely find that if you’re travelling with children you’ll need to increase your souvenir budget further to accommodate things they might want to buy during the trip.
You’ll also likely find that you’ll purchase more souvenirs the longer you’re visiting the theme park, so while I’ve estimated between $20 and $200 I’d add on an additional 10% for every day over three days (i.e. 4 days budget $22 – $220 and 5 days $24 to $240).
We have a whole post dedicated to our favourite Universal Studios souvenirs where you can learn more about the exact costs of different items available to purchase at the park.
How To Save Money On Universal Souvenirs
You can save money on souvenirs at Universal Studios by purchasing basic affordable souvenirs such as keyrings and photos instead of expensive souvenirs such as Harry Potter robes and wands.
Prices for basic souvenirs start at $5.00, however, these prices can quickly increase to up to $100 for specialist items.
You could look at going elsewhere to purchase your souvenirs including International Drive and the outlets. Here you’ll be able to buy both Universal inspired and alternative souvenirs at a highly discounted price. Of course, going to both of these are going to require you to pay for transport and in some cases parking, which may outweigh the savings.
How To Spend More Money On Universal Souvenirs
If you’re looking at spending more on souvenirs then consider purchasing a Universal Studios annual pass. The preferred annual pass offers 10% discount on Universal-owned and operated stores, and the premier pass offers a 15% discount.
While these specific passes start at $287.99 they also come with additional benefits including access to the parks throughout the year, discount on hotel rooms, additional tickets and food alongside free parking.
Of course, the easiest way to spend more money on souvenirs at Universal Studios is simply to buy more and buy better and that’s very easily done at the resort with so many incredible souvenirs available.
Souvenirs: $20 – $200