By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
Like many of you, I took a vacation during spring break. I was with my 11-year-old son in Orlando, Fla., which wasn’t as sunny or warm as we had expected.
Fortunately, there was only one day where rain interrupted our plans.
It made for a good movie day, however, and we didn’t have to put up with long lines for one day.
Taking a vacation requires a little planning, but you know that, hopefully.
This was the first big road trip in three years, so I probably got a little obsessed over the details more than usual.
The first big piece of advice: Book your hotel early.
I booked ours in January, and it was $40 a day cheaper than trying to make a reservation a month later. A savings of $200.
The drive from Tupelo to Orlando takes about 12 hours, but I didn’t want to do it all in one day.
So we left on Saturday and stopped in Tallahassee.
We avoided the permanent traffic snarl known as Atlanta and drove through Birmingham and Dothan to get to Florida’s capital.
We got a good night’s rest, drove the final four hours to Orlando the next morning and got a full day at Universal Studios.
And this is where having a budget helps immensely. Two tickets for two days – with a third “free” day – cost about $300 with tax.
If you can find discounts, use them.
But that’s only the start of the ATM that your wallet or purse becomes.
The daily parking fee is $15. Five dollars more gets you “premium” parking, which means you’re about 100 steps closer to the entrance.
If you’re at a hotel with a shuttle, use it. But you’re at the mercy of the shuttle schedule.
Certain rides don’t allow you to carry any packages, purses, etc. – you have to put them in lockers, and they start at about $4 an hour.
Then there’s the food, souvenirs, etc. It adds up quickly.
Express Passes weren’t originally part of the plan, but we decided to splurge one day because waiting in line for more than an hour at each attraction was not going to make either of us happy, as we discovered the first day. Another $200.
Good thing I booked the hotel early.
By Day 3, Universal had gotten old. Walt Disney World was deemed “for little kids” by my son when we planned our trip earlier this year.
Once we got to Orlando, his tune changed. Add another $200.
We only visited the Magic Kingdom for one day and skipped Epcot.
It was a 12-hour day at the Magic Kingdom, nevertheless. Parking, food, souvenirs, etc., also added up.
We stayed in a hotel that provided a hot breakfast every morning, and the rooms had small refrigerators and microwaves if you wanted to save some money on eating out.
The trip put another 1,137 miles on the vehicle, and I had to fill up five times. Still cheaper than flying.
Vacations are great. And they’re even better with some investment in time – and money.
Dennis Seid is the Daily Journal business editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.