10 Tips To Get The Most Bang for Your Orlando Buck - My Family Travels

Families on a budget heading to Florida’s theme park capital should heed these money-saving Orlando tips to get the most bang for their vacation buck. Planning ahead with the help of insider hacks helps uncover the best deals, especially during busy periods like spring break.

Boy watches turtles swim by behind a glass wall at Turtle Trek in SeaWorld Orlando.
If it’s raining and rides close, duck into Turtle Trek at SeaWorld Orlando and don’t waste a precious minute of your top value Orlando vacation. Photo c. SeaWorld Orlando.

Even better! Arrange a complimentary one-on-planning session with Visit Orlando vacation experts to make organizing a vacation easier. Free resources to help vacation planners include a Facebook group and a refreshed Visit Orlando app. There’s also easy access to information on VisitOrlando.com, featuring the latest safe travel guidelines, events calendar, attraction ticket offers and hotel deals.

Money-Saving Orlando Tips for Getting Around

Mural on wall of Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, part of the Downtown Orlando arts district.
Street art and murals, like this one on the wall of Pulse Nightclub, can be accessed by money-saving public transportation in Downtown Orlando. Photo c. VisitOrlando

Save on a rental car by getting a ride to major Orlando attractions for only $2. It’s a reality on the I-RIDE Trolley, where a single fare is $2. (Seniors pay 25 cents; unlimited three-day pass is $7.) Running daily from 8:am to 10:30pm, the I-RIDE Trolley serves the International Drive Resort Area. At ICON Park, for example, there are seven new restaurants, a 400-foot-tall Observation Wheel, and cool thrill rides teens will love. Note that due to reduced capacity during the pandemic, trolley wait times may be longer than usual.

Access Orlando Downtown’s arts, culture and dining scene on a free bus circulator called LYMMO through the heart of Downtown Orlando. More active families should opt for Helbiz, the public bikeshare program offering e-bikes to locals and visitors on an affordable pass system.

Disney World and Universal Orlando have their own transportation systems including free monorails, buses and boats. Ride door-to-door to theme parks, water parks, commercial areas such as Disney Springs and CityWalk and all resorts.

Money-Saving Orlando Tips for Where to Stay

Laser light show at the Marriott World Center Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Families love the poolside laser light show at the Marriott World Center Resort in Orlando, Florida. Photo c. Marriott.com

In Orlando, no need to blow the majority of your vacation budget on a nice, comfortable place to stay. With more than 450 hotels and resorts, there’s plenty of choice. Choose an affordable rental home close to the theme parks, a hotel with an onsite swimming pool (or even its own water park!), luxury accommodations loaded with amenities, camping or any other preference you can dream of.

If the theme parks are your primary interest, book a vacation package bundling lodging at a value hotel plus theme park tickets.

Money-Saving Orlando Tips for Top Attractions

The Simpsons' hometown of Springfield.
The Simpsons’ hometown of Springfield is a favorite destination at Universal Orlando.

Enjoy world-class attractions in Orlando without breaking the bank. Buying tickets in advance, online, can save not only money, but waiting time as well.

Visitors can also save money with orlando theme park ticket deals by purchasing in advance through Orlando Vacation. This local company, in operation for 25 years, offers discounts on area attractions, theme park tickets and even helps with hotel deals and money-saving Orlando vacation homes.

It’s possible to save money at venues such as supermarkets and fast food outlets, which may carry coupons for local discounts. It’s also important to note that for most area attractions, children under 3 enter free.

Let Theme Parks Help Plan Your Day

New paint job on Disney Monorail celebrates the 50th anniversary at the WDW resort.
New lighting shines from a free Monorail at Disney World in honor of the resort’s 50th anniversary celebration, Photo by David Roark, for Disney.

Get everyone on board planning your trip so no one goes home disappointed. There is lots of help. The Disney themeparks have consolidated all the accumulated knowledge from their old trip-planning DVDs into a new site, planDisney Video Library. Use money-saving tips from recent Orlando visitors to isolate the shows, attractions and venues of most interest.

Did you know you could save $65 on each entry pass by buying multi-day passes online? At Universal Orlando, helpful money-saving tips cover passes, hotels and attractions. Hacks include Rider Switch, which lets one parent sit out a ride with little ones at the head of the line, so the other parent doesn’t have to wait for their turn.

Orlando’s summer weather may range from hot and humid to raging thunderstorms with dangerous lightning. Since many of SeaWorld’s top rides and shows — like the other parks — are outdoors and subject to closure during storms, plan ahead which indoor attractions you’ll go to in bad weather.

Insider Money-Saving Secrets to Orlando

Bora Bora Bungalows at Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
Bora Bora Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows sleep up to 8 and are reminiscent of the South Pacific. c. Matt Stroshane for Disney

Planning a theme park visit? If so, staying at a hotel on property has advantages. For example, guests at Universal Orlando’s premium hotels, enjoy free Universal Express Unlimited front-of-the-line access which means less waiting in line. Guests at a Disney World resort can take advantage of Magic Hours where each day one of the Disney theme parks opens an hour early or stays open two hours after regular park closing.

Quench your thirst with a free souvenir. Most Walt Disney World resort hotels offer length-of-stay refillable drink mugs, good for unlimited free refills of coffee, soda, iced tea and hot chocolate at the hotel.

Money-Saving Orlando Tips for Dining Well

Share an Asian feast at the Dragonfly Robata Grill in Orlando, Florida.
Share an Asian feast at the Dragonfly Robata Grill in Orlando, Florida when you take advantage of money-saving Magical Dining Month specials. Photo c. Visit Orlando

Listen up for three magic words, “Kids Eat Free.” Many hotels, and even some area restaurants offer a “Kids Eat Free” dining program so ages 12 and under can eat free with a paying adult. These places try to keep up with culinary trends and may offer vegetarian, or at least healthy, dining options.

For five weeks from late August through September, families can dress up for Magical Dining. The annual program allows top foodie eateries to offer a $37 per person fixed price meal. A portion of the proceeds is donated to charity.

Also, look into adding money-saving meal plans when you review the various theme park vacation packages.

Save Money While Shopping Orlando

M&M World at the Florida Mall in Orlando.
M&M World is only part of the free entertainment for window shoppers at the Florida Mall. Photo c. VisitOrlando.

Orlando wouldn’t be the entertainment capital it is unless shopping (and window shopping) was as much fun as the paid attractions. Keep tiny travelers entertained, for example, by building with the free blocks at the LEGO Store at Disney Springs. Ride ferries at no charge to Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios without a theme park ticket. Park free after 6pm at Universal’s CityWalk and catch dance parties, cooling splash pads for kids and water taxis to the parks.

Most malls, discount outlets and even neighborhood shops have upped their game to make retail entertaining and engaging.

Freebies (Yes, they do still exist)

Camellia in bloom at Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, Florida.
Enjoy a free stroll and the time to chill out with camellias in bloom at Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, Florida. Photo c. VisitOrlando.

Get a feel for Florida communities by visiting two of them, free of charge. Kissimmee’s Old Town is a vintage commercial area of authentic architecture and distinctive storefronts. Shop, dine and explore Old Town at will, plus take in nightly events. Money-saving free favorites are live concerts and the Saturday Night Cruise Car parade of classic cars. The planned community of Celebration, Florida is fun to stroll around and its pretty lanes host performers and free entertainment.

Several area museums offer free hours and money-saving programs; check their websites. Every first Monday, for example, admission is free to Harry P. Leu Gardens. The 50-acre botanical park has the largest camellia collection in eastern North America. Check out Leu Gardens’ free story time program on First Mondays for young children. Local parks and arboretums also offer free programming.

Money-Saving Orlando Tips: Pack with Intention

A last-minute purchase or rental of certain items out of necessity can add up quickly. Pack plenty of sunscreen, rain ponchos, water bottles and Bandaids. Carry a small towel in your daypack for water ride soakings. Consider bringing along a stroller. Although many kids at a certain age will resist at first, after a long day of walking, they may end up begging to be pushed along.

Free Maps and Money-Saving Tips from Locals

For more money-savings tips for Orlando, log onto Orlando’s official Web site at VisitOrlando.com or call an Official Travel Counselor at 407/363-5872 Monday through Saturday. Although the in-person and very helpful Visitors Information Center is currently closed, check their site for other money-savings tips and resources available for 2022 vacations.

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