🥵 WE ROUNDED UP 18 PRODUCTS TO KEEP YOU COOL DURING A HEAT WAVE.

How to save money at Universal’s Orlando Resort

Universal’s Volcano Bay
Universal Orlando Resort

Many families dream of a trip to Universal’s Orlando Resort. But with tickets to visit both parks now averaging $175 dollars a day or higher, it can break the bank.

So we met with a travel blogger who recently returned from the theme park, Nedra McDaniel, who posts travel hacks and money savings tips on her Adventure Mom blog and social media sites.

Where to stay

When it comes to Universal Orlando, she said contrary to popular belief, on-site hotels are really your best bet. The on-site perks can be even better than the extras offered at nearby Disney World.

“We really like staying on-site, because of all the perks you get,” she said. “For starters, you get to go into the park an hour early.”

Sure, an off-site hotel will save a few dollars, but she said you have to enter an hour later with the masses and you can’t take a mid-day break at your hotel pool.

Even better, several premium on-site hotels also include an Express Pass (Universal’s fast pass), a $90 value per person. For a family of 4, that’s almost $400 worth of fast passes — nearly paying for your hotel room.

And while a simple hotel room may be cheapest on paper, McDaniel said paying a bit more for a suite with a kitchenette can save a family hundreds of dollars on meals.

“Ours had a kitchenette with a microwave and a mini fridge,” she said. “So we had the option to eat breakfast and some lunches in our room.”

Where to eat

When dining inside the park, nothing is cheap.

So why waste that dining money on pizza you can get anywhere?

McDaniel suggests eating what’s specifically unique to the park, such as options that really make you feel like you’re in Hogwarts.

“If you are a huge fan of Harry Potter, you are definitely going to want to take advantage of those dining experiences,” she said.

But you are allowed to bring small snacks into the park, such as energy bars, and it’s a great idea to bring a refillable plastic water bottle, that you can refill at water fountains, saving $5 or more per drink.

Beware pricey souvenirs

One thing that can really cost some money: Souvenirs, such as Gringott’s piggy bank from the Harry Potter movies, or a wizarding wand. One item can cost $50 to $75.

Instead, you can buy them in shops outside the park, or purchase them in advance on Amazon and bring them with you. Check out these Harry Potter gifts we rounded up for a few ideas.

Or let the kids know they can get one nice souvenir on their last day, letting them browse (but not spend any money) in all the shops while seeing all the attractions.

Which park to visit?

Finally, Universal has two parks: Islands of Adventure (more thrill rides) and Universal Studios (more focused on TV shows and movies).

McDaniel said Harry Potter fans visiting for the first time need to buy the pricier two-park ticket, because otherwise you can’t ride the Hogwart’s Express between the parks, or visit both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade (Universal very cleverly split the Harry Potter attractions between the two parks).

MORE: Attention, Harry Potter fans! There’s a ‘real-life’ Hogwarts Express 

But if you are not a big Harry Potter fan, or this is your second or third visit, she said you can opt for a cheaper one park ticket, saving as much as $50 per person.

Older teens would probably prefer Islands of Adventure for thrill rides like VelociCoaster, and the Incredible Hulk coaster.

Adventure Mom

Discount tickets

Before you book your trip, speak with a travel agent or check a site like Undercover Tourist, Nerdwallet, or MouseSavers. Each of those websites allows you to search for ticket deals, and it will suggest the best ones.

And if you are a AAA member, be sure to check with AAA before you purchase anything.

Finally, the longer you save the less you pay per day, making a 3-day visit a smarter idea than a 2-day trip.

And that way you don’t waste your money.

Read more of Nedra McDaniel’s travel tips at Adventure Mom.


Follow John:

This article originally appeared on WCPO, Scripps News Cincinnati.

About the Author

John Matarese

John's goal is to help as many TV viewers as possible save money, avoid bad deals, know a rip-off when one comes their way, and be educated consumers. His informative weekly consumer segment "Don't Waste Your Money" now airs on 45 TV stations from San Diego to Tampa to Houston and Cincinnati. More.

More to explore