Shopping Secrets to Saving Money on Your Orlando Vacation

Shopping and Walt Disney World go hand in hand. Anyone who's ever visited the Disney theme parks knows that many of the rides and shows exit right into a gift shop.
shopping at city walk orlando

The only problem with buying something as soon as it catches your eye is having to haul it around all day. You can rent a locker to store packages at the Disney theme parks, as well as at Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and SeaWorld Orlando, but there's often a better. way If you make your purchase early enough in the day, ask if the store has a package pick-up option. This free service allows you to retrieve your item at a central location on your way out of the park.

The two Universal parks also have free lockers outside the rides that don't let you bring carry-on items. There's a time limit, and the lockers aren't very large, as they're meant for personal items like purses, cell phones, and wallets. However, they're also suitable for small bags from the stores.

You can also wait until the end of the day to buy your souvenirs. If you see something you like, send a text message to yourself so you won't forget where you saw it. The big stores stay open for a little while after the theme parks close, so you can shop on your way out without wasting any valuable ride or show time. You also don't have to worry about storing your item and possibly forgetting it pick it up when you leave.

Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort both have shopping areas outside the theme parks. Downtown Disney is a bustling shopping and entertainment complex. Park for free and browse stores like the enormous World of Disney, which has merchandise linked to just about every Disney character you can imagine, and Lego Imagination Center, which doubles as a playground for kids.

Universal Orlando Resort has CityWalk, with stores like the Universal Studio Store and the Endangered Species Store. You must pay to park at CityWalk, but the rate drops in the evening, making it a good place to visit after the theme parks close or when you're done with rides.

Orlando is also a mecca for those who love outlet mall shopping. Take some time to go to the Orlando Premium Outlets and the Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores. Many hotels have free transportation to the outlets if you don't have a car. Here is a great article about the Premium Outlet Mall.

If you do have a vehicle and are feeling adventurous, jump on the 429 tollway and take the 30 minute trip to Winter Garden, where you'll find Theme Park Connection. In this unassuming warehouse store, you'll find just about any sort of Disney merchandise you can imagine, from cheap items like pins and figurines to rare one-of-a-kind collectibles like ride vehicles and signs from inside the parks. Give the kids a few dollars to spend here. Their money will go much farther than it would in the park souvenir shops.

There's a world of great dining options in and around the theme parks, too. If you want a sit-down meal at Walt Disney World, always make a reservation as far in advance as possible on the Disney website or by calling 407-WDW-DINE up to 180 days in advance. Be prepared to give a credit card number to guarantee your spot. Here are the top five best restaurants at Disney World.

If you want to be more spontaneous, stop in at Guest Services the morning you arrive at a Disney park and ask about available dining reservations for later in the day. If the sit-down restaurants are all booked, you'll still have plenty of counter service options. Here is an article about dining on the run at Disney World.

If you're visiting the Universal parks or SeaWorld Orlando and have a hungry troop of kids in tow, considering the all-day dining deals. You pay one price up front for each person in your party and can east as much as you wish all day at select restaurants. During hot weather, one fringe benefit of all-day dining is that you can stop in at participating eateries for cold beverages any time you need them.

Theme park food is pricey, so eat outside the parks when possible. The main off-site hotel areas, like Highway 192 , State Road 535, and International Drive are lined with every conceivable fast food and casual dining chain. Better yet, if you pick up a coupon book at a hotel or store, you'll find discounts at many of the restaurants that make it even cheaper to feed your family.