Add into it the fact that the Harry Potter worlds cover both Universal Island of Adventure(IOA) and Universal Studios Orlando(USO) so you need to buy a park to park ticket if you want to ride the train and they get you every which way. And you have to pay $20 for parking each day.
So how can a big family of 8 afford to go? Or any family for that matter?
I'll share a few things we learned while there:
1. Don't get the quick service dining plan. You rarely come out ahead. Mel's Diner gives you the best bang for your buck. It was $8.99 for a hamburger and fry meal. If you get your burger plain, they will give you the children's price which is a buck or two cheaper! That was a happy surprise for us. The chicken strips were really good and you get a lot of food. The fries and shakes are cheap also. They don't advertise a kids menu but if you ask the cashier they will give you one.
2. Ice water in a cup is free anywhere in either park that they serve drinks. I don't have to tell you how much money this saves. The coke freestyle plan($12.99 for a thermos that you can refill all day) is good for that day only-even if you have a multi day ticket. So you need to refill it 5 times just to break even.
3. Buy tickets online or via an 'information center'. You know those places offering discounted tickets? We stopped at the one right after you cross the Florida line by the Atlantic and where as the prices were about the same as we could find online, they were willing to throw in tickets to Wet n Wild water park and make our universal tickets unlimited for 14 days. We weren't sure exactly what we wanted to do at that point so we passed. They will try to tell you that you will save a bunch of money but that's compared to buying tickets at the gate which is always more.
4.Consider Mix and Match tickets or just single park tickets. We got 2 day tickets. Bubba,Sissy and I got Park to Park tickets and the rest of the crew got Single Park tickets. We had been to IOA(I know my FIL is loving the acronyms right now!) a few years ago so didn't feel the need to again, but Sissy, Bubba and I wanted to experience the Hogwarts train ride. So we all went to USO and then the 3 of us boarded the train while the others hung out till we took the train ride back. BTW, it was a waste of money. The train ride was very lacking and not worth the extra cost. We did consider all of us going to IOA the 2nd day which would have been allowed. You just can't jump from park to park on the same day without the park to park tickets. That would save you a great deal to just buy single park tickets and do one park each day.
5. Don't do more than 2 days. We considered doing 4 days and we are glad we didn't! What a waste that would have been. Even with towing a toddler,baby and a special needs child around 2 days was plenty of time to see both parks(if we wanted to). And we went during the time of year that they do Halloween stuff in the evenings(you have to buy an extra $50 ticket for that though) so the park closed earlier than usual when we visited. It closed at 5pm the 1st day and 7pm the 2nd day.
6. Do Child Swap. It is amazing if you have little ones or simply have some kids who don't want to ride a ride but you do. As soon as the rest of your party has ridden then you get to jump right back on the ride with the kids again! The kids loved it too because they got to go on rides multiple times without waiting in line again. Even if I didn't know if I wanted to ride the ride, I still waited in the child swap area because it was cool and air conditioned.
7. Get the Universal App on your phone. It's free and lets you know wait times of rides so you can best plan what to hit and when. Despicable Me had the longest lines followed by Transformers. The app ultimately allows you to make the best use of your time (and money).
8.Buy a big pink donut for a snack!! One of those could easily be a hearty snack for a family of 4 and they are only $4.99 each. Just look for the big donut in the Simpson area.
Here are some of our pictures from our trip there-
Platform 9 and 3/4
It was good but we prefer Hogsmeade.
For you Brayden!!
They had these 'transformers' come out and do little shows.
It was so amazing!!
What a fun job that would be.
Really need a selfie stick!
They made it look like people were going through the wall to get to platform 9 and 3/4
The vanishing cupboard
Grimmauld Place. Stay there long enough and you can see Kreacher peek out the window
Curious George area was fun for Little Miss