Our Orlando Trip: On a Budget

We recently flew to Orlando, Florida during the kids’ Spring Break and had a BLAST! I thought I’d share what we did and where we stayed – to include a rough breakdown of our budget while we were there.

This was the kids’ first time flying, at 6 and 7 (thanks Covid) and they did great. We flew Frontier – which we had never flown before – but we tried it basically to save money.

Our flight left out of Norfolk, VA Monday at 9:30 PM and landed around midnight in Orlando, Florida. Not ideal, but it was a straight flight there and again – we saved money. We left around 6:30 PM on Friday night from Florida and was back in Virginia by about 8 PM. Flight tickets for all four of us was around $1300. Our goal was to spend less than $5,000 for the entire trip (including flight, hotel, rental car and some theme parks). Our rental car was about $320 for the entire week, and the hotel was under $900 for the week. We were fortunate to save money by buying the theme park tickets through the MWR on base (thanks, Military benefits!). All together, we stayed right at our budget!

We stayed at Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa, which felt super fancy but was really, in fact, a 3-4 star resort. It was very nice, but very large, and because of it’s size I think some things fell through the cracks.

For example, our room had one king-sized bed and a pullout couch for the kids. There were no sleeping pillows in the room for the pull-out, and we had to call downstairs two or three times before anyone actually brought the pillows to us.

Before going to bed, I went to turn on the light on my nightstand…and it wasn’t plugged in. Not only that, the light was positioned nowhere near an outlet, so there was an extension cord that I had to fish out from behind the headboard to plug the light in.

We rented a movie our last night there, and opened the DVD player…to realize it wasn’t hooked up to the tv. We actually had to call maintenance and had them come hook up an entirely new DVD player before we got it to work.

In my opinion these aren’t HUGE issues, but they’re inconvenient – and for a location that touts the word “resort” in their name, we kind of had higher expectations.

What drew us to this hotel was that there was a fun-looking water park and pools on-site. However, the water park there is NOT included in your hotel price. It’s an additional cost that we decided to forego altogether, and figured that if we were going to pay for a water park ticket, we would rather pay for tickets to Volcano Bay right down the street.

Volcano Bay was a lot of fun, and we spent the entire day there (only getting minimal sunburn…for the most part). The kids had a great time, and it was so different from the water park we have at home that we were glad we had this experience while we were here.

I LOVE the way they designed their ride lines; we really didn’t wait much at all in any lines because of the wristband process they use there. Essentially, you are given a waterproof wristband at the entrance of the park. and this wristband secures your spot in line for whatever ride you’d like to wait for, once you go up to the ride’s kiosk and scan it. If the wait for that ride is 40 mins, you scan your wrist band, walk around to another ride or another area of the park, and 5 minutes before your time is up, your wristband vibrates to remind you that your spot in line is coming up. Compared to waiting in line at home for 30-45 minutes (or more), we loved this idea!

We didn’t take a ton of pictures there (since we were busy splashing around) but it was a great time. We ate lunch there, and we had no complaints about the food (besides the price – but what do you expect?).

Here’s one pro tip I’ll give you when it comes to traveling with kids and visiting theme parks with them: most times, you’re not allowed to bring in food or drinks (to a theme park or to the airport). We packed empty bottles in the kids’ carry-on bags, and then brought an assortment of sugar-free water flavoring to add to their bottles once we got through security at the airport, and once we walked into the theme parks. This was a great (and free!) way to make sure the kids were staying hydrated, and we weren’t spending extra money in the process.

The next day, we spent the whole day at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

We chose this park over Universal Studios based on our kids’ ages and interests. Islands of Adventure has: Jurassic Park (which the kids for some reason love), Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter (which they don’t really know, but looks cool anyway) and the fun & quirky Comic Strip area.

There was so much to do, we definitely could have spent a couple days there. But alas, we crammed everything into one day and tried to do as much as we could. We did find ourselves fighting more of a crowd at this park, and definitely waited in some lengthy lines. Fortunately, this park does let you know ahead of time how long your wait is gonna be so you can make a decision early on whether or not you’re gonna even attempt it.

After Island’s of Adventure, we went back to the hotel to relax for a bit – and then enjoyed dinner at Uncle Julio’s in Orlando. I LOVE Mexican food, and wanted to visit a place that we didn’t have anywhere close to home.

Most nights, we finished the parks and headed to Disney Springs for the evening. It was right down the street from our hotel, and has fun shops like the Lego Store, the Disney Store, Planet Hollywood, Rainforest Cafe, and more!

Nine years ago, my husband and I went to this same spot in Disney Springs and took a picture (when I was very barely pregnant with my daughter), so it’s fun to now have a family picture in that same area.

The next day we planned on relaxing some and taking advantage of the pools that WERE included in the price of our hotel. We had spent about an hour at the pool before security closed it down due to an approaching storm. For the next three or so hours…it rained. So we improvised and found a local mall to hang around, and grabbed lunch at the food court.

Clearly the kids weren’t complaining! The weather cleared up, but by then the temperatures had dropped and we weren’t interested in going back to the pool. Back to Disney Springs we went! We gave the kids an allowance to spend at the Lego store, and that took up SO much time – waiting for them to decide how they were spending their money.

We finished the night back at the hotel for pizza and a movie (once we called maintenance and got our DVD player hooked up) and enjoyed Sing 2 until we fell asleep.

The next day – our last day – we didn’t have a lot of plans. We were flying back home before dinner, and needed to drop our rental car off by 4:30. We relaxed at the hotel for a while, went back to Disney Springs one last time to make sure we bought whatever we wanted (for ourselves and for people back home), I finally got my fruity drink (which was…just a tad too strong), and then we headed to the airport.

Pretending to enjoy my drink before the tequila really kicked in

Overall it was a good trip, and we were glad that we were able to make it work. We decided on this trip very last minute, and for the record: this is the first time we’ve ever gone out of town and done something big for Spring Break with the kids.

We were glad to stay right around our budget, though I understand that our budget may seem like too much (or too little) to some. This is what worked best for our family at the time, and we made it work!

We did NOT want to attempt Disney at all this trip, but maybe another trip in the future. if so, I’ll be sure to let you know any tips or tricks we discovered along the way!

Thanks for reading! If you’re interested to see videos and clips from our trip, be sure to follow me on Instagram at @jessahillmann and check out my “Orlando Vacay” highlight!

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