Things to do in Orlando that don’t involve the Mouse- or a ton of money

When most people picture taking a trip with the family to Orlando, Florida, they have visions of Disney World, Mickey Mouse, Princesses….and money magically flying out of their wallets.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  You can still have a great trip to Orlando with the kids (even without Disney) and stick to a budget.  Skeptical?  Take a look at some of the other things to do in the area with the family!

My family and I went this past weekend and had a wonderful time.  We took my son out of school early on a Friday and made the 5 hour drive to Orlando and came back home late Sunday.

This is  how we road trip!
The Hotel

If you want to save money on your trip and still feel like you’re on vacation, book a decent hotel with a nice pool to relax in.  Make sure to check deal sites to get the cheapest price and check reviews.  I swear by Priceline’s Name Your Own Price option and for great deals on hotels, while I always check Tripadvisor for reviews on the places we’re looking into.


When we got there, we checked into the Red Lion Hotel.  We found a great deal on  The room was super clean…even the bathroom.  The grounds were beautiful, well kept, and there were multiple pool options to choose from.

Medieval Times Dinner Show ($40-$70 per ticket,  includes dinner)

This was the highlight of our trip.  I love these types of shows.  I’ve been to the Tournament of Kings in Las Vegas which is similar.  If you watch their website, you will see that tickets go on sale quite often.  And if you or one of your children have a birthday coming up while you’re on the trip, be sure to sign up for their emails because you get a free ticket for your birthday!  
The Orlando show is special because it has the Medieval Village which you can visit before your show.  It’s basically a museum taking you back to, well…the Medieval Times.  It’s set up so that you can see what rooms in houses would look like back then, along with pottery, shoes, clothing, and a variety of other things.  One room not to miss is the Medieval Torture Chamber.  This shows you (and explains to you) all of the devices used to torture criminals back in the day.
The show is a perfect family activity because it entertains so many different personalities.  Does anyone in your family like Knights and Princesses?  Horses?  Sword Fighting?  Falconry?  Action?  Cheering really loud?  Eating??  Then this show is for you!

The Tournament of Kings is also a great deal if you’re on a budget because not only do you get your nightly entertainment, but they don’t skimp on the dinner either!  It is a LARGE amount of food.  There is sure to be something to please everyone in your group.  (Want more info on the Tournament of Kings?  I have a full recap of our time there)

Geocaching (free)

 For those of you that Geocache, you already know that its a fun and free activity to do with the whole family.  There are TONS- and I mean TONNNNS of caches in the Orlando area.  So we spent some time getting our first Florida caches done before the show on Saturday.

 For those of you who may not have heard of Geocaching, check out this article that explains all about it.  But quickly, it’s pretty much a treasure hunt for the modern times.  And, who doesn’t like a real life treasure hunt??

Old Town Kissimmee (free and up)

My son loves cars.  So we had to check out Old Town Kissimmee.  They had an All American Muscle Car Show where you could look at the cars and then they cruised down the streets.  They also have restaurants, rides, magicians, a band, etc all in the area that make you feel like you’ve gone back in time to the 60s and 70s.  It’s a great place to spend some time without spending a ton of money.


We didn’t get a chance to do the following things on our visit, but are great options for more fun in Orlando:

Lake Eola Park and Kelly Park (free or a couple of dollars)

Lake Eola Park
is right inside downtown Orlando.  It has a sidewalk that circles the lake, making it perfect for taking walks, bike riding, or roller blading.  The park has a playground, plenty of space for picnics and has a light show in the evenings!  Kelly Park in nearby Apopka Florida, is a huge park that has a natural springs creek for you to go tubing in!  The water stays a constant 68 degrees throughout the year.  Bring your own tubes, or there are places to rent them right outside the park for a couple of dollars.  There is a sandy “beach” area to rest, have a picnic, go swimming, hiking,etc.  It’s a great option to spend a fun filled day on a budget.

Spook Hill (free)

Is your family up for a little spooky adventure?  We didn’t have time to do this, but will certainly try it out the next time we go. It’s an area where when you park your car, and can actually watch it roll uphill…all on its own!  Spook Hill is right outside Orlando in an area called Lake Wales, FL.  When you arrive there are directions telling you what to do to experience the attraction best.  This blogger wrote a great article explaining all about it.

Great Escape Room ($23)

In the mood for something a little different?  Check out the Great Escape Room!  This is a new form of interactive entertainment that is popping up in new cities across the US all the time.  The idea is you’re “locked” in a room with no way out.  You and your family must find the clues, figure out the puzzles, and find secret passageways in order to escape!  You have 1 hour to complete the mission or you will be locked in there forever (or you know, until 2 seconds later when the workers open the door for you….either way, lol).  Their website says only 18-35% of the groups have been able to solve the mystery within the hour and escape…..will you???

The Orlando location has three different rooms that follow a Sherlock theme!

The rooms are designed for guests ages 12 and up.

These are just a few of the options you could do in Orlando to entertain the family without spending a ton of money at Disney.  Or, do Disney for one or two days, but throw in some of the ideas to keep the rest of your trip under budget?  

How To Painlessly Save Money For Travel

Chances are, we’ve all read a lot of lists on ways to help us save money.  Many of them probably say much of the same thing over and over again.  I’ve tried to show you some new ways to save money that don’t take much effort on your part or feel like you’re depriving yourself.  Hopefully you’ll find some new ideas here (some I know you’ve heard of, but I’ve tried to put a new way of thinking on it).


***UPDATE****  As of 11/30/16  I had saved enough money for 2 ROUND TRIP ticket to Europe!!!  Without even realizing the money was being saved.  We’re going in April!!

Do you have trouble saving money?  Do you always say you need to or you’re going to, but find yourself dipping into it for things you know you shouldn’t?  I know I do this.  Then someone told me about Digit and I figured I’d give it a try.  What it does is link to your bank account (it’s perfectly safe.  I use this and wouldn’t recommend it if it wasn’t), and analyzes your spending.  Then, every few days it will take out a certain amount of money and move it to your Digit savings account.  By analyzing your spending, it knows what you can afford to save and they have a “no overdraft policy” which pretty much means they will pay you back any fees if they make your account go into overdraft because they are that confident in their product.  (Update:  I have unfortunately used this service as my account went in overdraft from some unexpected expenses.  During that time, they tried to save $2.37 which made the account go negative again and get another $36 overdraft fee.  They were awesome about giving me the overdraft fee back within about 1 day) Right now I’ve been using it for a month and love it.  It’s saving me money without me having to think about it, and I love getting a text message that tells me it saved me money and how much is in my savings!  It makes saving fun.  Again, I’ve been using it for a month now and it has saved me about $30.

Your total digit savings balance:

● auto savings is on

Check it out and sign up to try digit here. (using this link, digit will give me a small commission-from the company, it doesn’t cost you anything- for referring you.  Thank you in advance if you choose to go through my link).

Update: So far as of 1/2/17 I have used my digit money to buy 2 round trip plane tickets to Europe, used about $100 for an unexpected bill, dipped into it a little bit for some extra Christmas spending money, and now I still have over $100 in it.  I can’t say enough good things about Digit.  I will probably write a separate post on digit sometime soon.  It deserves it’s own post, lol.

Your Digit savings balance:


So now, I’m saving it up for my food and extra spending money on my trip to Europe.
Again, to try it out yourself, sign up here (By signing up through my link, Digit might credit me with a small amount, at no cost to you, for referring you.  Thank you!)

Walmart Savings Catcher

Whether we like it or not, most of us shop at Walmart at one point or another- maybe even multiple times a week.  I know there’s times I go in there three times a week because things are just cheaper there.  My bread, cereal, peanut butter, and other random things we keep in the house seem to be cheaper here, plus I can grab any other essentials I need.  But, did you know that they have a program called Savings Catcher that is an app on your phone (or you can do it online) where you scan (or type in the numbers if on your computer) the bar code of your receipt and it searches through their competitors stores near you to see if any item was cheaper when you bought it??  And then they give you the difference!  The only trick is that you have to spend that money at Walmart.  Well….I can find anything there, so I don’t really care.  You can let it accumulate and then put it on a Walmart gift card to buy what you want!

I save mine up for travel needs before a trip, or car snacks for a road trip, or what I’m really thinking of doing is saving it up all year (it maxes out at $600/yr by the way) and using it to buy my son’s Christmas presents and stuff there!  Hello, free Christmas money!  Anyway, if you shop at Walmart ever, you should definitely use this!  I love it, it beats having to find the sales and jump from store to store to buy something because it may be cheaper there.  And it usually find something to give me money back for.  I’ve put in about 8 receipts so far (I just found it myself) and only one of them they said that Walmart had the lowest price, so I didn’t get anything back.  Other than that it’s been between $1 and $4 per receipt.  It adds up.  Currently I have just over $14 saved up from just scanning my receipt!

Your Reward Dollars
Total Reward Redeemed: $0.00
You haven’t yet set a redemption method.

Update 1/2/17: I had saved $39 just before Christmas and used it to offset the expense of a “bigger” present for my son.  He’s been wanting the Hot Wheels Ultimate garage since last Christmas and we didn’t get it for him.  This year he still wanted it, so we figured we would buy it.  It went on sale to $78.  But then I remembered I had $39 in Walmart credit from doing nothing except shopping there!  So once I used that (which was super easy…they email you a code within 24 hrs.  you can use the code in store or online which is what I did.)  Turns out one of his big ticket items, I paid about $40 for when it normally costs a lot more!  So much easier and he was really happy opening it from “Santa” on Christmas morning!

Save Your Change

 Ok, I’m sure you’ve heard this one, but it’s definitely worth repeating.  It’s a very painless way to save money that works without depriving you of much- if anything at all.

 Every time you break a dollar, be diligent about putting the change aside.  Maybe a special jar that you have decorated or labeled for whatever trip you want to take.  Don’t be general.  Don’t just have it say “my travel fund”.  Make it an actual goal.  Where is it you want to go??  Make something that says “Paris fund”, “Yellowstone National Park”, “Girls (or family) Road Trip”.  Be specific, you get the idea.  It will help make you excited to add to it!

Now, I’m always super excited when I go to buy something and the total comes out to $1.02.  No more looking for those two pennies… means .98 goes straight to my travel fund!  It adds up quickly.  Right now I have about $190 in change saved up.  My goal was to save up change for my summer road trip.  I have since surpassed that goal as gas for my road trip should cost about $150.  Now, the extra between now and then is going toward our food on the trip.  This is how you make travel affordable. By saving your money, without it really affecting your life.  You just need to be diligent about doing it.

Pay Yourself First

This.  Many of today’s millionaires (I’ve skimmed some books, lol) also give this advice.  Don’t just work to pay your bills!  Yes, they need to be paid, but pay your self first!  Even if it’s just $3 from each and every paycheck.  Start with something.  Chances are, you would have blown those $3 on something, and now maybe it can buy you some cool street food while you’re on the road?

Personally, my goal is to put 10% toward a travel fund whenever I get money.  My husband and I don’t get set paychecks.  He is a bartender so he comes home with tips each night.  That means every single night 10% of whatever that amount is, goes straight to a travel fund.  Same thing if someone sends you birthday or holiday money.  10% goes to the fund!  Now, I can’t say that sometimes I’ve had to back that number down to 5% or something because we needed the money to go elsewhere, but the point is, contribute something to yourself first.  You’re worth it!


Donate Your Plasma

Ok, so this one might involve a little pain.  I don’t do this anymore, but I used to on and off for a couple of years.  Why not donate your plasma?  You are helping someone else, while also receiving money to fund your travels.

It’s much like giving blood, except they filter out the plasma and give you back your red blood cells.  I won’t talk much about the process here for those who are squeamish, but it’s really not bad.  Biolife is the most well known company who does this and they have many locations throughout the US.  You can donate up to twice a week and usually make about $25 per donation.  They often run specials where you can  make more money for the same donation as well.  $25 twice a week is $50.  If you do that for just one month you’ve already made $200.  Sometimes your dreams are worth a little pain 🙂

(I don’t this we need a picture here, do you?  lol)

Cut Back On Eating Out

I know you’ve heard this one before too.  But hear me out, I’m not telling you to never eat out and  live off of ramen.  I hope I can make this a little  more feasible- saving you money while also enjoying food and ambiance.

I love going out to eat.  I can’t help it.  I won’t ever fully give it up….even for travel.  But I can curb how often I go out to eat.  What I found works well for me, is when I get in the mood for something and want to go out, I think for a second and ask myself these questions:

If I buy this meal at the grocery store and make it myself would I be saving a good amount of money?
Can I make it myself and have it taste just as good or better?

If the answer is no…..well, then I might go to the restaurant and get it.  If the answer is yes….then it’s a no brainer, I go to the store and bring it home to make.  If the answer is yes, but I still really want to go to the restaurant instead….I’ve found that it’s usually because I want a change of scenery and don’t want to at stay home.

So what I do then, is go to the store, make the food, and take it picnic style somewhere fun around town.  A lake, the beach, a park, etc.  I’ve found doing this helps a lot.

 Now sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to make it at home because it’ll cost the same or less to go out and eat it.  Then, I get my fix 🙂  But asking myself these questions, helps me save money and keep me happy a lot more often.

Okay, there you go.  Hopefully you’ve found some items that you can start using now to have the travel fund you’ve been trying so hard for!

If you have any other painless money saving ideas, please share them in the comments so we can all benefit from them!!

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