The Cool Mom Picks guide to a cooler Orlando vacation. Part 1: Money saving tips.

pluto at disneyAn Orlando vacation is pretty much a requisite at some point in your life once you’ve had kids, right? It’s like you hit the L&D ward and they give you breastfeeding advice, a swaddling tutorial, and coupons for Sea World.

While an Orlando vacation may be less expensive than international trips, it still makes sense to take advantage of all the money-saving tips you can. After all, wouldn’t you rather spend any extra hard-earned cash on one great dinner out at Emeril’s (and a baby sitter) than overpaying for a hotel room?

Having been there a ton ourselves, we’ve put together some of our favorite frugal Orlando tips just for you:

Go off-season. This may sound obvious, but if you can swing a
trip on January 5 instead of December 20, or head down early summer
instead of spring break week, you will definitely score hotel and food
deals. You’ll also avoid total airline insanity. Unless you’re one of
those close enough–and brave enough–to road trip.

sea worldGet your theme park tickets right away.
Prices go up once a year, so you want to make sure you reserve yours
earlier than later. We’ve found there are often deals on the websites,
but still call the parks directly to see if there are any unpublished
specials. (Sneaky!) Plus getting them in advance can save a whole lot of
time waiting on crazy lines with hot, restless kids–something we’ve
both been through and uh, don’t recommend.

Save money on breakfasts by eating in your room.
It’s no fun paying $19.95 for an all-you-can-eat buffet, when all your
kids can eat is one pancake. (Or is that just Liz’s kids?) Consider a
hotel with a kitchen or at least a fridge for milk, yogurt, juice.

BYO snacks.
As you can imagine, a liter of water at a theme park costs more than a
gallon of gas. Bring your own snacks, and even sandwiches for the kids.
Some people even pack a whole extra suitcase just for snacks if you’ve
got a big family.

Just keep in mind that if you take that Disney
bus right from the airport, you don’t stop anywhere else along the way
(which is the point). Even so, if you’re staying more than a few days, a
cab to a nearby grocery store to stock up may be totally worth it.

lisa and bart at universal studiosPsst…want to get a free fast pass?
It’s a little known trick that if you stay at the hotels at Universal
Orlando Resort, your room key acts as a free cut-the-line card at both
of their theme parks. Which means you can ride the Spiderman ride four
hundred million times before lunch! (Okay, not quite.)

 For some people,
this benefit makes it worth it to stay at Universal, even if you’ll only
be at their theme parks for a couple of days out of your trip. Besides,
hello? New Harry Potter attraction!

Don’t pull a “We’ll buy it when we get there.”
As with any trip, you’ll save money if you remember to bring your
batteries/pain reliever/diapers/bathing suits with you. The checked
luggage fee may still not be as expensive as the price of a pack of
diapers in a theme park gift shop so weigh the benefits.

orlando botanical gardensDon’t limit your Orlando trip to theme parks.
There are plenty of cool things to do in Orlando that don’t cost what a
day at a theme park costs. A day chilling out by the hotel pool, cheap
seats to an Orlando Tuskers game, or even a morning at the Harry Leu
botanical gardens downtown might end up being one of your favorite days
in Orlando.

Agree with our tips? Disagree? Have any of your own money-saving suggestions in Orlando for our readers? We’d love to hear them!

Cool Mom Picks is delighted to be partnering with our sponsor, the
Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau for this 3-part series. Find more
about Orlando or plan your Orlando vacation at
[pluto photo: bill gookin]

Cool Mom Staff

We spend our time looking for cool stuff so you don't have to. Hope this one fits the bill.


  • Reply August 16, 2010


    One tip I LOVED on our last trip to Disney is to order snacks/water/diapers from They deliver all groceries to your room if you are staying on the disney property. We ordered water and snacks for the kids (to take to the park everyday) and were staying in a room with a kitchenette so we ordered breakfast foods for morning! It can be ordered before your departure and will be there upon your arrival. It saved us ever having to think about it and paying the extortion Disney prices!

  • Reply August 16, 2010


    I completely agree with these tips, after having a wonderful vacation to Disney World with our 5 and 2 year old girls last March. We didn’t set our expectations too high or plan too much into each day, so being realistic about what we would actually do saved us a lot of money. Our best money-saver was staying just outside the park rather than on Disney property. Even with the cost of a rental car, we saved hundreds of dollars by being able to grocery shop and pack our own breakfasts and lunches, eating at reasonably priced restaurants for dinner, and we loved the freedom of coming and going as we wanted. We also were glad we went a few weeks before spring break season, which saved a lot of money and also meant we hardly waited in any lines- totally priceless when you’re traveling with kids!

  • Reply August 19, 2010


    I live 45 min from Disney and one tip I can give is that there is so much more to do in the area besides disney – i live at the beach and it is a direct route and 45 min and beautiful and FREE!

  • […] more advice? See our posts on: Money saving tips in Orlando How to have a cooler Orlando vacation with kids under 5 Tips on doing […]

Reader Comments