4 Tips for Taking the Kiddos to Disney World

November 21st, 2014

Let’s face it: traveling to Disney World with young kids can be a challenge. While your goal is to ensure a magical experience for everyone, it can be less than perfect if you don’t make a point to follow a few tips. We recently enjoyed a blog that included 9 Tips for Preparing to Visit Disney World with Kids and have picked out our top 4 from that list. Check it out below.

orlandovacation_ride-height-requirement1.         Height may be more important than age

If you’re like many parents, you’ve likely spent quite a chunk of time researching what the right age is to take the kids for their first Disney World visit. You may have found some advice about choosing the right age, but for many families it’s actually more about height. There are no Disney rides that require a child to be a certain age, but many DO require them to be a certain height.

2.         Taking the kids out of school may be worth it

In a perfect world you wouldn’t have to make any sacrifices to have the perfect Disney trip. However, if your only option is to take the kids during school breaks, you’ll not only be dealing with larger crowds but you’ll be paying a premium. You can often get deep discounts if you go during the slower months, plus you can get much more done with the smaller crowds. Just be sure you check with your school district to make sure there aren’t any significant consequences for taking them out of school for a few days.

orlandovacation_backpack-for-snacks3.         Bring a backpack just for sweaters and sweatshirts

If you’re able to visit during the colder months, remember that it can be quite chilly in the morning and get warm in the afternoon. Don’t make the mistake of bundling everyone up without bringing a backup to stow the extra layers when you don’t need them, or you’ll end up weighed down with sweaters all day.

4.         Pay attention to your child’s needs

It’s easy to get so caught up in the advice of others that you don’t take your own kid’s unique needs into consideration. For example, some kids are fine to ride thrill rides at a younger age, but if you know your child doesn’t like being in dark places, doesn’t like being confined, or has a specific fear, listen to them when they tell you they’d rather not try a ride. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging your kids to push through their fear, but don’t let it turn into a meltdown over something that simply isn’t worth it. Listen to your kids and let them call the shots – after all, it’s their first visit to Disney World!

We hope you enjoyed this article, please click here for more articles about taking young children to Disney World.

Frequently Asked Questions about Holidays in Orlando

November 20th, 2014

So you’re planning your first visit to Orlando during the holidays. Congratulations! You have an incredible experience in front of you. The good news is that you’ll have tons of special events to attend and lots of holiday cheer – assuming you plan accordingly. Take a look at these frequently asked questions that will assure you’re on the right path toward enjoying your trip to the max.

What are crowd levels like during the holiday season?

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about traveling to Orlando during the holiday season is that the parks will be empty. The truth is that the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s Eve are the busiest of the year for Disney World and Orlando. Why? Because plenty of families have this time off of school and they’re ready to escape colder climates to take advantage of a warmer holiday season in Orlando.

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What’s the best way to get discounts during Christmas and New Year’s?

Now that you know it’s the busiest time of the year, you likely aren’t surprised to know that there aren’t a ton of discounts available. After all, Disney and Universal typically only offer deep discounts when they’re trying to fill rooms. However, you can still get discounted park tickets and save big by staying in a local resort hotel, rather than staying on Disney or Universal property. Larger families can find the best discounts by renting an Orlando vacation home.

Do the parks do anything special for the holidays?

Yes! All the theme parks in Orlando go to great lengths to make your holiday trip a truly special and magical experience. From holiday-themed special events, special sweet treats, and tons and tons of decorations, you’ll find plenty of holiday cheer when you visit Orlando during the winter months.

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What’s the weather like in the winter?

Like many places, the temperature in Orlando can vary widely from day to day. Some Christmases see temperatures in the 80s while others see temperatures in the 50s. Your best bet is to plan for layers. Often it’ll be chilly in the morning, but once the sun comes out in full blast you’ll be ready for shorts and a t-shirt. If you’re renting a vacation home and are wondering if you should pay to have the pool heated, wait until a week before your trip, check the forecast, and make your decision then.

There’s no bad time to visit Orlando – no matter what time of year you visit us you’ll find tons of things to do, great weather, and lots of magic to be found. The above frequently asked questions will help you make the most of your time during the holiday season.

Keeping Mom Happy: A Dad’s Guide to the Perfect Couples Trip

November 19th, 2014

When you visit Disney World, you’re likely focusing on the kids – and for good reason! There’s no better place to unleash your child’s imagination than Walt Disney World. However, you may miss out on some great experiences if you skip over another fact: when you look at it the right way, there’s no place more romantic than Disney World. Check out these tips to assure it’s a trip that’s as great for Mom as it is for the kids.

Take Mom out for a night on the town

You may be hyperfocused on Disney World, but there are actually many ways you can make the most of the Orlando area. Check out CityWalk, near Universal, for lights of night life options, or rent a car and go into Orlando proper to sample some local flavor. There are theaters, bowling alleys, and nightclubs throughout the city, all of which would make a great night out.

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Get a babysitter for the night

Of course one of the challenges to having some mom-dad time is figuring out what to do with the kids. Many parents don’t realize that there are babysitting companies in the Orlando area that can give you the night off. These are not your typical neighborhood teenagers – they’re highly vetted, background checked, and bonded. You may pay a premium for a few hours of their time, but they’ll come right to you and give you the peace of mind you need to enjoy your night out on the town.

Give her some time to herself

Sure, Mom would love some time alone with her spouse, but it’s also true that she may just want to take an afternoon off to explore on her own. Perhaps she’ll head to Main Street to have her nails done, or perhaps she’ll want to lounge by the pool with an adult drink. Whatever way she chooses to spend the time alone, it’s at least worth asking if she’d like you to take the kiddos so she can relax and rejuvenate.

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Build special family memories

It’s nice to give Mom some time away from the kids, whether with you or by herself, but don’t forget that there may be family memories she wants to build, too. For example, if you’re a dad without daughters you may never consider a meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table, but remember that Mom may find this a special experience – and there’s plenty there for boys to do, too! You can plan a special tea at the Grand Floridian, take a family portrait at Mom’s favorite ride, or find another unique family activity to do just for her.

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4 Tips for Saving Money at Disney World While Keeping Everyone Happy

November 18th, 2014

You do want your trip to Disney World to be a magical experience for everyone, but you also want to keep your budget under control. It can be difficult to say no to the kids when you want their trip to be perfect, but the good news is that there are a few tips that help you keep everyone happy – without spending more than you can afford.

orlandovacation_disney-souvenir1.         Be clear about expectations

One of the easiest ways to disappoint the kids is to not let them know what to expect. For example, if you’re not planning to spend money on souvenirs in the parks simply let them know before you get to Disney. If they know going in that they’re not going to be taking home any stuffed animals, key chains, and other knick knacks then they’ll be much less likely to be disappointed when they’re in the parks.

2.         Taking the kids out of school may be worth it

In a perfect world you wouldn’t have to make any sacrifices to have the perfect Disney trip. However, if your only option is to take the kids during school breaks, you’ll not only be dealing with larger crowds but you’ll be paying a premium. You can often get deep discounts if you go during the slower months, plus you can get much more done with the smaller crowds. Just be sure you check with your school district to make sure there aren’t any significant consequences for taking them out of school for a few days.

orlandovacation_disney-autograph-book3.         Bring souvenirs from home

You probably think of souvenirs as items you must buy in the parks or not buy them at all. The truth is that often the same merchandise can be bought elsewhere for a much lower price point. Head out to your local Disney store, or better yet hop online and shop online deals. Then bring autograph books, plush toys, or other souvenir-type items with your kids’ favorite characters on them. Give them to them on the last night of their trip and they’ll feel like they’re bringing home something special.

4.         Have a plan for splurging

If your budget allows for splurging at all, then you should consider picking one or two special events to splurge on. This can actually save you money in the long run! How? Simple: it’s easy to decide these extras are worth it once you’re at Disney and surrounded by the magic. If you set these limits on yourself you’ll be able to avoid splurging on other items. When you know a special experience is awaiting you, walking by the tempting options is much easier.

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4 Surprising Advantages of Renting an Orlando Vacation Home

November 17th, 2014

You know the main reasons it pays to rent an Orlando vacation home: tons of amenities, low prices, and lots of privacy. But do you know some of the more interesting reasons? Vacation home rentals allow you to be just minutes from the Disney theme parks, while affording you a level of luxury you won’t find at a hotel, but they do so much more!

orlandovacation_home-rental-game-room1.         Moving beyond your typical amenities

When people talk about how exceptional Orlando vacation homes are, they’ll often mention amenities like private pools, Jacuzzis, chef-quality kitchens, and washers and dryers in each unit. However, there are some really surprising amenities out there, too. For example, some of the homes we have for rent have pool tables, foosball tables, and backyard access to incredible golf courses. Just search through our inventory to see some of these truly special.

2.         Keep your money free

Not only can you save overall by renting a vacation home, you can also keep your money freed up for longer. Our homes require just a $50 deposit to hold them with the balance due 15 days before your trip. You can cancel anytime up to that 15 days point and still get most of your deposit back. This assures you have plenty of time to pay the balance – which allows you to buy your plane tickets, park tickets, and more.

orlandovacation_vacation-rental-living room3.         Staying out of the way

Some people think that leaving the “Disney bubble” is one of the disadvantages of staying in a vacation home. The opposite is actually true! You’ll be spending most days and nights in the park and will likely be surprised by how nice it is to return home to a quiet, adult-oriented home that allows you to simply kick back and relax. You won’t deal with crowds at the pool, you won’t deal with people waiting in line to buy a soda in a gift shop, you won’t deal with noise from excited kids. You’ll be able to simply enjoy your down time as it is.

4.         Save on parking fees

One of the advantages of staying at a Disney resort is that you can often get free parking in the theme parks. You may take this into consideration as you’re comparing your lodging options, but be sure you’re looking at the entire picture. After all, some resorts charge up to $25 a day just to park your car! This can be an incredible cost if you’re staying for more than a few days. As an added bonus, vacation homes not only have free parking but you’ll park right in front of your home, or even in a private garage. Say goodbye to the long trek back to your room you’ll find in other parking lots!

To rent a vacation home click here

Universal Orlando Attraction Assistance Pass 101

November 16th, 2014

If you’re planning a trip to Universal Orlando and you or someone in your party requires special needs assistance, then the Universal Orlando Attraction Assistance Pass, also known as AAP, is exactly what you’re looking for. Let’s take a look at how to get it, use it, and benefit from it.

Where to get your pass

orlandovacation_attraction-assistance-passWhen you get to the park of your choosing, either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure, head straight to Guest Services, which will be to the right after the turnstiles at both parks. Note that these AAP passes are not issued at the Guest Services windows outside the parks, or at CityWalk.

How to get your pass

You’ll simple walk to the window, let them know what you need, and answer any questions they ask you honestly. Some people recommend bringing a doctor’s note identifying what your medical situation is. Note that the Americans with Disabilities Act makes it very clear that not only are you not required to prove your special need – they are not allowed to ask for a specific diagnosis. You’ll find those at Guest Services to be highly trained in this process and there to help – not to hinder you.

Details on your AAP

The pass itself is a 4 inch by 9 inch card that has a barcode at the bottom and 25 lines for return times. If you’re an annual pass holder you can have it issued for up to 14 consecutive days, while those who buy daily tickets can have it issued for the entire length of their stay.

How to use your pass

A common misconception is that the AAP gives you instant access to the rides. This isn’t true! Instead, you go to the greeter at the attraction you want to visit and check the wait time. If it’s less than 30 minutes you’ll be directed to the alternative queue right away. In some cases it may be the Express Pass queue, in others it may be the attraction’s exit.

If the wait is in excess of 30 minutes, the greeter will write down your specific wait time on the back of your pass. When that time arrives, you just take your AAP back to the greeter and they’ll send you to the alternative-queue. After you’re done with the attraction you can go on to the next one.

You can only have one return time at a time, however – you can ride something else while you’re waiting. For example, if one ride has a 45 minute wait and you get a return time of 45 minutes later, you can visit any ride you’d like that has a shorter wait – you simply can’t use your AAP to avoid the line.

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6 Ways to Get Teenagers to Embrace the Magic of Disney

November 15th, 2014

Teenagers can be a tough crowd to please! You’re looking forward to your Disney vacation, but they’re just thinking about what their friends are doing while they’re gone. The good news is that there are a few simple ways you can get them to embrace the magic available to them at Disney.

1.         Turn off the technology

orlandovacation_cell-phone-usageYou’ll probably get some pushback on this initially, but it’ll be worth it in the end. A great option is to say no cell phones in the parks. This forced them to take in the beauty and magic around them. Just be sure you come up with a plan to meet up if you get separated.

2.         Take them to their favorite childhood memories

What were your kid’s favorite movies when they were kids? From Finding Nemo to the Little Mermaid to Beauty and the Beast, there are many new rides and attractions that celebrate recent Disney classics.

3.         Find adult things for them to do

One of the complaints you may hear from your teenager is that Disney is for kids. Show them this isn’t the case! There are tons of things young adults can enjoy, like sophisticated dinners and unique educational experiences at Animal Kingdom. Show them the adult side and let them see the magic can continue for life.

4.         Head straight for the thrill rides

It’s true that there aren’t as many thrill rides at the Disney parks as there are at Universal Orlando, but there are a few in each park. Take them to these exciting, thrilling rides and watch their enthusiasm grow.

orlandovacation_disney-thrills-for-teens

5.         Give them an afternoon to themselves

One of the reasons the teen years can be so challenging is because as your kids are growing up, they want to feel self-sufficient. Give them an afternoon to explore the park on their own and they’ll find their own magic in corners they may have otherwise ignored.

6.         Take a trip to the beach

Remember that Disney is just one of the things you can do in the Orlando area. There are also numerous beaches within an hour or so. Rent a car for the day and take off for a beach adventure. Sometimes taking a break from the parks can lead them to appreciate the incredible details and experiences that await them in Disney.

No matter what you do, remember that this trip isn’t just for them – it’s for you too! Take the time to enjoy your surroundings and remember that you’re building lifelong memories with your kids – and they may not appreciate that for many years to come!

Click here for other information for parents with teenagers visiting Orlando.

How to Get Group Travel Discounts in Orlando

November 14th, 2014

When you’re planning a trip with a large group of people, you’ll have tons of factors to consider – including pricing. The good news is that there are numerous ways to get discounts in the Orlando area. Let’s take a look at some of the options available to you.

Just ask!

This tip may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many group travel planners assume that if group travel discounts aren’t advertised that they don’t exist. Anywhere you’re making a reservation just ask about group discounts. If the company in question does offer these discounts be sure you clarify how many people are required to qualify for the discount, and what special procedures you may have to follow to get them.

Book accommodations smartly

Many Orlando resort hotels will offer group discounts but they often require dozens of rooms to be booked at once. Even if you’re booking this many rooms, you may be surprised that there are other ways to save more. For example, renting Orlando vacation homes can be considerably cheaper than booking numerous hotel rooms – even when those hotel rooms are discounted and the vacation home isn’t discounted. As an added bonus, vacation homes add tons of convenience and lots of amenities.

5-bedroom-vacation-home

Call well in advance

Group travel discounts are often subject to availability, so the further in advance you can plan, the better your chances are for getting deep discounts. For example, some airlines do offer discounts if you book more than 12 seats at once. However, this may only apply if the flight is 50% full or less. As soon as you know when you’ll be traveling, start calling around to find out who offers discounts and how far in advance you need to request them.

Buy before you leave

Often times the discounts are only available if you buy in advance. For example, you can order discount theme park tickets and have them shipped to you or dropped off at your hotel, but you can’t get these discounts if you wait to buy them at the parks. Once again, planning ahead can net you the best and biggest discounts.

disney-park-hopper

Think outside the box

You’re likely thinking of ways to save money on food, accommodations, entertainment, and more, but remember that in some cases the best way to get a discount is to find an alternative option. For example, instead of looking for all the group discounts available at Orlando restaurants, consider renting a vacation home and preparing some of your meals in your home. This will save not just money but frees up time to enjoy all Orlando has to offer without taking the time to get the group together for a sit down meal.

5 Things Grandparents Often Forget when Traveling With the Grandkids

November 13th, 2014

Are you gearing up for a trip to Orlando with your grandkids? As you prepare for the magic and excitement, there are numerous things you could forget. Don’t let these important must-dos get lost in the shuffle.

orlandovacation_kids-doctor-care1.         Notarized letter giving you permission for medical care

If something should happen while you’re on vacation, you’ll need the legal right to make medical decisions. This could be something as simple as taking the kiddos to an urgent care clinic for a cough. Get their parents to write a letter giving you permission and then have it notarized.

2.         Health records

Again, you’re hoping nothing goes wrong – but you never know! Have a list of all medications the kiddos are taking, or anything they’re allergic to. You don’t need a full, detailed medical record, but you do need to know the basic information that doctors will need.

3.         Toys from home

You’ll have plenty to do in Orlando, there’s no doubt about that! But don’t forget the long airplane ride or car ride – and don’t forget there will be downtime in your resort or Orlando vacation home. No matter how excited the grandkids are, they’re likely to feel a little disoriented and even afraid without their parents and familiar surroundings. When you bring a few favorite toys from home, they’ll not only have something to do, but they’ll have a little bit of comfort.

4.         Identification tags and a “lost kids plan”

orlandovacation_kids-id-cardKids get lost in Disney World every day. The good news is that cast members are highly trained on how to reunite the little ones with their guardians. However, you can make their job a lot easier by having identification on the kids. This might be something as simple as writing your phone number inside their shirt tag, or something as cool as having an ID tag engraved.

You should also talk to the kids about what to do if they’re lost. Depending on their age, you may pick a specific location for everyone to meet at, or you may tell them to go to the first cast member they find and get help.

5.         An autograph book

This one is key if your grandkids are fans of Disney characters. You won’t believe how much these simple books can cost in the parks! Just grab one before you go for $5 or less, and you can even let the grandkids personalize it before the trip. Not only will it save you money, but the kids will have something to get them jazzed about the trip.

And of course remember to pick up your discounted theme park tickets before you go! Don’t pay more in the parks when you can save with a few clicks.

Unique Anniversary Ideas for Orlando Visitors

November 12th, 2014

Are you one of the lucky few who will get a chance to celebrate your anniversary in Orlando? You’ve likely found plenty of options for fancy restaurants and over-the-top Disney adventures, but if you’re looking for more unique options you’re in the right place! Let’s take a look at some outside-the-box options.

orlandovacation_outdoor-movMovies under the stars

Grab a picnic basket, blanket, and your sweetie to cuddle up under the stars. Because the weather is so warm in Orlando all year long, it’s always a good time to take in an outdoor movie. Orlando Date Night Guide has created a great Guide to Outdoor Movies in Orlando that lists all the movies, their locations, and when they’re playing. Find a romantic movie, a hilarious comedy, or an action packed adventure and make a night of it.

Take a romantic trip into the clouds

There are several places throughout Orlando where you can hop in a hot air balloon and see the city like you wouldn’t otherwise see it. These trips happen nightly, though showers and thunderstorms can ground them for the night. Be sure you’re not afraid of heights, because this option will truly have you soaring over the city.

Laser tag like you’ve never seen it before

Who says your anniversary has to be sappy? Check out Hard Knocks, a unique laser tag experience that pits you and your spouse against one another with futuristic laser guns. These are not the laser guns you’re used to – they’re big, boastful, beautiful machines that will leave a mark – even if it’s only a mark on your pride. This is the perfect option for the competitive, adventurous couple.

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Visit the local theater

There are numerous theaters throughout Orlando, including Mad Cow Theater, the longest running theater in the area. The shows rotate and include major productions of shows you’ve likely heard of, to small productions of shows written by local playwrights. You can also take a peek at some of the larger, smaller, and more specific theaters throughout the city.

Stay in for the night

Who says you have to go out to have an amazing time? It may seem strange to some, especially when you’re in an area with so much to do, but sometimes a quiet night in your own private jacuzzi is just what the doctor ordered. Order in some Chinese food, grab a pint of strawberries, a bottle of your favorite champagne, and just take the time to remember why you fell in love the first time you met. You can wake up refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to head back to the hustle and bustle of the Disney parks or Universal theme parks.

Please click here for other romantic ideas for couples in Orlando