Is a Universal Annual Pass Worth it? Learn the perks, cost, and tricks that help you get the most out of your Universal Orlando Annual Pass.
We took our first family trip to Universal Studios Orlando in September 2017. The joy on my kids' faces was enough to get the wheels turning in my head on how or when we would be able to return. Lucky for us, after some careful planning and strategic thinking we were able to become Passholders in January 2018. We quickly learned how much value is in being a Universal Annual Pass Holder. Learn all of the ins and outs, tips and tricks to see if a Universal Annual Pass is worth it for you.
Our first trip I was struggling to figure out how we were going to pay for a family of 5 hit up both parks with park hopper passes. My kids are HUGE Harry Potter fans, and there are elements of Harry Potter at both Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure. Plus with the park hopper, you can ride the Hogwarts Express Train between parks (YES, please!). Currently, at the time this post was written (April 2019) a two-park - 1-day ticket is $170 per person. Keep that in mind because you are quickly going to see the value.
Universal Orlando Annual Pass Types
There are four types of passes at Universal Orlando.
You can also pick from 2 park or 3 park passes. 3 Park include Volcano Bay, and they are a little bit more expensive. For this post, I am going to stick with two park pricing and knowledge because that is what we have and have the most experience.
Seasonal & Power Passes
These are the lowest tier passes. They are an enormous value if you are trying to save money but still want a pass. These passes are great if you are a Florida Resident and have a flexible schedule. Something to keep in mind is that the Seasonal and Power Passes have blackout dates. Buying these passes can be a no-go if you are planning a vacation or like to go during events like concert nights, Mardi-Gras, etc.
With Seasonal & Power Passes you don't get as many perks. Seasonal pass you still pay for parking, while Power Passes get you a 50% discount on parking. Both passes will get you a discounted rate at the on-site hotels.
The Preferred Passes is what we had last year, and enjoyed every minute of it. The perks include
- No blackout dates.
- Free Regular Parking
- 10% Discount across the parks on food, souvenirs, etc. (with some exclusions)
- Discount at on-site hotels
- Early Park Admission (select days)
For the price, it is fantastic to have a preferred pass, but this year we went a step further and got the Premiere pass.
While this is the most expensive pass, it has the potential to save you the MOST time and money. Sounds crazy but let me explain.
Premiere Perks are
- No blackout dates
- Free Regular and Prime and Valet Parking (WOO HOO!)
- 15% Discount across the parks on food, shops, etc.
- Free Express Pass after 4 PM (HUGE!)
- Free Halloween Horror Nights Ticket
- Discount at on-site hotels
- Early Park Admission
If you have never been to Universal, or have limited knowledge of the parks. The Prime Parking is typically $35 or more depending on the day. Also, the Halloween Horror Nights Ticket is about $100 value. Not to mention other discounts!
Oh, and our big why to upgrade. The Express Pass after 4 pm. Even when the park is busy, we can head to the parks after 4 and zip right on some of our favorite rides without waiting.
Universal Annual Pass or tickets?
Remember I told you that a one day two park ticket was $170. Here is the current pricing (April 2019 for the annual passes per person)
You can quickly see that if you are planning a multiple days trips how these passes seem to pay for themselves. Especially if you are planning a week-long vacation, or want to be able to return later in the year. Factor in the additional discounts and free parking and it is a no brainer.
For the cost of 3 days at the park, you can return for the entire year with all the perks the Premier Pass has to offer! INSANE VALUE!
Annual Pass Cost Savings
If that isn't enough savings for you, Universal Orlando offers extra savings and helpful ways to afford annual passes year round! How cool is that?
Typically during Mardi Gras at the parks, they run special annual pass offers! This year's promo was pay for a year and get 3 or 6 months free (depending on the level of pass you purchased). They also tend to run a similar offer during Halloween Horror Nights, so keep your eyes out.
If it all seems like too much, they do offer flex pay. You pay 50% down, and they automatically withdraw a monthly payment from your account until your pass is paid in full. It's a great way to afford a little extra fun in your life.
20% off Renewals
If you do decide to become a Universal Annual Pass holder and it is time to renew. Head to guest services in the park, or call them over the phone. Pay for your pass in a lump some, and they will take 20% off the total cost! For a family of 5, that is like getting one pass free! Now, that is awesome!
Universal Orlando Annual Pass Perks
You can see some of the perks above but here are a few more details to keep you in the know.
Parking can vary depending on how busy the parks are. We typically see regular parking around $25 per car and Prime for $35-$45 per car. You can see how free parking savings can add up rather quickly.
If you plan on eating in the parks or at City Walk or picking up souvenirs the discounts are a great way to save. Preferred offers 10% off with some exclusions and Premiere offers 15% off with some exclusions.
One thing to keep in mind is many of the smaller kiosks don't accept the discount, which is kind of a bummer, but the main stores and restaurants do.
UOAP Special Events
Universal has a facebook page just for their Passholders. They also send out emails. They offer special Passholder only special events, movie screenings, opportunities to ride the Mardi Gras floats, and much more! Also, you will find Passholder areas roped off in the parks for the parades, so you get premium viewing with your family! The special events are so much fun!
Universal recently started creating Passholder buttons. Every month you can head to the park and pick up a unique button to commemorate your time as a Passholders. During the holidays they had unique Christmas ornaments available. There is always something fun to let you know how much you are valued to Universal.
Halloween Horror Nights
A perk for those Premiere Passholders but that Halloween Horror Nights ticket is like gold to some! If you were planning on going anyway, this is a great way to save money and enjoy the parks all year long.
Express Pass after 4 pm
Again, the Express Pass after 4 is a Premiere Passholder only perk. Typically you pay $100+ per person per day to have an express pass, or some on-site resorts offer you Express Passes with a stay. Either way, these are typically very expensive, but make this passes value go through the roof! This alone will make your visits more enjoyable!
Is a Universal Annual Pass Worth it?
At the end of the day, it depends on your budget and how often you are planning to return to Universal Orlando. However, I would say YES! It is worth it to snag the Universal Annual Pass. It packs a considerable value compared to their local competitors. If you are a Florida Resident, planning an extended vacation, or plan on returning within the year snag a pass and enjoy your stay!