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Florida is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Home to incredible theme parks, amazing experiences and delicious food.
As such, it’s very easy to overspend when you’re on vacation here (I speak from experience). But how much money do you really need when going to this attraction-packed city?
We’d recommend budgeting an average of $100 per person, per day for your Florida vacation. This covers; parking, gas, Ubers & Lyfts, food, drinks, snacks, miscellaneous spending (think band-aids & penny pressing machines) as well as the occasional souvenir but not theme park tickets or hotels.
Of course, this is just an average.
When we visited Florida on a budget just before we were married we were happy to save money by eating at Mcdonald’s and getting takeout pizza instead of going to restaurants and eating in the parks.
However, today we like to have at least one restaurant meal in the evening and regularly dine in the parks, as such we often spend slightly more.
Factors To Consider When Deciding On Your Florida Spending Money
There are a handful of factors that can significantly impact how much you spend while visiting Florida;
- Duration of your trip
- Domestic or international travel
- Car hire or public transport
- Staying on-site (at Walt Disney World or Universal Studios) or off-site
- Staying in a hotel or a villa
- Number of people you’re travelling with
- Type of holiday (once in a lifetime or semi-regular summer vacation)
Things To Budget For When In Florida
Whether you’re travelling to Florida solo, as a couple or on a family vacation, there are six key categories you’ll need to consider budgeting for;
- Food & Drink
I’ve gone ahead and broken this post down into each of these six categories to help you understand the costs (and ways to save) for each.
There are two types of travel you’re going to want to consider for your Florida vacation;
- Getting to Florida
- Getting around Florida
Since we’re discussing spending money, I’ve gone ahead and assumed you’ve got ‘getting to Florida‘ covered and instead now need to consider the costs involved with getting around Florida.
There are two ways you can opt to travel around Florida;
- In your own car (that you drove to Florida) or in a rental car.
- By using a rideshare service, public transport and walking.
Driving Your Own Car Or Rental Car In Florida
If you have your own transport in Florida, either as a result of bringing your own car with you or purchasing a rental car for your vacation, then the additional costs you’ll want to consider are;
- Cost of gas driving in Florida
- Cost of parking at a hotel (where applicable)
- Cost of parking at attractions
The amount of gas money you’ll need for a trip to Florida is going to vary dramatically depending on a number of factors including;
- The type of vehicle you have
- How long you’re visiting Florida for
- How much driving you plan to do during your vacation
For example, if you plan to drive out to Daytona Beach or Cape Canaveral during your visit to Florida, then you’re going to spend more than if you were just staying within the city.
We hired a car while in Florida for our wedding and spent roughly $15 per day on gas. This was based on us hiring a Mustang Convertable for four days and driving it to the Kennedy Space Centre and Walmart daily.
Parking At A Hotel
If you’re staying in a hotel during your Florida vacation then you’ll want to check the associated costs of parking a vehicle overnight.
Selected hotels in Florida offer complimentary parking, while others charge up to $25 per night.
This, along with the cost of parking at attractions in the area can significantly impact the overall cost of renting a car in Orlando, Florida when compared to using a rideshare service such as Uber or Lyft.
Parking At An Attraction
If you’re driving to the theme parks and attractions in and around Orlando, Florida then you’ll also want to budget parking your vehicle there too.
The exact price varies depending on the attraction and the type of parking you would like (valet, self-parking etc.) and generally starts at $25 per vehicle, per day.
With parking at selected hotels in Florida costing up to $25 per day and parking at certain attractions starting at $25 per day, you can easily spend upwards of $50 per day simply parking your vechile.
Rideshare, Public Transport & Walking
Using a rideshare service or public transport removes the need for you to pay for parking at hotels and attractions in Florida.
However, it can also somewhat reduce the flexibility and spontaneity of your travel plans.
Personally, we’ve never mustered up the courage to drive on the other side of the road (Helen’s dad did all the driving during our wedding trip) as such we look for a hotel that either;
- Is onsite at the Walt Disney World Resort or Universal Studios Resort so we’re able to either walk to the parks (where applicable) or take the complimentary transport.
- Is within walking distance of the Universal Studios Resort, so we’re able to walk there and then use either public transport or a rideshare service to go elsewhere in Orlando.
- Provides a shuttle bus to the theme parks. Again, we then use either public transport or a rideshare service to go elsewhere in Orlando.
An onsite hotel at either the Walt Disney World Resort or Universal Studios Resort generally costs 10% to 20% more when compared to similar hotels in the area.
However, the amount of money you’ll likely save by using the onsite complimentary transport instead of Uber’s and Lyft’s can often reduce that differ significantly.
This combined with the convenience of being able to go from our hotel room to the parks in under 20 minutes means that we look to stay onsite wherever our budget allows.
Of course, if you’re staying onsite at the Walt Disney World Resort for example, but also want to go to other theme parks such as Universal Studios then you’ll need to consider the cost of a return Uber or Lyft (which was roughly $25 each way – $50 return, on our previous visit).
Alongside this, you’ll also want to consider the cost of getting from the airport (where applicable) to your accommodation.
If you’re flying into Orlando International Airport (MCO) then you’ll be looking at around $40 each way to most hotels in the Orlando area.
Meanwhile, if you’re flying into Sanford Airport (SFB) then you’ll be looking at around $60 each way to most hotels in the Orlando area.
Finally, if you’re flying into the likes of Melbourne Orlando Airport (MLB) or Tampa International Airport (TPA) then you’ll be looking at around $100 each way to most hotels in the Orlando area.
On our previous visit to Orlando, Florida (Sept '22) we stayed at Endless Summer Resort - Dockside Inn & Suites at the Universal Studios Resort and used the complimentary transport to the Universal Studios parks. Transport from the airport to our hotel was included (return), and as such we only had to pay for rideshare services to other theme parks, shopping malls, outlets and stores in the Orlando area. Our total spend on Uber and Lyft over 14 days was $435 (averaging to $31.07 per day).
By now you’ve probably realised that where you stay in Florida can have a significant impact on how much spending money you need.
Some of the factors influenced by this decision include;
- How much money you spend on gas
- How much money you pay for parking
- Whether you’ll be able to get a shuttle to the theme park
- Whether you’ll be able to walk to some of the theme parks
- The cost of an Uber to different attractions & the local grocery store
- How much you’ll need to budget for food (is breakfast included? is there a coffee machine in the room?)
In some cases, spending more on a hotel can reduce the amount of spending money you require and increase the overall quality of your trip.
If you’ve not already booked your accommodation or have the ability to change your accommodation then here are some guides that might help;
- Cheap hotels with shuttles to Walt Disney World
- Best on-site hotels at Universal Studios Resort for adults
- Best family hotels near Universal Studios Resort
- Hotels with shuttles to Universal Studios
- Hotels within walking distance of Universal Studios
While your spending money assumes that you’ve purchased your theme park tickets in advance, the number and type of attractions you’ll visit during your Florida vacation will impact the amount of spending money you require.
For example, we personally spend significantly more on; food, drinks and transport when visiting the theme parks when compared to a day relaxing by the pool.
We also spend a lot more at the likes of Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios Florida than we do at smaller attractions such as Gatorland or the Crayola Experience.
As such if you plan to spend the majority of your time inside the theme parks then you may want to add an additional 10% buffer to food, drinks and souvenirs.
Meanwhile, if you planning on investing in Disney Genie+ or a Universal Studios Express Pass to enhance you’re visiting then you’ll want to go ahead and budget for those too.
Food & Drink
Unlike some of the other categories discussed above, the amount you budget and subsequently spend on food and drink while on vacation in Florida can vary dramatically.
One person can easily spend $20 a day while another can spend $200.
As such it’s up to you to understand what sort of dining experiences you’re looking to have during your trip.
Personally, we’re happy with quick service meals and takeout for the majority with the occasional meal in a restaurant thrown in throughout our trip. As such on average we spend around $40 per day on food and drink while in Florida.
However, as our son Oliver get’s older it’s likely we’ll invest in more character dining experiences at the Walt Disney World Resort which is likely to see our average budget increase closer to $60 each instead.
Keep in mind that you can cut costs by bringing food, drinks and snacks into the park with you provided they meet the security rules and regulations set out by each theme park.
The price of a bag of chips inside the Walt Disney World Resort for example is four times that of Walmart, Walgreens or Target.
The amount you could spend on souvenirs during your trip to Florida is endless.
I’ve seen people spend $1,000+ on a single souvenir at Magic Kingdom, meanwhile, I’ve known plenty of others to simply go without souvenirs altogether.
While travelling to Florida as a couple we’ve not spent much on souvenirs and instead picked something small, simple and affordable to represent our wonderful vacation, whether that be an ornament for the Christmas tree or a keychain.
Even then we’ve found there’s been no better souvenir from our trip than the photos and videos we captured – which can often make the Memory Maker at Walt Disney World a great choice.
However, since we now travel to Florida with a child, the amount of souvenirs we purchase and subsequently the amount of money we spend on souvenirs is likely to increase.
If you're looking at purchasing souvenirs from Walt Disney World then be sure to visit the Disney Character Warehouse. There are two Disney Character Warehouse's in Orlando. One at Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets & one at Orlando International Premium Outlets.
There are a handful of other miscellaneous expenses that you’ll want to consider budgeting for when visiting Florida.
These will vary depending on a host of factors, including the circumstances you encounter, where you’re staying, who you’re travelling with & how you’re travelling.
However, consider thinking about the expenses that might be associated with;
- Any dietary needs you have
- Any money you might want to spend at the airport
- Tips at restaurants, hotels etc.
- Any first aid purchases you need to make
- Excess baggage charges
- Laundry fees
- Hiring pushchairs & wheelchairs
Miscellaneous expenses are tough to plan for in advance. However, we’ve experienced something along the lines of everything mentioned above at least once during a trip to Florida.
As a general rule, we find that it’s always worth budgeting $100 per person for these miscellaneous expenses (up to $500 per trip).
We rarely go over $100 in this category. However, it’s always nice knowing we’ve budgeted accordingly should we need to hire a wheelchair or do some emergency laundry.