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If you're looking to skip the general line while visiting the Universal Orlando Resort, consider staying at a Premier-level hotel. Select hotels on property come with a Universal Express Pass, meaning you won't have to wait long before getting on Flight of the Hippogriff or going on a Jurassic Park River Adventure.
The Express Pass helps you save time and enjoy more rides. Let’s check out all the Universal hotels with free Express Pass benefits.
What is a Universal Express Pass?
A Universal Express Pass allows you to bypass the general line for attractions when visiting Universal Orlando or Universal Studios Hollywood. The parks limit the number of Express Passes sold each day, meaning not every visitor who wants one will have a chance to get one.
There are two types of Universal Express Passes:
Universal Express — lets you skip the general line at participating rides once per attraction.
Universal Express Unlimited — lets you skip the general line at participating attractions as many times as you like.
How much does a Universal Express Pass cost?
Universal Express Passes start at $89 and go up to $349, depending on when you’re buying the pass and how busy it is in the parks.
The Universal Express Unlimited Pass will set you back between $99 and $379. Please note that these prices are just for Express Passes; park admission costs extra.
Guests traveling to Universal Orlando and staying at select Universal Studios Resort properties get an Express Pass included as part of their amenities. So, if you want to know what Universal hotels come with Express Pass, we’ve got you.
» Learn more: How to travel to Orlando on points and miles
What Universal Orlando hotels come with Express Pass?
Guests staying at Premier-level hotels at the Universal Orlando Resort receive a free Universal Express Unlimited Pass. Three Universal Orlando hotels come with free passes for each guest listed on the room:
Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.
Loews Royal Pacific Resort.
Additionally, these guests get early park admission, which grants park access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Volcano Bay one hour before the parks open, so you can get an extra hour of rides with limited crowds.
1. Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando
Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando is the closest property to the entrances of Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. A standard queen room for two adults and two children at this hotel ranges from $573 to $895 plus tax, so it’s not going to be a cheap stay. But when you take into account the fact that every person is also going to get an Express Unlimited Pass, that’s like getting back more than $400 per night.
Although the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando doesn’t belong to a hotel chain, you still can redeem points toward your stay. The best way to do this is by booking the hotel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal in conjunction with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
If you hold this card, each point is worth 1.5 cents when redeemed through the portal, meaning you can book a night for about 43,000 points (including taxes and fees).
If you hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, then the value of the Chase Ultimate Rewards® points drops to 1.25 cents apiece, and you’d need about 51,600 points to cover a night at a rate of $573 plus tax.
Another option to cover a stay at the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando is by using the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card to book a room directly with the hotel and then using miles to offset the charge at a rate of 1 cent per mile. In this case, you’d need 64,500 Capital One miles to cover the nightly room rate. It’s a lot of miles, but it is an option if you want a stay booked with credit card rewards.
2. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is inspired by the Italian village of Portofino. A garden view, two-queen room here starts at $484 per night for quadruple occupancy and goes up to $943 on holidays, such as New Year’s Day.
If you’re trying to save a little cash — and every bit counts — Universal’s Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is part of AmEx’s Fine Resorts + Hotels, which means that if you hold either The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, you can save $200 off the cash rate once per year by using your card to book a room. Terms apply.
To receive the annual hotel credit, you must book at least one night through the AmEx Travel portal and prepay for the room with one of the aforementioned cards. The credit will be issued as a statement credit within 90 days.
The additional benefits of booking a Fine Resorts + Hotels property are daily breakfast for two, a room upgrade (when available), 12 p.m. check-in and 4 p.m. checkout, complimentary Wi-Fi and a $100 food and beverage credit.
If you need to book additional nights, you can use the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal and redeem Ultimate Rewards® at a value of 1.25 to 1.5 cents with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, respectively. Meanwhile, AmEx points are worth 1 cent each toward Fine Hotels + Resorts properties via AmEx Travel.
» Learn more: Is Universal Express Pass worth it?
3. Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Perhaps the most economical option among the Universal Orlando hotels with Express Pass benefits, the Loews Royal Pacific Resort is another hotel with a free Express Pass. A nightly rate for a standard two-queen room here starts at $406 and can reach $836 on peak dates.
Once again, you can use points or miles to pay for a stay here. If you go through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal, you can book a room with as few as 30,450 points if you hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
If you want to use Capital One miles, it’ll cost you 45,700 miles once you factor in taxes and fees.
Because of its lower room rates, the Loews Royal Pacific Resort provides the most bang for your buck if you’re looking to maximize your rewards. If you can travel during off-peak times and book a room on the low end of the rate spectrum, you can walk away with value for days.
Think of it this way. A one-park Universal Express Unlimited Pass starts at $99 plus tax but typically costs higher than that, especially on busy summer days or during winter holidays. If you’ve got two adults and two kids in your family, that’s more than $400 in just pass costs.
So, the room rate offsets the cost of the Express Passes immediately, and you’ve got a place to stay within a 15-minute walk to the parks.
» Learn more: How to purchase theme park tickets with points
How does the Universal Express Unlimited Pass from a Premier hotel work?
When you check in, every guest registered to the room will receive their own room key, which will double as their Express Pass in the park.
Simply scan the room key before entering the dedicated queue and enjoy shorter wait times for your favorite attractions as many times as you want for the length of your stay.
Universal hotels with free Express Pass, recapped
Even though you don’t need an Express Pass at Universal Studios Orlando, it’s worth factoring in the number of people staying together, the number of days you’re at the park and the combined costs of your upcoming Universal trip.
Staying at a Premier hotel might not be as expensive as you think, considering the accompanying benefits.
Keep in mind that nightly rates at all these hotels will vary based on season and demand, so you might see different prices when searching for specific dates.
Still, no matter what rate you get, every guest registered to the room will get a Universal Unlimited Express Pass and early park admission, so it might be worth it to pay a little more for a Universal Premier hotel and get some extra perks in exchange.
(Top photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort)
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card