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Are you planning the perfect family vacation to Orlando? Don't let the price tag surprise you after the fact. As you probably know, many of the main attractions in Orlando - Walt Disney World, we're looking at you - are quite pricey. So, to help you plan your trip, we painstakingly researched every aspect of such a trip. This post shows you exactly how much you can expect your Florida vacation cost to be.
The ballpark figure for Orlando travel cost is just under $200 per person per day before your flights. This assumes you are avoiding the cheapest and most expensive hotels and doing the average activities for an Orlando itinerary - some theme parks, a beach day, and the like.
Clearly, you can go higher or lower. Keep reading and I’ll show you how I reached these numbers. We will also include sample itineraries for budget, luxury, and intermediate travel itineraries.
Getting To Orlando
Of course, how you get to Orlando depends on where you are starting from and how you want to travel. There are three main ways to get there:
- Flying into Orlando International Airport
- Driving in a car or RV
- By Amtrak train
Flying will be your best option if you are from outside of the United States, but many travelers choose to fly into somewhere else initially and then drive to Orlando from there.
Let’s start breaking the cost of each of these options.
Cost Of Flights To Orlando
Orlando has a big international airport, so it will be possible to fly directly to Orlando from many international airports. According to Skyscanner, some of the most popular routes to Orlando originate in Chicago.
Keep the following in mind –
- These are the cheapest rates sampled at the same time for various dates in the future. It is certainly possible that with careful planning, you can find cheaper flights.
- You should add baggage fees to these prices. Factor in around $25 per checked bag.
- This is a blog post and not a flight search engine, so obviously, these prices may no longer be available when you search for flights.
Budgeting Tip #1:
You Can Get the Best Rates On Airfare By Planning Ahead.
If you can plan your trip a few months in advance, it can save you big on airfare. Airlines know that demand rises as you approach the date of a flight, so the prices rise accordingly. By choosing your dates far ahead and watching for the lowest fares, you can save hundreds of dollars per flight.
Flights from New York to Orlando can be very inexpensive, with many nonstop options making it a great city to pair with Orlando for those coming to the US for a longer trip.
Cost Of Driving To Orlando
Depending on your starting point, driving to Orlando could be your best option. While the drive from New York City is probably too far for most travelers, at 17 hours, there are many cities within a reasonable drive. That includes Atlanta (6.5 hours), Miami (4 hours), and even somewhere as far away as Nashville (10.5 hours).
We need to look at three components here –
- Cost of a rental vehicle (if you’re renting one).
- Gas prices.
- Accommodation and expenses along the way.
Orlando Car Rental Costs
If you decide to rent a vehicle for your travels, you can expect to pay reasonable prices for most of the year. For example, here are some starting prices for a 1-week rental in February:
Small car: $26 per day
Large car: $31 per day
SUV: $37 per day
Now, if you are not familiar with rental car prices, those are very reasonable prices, especially in a highly popular destination. Of course, traveling certain times of the year, or without much notice, can really jack those prices up. For example, here are some starting prices for Christmas week with around three weeks of notice:
Small car: $59 per day
Large car: $63 per day
SUV: $66 per day
That leads us nicely into another budget tip:
Budgeting Tip #2:
Book Your Rental Vehicle As Early As Possible.
By starting your rental car search early, you give yourself a good chance of finding low fares. Of course, certain times of year will always be more expensive, but giving as much notice as possible means you can find the lowest fares.
And even if the fares aren't super low when you first look, keep up the search. Fares are subject to change all of the time, so check often and don't be afraid to book when you see what looks like a reasonable price - after all, most agencies will let you cancel your booking with little notice. So, if you have already booked a car and end up finding a better deal later on, there is really no danger to you - as long as you remember to cancel your other booking!
The Cost Of Gas
Gas money is a sneaky expense that can add up if you aren't careful with your planning. After all, the U.S. is huge, and even if you are just staying in Florida for your entire trip, you can quickly rack up many hundreds of miles. Here are the one-way distances from Orlando to some common destinations:
Miami: 236 miles
Key West: 393 miles
Tallahassee: 257 miles
Atlanta: 438 miles
New Orleans: 640 miles
Washington, DC: 847 miles
New York City, NY: 1,072 miles
Cost Of Gas In Florida
While the USA is known for having relatively low gas prices, especially compared to most countries in Europe, what are they like in Florida? Well, you can always check the average price in each state at GasBuddy.
Unlike some popular destinations - Hawaii, California, and Alaska come to mind - Florida's gas prices are at the low end of the country's spectrum. Currently, the average price is just $2.36 per gallon. That's very low and therefore good news for anyone planning on driving in Florida!
Made It To Orlando – Now What?
So far, we focused on the cost of getting to Orlando. Time to talk about your expenses while visiting the state itself. We’ll break this into accommodations, attractions, food, and supplies.
Cost Of Accommodation
Another big expense when it comes to travel is your accommodations. Many travelers prefer to spend a little more to get a nice hotel in Orlando. After all, this is a family destination and often a once-per-year or even once-in-a-lifetime destination, so why not make it memorable?
Searching for 3-star hotels, we can see that most land somewhere between $80 and $150 per night for a random date in February. And, except for some of the most popular dates, these prices stay fairly constant throughout the year.
Budget Tip #3
Don't Mind the Heat? Go in the Summer!
While Orlando is known for having pleasant weather, it does tend to get hot (highs in the 90s Fahrenheit) in the middle of summer. Accordingly, prices drop on most hotels during the hottest months. So, if you don't mind dealing with some heat and humidity, you can save some cash by visiting in summer.
Disney On-Site Accommodations
Since this is Orlando, we have to add one section - Walt Disney World hotels. These properties are situated right in or next to the park, so you don't have to drive and park to get there. Want to stay in Disney World? Well, there are plenty of options, and most of them are nice hotels, but you will certainly pay for it.
Budgeting Tip #4
To really lower your expenses, you can try other types of accommodation, like an Airbnb rental.
It's always worth checking local listings on sites such as Airbnb or Vrbo to compare prices with hotels. It is possible to find some great deals on these sites, especially if you need multiple hotel rooms and can simply rent a small house or condo instead.
For example, check out these 6 to 8-person Airbnbs right near Disney for just $80 to $88 per night:
Attraction Expenses in Orlando
Walt DisneyWorld Prices
Let's start with the big one - Disney. As you would expect, prices are high. Prices vary depending on the date of your trip, but standard park tickets start at $109 person per day for one day. They go down from there, depending on how many days you plan on staying. For example, a 5-day pass is just $83 per person per day. Including the Hopper Option increases the ticket price by between $60 and $80.
That means that an average 3-day pass for a family of 4 (two adults, two kids between 3 and 9) would cost $1,354 on the low end.
Budgeting Tip # 5
Consider Skipping the Park Hopper Pass
Many travelers are tempted to go for the Park Hopper option when planning their Orlando vacation. These passes allow guests to move between Walt Disney World, Epcot Center, and Illuminations. For an extra $60 or so, these passes can be handy for anyone who plans on moving fast through these large parks.
However, that's not how everyone experiences these attractions. This is especially true for families with small children or elderly folks.
So, By only purchasing a single park pass for each day, you can save some bucks. After all, these parks are all so big, and most travelers never go to multiple parks within one day.
Cost of Disney Meals
On top of your tickets, you have to factor in food. You didn't think they were going to let you eat for free, did you? Of course not, but Disney does offer some fantastic dining options and meal plans ranging from budget to deluxe.
Budgeting Tip # 4
Skip the Meal Plan
If you purchase a meal plan with your tickets, you won't have to worry about tons of small food transactions while you are vacationing! With these meal plans, you have some options. On the low end, there is the Quick-Service Dining Plan, which includes counter service food - perfect for families who don't want to spend too much time or money dealing with food! For those wanting to spend more money and get a nicer dining experience in return, Disney offers a Disney Dining Plan, which grants you access to over 50 table-service restaurants, as well as the Deluxe version, which includes the most options for meals as well as appetizers and desserts!
That's all well and good, but do these plans save you money? Well, it depends on how you like to eat while visiting the park, but just know that it can easily cost more than the typical meals you will eat at the park, as this case study shows. So, if you are on a budget, skip the meal plan and eat economically!
While it is important to discuss Disney World, not everyone traveling to Orlando is going to want to visit that park. After all, there are plenty of other attractions, including several other major theme parks. Here are the current prices for each of these major attractions for an adult (prices subject to change, and children get discounts):
Universal Studios Orlando: $170 (adult)
Legoland: $84.99 per ticket
SeaWorld: $84.99 per ticket
Kennedy Space Center (an hour away from Orlando): $60.99 per ticket
Note that these prices reflect a single-day ticket. Some parks will offer discounts, lowering the per-day cost when you increase the number of days.
Food Expenses In Orlando
Budgeting Tip #6
Buy some groceries.
Food expenses add up quickly while traveling, mainly because you tend to eat out for three meals per day. However, by purchasing some provisions at a local grocery store, Sam's Club, or Costco, you can save tons of money. And many parks, Disney included, allow guests to bring food inside. Carefully planning your meals and buying groceries in advance is a great way to save some dough.
Orlando On A Shoestring Budget
Want to see Orlando for as little money as possible? Here's how: be flexible with your flight dates, rent a small vehicle, couch surf, or stay at the cheapest hotels you can find, and nd only eat supermarket food. Here are some hypothetical expenses for a 4-day trip for two people:
- Flights: $247 ($137 per person, round-trip from JFK airport on JetBlue)
- Small car rental for one week: $134 (Hitchhiking and using public transportation are even cheaper options)
- Gas: $12 (based on driving to 100 miles at 30 mpg with gas costing $3.50 per gallon)
- Budget hotel for four nights: $246
- Food: $240 (at approx. $30 a day per person)
Total: $879 or roughly $109 per person per day before attractions.
More interested in decadence than cost savings? No problem! Here is a hypothetical luxury itinerary, assuming you want to spend one week in the city and drive around for some sightseeing while there.
- Flights: $1,170 ($585 per person, round-trip business-class from JFK airport on Delta)
- Full-size SUV rental in Orlando for one week: $418
- Gas: $100 (500 miles of driving at 18 mpg and $3.50 per gallon)
- 4-Star Hotel for one week at $316 per night: $2217
- Food: $1,680 ($120 per day per person)
Total: $5,585 or almost $400 per person per day before attractions.
A “Middle Road” Approach
If neither of those options appeals to you, you might find a middle ground approach more attractive. Here is a typical 7-day itinerary for a 1-week Orlando trip for two people:
- Flights: $600 ($300 per person, round-trip premium economy from New York (JFK) on Delta)
- Intermediate SUV rental in Orlando for one week: $259
- Gas: $42 (300 miles of driving at 25 mpg and $3.50 per gallon)
- Airbnb for one week at $85 per night: $595
- Food: $840 ($60 per day per person)
Total: $2,336 or around $166 per person per day before attractions.
As you can see, there are tons of ways to book your Orlando vacation. Which options you select will depend on your preferences, trip dates, and traveling style. In fact, just about the only area you can't save big by being flexible is on your park passes (although some, like Walt Disney World, do fluctuate their pass prices by date).
Because flight prices will vary greatly depending on when and where you are flying from, we can leave those prices out and simply replace them with park pass prices, assuming you enjoy some theme park days and some less expensive sightseeing and beach days. This gives us a great estimate of just under $200 per person per day.