I regularly update this list of hotel deals, packages, and other ways to make your Orlando vacation more affordable.
When to go?
The general rule when it comes to theme parks is that you want to zag when everyone else is zigging. It might be a small world after all, but you don't want to spend your vacation standing in line with half the world. If possible, try to plan your trip away from holidays, school vacations and the summer. Good bets include January to mid-February and the end of August through mid-December. You'll find smaller crowds, better deals and generally more hospitable weather. The downside is that the parks close earlier, schedule fewer shows and events and sometimes close attractions to perform routine maintenance.
Where to stay?
With more than 100,000 hotel rooms in Central Florida, you certainly have a lot of choices. One of the first things you'll want to decide is whether to stay at one of the on-property resort hotels or stay offsite. In general, comparable accommodations away from Disney and Universal cost less -- often much less. Keep in mind, however, that you need to factor in transportation and parking costs when comparing prices as well as the sweat equity of having to battle traffic, rent a car and other hassles. On-property guests also get a 24/7 immersion into the fantasy theme park environment and receive special perks (the most appealing of which is Universal's skip-to-the-front-of-the-attraction-line benefit). If money is not an object, staying at one of the park hotels is usually the way to go. Even if it is a concern, there are now enough choices and price points to accommodate most vacationers' budgets.
- Guide to Walt Disney World Hotels
- Universal Orlando Hotels Info
- Get more info about area hotels and search for rates:
Compare rates for Orlando-area hotels at About.com's booking partner, Kayak.
How long to stay?
You may be restricted by your budget or the amount of time you can allocate to a vacation, but even if you have plenty of time and money, there are now just too many theme park options in Central Florida to reasonably cram them all into one trip. It's quality, not quantity. Take your time and enjoy the parks, whether it's for one day or ten days. Don't try to experience everything; you can always come back, right? Even if you have a five- or six-day trip, don't plan to spend every waking moment in a theme park. Pace yourself and spend some down time by the pool or indulging in other slower-paced activities. Your time on the attractions will be the better for it.
There are many Florida deals, offers, packages and promotions. Some places to start looking are listed below. Beware of offers that sound too good to be true: "Free trip to Orlando! Airfare included!" Many so-called great deals come with a high-pressure time-sharing-presentation string attached. If you're in the market for a time-share property, check them out. If not, remember the adage that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Here are some general suggestions to make your hard-earned dollars go farther when you visit theme parks.