Do you want plan a trip to the Universal Orlando Resort, but are unsure of what hotel would work best for you? Wondering if you should stay on site or at one of the many hotels that is “walking distance” from Universal? (Have you actually seen what constitutes “walking distance” to Universal???) Maybe you want to stay on site so you can take advantage of the many perks Universal Orlando Resort guests get based on their hotel, but you just don’t know how to determine the best resort for your traveling party? Well, keep reading for your entry level course on Universal Orlando Resort Hotels to make sure you totally know the ideal resort for your next Universal Orlando Resort vacation.
Are the hotels owned and operated by Universal the way Disney is set up?
Even though you are staying at an official Universal Orlando Resort hotel, be aware that the hotel itself is NOT run by Universal Parks and Resorts, but instead by the Loews Hotel corporation. That means you will get the comforts and special touches of saying in a Loews property but you’ll also get extra benefits reserved just for the Universal Orlando Resort. Do keep in mind that the dining plan that you can add to your vacation package will NOT be valid for use at your hotel, ONLY at CityWalk and the theme parks. Resort restaurants and resort food courts are owned and operated by Loews, NOT by Universal, so they do NOT accept dining credits.
What are some of the perks for Universal Orlando hotel guests?
All guests of the Universal Orlando Resort onsite hotels will receive free transportation to and from the theme parks, as well as early park admission if they have a valid theme park admission for that day. The type of transportation to and from the parks will depend on the specific resort that you have booked, but it will be complimentary, and it will run continuously from the morning until after CityWalk closes each night. Early park admission will be to a specific theme park each day, and it varies so be sure to check with your resort to see who is offering it during your travel period.
Speaking of CityWalk, did you know that onsite guests get complimentary access to select live entertainment venues at CityWalk? It doesn’t count for specially ticketed events, you might not be allowed in if you are under 21, and it’s not valid for the movie theater, mini-golf, or Blue Man Group, but it still will waive your cover charge (provided you show them a copy of your valid room key) at certain venues each night.
Did you realize that all Universal Orlando Resort hotel onsite pools come with free towel rentals, sunscreen, swim diapers, and life jackets! Seriously! I’m not joking, they have SWIM DIAPERS and SUNSCREEN available for hotel guests to use, and it’s not just the more expensive resorts that offer this, nope ALL the onsite Universal Orlando Resort hotels have this option. I’m still in shock of how awesome this perk is and how much I wish I would have stayed at a hotel that offered this when my kids were still in swim diapers.
Another really awesome feature of staying at an onsite hotel is being able to print your tickets, express pass, or dining vouchers directly at the Universal Orlando Resort Vacation Planning Desk and or the kiosk located in the same area. This saves a TON of time because you do not need to wait in long lines at the theme parks or CityWalk to print out your tickets because you can do it at your resort ahead of time.
It’s also great because this desk is staffed by a Universal Team Member who actually works for Universal so they can knowledgeably answer all your theme park and dining plan questions before you head out to start your day. If you have tickets that need to be validated before you can enter the parks, the Team Member working the desk has the ability to do that for you. Seriously, this is a HUGE time saver. The only thing I believe they cannot do is activate annual passes, I think that still needs to be done at guest services either at a theme park or CityWalk.
How many hotel categories are there?
There are currently four different categories of resorts, and you definitely will want to understand the differences so you can be sure your vacation is booked in a property that compliments your traveling dynamic.
The newest hotels at the Universal Orlando Resort are in this category of resorts. Universal’s Endless Summer Resort consists of two sister properties, built on the old Wet ‘n Wild theme park location, Surfside Inn & Suites (now open) and Dockside Inn & Suites (opening March 2020). Both resorts offer Standard Rooms, as well as 2 bedroom suites at a very affordable price point. Transportation to and from the parks is by Bus. There is a walking path you can take if you want to walk to the parks and other resorts, but it is quite a distance, and not something you would want to do in most Florida weather scenarios or if you were in a hurry.
Value Resorts also have the least expensive nightly parking fee for guests who bring a car with them. Be aware that even though guests staying in a Value Resort are allowed to visit the other resorts in different categories, they are not allowed to take advantage of the amenities (pools and poolside activities) located at the other resorts in higher categories. But Value Resort guests CAN can eat at the other hotels and attend special events at other hotels if they want, there just is no pool hopping privilege between the properties.
Prime Value Resorts:
The Prime Value Resorts are the most economical of the Universal Orlando hotels that are within a short walking distance of the parks. These resorts are closer to the theme parks than the Value Resorts, and are mind bogglingly close to Universal’s Volcano Bay. (A Volcano Bay view room at Cabana Bay Beach Resort would be my ideal getaway room!) This category of resorts allows for pool hopping between the different onsite hotels (except the Value Resorts) and they have walking paths to and from the theme parks/ CityWalk. Universal’s Aventura Hotel offers both standard rooms and kids suites. Bus transportation will get you to CityWalk, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida, and you are literally two steps away from Volcano Bay. Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort offers Standard Rooms as well as Family Suites. Again, there is a walking path that will get you to CityWalk/ the theme parks, and you have your own private entrance to Volcano Bay when you are a guest at Cabana Bay. The parking fee for this resort category is higher than that of the Value Resorts, but lower than the other two categories of resorts.
The next step up from the Value Resorts is a Preferred Resort. This category of resort offers you larger rooms, with more amenities at the individual resort, plus that ability to pool hop between resorts. You will be able to get to the park via a water taxi, which allows you to go through security at your hotel rather than having to do it at CityWalk with the rest of the day guests. Your resort will have multiple restaurants to choose from, including buffet and sit down service depending on the time of day. The resort offers room service, and this is the start of the categories that allows for pets to travel with you as long as you pay the accompanying pet fee. Your parking fee is more expensive than the fee for the Prime Value and Value Resorts, but lower than the Premier Resorts.
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is a preferred resort. It offers Standard Rooms and Luxury Suites. Because it is next door to Universal’s Aventura Resort, you are within a five minute walk of Volcano Bay, and there is a walking path you can take to the other Universal hotels as well as the theme parks.
There are currently three Premier Resort properties. These Universal Orlando hotels have some of the largest individual rooms available, and offer room categories the other resorts do not have. Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel all offer Standard Rooms, Club Level Rooms and Suites. The suites range from family friendly Kids Suites, to Hospitality Suites and Presidential Suites. The theme of the suites will be based on the overall theme of the individual resort you are staying in. The pools are huge with lots of amenities, and you’ll have family friendly games and activities to do on the pool deck as well.
In addition to all of the amenities offered at the lower tiered resorts, guests of these resorts receive priority seating at restaurants, you’ll just need to show your hotel key at the restaurant when you arrive. Guests of these resorts also receive unlimited express pass for the duration of their stay for all registered guests in the room. That means you have unlimited express pass privileges from the moment you check in, until the theme parks close on the day you check out. This can be a HUGE cost savings vs. the price of multiple days of express pass for your entire traveling party. These resorts are walking distance from the theme parks, or you can take the water taxi there. These hotels have the highest nightly parking fee for guests that bring their own cars, but pets are allowed at these resorts as well. The resorts have multiple restaurants to pick from, and often have special events at the resorts like a character meal, nightly shows, or even specially ticketed concerts.
So that’s your entry level Universal Orlando Resort onsite Hotel Guide. Do you have a better grasp of what’s out there? Feel more confident in your decision for which Universal Orlando hotel will be best for your next visit? Feel free to reach out for assistance booking your next Universal trip. I’ll be happy to help you make sure your hotel, tickets, and dining plan selections are a good fit for your traveling party.
Looking for something fun to do on your next Fall trip to the Universal Orlando Resort? Check out this daytime VIP tour of Halloween Horror Nights, it was AWESOME!