3 On Your Side: Orlando Travel Deals

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jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, and now LEGOLAND Florida — Over a million Delaware Valley residents head to Orlando every year. But if rising gas and food prices have you thinking that a trip right now is downright Goofy, 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan found ways to save.

Fantasy Land at Walt Disney World is expanding!

LEGOLAND Florida recently opened its doors nearby!

And Universal Orlando Resort is launching a Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction!

Kyle and Stefanie Perry flew to Orlando with their 2 kids. Kyle says, “We saved up for it and made it work.” While Lori and Ken Lawless and their four children took to the highway, Lori says, “The airfare was still too high, so we decided to drive.”

I did both, crunching the numbers that you might expect to pay this summer. If you drive, it’s a thousand miles and a 16 hour-trip each-way. In an SUV getting 24 miles per gallon, roundtrip you’ll shell out around $320 for gas and $12 bucks in tolls. If you stop halfway, add $100 each night for a hotel room. The grand total, $532, not counting meals.

While flying saves time, it won’t save you money. Airfarewatchdog says round-trip tickets from Philly are averaging $220 in July and August. That’s $880 dollars for a family of four. Check one bag per person, that’s $200 more. That brings the total to: $1,080, twice what it costs to drive.

If you do fly- you may need a rental car. “There is a website called www.mousesavers.com which I often recommend to friends and they list discount codes for every rental car company in Orlando,” says Len Testa, co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, http://touringplans.com/unofficial-guide

Testa says that Dollar Rent A Car leads the pack when it comes to getting the lowest rates in Orlando.
They are followed by a Florida company called called Sixt  and Enterprise, which he says is your best bet for minivans or rentals around certain holidays.  Testa says, “Those are the only companies you really need to check.”

Now for a place to stay. May 31st, Walt Disney World opens a new hotel in its lowest priced “value” category, the Art of Animation resort. In addition Disney is offering up to 30% off other hotels from mid-June through September. The discounts are only available through the “Special Offer” section on Disney’s website.

But you don’t have to stay at Disney to enjoy Disney. Liki Tiki Village http://www.likitikivillage.com/ and Roadway Inn are among 30 hotels that the guide rates as being best values. Testa says, “One of the great thrills about the Unofficial Guide is trying to find good hotels under $75.” First on the list – The Monumental at less than $70 dollars a night! http://monumentalhotelorlando.com/ According to Testa, “You’ll find everything you need here for a comfortable nights sleep.”

Want more space? Two bedroom condos sleeping 6 start as low as $129 a night. “If you have a family or need more than one hotel room for instance this is a much better value for that purpose,” says Steve Trover with All Star Vacation Homes, a company that manages 260 properties properties within five miles of Walt Disney World.

Trover says, “One of the big benefits of staying in a house or a condo is the kitchen. You can spend time eating and dining here as opposed to out so you can save a lot of money.” We took a tour of a four bedroom home that sleeps 10 starting at $299 a night. It has a pool, an eight seat theater, arcade games. They’ll even throw in a free car rental for a seven night stay.

We also visited a mini-mansion marketed by Orlando’s Finest Vacation Homes that was priced from $600 a night.

That may sound expensive but the nine bedroom eight bath house can sleep up to sixteen. Fill it up and divide the cost, that could come out to as low as $38 per person per day. Dee Albinson who manages the home says, “You’ll never ever stay at a hotel again once you’ve experienced this.” In fact the company motto is ‘You don’t live in one room, why vacation in one?’

Finally, when it comes to park tickets check out Undercover Tourist. “They buy in bulk from Disney and they’re able to sell at a slight discount.” says Mousesavers founder, Mary Waring. Those discounts can amount to a savings of between $2 and $40, but if you link through the Mousesavers site, you can save even more.

By the way, also be sure to sign up for the Orlando Magic Card online. It’s free and offers discounts on area attractions, restaurants and shopping.

Also, since time means money, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World website. It has a free customized tour planner. Input the attractions you want to see and their computer will tell you which order to use to minimize your wait times. It will save up to four hours in-line a day. Here’s what you need to do:

First, basic signup here: http://touringplans.com/walt-disney-world/join/basic. After signup, this takes you directly to http://touringplans.com/walt-disney-world/. From this “welcome” page, you can click on the “Create a Personalized Touring Plan” link (Under Disney World Touring) or go directly to http://touringplans.com/walt-disney-world/touring-plans/personalized. From here you can either browse the sample touring plans via the links on the side (they’re by park and then category) and copy to personalize, or just create a new one from scratch.

MORE GREAT INFORMATION:

Ask questions of other Moms and Dads on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel:
http://disneyworldforum.disney.go.com/

BEFORE YOU GO: Advice From Author Lou Mongello, a Walt Disney World author, expert, host, speaker and historian http://loumongello.com/

WHEN TO GO - Plan your vacation during off-peak times of year to get significantly lower airfare and rates at Walt Disney World resorts. Some of the best (and least expensive) times to visit Walt Disney World include:

Mid-November through mid-December (except Thanksgiving week) – From low rates to great weather, the added bonus of holiday decorations, it’s a wonderful time to visit.
Mid-January through mid-February is one of the least busy times, and room rates are often less expansive than other times of year.
Early to mid-May and the end of August to the end of September are usually lower than normal.
Also Disney has traditionally offered FREE dining (available in 2012 from August 25-September 29, 2012 for resort stays booked by May 18th, 2012).

FREE at Walt Disney World! There are some wonderful, fun, and free experiences as well, including:
Free resort tours – Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, Grand Floridian, and Yacht Club, offer FREE tours that are open to any Disney resort guest
WiFi – Complimentary wireless internet access is available in most resort lobbies
Free soda: Visit Club Cool in Epcot and try a variety of Coca-Cola flavors from around the world for free!
Free chocolate! – Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop located in Downtown Disney’s Marketplace offers a free chocolate sample (one per guest)

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