WWYD - Free hotel + express pass or split hotel stays?

Family of 4 (kids 10 & 13), planning first time to Uni March 2020, as a few days before heading over to WDW for 6 nights.

Our focus will be WWHP-related area & attractions, planning 2 full days at the parks (+ maybe Volcano Bay as a 3rd day). Originally I was looking at Endless Summer, to at least get the early entry, but discovered we have some hotel points that can give us free accommodations at one of the nearby Marriott chains. Huge savings! But - we’ll be out of luck for early entry & will need (I think?) a good plan for that time of year.

What I’m wondering is - is it a no-brainer to buy the Express Passes for the parks if we’re staying off-site? Our kids aren’t huge coaster riders, but if consensus is that it’ll save us time waiting at the WWHP attractions…? Orrrr - should we stay a night or two at one of the 3 hotels that incl EP, in order to take advantage of those perks? (But then we’re changing hotels multiple times…)

Follow-up Qs: 1) if we’re kind of a “once and done” family, is it a big savings between the “one-time” express pass vs unlimited? 2) if I buy tix through UT or similar, can I upgrade to EP at a later date, or is it an on-site upgrade only once we arrive?

Thx for any feedback, sorry for so many questions!! I find planning for Uni soooo much different than past WDW trips, lol!

You don’t have to buy the Express Pass in advance. You can walk right inside multiple gift shops, with little to no queue, and buy the pass once you see the crowds. A lot of people think you have to go to Guest Service / Will Call and get stuck in those long waits. I do imagine it will be busy as March is Spring Break season and the EP will be helpful.

If you just want to “sample” as much as possible. Then the “standard” Express Pass may be best for you. There are some great rides at USF / IOA that you may want to ride again, but you can decide after you zip to the front with EP. With kids 10& 13 they should really enjoy it. If you have any questions about specific rides or things to do – just ask.

(FYI – I always like to tell ppl in advance – WWOHP is the most immersive theme park environment anywhere and simply amazing. However, at its core, it is a large gift shop / snack counter. Be prepared to either hide your wallet or spend, spend, spend. =P )


Lol about the snacks and shopping… Yes, I’m semi-prepared for what to expect in that department, but I’ll have to stay strong once we arrive, haha!!

Thank-you so much for the tip about where to upgrade the tix at the parks, that’s perfect! I do expect we’ll likely go with the standard EP - anything to save some time in the crowds will be a help - we’re okay with moving amongst the masses, lol, but really not fans of 2-hr waits for anything!

I bought EPs for both my trips (June and August) and I bought them in advance because I’m a worrier and was concerned they will have sold out. (Do they ever?)

For this year’s trip (July) I haven’t bought them in advance and plan to buy them on the day if it seems necessary.

One factor to consider is that the EP lines do cut out some of the themed queuing experience and you may feel like you’ve missed out. This is certainly true of the two major WWOHP rides. Also, it is not yet known whether the new WWOHP ride will accept EPs.

I’ve always gone for single-ride EPs because there are so many rides to try, I’m unlikely to want to ride one a second time. (And, to be honest, quite a few of the rides are so similar, you’re essentially riding the same one again.)

Much of the joy of WWOHP is wondering around taking it all in. And that requires no EP. Oh — except Hogwart’s Express: lines for that can be long and there’s no advantage in being in the regular line in terms of theming. Possibly for that reason alone EPs are worth it. I assume that multiple rides on HE are permitted even with the single use EPs, otherwise getting from one side of WWOHP to the other would be a major PITB.


The first time in WWOHP I was blown away – and still love it. It truly is everything you probably hope it will be, and heard about, but the whole land is one big “exit through the gift shop” =P

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Yes. The EP works as you are getting on the “Kings Cross Station ride” and the “Hogsmeade Station ride” - not the Hogwarts Express. =)

It is literally one of my favourite places in the world. I genuinely feel sad for Disney snobs* who won’t go to UOR. WWOHP is every bit as good as anything Disney has to offer.

*I won’t name names, but @OBNurseNH knows who I’m talking about.

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This is EXACTLY how I feel and am constantly baffled by people who say Universal has nothing on Disney and Universal has no “magic”. I can only imagine they have never actually been there!


I’m a recent USF / IOA fan. I was a WDW only family for decades. It’s like trying a weird looking food, that you’ve only heard about, for the first time and finding out it’s delicious! I was like, “Why didn’t I do this sooner! All the years of things I missed like Back to the Future, Terminator and Jaws!”


If you are willing and able, I would strongly suggest staying at an EP hotel if for no other reason than it will make your vacation all the more relaxing. If you have EP, you can move about at will, make snap decisions and have a blissful vacation. (Of course, I always make TPs anyway, but I’m a nerd like that and it makes me happy.)

However, if moving hotels is just not something you want to do, don’t get the EP in advance. As recommended above, wait and feel it out. You may find you don’t need it at all. If you are “one and done” people for rides, hitting the HP areas first thing in the morning may eliminate any need for EP.

No matter what you do, just be sure to take your time and truly enjoy the Wizarding World. It is the most amazing theme park experience anywhere and I am madly in love with it. I have now been 4 times and I still get a little weepy every time I enter Diagon Alley for the first time on a trip. Let yourself get lost in the details and soak up all the magic you can!




Loving all of the discussion in this thread so far, thank you!!

We’re very excited to surprise our girls with this trip next year… Both love HP - so cool to see them enjoy the novels as much as we did! - all of us girls in the family absolutely love Hermione, and although hubby thinks he’s a Slytherin, he’s SUCH a Gryffindor :wink:… So… Ya, I know we’re gonna need a ton of time just soaking it all in, buying wands, butterbeer, and enjoying the atmosphere!

I do appreciate the feedback about waiting to buy EPs - I’m also a total planning nerd, so maybe a little out of my comfort zone to effectively “wing it” in that regard, but very good advice. We will for sure want to dip our toes into everything both parks have to offer, but most likely 1 time per ride will do.

Last Q for now: is EP useful at Volcano Bay? Or is it more a get-there-early kinda spot?

I have no information on this. Never been.

I haven’t the slightest idea.

Different take on your question. I have nothing to add about Universal, but you said you have Marriott reward points available.

Did you know that you can redeem your Marriott points for free nights at the Dolphin and Swan Resorts?

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At Volcano Bay everyone gets their version of a Magic Band called TapuTapu. It’ll open lockers, make purchases (if you allow it) and most importantly give you a virtual queue for attractions. This isn’t quite an Express Pass, but will tell you when to come back to be admitted like you had one. You can ride other slides, eat & etc… during this time.

With it being March it may be crowded, but maybe you don’t feel the need to ride every slide. As much as I love EP and FPP I’m not as picky about doing “everything” at a water park. I love water parks, but with few exceptions a slide by another name is pretty much the same. I can lounge, ride a couple slides, snack, get wet in a pool and leave. I do this instead of hotel “pool days” and find them as relaxing since I don’t feel the pressure to do it all at water parks.

The virtual queue is pretty good at VB. If I went solo or just with a +1, I’d probably pay the $20 each for an EP on a busy day. With a family of four and you’ve mentioned savings being a factor, I don’t know if I’d pay $80+ - depends on your need to stay active.

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I would compare prices of EP vs. getting a room that includes it (if you really think you are going to get EP). I was doing some preliminary research and it seemed to be a wash for my family of 4 to upgrade to EP vs stay at a room that included it (actually cheaper since it includes two days of EP). I think the 1X EP upgrade was $140 per person/per day (for two parks) and the hotel was $450/per night. In that case it might be better to save your points or use them at the dolphin or swan as someone above suggested. Do your own research, as the numbers be different for your situation. I have never been, but hope to get there soon!

Haven’t visited Universal Studios Florida ever or Univ S Hollywood (since WWOHP was built). If you are not a HP fan, having never seen any of the films or read the books, can you still experience WWOHP as “the most immersive theme park environment anywhere?”

Yes. In my family I’m the least HP fan. I love theming. You, basically, go around a corner and are transported into a whole new inclusive world where you can’t see any other part of the Universal parks. You are truly immersed in this environment with wizards running around, dragons shooting real fire, original food & drinks & etc…

You may not know all the references, but you’ll feel like you have been transported far away from Orlando.

Over at Disney, based on news & updates, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is, basically, copying & pasting the same overlay and feel from WWOHP.

I love expert theming too. I would likely enjoy the Old European/medieval-esque feeling.
Thanks for your imput:star_struck:

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