One Dozen Money-Saving Hacks You (May Have) Missed
When you tell someone you’re on the way to a theme park, the reaction is often this:
Or “have a great time.”
Friends don’t usually add this: “Save money.”
But there is a lot of interest in the subject.
Saving money hacks are everywhere on the Internet.
But there’s often a problem with them.
That’s because they are like sweaters or shirts: they come in different sizes.
There are small ones. Such as bringing your own water.
And there are medium ones that added up may be serious money.
And there are large ones. Or we should say potentially large savings.
Such as buying Disney World tickets or even buying Universal Studios Discount tickets.
Discounted tickets are what you want
Note here that we use the word “Discount.” With a capital “D” for emphasis.
We say this because of prices soaring above $100 just for one single ticket.
These really “Soarin” prices are what you have to pay these days to board virtual reality rides and others that take you high into the clouds to gaze at scenes around the world.
“Soaring” is highly popular when it comes to rides. But also prices.
So how can you cut your costs at theme parks?
There are ways.
So what we’ll do is suggest one dozen or 12 of the best money-saving ideas.
Some of them are obvious. Others not so.
All are simple.
No special qualifications.
And can be done by anyone.
The best part here is that you may already be doing some of these things.
Good for you.
But others might be something you didn’t already know.
Or some suggestions you might already be considering. But for some reason or another, have not yet tried.
We will try here to avoid or at least elaborate on some common suggestions that offer minor savings.
Take the common suggestion (offered by just about everyone) to bring your own water. Don’t buy it at the park where it is more expensive. Far more costly.
But if you are only drinking, say, one or two bottles of water…this is just saving a few dollars.
You want bigger savings
But when it comes to other possible savings, such as tickets to get into the parks, you can save a lot.
You can always pay full price for Disney World tickets or Universal tickets or others.
Anyone can do that at any park. But you can save money here.
Even by buying tickets at the park (set prices don’t always mean what they say, of course).
And you can save even more money by buying tickets elsewhere.
How much money can you save?
Can you save 90 percent of what you would spend?
Don’t be ridiculous. No way.
Say 80 percent?
Don’t be silly.
So how much could you save by reading this?
We don’t know.
This is not a case where we can give you a set figure.
Like 50 percent off. Or one of those other claims.
But we can assure you that these are not hacks to “nickel and dime” the system by saving pennies. But areas of real savings.
So we’ll be your guinea pigs, if that is what you want to call it.
What you might consider:
Here’s the first hack to save money
No. 1: Think about when to go.
In other words, don’t go when everyone else does.
Simply because the parks know when you want to go. Breaks from school, for example. Holidays.
So the parks charge you more when you visit during those times.
Obvious, isn’t it?
If you insist on getting your ticket at the park itself, this is particularly an area where you can save.
The reason is that parks more and more are going to what is known as “demand pricing.”
That means higher prices when the parks are more popular.
It’s one more attempt to not only increase park profits, but also cut back on long lines.
So when we say be flexible, what we mean is going when most people prefer to stay home.
Those are often hotter summer months at parks in semi-tropical climates like Orlando’s.
The commonly known as “shoulder seasons” of April/May and October are among the best times to visit Orlando. Your weather will be warm and sunny.
So-called “value seasons” are after New Year’s until mid-February or mid-August through early October. Also, from Thanksgiving through mid-December.
Seasons to avoid are spring break time or summers.
That’s when prices not only at theme parks but everywhere tend to be higher.
Now, of course, the weather is always a factor during these periods. It is hot in Central Florida in the summer. And it rains often. Though afternoon showers are the norm rather than all-day rain.
Rainy days can be good times to visit
And yes, you may not have thought about it. But Orlando’s sunny climate is semi-tropical.
But when we say think about it, we mean taking a serious look at your own comfort level:
Can you take a little heat in return for lower prices? And often shorter lines as well, of course?
Our point is that you have to make compromises if you really want to save money.
Examples of this are everywhere.
You can buy a Mercedes-Benz auto, to take just one example.
Or you can get a used Ford pick-up truck for far less money.
It may not be as speedy or have as many creature comforts. But you make do with less to save money.
Theme parks are no different.
So we suggest you make provisions for the heat. And go during the hottest summer months.
Console yourself. Because it could be worse.
You could find a theme park in a real tropical climate.
That would be really hot.
No. 2:Get your Disney Orlando or Universal Studios Orlando tickets from an outside source (such as ours).
They offer discounted tickets.
It’s the same admission ticket that covers basic admission.
But you would pay more buying it directly from the parks themselves. You see people doing this all the time: standing in line to buy their tickets.
Buying admission elsewhere lets you skip this particular line.
We also urge buying tickets well ahead of time to get maximum discounts. And you avoid more price hikes.
And why should you pay more for that same ticket? We can’t think of no reasons for it.
No. 3: If you really want to get the maximum value for the tickets you do get, arrive early.
As early as possible.
So set your alarm clock early.
Make it your goal to be the first guests’ at the park when it opens.
By doing that, you should be able to at least get in a few rides without long lines.
But even better, at least from a financial standpoint, you are maximizing the value of your tickets by getting as much as possible for your money. No. 4: Go with a plan as well. “Winging it” is not really a good idea. Proper planning saves money
Plan your and your companion’s priorities. You will have a much better time that way.
And you will feel far better that you are getting your money’s worth, too.
No. 5: If you’re staying overnight, which you probably are, or for several nights, here’s the best place to stay.
Or with friends who tolerate your particular quirks and possibly strange behavior.
This has not changed over the years. But it simply does not work for most of us.
However, we have something to suggest that is just as good.
In days gone past, your choices were more likely hotels or rental properties or B&Bs.
As pleasant as it is to stay in a B&B, and have breakfast with the owners and stretch out in a real house, it is never a cheap alternative.
Hotels? Yes, there are some inexpensive ones that are well under $100 a night. And some of these are right on theme park properties such as Disney’s Pop Century Resort, and many others.
Vacation homes have also become increasingly popular. And often offer lower prices.
Finding friends outside your own circle
But the best bet these days remain what they used to be: part of the shared economy or the next best thing to finding friends.
These include sites that are like your friends, though they charge you for their services.
One of the earliest was CouchSurfing but that was joined by many others. It’s easy to recommend the user-friendly Airbnb.
These are sites, of course, that rent out extra spaces or houses.
You do have to carefully check what is offered. But most reviews and the personal testimony of friends is reassuring.
We can’t give you a figure. But such sites cost less than hotels. And have many choices.
Not only that. They also offer discounts for extended stays.
So if you stay for a few days instead of one, your price often goes down.
That’s something hotels keep saying they will routinely offer but never quite around to doing.
No. 6: Transportation. First: don’t bother to rent a car. Even if the rates are incredibly cheap.
If you’re confined mostly to visiting theme parks, you probably don’t need it.
Disney property hotels have a particularly efficient bus system, but there are also monorails and boats.
If you’re at International Drive, the I-Ride Trolley fares start at $1 and take you not only to that area but to Universal Studios and downtown Orlando. The trolley runs all day long with pick-ups every few minutes. Its route is clearly marked at stops.
Getting here for less money
As for airline tickets, they are often expensive. But look for sales. And look for alternative airports that often offer less expensive flights.
Good sites for bargain airfare to check include Kayak, Sidestep, Farecompare and Farecast. And Cheapflights is also a good alternative.
Orlando is not like a major city such as Chicago and London offering several airports.
But the fast-growing Sanford-based airport only 20 miles from downtown Orlando is increasingly offering cheaper flight options. There’s also Daytona’s airport, which is also quickly adding flight destinations. It’s less than one hour’s drive from downtown Orlando (instead of Orlando International, where almost all air travelers take often without questioning options).
Have you also considered train travel?
No, you can’t get there from everywhere. But Amtrak routinely offers special deals. Check them out.
No. 7: You do have to eat.
It gets expensive to eat out all the time.
The answer is a kitchen. If you have someone willing to cook, that is.
Of course, Airbnb and similar sites usually have that option. Which is another reason they are good choices.
Hotels can be money savers when they offer many “kids eat free” deals. Holiday Inns and Loews Hotels are among the most popular.
But remember that this perk is not always worth as much as you might think. Kid meals are almost always a lot less expensive.
What often adds greatly to your own bill: soft drinks and far more expensive: alcohol.
You can control your own costs
But these are both areas where you can control costs by your own choices.
Disney and others have dining plans. Check those out as well to see if they fit your own needs, of course.
Since lunch meals are always less expensive, what we suggest trying to do is make that your big meal of the day. You’ll need it anyway to get through the long afternoons.
No. 8: Save on small things. After a while, it all adds up…
We’ve mentioned water bottles. But it’s not hard to imagine you might need a few other needed items you don’t want to pay theme prices to get. Many are obvious if you think about it; Band-Aids, rain ponchos, sunscreen, and a backpack to carry it all.
No. 9: Souvenirs. We try not to buy them at all. Or a bare minimum. But that is not always easy.
So budget a certain amount of money for them. For you, and your family.
Don’t spend any more after you reach a certain limit. Make sure everyone with you understand this rule.
But an even better idea.
When not to buy
Do your souvenir buying outside the theme parks.
Obviously, coffee cups with Mickey Mouse faces and Minnie Mouse adorned towels are less costly when you’re out of the park.
Major stories like Target and Wal-Mart have all the souvenirs you could ever want. At lower prices, of course.
So why pay more for them?
No. 10: Apps. Parks have their own. Useful when you are there.
But there are also a variety of free ones offered at various places.
No. 11: Save money by looking for free events that can be found everywhere in the area.
One of the most popular is the twice-a-day “March of the Peabody Ducks,” a hotel tradition as they walk the red carpet.
The Lego Store at Disney is also free to walk through, and prices are comparable to what you would pay anywhere else.
There are various free parks throughout the Orlando area that offer butterfly gardens, some of the best botanical gardens anywhere in North America, and playgrounds for the younger set.
Some parks also offer free entertainment such as story book readings for the kids.
No. 12: Look for money saving information from various sources.
Such as “Visit Orlando,” the official source of tourist information. You can email at [email protected], or call (800) 972-3304.
Or visit the Official Visitors Center at 8723 International Drive, Orlando.
There are also a variety of other sources for you to find money saving information.
But remember some of these sites have their own special interests or goals.
So go with trusted ones that have been around for a while and have a proven track record.
Like us. ###