The magic of Hollywood Studios in Florida has come and gone, and the charges on my credit card are now a reality. Here are the financial lessons I learned from our 4 day trip to Florida.
Allegiant Air was wonderful. It was worth driving the hour and parking my car at the airport where Allegiant Air has a terminal. Parking for 4 days was $40, which was ok to me. Since we departed on Sunday evening and returned on Thursday morning, I didn’t want to ask anyone to take the morning off from work to pick us up at the airport.
Shipping my luggage via UPS was not worth it. Since I’m not an experienced flyer, I just assumed shipping my luggage via a carrier would be cheaper than checking the luggage under the plane. Plus, I didn’t want to deal with baggage claim at the airport. That definitely bit me in the ass. Not only did it cost twice as much to ship the luggage down to Florida ($70) than to check it under the plane back to New York ($35), but my negligence also resulted in purchasing boxes for the luggage directly from the UPS store for a whopping $20 rather than anywhere else, bringing the total shipping cost to $90. In addition, baggage claim at St Petersburg – Clearwater Airport was much easier than major airports like LaGuardia or JFK in New York City.
Checking the umbrella stroller and car seat at the gate of the airplane was so convenient. And free. Thank goodness my friends in Florida gave me that tip before we left New York. Bringing those items with us meant that I didn’t have to rent or buy them in Florida. The car seat was needed for the drive between the airport and our friend’s house (2 hours round trip) and our friend’s house and Disney World (4 hours round trip). The stroller was critical at Hollywood Studios for the little one when she didn’t want to walk, which was pretty much the entire time.
Don’t forget the rain gear like we did. Since we went during the tail end of hurricane season, it rained every single day, multiple times a day. While each round lasted less than half an hour, if you got caught in it, you got drenched. The stroller came in handy when we got caught in it once at Hollywood Studios, sprinting from the park to the car. I also spotted beach towels for sale by the exit, but decided against buying one to cover my daughter. We got soaked through our clothes, and even had to turn the heat on in the car to keep from freezing. The other lesson here is wait under shelter for a half an hour, and the rain will stop.
When I first booked the flights in July, I also booked the rental car because of the great deal that was offered, or so I thought. When I called the rental car company to confirm my reservation a few days before we left, the rep confirmed that I paid for the reservation, but not for the taxes, which I would pay when I picked up the keys. And there’s the catch. Then when I checked into the flight 24 hours before departure, I finally noticed the tiny print regarding the rental car taxes.
In addition, when we landed in Florida and picked up the car, the customer service rep presented me with insurance for the rental car. Since I was in an unfamiliar city, in an unfamiliar car, I accepted the insurance, which brought the additional cost of the rental car to $175. I also had to fill the gas tank before I returned the car.
At nearly $100 a person, the most expensive part of the trip was the tickets to Hollywood Studios (we stayed with friends rather than a hotel). Since we only had four days in Florida, we spent only one day in Orlando so that we could spend time as much time with our friends. Plus, I was not keen on spending $300 for the three of us to get into the park more than once. Especially since Lilly tends to shut down in large crowds, and does not like any kind of ride or loud noise whatsoever.
In particular, she was not a fan of the March Of The Storm Troopers with the loud march song blaring over the speakers.
The final financial lesson is to wait a little later into the fall to visit Florida so as not to conflict with hurricane season. It is by pure luck that we didn’t go a few weeks later, during Hurricane Matthew. Plus, the rain might have been less frequent during fall.