Since I’ve already broken down the Walt Disney World and SeaWorld Orlando annual pass types, I decided it was high time to talk about Universal annual pass options!
I do know a ton about Universal and can tell you the best way to get your money’s worth. Their website doesn’t actually do a great job explaining the differences in my opinion. However, to be completely honest, I haven’t had a Universal annual pass since I started working there in 2015, which is part of why it’s taken me so long to write this article. While I worked there, I got in for free, and since I stopped working there in 2016, I haven’t gone enough to justify the cost of a Universal annual pass.
Universal Orlando Resort has three theme parks: Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. You have the option of purchasing a two park pass, which includes Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, or a three park pass which includes, well, all three.
At time of publication, Universal is not selling their three park passes until Volcano Bay reopens in March 2021, so I don’t have pricing information for the three park passes. However, the price difference between a two park and threeparkthree dayticket for March 5this roughly $40, so I can’t imagine it’s a super steep difference. These prices are current as of January 5th, 2021 for the two park passes. (Universal park tickets are date based like Disney tickets, which is why I keep referencing March 5th.) Florida resident discounts do apply on top of these prices, but you have to prove residency. I actually had to get a form from the Disney College Program housing,since I didn’t have a Florida driver’s license yet.
Universal offers four levels of annual pass: Seasonal, Power, Preferred, and Premier. My first pass was a Power Pass, and I wound up upgrading to Preferred in my second year. The Seasonal Pass did not exist when I had an annual pass. A nice thing about Universal Orlando annual passes is that they start from the first date of use, not the date of purchase. So, you could set up your pass a few weeks in advance and not have that time count against you.
The Seasonal Pass is the cheapest at $304.99 plus tax. It’s roughly the cost of two-day Park to Park ticket. (Park to Park is Universal speak for Park Hopper.) However, it comes with the most block outs and the leastnumberof benefits.
2021 Universal Orlando Seasonal Pass Blockout Dates: January 1-3, March 27-April 10, July 1-31, and December 18-31. Also, all concert dates are blocked at Universal Studios Florida. Additional blockout dates apply to Volcano Bay only for three park passes: June 11-August 15.
The Universal Orlando Seasonal Pass includes one year of admission, subject to blockout dates. All events included with admission are included, such as Mardi Gras on non-concert nights and holidays. It also includes discounts for separately ticketed events such as Halloween Horror Nights, and discounts on multi-day tickets purchased at the front gate, so this could be helpful if you have friends that are visiting. Seasonal passholders get a discount of up to 25% off base rates at Budget car rental, plus a free single car class upgrade. Additional discounts include $1 off the additional day recharge for Coca Cola Freestyle® cups and a Passholder Game Play Pass, six game plays for the price of five. Seasonal passholders also have access to the Passholder Lounge inside Universal Studios Florida.
The Universal Orlando Power Pass includes the same benefits and discounts as the Seasonal Pass, but lacks the summer and concertblockoutdates, for a price of $354.99 plus tax. They also have a few additional discounts. The discount on multi-day additional tickets increases from 10% to 15%. They also receive 50% on regular daytime self-parking.
2021 Universal Orlando Power Pass Blockout Dates: January 1-3, March 27-April 10, and December 18-31. Additionalblockoutdates apply to Volcano Bay only for three park passes only before 4:00 pm: June 11-August 15. This means you can start your day at the other parks and swing over to Volcano Bay after 4:00 pm in the summer months.
The Universal Orlando Preferred Pass includes the same benefits as the Power Pass, with some added benefits and noblockoutdates for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. It costs $394.99, plus tax.
2021 Universal Orlando Preferred Pass Three Park Blockout Dates: Volcano Bay is blocked out from July 1-August 15 before 4:00 pm. Preferred Passholders can enter after 4:00 pm.
The Preferred Pass’s additional benefits are as follows: On select dates, Preferred passholders can access select attractions in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter an hour before the rest of the park opens. They receive free self-parking, $20 valet parking, and a discount on prime self-parking. They also receive up to a 10% discount on in park purchases, such as food or merchandise.
The Universal Orlando Premier Pass has noblockoutdates of any kind, and the most benefits. It also has the highest price at $559.99 plus tax. You get what you pay for.
The Premier Pass includes all the benefits of the other pass levels. It upgrades the free self-parking to free valet or free prime self-parking It also includes Univeral Express Pass after 4:00 pm at both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. This means you can utilize the Express line once at each attraction that offers Express after 4:00 pm, any day you are in the parks. Premier Passholders get one free night on select dates at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. They also get up to 15% off of in park purchases, such as food or merchandise.
When I originally got my Power Pass, I assumed my roommate and I would always go together and she had the Preferred Pass, so I could use her free parking. I was wrong. I stayed and she left Orlando. Plus, when I had the Power Pass there was no discount on the self-parking. You just had to pay full price.
For the parking alone, I recommend getting the Preferred Annual Pass. Parking is currently $26 at Universal Orlando. Even if you have the Power Pass and only pay $13 for parking, the price difference between the Preferred Pass and Power Pass is only $40. That means the Preferred Pass will pay for itself in three visits over the Power Pass, and four visits over the Seasonal Pass.
If you’re a family trying to save money, you can absolutely get just one Preferred Pass and have everyone else get the Power or Seasonal Pass. A trick my mom taught me was don’t make the adult pass the Preferred Pass. Get one of your kids the Preferred Pass. Once I was old enough to have an adult pass for Dollywood, she had the regular pass and I had the Gold Pass, because she would never go to Dollywood without me but I might go without her. As a result, my friend’s parents frequently took me with them so they didn’t have to pay for parking.
I personally cannot imagine paying the Premier Pass price, but I see where it would have its advantages. Express Passes cost almost as much as another ticket, and having access to that year-round would be amazing. Where my friends and I tend to avoid theme parks on days we think will be busy, this would let you go whenever you want and get a bunch of rides in after 4:00 pm. If you want to only go to Halloween Horror Nights for one night, the free ticket would come in handy. However, most people I know tend to buy the Frequent Fear Pass and go multiple nights, so that might not save you any money. However, I do have one friend who had the Premier Pass and bought the Frequent Fear anyway, then gave the free ticket to her mom so they could go together for one night. This was a couple years ago though, so I’m not sure if that would work now.
If Universal Orlando is somewhere you enjoy spending time, you should absolutely get an annual pass. The price for a two-park three-day Park to Park ticket (man that’s a mouthful) in March 2021 is $327.99 before taxes. If you’re going to go for three days and you’re even semi local and can drive back easily, you might as well spend the extra $67 and get a year worth of fun and free parking with the Preferred Park Pass. The parking fees for those three days will be $78 anyway!