Universal frequently offers vacation packages including hotel accommodations and theme park tickets via its in-house travel company, Universal Orlando Vacations. You can book a package yourself by calling (877)-801-9720, or by visiting universalorlandovacations.com or your preferred travel agent.

Universal Orlando Vacations booked more than 45 days in advance require only a $50 per person deposit (airfare fully due at time of booking) and is fully refundable until 45 days out; after that, the penalty is $200 per package, though some event tickets may be non-refundable.

Universal Orlando Vacations also handles group sales; if you want to organize a family reunion at Cabana Bay, call (800) 224-4489 and chose option #3, or visit the Universal Orlando Vacations Deals page.

Universal advertises its packages with enticing taglines like “The Wizarding World from only $109 a night!” You’ve got to do the math, though, because sometimes it’s difficult to see how buying the package can save money over buying each component separately.

Here's an example. A Wizarding World of Harry Potter Vacation Package in early 2015 offered a family of four (two adults and two kids under age 10) these components:

The package costs $1,709, including tax, for most of early 2013. There were significant restrictions, including blackout dates around spring break, Easter and Memorial Day (but not Presidents Day), and the stay had to happen on a Sunday through Thursday to qualify for that low rate – weekend nights were more expensive.

Staying at the Royal Pacific Resort, the package started at $1,726, including tax, during the Value season, and cost $1,852 during Regular season (April and May). There were significant restrictions, including blackout dates around spring break, Easter, and Memorial Day, and the stay had to occur on a Sunday-Thursday to qualify for that low rate; weekend nights were more expensive.

Here’s the first thing to recognize: the last item – early admission to The Wizarding World – is automatically given to everyone who stays at a Universal resort. That is already included in the package, so it don’t have any value by itself.

There are only three components to price: the hotel, tickets, the breakfasts at The Three Broomsticks and Leaky Cauldron. Universal normally charges $14 for FedEx ticket delivery (discount ticket vendors deliver for free), and the stuffed toy would retail for around $15; the welcome letter has no monetary value. We checked Universal’s website for the cost of the other components using various dates in early 2015, and ensured those dates would also qualify for the package above. Here’s a typical cost per component:

The total cost if you bought each component separately is $1,781.26, a saving of almost $75 off the online package. You can still reserve breakfast in the Wizarding World through your hotel's ticket desk even without a package. Universal’s price for the breakfast is $15.99 per adult and $12.39 per child, so it’s easy enough to figure out what it costs. And you can always have lunch at The Three Broomsticks too, with the money you’ll save by buying each item separately.

While it won't save you money, there are a few reasons why you might still want to book a Universal Orlando Vacations package. The first is if you can't afford to stay on-site, but still want early park admission to the Wizarding World. Booking a room at a Universal-area “partner” hotel a part of a package through Universal Orlando Vacations is the only way to get guaranteed early entry to the Harry Potter attractions, other than staying in a Loews resort.

Another reason is if you are attending a special event at Universal Orlando that offers exclusive experiences for package buyers. For example, the Celebration of Harry Potter fan convention in January holds an after-hours party in the Wizarding World just for vacation package purchasers. Occasionally, packages are offered with truly unique perks: before the openings of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, a limited number of package holders were allowed into the new Wizarding Worlds weeks before the general public. These rare opportunities are only for the die-hards, because uncontrollable technical delays can always preempt previews without refunds.

Finally, if you are a big fan of WDW's Disney Dining Plan, and insist on pre-paying for your table service meals, the Universal Dining Plan is available exclusively as an add-on to any Universal Orlando Vacations package. The adult plan costs $51.99 per person, per day, and includes 1 table-service meal (entree, non-alcoholic beverage, select desert), 1 quick service meal (entree platter, non-alcoholic beverage), one snack, and a third non-alcoholic beverage. The child plan costs $17.99, and includes 1 table service meal and 1 quick service meal from the kids' menu, plus a regular snack and soft drink. Neither plan's price includes tax or gratuities, which are expected at table service restaurants based on the value of your meal. Eligible table service restaurants are restricted to the two sit-down restaurants in both parks, plus the Leaky Cauldron, and a handful of CityWalk locations, the best of which are VIVO and Antojitos. Bafflingly, none of the restaurants inside the resort's hotels accept the dining plan, making it even more pointless for on-site guests.

Suffice to say that there are much better ways to spend $60+ bucks a day on dining at Universal, and that you'll have to order very carefully to get your $32 value back from every table-service meal. There is also a quick service-only dining plan for $19.99 adults, $12.99 kids (plus tax) that is also sold to the general public; there's no real benefit to buying it in advance in a package. For more information on Universal's dining plans, see our Dining Plan page, and visit www.universalorlando.com/Restaurants/Universal-Dining-Plan.aspx.

Last updated by Seth Kubersky on January 26, 2015