How to Save Money at Universal Studios

Universal Studios operates two theme parks in the United States.  (There is also an overseas Universal Studios in Japan.)  One is in Orlando, Florida, near Walt Disney World.  One is in Hollywood, in southern California.

Especially if you come to the park with a large family, expenses can add up fast.  Here are a few tips for saving money at Universal Studios:

1.  Come to the park at off-peak times.

Not only are you more likely to find discounts during times of lower demand, but the park experience itself will surely be more enjoyable than if you come when it is most crowded.

January through April tends to be slower than the other months.  Weekdays tend to be slower than weekends.  Predictably, the park will be more crowded for special events.  For example, however busy it is for a typical September or October day, it will be busier any night featuring a Halloween Horror Nights attraction in these months.

2.  Shop around for ticket discounts.

The obvious place to start for discounts to Universal Studios is at their website to see what specials they’re currently offering.

But don’t stop there.  Buying directly from Universal Studios may or may not be your cheapest option.  You can also search online for various third parties that may be offering better deals.

For that matter, don’t limit your shopping to online.  For instance, there are roadside stands in the Orlando area that often have attractive deals on tickets to the park.  Keep an eye open for those.

3.  If you’re local, take advantage of discounts for local residents.

Check the Universal Studios website for the details, but if you’re a Florida or southern California resident, you may be eligible for special savings.

4.  Shop for lodging and air fare.

If you’re not local and you’re coming from out of town, be sure to shop the various well known discount online travel sites like Priceline and Orbitz. can have some very good deals.

Location is key to saving money on lodging.  If you stay in or right alongside the park, you know you’ll be paying an arm and a leg.  If you’re 30 miles away, yes your room will be cheaper, but it’ll be a major hassle getting to and from the park.  But if you’re 5 or 10 miles away, you can often get rooms at a very appealing rate.  And even if you don’t rent a car, there are buses and shuttles that take you right to the park.  (Think about it.  There are massive numbers of people wanting to get to the park from areas where there are a lot of hotels and motels.  So you know these will be well-serviced by public or private transportation, and that the schedules will be well-coordinated with the park’s hours of operation.)

5.  Look for package deals.

Instead of buying tickets to the park and everything else separately, if you shop around you’ll find various options to buy them in combination.

You have to look at these deals carefully, though, and do the math.  Whether they’ll actually save you money varies on a case-by-case basis.  How many people are there in your party?  How many days will you go to the park?  How many attractions will you want to experience?  How much do you expect to pay for food?  What’s the best deal on lodging you can get outside of a package?  Etc., etc.

6.  Bring food and beverages.

To be on the safe side, check with the park to see what their current rules are on bringing food or beverages in with you, but typically if you have some sandwiches and chips in your purse, you carry in a water bottle, etc., you’ll be able to save quite a bit of money compared to the inflated concession and restaurant prices in the park.

7.  Buy refillable cups.

Again you’ll have to do the math and consider how much you would otherwise spend on beverages, but you can buy souvenir cups at the park and have them refilled at a major discount.  For example, you might be able to get a cup for $10-$12, with each refill being $0.50-$1, compared to if you buy each beverage separately for $2-$3 each.  If you’re only going to get a couple of beverages while at the park, that doesn’t make much sense.  But if you’re going to be there for several days, and get at least three beverages each of those days, you’ll come out ahead by getting the refillable cup.  Not to mention you have the cup as a souvenir.

If you have a large party, saving on everyone’s drinks can add up.

If you use a little common sense, if you’re willing to do some planning, and if you shop around, you’ll find plenty of ways to reduce your Universal Studios expenses.