This year prices are going up again for popular Orlando attractions. This will turn some folks off, but for those for whom Disney or Universal is a rite of passage or a treasured family vacation, here are some ways to save on an Orlando trip:
- Off-site hotels: Options abound for different types of visitors. Finalize your list of attendees before hunting for an Orlando hotel deal. Apartment-style condo units are common in the area and can often fit four or more travelers in one room. Another benefit to condo-style properties is that they often come with kitchenettes and other amenities of home, like washer-dryers and separate living areas and bedrooms. Because these hotels are so geared toward family stays, many have fun features for kids like playgrounds as well. Note that these places often charge a daily resort fee, yet it goes to a more comfortable stay. The fees can cover everything from breakfast to in-room Wi-Fi to shuttle service to the parks, which saves on parking and time.
- Staying on site: If you can find a deal that fits your budget for a Disney Resort hotel, guests receive these extras: complimentary airport service, resort transportation and parking plus extended theme park hours -- Extra Magic Hours -- in which guests get exclusive access to select attractions at one of the theme parks one hour before or after regular hours. You can also save at official Disney hotels that are on the resort property but not owned by Disney, such as the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort.
- Travel at the right time of year: If you're looking to take advantage of summer vacation time, the period from mid-May to mid-June and Aug. 15 - Sept. 30 can be a great summer period to find a deal at the theme parks as school year dates vary across the United States. Peak season times in Orlando are February-March (spring break), June-August (summer vacations), Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday weeks. For the lowest rates, target January, April-May and September-October, as these are less popular times to visit.
- How to find cheaper flights: Think weekday arrival and departure dates when looking at fares. Flights on Fridays and Sundays will be more expensive. Our airfare experts at Fly.com advise to be flexible with travel dates and to try searching from nearby airports (which Fly.com does automatically) to save money. Typically airfare is cheaper to book during the week because airlines release sales Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so don't save your vacation planning for the weekend!
- Check parks' own offers: Disney typically has at least one deal live on its Special Offers page. Discounts can range from stays at Disney Resort hotels to shows to park passes. There are also discounts for Florida residents and military members and their families; create a profile to access these offers. Universal Orlando also includes hotel, park pass and show discounts on its Hot Vacation Deals page.
- Get multi-day passes: The longer you stay, the less you pay per day. Guests who buy a five-day ticket packages save more than30 per person, per day (ages 10 and older) compared with one- and two-day passes. For guests with less time to travel, buy the Park Hopper Option (approximately60 more per person per day) that allows you to visit all four of the theme parks in one day vs. one per day with the Base Ticket option. Also, when guests upgrade to a Magic Your Way package with minimum four-day theme park tickets, they get one more day free.
- Use Local Deals: Give yourself, and your wallet, a break from the parks by using deals at spots around town. Download the Travelzoo mobile app to instantly get Orlando local deals on meals and entertainment.
- Dine at Disney: Disney often offers specials that include a Disney dining plan that make it more affordable to eat on-site, and could save up to 15%. Valid at over 100 restaurants, they range from basic Quick-Service Dining plans to a robust Platinum Package. Travelzoo Deal Experts have found that quick service options usually are filling enough for both lunch and dinner.
Hilary Solan is an editor at Travelzoo and based in Chicago. Travelzoo has 250 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value. Joanna Richler, one of Travelzoo's Disney gurus, contributed to this report.