Vacation Home Rental vs. Hotels: A Side by Side Comparison

October 6th, 2015

Finding the best deal on your next vacation starts with finding the best deal on accommodations. While the specifics of your options will vary based on where you want to stay and the needs you have, the following article will give you some ideas on how hotels and vacation home rentals compare, side by side.

Comparing the average space in a hotel vs. vacation home rental

The average square footage in a hotel room is 400 square feet. This may be enough for two people, but it can be tight for larger families. On the other hand, renting a vacation home gives you an average of 2000 square feet. It’s easy to see that vacation homes are the clear winner – but as much as 5x the room!

orlando vacation home rental

Pricing the accommodations

One of the biggest factors that keeps people from really considering vacation homes is the cost. They assume they’re much more expensive – especially since they have so much room. However, the national averages show that hotel rooms are about $118 per night. What’s the average of a 1,300+ square foot condo that can sleep up to six? Just $99! Once again, these numbers vary based on location but you can rent an Orlando vacation home starting at just $99. That’s quite the deal indeed!

Meals: where will you spend more?

Vacation homes have full kitchens, which mean you can cook all or some of your meals yourself. Obviously this will save money, but you may be surprised to crunch the numbers and see just how much you can save. Consider that vacationers spend an average of $30 per person, per day on meals. For a family of 4 that’s $120. For a week’s stay that’s almost $1,000! Those who stay in vacation homes can stop by the local market, pick up fresh, affordable ingredients, and feed the entire family for a fraction of that price.

kitchen in orlando vacation home

Money laundering can play a big role

Depending on how long your trip is, the age of your kids, and other factors, doing laundry may be a necessity. Vacation homes typically have washers and dryers in them, and it’s free to use them. On the other hand, visiting laundry facilities at your hotel will take time out of your vacation and can cost as much as $6 per load. The cost of laundry can add up – especially when it’s time you could have spent by the pool!

The verdict is clear: vacation homes aren’t just more comfortable and convenient – they’re also more affordable! With up to 8-bedrooms, great locations, plenty of amenities (like private pools) there’s no reason to stay in an overpriced hotel room again.

Character Dining: Give Your Kids the Dining Experience of a Lifetime

October 5th, 2015

Disney World offers tons of experiences to meet favorite characters, but for the parents of young kids, nothing beats a character dining experience for convenience and the simple fact that it gives tired parents a break! We ran across a great article called Dining with “Character” at Disney World that gives some great info on favorite characters located at restaurants throughout Disney World.

Eat with the classic: Mickey Mouse

Chef Mickey’s, located on the Contemporary Resort, is considered the best place to meet the mouse himself. There he appears with some of his best friends, including Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto. The buffet breakfast is one of the highest rated character breakfasts, and brunch and dinner are available too. Note that you don’t have to be staying at the Contemporary Resort to eat at this restaurant, which is located right next to the Magic Kingdom.

meet mickey mouse chef mickey's

You can also visit Mickey at ‘Ohana, in the Polynesian Resort, and Farmer Mickey (Mickey Mouse dressed up as a farmer) at Garden Grill in EPCOT. Garden Grill has historically only offered dinner, but in the fall of 2015 they’ll begin offering both breakfast and lunch options.

Meet Mickey’s best buds

You can meet many of Mickey’s friends throughout the parks too. Kids who love Minnie Mouse will want to head straight to Cape May Café for breakfast, where they can meet Minnie alongside Goofy and Donald Duck. They’re all dressed in adorable beach clothes to fit in with the beach décor.

Tusker House is the best place to meet Donald Duck. There he’s joined by a rotating collection of his pals, including Minnie, Daisy, Goofy, and occasionally Mickey himself. They all wear inspired safari gear, which you can check out while enjoying the African buffet. Don’t worry – there are plenty of American staples for picky eaters, too!

Meeting the Princesses

For many parents, the biggest draw for their kids are the Disney Princesses. In fact, these are the most popular character dining experiences in Disney World. Cinderella’s Royal Table, located right in Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, is easily the most popular of all. There diners can meet her right in the Grand Hall, and then move on to dine in the banquet hall. The meet and greets don’t stop there: they then can meet Snow White, Aurora, and Sleeping Beauty.

meet snow white cinderella's royal table

You can also head over to EPCOT to meet a number of other Princesses at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. Yet another gorgeous castle, here diners can stay seated and comfortable as Princesses come around to meet them in their seats. This makes it the perfect option for single parents who need as much help as they can get. The specific Princesses change, but you can expect to meet four or five.

Character dining experiences are the perfect way to meet your favorite Disney pals without waiting in long lines at Character Spots, and while enjoying some delicious food – and of course a welcome break!

Fried Chicken at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue

October 2nd, 2015

hoopdedoorevueSo where is the best fried chicken in Disney World? While not everyone will agree on this, a large majority will send you to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.

Not only is the fried chicken here some of the best in the park it is all you can eat! Diners love this fried chicken, the pieces are very meaty, juicy on the inside yet crisp on the outside and packed full of flavor.

The Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue is a fun frontier-style dining experience where families enjoy a two hour show along with buckets full of fried chicken, BBQ pork ribs, salad, baked beans, mashed potatoes, cornbread and strawberry shortcake. For guests over 21 the meal includes unlimited draft beer, wine and sangria or for those under 21 soda drinks are included.

The show is filled with Wild West dancing, singing and zany vaudeville comedy that does encourage guest involvement. There is plenty of stomping, hand clapping and singing along for a memorable evening for everyone.


Orlando Airports: Which is the Best Option for Travelers?

October 2nd, 2015

There are two main airports in the Orlando area: Orlando International Airport (MCO) and Sanford International Airport (SFB). As you’re looking for the best prices on plane tickets you’ll likely have reason to wonder if there’s a significant difference flying into one versus the other. Check out our simple guide to help you decide which one is right for you.

If it’s all about price then you’ll be all about Sanford

If your only concern is the price of your flight, then you’re likely to want to go to Sanford. Though it does vary based on where you’re flying from, most flights are cheaper into Sanford than they are into Orlando. Be sure to read on to make sure that affordability truly is the only consideration, but at the end of the day if your pocket book is driving your final decision, you’ll want to stick to Sanford.


If it’s all about convenience then you’ll be all about MCO

While Sanford isn’t prohibitively far to drive, it is about 20 minutes further from the Disney and Universal theme parks compared to MCO. As a result, those who want to be as close as possible will choose MCO. This can be especially important for those who want to arrive or leave early in the morning or late at night, as they find it much easier to arrive and depart at a closer airport. It’s typically the case that SFB has many fewer direct flights than MCO, so those who don’t want the inconvenience of a layover should take this into consideration as well.

If flexibility is key head to MCO

Sanford may be cheaper in most cases, but MCO offers hundreds more flights. If you want to travel after you get off work in the late afternoon, or first thing in the morning, or mid-day – really if you have any specific requirements for when you want to fly – then you’ll find tons more options flying out of MCO than SFB. On the other hand, if you’re totally flexible then you may choose to save money and fly whenever you can through SFB.


The cost may be more than what your plane ticket tells you

As you compare the pros and cons of both airports, remember that the cost of your plane ticket isn’t the only thing to consider. Many hotels and even vacation home rentals offer free shuttles from MCO. We aren’t aware of a single hotel that offers free shuttles to and from SFB. This leaves you to either pay for your own ride to your hotel or vacation home, or to rent a car. In some cases flights into SFB can be so much cheaper that it’s worth the extra cost, but you’ll need to do the math.

Jurassic Park River Adventure – Universal Studios Orlando

October 1st, 2015

Ever wonder what it feels like to be right in the heart of the world of Jurassic Park? One of the more popular rides at Universal Studios in Orlando will take you there. On this ride prepare to get a little wet and get a little scared!

This family friendly adventure (not for real small children though) takes you on a river ride through Jurassic Park. You will begin by taking a gentle ride in a “raft” down the river where you will encounter relatively tame dinosaurs. But something does go wrong and your raft gets bumped off course where you enter the restricted Raptor Contain Area.

Eventually you find your raft in the Environmental Systems Building where the lights are out and raptors are all around. The only way out is a steep 85 foot plunge in the dark! A real hit with thrill seekers and fans of the movie take a sneak peak with this HD POV video.

Say It’s Not So: Jedi Training Academy is Closing in Hollywood Studios?

October 1st, 2015

Parents of young kids got a shock this week when Disney announced the closure of Jedi Training Academy. This has long been one of the most popular experiences in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and in fact is an experience families have lined up hours early for to ensure their kid’s spot. The good news is that there is something coming in its place. Read on to learn everything we know!

The bad news: The closure begins on October 4th

One of the reasons some Disney fanatics are upset is because the closure date is so soon – October 4th. Guests who’ve had trips planned for months may find that their trip is disrupted. This is especially hard for dads who’ve been telling their youngins about the exciting things in store as they battle Darth Vader. Others have pre-rope drop reservations at breakfast spots in Hollywood Studios specifically to make it to Jedi Training Academy signup before it fills up. These folks are likely to be disappointed.


Good news: It is being replaced

If your trip with the little ones isn’t coming up for several months then you have no need to worry – there is a replacement on its way! The newest Star Wars-inspired show will be called Jedi Training – Trials of the Temple. It will be located in the same place – right next to Star Tours – and will include the same audience participation element as the current one.

There are some differences though. The new show will have brand new sets, and will center on the Star Wars Rebels – so new villains should be expected. Young padawans will be excited, as they’ve likely been tuned into the Rebels TV series, but older dads may not yet be familiar with these newer characters. Better make some time to brush up! There is no word yet on specifically when the new show will open, though Disney says it will be by the end of the year.

More good news: There may be many breakfast reservations available in the near future

Spots in Jedi Training Academy can fill up within ten minutes of the park opening. As a result, dads have had to get creative to find ways for their kids to make the list. One way they’ve done so is by booking what’s known as pre-rope drop reservations. Basically, it means they have reservations at a breakfast spot within Hollywood Studios before the park opens. They can eat, meet characters, and get to Jedi Training Academy right when sign up begins – well before people who have to travel through the turnstiles at the gate.

Many of the parents who booked pre-rope drop reservations for this purpose will be canceling. Check regularly and you may be able to scoop up some great breakfast reservations and be first in line for your favorite Hollywood Studios attractions!


A New Spot to Take Clients in Disney World: The Hangar Bar

September 30th, 2015

Disney fans have been waiting for the latest offering in Disney World and it’s finally here: The Hangar Bar. This is the perfect spot to meet a client for a drink. The theming is amazing, the drinks are fantastic, and because it’s the newest spot in the World, you’ll show off your total dominance of the Disney market.

Full meals aren’t available but small plates may do the trick

This isn’t the spot you want to visit if you’re looking for a full meal. It’s primarily a place to enjoy a delicious handcrafted specialty drink. However, it does have almost a dozen appetizers on the menu. The plates here are pretty amazing: spicy meatball sliders, “she-deviled eggs,” fried calamari flatbread pizza, and soft pizzas with beer cheese, to name a few. As you can see, it’s a great spot for a quick bite and drink and there are plenty of options for tastes of all sorts.


You can’t make reservations

Disney created this spot to be a drop-in watering hole – not a formal dining spot. As a result, they don’t accept reservations. You can expect the bar to be full for its first few months after opening, but you can access a “virtual queue.” It assigns you a place in line and provides an estimated wait time. You can then enjoy Disney Springs and come back when you get the text saying your spot is open. There’s enough to see in Disney Springs that you should be able to keep your client’s occupied!

It’s bigger than it looks from outside

If you just wanted by the Hangar Bar you may think it’s pretty small. In fact, it’s actually rather large! There’s a plenty spacious dining room, a huge bar, and tons of booths. There’s even an outdoor dining spot, for perfect-weather days, and it has its own bar. The interior is two stories high, which allows for even more seating.


This spot is family friendly

Business travelers looking for an adults-only spot to take their clients should keep looking. While there’s plenty of adult beverages, remember that basically everything on Disney property is going to be family-friendly – and this spot is no exception. Most of the appetizers are more adult-oriented, but the theming is 100% Indiana Jones. As newer movies come out, expect more and more kids to want to check in to see the theming on its own.

There are plenty of spots for dinner in Disney Springs, but Hagar Bar brings a unique take on a meeting spot for shorter, app-based meals and a few drinks with a client. The central location makes it easy for them to take a few minutes out of their day to meet with you. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!


Celebrate Fall!

September 29th, 2015


Saving Money at EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival

September 29th, 2015

If you’re a foodie on a budget, EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival will be like a dream come true for you. You’ll have access to dozens and dozens of foods – some of which you’ve probably near heard of, let alone tried. Because they’re all sampler size, the price point is much less than you’d pay for a full entrée at any of the EPCOT restaurants. As a result, you can potentially sample several dishes without breaking your bank. Check out this guide to saving money and making the most of EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival.


Don’t get overwhelmed: have a plan!

If you simply show up at EPCOT, start at either side of the World Showcase, and pick up everything that looks tasty, you’ll end up spending all your cash before seeing half of what’s on offer. The reality is that tons of things will look good – but you can only get a few if you want to stay within budget. The simple solution? Have a plan!

Take a look at this comprehensive guide to the food booths at the Food and Wine Festival. There are more than thirty booths, most of which have three to five different foods available. That’s up to 150 choices! Make a list of the ones you don’t want to miss and then plan your route accordingly.

Start with a single taste

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that everyone needs their own order of your most anticipated foods. While they are not entrée size, almost all of the foods available include enough for several people to get a taste. If you find one that’s incredibly delicious, remember that everyone can go back and get a second helping if they’re so inclined. Always start with a single taste and adjust accordingly as needed.


The buddy system has its place

If you’re traveling with other folks who want to take part in the Food and Wine festival, take a look at your must-try booths to see if they’re interested in them as well. If you match up on many options then it may be worth it to visit together and share dishes. On the other hand, if they’re only interested in a few that you’re interested in, or vice versa, you may not come out ahead. For example, if you get 15 dishes and they try them all, yet they only get 4 dishes, you’ll have given away quite a bit of food and not gotten much in return.

Keep the alcohol to a minimum

There will be many exciting, new drinks at Food and Wine, and you may be tempted to try them all, but you want to limit your alcohol purchases for two reasons: the alcoholic drinks will cost much more than the food items, and the more you drink, the more likely you are to loosen your purse strings.

If you follow these simple tips, you’ll be able to try plenty of delicious bites and your pocketbook won’t be much lighter when it’s over.

Bread Service at Sanaa in the Animal Kingdom

September 25th, 2015

For the foodie one of the best parts about Walt Disney World is the amazing variety that can be found within the parks, so it makes a great opportunity to try new things all in one place. One restaurant that is well worth the visit is Sanaa located in the at the Animal Kingdom Resort.


Featuring African cooking with Indian flavors the food is truly noteworthy, but of course for many the appeal is the amazing view of the Sunset Savannah offered by the restaurant. Diners get to view the magnificent animals who roam the savannah while they dine giving the Sanaa a true African experience.


One menu item at the Sanaa that is not to be missed is the Indian-style Bread Service appetizer. Diners get to choose between three breads, Traditional Naan, Garlic-Ginger Naan, Spiced Naan, Onion Kucha, or Paneer Paratha. Then there is the choice of dipping sauces from sweet to savory to mild to spicy. Red Chile Sambal, Cucumber Raita, Coriander Chutney, Mango Chutney, Tomato-Date Jam, Garlic Pickle, Spicy Jalapeño-Lime Pickle, Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus, or Tamarind Chutney.


The bread service is not to be missed; it is the perfect way to start a meal at the Sanaa. At lunchtime diners can also have the choice of dining with an animal expert. This includes a four course meal with the bread service while a expert teaches you about the animals outside roaming the savannah.