Walt Disney statue and Magical Kingdom.

"You can often find some of the best values and fewer crowds in the months of May and September." (Getty Images)

Visitors to Orlando, Florida, are the bread and butter of the local economy. The city is designed to make you spend, spend, spend. But there are ways to minimize costs without minimizing the experience. Local Orlando experts shared these tricks to help you save money during your vacation.

Take advantage of concierge services.

Concierges are the mystical keepers of travel secrets. They know and love Orlando, and want to share that knowledge. Yet, many hotel guests walk right past the concierge desk without even a glance. Be smart, and use your resources.

Lourdes Gee, concierge at the Villas of Grand Cypress, Orlando, explains, "We know when the theme parks and attractions offer discounted tickets or specials, like for Florida residents. We always keep updating our desk."

[Read: The Best Hotels in Orlando.]

Sandra Ferrarese, chief concierge at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, says she often reminds guests, "We have complimentary transportation ... to the four Disney parks throughout the day."

One conversation with a concierge could help you find a great affordable restaurant, a two-for-one coupon for a show, a special rate for an excursion or a little-known local gem. In fact, after you check in and stow your luggage, your first stop should be the concierge. Consult these gurus, and watch how your money stretches.

Choose a resort with perks.

Some hotels and resorts are pricier than others. However, if you consider what the resort offers, you may actually stretch your budget by choosing a slightly more expensive option.

"A good way of saving money is you don't have to leave whatever resort that you picked," says Gary Gotling, director of sales and marketing at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. "Make sure you have a resort that you can enjoy." So, check out what amenities, such as golfing, pools or nature trail access, each hotel offers.

Dropping a day at the theme parks can save a family hundreds. That money can be applied to an upgraded resort package and still leave you with some cash to spare. So, take a day off.


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Visit during the off-season.

The problem with summer is every kid on the planet is out of school, and guess where they all come for vacation? That's right: Orlando. The parks are wall-to-wall humanity. Imagine 3 million sweaty, irritable tourists waiting in a three-hour line to ride a three-minute roller coaster – no fun. Wasted time is wasted money. Plus, the price of every hotel skyrockets in busy season.

[Read: The 7 Best Orlando Museums.]

The solution is easy. Hit Orlando in the off-season. "You can often find some of the best values and fewer crowds in the months of May and September," says George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, the area's official tourism organization. January and February are also safe bets. Avoid holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. And don't even think about March and April, unless you want to navigate around partying college spring breakers who join the usual tidal wave of people.

Skip the parks.

Yes, tens of millions of visitors flock to the theme parks yearly for magic and thrills. But there are plenty of free and cheap things to do in Orlando away from the roller coasters and cartoon characters. The beautiful white sand beaches on both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico are just a one- to two-hour car ride away. The city also has numerous affordable museums, attractions and shows that won't break your budget.

Richard Tribou, travel editor for the Orlando Sentinel, suggests, "Forget going to water parks. Go find the Orlando area's natural springs such as Kelly Park. You rent a tube on the drive in and spend a great day." You also get to experience a bit of real Florida, surrounded by forest, wildlife and fresh air, a welcome distraction from the plastic mirage of the parks for a fraction of the cost. "It depends on if you want to spend $80 per person [at a water park] or $5 for a carload [at a local green space]," Tribou says.

Buy ahead of time, and consider bundles.

Smart shoppers know that buying ahead of time and in bulk can save money. The same is true for travel. Much like how plane tickets skyrocket when purchased on the departure day, theme park entry prices are higher if you purchase at the gate.

[Read: The 6 Best Places to Shop in Orlando.]

"A lot of theme parks do advanced purchases with tickets where you can get a little bit of a better discount," says Jeff Silsbee, guest experience manager at Disney's Port Orleans Resort French Quarter and former director of guest services at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. "And [ticket] bundling. If you know you're going to be here for a couple days, don't buy just one day at a time. Get a three- or four-day ticket, and it'll end up costing you less per day." You can even find deals ahead of time that bundle park tickets, hotel stays and dining packages.

You can also maximize your experience by purchasing extras with your bundle. "Get the best bang for your buck by looking at fast passes and express passes," Silsbee says.

Yes, these passes usually cost extra. However, the benefit is you experience more of what you paid for by getting on rides faster. In the busy season, you could potentially squeeze five theme park days into three because you didn't waste your time waiting in those infamous snaking ride lines. If time is money, then this is a huge savings.

To experience more of what Orlando has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.


10 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do in Orlando


Photo Gallery
A group of friends on a paddleboat.
Rodeo bull and rider.
Traditional Cuban ropa vieja shredded beef meal with rice.
A woman at trapeze school.
Bioluminescent shore in the Maldives.
Camping World Stadium during the 2017 Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
The HolyLand Experience Christian theme park.
Female photographer taking pictures outdoors.
Close-up of bowling alley.
Baby alligator in duck weed
Skeleton and archaeological tools.
|

From paddleboat tours to trapeze classes, discover outside-the-box pursuits.
Believe it or not, you can have a memorable Orlando vacation without entering a single theme park. There's so much to see and do that you may forget that Orlando is home to Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Epcot and more amusements parks, not to mention the world's most famous Disney mouse. From gourmet food trucks to weekly rodeos to trapeze lessons, you won't be wondering what to do after checking out popular parks at the Happiest Place on Earth. Here are 10 lesser-known experiences to cross off your list on your next getaway to Orlando.
(Getty Images)

Go to a rodeo.
No need to head out West to enjoy a rodeo complete with bull riding and barrel racing. Simply go an hour south of Orlando to Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo, which holds a rodeo every Saturday at 7:30 pm. The rodeo is a fun way to see riders from all across the country try their best to stay on a bull or wrangle a bucking bronco. There's even a mechanical bull for those who want a firsthand feel for the experience. Consider booking a stay at the ranch, which just added luxe teepees to their range of accommodations.
(Getty Images)

Taste international flavors.
Epcot may have its share of globally inspired cuisines, but you can also stroll along International Drive in Orlando for your choice of Italian, Greek and even Ethiopian culinary delights. Try the tapas and ceviche varieties at Cuba Libre Restaurant, or order up a pho bowl at Little Saigon. What's more, Orlando has more food trucks per capita than any other city in the U.S., making it a must-visit destination for epicureans. A foodie favorite is Jamaica Jamaica, which serves up flavorful Caribbean fare. Or, keep it simple with a soulful favorite, like Melissa's Chicken & Waffles, which dishes up mouthwatering Southern-inspired fare.
(Getty Images)

Try your hand at trapeze.
You too can be "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze." At the Orlando Circus School, kids and adults can learn to maneuver on a flying trapeze or master the aerial silks high in the air. Classes are offered almost every day, and for those who don't see the circus tricks they want to add to their skill set, the Orlando Circus School offers private and semi-private classes. They will teach visitors everything from walking on stilts to juggling to how to hula hoop.
(Getty Images)

Go on a bioluminescent paddleboard tour.
There's no need to make the pilgrimage to the famed Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico to see sparkling water thanks to bioluminescent dinoflagellates in the lagoons. Instead, head to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a short drive from Orlando, and sign up for a 90-minute nighttime guided stand-up paddleboard tour with operator SoBe Surf. Only offered during the summer months, this unique paddling tour is available to both novice and advanced paddlers. SoBe also offers manatee experiences and eco-tours in Cocoa Beach's Banana River Lagoon.
(Getty Images)

Watch a pro football game.
Orlando may not have an NFL team, but that doesn't mean you can't catch riveting professional football games in the city. Orlando recently hosted its first Pro Bowl, the NFL's all-star game, which pits the National Football Conference against the American Football Conference, and it's coming back next year. Between fan festival activities, team practices and the game itself, there's a lot to love if you're a football enthusiast. Even better, it's a lot closer for sport aficionados – nearly all of the previous Pro Bowls were hosted in Honolulu.
(Getty Images)

Explore the history of the Bible.
For those eager to brush up on biblical history, head to the Holy Land Experience, a bible-themed park run by Trinity Broadcasting Network. At this theme park, you won't find any Mickey Mouse ears, but rather replicas of the Wilderness Tabernacle and the Great Temple, as well as live shows, like a musical rendition of the well-known parable of the prodigal son. Plus, kids will love the Smile of a Child Adventure Land, which offers rock climbing, face painting and mini golf, among other pastimes.
(Getty Images)

Visit Jack Kerouac's house.
You don't need to go all the way to Key West to see the home and museum of a famous author (hat tip: Ernest Hemingway). Instead, stick around the city and pay a visit to the Jack Kerouac House in College Park, a northwest Orlando neighborhood. This is where the acclaimed author lived when his work, "On The Road," was published. Today, authors can apply to the Kerouac Project for writer-in-residence positions at this literary landmark. Selected writers can live in the Kerouac house for three months.
(Getty Images)

Stay in a vacation rental that rivals a theme park.
Orlando may be the theme park capital of the world, but you can skip the parks and have even more fun with a stay at an ultra-kid-friendly vacation rental with companies like Sweet Sensations, which features a 10-bedroom house with a swimming pool shaped like an ice cream cone, a candy-themed mini golf course, an on-site splash pad and a "Candy Land"-inspired board. Or, book a stay at a Reunion Resort villa, available through HomeAway.com, which boasts a bowling alley, a video game room, a movie theater and an indoor basketball court, among other perks.
(Getty Images)

Explore the Everglades.
Everglades National Park may technically be in South Florida, but you can still learn about its ecosystem and get your fill of the Everglades in the Orlando area. Book a swamp tour of central Florida's wetlands, including the waterways that feed into the Everglades, with reputable outfitter Boggy Creek Airboat Rides. Keep your eyes open for alligators, turtles and wading birds on this 30-minute nature tour. Or, head to Gatorland for a behind-the-scenes tour of the alligator breeding marsh (or a zip line ride over the marsh).
(Getty Images)

Admire life-size dinosaurs.
Dinosaur lovers of all ages will go crazy for a side trip to Dinosaur World in nearby Plant City, Florida. Kids can dig for fossils as part of a guided activity or explore the Bone Yard and attempt to excavate a 27-foot dinosaur skeleton. There's also a hands-on tour with a paleontologist and a prehistoric museum where the dinosaurs come to life. Don't forget to wander about outside too, where you can walk among hundreds of life-size dinosaurs. It's a fun way to engage youngsters with enriching activities that explore prehistoric times.
(Getty Images)

A group of friends on a paddleboat.
Rodeo bull and rider.
Traditional Cuban ropa vieja shredded beef meal with rice.
A woman at trapeze school.
Bioluminescent shore in the Maldives.
Camping World Stadium during the 2017 Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
The HolyLand Experience Christian theme park.
Female photographer taking pictures outdoors.
Close-up of bowling alley.
Baby alligator in duck weed
Skeleton and archaeological tools.

From paddleboat tours to trapeze classes, discover outside-the-box pursuits.
Believe it or not, you can have a memorable Orlando vacation without entering a single theme park. There's so much to see and do that you may forget that Orlando is home to Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Epcot and more amusements parks, not to mention the world's most famous Disney mouse. From gourmet food trucks to weekly rodeos to trapeze lessons, you won't be wondering what to do after checking out popular parks at the Happiest Place on Earth. Here are 10 lesser-known experiences to cross off your list on your next getaway to Orlando.
(Getty Images)

Go to a rodeo.
No need to head out West to enjoy a rodeo complete with bull riding and barrel racing. Simply go an hour south of Orlando to Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo, which holds a rodeo every Saturday at 7:30 pm. The rodeo is a fun way to see riders from all across the country try their best to stay on a bull or wrangle a bucking bronco. There's even a mechanical bull for those who want a firsthand feel for the experience. Consider booking a stay at the ranch, which just added luxe teepees to their range of accommodations.
(Getty Images)

Taste international flavors.
Epcot may have its share of globally inspired cuisines, but you can also stroll along International Drive in Orlando for your choice of Italian, Greek and even Ethiopian culinary delights. Try the tapas and ceviche varieties at Cuba Libre Restaurant, or order up a pho bowl at Little Saigon. What's more, Orlando has more food trucks per capita than any other city in the U.S., making it a must-visit destination for epicureans. A foodie favorite is Jamaica Jamaica, which serves up flavorful Caribbean fare. Or, keep it simple with a soulful favorite, like Melissa's Chicken & Waffles, which dishes up mouthwatering Southern-inspired fare.
(Getty Images)

Try your hand at trapeze.
You too can be "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze." At the Orlando Circus School, kids and adults can learn to maneuver on a flying trapeze or master the aerial silks high in the air. Classes are offered almost every day, and for those who don't see the circus tricks they want to add to their skill set, the Orlando Circus School offers private and semi-private classes. They will teach visitors everything from walking on stilts to juggling to how to hula hoop.
(Getty Images)

Go on a bioluminescent paddleboard tour.
There's no need to make the pilgrimage to the famed Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico to see sparkling water thanks to bioluminescent dinoflagellates in the lagoons. Instead, head to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a short drive from Orlando, and sign up for a 90-minute nighttime guided stand-up paddleboard tour with operator SoBe Surf. Only offered during the summer months, this unique paddling tour is available to both novice and advanced paddlers. SoBe also offers manatee experiences and eco-tours in Cocoa Beach's Banana River Lagoon.
(Getty Images)

Watch a pro football game.
Orlando may not have an NFL team, but that doesn't mean you can't catch riveting professional football games in the city. Orlando recently hosted its first Pro Bowl, the NFL's all-star game, which pits the National Football Conference against the American Football Conference, and it's coming back next year. Between fan festival activities, team practices and the game itself, there's a lot to love if you're a football enthusiast. Even better, it's a lot closer for sport aficionados – nearly all of the previous Pro Bowls were hosted in Honolulu.
(Getty Images)

Explore the history of the Bible.
For those eager to brush up on biblical history, head to the Holy Land Experience, a bible-themed park run by Trinity Broadcasting Network. At this theme park, you won't find any Mickey Mouse ears, but rather replicas of the Wilderness Tabernacle and the Great Temple, as well as live shows, like a musical rendition of the well-known parable of the prodigal son. Plus, kids will love the Smile of a Child Adventure Land, which offers rock climbing, face painting and mini golf, among other pastimes.
(Getty Images)

Visit Jack Kerouac's house.
You don't need to go all the way to Key West to see the home and museum of a famous author (hat tip: Ernest Hemingway). Instead, stick around the city and pay a visit to the Jack Kerouac House in College Park, a northwest Orlando neighborhood. This is where the acclaimed author lived when his work, "On The Road," was published. Today, authors can apply to the Kerouac Project for writer-in-residence positions at this literary landmark. Selected writers can live in the Kerouac house for three months.
(Getty Images)

Stay in a vacation rental that rivals a theme park.
Orlando may be the theme park capital of the world, but you can skip the parks and have even more fun with a stay at an ultra-kid-friendly vacation rental with companies like Sweet Sensations, which features a 10-bedroom house with a swimming pool shaped like an ice cream cone, a candy-themed mini golf course, an on-site splash pad and a "Candy Land"-inspired board. Or, book a stay at a Reunion Resort villa, available through HomeAway.com, which boasts a bowling alley, a video game room, a movie theater and an indoor basketball court, among other perks.
(Getty Images)

Explore the Everglades.
Everglades National Park may technically be in South Florida, but you can still learn about its ecosystem and get your fill of the Everglades in the Orlando area. Book a swamp tour of central Florida's wetlands, including the waterways that feed into the Everglades, with reputable outfitter Boggy Creek Airboat Rides. Keep your eyes open for alligators, turtles and wading birds on this 30-minute nature tour. Or, head to Gatorland for a behind-the-scenes tour of the alligator breeding marsh (or a zip line ride over the marsh).
(Getty Images)

Admire life-size dinosaurs.
Dinosaur lovers of all ages will go crazy for a side trip to Dinosaur World in nearby Plant City, Florida. Kids can dig for fossils as part of a guided activity or explore the Bone Yard and attempt to excavate a 27-foot dinosaur skeleton. There's also a hands-on tour with a paleontologist and a prehistoric museum where the dinosaurs come to life. Don't forget to wander about outside too, where you can walk among hundreds of life-size dinosaurs. It's a fun way to engage youngsters with enriching activities that explore prehistoric times.
(Getty Images)

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Tags: Orlando, vacations, travel


Vincent Crampton is a freelance writer, editor and educator who’s in love with his native Florida. He writes about restaurants, theme parks, hidden gems, weird tales and the natural wonders of his hot and humid state. His work has appeared in the Orlando Sentinel, the Sun Sentinel, the Orlando Weekly and the West Orange Times. He also writes short stories, and he is the creator and managing editor of ScrawlBrawl.com, an online microfiction journal. He maintains a thriving copywriting, editing and proofreading business called The Proofessional. He is also on the selection committee for the historic The Jack Kerouac Writers In Residence Project of Orlando. You can follow him on Twitter at @ScrawlBrawl.

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