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Staying On Property at Universal Vs. Staying On Property at Disney World

Not too long ago, we posted a blog that compared staying on property versus staying off property (Staying On Property vs Staying Off Property). This showed some great perks to staying at a Disney resort–from time saved to no parking fees and Magic Bands and more!

This week I priced out a \”split stay\” for someone wanting to spend a few days at the OTHER Amusement Park in Orlando. You know…Universal Studios! Now, I love Disney World. LOVE Disney World and its beautifully themed resorts, but I\’m not opposed to visiting other places! I was glad to have the opportunity to do a comparison.

This family wanted three nights at a Universal Resort with two days at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure plus three nights at a Disney Resort with three days at the Disney parks. Both families are military; both Universal and Disney offers discount pricing for the resorts and a deal on park tickets so we were comparing similar offers.

First, I contacted Universal Studios. They had a courtyard family suite available at Cabana Bay Beach Resort for $415 for three nights. Military tickets for Universal and Islands of Adventure 3-day park to park pass were $580 for an average of $193 per day.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Then I contacted Disney World. They had a water view room available at Coronado Springs Resort for $452. Tickets for Disney World four-day park hoppers are $708 for an average of $177 per day.

The Three Caballeros topiaries at Coronado Springs Resort.

So far, it\’s pretty comparable.

Then we needed to look at the details. This family was planning to start their vacation at Universal Studios. They were flying into Orlando International Airport and needed transportation to Universal Studios. They have a new airport shuttle option available for $35 round trip per person (or $20 one way per person). If they had started at Disney World, they could have used Disney\’s Magical Express for free. Yes, FREE. Included. No extra cost. (Disney will even deliver your suitcases right to your room at the resort. You must claim your bags if using Universal Studios transportation.) Price for this family: $140 for Universal airport shuttle; Disney: Free.

Score: Disney World wins

Then we looked at front of the line passes. At Universal Studios, these passes are called Express Pass and let you go to the front of the line of participating rides. The price varies depending on the day and the season, but for this family for two days in December, it would have cost them $520 for both days. This allows them to have front of the line pass one time for participating rides; this particular pass is for use on each ride one time. If you want to ride your favorite ride multiple times with a front of the line pass, you need Express Pass Unlimited at $619 for both days. I keep saying participating rides because all of the Harry Potter rides (except Flight of the Hippogriff) are excluded as are Pteranodon Flyers and Kang and Kodos Twirl \’n Hurl plus it\’s not good for front of the line queues for some of the rides. At Disney, the front of the line passes are called FastPass. They are included for everyone who has a park ticket. That\’s right…they\’re free! This gives you front of the line passes for three rides in one park (booked in advance) and can book more at a kiosk.  Universal Express Pass for this family: $520 for two days; Disney: Free.

Score: Disney World wins

Next, I looked at room amenities. They\’re fairly comparable between Disney and Universal. They each have hairdryer, in room safe, large TVs, and other typically found amenities. I did find that Universal has coffee makers in every hotel room whereas some of Disney\’s Value Resorts do not. However, every room in a Disney resort has a refrigerator; at Universal, refrigerators and microwaves are available (first come, first serve) for $15 fee per night. Specifically, Cabana Bay Beach Resort has a coffee maker, refrigerator and a microwave since these are set up as family suites. Coronado Springs has a coffee pot and refrigerator. Because Coronado Springs doesn\’t have a microwave, I\’ll give this win to Universal. However, for any other Universal hotel, Disney would have the win since all rooms have refrigerators. Price for microwave, fridge and coffee pot at Cabana Bay: Free; Coronado Springs: Free (no microwave available).

Score: Universal Cabana Bay Beach Resort wins

Last, I looked at parking options. At Cabana Bay Beach Resort, parking is $12 per night for self-parking. (At the other Universal resorts, parking is $20 per night for self-parking!) Parking at Coronado Springs is free.  As a matter of fact, parking is free for every Disney resort. Cabana Bay parking: $36; Disney: Free.

Finally, I looked at park parking options. Although you probably wouldn\’t move your car to the parking garage for Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure if you were staying at a Universal hotel, if you did, you would still pay the $17 per day parking fee. Parking is free at all Disney World parks if you are a guest at any Disney resort.

Score: Disney World wins

Now, there are perks that both parks share for their resort guests. They both offer transportation between the hotels and the parks, character interactions, merchandise delivery to your resort, pools and extra park hours. And of course, there are definitely different types of rides and attractions at Universal and Disney!

But based on my research, be prepared to spend more at Universal than at Disney!

Susan Burks is a Disney travel planner at WishdrawalsTravel, a military wife, and a homeschooling mom to a robot-programming,

space-loving 10 year old!  As a former teacher and a Disney enthusiast, she loves being able to combine her love of Disney and education in the Disney parks.

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