Universal Orlando Tickets vs. An Annual Pass: Which Should You Get?

If you visit Universal Orlando (UO) theme park in Florida more than once a year (or even if you visit just once but for a multi-day visit), it might be a good idea to look into getting an annual pass (AP) rather than however many days of a multi-day pass. Generally speaking, annual passholders get some benefits that day pass (even multi day pass) holders don’t get and in the long run, having an AP might save you some money. Here are some things to consider when making that decision:

NOTE: For the sake of this post not being 12 pages long, when quoting prices, I’m going to use basic rack rate prices and won’t get into specialty prices, such as for Florida Residents, AAA, Mouse Savers, renewal rates, special “buy 12 months and get 3 months free” types of promotions, the deals citizens of non-U.S. countries get, etc. I’m not going to include add-ons such as Express Passes, meal plans, etc. Most of those are specialty sort of situations and I suspect the majority of people reading this won’t fit into those categories anyway ;-). I’m also not going to include tax because, well, I’m going to be dealing with enough numbers, I don’t want to have to add in taxes, too…you’re a grown up; you can figure that out on your own ;-). Same goes with Kids’ pricing – you can look those up ;-).

The Basics: Universal’s Parks

Universal has 3 parks:

  • Universal Studios (US) (the original park, which includes themed areas such as the Front Lot, New York, San Francisco, Hollywood, Kidzone, the Simpsons, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Diagon Alley & Knockturn Alley)
  • Islands of Adventure (IOA) (the 2nd park, opened about 10 years after US, which includes themed areas such as the Islands Port of Entry, Seuss Landing, The Lost Contient, Jurrassic Park, Toon Lagoon, Marvel Super Hero Island and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Castle).
  • Volcano Bay (VB) (UO’s water park)

NOTE: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are next to each other and are connected by the Hogwarts Express, an attraction based on the Harry Potter train that bring Hogwarts students back and forth between London’s Kings Cross Station and their beloved school. The Hogwarts Express attraction can ONLY be ridden if you have a park-to-park pass or an Annual Pass. Which costs more. Because of course it does. And nope, if you have a 1-day, 1-park pass, you cannot ride the Hogwarts Express and then ride it back again to your original park. You can also exit one park and enter the other (if you have park-to-park capabilities) through the regular respective exit/entry gates, if you don’t want to go via the Hogwarts Express.

All About Day Tickets For Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure (with or without Volcano Bay)

UO has tiered ticket prices that vary based on time of year and how many days you plan to go. For example, here are the prices for 1-day, 1-park adult tickets for US or IOA in May through August, 2018:

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 9.31.45 PMScreen Shot 2018-05-02 at 9.33.44 PM

Note: If you pay the more expensive rate (in this case, $124), you are also free to use your pass for any date you want (albeit with an expiration date). If you get the cheaper date, your expiration date will be sooner.

If you want a 2-Park 1-Day ticket (so you can freely go from one park to the other in the same day), that will cost more; $170 instead of $124 or $115:

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 9.57.53 PM

They also offer a 2-Park 2-Day park-to-park ticket, which entitles one (1) guest admission to BOTH Universal Studios Florida™ AND Universal’s Islands of Adventure™ theme parks on the same day. Ticket is valid for any two (2) calendar days during a seven (7) consecutive calendar day period which includes the first day any portion of the ticket is used.

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 9.56.11 PM.png

You can also purchase multi-day tickets, 3, 4 or 5 days’ worth, with 2-Park or 3-Park (they start to add Volcano Bay into the mix, as well) Park-to-Park capabilities. For all multi-day tickets, they are valid for the number of days you paid for (2, 3, 4 or 5) during a seven (7) consecutive calendar day period which includes the first day any portion of the ticket is used (so if your first day of use us August 1, you can use it through August 7 for however many days you paid for).

These are the prices for the 2-Park 5-Day tickets.

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.14.16 PM.png

All About Day Tickets For Volcano Bay Only

Ticketing for Volcano Bay is easier because there’s only 1 water park and, as of this writing, it’s the same price ($80) regardless of season/day/etc.

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 9.51.18 PM

They don’t sell a multi-day pass for Volcano Bay at this time; it would jut be included as part of your 2, 3, 4 or 5-day multi-day pass with US and IOA.

All About Universal Orlando Annual & Seasonal Pass Prices

Universal Orlando has 3 tiers of Annual Passes and has prices for 2-park passes (US & IOA) and 3-park passes (US, IOA & VB)

Here are the tiered prices and respective benefits for the 2-Park Annual & Seasonal Passes (remember, this won’t include admission to Volcano Bay):

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.28.58 PMScreen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.29.20 PM

And here are the tiered prices and respective benefits for the 3-Park Annual and Seasonal Passes (this one includes Volcano Bay):

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.33.03 PMScreen Shot 2018-05-02 at 10.33.22 PM

I don’t know why the prices of the 3-Park Annual & Seasonal Parks aren’t on Universal’s website, but they are, before tax:

  • 3-Park Seasonal Pass: $383.99
  • 3-Park Power Annual Pass: $443.99
  • 3-Park Preferred Annual Pass: $483.99
  • 3-Park Premiere Annual Pass: $688.99

The less expensive passes do include some blockout dates. For 2018, they include:

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 11.09.58 PM

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 11.10.10 PM

Preferred Annual Passes have blockout dates of July 1-31, 2018 for Volcano Bay only, ONLY if you have a 3-Park Pass.

Premiere Annual Passes have no blockout dates.

 

So which should you get? Multi-day tickets or an AP?

Honestly, the main factor is how many days you plan to go into the Universal parks over the course of a 365-day period, and in what kind of increments. And that means doing basic math. For example:

  • If you go twice in a year and get 2-Day 2-Park passes each time ($264 x 2 = $528), you may as well look at getting an Annual pass instead ;-).

Essentially, you need to go to Universal Orlando Resort’s website (or whichever website/option you would use to buy [multi]day passes), get the price of the tickets you would normally buy and compare it to the type of Annual Pass you would want (at that point you can look into whatever “special” tickets or passes you could get. Again, I just did rack rate from UO’s website to make things easier).

Other things to keep in mind:

Having a UO Annual Pass gives you more benefits than a regular day guest, which may include discounted or free parking, discounts of select food, merchandise and shows, invitations to special events, etc (see the benefits in the charts above).

Having a Universal Orlando AP makes things easier and more convenient in that you know you have yearlong entry to whatever parks your AP covers. Whether it’s financially worth it to you will require getting out a pad, pencil and calculator and doing the math. For us it’s worth it. As always, Your Mileage May Vary.

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