An 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, on behalf of our sponsor, the Orlando CVB.

Go off-season

This may sound obvious, but if you can swing atrip 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.


Orlando vacation money saving tips

Get 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 We’ve found there are often deals on the websites, but still call the parks directly to see if there are any unpublished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.


Tips for saving money on a family Orlando Vacation

Psst…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 alone 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.


Tips for saving money on an Orlando vacation: Don't just hit the theme parks!

Don’t limit your Orlando vacation 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]