Looking to find your way to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Great! But saving money on a trip to Universal Studios isn’t as simple as waving your magic wand. No problem, muggle; we know all the ways to get Universal Studios discounts that’ll save you money.
We’ll show you how to maximize your time, how to find the best ticket prices, and which snacks are worth getting.
But before you go, you should check out our list of ways to save big on your summer amusement park trip that can be applied to all amusement parks.
1. Always check the Universal Studios deals page first to see their current specials.
Before you buy your tickets, check out the Universal Studios ticket deals & specials page for some of the best Universal Studios discounts. Universal changes these deals every few months, so if your timeline is open, check back frequently for the best deals.
In January, Universal offered 5-day tickets for the price of a 3-day ticket.
The deals page also offers special deals for Florida residents.
2. Third-party sellers are your cheapest option for multi-day tickets.
You should always buy your Universal Studios tickets through a third-party vendor, but only if they are cheaper. A base ticket for one of the parks (Universal Studios or Universal’s Islands of Adventure) is going to be $109 for an adult. Here are a few of our favorite third-party vendors:
- Official Ticket Center: 4-day 3-night stay at Westgate Lake Resort with 2 Universal Orlando Resort tickets (reg. $586) for as low as $199, which saves you 66%.
- Undercover Tourist: 2-day Universal Orlando Resort tickets (reg. $274) for as low as $214.17, which saves you 21%
Or check out Groupon for up to $50 off each ticket when you buy a 5-day pass.
3. Check crowd calendars to avoid the busiest days at Universal Studios.
If you’d rather spend your time riding rides instead of waiting in line, then you shouldn’t visit the parks in the summer and most of December. Outside of that general rule of thumb, the best way to figure out which days the park will be least crowded is by using a Universal Studios crowd calendar.
Here are a few of our favorites:
- Undercover Tourist: Gives you the best days to visit the park as well as a list of events that are going on during that day and temperature.
- The Park Prodigy: Gives you an estimated ticket price, historical temperatures, and gives you an option for maximum money savings vs time-saving.
- Is It Packed: It’s the most direct, but doesn’t give you a lot of information.
4. Students, teachers, military personnel, and Florida residents get special discounts.
Universal has a lot more discounts than their counterparts at Disney. Here are some of the specialized discounts you can use when buying your Universal Studios tickets:
- Florida residents get 20% off tickets (plus other discounts on hotels and vacation packages).
- Eligible members of the military can buy a Freedom Pass — which gives them up to six tickets usable every day between Nov. 11 and Dec. 31 each year — for just $199 per adult.
- Students and faculty members of select schools who are verified by ID.me can receive a discount — up to $65 off per person.
- AARP members can get discounts when they purchase through third-party vendor ParkSavers.com.
Also: You don’t have to purchase a ticket for a child under 3. Once they turn 3, you’ll have to buy them a standard kids’ ticket (for children ages 3-9) for $104.
5. Use the Universal Studios mobile app to find the shortest wait times for rides.
Download the Universal Studios Orlando app and use it to decide which rides or attractions to hit next.
Maybe you want to ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, but you’ll learn from the app that the wait time for Revenge of the Mummy is a bit shorter, and you’ll act accordingly. Or maybe you’ll skip rides altogether because you’ve been notified that the Superstar Parade is happening in a few minutes.
6. Sign up for a ‘Virtual Line’ reservation to skip lines on popular rides.
By using the Universal Studios app, you can use a “Virtual Line” reservation to skip lines on popular rides. All you have to do is tap “Virtual Line” in the app, select the ride you want to go on, and reserve your time.
7. Pack your own poncho and avoid paying up to $20 each inside the park.
For real — if you don’t want to get drenched on the Jurassic Park River Adventure, you’ll need a poncho.
Also if you’re visiting the park in the winter months, it can be rainy. The payoff of going to the park in the off-season is low crowds (yay!).
Get your ponchos for dirt cheap on Amazon, and pack them in your suitcase.
8. Arrive early to participate in the ‘first family’ opening at the park.
There are a few benefits to getting to Universal Studios early. Lines are shorter, it’s less crowded, and you might be able to get in 15 minutes early.
Universal Studios has a morning ceremony — much like Disney’s “Rope Drop” — which asks one family to come and announce that the park is open.
9. Want shorter lines at Universal? You’ll pay at least $80 extra for an Express Pass.
The Express Pass costs $79.99 per person, per park, although you can get a 2-Park Express Pass for $89.99. The Unlimited Express Pass costs $109.99 per person, per park, and it’s $119.99 for a 2-Park Unlimited Express Pass.
Keep in mind, this is after you’ve shelled out at least $109 per person to enter one park. But it might be worth it if you’re expecting heavy crowds.
TIP: Don’t buy Express Passes ahead of time — wait until you see what the crowds are like.
10. Get two days of Unlimited Express Passes free when you stay at a Universal hotel.
Make sure you book a stay at Loews Portofino, Loews Royal Pacific, or the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal — you’ll get free Express Passes for your whole family for the day you’re checking in and the day you’re checking out. That’s a savings of $119.99 per person, per day in the park.
It’ll cost you up to $200 more per night compared to competing hotels that aren’t on-property (like Hilton DoubleTree), but you’ll cover the cost difference in no time if you have more than two people in your party.
TIP: Those three hotels are the only ones that offer the free Express Passes. No other hotels (on-property or otherwise) have this freebie.
11. Pick up a free celebration button at guest services.
Just like at Disney, you can pick up a celebration button at guest services. You can either get a blank celebration button or a birthday button. Just make sure to pick one up while you’re in the park.
12. Get into the park an hour before everyone else when you stay at any of Universal’s hotels.
If you don’t want to pay to stay in one of the three on-property hotels that’ll snag you an Unlimited Express Pass, at least spring for a cheaper option on-property so you can get Early Admission into the park.
Literally, any of the Universal hotels on-property will get you this perk — Loews Portofino, Loews Royal Pacific, Hard Rock, Loews Sapphire Falls, Cabana Bay, or Loews Aventura — so you can beat the crowds to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
13. If you want to ride the Hogwarts Train, you need a 2-Park Pass.
You can’t even get on the train without an entrance pass for both parks.
So heads up — if your only reason to visit Universal is for Harry Potter, spring for the 2-Park Pass.
14. Plan to use the free lockers, or you might lose your place in line.
Most rides will allow a fanny pack or purse if it can be zipped. But the Incredible Hulk Coaster and Rip Ride Rocket don’t allow any loose items at all — no backpacks, fanny packs, FlipBelts — nada.
There’s a metal detector to make sure you comply, so be sure to put your items into a free locker before you get in line. If you try and sneak even your mobile phone along, you’ll be sent to a locker and the end of the line. Trust me.
These lockers are free as long as you’re in on the ride (or in line). After that, it’s $3.00 per 30 minutes — up to $20.00 per day. They judge time based on wait times for rides and how long it takes to ride.
An “all-day” locker costs $10-15 per day, and you can open it as many times as you like — this is ideal if you plan to get wet at Volcano Bay and also ride the dry roller coasters.
15. Use Single Rider lines to beat the long lines if you don’t have Express Passes.
This is one feature that will help you get on rides faster if you don’t want to shell out the cash for an Express Pass.
Single Rider is just that — a special line for people who don’t mind riding next to strangers. You’ll be separated from your party if you go this route, so this one is the best with teenagers.
Here’s a list of rides that have a Single Rider line:
Universal Studios Florida:
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket
- Men in Black Alien Attack
- Revenge of the Mummy
- Transformers: The Ride — 3D
Islands of Adventure:
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
- Dr. Doom’s Fearfall
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster
- Jurassic World Velocicoaster
16. Use the Child Swap program for your kids who can’t ride on coasters.
Child Swap is a holding area where one parent can wait with kids while the other parent rides. When the first parent gets off the ride, the second parent can get right on while the other continues to wait with the kids.
17. If your kid isn’t tall enough to ride a coaster, ask for a ‘height certificate’ — it’s like a rain check.
Imagine waiting in line for 30 minutes only to be told you’re too short to ride the coaster. It happens, but if it happens to your family, make sure to ask them for a “height certificate” which allows your kid a free entry to the Universal Express entrance when they’re taller.
18. Bring snacks into the parks to save money on food.
While you can’t bring meals into the park, you can bring a small snack and water bottles (maximum 2 liters) into the park. Be sure to stock up before you go so you’ll only have to spend money on meals.
19. Ice water is free throughout the park.
Just head to a quick-service counter for a cup of water. Even at Krusty Burger.
Also, if you bring in your own water bottle, it’s free to fill it with water at the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines.
20. Buy your kids a $7.99 Lard Lad’s Pink Donut to share.
Get this huge donut inside Simpson’s Land and plan to share it. Not only is it big enough for a couple of people, but it’ll also be cheaper than buying individual desserts for your kids.
21. The best snack deal at Universal Studios is the popcorn bucket.
The popcorn bucket is going to initially cost you $8.99. After that, it’ll cost you an additional $1.99 for a refill, which makes it the cheapest snack you can get at the park. Plus, you can use that popcorn bucket every time you go to a Universal Studios park and still get the $1.99 refill.
Note: After Covid-19, Universal Studios got rid of their dining plans.
22. If you know you’ll be returning in years to come, buy a refillable mug.
Refillable mugs are $14.99 and they’re good for the whole day — there’s a chip in the bottom, so you just need to visit a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine and choose from 100 soda flavor combinations.
You have to wait 10 minutes between refills, but if you bring the mug back to the park for refills it’s only $8.99 per day.
Some visitors report that they’re still able to use their refillable mug after over a decade.
Also: If you don’t like the $8.99 reactivation fee on the Coca-Cola Freestyle mug, you can get a souvenir cup or sipper for $16.00. Every refill will cost you $1.49, but if you’re going to get less than 5 drinks during your visit, this is the better deal.
23. Order your food ahead using the Universal Studios app.
You can skip the lengthy food lines by downloading the Universal Studios app and ordering ahead. This way, you can get your Butterbeer or Lard Lad’s Pink Donut without having to stand in line all day.
24. Eat at weird times, like 2 – 3 p.m., for shorter ride lines.
You should try and eat at around 2 – 3 p.m. so you can ride in little lines while everyone is eating their lunch.
25. Eat lunch at CityWalk instead of in the park — fewer crowds and better food.
Prices at CityWalk right outside the park entrance will be about the same as they are inside the park.
But if you want a break from the crowds and arguably a better meal, head to Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, Margaritaville, or Antojitos.
26. Use the ‘secret entrance’ to get in and out of the park.
There is a “secret entrance” by the Blue Man Group auditorium that can get you in and out of the park faster if you wanted to eat at CityWalk to skip food lines in the park.
27. Upgrade to Club level at your Universal Resort, and eat every meal with it.
Depending on when you visit, if you upgrade to a Club level room, you will pay anything from $60 – $150 more per night than you would without it.
But consider this: With Club level, you get access to a breakfast buffet for the whole family (7 to 10 a.m.), afternoon snacks (noon to 3 p.m.), hors d’ oeuvres and free beer and wine (4:30 to 6:30 p.m.), and dessert (8 to 9 p.m.).
In theory, you could time it so you’re doing every meal at the hotel. Even if you just ate breakfast and either lunch or dinner at the hotel, it’d save you boatloads compared to eating at the park.
28. Use Package Pickup and Free Package Delivery to avoid trucking souvenirs around the park.
Anyone can take advantage of Package Pickup — when you buy a souvenir, it’ll be ready for you at the park entrance within three hours of your purchase.
If you’re staying at a Universal Hotel on-site, you can opt for your items to be delivered directly to your hotel and pick them up from the concierge.
29. Buy your Harry Potter shirts and capes before your trip.
These are straight-up way too expensive inside the park.
30. Take a midday nap whenever possible to maximize your time in the morning and evening at the park.
There’s a lot of debate about when the best time to visit the park is — especially the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Some swear by morning being the best time (and it is if you have early entrance because you’re staying on-property!).
But others believe evenings, when children are worn out, is a better time. One thing is for certain — the best time is not in the middle of the day, so to be sure you’re maximizing your time and can be there early and stay late, head to your hotel for a whole-family nap. You’ll thank me for this tip!
31. Dial 62442 (MAGIC) on the phone in Diagon Alley and you’ll reach the Ministry of Magic.
Just give it a try!
32. Get your picture taken with a live raptor.
Visit the Raptor Encounter inside the Islands of Adventure to get a photo op with Blue from Jurassic World.