Universal Studios Guide

Quick Guide

  • Number of Parks: 2 (New Epic Universe Opening in 2025)
  • Suggested Time: 2-4 Days
  • Average Walking: 8-11 Miles per Day
  • Best Time to Go: First Two Weeks of December (Christmas Decorations are up, but crazy crowds won’t show up until the 3rd week). Also, Late Jan/Feb, May, Sept/Early Oct for slower crowds
  • Overall Best Park: Islands of Adventure 
  • Favorite Rides: VelociCoaster, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts & Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Favorite Restaurants: Mythos, Leaky Cauldron, Pizza Predatoria
  • Must Have Drink: Butter Beer
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Universal Vacation Packages

Planning a trip to Universal may not be as daunting as organizing a Disney escapade, but it still demands thorough preparation. Here are two options that streamline the process and save you serious cash:

  • Costco Travel: This one’s a no-brainer for hassle-free booking at unbeatable prices. Our last trip booked through Costco saved us a bundle. Universal’s regular tickets alone were over $1,000, but by bundling them with the Universal Cabana Bay Resort, we scored everything for just $1,300, including a Costco and Universal gift card. That’s a scorching deal!

  • Universal Travel Agents: For maximum ease, consider booking through a Universal travel agent. These pros offer insider tips, tailor itineraries to your budget, and simplify your planning process, making your trip stress-free and unforgettable.

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Universal Luxury Resorts: Worth the Investment

A glance at the price tags (ranges between $350-$950) for these resorts might make your heart skip a beat. But their luxury extends beyond opulent accommodations: they offer early park admission and unlimited express passes, saving you $100-$400 per day per person. Book at the right rate, and these resorts are a gold mine for comfort and convenience:

  • Loews Portofino Bay Hotel: We’ve stayed here twice, enjoying the plush accommodations and significant perks from Amex Platinum’s FHR program. At $540 per night, we scored a room upgrade, $200 cashback, complimentary breakfast, $100 food credit, and those invaluable express passes for the whole family. Pro tip: You can use the passes on both your check-in and check-out days.

  • Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel: This music-themed resort offers vibrant rooms and rockstar amenities, along with express passes that get you straight to the front of the ride lines.

  • Loews Royal Pacific Resort: A tropical paradise with Polynesian flair, complete with sandy beaches and lush gardens, offering express passes and early park admission for added luxury.

*So if you’re looking to splurge, these resorts ensure your Universal trip is not only comfortable but also time-efficient and packed with value.

Universal Value Resorts

For an affordable yet enjoyable stay, these resorts offer great value and include 30-minute early entry to the parks:

  • Loews Sapphire Falls Resort: Slightly pricier than the others listed here, but its boat shuttle to the parks is a standout feature many guests appreciate.

  • Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort: We booked this one through Costco and had a blast. The resort’s expansive grounds, decent food, and fun-filled pools and lazy river were a hit with the kids.

  • Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites & Surfside Inn and Suites: Both properties provide budget-friendly accommodations with a laid-back beach vibe. Guests can enjoy surf-themed decor and spacious rooms, making these resorts ideal for families and travelers looking for value without sacrificing style and comfort.

Universal Hotels with Credit Card Points

For those planning a trip to Universal Studios and looking to book with points, there are several fantastic options across major hotel chains:

  • Hyatt: Right next to Universal, you’ll find Hyatt Place and Hyatt House, offering great convenience for park visitors. Additionally, a new Hyatt House is set to open on International Drive. These locations are quite reasonable with point costs ranging from 6.5K to 12K.
  • IHG: Close to Universal, IHG boasts the Holiday Inn & Suites and Holiday Inn Express, along with another Holiday Inn Express on International Drive. These properties are excellent value picks that come with complimentary breakfast. Plus, IHG sweetens the deal with a 4th night free when booking with points, which range from 14K to 25K.
  • Marriott: Options include Fairfield Inn & Suites, Residence Inn, and Townplace Suites, with points ranging from 29K to 39K, which may seem a bit steep. They also offer the newer Hotel Landy at a more attractive 23K points per night.
  • Hilton: Like Marriott, Hilton’s options are on the pricier side, with point costs between 29K and 39K per night. Their lineup near Universal includes Double Tree, Homewood Suites, Home2 Suites, and Hilton Garden Inn.

Flights

When planning your flight to Universal, we recommend using Google Flights for a comprehensive view of your options. Always aim to book direct for the simplest travel experience. :

  • Orlando International Airport (MCO) is your main gateway with a wide array of flights. If you’re looking for a quieter arrival, consider Sanford Airport (SFB), just a short drive away.
  • Don’t overlook Tampa (TPA) either; it’s only an hour’s drive and often offers competitive fares. Whether you’re paying cash or using points, these airports provide plenty of flexibility to snag a great deal on your journey to the magic.

*For our last trip, We transferred 15,000 points per person from our Amex to Virgin Atlantic and snagged return Delta flights

Ticket Purchases and Universal Studios Strategy

  • Tickets: While discounts on Universal tickets are scarce, buying them as part of a package from Costco can save a bit. Undercover Tourist might offer a modest $10-20 off multi-park tickets, but purchasing directly from Universal is often the best route to avoid complications.
  • Park Strategy: Under Construction!!