Does Disney World or Universal Offer the Better Annual Pass Deal?

in Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

universal disney

Credit: Universal (left) Disney (right)

If you are visiting Orlando, Florida, there are likely two major theme parks you consider spending your time and money on: Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort.

disney world annual pass logo
Credit: Disney

It is no secret that both of these locations are on the pricer end of things, with single-day tickets hitting well over $100.00, and Park Hoppers, typically hitting over the $200.00 mark, some Guests may be tempted to look at an Annual Pass deal. If you are a Florida or Orlando local, getting an Annual Pass may be a no-brainer. Depending on how often you visit the parks, if you are from out of state or out of the country, it may still be worth it.

Universal Express
Credit: Universal

With Disney World changing their Annual Pass as of late, which has included some positive additions and negative reductions in terms of offerings, we will take a look at both passes today to see which is the better buy!

Walt Disney World Resort

What is the Walt Disney World Resort Annual Pass program?

Disney World just launched its new Annual Pass program. Guests can choose between four tiers: Disney Pixie Dust Pass, Disney Pirate Pass, Disney Sorcerer Pass, and Disney Incredi-Pass. Each pass offers a difference in price point, block out dates, offerings, and Disney Park Pass reservations. Luckily, these passes are now available as the 50th anniversary rolls around, so Guests can once again purchase their Disney World Annual Pass.

What is a full breakdown of each pass?

Below is a full breakdown of each pass, what the new costs are, and what is included:

disney world annual pass guide
Credit: Disney

As we have discussed in detail, the top-tier Disney Incredi-Pass will cost $1,299, which is a jump from previous costs of the old Platinum Pass. Payment plans are available for Florida residents, and this pass has no theme park blackout dates. Incredi-Pass holders will be able to have up to five theme park reservations at a time. Previously, all tiers only received three, so this is a great bonus. The biggest loss here is that PhotoPass is no longer included in the highest tier of Annual Pass, which was a big draw for many, and both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are not included. Guests looking to add either of these onto their pass can do so for an additional cost.

The Disney Sorcerer Pass still provides some great benefits at an $899 price point. The only “con” being blackout dates starting at this tier (and below).

WDW Annual Passes
Credit: Disney

The last two options are the Disney Pirate Pass and the most affordable option, the Disney Pixie Dust Pass. These passes are $699 and $399, respectively, have lots of blackout dates and seasons, and have limited Park Reservation options.

Note that only the Disney Incredi-Pass is available to those living outside of Florida. The only out-of-state fans who can purchase the Disney Sorcerer Pass are Disney Vacation Club members.

What other changes will we see with Disney’s new Annual Pass system?

Along with the new Annual Pass system, Guests can also enjoy an all-new logo!

We’re also introducing a new look for the Annual Passholder program to honor our past while looking forward to the future. Using a piece of the original Walt Disney World Resort logo as a foundation for bright colors and energetic design, the program’s new look puts Passholders right in the middle of the magic.

Universal Orlando Resort

What is the Universal Orlando Resort Annual Pass program?

At Universal Orlando Resort, passes are much more affordable; however, you go from four parks to two. With Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure representing Universal, there is still plenty to do. Guests can also purchase Volcano Bay on their Annual Pass for an added cost, much like Disney’s water parks.

What are the pass selection options at Universal Orlando Resort?

Universal also has four options for passes:

Credit: Universal
  • Premier Pass $599.99 (no blockout dates, early entry, free parking, Express Pass after 2:00 p.m., discounted food and merchandise, one Halloween Horror Nights ticket)
  • Preferred Pass $399.99 (no blockout dates, early entry, free parking, discounted food and merchandise)
  • Power Pass $349.99 (some blockout dates, discounted parking)
  • Seasonal Pass $299.99 (most blockout dates)

All passes give Guests a deal on Universal Hotel stays, which is also a great bonus! Much like Disney, there is no free photo option at Universal; however, there never was.

universal orlando resort
Credit: Universal

How do you pay your Universal Orlando Resort Annual Pass?

Universal also has FlexPay available!

Power Pass: FlexPay option renews automatically. Requires down payment of $186.37 (Tax Inclusive) and 11 monthly payments of $16.95 (0% APR) after savings.

Preferred Pass: FlexPay option renews automatically. Requires down payment of $213.00 (Tax Inclusive) and 11 monthly payments of $19.37 (0% APR) after savings.

Premier Pass: FlexPay option renews automatically. Requires down payment of $298.20 (Tax Inclusive) and 11 monthly payments of $27.11 (0% APR) after savings.

Universal Orlando Passholder Appreciation Days
Credit: Universal Orlando

What theme park perks do you get with the Universal Annual Pass?

  • Early Park Admission to Universal Studios Florida or Universal’s Islands of Adventure up to one (1) hour before the theme park opens (select attractions)
  • Universal Express Pass after 4:00pm†† at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure (one time per participating attraction)
  • Includes admission to select special events such as Mardi Gras and Holidays
  • Special discounts on separately ticketed events such as Halloween Horror Nights and EVE at Universal CityWalk
  • 15% off multi-day theme park admission tickets purchased at the front gate (Up to 6 tickets per transaction per day; not valid on Universal Express passes, or tickets with Universal Express)
  • Free Valet or Prime Self-Parking (after first visit). Excludes select special events. Note that when visiting Universal’s Volcano Bay it will be more convenient for you to self-park in the Parking Garage, where you will access the park shuttle.
  • Save up to 30%++ off base rates plus enjoy a free single car class upgrade at Budget® and Avis®
  • One (1) free night admission to Halloween Horror Nights (on select nights only)^. To use, you must present your valid Premier Annual Pass at any Universal Studios Florida turnstile.
  • Admission to the Passholder Lounge presented by Coca-Cola® inside Universal Studios Florida
wizarding world
Credit: Universal

Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay

15% Off The Following:

  • All Universal Orlando owned and operated restaurants and carts (excluding alcoholic beverages)
  • Universal Orlando owned and operated merchandise stores and carts
  • Coca-Cola Freestyle souvenir cup (excludes additional day recharge)
  • Airbrush Studios
  • Amber Treasures
  • American Rock Climbing
  • Fa-Zen Caricatures
  • Forever Pearls
  • Kaman’s Art (face painting and custom name art only)
  • Lomac (Hair Wraps only)
  • My Universal Photos (excludes packages)
  • Star Souls (Psychic Readings)
  • $1 off per Coca-Cola Freestyle® additional day recharge
  • Passholder Game Play Pass – $25 for 6 game plays (one additional play for free)

Universal CityWalk

Discounts not valid on alcoholic beverages, gratuity or tax. All dining discounts apply to food and non-alcoholic beverages except where noted.

Universal Studios Japan
Credit: Universal

15% Off The Following:

  • Airbrush Studios
  • Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food
  • Auntie Anne’s Pretzels
  • Bend the Bao
  • Bigfire
  • Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom℠ (including merchandise)
  • Bread Box Handcrafted Sandwiches
  • Burger King® Whopper™ Bar
  • Cinnabon®
  • CityWalk’s Rising Star
  • Cold Stone Creamery®
  • The Cowfish®
  • Forever Pearls
  • Hard Rock Cafe® Orlando (15% savings on non-charity retail sales at the Rock Shop)
  • Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company® (merchandise only)
  • Hollywood Drive-In Golf™
  • Hot Dog Hall of Fame®
  • Jimmy Buffett’s® Margaritaville® (including merchandise)
  • Lomac (Hair Wraps only)
  • Menchie’s® frozen yogurt
  • Moe’s® Southwest Grill
  • NBC Sports Grill & Brew
  • Panda Express
  • Pat O’Brien’s®
  • Quiet Flight® Surf Shop
  • Red Coconut Club
  • Red Oven Pizza Bakery
  • Starbucks®
  • The Pearl Factory
  • Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen (including merchandise)
  • Universal Studios Store
  • Vivo Italian Kitchen
  • Voodoo Doughnut
universal orlando resort
Credit: Christian Duffy

10% Off The Following:

  • Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.™ Restaurant & Market (including merchandise)

Other Universal CityWalk Benefits:

  • $5 off on all Classic Albums Live concert tickets purchased at the Hard Rock Live® Orlando box office (must present a valid photo ID and valid Annual Pass at the time of purchase)
  • Free CityWalk Club Access^^ for Premier Passholders and up to one guest (excludes concerts and special events)
  • $3 off admission to after 6pm showings at Universal Cinemark for Passholder and up to one guest (excludes Senior Mondays, $5 Tuesdays and matinées).
Credit: Universal

What Resort perks do you get with the Universal Annual Pass?

Save up to 30%** off room rates at the Premier and Preferred hotels or save up to 25%** off room rates at the Prime Value and Value hotels. For reservations and availability, call (866) PASS-4-FUN (7277-4-386) or visit the Hotel and Packages section.

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel:

  • 20% off at Mandara Spa® at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.
    • Call 407-503-1244 to make an appointment. Valid Mon-Thurs only. Discount applies to services only. Some services excluded. Must present Premier Annual Pass to receive discount.
  • 10% off all purchases at Galleria Portofino
  • 10% off food and non-alcoholic beverages at Trattoria del Porto®

Hard Rock Hotel®:

  • 10% off food and non-alcoholic beverages at The Kitchen

Loews Royal Pacific Resort:

  • 10% off food and non-alcoholic beverages at Islands Dining Room

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort:

  • 10% off food and non-alcoholic beverages at Amatista Cookhouse

Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort:

  • 10% off food and non-alcoholic beverages at all dining outlets
  • 20% off tubes at the Tube Shack
  • 20% off cabana rentals
  • 15% off food and non-alcoholic beverages at Galaxy Bowl with the purchase of bowling
  • 10% off Sonic souvenir cups

Universal’s Aventura Hotel:

  • 10% off food and non-alcoholic beverages at all dining outlets

  • 10% off Sonic Souvenir Cups

Does Universal compare to Disney when it comes to their Annual Pass?

Although Universal only has two parks to offer, the deal is pretty fantastic. Plus, if you go to the highest tier, you can skip the lines after 2:00 p.m. with Express Pass, an offer that Disney does not have included for their passes. All of this being said, with Universal having half the amount of parks, their costs are around half as much as Disney, making both passes on par with each other in terms of Park offerings vs. cost.

universal orlando resort
Credit: Universal

Universal tickets tend to cost more than Disney World tickets, and if you are visiting over three times in a year, I would suggest getting a pass. When it comes to visiting Disney World, determine how many times you will visit in a year if you are an out-of-state Guest in order to decide whether an Annual Pass is worth it for you. For me, I deemed an Annual Pass necessary once I took three trips a year, now being local, I get even more use out of it!

Which pass do you think is better in terms of bang for your buck? Let us know in the comments below! 

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