If you are visiting the Orlando parks for more than a couple of days, you might be wondering about your ticket options. Both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando offer extensive discounts and perks to annual passholders, which can tip the scales in favor of buying a pass even if you don’t live locally. Provided below are the major reasons to consider purchasing an annual pass for one or all of the people in your family.
1. Food and merchandise discounts
Theme park dining and souvenir costs can add up quickly, especially if you are staying at a hotel without kitchen facilities. Any discount can translate into a significant number of total dollars saved. It’s easy to do the math for Universal Orlando, which offers a straight 10% off dining and merchandise (except carts and kiosks) for Preferred Pass holders and 15% off dining and merchandise (except carts and kiosks) for Premier Pass holders. Disney’s discounts are a bit more confusing, as the best dining deals are reserved for those who also purchase Tables in Wonderland. Still, it’s worth matching up the discounts list to where you plan to shop and dine to get an idea of potential cost savings.
2. Hotel savings
Both resorts offer significant annual passholder deals for on-site hotel rooms during slower times of the year. If you stay at an official Universal Orlando deluxe hotel (though not the moderately-priced Cabana Bay), you will also receive Unlimited Express passes valid for your length of stay. On-site Disney hotel stays come with their own perks as well. If you like to stay on property but are uncomfortable with the expense, passholder discounts can take away some of the sting.
3. Cost per day
Both Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World operate on a pricing model in which the more days you visit, the less expensive your per day cost becomes. The break-even point for a Walt Disney World annual pass depends on a host of factors including how many days you plan to visit and which options you will add to your tickets (but most guests will see a cost savings after about a week). For Universal Orlando, 5-6 days is the break-even point depending on whether or not you live in Florida and what promotions might apply during your stay.
4. Parking fees
If you stay on-site at Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando, you will not have to pay to park at the theme parks. If you prefer to stay off-site, however, $17 per day for parking adds up fast. Regular annual passes (with no block-out dates) at both resorts include free parking. Universal’s Premier Pass also includes free valet parking, but check the other benefits to see if this higher-priced pass makes sense for you.