This post is part 1 of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Without Kids series.
With the dates and length of our trip decided upon, I started the process I undertake every time I’m so much as thinking about a trip: extensive hotel research on Booking.com! It’s a Sagittarius thing. We like to travel. Or to even just imagine traveling.
However, somewhat uncharacteristically, I decided in the end to get a package deal direct from Universal Orlando when I discovered a special Harry Potter themed package while doing my research on park ticket prices. It included not only a 4-night hotel stay and park tickets, but also two free breakfasts for the both of us (one at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley, one at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade) and a free ‘moving photo’ session at a photo booth in Diagon Alley.
The package originally included a 4-day 3-park ticket, but we only needed 3 days and it was oddly difficult to change that when booking. Basically I had to remove the park ticket altogether and then re-add it with a 3-day 2-park pass. We didn’t really want to go to the new water park Volcano Bay, which is the third park in the family. This might have been a good call–later I found myself looking at Twitter replies to Universal’s account and saw lots of people complaining about long lines and other problems at Volcano Bay. Growing pains, maybe.
Note that Universal Express Passes cannot be used on any Harry Potter attraction except Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge, so it’s really not worth getting that unless you want to use the pass on other attractions. I should note that every time we walked by Dragon Challenge, regardless of time of day, the line was estimated at 5 minutes. Flight of the Hippogriff also had a really short line. I think it was estimated at 15 minutes when I rode it, but it feels like it didn’t take 15 minutes. We ended up only buying Express Passes for 1 of our 3 park days, but I’ll cover that later.
The hotel was Best Western Orlando Gateway, located literally one mile from the parks, so there’s that physical separation between on-site hotels and off-site ones that results in the latter costing a lot less. As a Universal partner hotel, the Best Western offered a free shuttle bus to the parks, thus saving $20 a day on parking, plus, we got to go to the park an hour early! However, there were other hotel options to choose from when booking the package and it defaulted to choosing a more expensive one for me at first, but it was pretty easy to override that choice and pick a more affordable option.
Bonus: Booking 4 nights at the aforementioned hotel gets you a $25 credit to use at the hotel restaurant. (That offer ends September 30.) That’s enough to fully cover one morning at the breakfast buffet for two people, which is how we ended up using that credit.
One really cool feature that was quite helpful is that Universal’s website allows you to split the purchase of a package deal 4 ways. So, if you have 4 adults going, it’s super easy for everyone to pay their share at once. I’m fine with telling y’all how much we paid: just over $562 a person, or about $1125 in total. It sounds like a lot up front, but when you break it down into pieces–the hotel, the park tickets, the free breakfasts, the shuttle buses–it isn’t as big a wallop.
Print out a copy of the confirmation email Universal sends after booking. It has a confirmation number in it that you’ll need to pick up your tickets and vouchers. I’ll tell you more about how we accomplished that in the next part of this series, Getting There and the Hotel.
Are you also a Harry Potter loving millennial thinking of visiting Wizarding World? Do you have any questions? Please don’t hesitate to ask!