Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood can be an expensive experience, but it doesn’t have to be.
Being annual pass holders, we’ve visited Universal Studios Hollywood multiple times and found a fair few ways in which you can save money during your trip.
1. Book A Hotel Close To Universal Studios Hollywood
If you’re not from the Los Angeles area then it’s highly likely you’ll be spending a night or two in a hotel when visiting Universal Studios Hollywood.
In that case, we’d highly recommend looking for a hotel that is within walking distance or has a complimentary shuttle to the theme park.
These hotels may cost $20 extra per night but can easily save you upwards of $40 per day (and roughly an hour of your time) in either parking costs or Ubers.
Some hotels we’d recommend researching include;
- Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City
- Sheraton Universal Hotel
- Loews Hollywood Hotel
- BLVD Hotel & Suites
2. Only Pay For General Parking
Universal Studios Hollywood offers a number of different parking options including;
- General Parking
- Preferred Parking
- Front Gate Parking
- Valet Parking
If you’re visiting Universal Studios Hollywood on a budget then we’d recommend going for the cheapest option, the general parking for $30.
While this will put you at the far end of CityWalk and require a 10-minute walk to the park entrance, it’ll also save you at least $20.
3. Compare The Cost Of Uber & Parking
Depending on where in the region you’re staying, it may in fact be cheaper to take an Uber or a Lyft from your hotel to the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park than it is to pay for gas and parking.
This also allows you to be picked up from the Frankenstein parking lot, close to the park entrance rather than having to walk through CityWalk back to the general parking lot.
Not to mention you can also drink (if you’re over 21) and/or can sit back and relax rather than stress about LA traffic.
4. Consider An Annual Pass
While it may sound contradictory to saving money, investing in an annual pass may actually be a great way to save money – even if you only plan to visit the park once.
That’s because Gold and Platinum annual pass holders also benefit from discounts on;
- Food & Drink
Not to mention gain free entry into the park (selected blackout dates apply) throughout the year.
For example, if you are a family of four travelling to the park and purchase just one Gold annual pass (currently $299) then you’ll be able to benefit from;
- Free parking ($30 saving per day)
- 15% discount on food & drinks ($15 saved on $100 drinks, snacks & lunch)
- 15% discount on merchandise ($15 saved on $100 worth of souvenirs)
- Get a discount on general admission for family and friends (roughly $20 saving per person)
This comes out at an $80 saving on a single visit.
Not to mention it also includes entry into the park for the pass holder (circa $120) bringing the total savings to an average of around $200 from a single one-day visit family of four.
As such it’s easy to see how with just two days at the park, a splurge on souvenirs or a couple of extra meals you can make your money back very, very quickly.
5. Avoid The Universal Express
Universal Express is an add-on to your general park admission that allows you to skip the line on all eligible rides within the park.
The exact cost of this add-on ticket varies depending on the estimated demand but is usually between $60 and $130 per person, per day.
However, with the right amount of ‘how to skip the line‘ planning, you often don’t need a Universal Express pass – even if you’re visiting during the peak season.
6. Bring Your Own Drinks & Snacks
Food and drink come at a premium at the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park.
As such one great way to save money is to bring your own.
While this can reduce the magic of experiencing some of the incredible food and drink delights that the park has to offer it can easily save you upwards of $50 per person, per day.
7. Buy A Refillable Cup
Universal Studios Hollywood refillable cups are a great way to save money on drinks when at the park.
These cups can be purchased for $17.99 each (with a discount available on multiples) and provide you with unlimited free refills (every 10 minutes) throughout the day.
Cups can be refilled at any of the carts around the park or at any of the Coca-Cola Freestyle locations thanks to an RFID chip located inside the cup.
These cups can also be brought back to the park during multiple visits and reactivated for $10.99.
Once the cup has been reactivated it can again be used for unlimited free refills throughout the day.
8. Avoid The Arcade & Carnival Games
There are multiple arcades and carnival games located across the Universal Studios Hollywood park (Minions area and Springfield to name a few).
These games cost money and provide you with a chance to win a souvenir.
However, we’d recommend avoiding these if you’re looking to save money and instead spend your money on souvenirs that you actually want (from the many stores inside the park) or on food and drink.
9. Share Food
While the food at Universal Studios Hollywood comes at a premium, many meals are often large enough to share between two – at least for lunch.
Restaurants which in our opinion offer great value for money within the park include;
- Panda Express (Lower Lot)
- Krusty Burger (Springfield)
- Minion Cafe
10. Buy Souvenirs In Advance
Much like the food, souvenirs inside of the Universal Studios Hollywood park can be expensive.
Therefore if you’re on a budget we recommend looking for souvenirs outside of the park instead. Either online or in stores such as Walmart and Target.
This is especially great for kids, who you know are likely to want a cuddly toy from the park, but not something you want to pay upwards of $20 for.
While these souvenirs are unlikely to be the exact same as those you find inside the park (many souvenirs are Universal Studios Hollywood exclusive) they can be a great way to save upwards of 50%.
11. Travel During The Off-Season
The off-season is in our opinion the best time to visit Universal Studios Hollywood.
During this time you’ll often find great deals on hotels, and find that park tickets are at their lowest (park tickets are priced based on estimated demand).
However, not only does visiting in the off-season save you money, it often leads to a better experience too. Since the off-season means fewer guests and therefore shorter wait times.
- Less than 20 minutes for the Studio Tour
- Under 15 minutes for The Mummy
- Under 15 minutes for Transformers: 3D