Cheap Orlando vacation
January 8, 2012 5:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find the cheapest way for seven people to go to Disney World in the middle of July.

Six adults, one 10 year old child who is considered to be an adult by all pricing schemes, the week of July 15th. We're looking to rent a property rather than stay at a hotel, so recommendations for that would be appreciated. We're looking to go to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Universal Studios and Cape Canaveral. How many days should we buy Disney tickets for? What is the cheapest way to get tickets? We are members of AAA and BJ's, but the AAA price is more expensive than the Disney website. We're in Rhode Island, and contemplating driving down (I hate flying, and I think the drive down 95 is an experience in itself) - good idea or bad idea? Looking for tips and tricks to make this vacation as cost effective as possible.
posted by Ruki to Travel & Transportation around Orlando, FL (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I just want to say that Disney in the middle of summer is really tough on kids. It's hot, crowded, and requires a whole lot of mental and physical fortitude to make it from one thing to the next. Do all of your preparation and cost-cutting in advance so that when you're there you can keep the minimization of stress as the priority, especially for the kid (as in eating and drinking whenever necessary, take lots of breaks, don't try to cram too much in, and keep morale light and positive.)
posted by bleep at 5:50 PM on January 8, 2012

Ruki, have you looked at the cost of parking at the various venues versus staying someplace where you can take a free bus to Disney? Parking is something like $14/day. That might make a difference in where you choose to stay (or maybe note). Several hotels that aren't actually formally affiliated with Disney do have a free bus.

I've had good luck using to find rentals.

Someone will chime in, surely, but in general there aren't a lot of discount Disney tickets.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:52 PM on January 8, 2012

FWIW, having spent many hours driving down I-95 from Montreal to various parts of Florida, the drive's not so bad, and I did that before things like cheap portable dvd players and tablets and iPads. You might want to drive down in two cars, but be sure one of them is big enough to hold everyone so you don't have to pay for parking twice.

If you absolutely only want to visit the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, two or three days is probably sufficient, especially if you only have a week (including or excluding driving time?), but four is not out of line. The Park Hopper option is probably not necessary.

(AAA tickets are slightly cheaper, you're probably not comparing the options properly. There are all sorts of additions to Disney tickets -- Park Hopper, No Expiration, Water Park. The water parks are very nice, but they'll be very crowded in the summer.)
posted by jeather at 6:08 PM on January 8, 2012

Check to see if disney's Youth education program is open to non groups when you are there:

This program offers classes for kids, and with the classes, you can buy substantially reduced tickets for your party. My then-12 year old and I did an animation class at Hoolywood Studios, spending a couple hours in the park before it opened. The class was great, and our family of four spent about $700 for our 8 day park hoppers, rather than the $1100 or so they would have cost. Class price was included in that.

But really, go check out the disboards, especially their budget boards.
posted by purenitrous at 6:25 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, the drive will just be me, the mister, and the kid. Both sets of grandparents are coming, but they're making their own travel plans. The mister and I aren't terribly thrilled about going during the summer, but the week is fixed due to school and work vacation time. We have the 14th through the 22nd, and I can probably take a day on either end of that. It's a 22 hour drive, which the mister and I can split straight through, allowing a stop at South of the Border, of course. I know one set of grandparents plans on spending a few days with us, then heading off to visit friends elsewhere in Florida - I don't know what the other grandparents are doing yet, but the rental makes the most sense, I think, because we can all split the cost. And with driving, we wouldn't have to rent a car, so that offsets the parking, and we'd need a car to get to Cape Canaveral anyway.
posted by Ruki at 6:33 PM on January 8, 2012

Before you decide to drive check the ticket prices for airfare from a major airline hub. Driving to Newark Airport and parking for a week + the airfare might actually be cheaper than driving the whole way down in time, gas and money...

We've contemplated driving multiple times, but magically a < $200 round trip airfare seems to pop up and kill those plans - especially for a family of 3.
posted by NoDef at 6:44 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you been to WDW before? That'll play a huge role in how many days you'll need in the parks. Also, keep in mind that it's going to be busy - ride wait times will be longer, restaurants waits will be longer (in the park, at least). I guess it comes down to what you want to experience there.

If it's your first time (or, more importantly, the kid's first time), I'd budget 4 days for WDW. If you've been before, maybe cut it back to 3.

Can't help much with the rest - we mainly do Disney and stay on-site. Feel free to email me for WDW questions, though - we're just starting to plan our October trip.
posted by neilbert at 6:47 PM on January 8, 2012

I want to echo bleep's comments. July in Florida is brutal. As a Florida resident who has visited the parks many times and on a really good day can drive to one park, spend the day and drive home, I would recommend staying on Disney property every time. The fact that you can take a break in the middle of the day get back to the hotel and swim and then return to the park after a nap beats saving a few bucks. No local hotel can get you to and from efficiently enough to make it an option. The extra cost is worth it.
posted by JXBeach at 8:17 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

My entire family (6 adults and 5 kids) has been to Orlando twice and used Head for Orlando for our rentals both times. The homes were two stories, 5 bedrooms with screened in back yards with a pool in gated communities. They were in Kissimmee so the drive wasn't too bad. The downside was that we couldn't come and go into the parks if we got tired; we had to be there all day. Staying in the rental was cost effective for us because we split the cost between three families and we ate breakfasts and dinners there.

If I had to do it again, I would stay on property for the reasons mentioned above.

Regarding tickets, if it's your first time, I would definitely recommend 3 days.
posted by mamaquita at 8:25 PM on January 8, 2012

Response by poster: I know, July sucks. It is, however, slightly better than August, which is when my family and I used to go, being that southern kids went back to school earlier than we did in New England. Not my preference, but it is what it is.

The mister has been once, and I have been three times, but babygirl has never been, and this trip is for her. We're contemplating the park hopper option, but if you have the regular day pass, can you leave the park and come back in later?
posted by Ruki at 8:31 PM on January 8, 2012

First, there are some really good answers on ask mefi about how to plan each day at Disney - don't miss them - tips like always going left, plan your rides in advance, understand FastPass before you go, Start early! etc...

Second, if you have access to one, get an iPhone with the wait times app - it is extremely helpful.

Third, Sea World is a really great day if you are open to non-disney parks.
posted by carlodio at 9:30 PM on January 8, 2012

Another advantage to staying on Disney property is that the parks will open early or close late, but only guests staying at Disney hotels can take advantage of these extra hours. If you can handle staying awake past midnight, the lines will get dramatically shorter. (Plus you avoid the scorching heat.)

If you do decide to drive, you can always park at Downtown Disney for free, and then take a free bus to the parks.

I strongly recommend the park hopper option. Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios probably can each be done in half a day, even in the summer. Animal Kingdom in the morning, a dip in the pool, and then dinner, fireworks, and Extra Magic Hours at Epcot makes for a great day.

Feel free to memail me if you want more info. I've hit Disney in July for the past 4 years, and I have family in the Cape Canaveral area, so I've been to this part of Florida countless times.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 11:12 PM on January 8, 2012

If you're looking at Universal Studios make sure you plan around the fact that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is in Islands of Adventure, not the main park, if that's your thing. I would very highly recommend it - whether this means you get a Park Hopper pass and try to do both in a day, or give two days for it. It is one of the most amazing experiences I've ever seen, the level of detail throughout the whole world blew me away, not to mention that Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is one of the greatest rides I've ever been on.

No matter what you do, get a copy of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. It explains everything about the parks, how they work with crowds and the best ways to get around. I was at WDW over Thanksgiving this year, and it saved us so much time - we stood in a line longer 30 minutes maybe 2 or 3 times over a week. It also covers Universal Studios.
posted by cholly at 4:15 AM on January 9, 2012

It sounds like you're leaving and returning on the weekends, but I just wanted to give you a heads up in case you change your mind and decide to leave on a weekday. I-95 is notorious for some awful, AWFUL traffic. If you're driving down, be sure to avoid major cities (like Baltimore, DC, Richmond) during weekday rush hour. It will save you and your family some sanity.
posted by nikkorizz at 4:35 AM on January 9, 2012

Oh! Oh! Oh! I have useful information to contribute for once!!

Actually, reading through it may not be that useful, but here we go:

If you want a cheap place to stay I am currently staying at the Palm Lakes Resort and Hostel. Except don't believe the resort part. It's run down, not the cleanest, and that website talks it up WAY too much.

With that said... I love the atmosphere here. The guy in the bunk below me has lived in Nicaragua for the last decade, and is stopping here before he walks(!) home to California. Two Swiss dudes have the bunk across the room. I talked for hours with a Morman guy in bunk next to me last night. Below him is a Free Mason who comes in at 2am and sleeps until all hours. I havent talked with him yet.
Somewhere around here is some little spanish kid who doesent understand a lick of english but jabbers away at a million words a second. There are a bunch of Asiens(as in kids from asia here on break). Watch out for old guys in speedos. I saw an otter in the lake. Anna just made some wonderful pasta and mussels and shared with me... I should probably quit now.

The bunk rooms are $20ish/night. Other rooms are a bit more. I know there is a motel next door that has proper rooms for $25ish/night. The water is hot here and the sheets are clean. It's probably a 15/20 minute drive from Disney. Don't take my word for it though. There are some nice bus lines also I hear.
posted by Folk at 2:26 PM on January 9, 2012

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