Orlando is such a popular place for little ones that families on a budget should heed these tips to make the most of their vacation.
Planning ahead and taking advantage of insider tips can not only help vacationers find the best deals, but ensure the most enjoyable vacation for the entire family.
Planning on visiting Walt Disney World Resort? The Orlando Convention & Visitors Bureau provides free general maps, and the Disney themeparks will send you personalized maps for each park, so that families can isolate the shows, attractions and venues of the most interest. If you request it, maps are mailed to your home address in full-color versions. Each theme park also lists height requirements for rides on their respective Web sites, so checking ahead of time will help quell possible disappointments.
Get a ride to major Orlando attractions for only $1? It’s a reality on the I-RIDE Trolley, where a single fare is $1 and package deals are available for those expecting heavier usage. Running daily from 8:30am to 9pm, the I-RIDE Trolley serves hundreds of destinations within the International Drive Resort Area. If planning to navigate Walt Disney World Resort, their transportation systems (monorails, buses and boats) provide free door-to-door access to all four theme parks, water parks, Downtown Disney and all 23 resorts. For visitors to Downtown’s arts, culture and dining scene, a free bus circulator called LYMMO offers guests rides along a 3-mile loop in the heart of Downtown Orlando.
Where to Stay
In Orlando, it isn’t necessary to blow the majority of your vacation budget on a nice and comfortable place to stay. Options abound, ranging from budget accommodations starting at around $50/night to value hotels at around $80/night, to vacation homes, campgrounds and more. For families looking for more comforts of home, the new Point Orlando Resort’s accommodations include a fully equipped kitchen, washer/dryer and continental breakfast daily. Families can also consider a Walt Disney World Resort vacation package which includes lodging at a value hotel plus theme park tickets. For value examples, go to VisitOrlando.com.
Enjoy the world-class attractions in Orlando without breaking the bank. Buying tickets in advance, online, can save not only money, but time as well. If purchased online in advance of arrival, the 2-park unlimited admission can be used for seven consecutive days. Visitors can also save money by purchasing attraction tickets through the Orlando CVB either online at Orlando Ticket Sales or at the Official Visitors Center. Tickets range from the major theme parks and dinner shows to airboat rides and more. It’s also important to note that for most area attractions, children under 3 are free.
If planning a theme park visit, staying at a hotel on property has advantages. For example, guests at Universal Orlando’s three hotels, enjoy free Universal Express front-of-the-line access which means less waiting in line. Guests at a Walt 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 up to three hours after regular park closing. Quench your thirst and take home a souvenir as 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 SeaWorld Orlando, kids can bring their own autograph book for Shamu & Crew characters to sign from 9am to noon near the front gate.
Other Savings Tools
Save up to $500 with an Orlando Preferred Visitor Magicard, the year-round discount card provided by the Orlando CVB. It is valid at 97 area establishments and includes everything from attractions and accommodations to restaurants and golf courses. Download the card at orlandoinfo.com/magicard or order one by calling 800/551-0181.
Pay attention to three magic words, “Kids Eat Free.” Many hotels, and even some area restaurants offer a “Kids Eat Free” dining program under which children can dine for free, per paying adult.
Freebies (Yes, they do still exist)
Keep the little ones entertained without opening the wallet at the Lego Store at Downtown Disney, where anyone is free to stop by the brightly colored bins just outside the store and make their own Lego creation. Twice a day at the Peabody Orlando hotel, visitors can watch the March of the Peabody Ducks as the resident birds walk a red carpet to and from the Royal Duck Fountain. Every Monday morning from 9am to noon, admission is free to Harry P. Leu Gardens, a 50-acre botanical park with the largest camellia collection in eastern North America. The park also runs a free story time program on the third Monday of every month for young children.
Packing to Save
A last-minute purchase or rental of certain items out of necessity can add up quickly. Pack plenty of sunscreen, rain ponchos, water bottles, band aids and even consider bringing along waterproof disposable camera or a stroller. Although many children once they reach a certain age will resist at first, after a long day of walking, he or she may end up begging to be pushed along.
For more information about vacation experiences in Orlando, to order a complimentary vacation planning kit that includes a comprehensive Official Vacation Guide and Orlando Preferred Visitor Magicard, or to purchase discount attraction tickets, visitors can log onto Orlando’s official Web site at VisitOrlando.com or call an Official Travel Counselor at 800/551-0181 (United States and Canada) or 407/363-5872.
While in Orlando, visitors may stop by the Official Visitor Center located at 8723 International Drive, at the southeast corner of International Drive and Austrian Row. The Official Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30am to 6:30pm (closes at 4pm on Thanksgiving, Dec. 24 and Dec. 31 and is closed Dec. 25).
Thanks to the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau for their smart travel tips.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.