Some Helpful Tips From the Guru
What are your choices in terms of purchasing admission tickets, and where can you find Universal Studios discounts? You do have a number of options to consider. The first thing to realize is that if you buy your tickets online you’re likely to be offered a second day for free, at the price of a single-days admission. You can use the second day any time within 7 days of the first day. Buying online from Universal Studios also allows you to avoid lines at the ticket booths, thus saving you time.
On a busy summer day it can be a challenge to get to all of the shows and attractions, and a second chance might be just the thing, if your schedule permits. You probably won’t need a full second day unless you really like to savor the shows and environment. (They offer other specials to locals such as one-day discounts and great prices on annual passes. But you need to be able to prove you live in Southern California.)
Southern California CityPass
Universal participates in the Southern California CityPass promotion, where you gain admission to five southern California parks at once, for a major discount. The parks are Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure (which is included in the ParkHopper pass sold at the Disneyland Resort) where you get 3 days, and a day each at Universal Studios, Seaworld in San Diego and either San Diego Zoo or the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. This is one of the few ways to get discount Disneyland tickets, by the way. For the combined parks, you pay $247 for adult tickets with a reported list price of $347; total savings is $100. You pay less for young children. This of course assumes you have the schedule to build in some San Diego vacation time.
We checked out the online prices at all these parks and found the $347 price to be pretty accurate; you might find a stray special that would knock another $10 off one of the prices, but the CityPass is a good deal.
So you don’t need to visit all of the destinations to effectively end up with Sea World discounts.
The San Diego Zoo is really a great zoo and the Wild Animal Park is certainly worth a visit as well; but if you’ve never been to the zoo, we suggest doing that instead of the Wild Animal Park. SeaWorld is likewise one of the places people want to fit into their San Diego vacations if possible.
Again, this special assumes you’ve got time to get down to San Diego, which is manageable by train if you aren’t driving a car. (Keep in mind it’s roughly a 2-hour one-way drive from downtown Los Angeles if traffic is light. But you might want to stay a night or two in San Diego rather than making the round trip repeatedly.) If your family really loves the wild animals, go to the zoo on the CityPass card and add the animal park separately. Or visit downtown San Diego, or the historic Gaslamp District or…
If you buy the Southern California CityPass online through Universal, they’ll throw in a free Pre-Board pass for the Studio Tour and the second day of free admission. The Pre-Board pass could easily be worth a half-hour savings in time, maybe more on a busy day.
Another simpler and cheaper option for Universal Studio discounts is a 2-Park Flex Ticket that offers unlimited use of Universal Studios and SeaWorld over a 14-day period. At $99 for an adult, that saves you around $39 and gives you way more flexibility. That gets you Sea World discount tickets but does not give you any of the elusive discount Disneyland ticket action though. As we recommend elsewhere, do an online search for Universal Studios discounts before you commit to a final schedule; you might find something new.
But Wait, There’s More!
Have you ever been waiting in a line to an attraction at a theme park on a hot, busy day and wished you could bribe somebody to go to the front of the line? Well, at USH your dreams have come true—if you’re willing to pay for it. Specifically, for $99 you can buy the upgraded Front of Line Pass admission. The Pass gives you priority access to all rides and attractions. They have reserved seating sections at all of the shows just for you. And you get to go behind the scenes at Terminator 2:3D, WaterWorld and Universal’s Animal Actors shows. It’s a way to make the day more efficient; if you wished you had two days for USH but really only have time for one day, consider this option.
The Front of Line Pass also gets you a little more up and personal and behind the scenes, for a greater sense of Hollywood entertainment industry exposure. Check the web site for details and limitations. They sell a limited number of these passes, so get yours online in advance. If you wait until you get there you might be disappointed. Do a little research before you go to see if Universal Studios discounts either of these special “packages.”
Full VIP Experience
Now, if you really want the full VIP treatment, then you should save your pennies and spring for the VIP Experience. This option takes some of the benefits that previously were offered only to celebrities and visiting royalty (for free no doubt) and offers them to the rest of us (not for free). The cost is $199 but you do get a lot for the money if you’re a true Hollywood buff; this will make your trip.
The VIP Experience is a 6-hour extravaganza that gives you entry to production locations and studio facilities not available otherwise. Explore at least one working sound stage and wander through the amazing prop warehouse. See where they build sets in the various shops. Receive escorted priority boarding to all shows and attractions and VIP reserved seats at all shows. Spend a week at the home of your favorite movie star. Enjoy a gourmet lunch in the VIP lounge; and last but not least, your car is valet parked. (The lunch and valet parking are for real.)
So in 6 hours you are immersed in much of the movie making process and are quickly admitted to the shows. That leaves you several hours to relax and hit the shops, smaller attractions and Universal CityWalk. It pretty much guarantees that this will be a day you’ll remember, and that you can see the whole place in one day. The Experience does have limitations in how many they can take, so you’ll want to sign up in advance, probably online. Again, check the web site for possible Universal Studios discounts and other important details if this might be of interest to you.