If you’re planning a family holiday abroad on a budget, sticking to Europe is clearly your best option. However, that doesn’t mean you should say goodbye to your dreams of a Florida getaway. It’s possible to experience the magic of Orlando’s Disney World and the white beaches of Tampa Bay without having to splash out half a year’s salary, especially when there are plenty of free things to do in Orlando. If you’re determined to get the family to Florida and are on a tight budget, here are a few tips that could help you get there on the cheap.
Consider the timing
There are times when it’s cheaper to plan a Florida holiday. Not only are the flights cheaper during these times, but so are the attractions and hotels. Rental car prices and even gas may also be cheaper. The key is to go out of season. Prices tend to shoot up at the middle of May and don’t fall until the end of August. December meanwhile is also expensive due to Christmas. By booking your holiday outside of these dates, you could get a cheaper deal. You may miss out on certain seasonal attractions, but by and large you’ll still get the full experience (less crowds and less heat during these months can also be a good thing). Going out of season could mean taking the kids out of school, so consider the risk of school fines first.
When it comes to how far ahead you book, there are generally two ways to save money on flights and accommodation – either book early or book last minute. Booking last minute can be risky and you may not get seats together on planes or first choice of hotel rooms. By booking early, you have more chance to prepare and a better selection of flights and accommodation, whilst also being able to take advantage of early bird deals. Keep your eyes peeled on sites like Holiday Pirates for Florida early bird deals. Some of these deals may include discounted flight tickets to children and discounted hotel suites. You also have the option to pay for package deals in smaller instalments over a longer period of time. Ten to nine months in advance is the perfect time to grab these deals.
Opt for a package
Package holidays can take the stress out of booking everything individually and can save you money. They can be useful for getting discounts on park tickets or hotels. There may also be other attractions and experiences such as the Kennedy Space Centre, live shows and swimming with manatees that can be bought cheaply as part of packages. You may still save money by booking everything individually, but if you prefer the convenience a package is the way to go.
Look for cheap park tickets online
Don’t wait until you get to the parks or your hotel to book tickets to the likes of Disney and Universal Studios. You’re far better off booking tickets online beforehand. Some online deals even come with free park days such as these cheap Sam’s Club Disneyland tickets. Such discounts tend to be catered for those staying more than four days.
Don’t stay on the park
When it comes to the theme parks, you can expect to pay more for a hotel within the park than a hotel outside the park. Generally, the further away from the parks you stay, the cheaper the rates are. Whilst it can be fun waking up to Disneyland, opting for a hotel a couple miles out could halve the room rates. Many hotels within an hour’s radius have free shuttle buses, so you could save money on having to rent a car (although you may still want a hire car if you plan to explore more than the theme parks).
Take advantage of free activities
Not everything in Florida costs money. Many people plan a wild first week of theme parks and attractions and then a leisurely second week by the beach – if you run out of spending money, you can then still take advantage of the beach each day or just laze around the pool. The kids are still likely to enjoy this. Meanwhile, if you’re willing to drive, there are free attractions that you can try out across Florida such as the Town of Murals tour and National Naval Aviation Museum.
Look out for ‘kids eat free’ restaurants
Even if you manage to book an all inclusive hotel, there may be nights when you want to eat out and try the local US food. Dining out can be expensive, but you may be able to take advantage of ‘kids eat free’ restaurants – family-friendly Florida sports a surprising number of these restaurants.
Budget for tax and tips
In the UK, we’re used to tax being included in the price and tips are generally voluntary. In the US, tax is often added afterwards and tips are the done thing to do wherever you go. Consider these extra costs when choosing places to dine on a budget, otherwise you could get caught out paying more than you intended.
Bring a packed lunch to attractions
You’ll find food stall within the theme park grounds and at various other attractions such as The Kennedy Space Centre. This food isn’t cheap however and you could get easily ripped off spending over $3 for water and $10 for a hot dog. Get into a habit of packing your own lunches – there may be times when you still want to taste the odd novelty snack or drink, but it will save you having to buy lunch everywhere you go.
Use money-saving apps
A number of money-saving apps could be worth downloading before your trip to Florida. If you’re hiring a car, Gas Buddy is also a great app for helping you to save money on fuel by comparing local gas prices in your area. Apps like OpenTable meanwhile allow you to compare restaurant prices and book a table.