Universal Orlando matches Disney's parking increase

October 21, 2018, 4:35 PM · The Universal Orlando Resort has raised its parking rates to match the Walt Disney World Resort. As of now, however, that's the only pricing change coming from Universal, which has yet to match Disney World's switch to date-based pricing on multi-day theme park tickets.

The price to park a car at Universal Orlando is now $25, up from $22. "Prime" parking goes up five bucks from $35 to $40. Universal continues to offer free parking after 6pm, except on special event evenings such as Halloween Horror Nights, when regular parking rates apply and free valet parking is not available to otherwise eligible annual passholders.

At $25 a day to park at the Disney and Universal theme parks now, at what point does bringing a car to the resorts become an inconvenience?

Having a car can be useful in park hopping at Disney, but that's irrelevant at Universal, where cars park in the same garage for all the parks. With Lyft and Uber rates between Disney and Universal around $20 at non-peak periods, parking remains cheaper than a round trip between the resorts. But using the ride apps to get around becomes cheaper than driving once you factor the daily cost of a rental car, if you are not bringing your own to the Orlando area. If you are staying off site and limiting yourself to one resort, you might be able to get there and back for less than $25 on Lyft or Uber, depending upon where you stay and if your hotel doesn't already provide transportation to the parks.

If you must park, at what point does the daily parking fee tip the overall expense of a Disney or Universal visit beyond what you are willing to pay? Has that already happened for your family? Does the increase to $25 get it close? Or will the resorts continue to be able to raise their parking fees before a significant number of fans push back?

Frankly, if increased parking fees force visitors to ditch bringing a car and just to stay on site for their entire vacation, both Disney and Universal would consider that a huge win. To that end, parking fees are meant to be a bit punitive, as the resorts prefer their visitors to stay put and keep spending, rather than hop in the car to visit other stores, restaurants, and attractions in the Orlando area.

For me, I almost always either stay on site and/or use ride sharing to get around when I am visiting the two resorts these days. How do you handle the parking issue when you are visiting Disney and Universal?

Replies (18)

October 21, 2018 at 5:02 PM

Honestly if keeping people from using their cars while there is the issue, then they should track the cars as they leave and return. We drive from Louisiana because it’s cheaper than flying, but we never use our car until it’s time to go home. Charge people every time the car leaves the lot, and don’t charge people who don’t come and go. The parking charge will have us coming less frequently, or finding an offsite hotel that provides transportation. I guarantee if we stay off site, we will spend less time and less money at WDW.

October 21, 2018 at 5:20 PM

Being from the UK I think it’s a bit of a rip off, you pay so much money for park tickets then they want you to pay more to park there.

Perhaps a park and ride system would be a good idea?

If we visit we try to ensure our park days away from our hotel resort are minimal as it’s getting far too expensive to park else where.

October 21, 2018 at 5:58 PM

It works in Disney's favour to increase parking costs so people stay on resort. Don't really believe Universal have that much on offer to actually warrant people staying a full week at their resorts - so in essence the car parking charges hurt them.

October 21, 2018 at 6:15 PM

There are the costs for the parking structure or parking lot, the trams, and the people working there. Maybe there needs to be payed for the whole security theater and the boats and buses (not sure). But in the end it's a ton of money to park your horse.
I add the parking onto my total costs of my visit and see if 1 person can get a annual pass that removes the cost for parking and gives discount on food and souvenirs. Most of the time that is the cheapest option for us.

October 21, 2018 at 6:44 PM

SeaWorld is looking better and better...

October 22, 2018 at 9:57 AM

The main difference between the two is that Universal expects people to also pay the $25 for their depressing City Walk even for those who have no intention on visiting the parks. Hence the reason why Disney Springs, which has free parking, is always my preference when it comes to bar hopping, dining and entertainment. Personally I don't care for the onsite hotels. Outside of the contemporary resort, most are packed with kids, outdated, or just don't meet my personal interest. I'm not a fan of just being confined to the resort property when Orlando has so much to offer. As convenient as ride sharing is I rather drive.

October 21, 2018 at 11:06 PM

It costs over twice that amount (and in some cases, THREE times) to park at sporting events all over this country, and those parking lots are pretty full. Universal and Disney are a long way from the point of diminished returns, and parking costs will continue to rise as does everything else associated with a Disney/Universal vacation.

October 22, 2018 at 12:52 AM

$25 dollars is a lot, but some regional theme parks (particularly Six Flags) charge even more than that. Personally, I simply see parking fees as a necessary evil for visiting theme parks, and I'll just lump them in with the ticket cost when determining how much a visit is going to cost. However, it certainly gives an incentive to spend less days at places where a parking charge is necessary and opt for alternative entertainment and/or a shorter trip.

October 22, 2018 at 3:04 AM

There is no upcharge that Disney could create that guests would not be willing to pay. Use of a parking structure pedestrian bridge, $2 bucks per person; Security screening, $4 bucks per person; Bringing a personal stroller inside the park, $15 per stroller. The list goes on. I know this sounds ridiculous and redundant but as we all know Disney continues to inflate prices and the crowds keep coming. Guest vacations are being financed by Discover, Visa and Mastercard, so what's another few bucks for parking, etc. It's not like those balances are being paid off anytime soon.

If tomorrow there was a outage of credit card transactions for the foreseeable future how busy do you think Disney Parks would be?

October 22, 2018 at 5:42 AM

@Stevo B You are 100% right. The banks are right there to satisfy that post-recession sense of entitlement with a credit card(s) and home equity loan. How quickly we forget what just happened … human beings are doomed to just keep repeating the same mistakes. Universal and Disney are just hopping in to the cash grab to get their piece of the action. When the music stops during the next recession/market correction/housing correction, will you have a chair?

October 22, 2018 at 6:48 AM

You know it grieves me but taken in isolation, Mrs Plum and myself will visit WDW parks around 8 times in December, that's an increase of $24 from last year within a budget of $several thousand. It is one snack less for both of us. I don't agree with it but of course we will pay it as we have already spent $thousands on flights, accommodation, rental car and 14 day park tickets. What choice do we have? So if that snack is at a Disney park then they haven't actually had any more money off us.

The way to combat this, but people won't do it, is to offset the incessant increases to get into the parks by spending less inside them so turnover remains static, at best. The Big Cheeses will insist on a plethora of customer surveys and everybody tells Disney/Universal that they have a fixed budget, the more it costs to get in the less they can spend once inside.

As mentioned in a previous post, Mrs Plum and myself are packing our fold-up tandem this year.

October 22, 2018 at 9:34 AM

Makes getting an annual pass with free parking more value

October 22, 2018 at 1:04 PM

Just surprised no one with a large area of land has not thought of a park and ride setup, you pay 10 dollars to park all day and then you get on a bus that will drop you off outside a park and then bring you back, like the airport style of parking, big enough land, big enough demand?

October 22, 2018 at 2:22 PM

@JK - My guess is that Disney would put the kibosh on that really quickly. Remember, they own the roads in and around their parks, and could restrict any vehicle they choose from entering, particularly buses. If they saw an outside company profiting from off-site parking, they could shut it down pretty easily. You could invest millions of dollars to develop an off-site parking business, and with the wave from Mickey's gloved hand, you could be shut down in an instant with no recourse - definitely not worth the risk.

October 22, 2018 at 3:07 PM

Isn't there a parking fee now for on-site hotels? So the increase parking fee is not going to drive me to an on-site hotel from my timeshare.
But as mentioned above, I might be buying one less snack.

October 22, 2018 at 6:44 PM

I like Disney, but after their charge for parking at a resort hotel I said enough. A trip that cost me and my family $4500 is now almost $10,000 with their price increases and their nickle and dime fees We decided that WDW is probably not going to be a destination anymore. What this will do though is those attractions around Orlando will start seeing more people and more profits. If we do Disney again it looks like the cheaper option is annual passes and an offsite hotel. Money spent at Disney for food and things will be minimal and we will not spend as much time at the parks and on Disney property. The problem is Disney has gotten away from one of the reasons Walt created the parks. They were suppose to be safe, clean affordable places for families to enjoy.
The problem I see is that they are trying to control the crowd sizes through making the parks expensive. What will they do when they price themselves out of business because their customer base can no longer afford to go there?
I can't wait to go back to Cocoa Beach, Sarasota and St Augustine on our next family trip will be a lot less money and still a lot of fun. Maybe a trip to Lego Land as well.

October 22, 2018 at 10:55 PM

Another problem - unlike Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai - public transport in Orlando is horrid.

October 23, 2018 at 6:42 AM

SeaWorld was still $22 last night .... but for how long ??

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