Many people are put off of booking a trip to Orlando because of the costs associated with such a holiday. There are several ‘big budget’ items that are unfortunately unavoidable, but there are ways that you can reduce the cost of your Orlando holiday and bring it in on budget. I’ve been visiting Florida for over 20 years and these are some of the tricks that I have used to help keep the costs down;
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Package Holiday or DIY
There are two ways to book your holiday to Orlando, either a package where you book your flights, car hire and accommodation with one holiday company, or DIY where you book each factor of your holiday yourself. There is no right or wrong way it’s just personal choice. Whichever way you choose to book you can still apply the principles below to help you get the best possible price for your holiday.
Ways to reduce the cost of your Orlando holiday
Air fares to Orlando aren’t cheap, occasionally a glitch happens or there is the odd last minute deal but you have to be quick to catch them. It goes without saying that travelling in the school holidays is going to generate the most expensive flight costs, but there are still things you can do to bring the price down a little.
Be flexible with your dates. If you are able to move your travel dates around slightly you may find that it is cheaper to fly on certain days of the week, for example mid-week flights are historically cheaper than weekend flights.
Another way to reduce the cost of your Orlando holiday is to fly indirect. Flying via another airport before arriving in Orlando can reduce the cost considerably. We have flown indirect for years as a way to save some money. It does make your travel day a little longer than flying direct but if you don’t mind that it’s definitely worth considering.
Fly to one of the airports near to Orlando, rather than Orlando International Airport. Flying into Tampa, Sandford or Fort Lauderdale can often be cheaper than flying into Orlando. There may be a slightly longer drive from the airport, depending on where your accommodation is, but it’s not horrendously long.
Orlando has a so many different types of accommodation on offer. The main choices are villas and hotels, but there are also condos and apartments available to hire. Choosing the right accommodation for your budget is one of the easiest ways to reduce the cost of your Orlando holiday.
These are located in communities around Orlando and are usually about a 15 – 30 minute drive to the theme parks, depending on which park you are visiting. Villas are generally a cheaper option than a hotel, however they do require you to either have a hire car or use taxis to travel around. If you are travelling as part of a group a villa is a great option because you can split the cost between you.
We have stayed at a few villa communities. Our favourite by far is Emerald Island, we love how close it is to Disney – Animal Kingdom is literally 5 minutes away. Plus there are shops and restaurants just a few minutes drive from the resort.
If you’re not sure whether a villa would be the right choice for you, I recommend having a look at Top Villas. They have a fantastic selection of villas with something to suit every budget.
This is where it gets a little more complicated. First of all you need to decide whether you want to stay in theme park hotel – both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando have their own hotels, or whether you are happy to stay ‘offsite’ at a hotel. Offsite hotels are usually cheaper to those owned by the theme parks, but bare in mind that there may be incentives that make staying ‘onsite’ more appealing.
If you opt to stay onsite at Walt Disney World you then have a choice of 25 hotels to stay at. Disney grade their hotels as Value, Moderate and Deluxe and they are priced accordingly. When choosing your hotel think about how often you will be using it, for example if it is your first time visiting Orlando then the chances are you are going to be in a different theme park every day and will only be using the hotel to shower and sleep and maybe the odd day around the pool. If this is the case then is it worth you paying for a more expensive grade of hotel.
If you’re not sure whether to book a villa or hotel this post may be able to help you.
There are often incentives to encourage you to book a particular hotel, for example if you stay at certain Universal Orlando hotels you can get free passes to skip the queues. At Walt Disney World they regularly offer their Disney Dining Plan for free depending on which hotel you book. It’s worth checking out all of the incentives before you make your final decision as they could help to reduce the cost of your Orlando holiday.
There are hundreds of places to eat in Orlando and they can be as cheap or as expensive as you want them to be. There are also several ways that you can keep the food bill down while you are there, which will help to reduce the cost of your Orlando holiday. The most simple way to save some money is to buy some groceries so that you can have breakfast in your accommodation and take lunch and snacks with you into the parks. (Most of the theme parks allow you to take some food in, however I would recommend that you check the website for each theme park before you visit to avoid being turned away with any food).
Eating meals outside of the theme parks is usually much cheaper and there is something to suit everyone. Meal portions in America are much bigger than we are used to in the UK and you could save money would be to buy a meal and split it with another member of your party.
Some of the theme parks offer an ‘all day dining deal’ whereby you pay a set amount as you enter the park and then get food from certain restaurants within the park by showing your wristband, this can be an economical way to eat if you plan to stay at that theme park for the full day.
The Disney Dining Plan
Most years Disney offer the Disney Dining Plan free with certain hotel bookings. If this is available at the time of your booking then I recommend taking the offer. There are three levels to the Dining Plan – The Quick Service Plan where each day you get two self service meals, two snacks, one beverage per meal and a refillable cup. The Dining Plan gives you each day one waiter service meal, one self service meal, two snacks, one beverage per meal each day and a refillable cup and The Deluxe Dining Plan, this gives you three waiter service or self service meals per day, two snacks, one beverage per meal and a refillable cup. Eating onsite at the Disney Parks and Hotels can be very expensive so by getting the Dining Plan it takes away that cost. The Dining Plan can be used for character meals and dinner shows too. One thing to note; the refillable mug can only be refilled at the hotels and not at any of the theme parks.
The cost of park tickets might bring on a mild heart attack when you first see your total bill, but if you shop around you can often pick up a good deal and reduce the cost of your Orlando holiday. Don’t feel that you have to buy your park tickets from the company you booked your holiday through, instead have a look at some of the companies selling theme park tickets. Many of these companies will throw in free tickets for places like Kennedy Space Center or Gatorland for example, which is great but make sure that you’re getting a good price in the first place. Our Disney tickets for our most recent trip to Orlando were actually cheaper buying direct from Disney than from any of the third party sellers. In the UK you can usually pick up ‘Ultimate’ tickets for Disney which enable you to park hop and visit all of the Disney parks, including the waterparks, these are great if you know you are going to be going into Disney a lot, but if you’re only going in for one or two days then you can pick up tickets for less days and at a cheaper price. Many of the ticket sellers also offer ‘combo’ tickets where you can combine several parks into one price.
By following the tips above you should be able to reduce the cost of your Orlando holiday and keep to your budget.