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Is Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights RIP Pass Worth It?

If you are a horror lover, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights likely have been on your bucket list, especially if you don’t live near California or Florida. Almost everyone has access to haunted houses and attractions near them during the pumpkin spice season. Not all haunts are created equal, however. While some are lucky enough to have high production value scares near them, few are as well done as Universal’s HHN. It brings enormous crowds, and there is an overwhelming selection of ticket prices and options, including the pricey RIP Pass.

The resort, which shuts down one of the parks at 5:00 pm starting in September, reopens as a hellscape of ghoulish goodies, delights, and heart-pounding frights. It’s hard to choose which ticket is the best for you. There are base tickets, multi-day tickets, Stay and Scream, Express Passes, and for the diehard fans, the coveted RIP Pass. Few are as comprehensive or as expensive as the RIP Pass. At a whopping $450 per person on average, there is a lot to know about the tickets. However, the most important thing to know is whether it is worth it. We broke it down and did the math, so you don’t have to.

Before deciding whether the RIP pass is the right ticket for you, determine when you are going and how much time and patience you have for Universal’s HHN. If you will only be at Universal for a limited time and want to experience all HHN offers, the RIP Pass is the only way to ensure you get to do everything in one night. This is especially true if you travel during October and on the weekends when attendance can surge.

The RIP Pass may not be necessary if you are going in September, especially on a non-weekend day. By planning ahead, arriving early, and utilizing things like Stay and Scream passes or hotel guest gates, you can easily knock out several houses and rides before HHN officially opens. Working from the most popular houses to the least, you should be able to see every scare zone, house, and ride by midnight. However, you won’t be able to stand in food lines, so eat before coming. Shows will have to take a back seat, but you should be able to grab seats for the latest shows. This only works if crowds stay low, though. Earlier in the season, this is more possible. However, as the sun begins to set earlier and rains become less frequent, this becomes harder to accomplish.

It is possible to accomplish everything with time and tons of planning if you have multiple days at HHN. If you are staying on property at one of the many Universal hotels, you can enter the hotel guest entrance to the left of the main entrance. This dedicated line is much less congested, and guests typically can enter the park and are filtered directly into the first haunted house before the park officially opens at 6:00 pm. It is not uncommon to get through two different houses and a ride or two before 6:30 pm. From there, if you immediately hit three more houses back to back, you should be able to accomplish nearly half of the available attractions before 8:30 pm.

RIP Pass

At this point, the park will be filling up, so it is best to leave early and return the next day. If the weather has kept the crowds away, continue touring until the sea of humanity becomes unbearable. Following this method, you could accomplish all of the rides, scare zones, and houses in two days. If you want to enjoy a copious amount of specialty foods and drinks, cut one house per day to allow for snacking. Lines for the seasonal culinary delights can be almost as long as the houses, so plan accordingly. This only works, though, if you have a multi-day pass for HHN.

The Express Access pass cuts down on wait time enormously but doesn’t provide the guided personalized treatment that the specialty ticket delivers. You don’t just have a short wait; you have no wait through all ten houses and six scare zones. You also are escorted to primo seats to Nightmare Fuel: Wildfire. Only RIP Pass holders are seated in the reserved section where you practically have performers in your lap.

Wait times for the houses can exceed one hour once the park fills up. The park becomes crowded and challenging to navigate when the sun goes down. Having someone who knows the park well eliminates any anxiety. The RIP Pass comes with a guide to take all the pressure off and keep things fun. Your guide charts a course and handles everything from bathroom breaks, drink breaks, and best touring plans, even when the weather or the technology doesn’t cooperate. When I attended last weekend, my guide was Shelby, a delightfully energetic person who was as enthusiastic as she was knowledgeable. She really did make the experience one of a kind.

The most efficient way to see and do everything is the RIP Pass. Your guide wastes no time or added steps while ensuring you get the necessary breaks. Of course, it helps that you never have to fight the crowds for a table and chair as well. A stop at Cafe La Bamba and Lombardo’s later is a stress-free way to decompress between scares. It is hot in September especially, and the chance to grab a drink and soak up some air conditioning makes the experience more pleasurable.

The RIP Pass Experience

The evening begins with a visit to Cafe La Bamba, where you check in and receive your lanyard. We were able to check in at 5:30 pm and get the lay of the land. The RIP Pass lanyard gives unlimited express ride access before and after your tour. It is a lifesaver. Our tour time was 7:30 pm, so we checked in and immediately headed to Transformers, followed by The Mummy and Men in Black. We got all three done before reporting for our RIP reception at 7:00 pm.

RIP Pass

It is billed as light bites, but there is more than enough on the buffet to make a meal out of it. You can stay if you exceed your thirty-minute reception window. There are sliders, zombie brains, pizza fries, vegetables and dip, charcuterie, spicy roasted cauliflower, gourmet mac and cheese, and Nashville chicken wings. Additionally, there are many dessert choices, including a super moist chocolate chip cupcake. A dedicated cash bar ensures you get easy access to all the liquid courage you need before joining the rest of your party. Soda and water are free. Novelty light-up cups and silly-sounding drinks are a hoot.

The intimate group of twelve or fewer attendees is then led by your guide from one terrifying attraction to the next. Having a small, fun group adds to the experience. It is easy to make friends when you are all scared. In addition, your guide will give you tips and nuggets of information that others aren’t privy to. Shelby went with us through most of the houses, and she was great at keeping the energy up and pointing out things we wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

The tour lasts about four hours and concludes with Nightmare Fuel: Wildfire. It’s a high-energy show that features a whole lot of ripped bodies and fire. The performers are talented, and the storyline is cohesive enough to make a broad amount of sense. We were done shortly before midnight and had the last two hours to ride Escape to Gringotts and Rip Ride Rockit. Please be aware that most rides close before midnight, so ride early or not at all. If rides are essential, factor this into your plans. The last two hours are a great time to shop, try the food, and go back through your favorite scare zone.

The cost of being scared

If you elected to forgo the RIP Pass and do an Express Access pass, your cost is $203.98 on a weekday versus $400, but you aren’t guaranteed to get everything done. I saw many grumpy folks lamenting not getting the RIP Pass after waiting in Express Access lines. Friday and Saturday nights cost you substantially more, and wait times can be over an hour and a half. The Express Access pass only cuts your wait time in roughly half. Even if you started at 5:30 pm by doing a Stay and Scream or hotel guest entrance, based on wait times, average restroom breaks, and food and beverage lines, you could only get six houses and the scare zones done. If you don’t mind sitting in the back of the theater, you might also get in Nightmare Fuel: Wildfire.

It would be virtually impossible to ride any rides, though. A ticket to HHN starts at $73.99, depending on the date, and the Unlimited Express Access starts at $129.99. The cheapest total for both is $203.98, although an argument could be made the RIP Pass is not necessary on these dates. September is less expensive than October, and non-weekend days are typically the least costly. The most expensive is $330.98 for Express Access in October on a Saturday. During peak times, the cost for each house and zone is $31.25 using the RIP Pass pricing. If you factor in the buffet, the cost per scare is $30 to skip every line. This is a steal. Contrasting Express Access, each scare is $20.68 during the most expensive times, and you probably can’t hit everything in one night.

If you are visiting for several days and plan on entering the park every night for HHN, you could purchase the Rush of Fear Pass starting at $129.99 if you are visiting during the first seventeen days of HHN. If not, you can splurge on the Frequent Fear, Frequent Fear Plus, and Ultimate Frequent Fear Plus Passes, starting at $179.99 and going as high as $324.99. Of course, that’s before adding the Express Pass. These passes can work without dipping further into the bank account and popping for the RIP Pass, but they require good timing, preplanning, and help from the weather gods.

The bottom line is the RIP Pass is worth it if you have limited time, like insider information, a stress-free experience, and want guaranteed access to everything HHN offers. On the other hand, if you have time to spare and have done HHN before, the RIP Pass may not be worth it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed every moment of my RIP Pass experience, and I would do it again. It is the best way to have it all.