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For months, you and the family have been dying to take a trip to Universal Studios Florida to Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon and lunch at the Leaky Cauldron. Of course, such a family vacation doesn’t come cheap. So whether you’re a seasoned theme-park pro or it’s your family’s first visit, you’ll want to check out these 10 tips before you book anything.

Now, read on for 10 tips to save big at Universal Studios Florida.

1. Get Park-to-Park Tickets

Kimberly Anwar, owner of Magic Family Getaways in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, recommended families stay at Universal hotels and get Park-to-Park tickets instead of 1-Park tickets.

“These packages have early park admission benefits as well as other discounts, depending on the offer, and you’ll have access to the Hogwarts Express, which goes to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” she said.

2. Book in Advance

A spokesperson at Universal Orlando Resorts recommended purchasing park tickets online, which can save up to $20 off regular admission and help you avoid waiting in line. You can print your tickets at home or at one of the park entrance kiosks.

3. Stay Awhile

The spokesperson also said the longer you stay, the less expensive each day will be. For example, a one-day 1-Park ticket starts at $110, while a three-day 1-Park ticket starts at $74 per day. Similarly, a one-day Park-to-Park ticket starts at $165, while a three-day Park-to-Park ticket starts at $92 per day.

4. Visit On-Site Hotels

If you’re traveling during peak times — think summer, Christmas or Spring Break — Don Munsil, co-owner of MouseSavers.com, a guide to theme-park discounts, suggested booking one night at an on-site hotel like the Hard Rock to get free Universal Express Unlimited passes, which come with every stay.

“The key thing is that Ultimate Express will allow you to ride everything in the park easily in two full days,” he said. Just remember, “you do have to get up early to get on the Harry Potter rides, since they’re not eligible for Express.”

5. Consider Annual Passes

You may not think your visit Universal Orlando enough to justify an annual pass, especially if you’re traveling a sizable distance to get there, but Munsil said it’s worth looking into. On-site hotels often offer good rates for annual passholders, and “you can get the Power Annual Pass for a little more than a three-day ticket,” he said.

Typically, Christmas and Spring Break dates are blacked out, but there’s the option of buying the Preferred Annual Pass, which has no blackout dates and includes a 15% discount at Hard Rock Cafe and 10% off at most shops.

“If you plan to spend more than $250 on food and merchandise, which is pretty easy to do, you’ll come out ahead with this pass and not have to worry about blackout dates,” Munsil said.

6. Research Seasonal Passes

If you’re traveling during the off season, Munsil said to consider buying the Seasonal Pass, which offers some hotel discounts. Be sure to check blackout dates, as this pass carries more than the other passes.

7. Drop by CityWalk Guest Services

Money-saving package deals are available here, according to the Universal Orlando Resorts spokesperson. Spring for the Meal & Movie or Meal & Mini-Golf deal to score dinner at a CityWalk restaurant and a movie at the AMC Universal Cineplex 20 or a round of 18-hole mini-golf, all at a discount.

8. Score a Souvenir Cup

Universal Orlando Resort offers a variety of refillable souvenir cups that you can get refilled at a discount. Like popcorn? Carey Reilly of CareyReilly.com said to buy a souvenir tub of popcorn that can be refilled all over the park. She also suggested bringing your own snacks to help you save.

The Universal Orlando Resorts spokesperson recommended checking into the Universal Dining Plan, which bundles drinks, meals and snacks together at more than 100 participating locations.

9. Use Travel Rewards Cards 

For families on a budget, a great way to put their spending to use is with travel rewards cards, which offer incentives like airline miles and free hotel stays. Certain credit cards may even get you discounts around the park (which you can read more about here.)

Just be sure to track what you spend so you don’t lose your rewards to high interest, or worse, end up accruing unwanted debt. No one wants to come home to an eye-popping credit card bill. You can check out our roundup of travel rewards cards here. (Remember, these cards tend to come with high standards, including requiring a good or excellent credit score. You can see two of your credit scores on Credit.com at no charge to get an idea if you’ll be able to qualify.)

10. Hit the Cabana

Anwar recommended checking out Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay water theme park, which opened in May.

“There are private family concierge cabanas that fit up to 15 guests and include fruit and snack baskets, a small, pre-stocked refrigerator and locker and towel service,” she said. “If you share the cabana with one or two other families or go as a group, it’s worth the little extra cost.”

I went for the opening, and as water parks go, it’s pretty darn cool. There are beaches, wading pools, lazy rivers, water rides, restaurants and more, so you could feasibly stay for hours.

More of a Disney fanatic? We’ve got some tips on how you can visit Disney World for free (or close to it).

Image: Haxortech

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