Universal just increased ticket prices at its Orlando, Florida parks and will soon be following suit with higher admission costs at Universal Studios Hollywood. This post covers the before and after pricing, how to beat the increase, and commentary about the changes.
First of all, this is mostly unsurprising. Ticket prices usually go up once per year at both Disney and Universal, with the latter often timing its increase around the same time as the former. In this case, Disneyland raised rates on Lightning Lanes, Magic Keys, and regular ticket prices as of October 11, 2023 for the rest of this year and 2024 at Disneyland and California Adventure. So it’s not a shock that Universal Studios Florida prices will be going up.
The more interesting angle here is Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Although there were a lot of price increases at Walt Disney World at the start of the new fiscal year last month, that did not include regular admission. Single and multi-day tickets remained unchanged, as did the Park Hopper and other ticket add-ons. We’re not out of the woods yet, but it seems like Walt Disney World might be hitting pause for a year on raising admission.
Before we get going, the good news is that Get Away Today, our recommended authorized third party ticket seller, has tickets for Universal Studios Hollywood at the discounted pre-increase prices. By purchasing your Universal Studios Hollywood park tickets via them for travel dates between now and September 2024, you can lock-in current prices and save significantly.
With that said, you only have ~4 days to act (depending upon when you read this). Universal Studios Hollywood ticket prices will increase on November 14, 2023. After that, it does not appear that you’ll be able to purchase admission at the “old” prices.
Given how hugely popular Super Nintendo World has been at USH (and that the Fast and Furious Coaster is on the way–likely opening in late 2024 or 2025), we’re expecting significant price increases at Universal Studios Hollywood. It seems like Mario has actually been what they expected Harry Potter to be several years ago–a big driver of attendance!
To the point that the parks were incredibly overcrowded this spring and summer. And you know what that usually means for theme parks? Massive price increases. (We have no idea what, exactly, to expect with the price increases, but huge hikes to Annual Passes seem like a given. The lower tiers of USH APs are absolute bargains as compared to Disneyland.)
As noted above, a price increase already happened at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. As for when…I’m not really sure. Sometime at the end of last month, most likely. Admittedly, we don’t follow pricing as closely at the Universal parks as we do Walt Disney World and Disneyland. We have (relatively speaking) cheap Annual Passes for both Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood, so we’re somewhat immune to single and multi-day ticket prices.
Anyway, the starting price on a 1-Day, 1-Park ticket for Universal Orlando increased from $109 to $119. The peak season 1-Day, 1-Park tickets increased from $159 to $179, an increase of $20 or 12.5%. Two park and 2-day tickets also saw some pretty hefty increases, with some 2-day tickets going up by as much as $49. Many of the price increases were in the low double-digit percentages.
Although prices have increased, Florida residents still have a special offer allowing them to “buy a day, get a second day free.” This promo is valid on 2-Park, 1-Day tickets, and offers a second day free. These tickets can be used on non-consecutive days, and they are valid through March 6, 2024.
Speaking of deals, U.S. and Canada residents can now take advantage of a deal giving them 2 free days of access to Universal Orlando Resort’s thrilling theme parks, with a 5-day ticket for the price of a 3-day ticket. Honestly, it’s hard to recommend this ticket deal. The only demo we could see it offering value would be United Kingdom guests who come for weeks at a time, and they aren’t eligible!
Otherwise, very few people with weeklong trips to Florida will want to allocate 5 days of that time to Universal. Chances are, you’ll want to do 2-3 days at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida…which is precisely the point. This “deal” is a way of Universal offering illusory savings on an admission product that most guests won’t otherwise purchase. Getting guests to commit to 5 days instead of 3 is actually a win for them, not you.
Turning to commentary, I want to start by addressing the Disney diehards who will invariably point out that it’s “interesting” that Universal doesn’t receive nearly as much criticism or attention when it raises prices. That’s true and fair. For our part, I will be honest with you: it’s because we don’t care as much.
We hold Disney to a higher standard because we care more about Disney. We like Universal, but we love Disney. I don’t really think that makes us hypocrites. Of course we’re going to keep a closer eye on the thing that captures more of our time, effort, energy, and enthusiasm. I still complain more about the Detroit Lions (Sarah can attest to this) than I do the New York Jets, even though the former is having their best season in ages. That’s just the way it is.
With that said, I do think the Universal diehards who have long pointed to the prices at their parks and resorts as being more “fair” or “reasonable” are in for a rude awakening. The notion that Comcast, of all companies, cares about consumers and offering commensurate value for money is absolutely ludicrous.
Just like any other business, Universal charges what the market will bear. With Super Nintendo World now open in Hollywood and coming very soon as part of Epic Universe in Florida, that amount already is, or soon will be, higher than it was several years ago. It could decrease if there’s an economic downturn or recession, but the same is true of Walt Disney World. The exhaustion of pent-up demand is precisely why Disney has increased ticket and resort deals–not out of the kindness of its heart.
This is going to be especially true of Univeral’s hotels, which have been underpriced for a while. They’ve gone up considerably in the last 2 years, but it’s only going to get worse. Some are still a bargain given what they offer–especially if you can leverage Unlimited Express Pass. The lower end of the spectrum offers really great value, too.
This is a direct result of Universal purposefully overbuilding hotels in anticipation of Epic Universe. They currently have more hotel inventory than is necessary to service their 2 theme parks and 1 water park most of the year, but even with the addition of new hotels as part of the Epic Universe expansion, that’ll likely change in 2025.
In short, anyone who thinks Universal is doing fans a solid with hotel pricing is delusional. As soon as Universal can raise resort rates, the company will. This is not some bold prediction–it’s a straightforward understanding of how supply and demand work. I’m not saying any of Universal’s high-end hotels will hit Polynesian or Grand Floridian price points…but they could eventually if Epic Universe is the smash hit its fans are predicting.
Beyond that, I don’t have much “original” commentary to add. Although there’s been a bit of a slowdown at the Florida theme parks this year, that hasn’t been true across the board. There have still been busy periods, and I have to imagine that Halloween Horror Nights set new records for Universal. Now, the busy Christmas season is right around the corner.
On top of that, inflation is still an issue. Thankfully, this is starting to decelerate as consumer spending also starts to cool, but inflation does remain elevated. Its own costs having increased, Universal has a motivation for raising prices. It also has a degree of justification, as consumers are already accustomed to paying ever-increasing prices.
In any case, it’s hard to make a compelling case that Universal has any sort of pricing problem, at least for now. Comcast is posting unprecedented numbers and demand is off the charts. As long as consumers keep spending and pent-up demand continues, people will pay the prices for park tickets and whatever else has gone up.
Ultimately, it’s still our belief that things aren’t too far from normalizing. At some point, pent-up demand fully and finally fizzles out, inflation on necessities influences discretionary spending, higher interest rates, underperforming investment portfolios, and growing household debt will bring the party to an end. It’s already happening at Walt Disney World, and is likely just a big lagged at Universal Studios Hollywood due to the respective reopening timelines–and the addition of Super Nintendo World.
When all of some of that happens, consumers will return to being more cost-conscious and price sensitive, and things will normalize to at least some degree. However, there don’t appear to be any signs of those things happening anytime soon. We’ll be paying careful attention to all of the changes, and will keep you updated as we learn anything new.
What do you think of these price increases on Universal Orlando and Hollywood park tickets? Expecting considerably higher prices for Annual Passes at USH given the sky-high demand for Super Nintendo World? Will you still be visiting the parks this year or in 2024, or are you priced out? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!