July 2012: When the number of Orlando attractions surpassed the number of days in a week, the theme parks’ accountants and marketing people got creative. How, they reasoned, can I get tourists to spend one or two more days here than with my competition? In each case, they created a ticket system (or “passport” in Disney lexicon) that encourages multiple-day visits. Disney’s the best. (Isn’t it always?) Buy a one-day ticket for an adult and it costs you $89, but for multiple days, the price drops per day. Make it a 10-day ticket, and it only costs $32 per day – an Orlando bargain. (Sales tax of 6.5% not included in any prices quoted here.)
More info: How-to guide: Orlando theme park tickets
To save time, do you want to try visiting both of Universal Studios’ theme parks in one day, maybe by just hitting the highlights? It’s possible if you start early and end late – it’s just not cheap. A one-day, two-park pass costs about $123. But for only $17 more, you get a two-day, two-park pass. (A one-day, one-park pass sets you back $89.) What a deal – and with two full days of your time, Universal sells you twice as much food and souvenirs.
Even Sea World’s park entices longer visits, and each one-day pass (similar price to Universal and Disney) includes a “free second day offer.” Willing to drive to Tampa (about two hours)? For an additional $60, you can also enjoy unlimited visits over 14 days to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, and Aquatica, Sea World’s Orlando water park.
Confused? It gets worse. Because Disney is Orlando’s juggernaut and able to package four theme parks into its ticket mix, the other competing parks got together to offer the Orlando Flex Ticket. For a single price (around $290) you can visit the two Universal Parks, Sea World, and two water parks an unlimited number of times during a two-week stay.
And one more note: These are examples. Additional ticket deals/packages exist.
Think it’s unfair? Maybe. But these are businesses, and if half the visitors to Orlando spend an extra day at Universal, Universal makes a lot more money – a lot. Same with Disney. With the level of competition in Orlando, they have little choice. In Walt Disney’s day, his brother Roy kept an eye on the bottom line. Both have now left this earth (rumors have Walt Disney frozen somewhere waiting for technology to thaw him out and cure him), but the accountants live on.
Still, the ticket competition takes away a bit of the magic.
For good deals, book online before leaving home. Many attractions offer online specials, and if you shell out $600 three months before arrival, you can forget the pain and focus on the enjoyment when you arrive. Also check affiliations. AAA, for example, has some Disney discounts with tour packages. Universal offers discounts in the 10 percent range if you use certain credit cards, airlines, car rental companies, etc. Once in Orlando, look for the cheap tourist flyers. Most offer at least some kind of discount to various attractions (though not Disney).