From our friends at Theme Park Tourist…
By Amanda Kondolojy, Tuesday, August 30, 2016 05:26
Though summer 2016 has been a little bit soft for Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure in terms of attendance, Universal Orlando Resort has some big things planned for the future. From the opening not only of the new Volcano Bay water park but also Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon in 2017 to Fast & Furious: Supercharged in 2018, there’s a lot coming to the resort in the next few years, and that’s not even looking ahead to the future parks and hotels we know in the pipeline for the resort in the coming years.
However, before you go planning a whole bunch of trips to Universal Orlando Resort in the near future, there are some changes coming that you should know about first. And unsurprisingly, it looks like many guests are going to start paying more to visit the resort in the very near future. But first, let’s talk about a big leak that reveals some interesting new information about Universal’s annual pass program
1. Universal Orlando Resort expands the annual passholder tier system with new budget option and increased benefits
Though Walt Disney World introduced a robust tiered annual pass system last year, and is considering making more changes to its own annual pass program this year, Universal Orlando Resort has actually had a tiered system in place for its annual passes for several years. This three-tiered system includes a standard pass in the middle with no block-out dates, a higher end pass that comes with extra discounts and benefits, and a lower tier pass that blocks guests out of holidays and the busy summer season.
However, it has been confirmed recently (via a leaked blog post, as reported on by the Orlando Sentinel) that Universal Orlando Resort will be debuting a fourth tier of annual pass in the very near future that will have even more blockout dates than the current Power Pass and be billed as a “seasonal” pass, similar to Walt Disney World’s Silver annual pass tier. This seasonal pass will replace the Power Pass as the least-expensive option, and in addition to only allowing admission during off-peak times, will also not include parking, merchandise discounts, or dining discounts.
In addition to the new seasonal pass, the now-removed blog post detailed changes that are coming to the other tiers of Universal Orlando Resort annual passes as well. The formerly bottom-tier Power Passes will actually be getting a bit of an upgrade as summer blockout dates have been removed (leaving only holiday blockouts) and parking now only costs $10 (which is half price).
As for the remaining two pass types, Preferred and Premier, these passes are staying largely the same, with free parking, discounts and no blockout dates. However, the lone upgrade that these passholders are getting is early admission to the theme parks, a perk usually reserved for on-site hotel guests. Preferred passholders will only be able to enter the park early on select dates while Premier passholders can enter early 365 days a year.
While the expansion of the pass system might initially seem like a good thing (especially for budget-conscious park-goers who may be eyeing the seasonal pass), the news here isn’t all good as these changes to are all going to be accompanied by Universal Orlando Resort’s most unfortunate annual fall tradition…
2. Annual Pass prices hikes are coming very soon
Every fall, like clockwork, Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort raise prices for annual passes. And after an unusually dramatic price hike on single and multi-day tickets earlier this year, we’re expecting even more increases on all three of the current tiers of annual passes, with Power Pass likely getting the biggest price hike year over year, now that the seasonal pass has replaced it as the lower-cost alternative.
While we don’t know by how much prices will go up, if you’ve been on the fence about getting (or renewing) a Universal Orlando Annual Pass, you’ll want to do it in the next few days, as it is very likely that prices will officially go up before the end of next week, or possibly even sooner!
3. A new electronic ticketing service is now available
Although a lot of the recent news around Universal Orlando Resort has revolved around its annual pass program, there’s been a small change to how guests can purchase single and multi-day tickets as well. Guests who don’t want to deal with buying tickets online, waiting in will call lines, or purchasing tickets at the front gate now have a new option: in-app ticket purchases. Guests who have the official Universal Orlando Resort app installed can now buy regular single and multi-day tickets right from their phone (for both themselves and their party members) and then navigate to the “my tickets” menu, which will pull up a scannable QR code they can use at the turnstiles to enter the park.
Now while this new feature is certainly convenient, before you go busting out your credit card, be aware that it does come with a caveat: all tickets sold via the app are full price. That means that Florida resident discounts as well as limited-time promotional pricing are not be available at all for guests purchasing tickets on their smartphones. Though Universal did say that Florida Resident tickets will be made available for purchase in the app in a subsequent update later this year, for now it looks like guests who want to pay anything other than the full “rack rate” for Universal Orlando Resort theme park tickets will need to continue to go online or through an authorized ticket seller to get the best deals on admission.
Are you planning on going to Universal Orlando Resort sometime in the next few years? Will you be purchasing one of the new (or improved) annual passes for your next visit, or will you be sticking with regular single and multi-day tickets? Let us know what you think below!
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