Okay, fair enough -- affordable may be a stretch when speaking about a trip to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando. While those two entertainment meccas are definitely worth the price of admission, going is something most of us have to plan for, save up for, and then savor when we're there, because going again might be a couple years off.
To help you maximize your budget so you can get back to the Magic Kingdom faster, here are a few tips to help you save money on your trip to Orlando.
Orlando Vacation Rentals. Now, this advice isn't good just because Perfect Places is a vacation rental portal. Vacation rentals truly do save you money versus a hotel or onsite Disney or Universal Studios resort. Even if it's just your family, you're going to save money because getting a couple rooms for you, your spouse and the kids is really expensive when compared to getting a whole house to yourself. There are plenty of vacation rental options available in Orlando. You can get just about as close to the theme parks as you like, or as far away as you want. Remember, staying onsite means staying with the crowds. Just think how nice it will be to save money on lodging and be able to head back to a private home, with a private pool, sauna, hot tub, game room, etc.
Gather Ticket Price Data. The word "data" was used intentionally, and you should not be afraid of it. You need to take a very analytical approach to ticket prices. Create some kind of chart, either on a pad of paper or in an Excel spreadsheet, that has the dates you can travel, the theme parks you want to visit, and the ticket prices. Remember that there are usually a lot of different ticket options available, so leave space to accommodate not just the standard options, but any seasonal discounts that might apply. Include tickets available at the park, preordered online, and tickets available through AAA or other promotional discount source.
Go in the Off Season. Even Disney World has an off season. Unfortunately for families with kids in school, it lines up with the school calendar. Now, we'd be the last people to suggest your kids should miss school for Disney, but if your children are in preschool or even Kindergarten, missing a couple of days probably isn't going to hurt them at all. You can always get assignments from teachers and turn everyday tasks into learning events (since you're staying in a vacation rental and cooking a meal or two, you could have a weights and measure session while making their favorite dinner). If you're not traveling with kids, then booking an offseason trip will be easy. Florida on September 10 is just was warm and fun as Florida on June 10--but a lot less expensive.
Menu Planning. Ever go to the grocery store hungry then walk out wondering how in the world you spent so much? It's the same thing when you go to Orlando hungry. The minute you get off the plane, you're tempted by all the easy, delicious food options. To counter those temptations, have a doable meal plan. You'll be in a vacation rental, so cooking will be a snap. Tip: Plan at least a couple meals out. You're on vacation, so you'll want to treat yourself. But if you treat yourself every day, you'll end up spending way more than you really need. You'll also be able to prepare brown bag lunches to take with you, or at the very least snacks for along the way during the day. Stopping to buy an overpriced lunch or overpriced candy bar can add up quickly.
Less Expensive Attractions. Hit Disney and Universal for the big stuff, like the Harry Potter ride. For water parks and water slides, pencil in a day at less expensive attractions. You'll make plenty of memories at Disney and can schedule some family cool down time at a low-key, yet still nice, water park in the Orlando area. Then you, your kids, and your pocketbook will be refreshed for another go at the Mouse Kingdom the next day.