A trip to Orlando, Florida, sounds magical, but money can magically disappear if you don’t plan in advance. The big three (SeaWorld, Disney World, Universal Orlando) theme parks there have big price tags. Fortunately, there are secrets to saving on an Orlando vacation, and we are willing to spill them.
Flexibility is key
Whatever you do, don’t visit Orlando in the summer. It’s steamy hot, the parks are packed and the prices are at a premium. The general rule of thumb is to visit when kids are in school. Spring break, winter break and summer are the parks’ busiest times of the year, so plan to visit in between the vacation rush.
Two key times during the year are considered Orlando’s deal seasons: Aug. 15 through Sept. 30 and the month of May. If you are looking for cooler weather, try planning a trip during the first two weeks of December or in mid-January or February. These non-peak times are typically slower for the Orlando hotels, so you may save on accommodations as well.
Go when the kids are young
Children under 3 get free entry into most of Orlando’s theme parks, water parks and attractions. I never thought I would bring a little one to the theme parks, but my daughter is 2 years old and many fun rides and experiences are geared toward the younger audience.
Plan in advance
Don’t buy your tickets at the gate. Depending on the theme park, you can knock off about 20% of ticket prices by purchasing them online in advance.
Plan your meals in advance, as well. Many attractions allow you to bring in your own food and personal items (check the park’s rules before you go). Fill up a backpack with water, snacks, sandwiches and essentials like sunscreen. You’ll thank me later.
Make a trip to Walmart or Target when you arrive to buy a few souvenirs like a Mickey Mouse doll, T-shirt and picture frame. This way you won’t feel tempted to shell out tons of cash in the pricier park gift shops.
Visit Orlando online
Many helpful resources are available to browse before you go. The Orlando visitor’s bureau, Visit Orlando, offers the free Orlando Magicard, a discount card that can help you save on attractions, accommodations, restaurants and more. Visit Orlando will also send you a free Orlando vacation planning kit. Disney World will send you a free Disney Parks vacation planning DVD.
Take the road less traveled
Orlando has much more to offer than theme parks. Go off the beaten path and explore local treasures like Winter Park, downtown Orlando, Bok Tower Gardens, Gatorland, Wekiwa Springs State Park and more.