A cheap family vacation at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., is not impossible. Though theme park admission for a family can put a dent in your budget, you can find deals, whether at the luxury hotels on-site or at nearby Orlando hotels. When you consider budget hotels, factor in the cost of parking at Universal Studios and the time spent traveling to the theme parks.
Universal Orlando has three on-site luxury hotels: Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort. In summer 2011, Loews has a promotion where already lower summer rates are discounted a further 20 percent, through Sept. 9. Hotel guests also get a special free non-alcoholic drink served in the lobby. And Universal hotel guests get perks, such as free transportation to the theme parks (no paying for parking) and free front-of-line access.
If you want to stay at one of the on-site hotels, choose the value season, where rates are as much as 50 percent lower than peak or holiday season. Portofino Bay is the highest-price on-site hotel; rates drop from $404 to $274 a night during off-peak times. The Royal Pacific has the lowest rates: Its value season rates start at $219, compared with $339 a night in peak season. The value season for 2011 is Jan. 2 – Feb. 17; Aug. 14 – Sept. 6; and Nov. 27 – Dec. 22. The only 2012 dates announced so far are Jan. 1–7.
Check Out Twitter and Facebook Deals
Many hotel sites and travel aggregators announce sales just on Twitter. In May 2011, hotels.com announced 50 percent off on hotels in the Orlando area, with nightly rates starting at $42. Signing up for Twitter is free, and you can follow hotel chains for private sales pushed out only to followers. On Facebook, you can "like" a hotel chain to gain access to private sales.
Conventions and Visitors Bureau
Government and business tourism agencies often arrange special deals on their own sites. The Kissimmee Convention & Visitors Bureau, serving the Orlando area, has hotel deals and lists amenities such as theme park shuttles that can save you more money. You can find discount hotels with kitchens so you can save money on food costs, and bargain suites so a family can pay for just one room.