Money MattersUniversal Orlando Resort

Budgeting for a Universal Orlando Vacation – Same Cost, Different Vacations Part 1

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Vacations are expensive – but with some guidance and data, you can maneuver The Matrix-like as you plan your next vacation. This series will cover how to budget for your Universal Orlando vacation, from how many nights you can stay at various hotels for $1000 to the average meal price at the Three Broomsticks.

Today we will look at the vacation options at several price tiers from $1000 to $2000. These vacation examples will give you a good idea of how much a future trip could cost.

Budgeting for a Universal Orlando Vacation Series

The Incredible Hulk Coaster. (photo by Michael Carelli)

The Theory

These prices are roughly based on the average prices for a trip around October 20, 2023 at the time of publishing. Prices do not factor in promotions or sales, such as super-low airfare or hotel deals. Some ancillary costs that we have not factored in include airport parking, hotel parking, car rentals, fees, and other trip-specific costs. All costs include an estimated tax. The goal of this thought experiment is to have fun with some theoretical situations, so don’t sweat it.

$1000 Pricepoint

$1000 is a lot of money and yet not much money for a vacation. For this budget range, we are looking at driving over flying, fewer park days, counter service meals over full service, and a value or offsite hotel. Even with all those caveats we can plan a fun trip for you.

Weekend Trip for Two

This is a balanced vacation with costs evenly spread across our categories with a focus on theme parks. Assuming you drive down, stay two nights, and leave, you can afford one day at the theme parks for a little over $1000. There’s not much room in the budget for souvenirs or other experiences.

  • Transportation: Drive – $177
  • Hotel Stay: Two nights at a value hotel – $400
  • Admission: Two One-day tickets – $250 w/ tax
  • Meals: One day of counter service meals, arrival and departure day meals per person – $200
  • Souvenirs & Merchandise: None
  • Add-Ons: None

Total: $1027

Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Potter Fan

Universal’s claim to fame when the first Wizarding World opened was the amount of official merchandise for sale. Up till this point licensing for Harry Potter items were limited, until Universal came around. Now fans could find officially licensed scarfs, shirts, wands, treats, and Butterbeer for the first time. So obviously for many fans merchandise is the focus of the trip and this trip plans for this. We also splurge on a park hopper so you can visit Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.

  • Transportation: Drive – $177
  • Hotel Stay: Two nights at a value hotel – $400
  • Admission: One-day park hopper – $220
  • Meals: One meal at Three Broomsticks, one meal at Leaky Cauldron, Harry Potter Snacks, and arrival/departure day meals – $100
  • Souvenirs & Merchandise: $100
  • Add-Ons: None

Total: $997

HHN Trip for Two

Loads of people spend one night at Halloween Horror Nights and stay on site. This plan skips the daytime admission, only visits HHN, and stays at a Premier hotel close to Universal Studios Florida. Why the splurge on the hotel? Trust us, once you’re done walking around the event you will feel it.

  • Transportation: Drive – $177
  • Hotel Stay: One night at a premier hotel – $400
  • Admission: Two HHN tickets – $200
  • Meals: One counter service dinner, alcohol, snacks at HHN, breakfast the next morning per person – $150
  • Souvenirs & Merchandise: $50

Total: $977

Food Festival

Mardi Gras is firmly establishing itself among Orlando’s best food festivals. So why not plan a trip around it? This plan is for two people and focuses on FOOD – small plates, beers, cocktails, entrees, snacks, desserts, and everything in between.  I am choosing the preferred hotel, Sapphire Falls, as the lodging since it is home to the fantastic Strong Water Tavern. Since the food festivals start in the late morning I am planning on a one-day hotel stay.

  • Transportation: Drive – $177
  • Hotel Stay: One night at a preferred hotel – $300
  • Admission: Two one-day tickets – $250
  • Meals: Full day of snacking & full-service dinner – $350
  • Souvenirs & Merchandise: None
  • Add-Ons: None

Total: $1077

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. (photo by Michael Carelli)

$2000 Pricepoint

Now we are cooking – $2000 is the point where flights, multiday visits, and hotel upgrades start. The average one-person week vacation costs $1500, lets’s see what we can do at Universal.

Weekend Trip for Two

Similar to our previous weekend trip for two, but now our budget is doubled. This allows us to fly to Orlando instead of driving, plus it extends our stay by one day. Flights take up most of our additional budget, but we are adding one day to our trip.

  • Transportation: Flying – $660
  • Hotel Stay: Three days at a value hotel –  $600
  • Admission: Two two-day tickets – $570
  • Meals: Two full days, two half days, counter service meals only per person – $300
  • Souvenirs & Merchandise: None
  • Add-Ons: None

Total: $2130

This trip alone costs $2130, which already blows our budget. What I wanted to show was that a two-day vacation for around $2000 for two was possible. To keep costs under $2000 swap out the flights for driving.

Potter Fan

Just like before, but adding on flights and upgrading to a Premier hotel for the Express Pass. If the biggest Potter fan asked me for the ultimate one-day Wizarding World escape, this is the trip I would recommend.

  • Transportation: Fly – $330
  • Hotel Stay: Premier hotel for two nights – $900 w/ tax
  • Admission: One-day park hoppers – $220
  • Meals: One meal at Three Broomsticks, one meal at Leaky Cauldron, Harry Potter Snacks, and arrival/departure day meals – $150
  • Souvenirs & Merchandise: $350
  • Add-Ons: Shutterbuttons – $85 (or skip this and put the $85 towards more merch)

Total: $2035

(c) Universal Orlando Resort

HHN Trip for Two

Same as the $1000 tier but we will add on flights, Express Pass, and more merchandise. I am also including the Scream Early add-on which grants HHN ticket holders admission to USF at 3 pm. This is really a red-eye with a one-night stay – I like to call this The Lane.

  • Transportation: Fly – $660
  • Hotel Stay: $400
  • Admission: $200
  • Meals: One day of counter service meals and snacks with alcohol – $150
  • Souvenirs & Merchandise: – $250
  • Add-Ons: Express Pass – $260, Scream Early – $60

Total: $1980

Family of Four One-Day Do-Or-Die-In-A-Day

Inspired by the Dumbo Do-Or-Die-In-A-Day touring Plan from the iconic Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, this plan is the ultimate one-day plan for a family of four.

  • Transportation: Drive – $177
  • Hotel Stay: Two days at prime value hotel – $500
  • Admission: Four one-day park hoppers – $820
  • Meals: Three days of counter-service meals for four – $400
  • Souvenirs & Merchandise: Come on man, you know you’ll have to at least buy wands – $150
  • Add-Ons: None

Total: $2047

WFH Long Stay

Maybe the theme parks are just a nice thing to have on the side. If you need to escape your WFH and retreat to Universal, this is what you want. Seven nights at a value resort with meals and flights for one.

  • Transportation: Fly – $330
  • Hotel Stay: – Seven nights at a value hotel – $1100
  • Admission: None
  • Meals: Seven days of counter service and full-service meals – $450
  • Souvenirs & Merchandise: None
  • Add-Ons: Movies, mini golf, escape room, alcohol, etc – $150

Total – $2030

Next week we look at the more ambitious $4000, $6000, and dream vacation costs. Do you have a Universal Orlando dream vacation planned out? Leave your ideas in the comments below.

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Joseph Matt

Joe covers theme parks through the lens of his quality engineering day job. He has over five years of writing experience at Touring Plans and has gone on dozens of trips to Orlando over his life. When not at amusement parks you can find Joe at breweries, enjoying live theater, playing video games, and cooking.

2 thoughts on “Budgeting for a Universal Orlando Vacation – Same Cost, Different Vacations Part 1

  • WFH??? What * Husband? Wife * Horrible? Whole Family Horrible? Winter * Horrible? Wife Family Husband?

    Also – get a Southwest credit card and fly on points! Really helps with the budget!

    • Ooooh, Work From Home.


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