October 21, 2021
Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando are all popular tourist destinations for families. If you’re looking to visit any of these theme parks on a budget, there are a few things you can do to save money. For example, purchase your tickets in advance and consider staying off-site at one of the many budget-friendly hotels near the parks. You can also bring your own food and drinks into the park, or take advantage of the many discounts available at local restaurants. By following these tips, you can enjoy an amazing weekend trip to Orlando on a budget the bank!
STEPS FOR AN AWESOME WEEKEND IN ORLANDO ON A BUDGET:
Decide on what you would like to do and see while in Orlando:
There is so much to do! It is hard to choose what to fit in just a small weekend timeframe.
I would suggest just picking one or two things to see or get accomplished. Since the start of COVID, travel has been so difficult that it has, blessedly, taken travel from “hustle, hustle, hustle” to “slow and quality time“. If you are the person who hits the ground running and wears yourself out, take this time to try something new for a season. If you are one who enjoys to take things slow, then you are the popular crowd right now! Personally, I am a little of both, depending on the destination and the type of vacation that I am on.
But, a weekend to Orlando has so many big options that it might be best to pick one or two sites and call it done.
Here is a list of some of the options:
- DISNEY’S FOUR LANDS: Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios
- DISNEY SPRINGS
- DISNEY WATER PARKS
- UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
- DISCOVERY COVE
- UNIVERSAL’S ISLAND OF ADVENTURE
- ICON PARK
I would surmise that most people are going to Orlando for the theme parks. I know, for myself, when I am wanting to connect with the outdoors in Florida, I go more towards the coastlines. The only reason that I have ever visited Orlando was to visit a theme park.
And, I am not much for theme parks, might I add. So, one quick weekend of theme parks is good for me. I could not be that person who stayed at Disney for a week or two and hit the park each day.
I would be totally blitzed.
Find cheap flights and hotels online:
How we managed this trip is:
- We took a super cheap flight that only allowed us to bring a carry on
- The resort stay was free
You can find very, very inexpensive flights to Florida through Allegiant and Frontier at particular times of the year. I think that we paid $100 round trip for our tickets through Frontier. We couldn’t rent a car and drive there for that cheap. So, it was a great deal.
The sad part about taking a cheap flight that only allows a carry-on is that it means that I have to leave my big camera back at home. I have my own luggage just for my camera gear. So, I do not get to take it with me on a trip like this.
As for the resort: I bought a blogging course the year prior to COVID and a free four day stay in a resort location of your choice was part of the promo.
Unfortunately, the whole process reeked of a scam. It wasn’t the fault of the ones selling the blogging course–or the fault of the resort. It was a third party company that ended up being very shady.
For starters, they exploited the whole pandemic. Initially, you were supposed to use the free stay within one year of buying your course. But, then COVID happened. So, to be able to still use your stay after lock downs, they charged you a “service fee” to extend your window of use time. It was super shady…and, I told them so!
DON’T GET SCAMMED, LIKE ME.
But, here was the worst part: I booked my stay far in advance. I could only go over a weekend, but they didn’t want to book a weekend. Nowhere in their promo information did they state that it had to be a weekday. But, every single weekend that I tried to book, they would tell me that there was no availability. And, we had to take a weekend trip to Orlando to fit in our work schedules.
I ended up trying to book so far out that I knew that something dishonest was going on.
So, I called the resort and told them which vacation company that I was using and they confirmed that they had more than enough vacancies.
I called the company back and gave them this information and they booked me for a weekend.
Then, just days before our trip and after paying for all of my Disney tickets, airfare and such, the company contacted me and said that they double booked and were calling to cancel my reservation.
They said that the only thing that they were willing to do for me was to move me over to a Holiday Inn Express an hour away from the original resort in Orlando. Keep in mind that the original resort is a destination in and of itself. It is not just a wee hotel on a city corner with a pool in the back parking lot!
I was furious.
NOT ALL WAS LOST, THOUGH.
It took a lot of calls and emails back and forth with the company, the original owners of the blogging course and the resort before it was finally decided that we could stay for our confirmed reservation.
Y’all, I do not have enough money for those kind of hiccups. Maybe someone with a lot of discretionary money would have been pissed, but they could have had pivoted and paid to go somewhere else. I had no options. This was it. If I would have had to pay out of pocket for another resort, I would have been in a major hole and in serious financial trouble. A weekend trip to Orlando on a budget is survival, for me.
WHAT I WOULD SUGGEST CONCERNING LODGING:
Based on our itinerary, we probably should have just stayed inside of Disney; but since this resort was free, I thought that we would vacation at the resort the entire time and then drive over and do Disney for one day–which, we did. But–and no fault of the resort–because it ended up being such a hassle with the reservation, it would have been worth it to deal with Disney directly, if you plan to go to the parks. The whole Disney experience is seamless and worry free. It just costs lots of money!
When we went to Disney for two days back in the summer of 2020, we stayed in Disney at Disney Pop Century Resort. It was the “cheap” (they refer to them as Value Resorts) option within Disney, but it was still very nice, of course. My theory is that you aren’t even in the room enough to make the size or amenities matter, anyway. Is it clean? Does it have a nice bathroom? Yes? I will take it!
Staying at one of these Value Resorts still supports taking a weekend trip to Orlando on a budget.
Westgate Lakes Resort, Orlando
In the end we continued with our stay at The Westgate Lakes Resort Orlando. We did enjoy spending our time there. There were a few drawbacks and some pluses though, which I will talk about below:
- It is like a destination or all inclusive type of resort. You don’t pay just one fee for everything like and all inclusive resort, but you have just about everything there, like:
- convenience store
- and more
- The room was huge! It was like an efficiency apartment with a large soaking tub and full kitchen
- The resort property is very spread out and requires a lot of walking, but they are really good about having staff with golf carts close by if you want a lift.
- I loved that we had everything we needed within the property. We didn’t have to leave for anything.
- The environment was family friendly and the kids had a blast. So, there’s that!
- Their website advertises a waterpark. This part actually had me a bit pissed off. When we got there, the waterpark was all gated off and you had to pay $40 PER PERSON, PER DAY to use it. For starters, I didn’t think it was worth $40 a day, anyway. It looks so huge on the website; whereas, I was very underwhelmed when I saw it and offended when I found out that they charged extra. I had pumped the kids up with “spending our three days in the waterpark” before we left Indiana. We all agreed to take a stand by NOT paying to go in even one day.
- The resort property is so vast that you need to plan for a lot of walking to get anywhere–and, you will get lost very easily.
- Our room was very humid and had a mild humid stench that I just could not get rid of. When I bathed, my hair would not dry when I was in the room (and my hair normally dries within 30 minutes or less).
Research free things to do in the city:
Things that I found that were “free” are:
- DISNEY SPRINGS
- DISNEY’S BOARDWALK
- WEST ORANGE TRAIL
- LAKERIDGE WINERY & VINEYARDS
- ICON PARK
- MOVIE NIGHT AT LAKE EOLA PARK
- VARIOUS ART MUSEUMS IN THE CITY
Really, most of these will cost you something depending on if you purchase food or drinks while there, besides West Orange Trail. But, even West Orange Trail has the option to rent bikes. Let’s just say that these do not have entrance fees.
Bring your own food and drinks, or eat at cheap restaurants:
We ate a lot of food in our room. And, we stayed in and spent quality time together playing games and watching movies together when we weren’t swimming or playing putt-putt..
Luckily, the resort had a little convenience store / grocery store on the property. So, we could order in pizza or buy frozen pizzas to cook back at the room.
Getting a room with a kitchen is always a huge money savings for me since I usually have so many people with me (as a mom to five boys, we go through a lot of food).
As far as eating in the theme parks, I am always blown away by theme park and zoo pricing. So, we eat as little as possibly when inside. I brought some energy bars in my bag to get us through from meal to meal.
I haven’t been to Epcot in so many years, but aside from the reputation that Epcot has, I haven’t found food that I am impressed with inside Disney, yet, anyway.
Use public transportation instead of renting a car:
It takes some time out of your day to sit down and figure up the math of a vacation budget, but it could end of saving you a lot of money; but, if your goal is to successfully plan a weekend trip to Orlando on a budget, you can do it! I believe in you.
I typically rent a car for any trip. I like the freedom having your own mode of transportation provides, but I did the math for this trip and it just did not make any sense to pay for a car.
So, we got a taxi from the airport to the resort. We used the same taxi on the day that we went to Disney. Then, we found and area outside of Disney Springs that had pick up and drop off area for drivers from Uber and such. So, we just grabbed a ride from the line up there. Then, we called the same taxi to take us back to the airport on the last day.
If you are confident making all of the calls and coordinating, then you can end up saving hundreds of dollars this way.
Shop for souvenirs at local stores instead of in the tourist traps:
Just a little secret: you can find a lot of Disney clothing outside of Disney for so much cheaper!
And, of course, we spent a day in The Animal Kingdom. I save money by just going to the park for one day. And, I am not overwhelmed by being in crowds and long lines for the duration of the trip. We just have Epcot left to do (maybe on our next weekend trip?)
If you would like to read about our trip that included Disney, as well, you can read about it at FLORIDA VACATION DURING A PANDEMIC.
A WEEKEND TRIP TO ORLANDO ON A BUDGET, IS MY HOPE FOR YOU
I hope this article has helped you find the best budget-friendly places to visit in Orlando, Florida. A weekend trip to Orlando on a budget is possible! If you have any questions or would like photography tips on photographing your favorite vacation spots, please subscribe below and follow me on Instagram for daily updates! I’ll see you there!
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