I have always dreamed of going to Florida but I always thought that it would be a once in a lifetime type of holiday.
Everyone I spoke to said it was around £10,000 so I wanted to save and go once when the kids were at an optimal age to go on all the rides and be able to enjoy everything.
Then one day I got onto skyscanner to find some flights for something else and started to play around with different destinations. I was shocked to find that flights were around £800/£900 flying direct but if you have one stop then it can halve the price! For a family of 5 that’s a saving of £2,000!
I was still a bit of a novice when I booked the cheaper flights and hadn’t thought about the implications of a stop off and just thought it was a timing issue. If you transit via America you have to collect your bags and check them back in again so you need quite a long stop. I was lucky that I had booked with Air Canada so I didn’t need to do this, my bags would go straight through but 10 days before the date we were due to fly the rules changed and you now need a visa for Canada even if it’s just for transit! Luckily the process is fairly straight forward and it’s cheap.
I then started searching for accommodation…I wanted self catering rather than a Disney hotel mostly so I could make pack lunches and cook some meals ourselves to keep the costs down again. I didn’t want the cost of a villa so I found a condo in a hotel. (Blue Heron Beach Resort) It had full catering facilities and washing machine and was so close to the park.
We could have used the shuttle the hotel offered but with the kids being so young we wanted the chance to come and go around them needing naps so we hired a car. At the airport they tried to convince me we needed a bigger car which would obviously cost more which was ridiculous as the one we had was huge.
The biggest expense is the Disney tickets…you just have to suck this cost up of you want to do it! Under 3’s are free so we saved some money here.
So for 5 of us the flights were £2,000, accommodation was £800, car £250 but Disney tickets £1,500 so total £4,550. This was for 11 days at Easter 2016…one of the most expensive times of the year as in school holidays. Ok so it’s not free or as cheap as a holiday in Europe but under £5,000 for 5 of us I didn’t think was too bad! Half the price of what I know some people pay!
Spending money wise we didn’t go shopping as the exchange rate was really poor and outlet stores in the U.K. were cheaper. We did 2 meals in restaurants (one was breakfast with characters and one at the T-Rex restaurant) but we ate in or had packed lunches other than that so we only spent around £800. We were way under £6,000 all in…for 5 of us!
Tips for saving money in the park
- Take water bottles in with you and refil using the water fountains. We took the very small bottles of squash over from the U.K. with us because we knew the States don’t do squash the same and they worked so well for taking to the parks.
- Children who don’t normally need a buggy will even get tired and want one. We saw children as old as 9/10 in them. The buggies in the part are expensive. We hired from Kingdom Strollers in advance instead as they were much cheaper, delivered to and from our hotel and we could use the buggy out of the park too.
- Take ponchos with you. The weather is so variable and you can get massive down pours out of the blue. Or even to use on the water ride. Buy them off eBay before you go for the whole family.
- Buy autograph books before you go. You can get them personalised etc too but also saves you loads.
- Lottie went to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Boutique in Magic Kingdom as a birthday treat. I bought the dress from the Disney shop at home in the sale before we left and so only had to book the hair and make up package. They take the dress from you and lay it out for your princess to get dressed in the changing room the same but the package cost around $60 not $200…the dress only cost me £18 from the store in the U.K. too. If you have the digi pass make sure you go for the photo shoot afterwards in the shop too and I used my fast passes on that day to go see all the princesses so she got to be pictured dressed up with them.
- I already mentioned it but take a packed lunch and snacks in with you. Another reason why a buggy is great. We did one character meal and did breakfast as it’s cheaper than other meals. It also means you can get into the park before it’s open for even extra magical hours guests. You can get loads of photos without people in the background. If you book as first breakfast slot you will also be finished early to go and get in a queue for a ride that you might not have got a fast pass for.
We are going back again this year but not doing Disney which will bring the cost down. We are going to do just water parks as the kids are still a bit young for Universal. This time I’ve got the flights for £1,800 and the accommodation £600! It was working out cheaper to go to Florida for 11 days than it was to go to Lanzarote for the same amount of time!