Universal Orlando Date-Based Tickets – How to Save Money

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Effective August 18, 2020, Universal Orlando Resort updated its theme park tickets from a tiered “seasons” to a “date-based variable” pricing model. This new system changes prices for all ticket options depending on which dates guests visit the parks. For those familiar with Walt Disney World’s current ticket system, this will seem familiar. In this article, we will cover what this means for your future vacation, how this compares to prior pricing, and how the tickets compare to Disney’s equivalent offerings.

All prices listed in this article are adult tickets.

The Old Way

Previously, Universal’s 1-day tickets were offered in three pricing tiers based on a seasonal ticket calendar: Value (only good on Value days), Regular (good on Value and Regular days), and Anytime (good for any day). Multiday tickets were offered at one price regardless of when one visits; no matter if the calendar said a 1-day ticket was $126.74 at Value or $148.04 at Anytime the 2-day ticket was still priced at $250.27. Adding on additional days, park-to-park hopping, and Volcano Bay increased the cost at a set rate.

Previous ticket options, with tax, from Touring Plans’ Universal Orlando ticket site.

The last ticket price increase was February 26, 2020, with an increase of $5 for 1-day tickets.

The New 1-Day Ticket

The new system follows Disney’s lead by creating a date-based ticketing system where pricing varies based on which date you start visiting. Here are the 1-day adult ticket prices, without tax, for the rest of 2020 at Universal Orlando.

Ticket pricing now ranges from $109 ($116.09 with tax) to $139 ($148.04 with tax) per adult. This means on several days Universal has dropped single-day tickets up to $10 per adult. But how many days did they actually lower prices, how many days remained the same, and how many increased?

The above custom calendar color codes the pricing changes: red for days more expensive, blue days that remained roughly the same (within $1), and green for days where admission prices dropped. Universal is clearly attempting to attract guests with lower prices during the week through the month of September. As we get into October and November we see no prices have dropped and, in fact, a majority of days we see price increases. In December a majority of days’ pricing remains the same.

With date-based pricing, Universal has the option of adjusting these dates as they see demand pick up or wane; the pricing is accurate as of August 18, 2020. It is possible Universal will lower prices if demand remains soft during the week. Pricing is likely to remain the same over the major Fall US Holidays: Labor Day Weekend, Columbus Day Weekend, Thanksgiving Weekend, and the week of and after Christmas up to New Year’s Eve.

Volcano Bay’s tickets have also moved to date-based pricing. Tickets range from $80.00 to $85.00 per adult plus tax.

Multiday Tickets

Universal now decides the cost of a multiday ticket based on a per-day cost listed on their calendar. This price is calculated similarly to how Disney finds prices its multiday tickets:

  1. Taking the average of 1-day ticket prices over the valid window for the ticket
  2. Subtracting a set multiday discount
  3. Multiplying by the number of days on the multiday ticket
Number of Days Number of Days Ticket is Valid Discount Park-to-Park Add On Volcano Bay Add On
2 5 3% $60 per ticket $40 per ticket
3 6 30% $60 per ticket $38 per ticket
4 7 45% $65 per ticket $47 per ticket
5 8 55% $70 per ticket $60 per ticket

Adding on Park-to-Park and Volcano Bay options are flat rate additions.

Ticket selection site on UniversalOrlando.com. I have selected one Park-to-Park ticket for 3 days.
Selecting my start date for my tickets. Per the chart above my 3-day tickets have a window of those 3 days plus an additional 3 days.

Using this on the Universal Orlando ticket site is easy: Pick the number of days you will visit the parks, chose Park-to-Park tickets or Single Park Per Day tickets, add the number of tickets you are purchasing, and then select the ticket window start date. The start date lists a price and the subtotal is calculated.

Universal versus Disney

How do Universal’s new tickets compare to equivalent Disney tickets? I compared two different ticket lengths that are popular at both resorts, the 2-day and 4-day tickets. To keep things comparable I will only be pricing out one park per day tickets with no add ons. Due to Universal and Disney’s different ticket windows, I chose to compare weekends instead of strict dates.

The below table compares rough vacation dates over several popular travel weekends. To find these prices I attempted to find the lowest price for each ticket that also included the Saturday and Sunday of that weekend. For example, the WDW 4-day ticket in September choice is September 17 – 23 while the November date is November 27 – December 3.

Rough Dates WDW 2-Day UOR 2-Day WDW 4-Day UOR 4-Day
Third Weekend September $238.14 plus tax $186.99 plus tax  $410.79 plus tax $254.99 plus tax
Second Weekend October $253.24 plus tax $196.99 plus tax $448.04 plus tax $276.99 plus tax
Fourth Weekend November $266.39 plus tax $196.99 plus tax $459.64 plus tax $276.99 plus tax
Fourth Weekend December $299.99 plus tax $197.99 plus tax $520.04 plus tax $277.99 plus tax

Unsurprisingly, Walt Disney World tickets are averaging $50-$240 more than the equivalent Universal tickets. Surprisingly the tickets remain competitive in September and October for 2-day tickets, while Universal is willing to undersell Disney on 4-day tickets. What is most interesting is the November and December holiday pricing at Disney shows strong demand while Universal’s prices remain the same from October.

Saving Money

The single biggest savings for tickets is the promotional 2-Day, Park-to-Park ticket with an additional free 2 days. Not only does this promotional ticket offer four days for the price of 2 days, it also uses the old flat pricing model. Even if you do not use the full 4 days, this promotional ticket is a better option than the current 2-day, 3-day, and 4-day tickets.

Tickets & Dates Price Savings
2-Day, Park-to-Park + 2 Days Free $278.99 plus tax
2-Day, Park-to-Park (August 31 – September 4) $278.99 plus tax $0
2-Day, Park-to-Park (October 8 – 12) $305.99 plus tax $27
4-Day, Park-to-Park (October 8 – 14) $341.99 plus tax $63

The 2 free days deal saves $30 per ticket over Columbus Day Weekend 2020, and if you are visiting for 4 days it will save you $63 per ticket before tax. This ticket promo ends September 30, 2020, so purchase these now for use through December 17, 2021.

By moving your ticket window start date to a cheaper day you can save money.

Our next money-saving tip is to look at several date ranges for tickets. Say you wish to visit Universal on September 15-17, selecting a start date of September 15 the ticket is $309.99. By selecting a cheaper start date that still includes your visit dates you can save several dollars per ticket. Changing your start date to September 13 reduces the ticket cost to $302.99, saving $7 per ticket.

The incredible Florida resident deal.

If you live in Florida and are visiting Universal Orlando more than one day this year, you definitely need to purchase the 2-Park, 1-Day Promotional Ticket. Visit Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure every day till December 24, 2020, for the price of a 1-day ticket. Tickets are $164.00 per adult plus tax for the two dry parks and $193.00 per adult plus tax with Volcano Bay.

That’s the lowdown on Universal Orlando’s ticket changes. Have any thoughts or questions? Leave them in the comments below!

Joseph Matt

Avid amusement park and video game fan. Enjoys picking up rare beers at breweries, exploring cities, cooking, and sports.

2 thoughts on “Universal Orlando Date-Based Tickets – How to Save Money

  • August 20, 2020 at 3:35 pm
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    What are the current refund and/or use later policies on Universal tickets? Can you use them later as with Disney tickets?

    Reply
  • August 20, 2020 at 3:49 pm
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    Officially it expires “expires on date printed on ticket”, from what I’ve seen it’s either what’s listed as part of the deal (see above examples) OR one year from purchase.

    Reply

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