Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida features a variety of food options, from snack carts to themed dining experiences. Regardless of where you choose to dine in the park, there are ways you can save money on your food costs.
Eat Breakfast in the Room
Eat breakfast in your hotel room before heading to the park. Some hotels offer free breakfasts consisting of things like cereal, bagels, fruit and juice. If your hotel doesn't offer a complimentary breakfast, stock up on breakfast items to keep in the room, such as pop tarts or granola bars. Eating breakfast before you get to the park not only saves you money, but also leaves more time to enjoy the rides and attractions.
The Universal Orlando website provides a full list of restaurants available in Universal Studios. You can search by location to help you plan your meals based on where you'll be in the park. Restaurants are classified as full service or quick service. A quick service restaurant is like a fast food or cafeteria-style restaurant. You'll order or pick out your food items, pay and go find seating. Unlike the more formal sit-down dining at a full service restaurant, there's no waiters to tip or added gratuity charges. You can also download the Universal Orlando application on your cell phone or mobile device to access restaurants nearby once you're in the park.
Set a food budget and determine what you can afford to spend on each meal. To keep from going over your budget, bring only a certain amount of cash and leave the credit cards at home.
Pack Snacks and Drinks
Universal Studios Orlando allows you to bring small snacks that don't need to be heated and bottled waters. If you have special medical needs, you can bring in any food medically necessary to meet those needs. You can pack a soft cooler or insulated bag no bigger than 8.5-inches wide by 6-inches high by 6-inches deep. Hard coolers are not permitted.
Show Your Pass or Membership Card
Universal Studios Preferred annual pass holders receive a 10 percent discount at all restaurants throughout the park. Carts and kiosks don't qualify for the discount. If you're a AAA member and used your membership card to receive a discount on your tickets, show the voucher included with your ticket to receive 10 percent.
Use Your American Express Card
American Express is the official credit card of Universal Studios. In addition to receiving discounted admission, cardholders are also entitled to a 10 percent discount on food and non-alcoholic beverages when using an AmEx card to make the purchase. You'll need to show your waiter or cashier the American Express offer found on the Universal Orlando mobile site to receive the discount. The offer can't be combined with any other discounts.
Universal Studios offers several different meal plan options that you can purchase. The Universal Dining Plan - Quick Service option can save you 30 percent when compared to purchasing the food items individually, according to UniversalOrlando.com. As of August 2015, the plan costs $19.99 plus tax per adult and $12.99 per child. You'll receive a quick service entree and drink, snack and an additional drink. A typical quick service entree ranges from $7.00 to $14.00, snacks are $2.00 to $4.00 and beverages are $3.00.
Refillable Popcorn and Drinks
Locations throughout Universal Studios sell refillable popcorn buckets. The buckets are $5.49 plus tax, at the time of publication. Each refill is just $.99. For $12.99 plus tax, you can buy a Coca Cola souvenir cup and get unlimited free drink refills for the day.
Share entrees or snacks with your family members to save money. Certain restaurants offer portions large enough for two people. If you want to avoid buying meals for everyone, head to a restaurant that serves a pizza you can share. You can find pizza at Red Oven Pizza Bakery and Kid Zone Pizza Company in Universal Studios.
You can get coupons to be used in Universal Studios several different ways including:
- Buying your tickets in advance. When you purchase tickets from Universal Orlando, you'll receive a Savings Booklet with discounts and coupons, such as 10 percent off all food and non-alcoholic drinks for certain restaurants in the park.
- Staying a partner hotel offering bonus benefits. When you stay at a Universal Orlando Partner Hotel With Bonus Benefits, you'll receive a coupon that saves you 15 percent off food at specific restaurants within Universal Studios.
- Stopping at the Orlando Visitor Center. The visitor center provides free coupon booklets for discounts on attractions and restaurants, including theme parks.
- Checking your hotel lobby for coupon booklets with free coupons or discounts for the parks.
Skip the Alcohol
Alcoholic beverages at Universal Studios are pricey and can leave you dehydrated, especially with the hot and humid Florida weather. Save money by skipping alcohol altogether while in the park.
Jeannine Mancini, a Florida native, has been writing business and personal finance articles since 2003. Her articles have been published in the Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Central Florida.