In the post-pandemic world, everything seems to be getting more and more expensive. This is also the case for many family vacation destinations. Travelers want to know that they are getting the most for their hard-earned dollars.
In 2024, can guests get the most out of their money from visiting Walt Disney World or would it be more cost-effective to head over to Universal Orlando Resort? We made an objective comparison to help you decide where you think your money would be best spent.
Both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort have a wide range of hotel accommodations to fit within different budgets and preferences. From premier and deluxe accommodations which come with additional perks to value accommodations that offer bus transportation and early park entry at a cost that many more guests can afford, there are many choices.
At Walt Disney World, deluxe guests enjoy 30 minutes of early entry to all theme parks, as well as extended theme park hours on select days to select theme parks. At Universal Orlando Resort, premier guests enjoy 1 hour of early entry to Islands of Adventure and free unlimited express passes for all guests for all nights of stay.
When it comes to prime value, moderate, and value resorts at both parks, guests enjoy proximity to the parks as well as early entry. As with the higher level resorts, Walt Disney World offers 30 minutes of early entry access and Universal Orlando Resort offers 1 hour of early entry access.
We looked at random dates in 2024 and evaluated the prices of deluxe/premier accommodation packages, prime value/moderate accommodation packages, and value accommodation packages. In all cases, the vacation packages with unlimited theme park access for the duration of the stay at Universal Orlando Resort were significantly less expensive than at Walt Disney World Resort.
Of course, there are a few things to consider when comparing the price. First, Universal Orlando Resort currently includes 2 theme parks and one waterpark while Walt Disney World includes 4 theme parks and 2 waterparks (although only one waterpark is open at a time these days). Does having more variety in attractions and parks justify paying more?
2. Skipping the Lines
There is no debate that Walt Disney World’s “skip-the-line” program, Disney Genie+ is much more affordable than Universal Orlando Resort’s Express Pass program. The price for Genie+ averages around $20 a person per day depending on which park it is being used for. However, the program can be quite confusing to navigate and per Disney’s website, it allows guests to skip “2-3 attractions per day.”
Of course, with strategy and practice, guests can use Genie+ to access more than 2-3 attractions. However, on busier days all the time slots for certain popular attractions run out quite quickly. Additionally, guests must pay an extra fee per person to ride the most popular attractions at each theme park such as Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
Universal Orlando Resort’s Express Pass program is quite expensive. It runs about $150 per person, per day on average. There are two tiers of Express Pass. The first is the standard Express Pass which allows guests to skip the line at each attraction one time. The second is the Unlimited Express Pass which allows guests to skip the line at each attraction an unlimited number of times.
The Unlimited Express Pass is included with a stay at each of the Premier hotels at Universal Orlando Resort. The main benefit that Express Pass has over Genie+ is that there is no planning or booking of time slots. Guests simply enter the Express Pass Lane and enjoy a wait that is typically 50% or less of the standby wait time.
When it comes to One-Day (one park) tickets, Walt Disney World prices range from $109-$179 depending on the time of year and the park guests choose to visit, while Universal Orlando Resort prices range from $119-$179.
However, a ticket that includes park-to-park access is less expensive at Universal Orlando Resort, but there are only two parks versus four parks at Walt Disney World.
When it comes to purchasing a multi-day ticket such as a 5-day ticket, Universal Orlando Resort’s tickets are much lower per day at $58-$82 while Walt Disney World ranges from $100-$144 per day.
The prices of dining options at both resorts are quite comparable. There is a variety of options ranging from snack stands to sit-down restaurants at both resorts that offer several types of cuisine for guests.
It could be argued that due to its larger size, Walt Disney World does have a greater number of options for guests to choose from. Additionally, Walt Disney World saw the return of its Dining Plan. For many guests, the dining plan can offer incredible value, especially when offered for free as a promotion. Universal does not currently offer any dining plan.
When it comes to price, Universal Orlando Resort might be the overall least expensive option. However, it offers less for smaller children, especially while the Dreamworks-themed kids’ area is under construction at Universal Studios.
Walt Disney World offers a variety of many more hotels and four theme parks to choose from, yet its skip-the-lines program isn’t the most user-friendly and while is less expensive than Express Pass, will probably pay more for accommodations and tickets.
Which resort do you think offers the better value in 2024? Let us know by voting in our poll or by leaving us a comment below or on our Facebook page.