Travel Benét on a budget: Saving on an Orlando family vacation
The 10 best Orlando hotels for large families
As families grow, there can come a time when a standard hotel room with two queen beds just isn’t going to cut it. Large families – or those traveling with extended family – need more beds, more storage and, let’s face it, more privacy. If a visit to Orlando is on the horizon for your …If a visit to Orlando is on the horizon for your family, and you need — or want — more space than a standard hotel room can provide, there are certain properties that will better suit your needs than others.
Editor’s note: This is a new monthly column by senior editor Benét J. Wilson on how to travel comfortably on a budget without sacrificing fun or enjoyment.
I became a bargain hunter as a kid sitting at the feet of my paternal grandmother, who hated paying full price for anything.
Growing up, it was common to see her wearing items she’d reimagined with her sewing machine. Rather than buy an ensemble new off the rack, she’d purchase damaged clothes that she could put her own spin on, turning once discardable items into stylish, one-of-a-kind pieces.
This is Disney World’s most budget-friendly hotel for large families
There are more than two dozen resorts at Walt Disney World where your family can rest their weary heads (and tired feet) after a long day at the parks. While Disney offers a variety of accommodation options, ranging from standard rooms with two queen beds to multibedroom villas and treehouses, at its properties, for a …While Disney offers a variety of accommodation options, ranging from standard rooms with two queen beds to multibedroom villas and treehouses, at its properties, for a quick three-night visit like the one I recently took with my husband, three children and mother, it didn’t seem like the right time to splurge on a high-end suite or luxury cabin, especially since my family would be spending the bul
While I don’t take the same approach to my wardrobe as my grandmother, sticking to a budget when I travel is incredibly important to me. I constantly seek out travel deals around the globe rather than chasing points and miles (except when it comes toand ). In fact, I’ve visited , and by snagging low airfares and great hotel deals when they arose.
I decided to put my bargain-hunting skills to use for a longin March. Here’s how I stretched my dollars further to plan a fun (yet affordable) vacation in for a group of five adults and three teenagers.
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I branched out beyond my preferred airline for flights
I am the residentat The Points Guy, so I always check the airline’s website first for flights. But after seeing round-trip fares of more than $1,200 for my teen and me between and , I went to plan B: .
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information. Whether you’re somebody who has flown just a few times or you’re a serious AvGeek, there’s a certain magic in watching planes take off and land. Even though flying has become commonplace in the century since the Wright Brothers went to Kitty Hawk, we still …Whether you’re somebody who has flown just a few times or you’re a serious AvGeek, there’s a certain magic in watching planes take off and land. Even though flying has become commonplace in the century since the Wright Brothers went to Kitty Hawk, we still marvel at 100 tons of aluminum roaring above us.
I know, I know — Spirit isn’t the carrier of choice for some travelers. However, after having two good experiences with the airline during a trip toin 2017 and another to in 2018, I decided it was worth considering the ultra low-cost carrier again for this adventure.
Even after paying for a checked bag and seats for two people round-trip, I still spent less than half of what the Southwest flight I was originally eyeing would have cost. Plus, the two-hour flight ended up being surprisingly comfortable, aside from the tiny seatback trays and the inflight credit card announcements.
I pivoted when choosing a rental car
I’ve always been a big fan of Hotwire when it comes to reserving a rental car. Not only does it often generate great prices, but many times, I’ve even received upgrades when I’ve rented through the site.
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For this trip, I needed transportation that could comfortably handle eight riders. Luggage wasn’t an issue since all of us (except for my kid) hador small carry-ons. Unfortunately, not only did Hotwire lack inventory for eight-person cars, but the site’s rates were also shockingly high.
So, I once again went to plan B. In this case, that meant turning tothat lets you rent privately owned vehicles.
I was able to find an eight-seat 2018 Honda Odyssey minivan in pristine condition for the comparatively bargain price of $558.71, which was about $200 less than a minivan would have cost me through Hotwire.
The price included a full tank of gas, basic supplementary insurance, 800 miles of use and a pickup and drop-off of the van at Parking Garage A at MCO. I communicated with the car’s owner via the message section of, so I knew exactly how to locate the vehicle.
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Once I had landed and was ready to retrieve the car, it was unlocked remotely by the owner for me to use. The key was left in the glove compartment, so rather than wait in a long line at a car rental desk, I was able to pay the $3 parking fee and quickly depart.
The process to return the car was easy, too. I parked the car in the same area, took 10 photos of the car inside and out, uploaded them to the app, put the key and parking ticket in the glove compartment, sent a message to the owner explaining where the car was located, left it unlocked as instructed and walked to the terminal, again avoiding a wait at the rental car return desk.
In total, the cost of the van split between five adults totaled just $112 per person, plus another $25 each for gas and tolls. Considering thethroughout the coronavirus pandemic, we scored a great deal with Turo.
I opted for a vacation rental instead of multiple hotel rooms
While I’m a, it quickly became apparent that reserving multiple hotel rooms for my large group would be expensive. So, we decided to book the in Kissimmee, Florida.
I'm a San Diego-based travel writer and I think these 13 hotels offer everything you've been dreaming about in a vacation
From relaxing beach hotels to downtown historic properties, and spa resorts with great golf, these are the best hotels in San Diego, California.Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was historically a modest seaside town with no more than a few charming beachside cottages to mark it as a vacation destination. Those days are long gone, and it has evolved into a dynamic coastal resort, replete with high-rise hotels and condos. The crepe myrtle trees that gave the town its name are still present — if a little eclipsed by the developments — but Myrtle Beach has become one of the region's most popular family resorts.
Offering plenty of elbow room for everyone, this vacation rental had six bedrooms, five full and two half bathrooms, a formal living room, a fully equipped kitchen with a butler’s pantry, a great room, a dining room that seated 10 people, laundry machines and a covered swimming pool and hot tub.
The location was ideal, too, thanks to its proximity to theparks, and International Drive.
If you play your cards right (pun intended), you can alsoand for home rentals.
We split the cost five ways, paying a mere $392.94 each, which was far more economical than booking four hotel rooms for our group of eight.
I took advantage of special rates for our theme park visit
Because a person in our group was a member of the military, we were able to save money on tickets to Universal Orlando. Rather than pay $235.98 per person for a two-day pass, we were able to purchase tickets for $199.99 each, saving us $35.99 per ticket.
If you don’t happen to be traveling with someone connected to the military, you’re not out of luck: Special rates are also available for Florida residents and those who book multiday vacation packages through Universal.
You can save even more if you pack your own snacks and limit souvenir purchases, which the teens in my group did this trip.
I maximized credit card perks to cut costs for other necessities
Thanks to the Walmart Supercenter located up the street from our vacation rental, we were able to buy groceries and incidentals needed during our stay without traveling far. Another draw to visiting Walmart was the money I was able to save on gas.
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Because I have The Platinum Card® from American Express, which comes with athat would normally cost $12.95 a month, I saved 5 cents per gallon of gas bought at Walmart. Had I planned a longer trip, I could’ve also taken advantage of the service’s free next-day and two-day shipping benefit for everyday items purchased online.
Seeking out lower prices, even if it meant deviating from my preferred travel providers, and utilizing savings available to us through special rates and credit cards meant that my travel companions and I were able to save nearly $1,000 per person across flights, transportation, theme park tickets and lodging without compromising the quality of our trip.
If anything, saving that money made it easier to enjoy our time together, both at the theme park and while relaxing at our vacation rental.
While I’ve had my fair share of luxury vacations, there’s something gratifying about taking a trip that successfully sticks to a budget. Not all memorable vacations require spending a lot of money, as my recent Orlando trip shows.
Featured photo of Universal Orlando by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket/Getty Images.
SPONSORED: With states reopening, enjoying a meal from a restaurant no longer just means curbside pickup.
And when you do spend on dining, you should use aand potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free.
for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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Want to travel in the US while keeping your carbon footprint light? We’ve done the hard work for you and created a round-up of the best eco attractions, hotels, destinations and experiences in the country, which put sustainability at the heart of everything they do. Take a look through and get planning your next adventure. (Be sure to check state travel advisories for the latest guidelines before planning a trip.)