One of the most frustrating and intimidating things to do is plan a trip with or even without young children to Disney World in Orlando, FL. In this Blog, we hope to make it easier, quicker and less expensive by offering tips and tricks that our family has learned over the many years that we have visited the Orlando area.
From when the best time of year to visit the parks is, to off-site vendors and hotels and also how to save money when visiting the Theme Parks themselves. Our Blog is not sponsored by ANY of the companies that we mention or recommend. If at anytime we decide to accept advertising on our Blog, we will notify you that a company is a sponsored advertiser. We do not consider ourselves “experts” in any way, shape or form, we just want to pass on things that we’ve learned so that others do not make the mistakes that we have in the past.
To be honest, I find this to be the most difficult part of planning a trip to the Orlando area. Deciding when you are going and what you want to do. How long are you going to stay and where are you going to stay. Do you need a rental car or are you going to use the provided public transportation.
We usually start going through this process about six months before the trip. In my case, I have children that are still in school, so we are forced to pick vacation weeks for our trip. If this is the same for you, watch for specials offered by Disney World for special rates for room and ticket plans.
Once we have decided when we are going, we start the comparison on whether it is worth the extra cost of staying on-site or staying at one of the many surrounding hotels in Kissimmee, FL. Keep in mind, if you stay off-site, you will not have access to Extra Magic Hours, Disney Transportation and you will most-likely have the additional expense of renting a car and paying parking fees for each day of $20 (That is an additional $140 cost for a 7 day stay.). I have found that staying on-site is more convenient and about as economical as anywhere else when you take into account all of the amenities that I mentioned above. We usually stay at one of the Value Resorts because we rarely spend time there other than to sleep.
Once our hotel has be booked, I will start looking for tickets. This, by far, is going to be the most expensive part of your trip. As of the time that I am writing this Blog, “Magic Your Way” (1 Theme Park per day) tickets are roughly $110/day, depending on how many ticket days you purchase. If you want to add the “Park Hopper” option which allows you to visit all the parks each day, you will add an additional $20-$30/day depending on your length of stay.
I usually shop around for tickets. Some times Disney is cheaper, others I have found AAA to have lower prices. The most reliable and consistently lowest prices I have found at Undercover Tourist. They have great prices and also offer deals, such as buy 4 days and get 3 days free, that are not always offered by other outlets.
If you are purchasing tickets from a third-party vendor, make sure to do your research and make sure that they are officially licensed by Disney to sell tickets. There are many stories of vacationers buying tickets from a third-party only to find out when they get to the gate that the tickets are fake or have already been used.
OK, we now have a place to stay and tickets to the Theme Parks, the next thing we need to do is figure out how we are going to get there.
For the majority of vacationers, this means purchasing airline tickets. We were thinking of driving from New England to Orlando for our vacation this year, but when we figured in the fuel, wear and tear on the vehicle, food and the cost of two nights in a hotel (one going down, one coming back), plus the idea of have to jam the four of us in a car for 20+ hours, economically, there wasn’t much difference between driving and flying.
Southwest, JetBlue, Delta, etc all fly into Orlando International Airport (MCO). I have found that it is not necessarily cheaper to purchase tickets far out from your trip. I have actually purchased inexpensive tickets as close as a month away from a trip. Generally I have found that flying on a Tuesday is usually the cheapest fare, lately, Wednesday’s have been low priced also. As with everything I have said so far, make sure to do your research. Different airlines offer different values to different people. Use the Internet to your advantage. As of the time that I am writing this Blog, Southwest Airlines is offering $44 fares for flights from Providence (PVD) to Orlando (MCO) and also Orlando to Providence for the second week of January through the second week of February. I am not sure how long that these fares are going to last, so grab them if you can.
Transportation is the last part of this planning. If you have driven to Orlando, you really do not need to worry about this. If not, you have two options if you are staying in a Disney Resort Hotel, your first option is to reserve a seat of “Disney’s Magical Express” which will pick you up at Orlando International Airport and take you directly to your Resort. If you plan on doing anything off-site, you will want to rent a car. There are many options for car rentals at Orlando International Airport, both in the terminal and off-site via a shuttle bus. As with everything else, do your research and especially with the car rental companies, make sure to read your contract and make sure to understand the fine print, this can easily save you a lot of money.
As I have said throughout this post, make sure to do your research. The information provided in this post is of my own personal opinion and for my own situation. This may not be the most economical solution for your situation, so do your homework.
If you have never been to the Orlando area, it can be quite expensive if you do not look around. There are many ways to save money and not sacrifice the quality and experience of your vacation.
This series will give you insight and ideas to make your vacation everything that you dreamed of. We will give you ideas for dining and entertainment that may not be the norm or may be overlooked.
Our next post will discuss setting up reservations, Fast Passes and other entertainment options.
Mark Plante and his family have been visitors to the Orlando area for 15+ years. They are using information, tricks and knowledge that they have accumulated during that time to create this blog.