TOTAL SAVINGS ON THIS TRIP: $536.28
As a family and as a couple, we take many different types of trips. From single nights away in Orlando for just Brooke and I to month long family road trips down the coast of California, our traveling is always varied. The single constant throughout these trips is our attempt to save money while traveling. Brooke is extremely proficient at finding deals, discovering new local attractions to try and joining memberships and clubs that offer great benefits. I am usually charged with finding ways to spend less on the big ticket items like flights, car rentals and hotels. Together, we can usually put together a trip that is far less than we would normally expect.
As Spring Break for our kids approached, we all wanted to get away for at least a couple of days and Brooke started looking for deals way ahead of time. She was able to score some great Groupon deals for local attractions in Orlando, so we began hunting for hotel or vacation home deals for our stay. As the time approached, we did change our plans more than once for the exact timing of our stay and where we would be staying. We finally landed on Disney’s Dolphin Resort Hotel ($45 saved SPG membership) for the first night and Embassy Suites I-Drive ($35 saved with HotelTonight app).
Sunday, March 19, 2017
We loaded up and left for Orlando in the morning with plans of a super busy day, but already feeling tired and geographical logic coming into play, we decided to have a leisurely day at the Dolphin Resort and made a lunch stop at Shula Burger off of US 192. This is one of our favorite stops near Disney because of the quality of food, attentive staff (usually not very busy), fast casual environment and their participation in the Kids Eat Free Card for Orlando ($10 saved).
After lunch, we made the quick drive to Disney’s Dolphin Resort Hotel to check in for the night. Lila accompanied me to check in and we let them know that it was her birthday. The check in agent gave her a Happy Birthday button (which she proudly wore the rest of the day) and gave us a free upgrade to a resort view room. And, even though we were well ahead of check in time, the room was ready. The room was nice and we could see parts of Epcot and Hollywood Studios from our window.
It wasn’t long before we had changed into bathing suits and were headed for the pools and beach. The kids made stops along the way at the fountains inside, the playgrounds outside and every hammock along the way.
After swimming for a while (in the hot tubs, the pools and down the slides), we explored the rest of the grounds and the arcade.
We had time to clean up at the room before dinner and had promised the kids that we would let them do S’mores at the beach. We hadn’t planned for dinner this night during our savings research and that usually means that we overspend and leave dissatisfied. We made it out to the beach 45 minutes before the S’mores were scheduled to start, but the kids had no problem entertaining themselves on the beach with corn hole, ping pong and playing the sand (didn’t we just clean them up?). After enjoying the S’mores, we left the resort grounds to explore the Boardwalk. After running into our neighbors in front of the ESPN restaurant (they live literally 3 houses down), we grabbed some food a various quick service places on the Boardwalk. Over $45 later, Brooke and I were still hungry and we realized that our kids had mainly eaten ice cream and cotton candy for dinner. Calling it a night, we took the boat back to the Dolphin and watched the fireworks at the theme parks from our window.
Monday, March 20, 2017
Having pushed our super busy day back to Monday, we woke up and checked out fairly early and headed I-Drive. Today’s first stop was at WonderWorks, where Brooke had discovered an amazing Groupon for the All Access Pass ($98.34 saved with Groupon) and we made our way through the queue and then into the Inversion Tunnel, which was a challenge to walk through without grabbing onto the rails.
Because we had made it our first stop of the day, we enjoyed some light crowds early on, but as the morning progressed, it began to get very crowded. The kids loved the Wonder Wall (40,000 push pins) and the Bubble Lab, so most of time was spent making huge bubbles and imprinting ourselves into the wall.
We finally made our way up to the Basement (the floors work upside down at WonderWorks) where Emily, Caitlyn and I braved the glow in the dark ropes course which suspends you 1-2 stories above the floor while traipsing along different obstacles. Cailtyn only made it through the first couple before wanting to head down, while Emily and I finished the course.
We departed WonderWorks and headed down I-Drive to I-Drive 360 for lunch and more fun. We had to stop at our favorite, Shack Shake, for lunch. Emily, Brooke and I love this place, but the other kids not so much and, with a lack of a kids menu, it can be expensive to order. Brooke planned ahead for this and brought some lunchables and uncrustables for the other kids to eat.
After lunch, we completed the trifecta of Legoland Awesomer Pass reciprocals at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the Orlando Eye and Sea Life Orlando ($240 saved with LegoLand pass). Even though we have visited these places a few times before, the kids still had a great time (and got to see the new Presidential display).
Our hotel for the night, the Embassy Suites Jamaican Court, was literally across the street and the room was ready, so we dropped off our luggage in the room and made it back down in time for the evening’s Manager Reception of some light snacks and drinks. We spent a little longer here than expected and ended up last in line for our dinner show that night at the Outta Control Magic Comedy Show, which was back at WonderWorks.
The dinner show was another great discovery on Groupon from Brooke, purchased while Groupon was offering a 20% discount on top of the deal ($67.94 saved with Groupon). The family focused magic show was great for the kids and included all you can eat pizza, salad, beer and wine. Even though we were last in line to get in, we could still see the stage and watch the show without an issue. We all enjoyed the hour long show and were happily surprised to learn that our entry to WonderWorks from previous in the day was still valid for another entry. Now that it was later in the night (730 PM or so), the crowds had thinned considerably. The kids enjoyed many of the same attractions as before, but this time it was Brooke, Emily and Lila who braved the ropes course (Lila barely made it out on one obstacle before coming back down).
The Bubble Lab again was one of their favorite stops and we spent a long time there making huge bubbles.
After another whirlwind day, our exhausted bunch made it back to the hotel and crashed!
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
After enjoying the breakfast buffet at the Embassy Suites, we checked out of the hotel and headed to East Orlando and our Alma Mater, the University of Central Florida / UCF. Our kids’ Elementary School had sent home requests for parents to host information booths on different careers and colleges and we had volunteered to represent UCF at the College Fair in May. I reached out to a few different departments at UCF to request information and promo items that we could provide for the fair and the response was overwhelming. We visited four different departments at the main UCF campus and one at the downtown UCF campus, which left our van packed to its limit with bobble heads, pens, water bottles, brochures, bracelets and much more!
While in East Orlando, we couldn’t resist a stop at 4 Rivers Smokehouse for lunch. After lunch, we found ourselves downtown and with kids who needed to stretch their legs after being trapped in the van while we picked up all the goods from UCF, so we spent a great deal of time at Lake Eola, enjoying the weather, ducks and playground.
We had one more fun surprise in store for the kids before heading home; arcade fun at Dave & Busters. The best way to save at Dave & Busters is to go on Wednesday when the games are half price, but when you can’t arrange your schedule as such, look for buy one get one free coupons in the local travel booklets around Orlando. Using these, we were able to double the fun at Dave & Busters ($40 saved). With a lot of points to go around for the family, we spent a couple of hours having fun and accumulating tickets. The kids were quite happy with their winnings!
Our time was up at Dave & Busters and so was our quick trip to Orlando. We had a great time and saved a lot of money.