Theme parks galore, this is a haven for those with kids or who are big kids themselves. But it’s not just the parks that attracts so many tourists every year – though it does help! I expected to spend a fortune during my stay in Orlando; you may be surprised how cheap a visit to Orlando can be.
Of course, there are the fabulous theme parks to get lost in every day. But there are also beautiful nature reserves, expansive lakes to sail across, great restaurants, a hub of family fun at the International Drive and lots of things to do in Orlando – that aren’t theme parks.
Hostel/Budget rates – There are very few dorm bed styled hostels in Orlando but there are some cheap private rooms, even for families, starting at $35+
Midrange Hotel rates – There are a number of complex resorts around Orlando, offering numerous activities, on-site shops, pools, lakes and more. An apartment in these “mini-towns” cost $50 – $120.
Luxury Hotel rates – High end hotels cost upwards of $150 but private villas with your own pool can cost from as little at $90 a night.
Transport – I-ride trolley costs $3 for a day pass, $5 for 3 days, $7 for 5 days, $9 for 7 days or $16 for 14 days. Monorails between the disney theme parks are free but remember parking at any theme park will cost $17 a day. Most hotels offer morning and afternoon shuttle buses to and from the theme parks, many for free.
Average cost of food – Like most other tourist destinations in the United States, you can spend whatever you like on food, with some great cheap options and some very expensive restaurants. There are several Walmart’s and fast food joints across the town, ideal for those renting a villa or staying in a complex apartment. Food in the parks can be pricey but you are allowed to bring in snacks and bottled drinks with you. Food in the park that you grab and go will cost you around $5-$8 whilst sit down meals in parks will set you back between $10-$20 per person. A host of chain restaurants can be found on International Drive, ideal for family dinners; keep an eye out for cheap prices and any vouchers available from your hotel.
Where to stay
Hostel/Budget – Days Inn Orlando Convention Centre/International Drive, offers clean and large rooms starting at $45 a night and offering a free shuttle bus to Universal, Sea world and Walt Disney World. For those wanting to be a little further from the theme parks, check out Ramada Gateway Hotel Kissimmee, with a spacious pool, mini golf, free shuttle buses to theme parks and shopping centres and clean rooms starting at $40.
Midrange – Those with kids who don’t want to pay the fortune in a Disney hotel, should check out the CoCo Key Hotel and Water Resort. Rooms are bright and colourful and the pool includes some great water slides and a jungle gym. There is a theme park shuttle service and family rooms start at $68. For a bit more luxury and space, check out the Grande Villas Resort; with spacious apartment rooms which include kitchens and living room areas, this is the perfect place to relax and unwind whilst cooking for yourself a few nights will save some cash, studios start at $89 whilst one bedroom villas start at $99 and two bedroom villas start at $119.
Top End – One thing I love about Orlando is that you can rent a whole villa with a private pool for relatively cheap. There are some top websites to choose from such as HomeAway.
How to get there
Fly – When arrive at Orlando International Airport and are staying with a Disney resort, remember to arrange a pick from the airport through Disney’s magical express. There are several shuttle buses that operate between the airport and Kissimmee, the theme park areas and the cruise port or taxis are available from the arrival hall. Rental cars are also available from the airport.
Bus – The GoToBus offers direct buses between New York and Orlando as well as Miami and Orlando.
Train – Amtrak offer various train journeys to and from the Station Building, connecting you to the cities and towns of Florida as well as the rest of America.
Orlando is massive, with lots to do spread across the whole city. Car rental is advisable (especially for those with children), but be aware that parking at Disney or Universal theme parks will cost you $17 a day. The I-RIDE Trolley runs up and down international drive between 8am to 10.30pm, costing $3 for a day pass. Monorails can get you between the Disney theme parks whilst most hotels offer morning and evening shuttle buses to and from the major theme parks. Taxis are easily accessible but will charge extra when dropping you off at a theme park; best to get dropped off at Disney Downtown and catch the free buses from there.