Tips to help you save money on your next Universal Studios vacation. This post was sponsored by Cabana Bay, however, the far-out fun my family experienced at the resort was our own.
Living in Central Florida, sometimes we forget to take advantage of everything our area has to offer. But this spring break, we played tourist with a mini staycation at Cabana Bay Resort. The retro resort offered a groovy time, complete with a visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We only wish we had taken advantage of the convenience and fun in our backyard sooner. If you are planning a trip too, I have 10 ways to save money on a Universal Studios vacation at Cabana Bay Resort.
Cabana Bay Resort Family Suites
Cabana Bay is Universal Studios’ value-priced resort, but don’t let the value pricing fool you. Cabana Bay has many of the amenities you would expect with a more moderately priced resort including affordable family suites, two pool areas, multiple dining options, a bowling alley and more.
Our family of five was thrilled to stay in a family suite, which comfortably sleeps six with room to spread out. For larger families, a value-priced family suite is a vacation game changer. In a typical hotel, sitting in a dark room, waiting for kids to fall asleep long before my own bedtime is not my favorite part of vacation. At Cabana Bay, the family suite provides ample space with two queen beds, a pull-out couch and a dividing wall all without the high cost of a luxury hotel. The extra space helps make a family vacation more enjoyable without breaking the bank.
Another thing that makes this suite family friendly is the bathroom layout. Rather than a single room, the bathroom is spread out into two separate rooms with a sink in between. Family members can use the toilet, take a shower and brush their teeth in three separate spaces. With three daughters, I know this will become an increasingly more important luxury.
Watch the video below for a quick walk through of the room to get a better idea of how everything is laid out. Note, we stayed in one of the exterior entry rooms. In the interior entry rooms, the windows are on the bedroom side, while the entrance to the room is still by the kitchenette.
Cabana Bay Pool
Cabana Bay offers guests not one, but TWO swell pool areas flanked with beach chairs, lawn games and poolside cabanas. On one side of the resort, families can splash in the giant, heated, zero-entry pool, slide down the water slide or enjoy the kiddie splash park. On the other side, you can take turns floating down the lazy river or splashing in the pool while enjoying a rad view of the towering volcano.
Tip – pool floats for the lazy river are available to purchase, however you can save money by bringing your own.
While Universal’s new water park Volcano Bay sits just beyond Cabana Bay, the pools at Cabana Bay are like having a mini water park included in your hotel stay. For families with younger children, who are too small for the thrilling water slides, the Cabana Bay water features might fulfill their water park wishes without ever leaving the resort.
Bring Your Own Groceries
Another family suite perk is the kitchenette. Guests can save money by bringing their own snacks and small meals. The kitchenette includes a mini fridge, microwave, sink and plenty of storage to hold your groceries.
If you are planning to take advantage of early park admission, bringing your own supplies for breakfast is a great way to get your family moving in the morning. Saving you time and money while filling your bellies for a busy day of fun.
Since my kids feel as though they need snacks nearly every hour of the day, bringing snacks saves money and my sanity. Waiting in line with a hangry child is no one’s idea of a relaxing vacation, so each morning I fill our day bags with snacks for everyone.
Cabana Bay Restaurants
Cabana Bay offers five on-site dining options – Bayliner Diner, Galaxy Bowl, The Hideaway Bar & Grill, Atomic Tonic and Delizioso Pizza.
Bayliner Diner is a large cafeteria-style restaurant, and the food is quite good. As an added bonus for exhausted families, clips of retro cartoons and commercials play continuously on the big screens providing easy entertainment during meals. It’s also fairly reasonable, and definitely a more inexpensive option than eating in the parks especially if you enjoy free refills for every meal (see below).
For sit down dining, guests can dine at Galaxy Bowl. We didn’t have time to bowl on our stay (we spent too much time enjoying the pool!), but we did enjoy dinner. As a family, we highly recommend the pretzel bites!
The Hideaway Bar & Grill and Atomic Tonic serve meals, snacks, beverages and meals poolside. And Delizioso Pizza offers pizza and salads delivered to your room. For your favorite pick-me-up, there is also a Starbucks available just off the lobby.
If you plan to spend time around the resort or eating meals at the resort, refillable cups at Cabana Bay are a great way to save on drinks. After purchasing one of the mug-like souvenir cups, you will enjoy free refills of drinks from the Coke Freestyle machines at the resort. If you don’t mind sharing your drink with family members, you can buy cups to share. We purchased one cup for mom and dad and another for our older girls to share. The biggest problem with this was getting the girls to agree on what to drink next.
Note, cups at Cabana Bay are not compatible with the Freestyle machines at the parks. Since we spent most of our time at the parks, we decided to buy refillable cups at the park. Inside the parks, the refillable cups include free ICEE refills too.
Staying on Universal property gives you easy access to the parks including bus transportation and within walking distance to the parks. There is no parking discount at Universal City Walk for resort guests, so taking advantage of the free transportation will save you $20 per day (at current parking prices).
The walk from Cabana Bay Resort to Islands of Adventure is a pleasant 15-20 minute walk. The first time we walked it, we were a bit surprised how long it took. The next day we took the bus and realized that the walk from the bus area to Islands of Adventure is nearly as long, plus the bus ride time. So, either option takes about the same amount of time. Tip – it is slightly easier to get to Islands of Adventure by walking and slightly easier to get to Universal Studios by bus based on the proximity of the walking path to IOA.
Early Park Admission
This is a huge perk of staying on site that will save you both time and money. As an added bonus, you can get some great photos of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter before it is overly crowded with muggles.
Visiting theme parks means waiting in line, and the continued popularity of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter means that the lines are always long. While Express Passes are available to help reduce wait time, they are expensive. Universal resort guests are invited to enjoy early admission to select parks on select days. Taking advantage of these early morning hours can significantly cut down on wait time and offer you an opportunity to enjoy the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when it isn’t crowded.
Save On Souvenirs
For our family, the highlight of a trip to Universal is visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My Potter Heads couldn’t stop talking about visiting all of their favorite shops on Diagon Alley and drinking Butterbeer. Of course, simple muggle clothes weren’t enough for my wizard wannabes. While beautiful wizarding robes are available in the theme parks, we saved money on robes by purchasing inexpensive costume robes on Amazon. As an added bonus, the cheap ones are a much lighter material, making them more Florida friendly. Once inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we splurged on interactive wands. A fun experience and souvenir in one.
In addition to the refillable souvenir mug, another great souvenir option is a keycard lanyard. Both cute and practical, they are a great way to help family members keep track of park tickets by wearing them around their necks. We found these in the Cabana Bay gift shop.
Cabana Bay Amenities
Spending a full day at the theme parks is exhausting for everyone, especially for little ones. Easy access to Cabana Bay from the parks, gives you the opportunity to take a break. When everyone has hit their limit, you can go back to the resort. Take a nap, play in the pool, grab a snack, the choice is up to you. Once you are rejuvenated, you can always head back to the park to check out the park after dark if you choose or enjoy a swim under the stars.
Everyone from the kids to mom and dad will feel better after a break away from the parks. And with everything so closely connected, being close is a convenience that can’t be ignored.
With an onsite bowling alley, fitness studio and arcade there is so much more to do at Cabana Bay then just visit the theme parks. The vast onside amenities, including the expansive pool areas, make Cabana Bay a destination in itself making it an affordable staycation resort for locals. You can easily spend a full weekend enjoying everything Cabana Bay has to offer without leaving the resort.
Save Up To $20 On Tickets
Think it’s impossible to save money on tickets to the parks? Think again. Save up to $20 off the gate price on multi-day tickets when you buy online – easy peasy.
Tip – To save time, print your tickets at home instead of waiting in the will call line (which is always long!). If you are staying at Cabana Bay, you can also pick up your tickets one of the kiosks in the front lobby or at the theme park desk.
Florida Resident Deals
Now is the perfect time to stay at Cabana Bay Resort. Fellow Florida residents can save money on your staycation by scheduling your visit around the availability of Florida resident offers (currently through May 30, 2019). Find more information about current Florida resident rates here.
Not a Florida resident? No problem, find current specials (including weekday stay options) here.
Cabana Bay Resort offers families a groovy vacation with easy access to amenities and theme parks. The only question is what to do first.
More about Cabana Bay from a previous visit: 7 Reasons To Stay At Cabana Bay Resort.1