Universal’s Express Pass is a popular splurge purchase for theme park fans who despise lines. But we are here to tell you there’s a better way: stay on site at a Universal Premier hotel. In this article, I will explain Express Pass, its variants, and show you how to price out a hotel with Express versus buying Express separately.
What is Express Pass?
Express Pass is Universal’s skip-the-line offering for attractions and shows. There are two Express Pass versions: a standard Express Pass, which is valid only once per attraction, and Express Unlimited Pass, which offers unlimited access for each attraction. Passes also have an option to upgrade the Express Pass to work at both theme parks.
Express is valid only for one day and for one person – each party member must have an Express Pass. Vaid theme park admission is still necessary for entry.
Unlike Disney’s FastPass+ no reservations or return times are required.
How Much Does Unlimited Express Pass Cost?
Express Pass starts at $59.99 per person for a base one-park Express Pass and $89.99 per person for a one-park Express Unlimited Pass. During holidays and weekends, these prices can inflate to astronomical amounts – during Christmas week the one-park Express Pass swells to an eye-watering $249.99 per person!
Vacation Hack – Stay at a Premier Hotel Instead
Universal’s Premier hotels (Loews Portofino Bay, Loews Royal Pacific, and Hard Rock Hotel) offer complimentary Express Unlimited Pass included in the price of the room. You heard that right–this isn’t just any Express, it’s the highest tier, two-park, unlimited Express that costs $99.99 to $289.99 per person per day. The complimentary Express Passes are valid for each person in the room for every day of the stay, including check-in and check-out days.
Doing the Math
Let’s take a look at a long weekend trip for March 5 – 7, 2021. We are assuming you will spend three days, two nights at the parks for four guests. Checking Universal’s booking site the least expensive Premier hotel that weekend is Loews Royal Pacific at $1278 including taxes and fees for three days, two nights.
Compare this to the price of Express Pass on its own. Using Universal’s ticket site I pulled prices for Express Pass and Express Unlimited Pass, one-park and two-park varieties, for the same dates:
Booking a resort saves you over $600 for the exact same tickets, and that’s not including the price of a hotel!
If you are visiting the parks on check-in and check-out day it is cheaper to book a room at a Premier resort rather than purchase Express separately, even if you are not paying for accommodations while in Orlando. There are exceptions to this: if you are taking days off not to go to the parks, not visiting the parks on the check-in and check-out dates, or if you do not want Express.
Do I REALLY Need Express Pass?
Express is a nice luxury and creates a more relaxed, stress-free vacation. Unlike FastPass+, which feels necessary and required for effective touring, Express does not make or break a vacation. Showing up thirty minutes to an hour prior to park opening, with a Touring Plan in hand, will also let you experience the parks at a fraction of the cost.
We suggest investing the extra time to investigate the savings or you could work with our own Touring Plans Travel Agency who will help you!