Universal Orlando matches Disney World's price increase on one-day tickets

February 26, 2014, 11:29 PM · Universal Orlando today matched Walt Disney World's $4-a-ticket price increase on one-day/one-park theme park tickets. That raises the price of a one-day ticket to either Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure from $92 to $96. Disney World is charging $99 for one day at the Magic Kingdom (up from $95) and $94 for its other three parks (up from $90).

How much is that in Galleons, Sickles and Knuts?

Opting for the park-to-park option at Universal adds $40 to the cost of a one-day ticket, $5 more than the one-day park hopper add-on at Disney. The two-day base ticket at Universal went up $9, to $155.99 while the two-day park-to-park ticket increased $29, to $195.99. That makes the difference between the two-day base ticket, where you can visit one park per day, and the park-to-park ticket $40 (again) — double the previous price difference of $20.

Disney charges up to $60 for its park-hopper option, on tickets of four days or more. But remember that Disney offers four theme parks to Universal's two. The big increase in the price of going between the two parks in one day at Universal surely reflects Universal's expectation that demand for that option will surge after the Hogwarts Express train starts carrying visitors between Islands of Adventure's Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the new Diagon Alley land in Universal Studios Florida this summer.

Replies (19)

February 27, 2014 at 1:58 AM · I have to laugh at those commenting that Disney was for the priveleged and wealthy, whereas Universal is affordable (on the board when it announced Disney's price hike). They essentially cost the same amount.

My advice, get used to it. As the US economy improves, attendances will rise. Since these parks are already running at what is probably close to maximal attendance (Magic Kingdom certainly is) prices will continue to rise until they reach that optimal point on that good old supply/demand curve.

The good news is that this provides incentive to the parks to provide ways of increasing their capacity (either by enlarging their parks or adding new gates - both probably more achievable by Disney). The other positive is the flow on effect to other parks, such as Sea World and Six Flags who are able to compete for a slightly more coined clientele who are priced out of Universal and Disney.

Maybe its time to buy some shares.

February 27, 2014 at 4:15 AM · Interestingly, Universal did NOT raise the price of their annual passports
February 27, 2014 at 4:46 AM · The rich get richer. Eh, it happens. God bless the rich, I say. We knew it was coming and we know that multi-day tickets (or even annual passes) are really the way to go to get the most vacation value out of your Orlando vacation bucks. Universal used to be a one to one-and-a-half day destination, but not anymore, so anyone buying single day passes, well, shame on them for paying a premium to miss out on some great themed entertainment.
February 27, 2014 at 7:22 AM · Yep. Annual passes are the only way to go. And thankfully, there's Hotwire and Priceline for nice hotels at huge discounts, if you don't mind staying close to Disney/Universal, but not on property. Airfare is generally pretty reasonable to Orlando too.

I don't live in Orlando anymore, but I still have a Disney annual pass. I'm heading down for 3 days during Flower & Garden.

I know some people have a household size larger than 1, which complicates things, but I find it a lot more economical to get an annual pass and make 2-3 trips per year down there.

February 27, 2014 at 10:12 AM · Silly me for hoping Universal might actually ease the up-charge for their park-to-park passes once the Harry Potter experience crossed over into both parks, instead of actually increasing it. Don't know what I was thinking...
February 27, 2014 at 1:03 PM · Universal is just as expensive as Disney. The 2 day park hopping ticket is just ridiculously priced. I never expected such a pricing schedule. It would appear that if you're planning a theme park vacation for a week, you have to pick Universal or Disney, not both. Despite the improvement in entertainment value over the years, the pricing policies restrict the desire to "do it all".
February 27, 2014 at 2:46 PM · For now (!), Universal Hotels are still more affordable than Disney's... It's one point in their favor.
February 27, 2014 at 3:51 PM · It's interesting, but a day at Universal is going to end up costing my family at least $100 more than a day at the Disney parks. There will be four of us, and we will be buying the 2-Park pass at Universal because we are only going to Universal to experience the Harry Potter stuff. The rest of the parks are not all at interesting to us.

We never buy Disney parkhoppers. We are a one park a day kind of family. But, at Universal we just won't be able to ever go there unless we get the 2-Park pass to experience all of Harry Potter.

You know what Disney should do? They should build Star Wars attractions in both Hollywood Studios and EPCOT. Aren't they close enough to do that? Then they could have a Star Wars spaceship ride between the two parks to copy the Hogwarts Express. Then I'd buy a parkhopper that day to do both of the Star Wars attractions for sure. This being able to ride betwween the two parks is genius of Universal.

Real, true genius. It is making me do what I never dreamed I would ever do: buy parkhoppers (which I always saw as wasteful before, because we never went to more than one park per day).

February 27, 2014 at 9:10 PM · ^ Annette, I agree with your sentiments, but disagree with your decision (although you have every right to make whatever choice you want). That two park pass up-charge is simply unacceptable for one train ride. For me and mine, we simply will not ride the Hogwarts Express if the park hopper requirement remains in place (thankfully the attraction probably won't be much to write home about anyway). I have never and will never splurge for the extra expense of park hopper. I would urge others who don't usually splurge on park hoppers to make the same decision. On this one thing we should vote with our wallets and not let Universal get away with such an expensive up-charge. If enough visitors "just say no", then Universal will offer another ride option for non-park-hopping guests, exactly as they should have from the beginning. I find it to be quite a travesty that Universal is gouging guests in this fashion. If Disney pulled this same stunt, people would be screaming. And no offense, but I hope Disney never takes your "DHS -> Epcot" advice (but I do hope they build a Star Wars Land at DHS).

*** And Robert if you decide to do a weekly vote on who would splurge for the two park pass in this scenario, at least do the non-park-hopping audience the service of showing them exactly how much it will cost them to ride ONE attraction - a train, no less. ***

As for the anonymous poster commenting on the price comparison between Universal and Disney hotels, you're grasping at straws. There are only marginal price differences in similar quality hotels between the two destinations unless you are staying at places like the Grand Floridian (especially if you factor in the cost of parking at Universal - it's free at Disneyworld). And if you are paying rack rates for Disneyworld hotels, then you need serious help in your travel planning. And before you post a counter, please register on TPI - I don't want to get involved in another protracted debate with someone who is not bold enough to put their name (or some facsimile) on their opinion.

Look, I'm not trying to pick at Universal Orlando (heck, I love the place and have since before all the fair-weather Potter fans hopped on the bandwagon - no offense intended, the more the merrier), but let's not try to sell Universal as a less expensive version of Disney. Years ago Universal was an exceptional, value priced add on to your Disney vacation, but those days are long gone. Nowadays, as Anon Mouse pointed out, both companies are pushing the limits of what most theme park fans can afford to spend on any one vacation. The only thing that saves my family money on a Universal trip is the fact that we only need three or four days for a nice, relaxing visit (fewer guests, fewer parks), as opposed to the requisite six to seven days at Disney.

February 27, 2014 at 11:53 PM · At least Universal makes you buy a park hopper for an actual ride and brand new state of the art land that is connected by a ride on a train.

Right now at Disney World you can ONLY meet the Frozen princesses at Epcot in a small gift shop at a theme park that has not been touched since 1982. The wait was 6 hours.

Captain EO, Universe of Energy and Journey into a cheap imagination just don't have the same pull in 2014

February 28, 2014 at 4:35 AM · ^There is no AND, anon poster, you are buying the park hopper for ONE train ride and ONE train ride alone. Everything else in both parks can be experienced independent of that park hopper. For my family of five, that train ride would cost me an extra $200... and for $200 I need more than a slow moving conveyer with video screens.

As for the rest of your post, it has nothing to do with anything. There are outdated rides and attractions in every park. And the fact that someone would be foolish enough to wait six hours for anything at a theme park speaks volumes about the person, not the company.

February 28, 2014 at 8:09 AM · Disappointing news. Park-to-park access is no longer worth it. Universal is still a better deal than Disney, if your kids are 48"+ and enjoy rides more than cartoon characters and shopping. I would rather spend 2 days at Universal than 2 days at Disney World: newer rides, shorter lines, and the experience feels more spontaneous (you don't need to plan your rides months in advance at Universal).

February 28, 2014 at 12:51 PM · Wow.... a lot of debates going on here. Here is the thing... Neither Disney or Universal "forces" anyone to buy anything.

Universal is playing this expansion brilliantly, and I will tell you why. First, you have a new hotel going up that has 1800 rooms. The other three have a combined capacity of 2400 rooms.

Cabana Bay is a "budget" hotel, so the Unlimited Express perk will not apply, but they will still have early entry into the parks, just like the other hotels.

Universal is banking on filling that hotel with "on-site" guests, which means a good portion of them are going to book their trip through Universal and purchase two park tickets for X amount of days and not leave the property.

When you look at the options for a single day visit for both parks and the chances you will have of being able to visit both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, then, somehow get to ride / visit all the other attractions, it will be almost impossible, especially during the busiest months.

I think families will be more inclined to make Universal a destination stay vs a one day visit as it will be very hard to see it all in one day, unlike 5 years ago.

Any Disney fan knows, you cannot possibly ride everything and see all of the attractions at the Magic Kingdom in a single day, unless it happens to be mid January. You have to come back for a second or third day to get your money's worth to see everything MK has to offer. The days of FastPass manipulation / hording and using ride exits for quick entry with GAC cards are over.

That is Disney's way of forcing you to consider staying on site and purchasing park hoppers.

February 28, 2014 at 2:18 PM · N B, I do not know of any attraction at Disney that requires you to buy a park hopper to ride. So while I agree with everything else you posted, I still don't see how Disney is forcing anyone to buy a park hopper to enjoy their parks. I certainly have never had to buy one and I have visited every significant attraction at the Disney parks. Ditto for Universal... until now.

There are plenty of up-charge attractions at various amusement parks around the world (Skycoasters and Go Carts, for example) which appear to be the model for Universal's new train ride. But $40 a person is a STEEP up-charge, especially for a train. Case in point, my local zoo charges like $2.50 for a round trip on their train. Granted, it doesn't have video screens and detailed theming, but come on, man, it's still just a train! $40??? Really???!!!

February 28, 2014 at 4:17 PM · James,

I think you misunderstood. My point was Universal is getting to the point where people will have to stay on site to enjoy the parks. It is the only way you will have a fighting chance to see Diagon Alley for the first year or two unless you go on extremely slow days.

Disney has so much to offer, it is almost impossible not to stay on site and buy park hoppers if you want to get your money's worth.

USF used to be one of those places where you could spend just one day with a park hopper and see everything. Those days are gone for anyone not staying on the property in the three "premium" hotels, at least in my opinion.

Most of your day will be spent waiting for Gringotts, the Hogwarts Express, and Forbidden Journey. It is going be insanely busy and there is only one way you can make it a lot easier, which is early entry and possibly spread it over two days.

February 28, 2014 at 4:48 PM · N B, I totally agree with that point. In fact, I have felt Universal Orlando was a multi day experience since IOA was added. Which is why I never bought park hoppers when we visited. There is plenty to do in a single park for the whole day, just like Disney.

And you make a good point, a lot of folks are used to navigating IOA and USO with a one day park hopper and just hitting the highlights. It will be tough to accomplish that strategy going forward, especially when the Potter-only fans descend on the parks. Universal may see a significant down turn in park hoppers as folks extend their stay and save a few bucks by avoiding the egregious up-charge required just to ride a train.

The part of your previous post I targeted though was the statement that Disney forces visitors to consider a park hopper. Sure folks consider them, but they are not required and no one is being forced. And I am definitely not aware of an attraction at Disney that requires a park hopper pass just to ride. Universal is turning over a new card with this nefarious strategy, and I don't like what they are uncovering.

March 2, 2014 at 8:15 PM · I would like to note the 2 day 2 park ticket we are looking at is the gate price not the advance purchase price which we don't know yet.
March 3, 2014 at 4:30 AM · Fair enough. Let me ask this question then: what up-charge price point is acceptable for a train ride?
March 3, 2014 at 11:12 AM · Online pricing has not gone up yet. This is gate pricing. They do not expire until 14 days after first use. So if you are planning a trip buy your tickets today. I heard they may go up online as early as March 4, 2014.

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