Universal Orlando - Express Pass worth it in June?

Universal Orlando: Buy it, stay on site, or skip it?

From julie mcavoy
Posted June 17, 2011 at 11:51 AM
We are heading to Universal Orlando June 25-26, a Saturday and Sunday. Yes, unfortunately it's a weekend, but those are the only days we can go.
We are a family of 5...3 kids ages 11-18...HUGE Harry Potter fans.

Looking for advice on:
1. Is it worth it for a VIP or Express Pass, a weekend in late June?
2. Is it worth staying at an on-site hotel(Loews Pacific) for the early entry/VIP pass?

...our other option is staying free at a Residence Inn with Marriott points. Trying to judge if it's worth the extra money. We want to get our money's worth...it's probably the last theme park vacay with our oldest.

Thank you!!!

From Terri Pierce
Posted June 17, 2011 at 12:06 PM
Well if you buy the express pass for your family you are paying $55.99 per person per day. That's $279.95 total per day without taxes. That gets you ONE FOTL pass per ride that allows it. Keep in mind that that does not include Rip Ride or FJ.

If you get a hotel, you're going to pay $706 WITH tax for the entire stay from 6/24-6/26. You will get early entry for WWOHP, UNLIMITED, express pass, and the convenience of staying onsite and walking to the parks... and back during the heat of the day. You can also let the kids split up and not have to worry about meeting up because they can get back to the hotel no problem. Note, with hotel stay you get the express pass starting at check in and going through the end of the day on check out. So, you can even go to the parks on Friday when you get there.

I would not go without express pass. Then again I'm spoiled and picky... and refuse to stand in 103 degree weather while waiting 120 minutes for Ripsaw.

Also, I will work on this more later but you might benefit from purchasing one season pass. You will save 15% on your family's tickets, 10% on food, 10% on merch, among other discounts. However I cannot crunch numbers right now so I cannot say if this is beneficial or not. Also, check and see if a hotel AP discount is available for June. I heard they were still giving it for early June.

I do love the Renaissance though.

From Terri Pierce
Posted June 17, 2011 at 12:23 PM
Started crunching numbers:
You will pay:

$675- buying online for 2 day park to park.
$727- buying AP and 4 tickets at the gate with AP discount

$52 dollars more gets you 10% discounts on food(Citywalk included), merch, and free city walk parking garage parking for 2 days. So you would have to spend $520 dollars on food and merch for it to be worth it for you. But if you use the City walk deck (because you decide to stay off-site) you will only need to spend $220 dollars on food and merch to make it worth it. You'll have to decide how hungry your family is to see if that's "worth it" and see if you will be returning to the parks within a year.

However, if they are still offering Annual Pass discounts on hotel stays it is by far worth it.

I would like you add if you do go ahead with AP i would recommend going to CityWalk Friday night to activate your annual pass and purchase your family's tickets.

From steve lee
Posted June 17, 2011 at 11:03 PM
Terri is spot on with her logic (I'll take her word on the number crunching). You absolutely don't want to be in those parks without an Express Pass. It will be a complete and utter nightmare.

From Ashleigh Noad
Posted June 19, 2011 at 6:59 AM
I have done both parks at peak times, with horrible hot weather, without Express passes.

However, we were willing to arrive early (before park opening) and get the major attractions done straight away. Also willing to use Single Riders (which open on a lot of attractions during peak times) and you have to know the parks well if you're going to avoid most of the long ques all day.

However, if you aren't willing to wait, use single riders or arrive very early, your family will probably benefit from staying on-site. I don't have a problem with no express pass visits, however, when I visit Orlando I go for two weeks, so if I miss an attraction I can always go another day.

From my knowledge, Forbidden Journey in the WWOHP does not have an express lane and the other major attraction Dragons Challenge, USUALLY always has a relatively small wait even in peak periods.

From Terri Pierce
Posted June 20, 2011 at 8:36 PM
Ignore my number crunching. Tickets just went up in price. Annual Passes however, have not.

From Janice Pearse
Posted June 20, 2011 at 10:07 PM
If you use your AAA card, you will get a 10% discount on everything. And I really think it's worth the price of staying onsite to be able to enter the park an hour early.

From N B
Posted June 26, 2011 at 2:19 PM
The benefits of staying on site at Universal is definitely worth it, especially if you wan't to get early entry into the WWOHP. We can blast through a park in 1/3 of the normal time and go back to the hotel for some swimming and cocktails, head back to the CityWalk for dinner, then hit the other park and be done by 9 PM.

If you are only going for a couple days, it is even better as you won't spend a good half of your day waiting in lines. The first time we stayed on site, I was amazed at how relaxing it is compared to 1.5-2 hour lines. You're in and out of all the Exress Pass rides in no time at all. Our kids aren't bored to tears and complaining from the heat.

The first time we went to Universal, my wife booked us at the Holiday Inn across the street, we still had to pay for parking and have that incredibly long walk back to the parking garage every day, I ended up purchasing Express Pass for one day and at the time is was $40 per person per park and you could only use them once on each ride.

Unlimited in/out valet for the on-site hotels is about $20 a day but parking in the lot costs about $14 dollars per day anyways. For $6 more per day, you dial a quick number on your room phone and your car is waiting with the air on. Ice cold bottled water (free) is also there to greet you.

I noticed we are all in a better mood the entire day when you can walk (or water taxi) back to your hotel at any time of the day, change out of wet clothes and go right back to the parks. Vacations are all about relaxing and staying on site makes it possible (at least for us).

I felt trapped when we stayed across the street, you can't leave the parking lot and come back without paying (as far as I know). You feel like you are stuck there each day and going back to the hotel for something is almost not an option.

From N B
Posted June 27, 2011 at 10:11 AM
We will be at Universal / IOA from July 12th-20th. We are also hitting Discovery Cove, Sea World and Busch Gardens while we are there. We picked the only hotel in Universal we haven't stayed at yet, which is the Hard Rock. I hope it's as nice as the others....

Margaritaville, Waffle House for breakfast (as opposed to the $15 per person on site breakfasts), late night runs to Sonic.... I can't wait....

Deathly Hallows part 2 comes out while we are there, so we will catch it at the theaters in Universal.

From Terri Pierce
Posted June 27, 2011 at 12:23 PM
Or attempt to. I have a feeling tickets are going to sell out nightly, but I could be wrong. They're an AMC so I would try and buy ahead of time. I hope you enjoy Hard Rock. I haven't stayed there since 2007 or longer. Let us know how the crowds are and how your trip foes once you get back.

From N B
Posted June 27, 2011 at 6:53 PM
You are probably right about the movie selling out, especially since we are going on opening night. We can always catch it when we get back from vacation, but I would love to see it there.

The last movie we saw at Universal was WALL-E

Since we arrive on the 12th, I will walk over and try to get advanced tickets for the 15th, I do it here at home all the time. I went at 10AM to buy tickets for Cars 2 (8:30 PM show). We tend to get to theaters very early because we like to sit screen center high in the exact middle of the row.

Thanks for the heads up, I would have forgotten all about that. I'm sure this vacation will be great and the Hard Rock Hotel will be awesome..

I will post about our experience when I get back.

From C Schmuck
Posted July 5, 2011 at 6:04 PM
We stayed at the Hard Rock in late April (just before Easter wknd). The easy walk to UO was very nice, although we used the water taxis just as much. Even tho you like the Waffle House, you might want to reconsider the buffet breakfast at the Hard Rock --- it is HUGE and very, very good. The only disappointment with the hotel was the pool which is about 3 ft deep for the most part - no chance of actually swimming. Rooms were nice with "treats" left by the cleaning staff each day. I'll probably stay at the Royal Pacific next time just for something different - like you are doing!

From N B
Posted August 11, 2011 at 2:23 AM
Satya, I agree purchasing Express Pass outright is very expensive and you only get to use them once for each ride for a single day. Staying on site is the only way to go if you want to maximize your Universal vacation.

Compare the three hotels to ones nearby and it's not that much more, unless you stay at the Holiday Inn across the street. It was fairly cheap, but a complete dump and we still had to park each day.

You are completely wrong about IOA, however. Only the Forbidden Journey and the Pteradon Flyers don't have EP lines and they changed the Flyers so adults have to be with a child to go on. No more teens (or Brazilian tour groups of 200 people) tying up the line so the youngsters can enjoy it.

Universal only has one ride with no Express Pass, which is Rip Ride Rockit. The conveyer loading system keeps the line moving constantly, as does the Forbidden Journey.

Wait times with Express Pass are 1-5 minutes on most rides and attractions compared to 1-2 hours without EP during peak times.

From Adam Newman
Posted August 22, 2011 at 12:59 PM
We bought it for our last trip in December/January, very crowded time, the onsite hotels were sold out. worth it to us; we did find it saved us significant waiting time on rides we wanted to go on; sometimes the alternate FP lines weren't considerably less themed though, and on certain rides that was problematic. Your trip is a a less busy time tough on site is the way to go if you can.

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