Oct 202014

This post is by Summer Hull of Mommy Points.

frequent-flyer-toolkits-orlandoAt first blush, you’d think a trip to Orlando should be relatively inexpensive and it can be — sometimes. However, the cost of airfare fluctuates throughout the year and can get quite pricy during the holidays and school vacations, which is — of course — when it’s most convenient for many to travel.

There are a wide variety of accommodations that match every budget, but properties located near the theme parks — or right on park property, like the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels — can be more expensive than other options. And, don’t even get me started about theme park tickets. If you’re traveling with a family, you won’t believe your eyes the first time you calculate how much cash you’ll drop for entry into Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and all of the other attractions located in and around Orlando.

So, what can you do to save money and still plan an awesome trip to the theme park capital of Florida? Use frequent flyer miles, hotel loyalty points and bank points like Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards to help defray the cost of your entire vacation. Here’s how.

Saving On Airfare with Frequent Flyer Miles

Nearly every airline offers a frequent flyer program in which you earn miles to redeem for a nearly free flight. I say “nearly free” because you will pay cash for the tax on your ticket, which is currently $5.60 per flight segment per person. Your only other cost for the flight will be airline miles that you can earn sometimes for very little effort. Some airline programs offer fantastic values for travel to Orlando. Here are two of them:

  • Spirit Airlines: This low-cost airline runs the Free Spirit frequent flyer program and there’s a special deal for anyone who carries the Free Spirit-branded MasterCard. If that’s you, you’re entitled to redeem off-peak one-way flights for as few as 2,500 miles. That’s an amazing value! That means—if you can find available off-peak award seats—a family of five can travel to and from Orlando for just 25,000 miles. You can spend 25,000 for one round-trip ticket on many other airlines. Spirit offers nonstop flights from many cities, including Atlantic City, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Latrobe, and Minneapolis.
  • British Airways: You’re right. British Airways doesn’t fly to Orlando but its OneWorld alliance partners, American Airlines and U.S. Airways, do. That’s why you can use British Airways Avios points to book award seats on these other two airlines. Well, you’re probably asking, “Why is that valuable to me?” British Airways utilizes a distance-based award chart so that presents a sweet spot for people living in the eastern part of the United States. For example, you can fly up to 650 miles, say from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Orlando, for just 4,500 Avios points each way. It costs 7,500 Avios for one-way trips between 651 and 1,151 miles, and 10,000 Avios for one-way trips between 1,152 and 2,000 miles.

The key with British Airways’ distance-based award chart is that it is most lucrative if you book a nonstop flight. If you add a connection onto the routes listed above, you’ll need to spend more points. If you don’t have British Airways miles, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points or American Express Membership Rewards points to your British Airways account and then book your award flights.

Those are just two excellent ways to use miles to get to Orlando, but there are others. I cover all the options in my latest ebook, Orlando for Nearly Free. It’s part of the Frequent Flyer Toolkits series.

Where to Stay?

Here’s some terrific news: you’ve got your choice of 30 hotel brands under the auspices of 11 different loyalty programs when it comes to finding accommodations that accept points or a combination of points and cash as payment.

  •  Stay on Site: There are so many fantastic places to stay in Orlando, but if you plan to spend most of your time at Walt Disney World, you’ll probably want to stay right on site. And, you can do just that while paying with hotel loyalty points instead of cash. That’s the case with the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels. Both participate in Starwood Preferred Guests’ loyalty program. You’ll need 10,000 points per night or you can opt to pay 5,000 points plus $75 per night.
  •  Opt for a Luxury Resort: When you want to treat yourself, check into the Ritz-Carlton-Orlando, Grande Lakes. It costs 40,000 Ritz-Carlton Rewards or Marriott Rewards points. You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Ritz-Carlton Rewards on a 1:1 basis.

Where to Find Discounted Theme Park Tickets

There are a few ways to purchase discounted theme park tickets. Two Walmart locations in Orlando — 3250 Vineland Road and 4444 West Vine Street — near Walt Disney World have an in-store kiosk offering discounted theme park tickets. Some AAA (American Automobile Association) and CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) offices sell discounted Disney passes. Not all offices sell them though so call your local office to determine the options. Finally, you can purchase theme park tickets from Undercover Tourist. This reputable ticket broker sells admission to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, and Legoland Florida.

These are just a few ways in which you can save some serious cash on your next trip to Orlando. I discuss these redemption strategies—as well as many others—in my series of Frequent Flyer Toolkits ebooks, including Orlando for Nearly Free, Hawaii for Nearly Free, and Paris for Nearly Free.

Readers of Orlando on the Cheap can sign up for the Frequent Flyer Toolkits email list to receive four free resources to help you earn and redeem your next nearly free flight or hotel stay. You’ll receive The Mommy Points Beginner’s Guide to Earning Nearly Free Travel, a podcast about the best flight redemption values available today, a miles-and-points tracker, and an award flight-planning calendar. Sign up now!

Summer Hull is one of America’s foremost experts when it comes to planning affordable family vacations with frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. She launched the Mommy Points blog in spring of 2011 and has successfully helped her readers earn nearly free flights and hotel stays ever since. While her site was born out of her family’s desire to find a better way to travel for less, anyone can benefit from Summer’s sage advice, which ranges from selecting the best frequent flyer program for your needs, to making the most out of elite benefits, to maximizing your frequent flyer miles to get you to your destination for almost free—and often in first class. She is the co-author of the Frequent Flyer Toolkits series. These ebooks—like Hawaii for Nearly Free, Orlando for Nearly Free, and Paris for Nearly Free—help travelers plan an inexpensive vacation to a specific destination.

May 032012

cruiseCruises are an easy and cheap vacation for many of us in Florida. Since it’s easy to get to the port, we’re in a great opportunity to take advantage of all kinds of cruise deals. But, as cruise expert Lillian Africano tells us at Living on the Cheap, to make sure your cruise remains a true bargain, you have to be smart about “the spend.” (via Living on the Cheap)

Apr 232012

couponsThe show “Extreme Couponing” has brought new attention to the money you can save on groceries by judicious use of coupons. While we don’t advocate that you stockpile a 30-year supply of toilet paper in your garage, we do recommend looking for coupons before you head to the grocery store.

If you’re looking for coupons, check out our new coupon page, which is constantly updated with new coupons. It’s a geolocating page, which means that if you look at in Orlando, you’ll see special offers for Orlando.

You can search, sort and quickly find just the coupons you want to print out. Remember that if an item is buy one, get one free at Publix, you can use two coupons.

We also have a section below the coupons with other offers, including offers for free samples.

If you think coupons are just for junk food, think again. Our friend Leah Ingram at Philly on the Cheap recently shared her experiences using coupons to cut the cost of healthy food at our new sister site, Living on the Cheap.

What’s your best coupon coup?

 Posted by on April 23, 2012  Shopping  Comments Off on Check out our new coupons page
Apr 162012

LOTC_Full Round LogoWe know you love all the great Florida deals you find at Orlando on the Cheap.

Now we’ve got another great resource to save you time and money: Living on the Cheap.com.

Living on the Cheap is a new national consumer news website, offering advice on sports and recreation, entertainment, travel, couponing, shopping, personal finance and more. It’s a one-stop-shopping site for deals and smart shopping (and saving) tips for people all over North America. And it’s based here in Florida and edited by Florida on the Cheap editor and publisher Teresa Mears and Mile High on the Cheap editor Laura Daily. Florida on the Cheap writer Patti Roth, who scouts out Florida deals for us, is a National Deals Editor at the new site.

Your editors at Orlando on the Cheap are part of a team of more than 20 consumer advocates, frugalistas and experienced journalists who have joined forces to create this new resource. We’re excited about this new money-saving national site and we hope you will be, too.

We hope you’ll check out Living on the Cheap, bookmark it and subscribe to our daily email update for practical information about how to thrive, not just survive, in today’s economy. We also want you to share the news with your friends all over the United States. We’ll continue to bring you the best local deals at Orlando on the Cheap.

We’ll have a gala grand opening at Living on the Cheap with giveaways and prizes in a few weeks, but we’re giving you a sneak peak first. We hope you and your friends will spread the word about Living on the Cheap, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 Posted by on April 16, 2012  Everything Else  Comments Off on Great new website: Living on the Cheap
Feb 102012

If you bought a new home in 2011, make sure you meet the March 1 deadline for filing for homestead exemption in Florida.

Most homeowners can get a $50,000 exemption in the taxable value of their homes, and senior citizens, widows and veterans are eligible for additional exemptions.

In Orange County, you can by mail, in person or online. If you had a  homestead exemption last year, and you have not changed homes, you do not need to refile.

 Posted by on February 10, 2012  Everything Else  Comments Off on File Homestead exemption by March 1
Sep 052011

math-for-grownupsThis guest post is by our friend Laura Laing, author of the new book “Math for Grownups.” You can read more from Laura at her blog, Math for Grownups.

Saving some bucks can be a thrill and also a big boost to the bottom line. But did you know that a little bit of math can help you save even more? Take a look:

For the Day or the Year?

Your kids LOVE Disney World. Your family visits at least four times a year and more often if you have company. You spot an online deal: 10% off each child’s ticket.

Can you do better? Here’s where looking at an annual pass might be a better deal. If a Florida resident three-day pass is $138 for each person 10 and older, and you want to visit four times, that’s $552 per person. With the discount, each Florida resident three-day ticket will be $138 minus $13.80, or $124.20. But if an annual pass costs $414.29, you’ll save cash without the reduced ticket price. (Editor: You can spend all day doing math comparing the various theme park ticket combinations and deals.)

Fly Me to the Moon—with My Luggage, Please

You found a great deal on plane tickets online, but is the best deal? To find out, check the additional fees.

Most airlines today are charging for each bag of checked luggage. So, if your discounted ticket costs $250, but you need to check two bags (at $20 to $25 each), you could be paying up to $300 for the ticket, not including airport taxes and security fees. Another airline, without checked bag fees, could cost you less in the long run.

BOGO May Be a No-Go

By one, get one (BOGO) is always a good deal, right? Not so fast. You’ve found an online coupon for orange juice. If you buy a 64-ounce container, you can get a second one at half the price. Take a look at the other options when you get the store – before you buy.

At your local Publix, you notice that the BOGO orange juice is $3.48. But there’s another brand on sale for $5.53 per 128-ounce container. First off, the second brand is twice as large as the first. So, whether you use your coupon or not, you’re getting the same amount of juice. But how much would you pay, if you use the coupon? Half of $3.48 is $1.74. (Use a calculator, if you want!) And $3.48 + $1.74 is $5.22. Turns out, BOGO is the better deal.

You may not want to do any math, but if you’re looking for the best deal, a few calculations — and some creative thinking and common sense — can mean the difference between saving and spending.

 Posted by on September 5, 2011  Everything Else  Comments Off on Book helps you save more with Math
Jun 072011

salebagI don’t always clip coupons, but I’m a dedicated user of the Publix “buy one, get one free” promotions. Nothing annoys me more than stocking up on something only to see it go BOGO the next week.

Watching TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” makes me realize that there are times it pays to clip coupons. I would never buy 100 bottles of mustard of stock up 30 years’ worth of toilet paper, but I don’t mind amassing 10 boxes of granola bars.

When I started paying closer attention to BOGO sales and trying to match them with coupons, I realized that both come in cycles.

Certain items going on sale every three months and others every six months. Once I learned that, I started waiting to stock up.

I can almost always get a BOGO deal on cereal, tea bags, granola bars, salad dressing, snack crackers and frozen dinners. Other frequent sale items include canned tomatoes, name-brand toilet paper and paper towels, soda and ice cream. Meat also has predictable sales cycles.

Want to match your coupons with sale items? Hold on to your coupon supplements, because many items for which you’ll find coupons in Sunday’s paper will go on sale about a month later.

Really dedicated bargain hunters keep a price book to track how often their favorite items go on sale and at what price, so they know what bargains to wait for.

If you’re looking for coupons, be sure to check our Free Samples and Coupons page and our Printable Grocery Coupons page. Those pages are updated frequently as new coupons become available.

— Teresa Mears, Miami on the Cheap

 Posted by on June 7, 2011  Shopping  Comments Off on Grocery sales, coupons, have cycles
Mar 212011

moneyIt’s tax time again, and you may be looking for some help.

If you do your own tax return and your adjusted gross income is $58,000 or less, you can file free from the IRS website, using Free File software.

A number of companies, organizations and volunteers provide free tax-filing help in Central Florida. Most of the free assistance is for people whose tax situation is relatively simple, but it never hurts to ask. Some programs have income limits for free assistance.

Here are places you can get free tax help in Orlando: