As we face the January blues, many of us are booking our next holiday to give us some sun to look forward to¹. A popular place for soaking up some vitamin D is Orlando, Florida, which boasts approximately 237 days of sun all year round.
But with the USA often considered a dream destination, it can easily get pricey. So, how do you plan a trip to Orlando without it costing you an arm and a leg? Surprisingly, it’s not as difficult as you might think if you know where to look for the best deals.
To help you plan the perfect trip from airport arrivals to discounted dining, Abby Dunn, Marketing Manager at holiday provider Ocean Florida and Florida enthusiast having visited a whopping 42 times already, shares her top tips and tricks.
Explore your airport arrival options
Dunn says: “While you might think it makes most sense to fly straight into the Orlando International Airport (MCO), you can often find cheaper flights to other airports within the area. Tampa, for example, is just a 90-minute drive away from the parks and offers a much wider range of transatlantic flight options. Depending on where you’re flying from, this could be a huge money saver.
“If you’re planning on hiring a car regardless, flying into Tampa is especially convenient as you can collect your rental straight from the airport. For those looking to explore the Gulf Coast beaches as well as the thrills of Orlando, this is a great option.”
Dunn mentions: “With any large trips it’s always smart to book as far ahead as you can. This will get you better prices for your travel and allow you to spread the cost of the trip over many months. With Ocean Florida for example, you can book up to three years in advance to help with this.
“Same goes for your theme park experiences as well. It’s always best to book ahead where possible. For example, reservations for table-service restaurants at Disney open a full 60 days in advance of the booking, giving you plenty of time to grab cheaper packages or opt for a ‘character dining experience’ before they sell out.”
“If you can, try to book the breakfast character experiences, as these can be up to 40% cheaper than lunch or dinner time bookings! Opting into the restaurant mailing lists can also allow you to get free discount codes up to two weeks before your arrival.”
Park for free after 6pm
Dunn adds: “Most people don’t realise that you can actually park for free at Universal if you arrive after 6pm, excluding Halloween Horror nights. This is not only a cheaper way to visit the park, but it can often be much more pleasant as crowds die down and wait time is reduced – plus the weather becomes cooler.”
“In addition, visiting the park at night can allow you to experience it from a whole new perspective, whether you’re up for the bars and nightclubs at Universal CityWalk, or are keen or riding your favourite coasters as the sun sets.”
Bonus Tip: “Some visitors say that if you approach the parking booths at Disney during the day whilst singing your favourite Disney tune, you may be granted free parking for getting into the spirit!”
Stay at a villa and make your own food
Dunn explains: “While the food at Disney is a source of entertainment in and of itself, it can be quite pricey, especially if you’re buying several meals a day. By considering a villa stay as opposed to a hotel, allows you to save by making breakfast and other meals at home where possible. If your preference is still a hotel, some, such as Drury Plaza Orlando, also offer complimentary dining packages should you prefer.
“Disney even allows visitors to bring snacks into the park, in case you or your children need a little boost of energy to get you through the day.”
Order from the kids menu
Dunn says: “All of the theme parks in Orlando will usually provide a kids menu, but don’t be fooled- the portion sizes are actually fairly regular and can be purchased by anyone, not just children. Ordering off the kids menu is a great way to save some extra cash and make sure you don’t waste any food.”
“For saving on general dining costs, Ocean Florida provides a VIP Shop & Dine4Less card and a Kids Eat Free card with every booking, which can help you save up to 25% on 40 restaurants across Florida, and includes shopping and attraction discounts too.”
Visit the Orlando Premium Outlet to save on merch
Dunn recommends: “Resisting the urge to buy merch while you’re in the park can be a tricky feat, especially if you have young kids. However, setting aside a day to visit the Orlando Premium Outlets instead could save you a lot of money.”
“This hidden gem has everything you could dream of, including Spirit Jerseys, seasonal products, high-end fashion, jewellery, and even items sourced from various Disney parks across the globe, all available at substantial discounts.”
Consider booking a multi-centre trip
Dunn advises: “Not many people are aware that if you stay onsite at a Premier Plus hotel at Universal Resort Orlando, even if only for a few nights, you are entitled to the highest tier, two park Express Pass all within the price of your stay. Not only does this pass allow you to cut wait times in half when queueing for rides, but getting a complimentary pass means that you could be saving up to £379.99 per person!”
“Hotel Express Passes are available to use on all days within the hotel booking, including check-in and check-out days. Therefore, combining a short stay at a Premier Plus hotel with a longer stay outside the park area is a great budget-friendly option if you still want to get the full Universal experience.”
Spend some time outside the theme parks
Dunn mentions: “While this may sound counterintuitive, try spending some time outside of the theme parks and by the pool or around Orlando itself. Orlando is home to a wealth of museums, parks, attractions and culture, many of which are free. Not only will you need those more restful days to recharge but doing this will save you a lot of money. There are so many wonderful things to see and do that it would be a shame to miss out.”
“If you’re not sure where to go, consider a package that includes access to several of Orlando’s best attractions, such as Gatorland, Wild Florida Safari or Old Town Kissimmee. Those who book a Florida package holiday with us for example, are able to pick one of five free attraction packages, worth up to $549.”
About Ocean Florida
Part of the Ocean Holidays Group, Ocean Florida is Europe’s largest independent Florida travel specialist, specialising in package holidays to Florida.
With headquarters in Romford, and an office in Kissimmee, with 24/7 availability, just a few miles from Walt Disney World Florida, The Ocean Holidays Group continues to innovate and evolve within the travel industry.
The Ocean Holidays Group is a privately owned, family-run business founded in 2004 by two sets of brothers: Daniel and David Ox, and George and Harry Hastings, who are still very much active in the business today. One of the fastest growing travel companies in the UK, the group consists of three distinct travel brands; Ocean Florida, the largest direct-to-consumer Florida specialists of their kind in Europe; personalised travel management company, Winged Boots which leads in luxury leisure followed by business travel; and Ocean Beds, the largest worldwide provider of Florida vacation home rentals to the global travel trade.