My family had Disney World annual passes for 7 years, but we started struggling to justify the cost.
My teens like Universal more right now, and we were blown away by the value of its annual passes.
A top-tier pass at Universal costs less than a mid-tier Disney pass and comes with so many perks.
I've been a Disney World annual passholder since my family relocated from Maryland to Florida in 2016. When I first signed up, I brought my husband and two kids along for the ride.
As my kids have gotten older, they've lost interest in visiting Disney World every weekend, so we slowly let everyone's pass but mine expire. At its highest, our monthly cost was over $400, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy not paying more than my car payment each month for four passes.
Recently, my family — especially my 15-year-old son — has become interested in visiting Universal Orlando. I'd heard Universal's annual passes were more affordable, but when I really did the research, I was blown away by the value.
Universal Orlando's annual-pass program is more affordable and has better perks
I recently signed my son and me up for annual passes at Universal.
A top-tier Premier Pass for a Florida resident costs about $800 a year, but there are also lower options that still have plenty of perks. After paying half as a down payment, my monthly fee for both passes is about $70 — which is what I currently pay for a mid-tier Disney pass for just myself.
Among the perks for the highest-tier Premier Pass is a free ticket to Halloween Horror Nights, or HHN, each season. We signed up in October, which means we got free HHN tickets for 2023 and 2024, a total value of about $400.
My husband and daughter weren't interested in HHN, so we're planning to sign them up for annual passes the next time we all visit Universal together.
Perks for top-tier Universal pass holders include valet parking and free Express Pass
In addition to HHN tickets each season, Premier Pass holders receive complimentary valet parking that allows you to bypass garages and lines and walk right into Universal. Without a pass, valet parking for a full day costs $75, so the perk is invaluable.
Leaving the theme parks with tired feet and only having to go to the valet parking lot to retrieve our car will make our passes pay for themselves fast.
We also receive Express Pass, Universal's way of skipping standby ride lines, for free after 4 p.m. The time-saving pass, which starts at $80 a person and goes up depending on the season, really solidified the value of the annual pass for me.
Other benefits in our tier of pass include early park admission, no block-out dates, and discounts on food and merchandise.
But all the tiers come with solid benefits
Universal passholders, regardless of the tier, can hop between both of Universal's theme parks — Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure — although some block-out dates may apply.
There are also discounts on Universal hotels, select special-event tickets, and access to Universal's themed in-park events, like Mardi Gras and the holiday celebrations.
Universal even does special things throughout the year to thank its passholders, from offering collectible art to passholder-only merchandise.
There's also a passholder lounge in Islands of Adventure where guests can cool off, purchase drinks, shop for merchandise, and get help with any customer-service needs.
For my family, Universal offers a more valuable annual pass than Disney World
The cost of a Universal annual pass is much lower than one at Disney World, and I think the perks are far greater.
My teenagers seem to enjoy the thrill rides and movie-theming at Universal more than Disney right now. And for a family of four, the affordability makes more sense.
Read the original article on Insider