This week I am excited to have a guest poster sharing some great tips with you.
April Schroader left a career in the Tech Industry to become a SAHM. 3 children later and one on the way, follow her journey as she learns to transition from a yuppie life to a simple life at her blog: ASimpleLifeToo.com .
For many, a trip to Central Florida, whether for Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Discovery Cove or many other attractions available there, is a family dream trip that many spend years saving for. Unfortunately, just getting to Orlando can be half of the cost of the trip – about $2500 for a family of 5 to fly from the West. Is there a way to reduce this cost? Yes! Will it be free? Very unlikely, although there are some very creative ways like running your own transportation company and transporting goods between your city and major cities in Florida, or winning a contest (see April’s blog for a Disney Contest Roundup).
For the rest of us, here are 5 ideas to help you save money on travel to Central Florida.
On the road
1) When Driving Costs Less – Let’s break this down: A good driving route between LA and Orlando is 2500 miles. If your car or van gets 25 miles to the gallon, that is 100 gallons of gas, each way (total: 200 gallons). Although at the time of writing this, gas is lower then it has been in years, we can’t guarantee it will stay that way. Therefore, I will go with the average of $3.36 per gallon in 2014 for a total of: $672. Although some people might love the challenge of driving straight through (with 3 children in the car), most people will want to stop a night or two in a hotel and rest. An average of $70 per night for a mid-level hotel for a family of 5, for 4 nights (that is 2 each way), now brings our cost (with gas) to: $952. Lastly, we will need to eat for the 2 – 3 days it will take, each direction, to travel. Even if breakfast is included in your hotel, and you hit the store for sandwiches and snacks for lunch, we should still estimate at least $100 a day for food. Thinking it will be 2.5 days each way for a total of 5 days, our final total with gas, hotel and food is: $1452. For a family of 5, this is a $1000 savings over the flight. But, we do need to consider the time of the travel on each end and what that costs in terms of loss of work, etc… If you have 3 weeks paid vacation and you would like to explore some of the cities and sites along the way, this can be a great way to go.
2) Go Greyhound – Yes, the Greyhound bus still exists and they have routes all over the country. A fare for a family of 5 from LA To Orlando is only $1310. That is almost half what the airfare costs. However, it takes a little over two days to actually make the trip each direction, you will have to try to sleep and keep children content on the bus for that long, and you will most likely have to purchase food along the way, adding $200 – $400 dollars to the trip. It could be an adventure… or a nightmare. You have to determine if it is worth the savings.
Comparison Shopping for Flights
– If you look at these previous options and decide that flying is the only way you would want to make the trip, the next 3 tips are about how to cut a little of that airfare cost for your family.
3) Use all the available travel comparison sites on the market. Booking Buddy, Kayak, and TripAdvisor are three of many useful sites that will compare airfare, hotels and package deals across many providers. A search on the same dates for Booking Buddy and Kayak found prices as low as $376 dollars per ticket round trip. That is a total of only $1880 for our family. However, note that not all of the results returned include: taxes, fees and/or baggage fees, so be sure to do the research and include these in the final costs. Kayak adds the feature of being able to search +/- 3 days of departure date and return. This search resulted in finding a fare of $325 per person two days before my original search terms. A total of $1625 for our family of 5. I would say that is a super good deal!
4) Watch For Airfare Sales – Each of the previous mentioned travel comparison sites contain a feature to set alerts to watch for airfare changes. I have had alerts set for a couple of destinations on TripAdvisor for a year or so, and I have seen fares vary as much as $200. It is worth the time to find out what fares currently are, what they have averaged during the past year, decide what you can afford and are willing to afford, then wait and watch the changes for awhile to see when the price drops below the norm or average. This is your time to buy.
5) Book Hotel and Airfare Together For Discounts – Many travel sites like Expedia & Orbitz will discount the price of travel to Orlando and other popular locations if you book your flight and hotel at the same time. Expedia claims to discount the flight and hotel package as much as $525, so I did a search to get some real results. 6 nights at a Holiday Inn + airfare for a family of 5 was $2400. Personally, taking into account the airfare I found before and the cost of the hotel separately, this wasn’t much of a discount, but I did not change the dates of the search, like I did with Kayak, so maybe there is a better deal to be found. Start doing searches and experimenting with dates and you might come up with something good.
Are you planning a trip to Central Florida? I would love to know if any of this helped you or if you still have questions about saving on your trip.