Let’s face it, vacationing isn’t cheap. Being on vacation also generally means loosening the purse strings and enjoying luxuries you wouldn’t usually have. Our family has mastered the best of both worlds. We have amazing memory making vacations to Orlando at least once a year and do so without breaking the bank. Here is how we do it:
Rent a house over a hotel room
Most people would be surprised at how much of a home you can get for the same price or less than a hotel room. When I book our vacation, I always use www.vrbo.com*. We found a community just minutes from our favorite theme parks that we absolutely love, and stay there every time we visit. We’ve rented at least 10 different homes in this beautiful gated community and have never paid more than $200 a night.**
When you rent a home, you not only have all the luxuries of home, you also have the conveniences. While it may be enjoyable to some to go out to eat for every meal it’s not so much fun us. We have the rule that breakfasts are made at the home before going out for the day. One reason is it’s a huge money saver (we have 7 children so even a quick breakfast stop at Panera runs at least $45) but our bigger reason is WE THE PARENTS are on vacation too! I’d much rather whip up a quick breakfast of fresh fruit (because fruit is in season year round in FL), toast, and eggs than load up the car and drive anywhere.
You also have other bonuses when renting a home, such as not needing to pack as much for you will have a washing machine and dryer. Regardless of if we are staying one week or four, our amount of luggage is the same. I’ve even found it so much less stressful to do a few loads of wash before we leave so I can pack all their clean clothes back into their suitcases so when we get home it’s one less thing to worry about.
Universal vs Disney
For most people when you hear “Orlando” you think mouse ears. Who doesn’t love Mickey and the gang…. But with the cost of getting to see them going up year after year you may want to take a visit to the other characters in town. I’m talking about Universal Studios, Orlando. We’ve done years of Disney but as our boys got older they made it seem like going there was almost a chore. A chore we’d spend over a thousand dollars to do! It became quite clear that we were going to Disney for us more than them.
Universal keeps our kids fully entertained without emptying out wallets. It’s a savings our kids would never know about because they don’t feel like they are getting any less. In fact, they love it there more than anywhere in Florida. We make our dollar stretch even further by buying annual passes and plan our vacations so we are going twice in the same calendar year (we went April 2013 and then again January 2014 on the same passes). The cost saving is so huge it just makes sense for us. Here is the break-down:
A three day pass at Disney will cost you $274 if you are over 10 years old and $255 if you are ages 3-9. A three day pass at Universal cost $146.99 if you are over 10 years old and $136.99 for ages 3-9. For a family of four you could save $481.04. ($1,058 Disney vs $567.96 Universal)
And if you went with an annual pass the savings is even greater plus you won’t feel the need to spend all day, every day, at the park. For Universal the cost of an annual pass is only $53 more. Here is the savings break down for the annual passes:
Annual pass for Disney $634 EACH (family of four would cost $2,536) vs an annual pass for Universal is $199.99 (family of four would cost $799.96). Cost savings of $1,736.04
Find Kids Nights When Eating Out
Most restaurants have kids nights- Orlando is no exception to this rule. Shoney’s offers one kid eats free with each adult meal- SEVEN DAYS A WEEK. In our family, two teenagers ordering adult meals, so this means our four little kids eat for free. Chili’s offers two kids eat free with each adult when using the coupon on their Facebook page. There are so many offers like these at all over the Orlando area. I usually do a little planning online before vacation and print out the ones that need to be printed and keep the others saved on my phone so we have plenty of options. These deals are not exclusive to chain restaurants; many local establishments offer similar deal.
Happy travels! Have a great money saving tip? Please share it in the comment section below.
*VRBO stands for Vacation Rentals by Owner. The site has homes around the world that are rented out by their owners.
**Here is the home we stayed at a few weeks ago: http://www.vrbo.com/3467307ha for $179 a night we had not one but TWO homes. There is a main house with nearly 3,000 sq. feet of professionally decorated interior along with a guest home complete with its own bedroom, living room, and a full bathroom. It also has a private pool but incase that isn’t enough there are six more pools on the property.
Friday 20th of March 2015
One thing to keep in mind at universal is that, unlike Disney, you are not allowed to bring in any food or drink. This includes water, snacks, etc., so be prepared for the mark up and don't bother packing them as you will have to take them back to the car. Whenever possible I try to look into this before outings as I like to bring my own water bottle, but some places are cool about that and some are not. Having said that, universal is a lot of fun, even for the younger set. My munchkin loved islands of adventure.