Universal revives an annual pass option; but is it right for you?

March 26, 2019, 7:20 PM · Universal Studios Hollywood is bringing back one of its popular seasonal passes. But is it the right pass to buy for your next trip to Universal's original park? Let's dive into the numbers, looking at the cost, benefits, and black-out dates for Universal's annual passes.

Universal's California Neighbor Pass went back on sale today, offering nine months of admission to the Hollywood park for $149. I counted 83 black-out dates for this pass listed on Universal's website from April 2019 through March 2020, but remember that this pass is good for nine months after its first use, instead of the 12 months on Universal's other passes. There's also no monthly payment option on this pass, so you have to pay the full $149 up front.

And despite what the name might suggest, this pass is available to everyone. It's not the "California Resident Pass," it's the "California Neighbor Pass." And since we're all neighbors to California here on this planet Earth, you're good to go should you choose this pass.

But should you? Let's compare Universal Studios Hollywood's annual passes.

The top of the line is the Premium annual pass, which costs $619 online, or $249 up front and then $34 a month for 11 months after that should you choose the monthly payment option. The Premium pass has no black-out dates and includes the following benefits: Universal Express access on all rides and shows, one free Halloween Horror Nights ticket, access to the New Year's Eve EVE party, free parking until 6pm, and 15% off food and merchandise in the park.

The Gold annual pass costs $319 online, or $144 up front and $16 a month on the payment plan. It excludes 31 black-out dates between April and next March and includes the following benefits: free parking until 6pm, and 15% off food and merchandise in the park. (So, no Universal Express nor the two free event tickets.)

The Silver annual pass costs $189 online, or $119 up front with $7 monthly payments on the plan. It excludes 76 black-out dates from April through next March and does not include parking, in-park discounts or the event tickets.

Universal Studios Hollywood's one-day tickets vary by date and cost $109-129 online. But with two-day tickets running $149-169 online, the California Neighbor pass can be a better deal, depending upon when you want to visit. All passes are valid regardless of black-out dates on your first visit using the pass. Black-outs apply only on subsequent visits.

You can check Universal's website to find those black-out dates. Just click the "Compare Passes" link then follow the links to see and compare black-out dates. (I found a few examples where the lower-priced California Neighbor pass was not blocked, but the Silver AP was.)

Also note, should you decide to buy a pass with Universal's payment plan, that your pass "auto-renews on a month-to-month basis after the first year, with the ability to cancel at the end of any monthly renewal term without penalty," according to Universal's website.

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