19 Amazing Ways to Do Universal Orlando on a Budget

You can save money if you know how to do Universal Orlando on a budget!

I don’t want you to worry about breaking the bank for a chance at experiencing the famous wizard and the world-class theme park attractions.

Before you start your Universal Orlando budget planner, you should know that the resort has 3 theme parks with another one opening in the future plus multiple hotels to choose from and the famous CityWalk.

Transformers the Ride Universal Studios Entrance with Optimus Prime

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Universal Orlando Resort Theme Parks:

  • Islands of Adventure
  • Universal Studios Florida
  • Volcano Bay

With all those activities to participate in, you’ll want to know these pro tips for doing Universal Orlando the cheap way!

Can you do Universal Studios in one day?

You can if you’re super focused!

Universal Studios guide and tips
Sign up and get your FREE Universal Orlando Resort Solo Theme Park Traveler’s Planner and Guide. Click the image to get started.

Grab your FREE Universal Orlando Resort guidebook here!

19 Universal Orlando Tips and Secrets to Save Money

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let go through ways that you can do Universal Orlando on a budget.

ET animatronic on the ride at Universal Studios on the Green Planet

1. Shop Around

Remember that hotels are less expensive off-site. If you do stay onsite you will get special perks such as free transportation within the property, which can save on car rental or cabs.

2. Book a Universal Orlando Vacation Package with Your Tickets

Universal Studios Florida lagoon. First timer tips for #UniversalStudios

Through the authorize vacation sellers, you will be able to get a significant discount on your Universal Orlando Resort vacation package. Your theme park tickets will also get scooped up in that whole package price.

ORDER NOW to secure your theme park ticket reservation in the parks! GET MY TICKETS.

3. Use Professional or Club Discounted Rates

If you’re a part of a professional organization or travel club, always check to see if they have any theme park discounts. Professional dental, pharmacy, and AAA organizations are just a few examples of companies that have theme park deals.

AAA usually has significant discounts on Universal Orlando theme park tickets, so be sure to look there if you are a part of the organization.

4. Stay at an All-suite Hotel with an In-room Kitchen

This is important because it gives you the chance to save on your dining budget. You can go grocery shopping and based on the planned-out meals, you do breakfast and dinner at your hotel or vacation rental and do a lunch at one of the parks.

19 reasons you'll love CLC Regal Oaks
CLC Regal Oaks Resort

Just have it all mapped out. It will cut your dining budget in half.

Read: Universal Orlando Resort On-Site Hotels (Everything You Need to Know)

5. Look for a Flight Leaving on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Saturdays

Those days tend to be the cheapest to travel. Booking your actual ticket on a Tuesday mid-afternoon about 3 PM to 4 PM has been said to be the best time to book flights.

cheap plane tickets for disney #disneytips #travelbudget

The industry is usually updating prices and for some reason I’ve been lucky when it comes to booking flights during that time.

Read: How to Find Cheap Flights to Orlando

6. Check Local Travel Agents for Discounts and Deals to help do Universal Orlando on a Budget

There are a lot of authorize travel agents in the Central Florida area. I personally recommend an organization that has a great reputation as a theme park vacation planner.

Cornish pixie Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Photo: Universal Orlando

Travel agents can help you put your whole plan together. They usually know the different Universal Orlando discounts and deals that are available right away before anyone.

They also know different time frames that are best for you to book. They’re really good with when it comes to planning a customizable Orlando vacation.

7. Get Universal Orlando Tickets from a Trustworthy Website and Purchase the Multi-day Park Pass

Be sure to find discounted Universal Orlando tickets that are one or two days short of your total vacation length.

Seuss Landing | Islands of Adventure #universalorlando #themepark
Seuss Landing | Islands of Adventure

Buy your Universal Studios Florida ticket directly from Universal’s website or from a reputable source such as Undercover Tourist. Undercover Tourist usually has special rates for Orlando theme park visitors.

ORDER NOW to secure your theme park ticket reservation in the parks! GET MY TICKETS.

8. Know the Universal Orlando Ticket Breakdown

There are a few options to choose from for Florida residents when buying a ticket for any of the Universal Orlando theme parks.

One day at just one of the parks (Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure) start at $119. While Volcano Bay starts at $80. Both prices depend on the season.

If it’s a busier season, then the price will be higher.

How much does it cost to go to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay?

Islands of Adventure Tips Bluto Barge River Rapids Ride with Hulk Roller Coasters in the Background
3-Park – 2-Day Ticket Starting at $175 Per Day

The 3-Park 2-Day Park-to-Park Florida Resident Ticket entitles one (1) guest admission to Universal Studios Florida™, Universal’s Islands of Adventure™ AND Universal’s Volcano Bay™ on the same day.

Ticket is valid for any two (2) calendar days during a sixty (60) consecutive calendar day period which includes the first day any portion of the ticket is used.

Butterbeer Universal Studios Recipe with hot butterbeer and Hogwarts castle in the background.
2-Park – 2-Day Ticket Starting at $118 Per Day

The 2-Park 2-Day Park-to-Park Florida Resident Ticket entitles one (1) guest admission to BOTH Universal Studios Florida™ AND Universal’s Islands of Adventure™ theme parks on the same day.

Ticket is valid for any two (2) calendar days during a sixty (60) consecutive calendar day period which includes the first day any portion of the ticket is used.

You can view the whole list of ticket options here and save money too!

*Prices are subject to change (always check official website due to price fluctuations).

If you will be at Universal for more than four days, maybe book only two days to go to a park. On the first day in Orlando you may be tired or jet-lagged. Use that day to explore CityWalk or discover your resort.

On your last day, you may not want to go to one of the parks and try to travel back on the same day.

How many days do you need at Universal Studios?

Each Universal Orlando Resort park needs a full day to complete. Maybe two if you have the time and money.

If you don’t have the time nor the money, then listen to how to do Universal Studios Orlando in one day here!

9. Take Note of the Parking Deals

Self-parking is cheaper after 6:00 pm (unless there’s a special event). It is FREE for Florida residents after 6:00 p.m,. which is perfect if you want to spend an evening hanging out and exploring CityWalk.

CityWalk Universal Orlando Margaritaville Delicious golden cocktail with lime.
CityWalk Universal Orlando Margaritaville

Passholder Parking Deals

  • Preferred Annual Passholders get FREE self-parking and a reduced price for valet parking at the parks
  • Premier Annual Passholders get FREE preferred self-parking and FREE valet parking at the parks

Ready to plan your theme park trip? Watch the best vacation planning tips on YouTube. Get started here!

10. Do Free (or almost free) Activities at Universal Orlando

There are so many other things you can do at Universal Orlando Resort for free…or almost free. Such as hanging out in CityWalk and exploring the beautiful resorts.

Things to Do at Universal for Free

  • Take a Free Water Taxi Ride
  • Enjoy the Italian piazza at Loews’ Portofino Bay Hotel
  • Have fun in the Splash Zone Areas of Universal CityWalk
  • Dance along with the live DJ most nights on CityWalk
  • Do your own resort hopping tour

11. Take Advantage of Universal Orlando Freebies and Souvenirs

Hopefully your Universal trip does not dig too deep into your wallet. In case it does, take advantage of some of the free stuff you can grab while enjoying the parks.

HULK Roller Coaster Universal Islands of Adventure

Free Universal Orlando Items:

  • Celebration buttons
  • Birthday Drink at Pat O’Brien’s in CityWalk by joining the Pat O’Brien’s Birthday List and E-Club
  • Stickers
  • Mardi Gras beads
  • Free Coupon Book with up to $150 in discounts if you purchase any Multi-Day, Park-To-Park theme park ticket on Universal’s website
  • Wi-Fi
  • Cup of water at theme park kiosks

12. Use Discounted Travel Sites for Hotel Deals

Book portions of your vacation through website like Hotels.com for great hotel deals. Hotels.com offers a FREE night special.

When you book 10 hotel nights through their website, you’ll receive one night free. You may get one of your nights at a participating Universal area hotel for free.

For the BEST Travel deals, join Hotels.com free rewards program here!

13. Book Vacation During the Off-season

Be sure to use Universal Orlando crowd calendars to help you determine the best season to book your Orlando vacation. I recommend early November or mid-January.

Hogsmeade at Universal Hogwarts Castle Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

You will be able to maximize your days and really enjoy the whole property offered by Universal Orlando Resort.

Best Times to Visit Universal Studios Florida

  • January
  • February
  • April
  • November

These months are closely followed by March, May, September, and October as still pretty decent visiting times.

You can get more details for choosing the best dates here!

14. Don’t Forget About a Vacation Home Rental

A vacation home is another great option where you can get a wonderful deal on lodging for your Florida vacation. Top Villas  has one of the best villa rental agents in the world, offering the best homes, the best service and the lowest rates guaranteed.

Reunion Resort Vacation Home Near Disney
Reunion Resort Vacation Home Near Disney | Copyright photo Reunion Resort

I am a fan of vacation home rentals with resort amenities for families or friends traveling to Orlando on an extended vacation.

15. Know How to Save Money on Food at Universal Orlando

If you’re not planning on being at Universal Orlando Resort for more than 4 days and you usually eat light, then I say skip out on the Universal Dining Plan.

Chicken and Waffle Sandwich from Cletus' Chicken Shack Universal Studios
Chicken and Waffle Sandwich from Cletus’ Chicken Shack

It’s not a good plan and if you budget correctly for your trip, you’ll be able to make your money stretch inside the park.

September is Orlando Magical Dining Month where high-end Orlando restaurants feature three-course, prix fixe dinners at an exceptional value. Some of the restaurants at Universal Orlando participate during this event, so you may be able to get a better dining option using this offer.

Refillable Drinks & Popcorn Buckets

You can also use refillable souvenir cups and buckets like the Coke Freestyle Souvenir Cup, the refillable buckets of popcorn, and the regular park beverage souvenir cup that can be purchased for one price and refilled throughout the day for a low cost.

You can reuse the souvenir cups on another visit and refill them at whatever the current reduced refillable charge is at that time.

Ready to start planning your next Universal Orlando vacation? Listen to the latest podcast episode on Apple or on your non-Apple device now!

16. Bring Your Own Snacks and Water

Having snacks and water will help hold you over between your meals. It’s also good to pack a light lunch if you want to avoid paying the cost of meals at the Universal Parks.

Islands of Adventure Tips Popeye Red and White Ship and Olive

I usually pack a small sandwich and snacks with one meal in the park to treat myself on those solo days at Universal Orlando.

Water is very important to have especially in the severe summer heat. Be sure your snacks are within the Universal Orlando guidelines.

Acceptable items to bring into Universal Orlando Parks:

  • Bottled water
  • Small snacks that do not require heating
  • Any food required for medical purposes and medically indicated nutritional supplements
  • Food required for special dietary needs
  • Baby food/baby formula
  • Soft-sided insulated bags no larger than 8.5″ wide x 6″ high x 6″ deep

Prohibited items at Universal Orlando Parks:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Picnic lunches
  • Food that requires heating or refrigeration
  • Glass containers
  • Hard-sided coolers
  • Soft-sided coolers larger than 8.5″ wide x 6″ high x 6″ deep
  • Suitcases and bags with wheels
  • Folding chairs
  • Clothing with offensive language or content
  • Clothing that represents someone as emergency personnel
  • Weapons of any kind

Watch the Full Universal Orlando Packing List Video here on YouTube!

17. Purchase Universal Orlando Souvenirs Offsite

You can use websites like Amazon. to get quite a few of your Universal gear and swag. Also, local stores like Target, usually have a vast collection of Universal Orlando Resort merchandise for lower retail prices.

18. Buy Ponchos, Water, and Sunscreen Prior to Your Visit

Let’s learn what items you never knew you could buy for your next Walt Disney World vacation from Dollar Tree.

Don’t get caught up in the Orlando rain and the Universal Orlando $20 price of a poncho. A lot of the items such as a poncho, sunscreen, and water can be bought at Dollar Tree for as little as $1.00.

19. Use Discount Websites for Cheap Orlando Activities

Things to do in Orlando for adults

Get great discounts on different activities happening around Orlando. Websites such as Groupon has some of the best activities to do off of the Universal Orlando Resort properties.

Don’t forget to read Things to Do in Orlando Besides Theme Parks here!

Final Thoughts

I truly hope these Universal Orlando saving tips help you save and budget well on your next trip.

you may be thinking…

“How much should I save for Universal Studios?”

If you budget for:

  • Ticket: ~ $128
  • Parking at Universal Orlando ~ $26
  • Food ~ $45
  • Merchandise ~ $65

Your total for a solo day trip to Universal Studios would be ~ $264

Overall, use the tips in this article to help cut down as much of this cost as possible!

Universal Orlando on a budget. #universalstudios #universalorlando #themeparks
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Let me know some money saving tips you use when doing Universal Orlando on a budget in the comments section below!

If you enjoyed this article, then you’ll love these:

Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!

NikkyJ

(Original Article Date: March 17, 2019/Updated May 19, 2020)

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2 thoughts on “19 Amazing Ways to Do Universal Orlando on a Budget”

  1. This is so helpful! My younger siblings and I (we’re all adults between 22 and 31 but young at heart) are planning a one-day trip to Islands of Adventure for next month, and we want to enjoy it to the fullest without breaking the bank. The poncho idea is GOLDEN lol. We got caught in the rain last time and ended up buying the $20 ponchos in the park. Thanks Nikki!

    Reply
    • Congrats on your upcoming trip!!!!

      The parks in Orlando sure know how to get every single penny out of you, lol. Especially when you’re in dire need. When a rainstorm is about to come, they place all the proper gear (like ponchos/umbrellas) towards the front of the store and make the prices outrageous!

      Just stock up at Dollar Tree or on Amazon and you’ll be good to go 🙂

      Nikky

      Reply

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