3.7.16

FLORIDA ON A BUDGET



As you may have seen, I recently went on an epic two week holiday to Florida. My friend Daniel and I decided on Florida after a conversation about our favourite childhood holidays; he soon became jealous when he found out that I was the kid who spent her summer holidays in the warmer climate of Florida, whilst he was the kid that was squashed into the family car and driven to Devon for a week. A Florida holiday was his ultimate dream, so I decided to see if I could make that dream a reality.  I told myself if I could book the flights, accommodation and transport for less than £1000 each I would consider Florida for our 2016 holiday. 

Our dates were pretty much fixed - we could only travel the first two weeks of June due to the fact I had/still have my dissertation to work on, and I also wanted to avoid the high tourist season because screaming kids in excessively long queues are not my thing. 

I always avoid package deals when booking holidays as I prefer to look around for myself and work out logistics based on what I want. After half an hour of looking I managed to find our trip for £811 per person which I thought was pretty decent, considering I opted to use non-budget airlines, and to stay in place that didn't look like I would be murdered at. 

I took what I had found to a travel agent, who agreed that it was a very good deal, and got them to book it for me. I did it that way because they allowed me to pay a small deposit so I could pay the rest of it at a later date - definitely not in the position to see £800 leave my bank account.  Then it was just a case of putting some money aside each month for spending money and park tickets.

 In total, with spending money and park tickets, the trip cost £1815 per person, and we both paid for our own shares.   Heres how we did it.


FLIGHTS 

We flew World Traveller from London Gatwick with British Airways for £605pp return, we booked this a good six months in advance, but I know if we would have booked in a few months prior, we could have got it for closer to £500pp. We thought about paying extra for World Traveller plus, but ultimately decided that we could sacrifice a few inches of leg room, to save ourselves £350.  We also saved a further £132 by not choosing to book our seats until check in opened the day before. This does mean logging in as soon as check in opens to get the seats you want, but if it saves you £132, then I'm sure logging into a website at a certain time isn't too much hassle.

I found the flights through Skyscanner.net, a website I swear by when I travel. I have noticed a few people mention this website in the past few weeks, and I cannot commend it enough. It searches all flights, in all combinations to help find you the price that is right for you. 

The staff were adequate, they did their job, but there is nothing in particular I would brag about. The food was okay, technically it was free, and they had a few varied options, I was a little disappointed that they didn't make it known that they had additional snacks in the galley (a kid by the toilets told me near the end of the flight, and by that point all the good stuff was gone).

ACCOMODATION 

One of the big savers for our trip, was that we opted to not stay in a Disney hotel. A two week stay at the Roomba Inn & Suites set us back £340, the cheapest Disney hotel I found for the same amount of time was the All Star Sports resort at £1330 - not including park tickets. 

I'll admit that the hotel was no luxury resort, but it was clean, tidy, had a pool and air-conditioning so it was perfect for what we wanted. I found it on Booking.com, and decided to book it as I had stayed in the same location when I was a child.

Our hotel offered a free breakfast every morning, as well as a free bus service to the Disney Parks as well as Universal and Seaworld. 

Another reason we decided to stay off Disney was that we wasn't just there for Disney World. We wanted to do a bit of exploring too, find little hidden gems that often get overlooked. It is a lot easier to get around and explore things that aren't Disney, if you're not in Disney. Our hotel was located on West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, right by a place called Old Town, where there is lots of places within walking distance including a funfair, mini golf, go-karts, Dennys, All you can eat Buffets, Supermarkets and more. We saved money by eating here most days, as it was a fraction of the price compared to Disney.




TRANSPORT

We booked our airport transfers though Resorthoppa.com for £50.00 return. I'll admit this is a bit pricey, but after getting off of a near 10 hour flight, I wanted the comfort of knowing I wouldn't have to drag my big ol' bags through public transport to get where we wanted to go. 

As I said before, the hotel offered a free shuttle service to Disney, Universal and Seaworld. The Disney buses left at 10am and 11am, the first dropping you off at The Magic Kingdom, the second at Epcot. Disney itself has an amazing transport system (which could easily rival TFL) so if you wanted to get to the other parks (Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, the water parks ect..) then it is easily doable.  Both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot shuttle services return to the parks at night, to take you back to the hotel. The bus to Universal Studios & Seaworld came at 12pm, and operated in the same way. A fun aspect to the free Disney World transport is the monorail that you can use to get from the Transportation centre to The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and a selection of the Disney hotels.

It is worth noting that whilst the buses from the hotel are free, the drivers are part of the service industry, so it is recommended that you tip them $1 per person in your party. 

HOWEVER. On the odd morning we woke up late, or if we wanted to leave the park earlier, we would Uber to where we wanted to go. I know you're thinking 'that must have been expensive' but it really wasn't. Uber is so much cheaper than in England.  A distance that would normally cost me £15 at home, cost me $9.00 plus tip in Florida. Thats almost half the price.  We had planned on doing this before we went, so I made sure I had an extra £40.00 in my bank account before we left to enable us to do this. I did post my referral code a few times on twitter though in order to gain a few free rides, so that worked out well for us too.


PARK TICKETS & EXPERIENCES 

This is where it gets expensive. Park tickets are non-negotiable prices, so you either pay or you go away, simple. However if you find a licensed reseller, you can often get a good deal. I booked ours through Travel Republic for £450. Yes you read that right £450.  

We chose to book a 14 day unlimited park hopper ticket, meaning that we could go to any of the Disney parks, or any of the Universal Parks as many times as we wanted for 14 days. That's eight theme parks. It also came with a free memory maker which is usually $169.  A memory maker is stored on your contactless style park ticket, so whenever you have your photo taken on a ride, or by a park photographer, it automatically gets saved to your account so you can go online and save it, print it, or send it to friends. It's awesome.

We paid a further £20 to go to a Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, an hour away from Orlando, to see Winter and Hope the dolphins from the movie Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. We went here instead of going to Seaworld, because Seaworld are mean.




SPENDING MONEY 

I took around £500 spending money with me, which was more than enough. Considering everything else was already paid for, we only needed money for food, souvenirs, and other little things that we wanted to do.

I ate kids meals in the parks, as you seemed to get more for a cheaper price, and we went to Denny's a fair few times as well. I didn't buy too many souvenirs as I was worried that my suitcase was going to be over the weight limit, but what I did buy, didn't set me back that much.



TOTAL

All in all, the holiday cost us £1815 per person, which admittedly isn't cheap, but it is cheaper than other options I had priced up. I went without a few things, and we cut a few corners in order to get what we wanted, and I would honestly consider doing it all again. We liked staying outside of Disney and we liked adventuring around the supermarkets looking at all the ridiculous food. Although it probably is amazing staying at a Disney hotel, I definitely would recommend staying off Disney property. 

Here is the final cost  breakdown of the trip. 
Flights £605
Hotel £170 (£340 divided by two)
Transportation £90 (including Uber)
Park Tickets £450
Spending Money £500

£1815

Do you have any tips and tricks for travelling on the cheap? Have you been to Florida before? If you want some advice, or I've left something out then leave a comment below and I'll reply ASAP :) 

Kirstie xoxo



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