For many families, the dream vacation is Florida and I’m not surprised. Having been there a handful of times in just a couple of years, I know first hand how the magic can capture your imagination.
I’ve put together this guide to visiting Orlando, Florida for solo-travellers, couples and families who are looking to visit the home of the mouse.
Before you go anywhere you’re going to need travel insurance. Travel insurance covers you for small things such as loss of baggage or much more major things such as illness or death abroad. Whilst it isn’t compulsory I personally wouldn’t go anywhere outside of the UK without it.
Helen and I both have travel insurance as part of a service with our bank. If you don’t have travel insurance already then I recommend using a comparison service such as Go Compare to find the cheapest / most suitable insurance policy for your needs. For the purposes of this study let’s say that you don’t have travel insurance but you manage to pick up an annual travel insurance policy including the USA for £10.00.
The cost of parking your car at an airport is always one that hits me hard!
We’ve previously travelled by train to the airport and by bus, to save ourselves a couple of pounds, the hassle has never been worth it. Especially after a long haul flight – you just want to get home.
The cost of parking at an airport varies drastically based on airport and time of year but with a couple of simple tricks, you should be able to get four or five nights for around £25 for the entire car. Depending on how many people you travel with this could significantly reduce the cost per person.
I’d always recommend seeing how much you can save parking with Just Park. Either at someone’s home or at various retail or commercial points. I use it a lot myself to pre-book parking spaces at a reduced rate especially in big cities such as London.
I have an American Express Card that entitles me to free access to many airport lounges worldwide. Even if I didn’t have access to the airport lounges in many cases (especially when flying long haul) it’s something I’d consider. Unlimited food and drinks (including alcohol) for around £15 – £20 per person isn’t bad going for an airport.
Orlando, Florida has two airports; Orlando International Airport and Sanford Airport.
Whilst there isn’t a major difference in price between the two, there is in availability – and you’ll often find yourself flying into Sanford.
Availability, of course, affects the price, so if you’re planning Walt Disney World on a budget then flexibility is key.
The final factor aside from the airport you travel to and from is the time of year you choose to travel. The four weeks between the middle of August and the middle of September can cut your flight bill by two-thirds.
Therefore if you have no educational commitments I’d suggest finding a time where children in both the UK and USA are in school – this is also going to help you when it comes to visiting the theme parks as they’re likely to be quieter.
You must obtain an ESTA before travelling to the USA from the UK. Put simply this is the American visa. It costs £10.70 to apply for an ESTA and you can do it from home using your computer.
The process is simple and straightforward and more often than not you’ll get an automatic response. Once you’ve been approved the ESTA will last for two years.
Regardless of which airport you travel to, once you arrive you’re going to need to get to your hotel. Public transport in Orlando isn’t the same as visiting a city in America and is much more disjointed. It’s therefore, important you plan ahead when it comes to transport to and from the airport.
Depending on your party size and the hotel or villa you are staying at will depend on the most cost-effective and best method of transport not only from the airport to your accommodation but also in getting around Orlando.
If you choose to really push the boat out and stay in a Disney resort hotel then you can expect free transfers to, and from the airport. You can also expect free transport to and from the Walt Disney World parks.
However, that’s it… no trips to Sea World, Universal Studios or any of the fantastic Malls that Orlando has to offer. Alternatively, you could opt for hiring a car…
Hotel / Villa
Assuming there’s only two of you its probably going to be cheaper to book into a hotel. A drawback to this is often being unable to cook for yourself like you could in an apartment or villa.
However, you’ll save money just being in the hotel over a villa and eating out in the USA – Orlando especially is ridiculously cheap. 14 nights in three-star hotels in Orlando start from just £526 including tax (exchange rate dependent) – that’s less than £265 each.
Alternatively, if you’re travelling in a party of four or more then a villa is likely to be the more practical and cheaper option. Take for example a villa suitable for seven. Here you can expect to pay as little as £950, that’s £135 per person – half the price of a hotel (based on seven people sharing)
If you’re only visiting for a short period of time, or fancy splashing out then consider checking out Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. This is a new resort that’s recently opened on-site at Universal Studios.
Theme Park & Attraction Tickets
Without a doubt, the largest expense when compared to a traditional holiday is the added cost of the theme park and attraction tickets whilst visiting Walt Disney World.
However, if you know where to look it doesn’t have to be. The cost of the theme park and attraction tickets can be dramatically reduced if you plan ahead.
This starts by deciding the parks you want to visit; If you’ve been to Orlando, Florida before you’ll know that it can be hard to fit everything in. In fact, most people recommend a rest day between each park whether it be a Universal, Walt Disney World or other theme parks in and around Orlando Florida.
This is because an average day at a theme park in Orlando Florida can last up to 12 – 14 hours. It, therefore, comes as no surprise to find that the average person walks a total of 8.5 miles around an average Orlando, Florida theme park. It’s therefore, important to decide what theme parks you view as ‘essential’ before visiting.
The USA has no shortage of food and Orlando is no different. Now, you may have heard horror stories when it comes to the cost of eating at theme parks in Orlando, but the truth is it’s the same price as it is in UK theme parks… Except for the fact, the portion sizes are double!
This means that if you’re willing to compromise it’s reasonable to expect two of you to be able to share one main meal – perfect for lunch at the theme parks. If you’re staying in a hotel then eating out isn’t a problem, there are hundreds of buffet restaurants between the different theme parks and hotel villages and you can expect to pay between $7.99 – $12.99 per person – this is perfect for an evening meal.
If you’re staying in a villa then again there are savings to be made if you’re willing to all chip in and cook a little. Head down to your local Walmart and fill a trolly full of snacks to take to the theme park (be sure to choose foods that aren’t going to go bad from the heat) and ingredients to make meals.
Throw in some easy options such as pizza for those nights you get in late. £10 per person, per day on food may not seem like much but it’s easily achievable if you’re willing to make small compromises to make your Walt Disney World on a budget possible.
This one is simple, we didn’t buy any. There were loads of things we loved, but most of all we loved the memories we made and the photos we took. By choosing not to bring souvenirs back for ourselves and others we saved around £50 each – which is going towards our next holiday!
If you’re someone who LOVES Disney supplies and souvenirs then check out our post on how to save money at Walt Disney World for ideas on how you can get reduced rate souvenirs!