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Do you have a vacation destination that you’ve been meaning to visit, but you can never seem to get around to going there? I sure do: it’s Universal Orlando.
My husband and I visited the parks at Universal Orlando before kids, about 15 years ago. That was pre-Harry Potter, and we were not impressed. We have never taken our kids there, but my husband visited in 2018 for a work conference. He liked the Harry Potter areas, but the rest was just “meh” for him.
Every time my family goes to Florida, my boys see the Universal advertisements and ask when we can go. And the truth is, I’ve planned to go there at least four times with the family. But, I always back out.
2020 was supposed to be the year we went. We planned a week at Disney renting DVC points followed by a brief stay at Universal. I even had the hotel room reserved, but I hadn’t yet purchased the park tickets. Then, Covid started and our plans went amuck.
Our DVC reservation was pushed to 2021, and our Disney park tickets were extended as well. So now I just have to re-book the Universal part. Why am I having such a hard time pulling the trigger?
My family has been spending a lot more time in our house during 2020, and we’ve also been spending more money on home improvements. Because of these expenses, the cost of adding Universal is giving me pause.
There’s not really a cheap way to do Universal when you are a family of five (five adults, since my youngest is 10). Plus, to experience the Hogwarts Express train ride, you have to buy the park-to-park ticket. With tax, the cost for my family for a park-to-park ticket for one day is $985.15. Yikes! Almost $1000 just for one day.
At Universal, there are no free fast passes like at Disney. You either have to pay extra for Express Passes or stay in one of the three onsite hotels that offer free Express Passes. The cost for one room is around $500 a night, which is about the same cost as buying Express Passes without a room. Since we would be there over a holiday weekend, I feel that we would need Express Passes in order to see everything in one day. So now we’re up to $1500 just for one day at Universal.
I realize that Disney is also expensive. However, since we are spreading out our visit over 6 nights, the cost per day is much more palatable.
Cramped Quarters: If we stay at a Universal hotel to get the Express Passes, all 5 of us will be crammed in one small room for a night. Sure, we could get a suite, but that’s a few hundred dollars more. The last time we stayed in one room on our way back from Costa Rica, we were all miserable. One kid is a very restless sleeper who kept us all up, and my kids swear that my husband and I snore loudly. I vowed we would never squish in one room again.
Extreme Rides and Motion Sickness Rides: Universal has some hair-raising extreme rides that some of us won’t go on. But my biggest turn off is all of the motion-simulator virtual rides in front of a movie screen. I really can’t handle these rides without motion sickness medicine, and Universal has more of these rides than Disney.
I’m leaning towards scrapping Universal (once again) for our 2021 trip. If I pushed it to 2022, we could spread out the expenses and go to Universal during a 3-day weekend shorter trip.
Or, I could hold out for another ticket deal. Last month, Universal offered several ticket specials, and the park-to-park ticket would have cost closer to $850 for us. We could skip our planned non-park pool day at Disney and just Uber to Universal during the middle of the week without the Express Passes.
Of course, then we would have five park days in a row, which just might kill my feet. I think this will have to be a game day decision.
Do you have a vacation you’ve been procrastinating for one reason or another? Do you think Universal is worth the cost?
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.