Next summer, my family is heading to Disney World for a week. We decided to add on one day at Universal Orlando at the beginning of our trip. My husband and I haven’t been there since before the Harry Potter world opened, and my kids have never been. We’ve had every intention of going to Universal Orlando on one of our many previous trips to Florida, but we just never made it there.
This time, we’re making it happen. However, I’ve discovered that planning a trip to Universal is quite different from planning a trip to Disney. Fortunately, the little-known perk of pool hopping privileges makes our hotel decision easier.
Hotel Choices for Universal Orlando
I considered using points to stay nearby Universal. For just 1-2 nights, my family could stay in one room at the Hyatt Place Across from Universal Resort or a nearby Staybridge Suites using IHG certs.
But, since we are planning to visit both parks in one day, we really need those front-of-the-line Universal Express passes. To get them, we either have to pay $149 per person (for the day we are going, the price varies by date) or stay in one of three premier on-site hotels.
Pool Hopping at Universal Orlando
My basis for choosing which on-site deluxe hotel was really coming down to the pool area, since we plan to arrive in the morning and relax at the pool before hitting the parks hard the next day.
As I began to read reviews of the three deluxe hotels that include Universal Express passes, I came across a tidbit of information. Universal allows on-site hotel guests to pool hop to other Universal on-site hotels. This is kind of a big deal, considering Disney doesn’t allow that for non-DVC guests.
According to several blogs and discussion forums, guests staying in prime value, preferred and premier hotels can pool hop simply by showing their room keys at other resort pools. Guests can walk to other resorts or take boat/bus transportation between resorts. The only resorts that don’t offer pool hopping for guests are the two new Endless Summer value hotels.
This is really a game changer for my family. The hotel pool that appeals most to us is at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, with its large lazy river and water slide. It doesn’t have the Universal Express Pass we want, but it’s nice to know we don’t have to stay there to use the pool.
If Pool Isn’t the Deciding Factor, Cost Is
For many families, the theming, décor and location of the hotel are deciding factors. But since this is just a short stay, I’m not too concerned about those.
As long as my family is willing to schlep to another hotel’s pool, deciding where to stay really comes down to price. Of the three premier on-site hotels, Portofino Bay is usually the most expensive, followed by the Hard Rock Hotel. Royal Pacific Resort is usually the least expensive.
So for now, I made a reservation for us at the Royal Pacific Resort. I don’t know if we will have the time and energy to explore a different pool, but it’s nice to have the option.
Have you pool-hopped at Universal?
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.