18 Ways To Save Money At Universal Studios Hollywood

A trip to Universal Studios Hollywood doesn’t have to break the bank. Instead, there are a number of ways in which you can save money when visiting this incredible theme park. These money-saving hints and tips might not all be right for you, however, just one or two of these can save you $20 or even $100+ per person.

1. Stay In A Hotel Close To Universal Studios Hollywood

If you don’t live in California, or perhaps even Los Angeles County then it’s highly likely you’ll be spending a night (or two) in a hotel. However, hotel prices in Los Angeles can range from around $120 a night for a budget room up to $500 and beyond for a luxury five-star resort.

When choosing your Los Angeles hotel we recommend considering the distance to the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. For example, staying in a hotel within walking distance of the theme park may cost more money initially. However, it could also mean that you don’t have to get an Uber or get a hire car, both of which can quickly add up.

2. Compare Hotel Prices On Different Booking Agents

Once you found a nearby hotel it’s worth checking the price on different booking agents (Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia etc.) since there’s pretty much always a disparity. However, make sure the booking agent you use is reputable and well-known, and if you see a price that’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Also, consider any tier or promotional points you might have with a specific hotel brand (i.e. Hilton, Marriott, Accor) which may provide you with a discounted rate or additional benefits at no extra cost (such as a room upgrade or complimentary breakfast).

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Loews Hollywood Hotel

The four-star Loews Hollywood Hotel is our hotel of choice when visiting Universal Studios Hollywood.

Situated in a prime location at the foot of the Hollywood Hills this hotel offers incredible value for money.

3. Compare Hire Car & Uber Costs

If you’re flying into Los Angeles to visit Universal Studios Hollywood then you’ve no doubt had to decide how you’re going to get around the city. In most cases, you have three different options;

  1. Hire Car
  2. Uber & Lyft
  3. Public Transport

While the public transport network in and around Los Angeles is better than some US cities, it’s still limited. Select nearby hotels offer a free shuttle to Universal Studios Hollywood specifically, however, when it comes to exploring more of Los Angeles you’ll likely be left deciding between a hire car or a carpooling service such as Uber and Lyft.

Uber and Lyft are able to pick up and drop off at Universal Studios Hollywood and are fantastic for saving money on parking at the theme park. However, the cost of travelling around in an Uber or Lyft can quickly mount up.

This combined with the limited flexibility for exploring the beaches near Universal Studios Hollywood as well as other popular tourist attractions in and around Los Angeles leaves many visitors to look at car rental.

However, renting a car in Los Angeles is about more than just the cost of car rental. Instead, you’ll need to consider insurance, gas and parking charges at both your hotel, Universal Studios Hollywood and any of the additional attractions you chose to visit.

If hiring a car is the right option for you then consider looking for a hotel that offers complimentary parking. While the cost of the hotel may be higher, it may actually work out cheaper overall once you add together the price of your budget hotel’s nightly rate and the parking charge.

4. Opt For General Parking

If you decide to drive to Universal Studios Hollywood then you’ll be presented with several options when it comes to parking, the price of which varies significantly.

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Subsequently one of the quickest and easiest ways to save money is to simply opt for the cheapest parking option at Universal Studios Hollywood which will see you park in one of the many ‘General’ parking garages.

This means that you will have to self-park and have a slightly longer walk to the theme park’s entrance. However, we personally feel that this is worth the hassle to save $20 when travelling to Universal Studios on a budget.

5. Visit During The Off-Season

Universal Studios Hollywood sells its theme park tickets using a dynamic pricing model. This means that the cost of theme park tickets is set to be more expensive when Universal Studios Hollywood is set to be very busy, and cheaper when Universal Studios Hollywood is expected to be less crowded.

On the cheapest days, a one-day ticket to Universal Studios Hollywood costs just $109. However, on the most expensive, the same one-day ticket can cost up to $149. This dynamic pricing model doesn’t just apply to general park admission tickets but also to;

  • Universal Express Pass
  • VIP Experience

Visiting during these cheaper dates also means that Universal Studios Hollywood is expected to be quieter. So not only are you going to save money, but you’re also likely to experience shorter wait times and therefore not require a Universal Express Pass.

6. Buy Your Park Tickets In Advance

The first hour after Universal Studios Hollywood opens is the ‘golden hour’ as this is the time when the park is least crowded. As such the last thing you want to be doing when arriving at the theme park is waiting in line to purchase your park tickets.

Instead, it’s quicker, easier and often cheaper to buy your Universal Studios Hollywood theme park tickets in advance.

7. Avoid The 2 Day Park Ticket

Universal Studios Hollywood is smaller than the nearby Disneyland Resort which has two theme parks (Disneyland and California Adventure) and the Universal Orlando Resort which has two theme parks and a water park.

Subsequently, when it comes to how many days to spend at Universal Studios Hollywood. Most people can experience all the rides and attractions inside the park in just one day. As a result, we don’t recommend spending money upgrading to a 2-day theme park ticket.

8. Skip The Universal Express Pass

Adding the Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass to your one-day Universal Studios Hollywood general theme park admission typically costs an additional $90 to $120. However, this upgrade isn’t always a worthwhile expense. Especially if you’re travelling to Universal Studios Hollywood on a budget.

In our personal experience, the Universal Express Pass saves you up to 85% of the standby wait time on eligible rides. This means that if the wait time for a popular ride such as Revenge of the Mummy is 1 hour, you’ll likely only wait 10 to 15 minutes.

However, if you’re visiting during the off-season, then Revenge of the Mummy might not have a 1 hour standby wait time. Instead, the wait time may only be 20 minutes and in that case, the benefit you get from the Universal Express Pass isn’t as valuable.

As such you’ll want to thoroughly consider not just your budget but the value you’re going to get from the Universal Express Pass before deciding whether this investment is the right one for you.

9. Consider Upgrading To An Annual Pass

Purchasing a Universal Studios Hollywood Annual Pass sounds like an unconventional way of saving money. However, if you’re planning on visiting Universal Studios Hollywood twice over a 365-day period then it often works out cheaper to buy the lowest tier annual pass (Silver) instead of two one-day theme park tickets separately.

This combined with the additional benefits Universal Studios Hollywood offers to annual passholders makes this a worthwhile consideration for many visitors.

10. Bring Snacks To The Park With You

One of the biggest factors you’ll want to consider when deciding how much money to bring to Universal Studios is how much you plan to eat and drink while inside the park. Universal Studios sells a wide variety of both traditional and themed food and drink options.

However, as with the majority of theme parks, the cost of these items is inflated when compared to traditional stores and restaurants. Luckily, you can save money by bringing snacks to the parks provided it meets the rules and regulations laid out by Universal’s security.

Just because you can bring a banana or a turkey sandwich to Universal Studios doesn’t mean you should. The heat and humidity can leave some snack options inedible or worse still cause damage to your backpack and the other items inside.

11. Bring A Water Bottle

Universal Studios Hollywood is happy to provide cups of water complimentary from any quick-service restaurant or refillable drinks location. Subsequently, if you’re happy to drink water consider adding a water bottle to your Universal Studios Hollywood packing list.

If you do want a drink of water throughout the day and don’t have a water bottle with you, rather than purchasing a bottle of water from one of the quick-service dining locations (at a cost of around $5) instead, ask at the counter for a cup of water and you’ll be given one complimentary.

12. Invest In A Refillable Cup

If you don’t fancy drinking water then consider investing in one of the Universal refillable cups or a souvenir cup.

A refillable cup costs $18 plus tax and includes unlimited drinks every ten minutes until the park closes. Drinks can be obtained from any of the Freestyle machines located across the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park which offers a comprehensive range of drinks.

Regular fizzy drinks at Universal Studios Hollywood cost $4.25, while large drinks cost $5.00 as such if you’re likely to buy more than 3 fizzy drinks throughout the day then the refillable cup offers great value for money.

If you’re visiting Universal Studios Hollywood for more than one day, are an annual passholder or plan to return to the park in the future then keep hold of your refillable cup as when you return to the park you can reactivate it for $11 plus tax and once again used for unlimited drinks every ten minutes until the park closes.

Alternatively, a souvenir sipper cup costs between $20 and $30 depending on the design and comes with a complimentary drink. However, after this, all refills must then be paid for at a cost of $1.50 plus tax. Much like the refillable cups, however, you can bring your souvenir sipper back to Universal Studios Hollywood time and time again to save on the cost of drinks at the park.

Themed drinks such as Butterbeer found in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Super Star Lemon Squash at Super Nintendo World are not eligible for any refillable or souvenir cup programme. These lands also do not have any Freestyle machines inside so make sure you fill your drink before visiting.

13. Grab A Refillable Popcorn Bucket

If you’re looking for a fun and affordable snack at Universal Studios Hollywood then consider investing in the refillable popcorn bucket. Depending on the exact design these buckets cost between $24.99 and $39.99 plus tax.

One regular serving of popcorn costs $5.99, subsequently, if you’re likely to purchase three or four portions of popcorn in a single day then the refillable popcorn bucket quickly becomes an affordable souvenir.

14. Eat At Budget Dining Spots

While the food at Universal Studios Hollywood does come at a premium, some restaurants are still cheaper than others. In this case, we’ve often picked up meals and snacks from the following locations;

There are also plenty of quick-service dining spots out at CityWalk too, however, more often than not we splurge on a table-service meal here after a long, fun-filled day at the park instead.

15. Purchase Your Hogwarts Robes & Wands In Advance

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is one of the most incredibly immersive areas at Universal Studios Hollywood. Fans of the Harry Potter books flock to this fantastic place to experience the rides & attractions and, of course, to buy souvenirs. However, some of the most premium souvenirs here can come at a very high price.

Harry Potter interactive wands start at $59 plus tax. Meanwhile one of the highly detailed Universal Studios Hollywood Harry Potter robes costs $145 plus tax. While these two items are some of the best souvenirs we’ve ever purchased from Universal Studios if you’re travelling on a budget then they may be unattainable.

Thankfully, you can often buy a second-hand wand or robe from previous Universal Studios guests on the likes of eBay or even buy a licenced Hogwarts robe from stores such as Walmart and Target.

16. Avoid The Arcade & Carnival Games

Once you get inside Universal Studios Hollywood, all the rides and attractions are free – except for the arcade & carnival games. With so many fantastic things to see and do as part of your admission to the park, spending your extra dollars here can be somewhat of a waste.

The vast majority of these arcade & carnival games are situated inside of the Super Silly Funland and are therefore in prime position to be marketed to kids, and since each game costs $8, the cost of playing can quickly add up.

17. Bring Your Own Stroller / Wheelchair

Strollers and wheelchairs are available for hire at Universal Studios Hollywood. However, they come at a high premium.

  • Single Stroller: $25
  • Double Stroller: $35
  • Wheelchair: $25
  • Electric Wheelchair: $75

As such if you’re going to need a stroller or wheelchair during your trip to the parks we highly suggest bringing your own with you instead.

18. Skip The Souvenirs Entirely

It’s no secret that there are some incredible things to buy at Universal Studios. Especially, the new Super Nintendo World Hollywood merchandise. However, these souvenirs are often overpriced when compared to similar items that can be purchased from third-party stores and sellers such as Target and Walmart.

As a result, if you’re travelling to Universal Studios Hollywood on a strict budget then it may be worth saying no to the souvenirs entirely. My wife Helen and I did this during several of our visits to Universal Studios Hollywood as a young couple, simply because we couldn’t afford much more than the theme park tickets and food.

However, even now we’re very thoughtful about what we buy when visiting Universal Studios and try to ensure it’s a souvenir that we’re going to love, use and enjoy.

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