Walt Disney World vs. Universal Orlando: How Does a One-Day Pass Compare?

By | August 26, 2010 at 6:00 am | 6 comments | Tickets | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Walt Disney World vs. Universal Orlando: How Does a One Day Pass Compare? photo

I’m back from my trip to Scotland!  Even though it was a business trip, I had a wonderful time and was able to see many wonderful sights.  If you’re across the pond, I highly recommend exploring Scotland if you have the time.  As I have time I’ll be uploading photos to Flickr; right now the only photos up are from my seven-hour stop in Paris.

Just before I left, Universal Orlando announced they would be matching Walt Disney World’s one-day, one-park pass price of $82.00.  Let’s try to take a look at which ticket has the advantage.

Park Options:

At Walt Disney World, you can choose from four parks to spend your day in, while Universal only has two parks.  If I were to rank the parks by value for the $82.00 admission, I would choose the following order:

  1. Magic Kingdom
  2. Epcot
  3. Islands of Adventure
  4. Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  5. Universal Studios Orlando
  6. Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Advantage: Walt Disney World

Resort Transportation:

Both resorts do offer transportation to its theme parks; visiting the Magic Kingdom requires taking either the monorail or the ferry from the Ticket and Transportation Center.  A ticket to any of the Walt Disney World theme parks allows guests to use the resort-wide transportation system, including buses, ferries and monorails, for the day.  Universal runs shuttle buses and ferries to the theme parks from its resort hotels; however, Universal’s theme parks are within walking distance of each other and are only separated by its CityWalk shopping and nightlife district.  Having everything in walking distance can be quite convenient as many Disneyland visitors will testify.

Advantage: Draw; while Walt Disney World has the size and the transportation to match, Universal’s walking distance convenience can’t be overlooked


Unless a guest is taking public transportation to the parks, paying to park is a requirement.  The current price to park at Walt Disney World is $14.00, while Universal charges $15.00; a negligible difference.  However, Universal also offers “preferred parking” spots for $20.00 and other higher-priced parking options including valet.  Both Walt Disney World and Universal will allow you to leave the parking lot and return the same day at no additional charge.

Advantage: Draw

Other considerations:

Even with a perceived decline in Walt Disney World’s cast members, as a whole they still best Universal Studio’s team members (of course, there are exceptions on both sides).  If you’re looking for nightlife after a day in the parks, Universal’s CityWalk is the place to be, especially since Walt Disney World closed Pleasure Island.  The options when dining at Walt Disney World are immense, but the dining options are spread across the entire property.  While Universal’s dining is more limited, all the dining options are within walking distance.

Advantage: Walt Disney World for cast members and dining

If you’re going to spend $82.00 to spend one day in one Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando theme park, it really should be the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, or possibly Universal’s Islands of Adventure.  Overall, a day at a Walt Disney World park is going to bring you more value for your money than a Universal park.  There’s always an exception, however, and in my opinion it’s Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  A day at Animal Kingdom is not worth $82.00; by all means go somewhere else if you only have one theme park day.

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know below or on Twitter!

Related posts:

  1. Walt Disney World Annual Passes: When Should You Purchase?
  2. Disney Parks Price Increase 2011: The One Day Pass Increase Doesn’t Tell the Story
  3. Are Tickets to Walt Disney World Overpriced?
  4. Give the Parks and Resorts Management a Dose of Reality
  5. Review: Walt Disney World Complete Travel Guide for iPhone
Share on Tumblr
  • Prophotoga

    No doubt.. Disney World ticket is the better value.

  • Dax248

    I mildly disagree with this. I think you also have to take into account what you are seeking in going to a theme park. If you are looking for more straight up thrill rides then I think Universal's IOA (Islands of Adventure) is a better deal. If you have small small children I think IOA is a better deal, too (having taken several families with the under 3 set to both parks and we discovered there are more play places for them and they enjoyed them more.)

    As an AP to both, I found I was still more drawn to UO (Universal Orlando) than I was to Disney. The walking distance makes a huge difference. It means that we can do more in a day without having to move the car or wait for the buses which are known for their slowness. I like when we get to UO we are at UO and not still just in the parking lot. We can be in the parks within 7 minutes of parking. Also, having the movie theater right there makes it nice to take a break when the heat of the day is on and go cool off for a couple of hours.

    UO also offers some major discounts for AP that Disney didn't. (I know this is about one day tickets, but I had to throw that in there.)

    Having worked at UO by choose (I got an offer from Disney, but turned it down so I wouldn't kill the magic for myself) I would TOTALLY choose DISNEY for the team members. That does make a huge difference, even though I think that 'Disney Difference' is declining.

    The other thing we have found is that Disney makes a much better “vacation” than a one day. Disney seems to be more stressful as a day outing. UO is a GREAT one day thing for us (and we have enjoyed our vacations in the hotels – including our honeymoon and anniversary). But when we “go to Disney the right way” (with the hotel, dining plan, and tickets) we really enjoy ourselves.

  • http://disneybiz.com Scott

    I've been to Universal four times and each time was for one day; the first two times IOA didn't exist, the third I only went to IOA, and the last I had a one-day park hopper but spent most of my time in IOA (this was at the end of 2004). The last three times were various high school and college marching band trips, so I can't attest to the parking.

    Disneyland really made me appreciate walking distance. Even though there are a million things to do in Walt Disney World, getting on a bus to get to most of them requires more planning. Disneyland itself was even within walking distance of our off-site hotel, then once we got there we could walk to anything on property. Universal is similar in this regard if you're staying at one of their hotels, and even if you drive you can walk to anything on property once you've parked.

    I didn't write about this in the article, but in 2004 I had one day at Universal and one day at the Magic Kingdom and personally I enjoyed the Magic Kingdom more. We rode just about every ride in IOA plus a couple in Universal, and we managed to ride the major rides in MK (it was just before New Year's and both were absolutely packed). At IOA we rode Popeye's river rapid ride 3 times in a row because we had done most of the rides already. I had similar experiences at Universal in the past where halfway through the day we were pretty much done with the park and we were just hanging around and re-riding things. It's more difficult to spend a day in the Magic Kingdom and ride everything. Of course, the other side of this is the Magic Kingdom requires more planning to determine which rides to ride in a day. So yes, I can see Universal being more laid back.

    Value is really what you want to get out of what you spend. If you want to ride thrill rides all day, Universal is the place to go. The Hulk coaster is one of my favorites. And yes, next time I'm in Orlando I definitely plan on going to see Harry Potter. But it will probably be one day out of a week or more at Walt Disney World.

  • Jmmccluskey

    Why go for a a tacky knock off from a movie studio known for it’s violent action films when you can have the original from the creators of the theme park. Disney is the best and always will be. All else are pathetic attempts to copy them. Disney isn’t about thrill rides and kiddie rides. It’s about immersive theming into a magical world. It boils down to this: Do you want to experience magic or just ride rides?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/Q2JZWP25NKVEQOS333Z5SW3UVY MarcJ

    I don’t understand what this discussion accomplishes. Disney is better at any cost, hands down :-)

  • Funmeister

     Even before Harry Potter’s arrival, Universal’s Islands of Adventure was filled with “magic.”  Too bad most people continue to waste their time and money on the same old same old and have missed out on a fantastic theme park that beats Disney at every turn.  The variety of themes, world-class attractions, outstanding dining options make the Islands of Adventure theme park second to none.