Everything BUT Disney Discount - Florida Vacations For Military, Families and others!
Everything but Disney World on a Budget
Disney World in Florida is a HUGE if not the biggest tourist attraction in the world. It's wonderful to visit for families of all ages. But sometimes you just don't want to do Disney. Or you've been "disney'ed out".
We have ran into one such occasion this year. We have done Disney World on their military package for the last 3 years, but this year we wanted to do an "Everything but Disney" trip. This being the case of course I scoured the internet for the best deals I could find, military or otherwise.
Here are all the steps you need to do your "Everything But Disney" Florida Vacation on a budget for military.
Lodging is one of the most important things to consider when planning a vacation. Orlando and the surrounding area are teeming with hotels, motels, resorts and then some for people to stay and and ALL are competing for your business. They all want to give you a deal so you will come to them. After checking out the internet here are some of the best deals I have found for lodging in the Orlando area.
1. Condo Rental - For those with large groups, condo rentals are the way to go. They can have mutltiple bedrooms, kitchens, washer and dryers and all the amentities of home. They can also significantly cut your lodging bill. The best lodging rates I've found for condo rentals are through Armed Forces Vacation Club. Though this is for military, you CAN get gift certificates for lodging use for NON military friends and family. Check out their website here: http://www.afvclub.com/
2. Theme Park Resort Stays - There are so many resorts in the area and many are associated with the parks. Universal and Nickelodeon are big ones for families. Here are some of the great military packages I have found for staying at Theme Park Resorts.
a. Universal Orlando Resort - Universal is now offering 3 night - 4 day getaway packages for military for as little as $235 an adult ticket. This includes park admission, resortstay, and early park admission. They have available upgrades if you want to staylonger or upgrade your resort experience. Check out the website here: http://www.universalorlandovacations.com/military/index.asp
b. Nickelodeon Resort - Nickelodeon is a huge mega for kids. Not many realize though,that they offer competitive military package deals just like the other theme parkresorts in the area. Currently they have a deal that runs til December 23, 2012 andgives you 20% off a family suite in their Orlando Resort, 10% off food and beverageduring your whole stay, and discounts for events and shows at the resort. To bookthis package you need to call and ask for the Military Appreciate Package. Checkout their website here to find out more information: http://www.nickhotel.com/orlando-military-pkg.aspx
3. Budget Hotel Stays - Many families have found that budget friendly hotels are a great way to have a vacation without stealing from your wallet. Here are some of the great websites and chain hotels I have found that are perfect for families on a budget.
a. Choice Hotels - Not only are the hotels on this site perfect for military deals, they areperfect for anyone who is looking for inexpensive, clean and friendly places to stayanywhere in the country. We have stayed with them several times and were pleasedto see you can search for the military rate directly on their website. But they don'tjust offer military rates! AAA and Senior rates are available as well! If you are afamily traveling with 6 people or less, let me suggest you check out their ComfortSuites. They sleep 6, usually have indoor pools and have always been SUPER niceand clean. We have stayed with them several times up and down the east coast.Check out their website here: http://www.choicehotels.com/
b. Shades of Green Resort - While this resort is associated with Disney for the most part,they are actually open to anyone who is military, DOD, or retired military to stay atregardless of whether or not they are going to Disney. They are also a GREATplace to find all your discounted military rate tickets in the area! Check out theirwebsite here: http://www.shadesofgreen.org/
Whenever you go on vacation one of the most expensive parts is dining costs. But now that things have changed at theme parks and in the Orlando area, it doesn't have to as wallet crushing as it used to be. Here are some great tips and discounts I have found to help save you money while on your Everything But Disney Florida vacation.
1. Eating Breakfast At Home - While on vacation in the area you aren't limited to your resort for dining options. If you are not staying in Disney and relying on their transportation, odds are you have a vehicle handy. If you do then running to the local supermarket, Walmart, or even drug store and grabbing some cereal, bowls, spoons and milk can be a big help. Not only is it less expensive then going out every morning for breakfast, but it will help when the kids need those late night snacks before falling for bed.
2. Meal Packages - It's not just Disney that offers meal plans for their theme parks! Seaworld, Universal, and Busch Gardens all offer meal plans when you purchase your tickets. These can save CONSIDERABLY when you are forced to dine in the park or leave and return. Here are the links for the meal plans for those parks.
3. Character Dining - Everyone loves character dining. Seeing their child's eyes light up at that familiar face in person. Here are some of the best deals I have found for character dining in the Orlando area.
a. Nickelodeon - If you stay in the Nickelodeon resorts then as a military member you get 10% off all dining options including character dining!
b. Seaworld - While you don't actually get a discount on the dining experience, since you get into Seaworld Orlando FREE then it evens out.
Now to the best part, ATTRACTIONS! There is so much more to do in the Orlando, FL area then just Disney World! Here are some of the great deals on theme park tickets I've found and some are not just for military!
1. Legoland and Legoland Waterpark- While they aren't offering military discounts at this time, they do have great promotions out there. The park just opened last year and the water park just this May! The best promotion I have found so far is the Pepsi Buy one adult get one child free. You simply add 1 adult and 2 child ticket from the site listed below and every time you enter in this promo code 120106, then hit the back button and do it again. You can do this for up to 3 child tickets for free! When you get to the park you then upgrade to the 2 day ticket for $15 each and the waterpark option for $12 more. For a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) this saves you $100! https://secure4.gatewayticketing.com/legolandflorida/shop/viewitems.aspx?cg=pepsi&c=pepsi
2. Seaworld, Busch Gardens Tampa - These two parks are part of the Hero Salute program through InBev/Busch company. You can go to their website and be able to fill out the information and print out your voucher or go to the special ticket lines set up at the entrance to every park. With getting in free you can add on extras like the Dolphin VIP Tour like we did this summer! http://www.herosalute.com/ *If you have more then the 3 allowed dependents, call the number on the site to explain and they usually give you the tickets for your verified dependents. We did this last year with all 5 of our kids and got 6 dependent tickets.*
3. Pirate Adventure Dinner - If you or your kids love pirates then this is the show for them! Set similar to Medieval Times Dinner show this has a 300k tank with a full pirate ship built onto it. You can get discounted tickets at your local base ITT office or at Shades of Green. You can purchase tickets for military or non military and don't need a military member there to activate them just to purchase them. The adult tickets cost $38 and children $26. Go for the added VIP package and get front row seating and the kids to be IN the show. All that and its still less then a regular ticket price. While they might not be as good as the deals offered to military, they do have some awesome deals on their website and even one where you can pay to see the show only and not pay for the meal! Check out the website here: http://www.piratesdinneradventure.com/orlando/
4. Universal Studios - Universal is offering package deals right now for staying in their resort, but for those who don't want to stay there I have found some deals. Unfortunately, I have found that the military deals at the ITT offices aren't the best. Right now if you buy your tickets online you can save $20 off the multi-day tickets and get a coupon book with up to $150 savings. They also offer great discounts for Florida Residents! Check out the ticket website here: http://www.universalorlando.com/theme-park-tickets/general-admission.aspx
5. Kennedy Space Center - For those who are into anything space related, this is a great place to visit and very close to Orlando! You can purchase discounted tickets through your ITT office, Again they are the real tickets and only the military member needs to be present at the ITT office to purchase them, not when you use them. So that means you can buy them for friends and family as well. They are $38 vs the $45 at the window for adults and $29 vs the $35 at the window for children. They are also offering a $5 off tickets purchased online right now. Check out their website here: http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/buy-tickets-admission-hours.aspx
Transportation is one of the most expensive parts of a vacation. If you are staying in a non Disney resort then you will probably need your own vehicle while down there. Here are some great deals on transportation to, from and while there.
1. Flights - Flights are expensive no matter where you go. Military does offer Space A flights but they often have long waiting lines. I have found that U.S. Airways offers discounts to military and their dependents if they are on approved excused absence or leave. Also check out Kayak for the ability to search all the airlines and travel websites in one click. http://www.kayak.com/ and http://www.usairways.com/en-US/specials/traveldiscountprograms/militaryleavefares.html
2. Car Rentals - Many of the brand car rental companies offer military discounts. If you are a member of USAA you can also get up to 25% off rentals at Hertz and Avis.
a. Alamo - Enter promo code " GOVRNR" to get the discount government/military rates.
b. Budget - You can save up to 25% off a rental car. Just enter in promo code " U08801".
c. Hertz - They have special benefits for military and government travelers. Check out this site here: http://www.hertz.com/rentacar/misc/index.jsp?targetPage=governmentandmilitary.xml
d. Avis - Check out their website here for their military rate and deals. http://www.avis.com/car-rental/content/display.ac?navId=T4M04S04#__highlight
3. Gas - If you are driving down then gas is a huge concern with how pricing is now. Plot your course and find the best pricing on gas in any area by using Gas Buddy. You simply search your state and area you are in and it will give you the best prices in the area based on users posting! http://gasbuddy.com/
4. Theme Park Parking - This can get pricey. It can range up there, especially if you want to get close or you need handicapped parking. Check the websites first to see if they are offering discounted parking passes that you can purchase online ahead of time. A lot of theme parks are offering these now to give customers one more option at saving money. Here are some of the parks in the area I have found that let you purchase online to save money.
a. Legoland - While they don't offer parking passes, they do offer discounted shuttle transportation from the Orlando Premium Outlets. At $5 per person it could be less then what you would pay to park.
b. Seaworld - They offer an online parking pass for $13.15 per vehicle and allow you to upgrade it to preferred parking for $6 more at the booth.
c. Busch Gardens Tamp - They offer not only a discounted parking pass but a discounted Valet parking pass as well. Can't beat that!