A trip to your favourite Florida theme park probably won’t be cheap, especially if you’re travelling with teens and tweens and plan to stay in an on-site hotel and make the most of the park perks.
Flights alone can be pricey, but then you’ve got to factor in the price of a park ticket; however many nights accommodation, plus food and drink for the family and that’s before you even consider park add-ons like fast passes, shuttles and character dining.
There are, however, a ton of things you can do to save money, both leading up to your trip and during your time at the parks. From booking your flights, hotels and park tickets in advance, to planning your time in the restaurants wisely, this post gives you all the tips you’ll need for saving money when booking Florida in 2020 and beyond.
Buy your tickets in advance
The easiest way to save yourself money when planning a trip to Florida is by purchasing your tickets as early as possible. It’s often easier said than done though, especially if you have kids and need to plan your trip around their school term dates – which happen to vary from year-to-year. While it’s not advised to take your children out of school during term, term dates fluctuate ever so slightly from year-to-year, so worst case scenario they’ll only miss one or two days if you go off the previous year’s term dates.
Booking well ahead of your visit will also mean you can explore our wide selection of tickets and combos to find the perfect package for you and your family. Whether it’s our 3-Park Explorer Ticket that gives you unlimited access to all three Universal Orlando Resort parks for 14 days, or our Disney and Universal 9-Park Combo that gives you access to the top two Florida parks, planning a little ahead means you can tailor your trip to what you like on a lesser budget.
Not only does booking ahead save you money, but it will also save you time at the front gate as there’s nothing to redeem.
Sign up to our Destination Florida Facebook group and you’ll be among the first to hear about our latest sales, deals and offers on tickets.
Book with the UK’s #1 Orlando attraction ticket provider
We understand that often, you’re spending a lot of money on theme park tickets for your entire family, so you’ll want peace of mind when booking.
When using an official partner like FloridaTix, you can rest easy that the tickets you’re seeing online are a true reflection of what you’ll receive in the post. You’ll also have a wider variety of tickets to choose from, most of which aren’t even available on the gates.
Besides a great selection of tickets, our product team does everything to ensure you get them well ahead of your travel date. All tickets are sent via Royal Mail and will be with you within 2 to 7 working days, so there’s no anxious wait for your tickets leading up to your trip.
Another huge perk to booking with the UK’s #1 Orlando attraction ticket provider is that we’ll give you the ability to combine your day-to-day tickets with additional parks and one-off events such as Halloween Horror Nights.
On top of that, we’ve created a catalogue of content for you to use before, during and even after your trip. Whether it’s understanding the difference between all three Universal parks, or learning a thing or two about the latest attractions at Walt Disney World, our blogs are there to make your experience fun-packed and hassle-free.
Shop around and book your flights in advance
You don’t need us to tell you that booking your flights in advance will save you cash that can be better spent on accommodation or food and drink in the parks. But besides booking early, it’s essential to know the best times to travel, especially as prices are bound to fluctuate.
A little bit of research will go along way when booking flights to Orlando, as flying during the middle of the week or outside peak season (June-August) is typically cheaper. Though there are no ‘dead’ days at Universal Orlando or Walt Disney World, early September and November are the quietest months, so look at these dates if you’re on a strict budget or want to visit when the crowds are thinner.
Comparing airlines is another way to save money. We’ve all been there: you buy what looks like a good deal, before realising a competitor is offering the same flights for a third of the price. Avoid this by using a flight comparison site like we did below.
Grab a bargain on flights to Orlando
Typically, discounts can be hard to come by – unless you know where to look. But because of the current situation, now’s the time to grab a bargain when it comes to flights to Orlando.
Whether or not you’re an expert in scoping out cheap flights, all it takes is a quick search on Skyscanner to find some incredibly tasty prices on flights from London to Orlando (MSO) – which is the closest airport to Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World.
Here are a couple of direct flights that we found from London to Orlando:
Outbound: Sun, 6 Sep 2020 / Return: Sun, 20 Sep 2020
Flying on a Sunday isn’t ideal, but if you don’t mind it and you’re planning a 2 week trip early September, this is a great flight package for under £400! It’s also worth mentioning that Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World will be running during these dates, so it’s a double win!
Slow-Season (Jan-Feb) *Hotels tend to offer their best rates during this time
Outbound: Wed, 3 Feb 2021 / Return: Fri, 12 Feb 2021
As we mentioned, slow-season for the parks typically means cheaper hotels, but it also means flights – and here’s your proof! These flights will give you a full week at your chosen theme park with a day or two either side.
Consider driving to Universal Orlando
If you’re travelling in a large group with friends or family members, splitting the cost and driving is a much cheaper alternative to flying. Renting a car in Orlando can cost as little as $30 per day, so when you compare that to the price of a flight, it’s a big saving before you’ve stepped foot through the gates. Obviously, that’s before you’ve factored in the fuel cost and other charges that usually apply, but still.
Another perk to driving is that you can bring as much luggage as you need without having to pay extra for it. This could be massive for families that live in the US and need to pack large items like a pram or stroller.
Bear in mind that during peak holiday seasons, car rental in Orlando will become more popular and considerably more expensive. So again, we recommend that you book in advance.
Research hotels to find the best prices
Just like your flights, it helps to research the hotels as far in advance as possible. If you’re familiar with the hotel set-up at Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World, you’ll know what there’s a long list to choose from – depending on your budget.
To make life easier, narrow it down to your absolute favourites before spending too much time looking at their prices. All hotels – including the ones on-site – will offer their best packages during slow season (Jan to mid-Feb), which is also when flights to Orlando tend to be cheaper. Notice the pattern?
It’s also a good idea to book a hotel with a daily shuttle to and from the parks to save money on taxis, trains and parking. Most on-site hotels have pretty good transportation links, however, some have better than others with direct links running all day until 11pm.
At Universal Orlando, Cabana Bay Beach Resort is one of the best affordable hotels, with relatively cheap rooms and a free shuttle. The latter is huge in terms of money-saving when you consider it’s $25 per day to park and $4-6 per rider on the Lyfts. Other perks to booking Cabana Bay is that you get 1-hour early admission to the parks, and access to an on-site Starbucks which is ideal for grabbing a cheap and cheerful bite to eat.
If Walt Disney World is your choice of theme park, depending on who you are travelling with, Disney’s All Star Resort and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort are two of our top picks for families and romantics on a budget. Both have fairly cheap rooms, great pools, entertainment centres, free airport transportation and are situated relatively close to the park.
Plan your time in the restaurants wisely
Food isn’t free, especially at theme parks, where some of the best and most iconic restaurants serve up a selection of menus that cater to all budgets, tastes and dietary requirements.
If you go without a plan and eat out three meals a day, you’ll see a dent in your bank balance when you get home. Plus, checking out the food on offer is essential if you have strict dietary requirements, I mean, you wouldn’t go to a new restaurant in your local city centre without gawking over the menu first, would you?
Not only will a little research tell you everything you need to know about a restaurant’s menu, but it will also give you a rough idea of how much to budget for food.
Of course, you only need to budget for food and drink if it’s not included with your ticket. If you’re thinking of planning a trip to Discovery Cove, all tickets come with all-inclusive food, drink and parking – no matter what dates you pick.
Pack snacks, and plenty of them
Snacking in the parks is essential if you want to save money on food and drink. Consider filling up at breakfast if it’s included at your hotel, and maybe eat mid-afternoon or opt for light snacks instead of a big lunch. Pack plenty of fruit, nuts and seeds to keep your energy levels up, and eat out at the restaurant on the evening after a long day in the parks.
The golden rule to saving money on food and drink is to eat out once a day – early and late if you want to avoid the mad rush.
Pack reusable water bottles or buy a Universal Coke Freestyle Cup
One of our favourite travel tips for money-savvy parents is to pack reusable water bottles for everyone. Having fun is thirsty work but bottled water can get pricey.
At Epcot, water refills are (healthy and) easily accessible, as there are tons of refill points dotted around the park. Universal, however, has far less self-serve refill points and you’ll need to visit a restaurant or service counter.
If you don’t fancy water, Universal’s Coke Freestyle cups or Disney’s Rapid Fill mugs can be purchased at various stalls for $9.99 or $19.99 with unlimited refills.
Book a hotel with a kitchenette
Another way to save a buck on food and drink is by choosing a hotel with a kitchenette. Eating out is the third-largest expense after tickets and accommodation, so it’s definitely worth it if you’re on a tight budget and don’t mind cooking when you’re away.
Windsor Hills hotel has rooms that feature a full kitchen, complete with an oven, kettle, toaster, microwave, fridge, and plenty of cupboards to store your food. Though it’s not the most luxurious kitchen you’ll ever step foot in, it has everything you and your family need to enjoy a decent meal and feel at home.
Bear in mind that Windsor Hills hotel isn’t an on-site hotel. It is, however, just a short 15-minute drive from both Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World, so it’s a great option if you have a combo ticket to both parks.
Make the most of all three parks!
The last thing you want after spending a lot of time and money getting to Orlando is to return home feeling unsatisfied. One way to ensure this doesn’t happen is by spending more days at the parks. Now I know what you’re thinking: “this is a money-saving post and you’re telling me to spend more on tickets”.
Well, you’re wrong! On FloridaTix you can now get a 3-park ticket for the same price as a 2-park, giving you access to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay. With access to all three parks, there’s no chance you’ll be returning home feeling unsatisfied.
Great perks for staying on-site
Several of the on-site hotels give you a free fast pass for each day you stay there, which is a great money-saving technique if you consider the price of a fast pass ($40) per day. This applies to the Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay and Loews Royal Pacific hotel.
Another perk to staying on-site is an hour early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As a standout attraction at Universal Orlando – and a pretty enormous one at that – this is a huge perk that will give you first dibs on the best rides and allow you to explore without the normal shoulder to shoulder traffic.
Enjoy a day away from the parks
The big Florida theme parks can get a little hectic, especially during the school and summer holidays. As well as giving you a break from the crowds, taking a day or two out of the parks can further reduce your budget.
There are plenty of parks, lakes and beaches surrounding the parks that don’t cost a penny to enjoy. If you think you’ll enjoy a gentle walk through nature or a quick dip in the sea, then you should be sure to check these out if you want to save money or recharge your batteries.
If you don’t fancy breaking up your time in the parks with a trip to the beach, perhaps add it on to the end of your holiday and relax before your flight home.
Budget for souvenirs before you go
Sure, it takes an element of excitement away as there will be fewer spontaneous purchases, but budgeting for souvenirs is key if you want to keep your budget down. The easiest way to do this is by leaving your credit card at home (or at the hotel) if you have one. Also, buying things with cash allows you to know exactly what you’re spending.
Try to avoid buying unnecessary souvenirs to remember your trip by, and instead, take lots of photos! If you are heading to the shops, stick to one or two smaller items – and make sure you have a use for them. Things like mugs, fridge magnets and keyrings are great as they are relatively cheap but also unique to Universal.
Have a great time and happy saving!
By now you should have enough tips on saving money in Florida. Though it may seem a little bit extra to plan everything out like this, if you do, you’ll be patting yourself on the back when you check your bank balance on the way home.