Since this was our first trip to Universal Orlando, I feel like I learned a lot, both in things I did right, and things I’d do differently next time.
- Go in the off-season for lower crowds, cheaper rooms, and better weather.
- Book early! Check your room and airline (Southwest) often to see if the price has dropped and you can rebook at a lower rate.
- Pay for your airline ticket with a credit card that includes Trip Interruption Insurance, like our Citi Prestige, among others.
- Stay at Hyatt House across from Universal Orlando Resort, especially on points at only 8,000 per night. You’ll enjoy free breakfast, full kitchen, and walking distance to the parks.
- Stay at one of the three higher end hotels for at least one night to get free Universal Express Passes on both your check in and check out days. The lowest-priced hotel of the three, Royal Pacific Resort, is still a great hotel.
- Plan for at least three days in the parks, especially if you are going to the Wizarding World.
- Buy tickets from a broker like Undercover Tourist to save some money. Look for deals for Undercover Tourist on Amex Offers.
- Get the Park to Park ticket if you plan to spend time in the Wizarding World, not just for the Hogwarts Express, but also the ease of hopping back and forth. If not, definitely skip it. You’ll save a lot of money!
- Buy or bring a lanyard or badge holder to keep your tickets and Express Passes in for ease of access. You can get the reel-type Carter has here and sleeves here.
- Utilize the Bell Service at your hotel when checking in or out to keep your bags while you are at the parks.
- Get the popcorn bucket. It’s a great value at $9.58 initial investment, and then $2.13 for each refill (tax included). It doesn’t look seasonal, and they didn’t ask for my initial receipt, so I’m guessing you could keep bringing it back.
- Spring for an interactive wand to do spells in the Wizarding World. They’re so much fun! Maggie bought hers in Hollywood, but I asked at a wand shop, and they gave us a map for Orlando.
- Look for photo ops to maximize your Photo Package. There are several self-serve locations, in-studio photos, ride photos, and character meet and greets.
- Go to the Club at MCO if you have a card with Priority Pass lounge access and your flight is leaving from gates 70-129. Our cards with PP included are Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, and Hilton Honors Ascend cards.
- Get the nachos at the Royal Pacific Resort pool.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to buy your picture package. Check this website for sales, like on Black Friday.
- Don’t pack everything in your checked bags. Keep what you will need for the next 24 hours or so in your carry on. This includes swimsuits if you plan to swim upon arrival.
- Don’t bring a large backpack into the park with you if you plan to do rides that day. You’ll either need a locker or someone to watch your stuff.
- Don’t try to drink a whole Butterbeer by yourself. Share with someone.
- Don’t plan to do the theme parks and water park in the same day.
- Don’t use the Minnie Van service at Disney if you just need a Lyft.