Visiting Central Florida? Be prepared to pay top dollar

Flights, rentals cars, gas add up to an expensive vacation

Last weekend, the Orlando International Airport said more visitors departed from MCO compared to the same weekend in 2019 — before the pandemic started — and 2019 was a record travel year.

Rental cars, especially in Central Florida, are in short supply and in many cases outrageously expensive.

Anna Anderson from South Carolina ended up with an $800 SUV rented from Sanford International Airport for the week only because of a computer glitch, she said.

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“The rental [originally] was outrageous, it was like $1,200 for a car for a week,” Anderson said.

Anderson said she needed a break from her health care job and had been planning a trip to Orlando for two months. She finally bit the bullet and paid top dollar for flights and a car rental because prices “weren’t budging,” she said.

Scott Keyes, founder of ScottsCheapFlights.com, agreed — prices right now are not budging. He said it’s typical summer travel pricing combined with last-minute demand — travelers suddenly deciding they’re comfortable enough to take a trip and trying to book.

“The general advice if you’re hoping to get cheap flights is to not only book well in advance but to make sure you start searching well in advance,” Keyes said. “Don’t let the fact that summer flights are expensive right now lure you into a false sense that all airfare is expensive. To the contrary, we’re seeing cheap flights in the fall, winter, even in the late summer, late August. Still quite abundant.”

Keyes suggested keeping your destinations and dates flexible and the sooner you search, the better. There are some deals available depending on where and when you’re willing to go.

“The best piece of advice is if you’re hoping to take a trip as soon as possible, you’ve been cooped up and ready to go, but you’re seeing some sticker shock when it comes to flight prices are rental prices, is to give yourself as much flexibility as possible about where you go,” Keyes said. “If you keep waiting and have fixed days on when you want to travel, it’s very possible those flights and car rental prices will never come down and to the contrary be getting higher.”

Keyes said not to fear locking in a flight because most airlines have dropped change fees as long as you don’t book the cheapest fare.

Keyes also recommended booking rental cars at in-town locations instead of at the airport to get better pricing and even to check with car dealerships because they usually have a fleet dedicated to rentals and rent out the cars for a flat daily rate.


About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.