We’ve returned from our “cheap” last minute Florida deal, but how much did it really cost? After all, this was our alternative for £3,600 11 days all inclusive in Benidorm. My friends had told me year on year food and shopping is cheap outside of the theme parks, so we gave it a go.
Recapping our Florida Holiday Package.
The Tui Package we eventually booked was for 2 weeks in the Delta Hotel, Lake Buena Vista. This included the return flights from Glasgow to Sanford (Orlando) and basic car hire. The total price for all four of us was £2231! Being super tight we also bagged £44 cashback via Quidco. I knew from past experience that this was a bargain, flights alone used to cost between £600 and £1000 each.
Hold on before we’d even left the TUI site we spotted our first extra. After booking, I was shown a seat allocation plan. There were 9 seats left on our flight (as it was only 6 weeks away) and only 2 pairs of 2 seats. So instead of risking being totally separated, I paid extra for the luxury of choosing seats! A bargain? at £88
Optional Extras in Orlando
We’d decided that we were going to avoid Disney World as we’ve done it so many times before. This time we’d do Universal Orlando and Sea World. We’d visited Universal about 8 years ago and Sea World about 20 years ago. So both had plenty of new attractions to keep us entertained for 2 weeks.
Now that Imogen is 10 years old, theme parks seem to class her as an adult for ticket prices! So we hunted around for the best prices. The site I ended up on was American Attractions at a cost of £908 for 4 tickets. These tickets covered both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, alongside Volcano Bay, the new water park.
The Sea World Tickets covered Sea World, Busch Gardens and Aquatica. This time I booked with FloridaTix.com. Sea World tickets were a lot cheaper at “only” £411 for the 4 of us. With our tickets sorted out any extra was down to food… Until I also spotted Mickey’s Not So Scary Haloween Party tickets on the site. These came to £252. Now we were sorted!
The Hire Car Hard Sell
Our package included a basic car. Looking at the catalogue online it looked like we were going to bet a Ford Fiesta. SO I was ready for the hard sell when we landed. Expecting to be offered an amazing upgrade deal. Followed by the must-have extra insurance package.
The reality was offered an upgrade, which he looked at and decided to go for even bigger. Our car of choice was their “Standard SUV” which was a Hyundai Santa Fe. Plenty of room for 4 cases and a family of 4. As we’d saved on our holiday package I felt we could afford this. The upgrade cost £505.
Next for the insurance! The sales guy said “would you like the collision damage waiver and full insurance. It’s an optional extra… you really don’t need to get it”. He actually talked us out of getting the extra insurance, which we left alone. Basic car hire included basic insurance which covers damage you do to other peoples cars.
Car Seats? Abigail was borderline needing a car seat and we felt we should use one to be on the safe side. As we were “spending so much” (his words!), we were offered half-price car seat hire at $5 per day. We declined and decided to purchase a new one in Walmart at the first one we passed instead. This was only $20
I will add that if you search for Alamo Brits offers on google I could have pre-booked the same care, upgraded insurance for £380.
In round figures, we spent £2000 on food. What we thought was going to be cheap dining options was probably similar in cost to dining in the UK. The menu price may be cheap(ish), but there is the service charge to add on afterward.
At the beginning of the holiday, we were dining like kings. Eating at Texas De Brazil, an all you can eat meat restaurant, which was amazing. Our share of that bill was $240. However, to by the end of the holiday, we had found CiCi’s Pizza Buffet. Here it was all you could eat Pizza and refill drinks with a total family price of $24. So We tried to balance up the dining with experiences we wanted to do on both ends of the price range.
We did go to McDonald’s twice and both times were rubbish. Ignoring the cost, both times the service and orders were wrong and very very slow. Who would have thought that the home of the fast-food chain couldn’t beat the imported franchise here in the UK?
We added more extras to our holiday. One of which is a nearly no-brainer, the other was to do something different.
Firstly the no-brainer! We decided to stay at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. The reason behind this was to gain express passes for the Universal parks. If you stay 1 night here you gain express passes for everyone in your room on the day of check-in and the day of check out. The cost of these passes is more than the cost of the hotel room. So you could say you were saving money by staying here! To make sure we did everything at Universal we stayed 2 nights to be sure.
Next up is the SandPearl Resort in Clearwater Beach. Catherine had not visited the Gulf Coast before and we had some friends staying there at the same time. So we added 2 nights here too.
Total cost for these four additional hotel nights was £999 via Holiday Hamster.
The Grand Totals
Holiday Package £2231
Park Tickets £1571
Car Upgrade £505
Extra Hotel nights £999
When I look at the totals like this I can’t help but think maybe our “cheap” last-minute deal wasn’t that cheap in the end. My comparison would be looking at a Disney World Resort package with the dining plan and park ticket. However, that would be a totally different holiday with a different set of experiences.
I’ll admit that it wasn’t as cheap as we had thought it was going to be. However, we had an amazing 2 weeks in Florida and I would happily do it again next year if I could pull the money together. The kids are only young for a short time and we hope that holiday adventures will be one of the things that they remember when they are older. They certainly set an impression on me when I look back. Where to next year?