Meal Planning Can Save Money on Your Orlando Vacation
by Sharon Scott Wilson, RRP
A visit to Orlando without a day spent in one of the area’s amusement park seems out of the question to many families. But others who have ‘been-there-done-that’ may decide to skip the park and choose, instead, to lounge by the pool, play a round of golf, or visit one of the city's many attractions.
Whatever entertainment you may select, an Orlando vacation can be a pricey undertaking. One travel expert recently observed, “How much money will you need in Orlando? $236.00 is the average daily price for traveling in Orlando. The average price of food for one day is $50.00 per person. The average price of a hotel for a couple is $216.00.”
Something may be off with my math, but when I add $100.00 for food for two, plus $216.00 for a hotel room, the daily price for an Orlando vacation appears to start at $316.00 just for room and board! Realistically, you’re going to need to plan on spending more than that if you’re to take advantage of visiting America’s biggest playground. How can you shave a few hundred off these initial basics, you might ask?
For starters, you can greatly reduce the cost of a hotel room by acquiring a vacation ownership, or timeshare, unit. This comes with the added bonus of affording you dining and kitchen areas, which leads us to our next tactic: Make a detailed meal plan for each day of your trip.
One couple writes, “We would often have a big breakfast, snack for lunch and then sit down for a nice dinner. So, we really had only two full meals per day.” Since most Americans typically have lighter fare for their midday meal, this routine would not be a sharp departure from their norm.
Judy S. from Syracuse says, “We own a week at the Sheraton Vistana Resort. It’s just my husband and me, so we’re very flexible. We've used our exchange privileges to visit several of the other Vistana properties in Hawaii and Arizona. So we learned that before we go, it helps to put together a shopping list that includes items for a full breakfast to have in our condo each morning and an easy one-dish dinner for most of the evenings. That way we can grab a quick sandwich on the road for lunch. When we stay at the Orlando Vistana, we’ll typically dine at one of the onsite venues a couple of times during the week. Sometimes we'll just order a pizza or a burger from the Tacky Tiki Bar & Grill and have them deliver it.”
“We’re a family of four so we plan our budget down to the penny,” says Sarah E. from Columbus, Ohio. “We’re owners at Summer Bay Orlando by Exploria Resorts, in Kissimmee. We just love it there! For one thing, the apartments are huge and very modern, with trey ceilings and bright summery colors. But the kids love it here because there's so much to do. There's a lovely lake where they can go out on paddle boats or go fishing. There's every kind of entertainment including canoeing, swimming, miniature golf, tennis, a fitness center and a game room, which is great for those rainy days. Our little one is still in diapers, so it’s great to have a washer and dryer right in the unit. Because the kids are little, we don’t go out to restaurants very often. I feel right at home in my huge kitchen at Summer Bay and can keep our expenses really low.”
“Each summer we get two units close together at Parc Soleil by Hilton Grand Vacations Club for our annual reunion,” says Marge K. from Bad Axe, Michigan. “Having a kitchen while on vacation is perfect for us. The kids can eat whenever they are hungry, without the hassle of leaving the resort or even leaving our condo. Plus, there’s plenty of space in either unit for the whole group to gather each evening. We find it’s much more affordable and comfortable to stay at a timeshare resort, rather than at a hotel. Without our kitchens, there’d be eleven of us eating pizza on a bed. Yuck!”
Sarah observes that she ordinarily visits the nearby Publix supermarket on the way to the resort. “We are usually a little tired from traveling by the time we get to Orlando. So, for the first night we pick up two rotisserie chickens, a ready-made salad and maybe chips or a potato salad. That way we’ll have an extra chicken the next day. We’ll buy cold cuts, bread and mayonnaise to tide us through lunches for the first few days. My children are content with cereal for breakfast, although, lately, I’ve been treating them to French toast. So we add that to the basket, plus drinks and desert treats. After a few days, we get into a rhythm of playing outdoors or participating in an activity in the morning, grabbing a sandwich for lunch, and then spending the rest of the afternoon in the pool. We wait until the fifth or sixth day before visiting Walt Disney World or Universal Studios. I think part of the fun is the anticipation.”
“Because we have such a large group, we make a pretty detailed plan,” says Marge. “We have some teens in the family and, boy, can they chow down! So before we even pack a bag, my sister and I sit down together and plan each and every day. This helps us justify adding a few more excursions during our week. For example, one year we visited Ybor City, which is a colorful, historic village full of art deco appointments. It was founded in 1885 as a base for cigar factories and you can still watch through a shop window as an artisan works his craft.”
“We don’t really plan too far in advance,” says Judy. “We’ve come to the Sheraton Vistana Resort for several years and we’ve worked out an easy-to-follow routine. Right before we leave home I make up a shopping list of easy-to-prepare things like frozen entrees, veggies and deserts. Publix has a wonderfully convenient delivery service. They'll even deliver liquor so my husband and I can have our ‘Vacation Margueritas’ in the evenings. I have to admit it; I am really lazy when I'm on vacation. The Publix is located right there, but I don't want to waste time grocery shopping. So I place my order online and they'll deliver it to the unit.”
The ability to stay in a condo with all the appliances and conveniences of home gives you a head-start when it comes to saving money on vacation, wherever you go. And with a little planning ahead or, even with not-so-much planning ahead, you can cut reduce your dining expense by as much as 50 percent or more! After all, more money in your pocket means more opportunity to explore and experience adventures with your friends and family.