Is a Universal Express Pass worth the money?

We recently had the opportunity to find out.

universal express pass worth the cost traveling dad

Since we had the Universal Express passes for a full day, we took this opportunity as a challenge to see if we could get both Universal parks done in one day, using the Express passes.

While making the video, above, we learned that the Universal Express pass is quite controversial. Apparently, many feel it’s too expensive, Universal shouldn’t even have an “express line,” and that it ruins the experience of the parks. Let’s address some of these issues.

Disclosure: Universal Orlando Resort provided Universal Express passes to our family. The views expressed in this post are my own.

Universal Express Pass is too expensive!

Universal Express can be quite pricey. The cost is on a graduated scale, so on the busier days at the parks, the passes will be more expensive. This makes sense, because if they were cheap, everyone would buy them and there would be no “express” to the Universal Express pass.

On the day we used them, I believe the price was $89 each. Without tax, this would be $356.00 for our family of four. As I mentioned, Universal provided our passes to us on this day, but we have paid as much as $95 per Express pass for ourselves on multiple occasions.

Universal Express shortens the wait time for guests. That’s what they do. They’re not “front of the line” passes, they’re express passes. You are paying for your time — your most valuable resource. We did both parks in one day — all the Universal Express rides in both Universal Orlando parks in one day. On the day we went, this would not have been possible without the Universal Express pass. Now, we have more time to enjoy our Orlando vacation, sit at the pool at the resort, go to another local theme park, spend quality time with our family (like you’re supposed to do on vacation). How much is that worth to you?

Travel tip: Did you know you can get Universal Express passes for free?

Yes, if you stay at Loew’s Royal Pacific, Loew’s Hard Rock Hotel, or Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel, you get a Universal Express pass for your whole family for the duration of your Universal Orlando vacation! We were also told that this was not “free” nor was it a good option, as the Universal resorts are “too expensive,” as well.

Just for this post, I decided to price up a stay at Loew’s Royal Pacific Resort for the weekend of September 16-19, 2016 (this is a weekend, so you’d want to have Universal Express, plus it’s opening weekend of Halloween Horror Nights, so both the Express passes and resorts will be at a higher price). I priced “rack rate” — this is off the street, no discount pricing — for that weekend and before taxes, Royal Pacific would be $289 per night. Remember, this includes FREE Universal Express passes for Friday, September 16, Saturday September 17, Sunday September 18, and Monday September 19. 4 days of Express passes. If we were to pay for 4 days of Express passes at the high traffic weekend rate of $89 each, this would be a grand total of $1,424.00 or $356 per day for our family. That’s INCLUDED with your stay!

As a comparison, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for that same weekend would be $308.00 per night, before tax. So, you’re not only paying less for your room, you’re getting almost $1,500 in Universal Express passes included in that cost!

Why did I use Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge as a comparison? Because, it’s likely to be the least expensive of the few Disney resorts that have a Four Diamond rating from AAA (all of the Disney resorts with this rating are Deluxe resorts). Royal Pacific, Hard Rock Hotel, and Portofino Bay are all Four Diamond resorts.

Universal Express should be eliminated!

Some people felt that Universal Express should just be eliminated. It should not even be an option. It’s unfair!

We respectfully disagree. Just like you have Loew’s Portofino Bay or the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, as a “resort” property with guests from all over the world, Universal needs to provide options. Sure, some guests don’t want to or can’t afford to pay for Universal Express. Some guests also can’t afford or don’t want to pay for Portofino Bay.

Universal would be negligent to ignore large portions of their guests desires for their vacations to not offer Universal Express, a Portofino Bay option, or Bice Ristorante for this demographic. The same is true on the other end of the spectrum.

We had a great time at both Universal parks during our “challenge” day using Universal Express.

universal express pass and butterbeer


We absolutely love having the option of an express pass and have paid for it on multiple occasions. We’ve also stayed at a Loew’s/Universal resort just to get the Universal Express for free! If you’re trying to cram a lot into your Orlando vacation, it’s worth every penny. You can’t buy more time in this life, but you can use the time you have wisely and sometimes, that means spending a little more to get some additional quality family time!