Why does the deposit matter? A closer look at vacation home deposits

September 5th, 2015

Folks shopping for the best deal on an Orlando vacation home will see plenty of discussion about deposits. Some homes require payment in full months before the trip, others require just $50 to secure the reservation. Some require cleaning deposits and others don’t. So what’s the big deal? Let’s take a look at the different deposit options and what they mean for you.

Large upfront deposits can cause trouble if your plans change

orlandovacation_home-depositsVacationers often think they’ve set their dates in stone, and so it doesn’t seem to make a difference if they pay the entirety upfront or if they pay a small deposit now and the rest later. In fact, some prefer to have the entire balance paid off months in advance. The reality is that you never know what could change between now and your vacation dates. Someone could get a new job, an accident could happen, or a wedding could be planned.

Whatever it is, if you’ve put down a small $50 deposit you’re not going to be nearly as upset as you will be if you’ve already pre-paid hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Will these companies that require large deposits refund your money? In some cases they might. However, even if they are a company that offers a partial refund, you’ll have to deal with the hassle of getting a refund – and that could take months!

A smaller deposit = more flexibility

If you work with a company that requires a large upfront deposit you’ll have less flexibility when you book your reservation. There’s no question that the earlier you can get things booked, the less you’re likely to pay for airline tickets and other traveling incidentals. If you have to come up with the full cost of your trip before you can even start planning, you’ll have much less flexibility in your travel arrangements.

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Don’t let someone else make interest on your money

Many people make their vacation home rental reservations months or even a year in advance. If you’re paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for your reservation, and that money is being held by the company you’re making a reservation with, they’re literally making money off of your money. There’s no reason that money shouldn’t be in your bank account collecting interest for you.

Keep in mind that it’s virtually unheard of to have a $0 to pay, and most companies will require full at least a few weeks before you’re scheduled to arrive. However, other companies that want half – or more – paid months and months in advance should be avoided for many reasons, including those listed above.

Liberty Tree Tavern Patriots Platter

September 4th, 2015

There is nothing better than a full Thanksgiving spread with hot buttery rolls, roasted turkey and all the fixings! At the Liberty Tree Tavern located inside the Magic Kingdom at Liberty Square every day is Thanksgiving and families can fill up at dinner time with the family style all you care to eat dinner.

Upon arriving at their table guests are immediately served warm rolls that have been brushed with butter along with a nice salad. Many guests find it hard to resist these rolls in order to save enough room for the main course.

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The main course or Patriots Platter features roasted turkey breast, carved beef and sliced pork along with plenty of mashed potatoes with gravy, seasonal vegetables, gooey macaroni and cheese and of course herbed stuffing.

The main course is followed up by Johnny Appleseed’s Cake, a delicious dessert featuring white cake, filled with Apples and Craisins and topped with ice cream.

While some guests are disappointed with the lack of characters at Liberty Tree Tavern, others love the Colonial style of this restaurant. With its convenient location, the tavern does tend to fill quickly so reservations are recommended for those who would like to dine here.

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4 Tips for Taking on Hollywood Studios with Young Kids

September 4th, 2015

There’s no shortage of fun rides and attractions in all four of the theme parks at Disney World – and that certainly includes Disney’s Hollywood Studios. However, parents need a different strategy at each of the parks. Take a look at these four tips that will help make your trip to this exciting park a success.

1.         Know Rider Swap inside and out

Disney does their best to make it easy for parents to take the little ones to Disney World while still enjoying their own favorite rides. One of the ways in which they do this is by offering Rider Swap. Essentially, you, the little one (or little ones) plus your partner will head to the cast member stationed outside the entrance to the ride you’re interested in riding. They’ll then hand you a rider pass.

One parent will go through the regular line and ride the ride while the other waits with the kids. Once they’re done riding, they come back out, take over the kid-watching, and the parent who was previously waiting can then skip the line and go through the FastPass+ line. This prevents parents from doubling their time waiting when they can’t go through the line together.

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2.         Use your FastPass+ selections wisely

It’s common for parents to make a list of what they want to ride, order that list in the order they most want to ride it, and then make FastPass+ selections based on that list. This can lead to unnecessarily waiting in long, long lines!

For example, if your top pick is the Voyage of the Little Mermaid and you choose to FastPass+ it, you’ll be wasting that pick as this attraction is never full. On the other hand, if you assume you can walk up to Toy Story Midway Mania and walk on the ride, you’ll be sorely surprised to learn that wait times are 90+ minutes or more – even during the times of year with the lowest crowd levels!

3.         Know which rides your kids can handle

The first step is taking a look at a list of height requirements for each ride and attraction – but this isn’t the only step! Too often parents assume that the Disney guidelines are all they need to be aware of. However, Disney’s height requirements are based on one thing: safety. They’re not based on whether or not a dark ride will scare your child, or whether or not they get sick when spinning. Do your own research to decide which rides are going to work for your kids.

4.         Don’t skip the shows

One of the things that makes Hollywood Studios unique is the wide range of shows available. As you’re researching your trip it’s easy to focus only on the rides, but if your kids are fans of classic Disney animation, recent Pixar movies, or Disney Jr., then there are shows there you don’t want to miss!

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Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – Thursday Thrills

September 3rd, 2015

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was added to Disney World during the expansion of Fantasyland and officially opened May 28, 2014. This family friendly roller coaster is tame enough smaller children can use it as their first real roller coaster experience while it is still exciting enough many older kids and adults get enjoyment from the ride.

The ride features an interactive queue so waiting in line is more fun which is good since it’s opening it has quickly became a high volume attraction. With both indoor and outdoor sections this coaster is the first of its kind “swinging up and down large lifts, cruising around sharp banks and swaying through exhilarating turns.”

For families taking a POV virtual ride might be a good idea to make sure your child is ready for their first grown up coaster, and for adults it can save you some time to make sure this is a ride that will still interest you.

The Top Four Non-Thrill Rides in Walt Disney World

September 3rd, 2015

You can’t really understand the true joy of visiting Disney World until you’ve been standing on Main Street, staring up at the castle, as fireworks burst around you. As you plan for your trip you’re likely trying to figure out where to even start! While there are plenty of thrill rides around the parks, for those of you more interested in the theme rides, check out the top four theme rides in Walt Disney World, one for each of the four theme parks.

Yo Ho Ho It’s a Pirate’s Life for You in the Magic Kingdom

Without question, the fan favorite non-thrill ride in Magic Kingdom is Pirates of the Caribbean. This boat ride takes you back to a time when pirates were the king of the Caribbean. You’ll see incredible audio animatronic pirates in various situations – all of which involve plenty of swashbuckling and rousing sea tunes! There is no ride in Disney World with as much detail as this one.

Soar through Space – Slowly! – in EPCOT

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Spaceship Earth is an exceptional experience for kids and adults of all ages. This is a very slow-moving dark ride that takes you through a wide variety of scenes that show the evolution of human communication. It’s located in that huge “golf ball” people generally associate with EPCOT and is the first ride you’ll come across when you enter the park. These sets are impressively well done, with a captivating story to go along with it.

Get Ready to Enter a Story of Your Own in Hollywood Studios

Toy Story Mania, located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, often has the longest lines of any attraction in any park – and for good reason! It’s truly a fun, simple ride that can be enjoyed by everyone. You hop in a cart and get ready to pull-pull-pull on your goofy gun that utilizes 3D technology to put your skills against everyone else in your cart – all amid spectacularly designed sets based on the Toy Story movies.

Take Off on an Incredible Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Kilimanjaro Safaris are an animal lover’s dream! You can ride through a natural environment that makes you feel you’ve traveled thousands of miles to the planes of Africa. You’ll see animals living their daily lives in their natural environments, and though the ride can be slightly bumpy, guests agree that this just adds a feeling of authenticity. Your driver will be very knowledgeable about the animals so don’t be afraid to ask questions!

TIP: Animals are most active early in the morning and later in the afternoon.

While there are plenty of rides for thrill-chasers, you can see that there are plenty of rides and attractions for those who like a slower pace too! These are just the top examples in each park. There are dozens of other great non-thrill rides to be enjoyed.

Finally Something for Dad to Get Excited About: Star Wars Land!

September 2nd, 2015

This week Disney finally made an announcement many of us have been waiting years for: they’re adding a Star Wars Land to Disney World! While details are still pretty slim, we’re here to share what we know.

Disney claims they’re building a “jaw-dropping world”

According to the announcement recently made at their annual D23 Expo, the plans include creating a world into which fans can literally walk amongst the characters and be immersed in a galaxy far, far away. This will be Disney’s largest ever expansion: more than 14 acres will be used.

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Both California and Florida are in for a big treat

This incredible new change isn’t limited to Disney World – it’s also happening in Disneyland! It’ll be interesting to see how the new lands in each parks differ. One of the many reasons that people prefer Disney World over Disneyland is because there’s so much more land at Disney World. As a result, there’s tons of room to do basically anything they want. In Disneyland, the park is in the middle of Anaheim, which means there isn’t as much room for expansion. We all agree: the Disney World version is likely to dwarf the Disneyland one.

You’re about to enter a truly immersive world

One of the most exciting things we’re looking forward to hearing more about is the idea that this is a truly immersive world. According to the official folks at Disney, this means that every store, restaurant, and ride will be staffed by residents of the planet / ship / country it represents. The rumor is that this means that every single cast member will be in costume and in character at all times. It will be like nothing we’ve seen before!

New rides, restaurants, and more!

No one has all the details on this new park yet, but there are a few things we know. We know that it will be their largest expansion ever, that there will be new restaurants, and that there will be two flagship attractions / rides. We expect that there will be additional rides beyond those two flagship options. We’ve heard major rumors that one attraction will involve driving the Millennium Falcon!

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Expected completion date

As of today, Disney has not released specific dates for completion. Their most recent major expansion, New Fantasyland, took years to complete and many Disney fans complained that it took much longer than Universal’s much more substantial Harry Potter expansion. Did Disney learn from these complaints? Will they step up production? We certainly hope so, but it’s important to remember that they’re already building a huge expansion in Animal Kingdom (Avatarland) and they’ve announced a huge Toy Story Land expansion, too. We’ll be sure to keep you up to date!

Visit Orlando – Toon Tuesday

September 1st, 2015

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Are You Getting Your Maximum Tax Deduction for Business Travel?

September 1st, 2015

Is there a better place to travel for business than Orlando? We think not! But as you plan your next trip, remember that keeping detailed receipts is important. Many business travelers aren’t aware of what can be deducted from their taxes and what can’t be. The best bet is to speak with your tax professional about your specific needs, but here you can learn the basics so you’ll know what to track and what to toss.

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Every expense you claim must be related to your trade or business

It sounds great: go out of town, meet up with a client, pick up the check, and get a tax deduction. While this may work for you, it’s not quite that simple. You must make sure that the business outing is related to your business or trade. Every single payment you deduct, including travel, meals, and entertainment, must be necessary and ordinary in your business or trade. For example, entertainment expenses have to be directly related to or associated with your trade or business.

Does your travel expense meet the two essential conditions?

Your travel expenses can include almost anything that’s relevant to travel that’s both necessary and ordinary for your business. However, these two conditions must be met in order for you to take the travel expense deduction:

  1. Your duties must require that you’re away from home (this means your place of business and has nothing to do with where you live in your family home) for substantially longer than a typical work day.
  2. You must require sleep and/or rest to meet the demands of your duties while you’re away.

You can deduct many travel-related expenses

Assuming your trip meets the above described requirements, you could deduct a wide range of expenses including:

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  • Transportation from your home to the business destination. This could include plane tickets, train tickets, bus ticket, car rental, taxi, commuter bus, and limo fares.
  • The cost of shipping items like samples or displays.
  • Maintenance for your own car if you use it for business travel. You’ll have the option of choosing a deduction for actual expenses or a standard mileage rate.
  • Tolls and parking fees.
  • Meals and hotel accommodations. Note that you’re only able to deduct half of your business meals.
  • Dry cleaning and laundry care.
  • Telephone calls and usage of fax machines.

A note about entertainment deductions

The IRS allows entertainment deductions on any activity that’s generally considered to provide either amusement or recreation. If you’re hosting a client at a social, athletic, or sporting club, then this would likely qualify. Other examples include theaters, hunting, fishing, and yacht trips. If you’re hosting a client at Disney World your theme park tickets may also be deductible. Speak to your tax preparer about the exact details of your situation to be sure.

New Ideas to Save Money on Your Disney World Vacation

August 31st, 2015

You’ve been scouring the blogs for months, trying to figure out how to save the most possible money on your next trip to Disney World, and you’re hungry for more. If that’s you, then you’re in the right place! The Disney Tourist Blog recently posted their top 10 Ways to Save Money on Your 2015 Disney World Vacation and we thought many of them were interesting. Check out our favorite ideas below.

Skip the soft drinks

The cost of a large soft drink is more than $3 each! For those who like a soft drink with every meal, this could be more than $10 per person, per day. If you really need your daily caffeine, consider loading up on coffee at your resort hotel, stock soft drinks in your Orlando vacation home rental, or stick to coffee and soft drinks in sit-down restaurants only – and make sure to get your money’s worth in free refills!

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Don’t add the park hopper option before your trip

The park hopper option allows you to visit more than one of the four Disney theme parks in the same day. It’s around $65 per ticket and adds the park hopping feature to every day of your ticket. There is no option for a lower cost by only adding it to a single day.

While some swear by this option and get quite a bit out of it, the reality is that one park per day is enough for most families. Which is right for you? The good news is that you don’t have to decide today. You can buy your discount tickets ahead of time and if you get to the parks and decide it’s an option worth having, you can simply visit any Guest Relations booth and add it for the same price you’d pay to add it in advance. This assures that you’re only paying this extra fee if you truly need it.

orlandovacation_disney-world-friesDon’t be fooled by “value” meals

When you visit any of the quick service restaurants in any of the parks you’ll see that all entrees are offered as part of a combo or “value” meal. It may seem like a great deal at first, but if all you want is an entrée, then just order an entrée! Many guests don’t realize this is even an option and order a combo for every member of their family, only to have plenty of leftover fries and other sides. A better option is for one person to get the combo, for the rest of your party to get the entrée only, and to split the sides and fries that come with the single combo you’ve ordered.

Orlando Magical Dining Month – Foodie Friday

August 28th, 2015

It could never be a better time to dine out in Orlando than now! From August 24 – September 30 over 70 restaurants are participating in Orlando Magical Dining Month.

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Magic Dining Month gives diners in the Central Florida area the chance to enjoy some of the area premier establishments without breaking a budget. Each of the restaurants participating will offer three-course dinners for $33 per person.

With so many choices available diners might want to browse the participating restaurants and their menus before heading out for the evening. It is also highly recommended to make reservations in advance to ensure you will get a table for the evening you want to dine.

Not only will diners enjoy a great meal, but they can also feel good that one dollar from each meal will be donated to ELEVATE Orlando.

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