I have been discussing in previous articles, taking off to Florida, preparation and saving money, this is a continuation of a series to help you get to Florida, frugally, while having a great vacation. It’s all in the planning and I am giving you tips and tricks to enjoy the Sunshine State, and the local attractions in Orlando and the surrounding areas, as I again plan to journey down South as we do every year.
A huge part of the decision to travel to Florida, at least for us ‘East-Coasters” becomes how to travel there by car or plane? The decision weighs heavily on us each year as we get ready to take-off to the Magical Kingdom, Universal and many other attractions in Orlando. As a family of 5 a lot weighs into our decision and how we choose to go depends on many factors. Frugality of the trip is not always in the price, but also in the ‘hassle’free’ freedom of travel.
Kids and School.
School is most important and the number one priority, but because the time of year that my husband is free is January and February to travel as a family we must pull the kids out of school. In many instances, it is fine because we work around days that they have off, or work around days that we know the school typically does not have full class schedules because of yearly special programs that go on in their schools. We work with the kids ahead to get their work done, and then fulfill anything they might miss.
Driving is an option but it can average 16-18 hours depending on traffic, weather and those infamous pit stops. For us, West Virginia is our horrible travel zone as we have been through, sleet, ice, snow, and rainstorms beyond the norm and traveling becomes treacherous through this area. The time of driving is a great way to spend family hours together, but it also means that the car must be in great shape, ready with oil, fuel, and tires and all the other car maintenance that goes along with it. In addition, you need to be ready with blankets, water, food, and flashlights, because after all you want to be prepared. We have driven so many times, I can almost tell you the roads and what to look for, but sometimes we just want to get there and that means time in the car is not advantageous. If you have only 7 days to travel total, 2 are in the car, so your trip suddenly becomes 5 days, and honestly, with that trip, 7 days is far more rewarding than 5, therefore the car is not always the perfect fit.
Remember when driving to factor in the cost of gas by calculating your MPG x the number of miles you will be driving and then figuring out how much gas you will be expending on the drive. Take into account the mileage to and from your Florida Destination, the wear and tear on the tires, battery, oil etc. and then look at the difference in cost versus flying and a rental. This is the best way to see how much you are actually spending on gas, and travel versus a plane ticket.
Driving With A Rental
Perhaps you live closer to Florida, like North Carolina. South Carolina, Georgia, then this is really just a quick drive, and probably well worth it, however, the car and its condition are often the biggest consideration for the trip. If you car is not up to the trip, Rental is always an option and I am finding many companies online that rent cars with fabulous discounts for trips. With rentals you don’t have to pick up and drop off in the same place and you can’t believe the great cars that are available. Again, this needs to be planned ahead, booked ahead, and you can always Upgrade. One suggestion, think AAA before you even start hunting, because this card is going to save you lots! I will talk about Car Rental Companies again later.
One thing you can never be is over-prepared when flying. Take the least amount possible(think wash machines) and get to the airport ahead of your flight. De-Icing, equipment malfunction and other delays are often what you will encounter on even those best prepared flight schedules you have created. Plan on packing a few snacks in your carry-on and make sure the kids are armed with their electronics and headphones so they are busy and ready to go. If you have not invested in a travel charger for these electronics, this is definitely the time to grab one because you don’t want your devices or the kids devices to ker-plunk while you are waiting. Remember get ready to go with the flow, and be prepared for delays because the airports are full of them. Keep an open mind about traveling and don’t stress out when things go a little off schedule.
Flights can be found discounted on so many sites and if you have the foresight to start planning ahead of your trip you can actually get a rather discounted flight and save hundreds. Shop the many online sites and use the terms ‘discounted flights’ combined in different ways, but don’t stop there, with your shopping, try an airport that is about 2 hours away from you, not just the one you have right in your backyard. For Pittsburghers, we often look at the Cleveland Airport because we can find flights for cheaper than leaving from Pittsburgh. A few hours of driving saves us HUNDREDS of dollars. We also have used our airport, but changed the location that we arrive to in Florida, so rather than Orlando, we try Tampa, Jacksonville, etc. We leave from this destination and get to the other, pick up a rental car and drive for an hour, again saving HUNDREDS Of dollars. Rental car prices again vary and need to be scheduled ahead, so this is all part of frugally planning your trip.
A Flight and A Transportation Service or A Shuttle
Another option is to not rent a car, of course this is dependent on where you are staying. You can always hire a limo(not nearly the pricing you might think) and be transported from the airport to your hotel, home, etc. Once you are at your lodging you can always make arrangements for travel with the same transportation companies an being picked up at the end of the day from an amusement park, totally beats, paying for parking, finding the car, dragging the kids, etc., you are picked up and whisked away, frugality of luxury has no price tag! You might also want to see if there is transportation at your local hotel you are staying in to and from places because that makes a trip very frugal as well. We can delve into this a bit more in a later chapter of this series.
Whether you fly or drive, organization ahead of time saves you money, stress and time on the trip. Pre-planning translates to cash savings and you can apply those savings to your trip to The Sunshine State. Stay tuned for more Florida Travel Savings Tips. The frugality of travel is all in the eye of the beholder, however, pre-planning saves you time, money and hassle.