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Tips for Saving Money on an Orlando Vacation with Kids


Review of Orlando with Kids

Islands of Adventure Universal Studios Ticket Options at Universal Studio and Islands of Adventure

Tips for Saving Money on an Orlando Vacation

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

A trip to Orlando can be quite costly so it is very important to plan for the trip in advance so that you can save some money.  Listed below are some tips that I have learned over the years that I would like to share.

Ways to cut costs on an Orlando Vacation.


We enjoy staying outside the park in either a suites hotel, or a time share.   The rooms are usually cheaper and you have lots of additional space.  In most cases you will have more than one bathroom which helps to get everyone ready quicker in the morning.  Separate bedrooms makes it easier to get the kids asleep at night.  You will have a full size kitchen with refrigerator, microwave and stove so you can eat some meals in your place.  Not to say that you can not get some good deals through Disney to stay in the park.  Do your homework and think about the space requirements that you want for a week.

Meals and Snacks

We stock the refrigerator when we arrive with snacks, lots of drinks and breakfast foods.  It is important to eat a good breakfast before you go to the parks because you never know exactly what time you will stop for lunch.  We always purchase bagels, muffins, yogurt, cereal, fruit and frozen waffles.  This gives a variety so you can change up your meals each day.  In fact I found that the grocery store sold single boxes of individual size cereal so you could pick the exact amount and type that you wanted.  I would recommend taking tea bags and sugar packets from home so that you do not have to purchase it there.  Eating breakfast in the room saves time especially if you want to get to the park when it opens.  You could even have some food available for an occasional dinner in your room.  Pick something simple like pizza or pasta.  This is especially convenient after a long day at the park.  You can quickly feed the kids and then head out or go to the pool for a night swim.

Water and snacks at the parks are extremely expensive.  I would advise you to take a backpack from home to hold your water and snacks for the park.  The night before you can put a few water bottles in the freezer to take to the park the next day along with a few that will be ready to drink right away.  If you don't want to carry it around all day you can always rent a locker to store it.  This will save you a great deal of money.

The meals are very expensive at the parks so try and limit it to only one time per day.  If you are eating in the park be creative with sharing meals with young children.  For instance order a double burger with an extra bun and you can share it. 

Make advance reservations at all sit down restaurants.  Note that Disney increases the prices at on-site buffets and character meals during peak season.  If you decide to schedule character meals a cheaper option is breakfast or lunch rather than dinner.   I made my character meal reservations at the same time I booked my hotel and flight.  This way it will guarantee that you get will get your reservation.

Car Rental

Staying outside the park will mean that you need to rent a car but it also means that there is a great deal of restaurants and stores that are available to you.  I have found from experience that you can often get dinner outside the park for cheaper than a lunch inside the park.

You will need to pay for parking at the parks.  Regular parking is  approximately $14 or $15 in 2011.   We opted for the preferred parking at Universal Studios for an extra $5 and I found it to be worthwhile.  We had a parking spot very close to the entrance area both days that we were there.

Park Tips

There are many good books available that you can borrow from the library that will be very helpful with planning your trip.  I would advise you to pre-plan your entire trip including what areas of the park to go to at what point in the day.   There will be many rides that are very popular so you want to try and beat the crowds.  At the very least head to the back of the park because everyone tends to start at the front.  It is important if you are going to get to see and do everything.

In the Magic Kingdom when the parade is starting you may find characters by the front entrance and you can get quick pictures without lines.

If you have the option to visit the park OFF SEASON then take advantage of it.  It is not only cheaper but much less crowded.  You will find that hotels as well as airline tickets with be substantially less money.

Bring your own rain ponchos.  These can be purchased in dollar stores at home for a fraction of what they would charge in the parks.

Purchase an autograph book at home prior to the trip and take it with you.  Make sure you take your own pen as well.

I find that parks everyday can get really crazy, so consider taking a side trip or spending the day at the pool.  We have gone to Cape Canaveral as well as St. Augustine which were both great day trips.  You can also investigate some of the free things available to do at Disney World like Downtown Disney, or Disney's Boardwalk.

Purchase park tickets prior to your trip.  You have many options for tickets from single day one park to multi-day hopper passes.  Buying in advance will save money as well as time when you get to the park.  Remember that AAA and AARP members often get special rates.

I found it to be fun to give the kids their own camera (disposable works) and have them take their own pictures of the trip.  It is very interesting to see the trip through their eyes.

The Disney stores all carry the same products for the same amount of money so there is no need to comparison shop.  It is all expensive.  You will find souvenirs cheaper outside the park even in the local drug stores or at the Orlando Premium Outlets.  Establish a souvenir budget and stick to it.  You will find it difficult with the kids because each ride lets you off in their souvenir shop.  You need to set rules with them right from the start to avoid meltdowns in the park.

Kids love the glow in the dark sticks, and necklaces when it gets dark in the park.  Tip: purchase them at home from your local dollar store and take them with you.  It is much cheaper than buying them in the park.

Lastly, if you are traveling with older children or all adults try using the "singles only line" for the rides.  We did this for the first time this trip and it cut the wait time from 40 minutes to 10 minutes.  I was worried at first that we would get separated but we were within a minute of each other at all times.  We did this on the high intensity roller rides where you really can't talk to the person next to you anyway.    The single line just fills in the ride when there are not enough for an individual group to fill it.  For instance if the ride holds 4 people and there is a group of 3 they will take one from the single line to fill the ride.  Works great so give it a try!!!