I’m not going to lie, Disney has my heart. I’ve always loved Disney parks, and never would have considered a Universal parks vacation until the past few years. In fact, until the opening of Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade in 2010 and Diagon Alley in 2014, I would have considered Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (Universal Orlando’s two theme parks) a “day trip” to add to your Disney vacation, since its close by. In 2016, I had the opportunity to visit and tour Universal Orlando Resort’s theme parks and hotels, and boy, was I wrong about them! At the time, they had four resort hotels, with one more under construction. They have continued to add, with their seventh resort hotel (Endless Summer: Surfside Inn and Suites) opening this June and eighth to open in Spring of 2020! When I visited, Universal’s Volcano Bay water theme park was also under construction. It opened in 2017 and truly made Universal Orlando Resort a major vacation destination! Add in the restaurant and entertainment options that their CityWalk district provides, and you could easily spend a week without ever leaving the property!
Similar to Disney, Universal Orlando’s resort hotels are split into categories based on available amenities and pricing levels: Premier, Preferred, Prime Value, and with the addition of their two newest resorts, Value. Each of these resorts offer different options, but all include at least one pool area and food options. Endless Summer Resort: Surfside Inn and Suites, a Value resort, will offer both standard hotel rooms as well as two-bedroom suites with a kitchenette. These suites, which sleep up to six, are a fabulous and much-needed new option for larger families, and being a Value resort, the prices are great!
Universal is also currently offering an incredible park ticket promotion, which runs until June 12, of buy 2 days and get 3 free! That’s 5 days of park tickets for the price of 2! These come in both 2-park (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure) and 3-park (2 theme parks + Volcano Bay water theme park) options, so they’re great for everyone! There are select “blackout” dates during the month of July, and they expire towards the end of this year (Dec 2019), but Labor Day, Fall Break, and Thanksgiving dates are included in the promotion!
To make your vacation complete, Universal Orlando offers multiple add-on options with their packages, but one of my favorites is the Express Unlimited Pass. The Express Unlimited Pass, a ticket upgrade, allows you to skip the lines at most attractions, which means you’ll spend less time waiting and more time having fun! Looking for the best value? Universal includes an Express Unlimited Pass for each member of your party for free if you’re staying at one of their Premier level hotels! For many families, the cost of upgrading to the nicer resort and getting the included Express Pass is actually less than buying the pass outright, which is definitely something to consider when you’re working with your travel agent to build a Universal Orlando Vacation!
If you’re looking for more of an “all-inclusive” type experience, Universal Orlando also has options for dining plans that can be added to your package ahead of time. This will also allow you to budget the cost of food into your overall vacation cost and payments, rather than having to pay out-of-pocket for meals during your visit. With multiple restaurants included in the dining plans, there are options for everyone!
If you’re like me and thought Universal Orlando was just a “day trip” or “add on” to a Disney or other Florida vacation, hopefully this has sparked your interest enough to consider all the wonderful offerings Universal has! With the current promotions, there’s no better time than now to reach out to your travel agent about booking that Universal vacation. Go see for yourself what it's all about!
Kara Brown is a Vacation Specialist with Coasters & Castles Travel.