Universal offers perks to get theme park visitors into its hotels. All guests at any Universal Orlando Resort on-site hotel can take advantage of the following:

Universal Orlando Resort On-Site Hotel Benefits

In addition, every guest staying at the three deluxe hotels (Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, and Royal Pacific) also get the following benefits:

All these benefits are available from the moment you arrive until midnight on the day you check out. Even if your room won't be ready until afternoon, you can register at your hotel as early in the morning as you like, leaving your bags and retrieving your Express passes (if eligible) in time for the Early Park Admission hour. Then linger at the resort after your check-out time, taking advantage of your pool privileges until late in the evening.

Crunching the Numbers

The most valuable of these perks is the admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter 1 hour before the general public each morning, followed by the unlimited Universal Express passes for deluxe guests. It's hard to put a dollar value on the early park admission, but two-park Unlimited Universal Express passes are sold to the general public for $79.99 to $159.99 per day per person, excluding tax, depending on the time of year you visit. Universal says the pass is “a value of up to $89,” which works out to $360 per day for a family of four. One night at Universal's Royal Pacific hotel costs anywhere from $234 to $404, excluding tax, depending on the season. If you were planning on staying at a comparable offsite deluxe hotel anyway, staying at the Royal Pacific gets your family two days of unlimited Universal Express at little to no cost. During busy season, this can be a huge cost savings for parties of 4 or 5. If you are traveling solo or as a couple, or are visiting at a slow time of year, calculate the cost of staying at Cabana Bay and buying Express passes upon arrival if they turn out to be necessary.

Some of the benefits are of questionable value. Free parking at the theme parks, for example, is of little use to anyone staying at the resort, since it’s probably just as much walking from the resort as it is from the garages.

Having stayed at each of Universal’s hotels, we think a sometimes overlooked benefit is the ability to walk to the parks from your hotel. And it’s not just the convenience – the walkways are pretty and almost serene at night, if you can ignore the whooshing noise from the Incredible Hulk coaster. This Dallas-area family found foot accessibility to the parks to be Universal's biggest advantage over Walt Disney World's on-site hotels:

The simple convenience of being able to walk everywhere whenever you wanted was definitely worth the expense. Disney's shuttle or parking system is extensive. We tried the bus but it gets bogged down by the stops. Parking your own vehicle meant parking then using a tram to get to the gate with MK being the worse with it's parking off site thereby you can not hop park to park quickly. At Universal with one parking area everything was easily and quickly reachable..The girls discovered that they can enjoy the park early (with little wait time) and walk back to the hotel to nap then go back to the park or City Walk. They felt very grown up being able to be on their own without us adults to slow them down. This was inconvenient at Disney due to the transport time.

Last updated by Seth Kubersky on March 18, 2015