If I stay on site at Royal Pacific, but buy my tickets from another vendor (OTC, UT), do I get the unlimited express pass for free with the room? I don't really understand how this works. One thing is that I have a pretty late flight on my checkout day, but buying the room+tickets through the Universal website, it doesn't want to give me tickets for checkout day, though it's possible that I'm being dumb (and I can find buy 2-day get 3rd day free from other vendors). I'm also trying to get the best price comparison possible rather than give in to the convenience of the package if I can DIY cheaper.
So we did something similar.
I would call the hotel just to be 100% sure in your own mind. However we stayed at Portafino but bought the tickets via Undercover Tourist.
Upon checkin - you take your ROOM KEY to a kiosk and stand in front of it - you then get a separate paper Express Pass (so you will have a room key, Park ticket and Express pass) The express pass is imprinted with your check in / check out dates.
Once in the parks you can put your park ticket away and just show your Express pass at the various rides. We had NO problems with doing it this way
TOTALLY can DIY doing yourself. The Universal packages save you NO MONEY. Plus ordering just a room - you have more flexibility to change. Check our prices on HOTELS.com as well. I did everything ala carte and saved a lot of $$
Like the others have said, the actual theme park tickets and the express passes are two different things, so you can buy the tickets anywhere and still get the express passes if you are staying at one of the hotels that offer them. In fact, you can get technically get express passes without even having theme park tickets...but of course they wouldn't do you any good.
You can easily leave your bags on that last day with the bell hops and enjoy the park as long as possible - using your express pass for the whole day!