Everyone knows that a trip to Orlando will put a major dent in your travel budget. Between hotels, food, souvenirs, and the theme parks, your costs can add up quickly. However, it is possible to enjoy everything the area has to offer without spending a fortune.
Travel in the Slow Season
Orlando is a top destination for families, so anytime school is out, including major holidays, spring break, and summer, it will be difficult to find affordable deals around the city. While the area doesn’t really have an off-season, it does have a slow season. If you can schedule your trip for February or September you’ll not only miss the crowds, you also won’t have to deal with the heat and humidity for which Florida summers are known. Additionally, many hotels in Orlando will offer discounted rates or special deals with the theme parks to encourage people to visit.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Image via Flickr by Joe Shlabotnik
Take advantage of the warmth and sunshine that Orlando offers by exploring some of the parks located around the area. Lake Eola Park is a 43-acre park in the heart of the downtown area. The centerpiece of the park is a lake that’s almost one mile in length. Here, you can feed swans, take a walk along the sidewalk that circles the lake, or, for a small fee, rent a swan-shaped paddleboat. At night, you can also enjoy a show where the fountain on the lake comes alive with lights and music.
There’s also the 143-acre Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake, which is one of the best lakes in the state for fishing. The park has several recreational opportunities including hiking trails, a swimming pool, playgrounds, a children’s farm, and a disc golf course. Plus, if you really want to save some money on your lodging, you can rent one of the five cabins in the park or stay at the RV campground.
Choose Your Dining Options Carefully
Meals are one of the most costly items on your list, but with a little planning, you can keep this necessary expense under control. If you know you’re going to spend your day in one of the area’s theme parks, try to plan your large meals away from the park. The parks know they have a captive audience and will charge high prices for all their food. Therefore, if you can eat a large breakfast and a large dinner outside of the park and just have a light snack for lunch, you’ll save plenty of money.
Or, you can purchase a Kids Eat Free Card and save even more money. You can use this card at over 120 restaurants around the city to get a free kid’s meal with the purchase of an adult meal. When you pick up your card, you’ll receive a list of all the participating restaurants, including those for fast food, pizza, steakhouses, and sushi.
Brush Up on Arts and Culture
Whether you need to get out of the sun or you just want to explore some of the area’s unique museums, you can see many of the collections for free if you show up at the right time. The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is known for having one of the largest Tiffany collections in the world. This includes the famous leaded-glass windows, jewelry, lamps, furniture, and watercolors. They also display a large collection of American paintings and pottery. On most days, admission to the museum is $5 for adults, but on Friday evenings everyone can enter for free.
Located on the campus of Rollins College, the Cornell Fine Arts Museum has nearly 5,000 works of art ranging from the 14th century to modern times. The collection includes paintings, drawings, prints, and photographs from such artists as Thomas Moran, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dali. Best of all, the museum has free admission so everyone can see the permanent and rotating exhibitions.
Take a Trip to Celebration
The planned town of Celebration was built by Disney in 1996 and is about 20 minutes from the theme parks. There are around 8,000 people who live in Celebration, but visitors enjoy going to explore the downtown area.
Here, kids are entertained by splashing around in the outdoor fountains and everyone can delight in strolling past the colorful buildings that house shops and restaurants. Depending on what time of year you visit, you can also catch machine generated falling snow or leaves. Best of all, you can get some great deals on hotels further outside the city, such as JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes.
Check Out the Smaller Parks
Image via Flickr by hyku
It’s not just the big theme parks you should visit on your trip to Orlando. The area also offers many smaller parks that are just as fun and much easier on the wallet. Gatorland has been a family favorite since it opened in 1949. It’s home to thousands of alligators and crocodiles, as well as a petting zoo and aviary. For thrills, you can check out the alligator feeding show, alligator wrestling show, and take a ride along the 1,200-foot-long zip line ride that takes you across an alligator pond.
Enjoy Free Activities
Not every activity you do in Orlando has to cost money. For a variety of shopping, dining, and nightlife, head over to Universal’s CityWalk, which is completely free to enter. Here, there are nearly 20 restaurants, almost 10 unique stores, and a mix of entertainment options including live music, mini golf, and a movie theater. There’s also a free water taxi that will take you to the three on-site hotels where there’s even more to explore. One such hotel, Portofino Bay Hotel, has Italian opera singers performing each night in their plaza.
Or, head over to Downtown Disney, which also offers no entrance fee. Popular attractions here include the world’s largest Disney store, almost 40 restaurants, and entertainment ranging from acrobatics to bowling. There’s also a LEGO Imagination Center with building stations inside and a 3,000-square-foot play zone outside.
Do you have any tips for enjoying Orlando on a budget? If so, please share them in the comments below.
Author Bio: Kristen McCalla is a Hipmunk writer and avid blogger who lives in Florida with her husband, cat, and dog. You can find more of her writings and follow along on Google+