If you mention a trip to Orlando and the Theme Parks, people do the math in their heads to determine how much you are going to spend on the vacation you have described. Hotels, tickets, food, souvenirs, flights, and unexpected expenses can really break the bank. While you can’t make the airlines give you a cheaper discount and the hotel rates are the rates, and ticket costs go up every year, there are ways to keep some cash in your pocket.
Here are my tricks to saving extra cash at Universal Studios.
1. Look for Package Rates
Probably the biggest savings will come from a multi-day vacation package that includes flights, hotels, tickets, and maybe a meal plan. Universal offers packages on their website, but you may get better rates from a Travel Advisor (agent) that specializes and has connections to Universal Studios. Sign up for newsletters from Universal Studios and ask around to your friends. You can save hundreds or even thousands if you can bundle your trip. This isn’t always gospel truth if you want to save more by staying off property, or if you are only going one or two days to the parks, but it’s always worth checking. Due to the savings, you may be able to reasonably stay an extra day or two.
2. Pack Snacks
While it is discouraged to bring snacks in the park, it is possible, especially if you have food allergies (like me), to pack a few items. You may not get away with bringing a whole lunch into the parks, but you can bring items to your hotel room and make the most of your cash. My trick for traveling anywhere in the world is packaged oatmeal that can be made with hot water from the room and/or a microwave. If you have a mini-fridge in your room (many rooms offer this) get some sandwich supplies and hang onto them for evenings or mid-day breaks.
I think of those $1.00 granola bars or $.50 oatmeals as money in the bank, as it saves at least $6.00 a person on snacks, breakfast, drinks and more.
3. USE FREEBIES
There are few things in life that are free. At the parks, you will see a price point on everything, except a few little things that can stretch your money.
- COFFEE in your hotel room is usually free, drink that in the morning to get going, and if you run out, ask the front desk for a refill.
- WATER bring a water bottle that is refillable at the parks. Most restaurants will offer a canister with ice water and there are drinking fountains throughout the park. Refill that puppy and stay hydrated, it will make the day much better.
- BUS services run from resort hotels to the parks. These will be a lifesaver for your legs, feet, and screaming child.
- EMPLOYEES are there to make sure your time at the parks is going great. If something goes wrong, talk to someone and they will likely pull some strings to make the day better. They did for my stepdaughter and I!
4. Drink Less
Alcohol at theme parks is always at a premium, but they do have fun drinks that are worth trying. However, if you drink more you may need to eat more and you may lose some self control on other spending (oh wait…that’s just me). Regardless, if you cut down on alcohol you will undoubtedly have more cash in your pocket.
5. Drink More?
Universal has some great perks if you do want to drink more, especially at the resorts. My trick is to get one $14 drink in the plastic tumbler at the pool, you get to keep the tumbler and each drink afterwards is $10. If you are drinking, this will save you some money and you get to take home a souvenir. Save more, and bring the tumbler back on the next vacation.
6. Soda Pop
I am not a big soda drinker, but I know a lot of people are, and their Dr. Pepper is my morning coffee. My best tip and trick is to buy the reusable drink, that has a microchip, and is good for your time at the resort or theme park. Resort cups are around $20/$25 and are good ONLY in the resort while theme park cups are good at the parks and cost around $30 for your whole stay. It’s a lot of money upfront but what you will notice is that each individual soda or refill is going to run around $6.00 each and in four drinks you have one paid for.
7. Spread out Meals
I am not an advocate of NOT eating, I just know portions are large at Universal and you will not need your three squares while there. My suggestion is to go for breakfast at the hotel or resort, and eat a late lunch that’s large. Fill in the gaps with snacks and I promise you won’t go hungry.
8. Platter Meals
Restaurants sometimes offer large family-style meals that offer great savings and even better meals. The platter at the Three Broomsticks was a personal favorite and the six of us practically rolled out of the tavern not sure we would ever eat again.
9. Order Kids Meals
This is obvious for groups with kids, as it saves a lot of money, but sometimes if you are not very hungry or if something on the kids menu looks better, order it. At times you may get a surcharge, but often you will get savings, a better sized meal, and just as good of an experience. Also, at a quick serve, how do they know you don’t have a hoard of kids to feed?
10. Split the Goods
As above, portions can be crazy, and many times one ends up wasting a lot of food. If you know that you may not finish an entree it may be best to split with a buddy. I think this is particularly true for Toothsome’s fabulous milkshakes, they are so massive, I think splitting them is a logical choice, or bringing them along for breakfast.