Wednesday, 23 January 2019

How To Save Time & Money In Orlando: My Top 10 Tips


orlando on a shoestring budget

I haven't shared much from my trip to Orlando at the end of last year, other than some Instagram posts when I was there, so this is a bit of a two for one kind of blog post. Not only will I be sharing some of my top travel tips but I'll also be showing you some of my favourite snaps that I took on my last holiday.

As you will know, if you've been reading Ellis Tuesday for years now, I have been to Orlando, Florida more than ten times in the past twenty years and as result, have so many tips and tricks that I've picked up over the years.

So here are my top tips for saving time and money in Orlando;

Go during 'holidays'

And no I don't just mean the Summer holidays. What I actually mean are national holidays, ones that the American's really do in style.

There are lots of different holidays to vacation during or in the lead up to. From the obvious ones like Christmas or Halloween, to Epcot's fantastic Food & Wine Festival, beautiful Flower & Garden Festival and amazing Festival Of The Holidays in the run up to Christmas, this only adds to your Orlando experience.

You also get so much more for your money than you ordinarily would, as I'm about to explain.

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Attend a ticket holders only party at the Magic Kingdom

This is one of the biggest tips that I could possibly give in terms of saving time and money. During Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party we waited no more than 10 minutes for any ride in the park and that is almost unheard of during a typical day at the Magic Kingdom. We walked straight onto Splash Mountain, Pirates Of The Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion.

There's also the added bonus of exclusive shows, parades and character meet and greets that only happen at the parties. For example, the Halloween party would be the only place to meet Jack Skellington and Sally, Lotso Huggin' Bear and many of Disney's greatest villains.

The party officially starts at 7pm and this is when guests without a band on their wrist for the party will be asked to leave the park by but you can actually enter from 4pm onwards. This is 3 more hours of park time for your money and a tip that not everyone knows about.

Buy your park and attraction tickets before you fly

This might seem like a bit of a no-brainer but you can save some serious money by buying your tickets in advance versus paying at the gates. We always get our tickets from Florida Tix who I cannot recommend highly enough!

Paying in advance also means that your credit card or spending money won't take a hit when you get there, leaving you more money to spend on making memories and bringing home US goodies that we can't get in the UK (I could easily bring home an entire suitcase full of American snacks and candy!)

universal express pass worth it orlando

Get the Universal Express Pass

Without a doubt, the best 'add on' that we had during our holiday was the Universal Express Pass. It is SO worth the money!

Instead of spending hours (it all adds up) standing in line for your favourite rides, you get to skip the queue and go from a 45+ wait to less than 5 minutes. Universal only sell a certain amount of these passes each day so you won't ever wait more than 10 minutes in an Express line.

We crammed in so many extra rides and even rode some of favourites more than once during the day, all thanks to our Express passes. With the money we saved from some of the other tips in today's blog post, we put that towards our passes and did not regret it in the slightest. We would never go back to standing in the regular lines after trying Express!

Take your own snacks and food to the theme parks

And whilst we're on the topic of theme parks, if you don't plan on having a sit down meal at a theme park, bring your own snacks! The price of a bottle of water or a packet of chips (crisps to us Brits) can be pretty jaw-dropping and not in a good way. If you'll be buying several of them throughout the day, or for multiple people, it soon adds up to quite the amount. I'm talking enough to get yourself a Universal Express Pass kind of money! Make a trip to your nearest supermarket, where you will get multi-packs for the same price of just one item in the parks. It's money you don't have to spend and really shouldn't be.

I've seen people bring entire picnics with them so there's no judgement at all (like you might feel at the cinema, for example) for bringing your own snacks, meals or drinks with you. If you don't want to go as extreme as bringing a literal picnic basket in with you, even just bring a few bottles of water, which you can buy in volume from the likes of Wal-Mart for a few dollars and then fill them up throughout the day for free, will save you money in the long run.

tips for staying offsite at disney world 2019

If you're going with a large group or lots of family; book a villa

As much as I would one day love to stay on Disney property, for as long as we've went to Orlando, we have always booked a villa. If a big group of you are going or you're going with multiple family members, I can't recommend a villa and staying off property highly enough! You have privacy, normally your own pool, sometimes amenities like clubhouses, basketball and tennis courts and play parks, lots of space to roam around and the perfect base for days when you don't want to be out at a theme park or mall all day.

I would say though, unless you want to spend a lot on Ubers or taxis, at least one of your group or family should be confident driving in the US, as the villas are often located about 10-15 minutes drive from Disney and about 30-45 minutes (depending on traffic) from Universal and many of the shopping malls. We honestly wouldn't have it any other way.

Check out the outlets

If shopping is more of your thing, a trip to the outlet malls is a must! I'm not the biggest fan of the outlets on Vineland Avenue (it's just a personal preference as it's always twice as busy as the other outlet mall and I never get anything) but I absolutely adore the ones on International Drive!

My favourite stores have got to be the Kate Spade New York and Victoria's Secret Outlet stores. I'm talking bras for $7.99 each and basically everything under $150 in Kate Spade, which is pretty unbelievable, especially when you consider the prices that we pay here in the UK. I got a leather backpack for under $80 and a leather bum bag for less than $40! Let me know if you'd like to see some of my best outlet finds in another blog post at some point soon.

how to save money at walt disney world

Allot at least a day to Disney Springs

Disney Springs is one of our favourite places to spend our time in Orlando and we often visit it at all times of the day. Go early to get some great pictures before it gets too busy, head there in the afternoon to shop 'til you drop and at night for some incredible dinners and atmosphere.

And the biggest perk of visiting Disney Springs; no parking fees! When you've paid $20+ a few times to park at Universal, Disney or LEGOLAND Florida, you'll soon jump for joy when you see somewhere like Disney Springs with free parking. There are plenty of fantastic restaurants, shops, a cinema, a bowling alley, live entertainment and more.

Buy some of your souvenirs from Wal-Mart or gift shops instead

If you've ever walked through the doors of a Wal-Mart in the US, you will know just how much they manage to stock under one roof. Well, the Wal-Mart's in Orlando and close to the theme parks have all that plus huge Disney and other characters like Harry Potter and Despicable Me etc. souvenir sections. With everything from t-shirts, pyjamas and beach towels to autograph books, it's wise to check your local supermarket (Target and Publix also have sections but they're significantly smaller) before buying at the parks. We also used to bring back quite a few bits like keyrings, magnets and pens from the gift shops located on the US 192. There are definitely still some bargains to be found if you're staying nearby or travelling down that stretch of highway.

Of course there are certain souvenirs that you can only get on Disney property but if you're just bringing home some mementos for family, friends or work colleagues, this is a great way to get more bang for your buck.

how to watch magic kingdom fireworks for free

Visit the Disney resorts and hotels for free

This is a little known travel trick but you can actually visit any of the Disney resorts or hotels for free! Some of the resorts like the Grand Floridian and Animal Kingdom Lodge are true sights to behold and you can also dine at the resort restaurants, many of which are so highly regarded. It's also a great way to get your Dole Whip fix (head to the Polynesian to do this) if you're not visiting Animal Kingdom on this trip or to look for hidden Mickey's without having to fork out for park tickets.

You can even stake out a spot at one of the hotel properties where you'll get a great view of the nightly firework displays, again without having to pay for a park ticket.

So there are my top ten tips for saving time and money in Orlando, Florida. Let me know if you'd like to read more blog posts on my travel or money saving tips.

Have you ever visited Orlando or any of the theme parks mentioned in today's post? If so, what made the holiday special for you? Or have you always wanted to go at some point but thought that it would cost too much money?

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