Traveling with Teens: 6 Ways to Avoid the Meltdowns

December 20th, 2014

orlandovacation_teens-disney-world-ridesTraveling to Disney World is an incredible experience that’s not to be missed, but parents of teenagers know the special challenges that can be encountered with teens. Check out these 6 helpful tips that will help you make sure everyone has an incredible time.

1.         Keep your kids involved

One of the easiest ways you can assure your teenagers love the trip is to let them help in the planning. If they’ve made the decisions then they’re more likely to enjoy themselves. Of course this doesn’t mean you let them call all the shots. Instead, narrow your options down to a few choices and let them make the final decision.

2.         Give your teen their own spending money

No matter how serious you are about setting a budget, teens have a way of begging and pleading until you give in and buy that extra souvenir or pay for that extra special event. The best way to avoid this problem is to give them a specific amount of money – and let them keep what’s left. This will not only keep them from coming back to you for more and more money, but it’ll teach them an important lesson in budgeting.

3.         Give your teen space

Being cramped in a small Orlando resort hotel can be a trying experience for everyone, but especially for teens who are just starting to value their own privacy. Consider renting a vacation home that gives the teens their own bedrooms.

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4.         Leave the alarm at home

You’ll find lots of advice that tells you the earlier you can get to the Disney theme parks, the more rides you can ride. It’s true – but it’s also true that if you’re dragging a grumpy teen along, all the rides in the world won’t make it a great day. Instead, compromise with your teen and let them sleep in. Remember that teens really do need more sleep than adults, and try to make sure they’re as rested as possible.

orlandovacation_disney-world-for-teens5.         Be willing to bend the rules

You work hard to be consistent with rules in your household, but when you’re on vacation it’s okay to bend a few of them. Your teens need to learn how to handle changes in the rules, and there’s nothing wrong with letting them have an incredible time – instead of just an okay one. Just be clear that these rule changes are only applicable while you’re on vacation and be sure to get right back on track when you get home. This added sense of adventure can make all the difference between a trip that’s full of complaining and a trip that’s full of laughter.

Have A Waffle Friday

December 19th, 2014

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4 Ways to Save Big on Group Travel to Disney World

December 19th, 2014

When you’re planning a group trip to Disney World you want to save money anywhere you can. We recently ran across an interesting article on 9 Secrets to Saving Big at Disney World. Not all of the points apply to group travel, but we found four of them to be great starting points for group travel planners.

1.         Share accommodations

If you let everyone pick their own roommates you’ll likely end up with empty beds. The best way is to simply take charge and assign rooms so that you can share accommodations most effectively. Be sure to look into the many discounted Orlando hotel resorts that can save you big, or consider renting a vacation home. You can have up to 7 bedrooms, plus separate eating and dining areas – all for less than you’d pay at a resort. These homes are within 15 minutes of the Disney theme parks so they’re centrally located, too. They’re often the best value for larger groups.

orlando vacation home for groups

2.         Share meals

It’s true that meals in Disney are expensive – but they’re also huge! Sit down at any counter service restaurant and just take a minute to observe how much food is thrown away and you’ll quickly see that food could certainly be shared. If you have finicky eaters who don’t like the idea of sharing, let them know that you’ll start off sharing and if they want extra food you’ll buy it for them. Chances are they’ll be more than happy with half a meal.

3.         Be flexible with dates

The absolute best way you can save money on a Disney World trip is to travel during the off season. Not only will you get a better rate on hotels, airfare, special events, and even some meals, but you’ll get much more bang for your buck on account of the lower crowds. You can get a lot more done if your wait times are 5 minutes instead of 50! Note that some times of year you may think are “off season” are actually the busiest – most notable most of the month of December.

4.         Stick with breakfast or lunch for character meals

If your group plans to check out a character meal or two, make sure you choose breakfast or lunch when available. These can be considerably cheaper than lunch and when you’re paying for a large group the savings can really add up. Just check the menu and description to be sure that the characters are still there. In some cases characters aren’t at every meal.

disney world character breakfast

These tips can help you save big on your group travel date to Disney World. Make sure you pick up your discounted park tickets too and get the best overall deal.

Flying with the Grandkids: 5 Essential Travel Tips

December 18th, 2014

When you take the little ones to Disney World there are so many things to consider that it can feel overwhelming. The good news is that by taking a few specific actions you can assure everyone is prepared. Check out this helpful article with 10 Tips for Air Travel With Little Grandkids, or read out our top 5 favorites below.

orlandovacation_flying-with-kids1.         Stick with carry-ons only if at all possible

Depending on how long your trip is, you may be forced to check your bags. However, if you’re stopping by Disney for just a few days, consider packing lightly and sticking with carry-on bags only. Remember that everyone gets their own carry-on – including the little ones. Being able to get to the airport and head directly to your rental car or cab can be a lifesaver when it means skipping the wait at baggage claim with squirmy, excited kids.

2.         Be careful with your seating

These days you get to pick your own airline seats – take advantage of it! Even though kids younger than 2 can sit on your lap without the need for purchasing a ticket for them, if you can afford it you should certainly get them their own seat. Bring an airline approved car seat, which they’ll feel comfortable in as they’ve used these at home plenty of times. Any time the fasten seatbelts light is off the kiddos are free to stand. Let them use their seat as a table to draw, color, and play.

3.         Layers are your friends

The temperatures in airplanes can change dramatically and a hot or cold kiddo is not going to be in a good mood for anyone. As a result, it’s best to dress them in layers. Added bonus: this means less packing! Dress them in long pants, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and bring a coat. They can then add or take off clothes as the temps change.

4.         Clogged ears affect children more than adults

You likely know the feeling of needing to pop your ears on a flight, but kids can experience this even more dramatically. Bottles, pacifiers, and lollipops are all great ways to help them pop their ears. If they’re old enough you can also teach them the tried and true method of holding your nose and blowing hard.

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5.         Bring tons of surprises

The best way to keep the kids happy on a long flight is to keep them occupied. Pack a bag full of grandparent’s surprises. This could include new books, coloring tools, or toys. Every time they get a little antsy, simple give them a new toy. After all, it’s vacation – if you can’t spoil them here, when can you?

A Steal of a Deal: Renting an Orlando Condo

December 16th, 2014

As you plan your next trip to Orlando, it may be time for you think outside the box. You’ll find many resort hotels and vacation homes for rent, many of which offer a great bargain. But have you ever considered renting a condo? There are actually tons of reasons you should look into it. Check out a few below.

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Prices start at $84 a night

The cost of Orlando condos can be as low as $84. The cost will vary based on the number of bedrooms, the time of year you’re visiting, the location of the condo, and how many amenities it has. When you book through Orlandovacation.com you pick your own condo so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting.

It’s just like staying in a resort – but better!

There are so many incredible amenities at most condos that you’ll truly feel you’re staying in a posh resort, but with many advantages. First, most other tenants in the condo will be residents, which means you can avoid many of the issues that can come along with tourists. Second, you’ll pay much less than you’d pay to stay in a resort with similar amenities.

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Incredible amenities will make your trip

Note that every condo will vary based on the particular one you choose and what amenities it has, but you can expect a fully furnished space with climate-controlled settings that allow you to control the comfort in your room. You can also expect a separate living area and sleeping area, which is perfect for families who need a little privacy, a fully functional kitchen with appliances, and you may have access to private swimming pools and Jacuzzi.

Condos are super convenient

The condos you’ll rent from Orlandovacation.com are just a short drive to Disney World. In fact, you can get there in 15 minutes or less! It costs just $50 to hold the reservation and your balance isn’t due until a few weeks before your trip. This allows you to plan well in advance without having to pay well in advance. It’s a win-win from all sides.

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Book with confidence

Make sure you book through a company that doesn’t rent timeshares. Why? Because these properties are not privately owned the way condos are and you can’t be assured of their cleanliness or the quality. Book with a company that offers a low price guarantee so you’ll know you’re getting the best deal, and make sure you understand the cancellation policy. A good rental company will allow you to cancel up until the weeks before the trip, which gives you ultimate flexibility.

The Best Disney World Rides for ToddlersThe Best Disney World Rides for Toddlers

December 15th, 2014

Everyone can have an amazing time at Disney World, whether they’re 5 months old or 95! However, there are some rides better suited to young kids. Many guests are surprised by just how many rides there are that are perfect for toddlers. Let’s take a look at the best options in each of the 4 Disney parks.

The Magic Kingdom

If you’re only going to visit one Disney World theme park with toddlers, the Magic Kingdom is likely the best choice. There are numerous rides at this park that are perfect for wide-eyed toddlers.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean. Your toddler can sit next to you on the bench-style seats, or can sit right on your lap as you slowly ride a boat through scene after scene of pirates on the high seas. Note that this ride is very dark, and there are dramatic scenes, though none of them are particularly scary.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. What toddler wouldn’t love to board Pooh’s honey pot and ride through a fun, bright, cheery landscape of the Hundred Acre Woods?
  • Jungle Cruise. This classic ride hasn’t changed much since it was first introduced in the ‘70s. Toddlers will love the boat ride, checking out all the animals, and the soothing sound of your guide’s description of what’s going on around you. Parents will love the corny jokes and nostalgic feel.
  • Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Let your kids soar through the air at this low-pressure, mildly fast magic carpet ride.
  • it’s a small world. Easily one of the most classic of all Disney rides, this is the epitome of perfection for a toddler. The lights are bright the entire time, the song is upbeat, and there are tons of exciting, yet not scary, things to look at the entire time.

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Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom would be a great park for toddlers even if there weren’t any rides for them, on account of all the incredible trails and animal exhibits you can walk through. The stakes are raised though with a few great rides for toddlers.

  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug. This indoor show features 3-D effects and lots of great animation, though be aware that it does get very dark in theater.
  • Kilimanjaro Safari. Take your toddler on this outdoor Jeep ride, where they can meet the animals up close and personal.
  • TriceraTop Spin. This classic ride spins on its dinosaur-themed track and almost never has a line.

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Hollywood Studios

There are many great shows in Hollywood Studios, which are perfect for toddlers familiar with some of the most famous Disney movies.

  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid. If your toddler likes lights and singing then this show is likely to entertain. Note that there is quite a bit of darkness, plus a smoke effect that may scare younger kids.
  • Toy Story Mania! While the young ones won’t be able to actively participate in this interactive ride they’ll love the tie-ins to Toy Story and the colorful backdrop.

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Epcot

Many think of Epcot as a park best suited for adults, but there are a few rides that toddlers really love.

  • The Seas With Nemo & Friends. Fans of Finding Nemo will love this attraction, which ends with a ride through a real fish tank.
  • Turtle Talk with Crush. This cool interactive attraction lets kid interact directly with a cool, animated surfer turtle who’s sure to make everyone laugh.

Orlando 101: How to Create a Budget for your First Disney Trip

December 14th, 2014

Creating a budget is one of the first things you’ll have to do as you plan your first trip to Disney World. There are many factors to consider – some of which will be obvious to you, and some of which you may not have thought of. Here are a few simple tips to make sure you’re covering all the budgeting basics.

Setting up your accommodations budget

One of the largest factors in your budget will be how much you spend on accommodations. You have three basic options: staying at a Disney resort, staying at a local Orlando hotel, or renting a vacation home. Each has its own advantages.

  • Disney resorts. You’ll be as close as possible to the parks, and can take advantage of free bus and / or monorail service into the parks, but you’ll pay much, much more for this convenience.
  • Local Orlando hotels. Many of these hotels are just as close to the parks as Disney resorts, yet they can be a 1/3 of the price.
  • Orlando vacation homes. You get tons of amenities, like private pools, full kitchens and separate living and sleeping areas, and the cost can be as low as $99.

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Your best bet is to price out a few different options, weigh the pros and cons of each, and decide which makes the most sense for your unique circumstances.

Budgeting for food

Food will be another large expense. Once again, you have a few options. If you rent a vacation home you’ll have a full kitchen in your home, which allows you to prepare some of your meals and save significantly. If you stay in a hotel you can choose to eat all your meals within the Disney parks, which will quickly get very expensive, or you can visit some local Orlando restaurants that provide more affordable options. The right choice for you depends on your overall budget. If you plan to eat all your meals within the parks themselves, you can generally budget around $50 per day, per person, for food. This number can drop dramatically if you prepare one or more meals in your own private kitchen.

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Transportation costs

No matter how you arrive in Orlando you’ll have to consider transportation costs. If you fly you’ll likely need to rent a car. If you drive your own vehicle down, you’ll need to pay for parking. One tip it to consider buying one member of your party an annual pass. This gives them free parking at all Disney parks plus a variety of discounts on food and merchandise within the parks. Upgrading one of you could save you significantly on parking costs.

Group Travel Safety Tips: Stay Safe in Orlando

December 13th, 2014

orlandovacation_tsa-approved-lockOrlando is a very safe travel destination that’s easy to get around. However, anytime you’re taking a group trip it pays to follow some basic group travel safety tips. Check out our favorites that will help keep you safe on your trip to the Sunshine State.

Keep your luggage secure

All your most important items are in your luggage, and it’s incredibly important that you assure everyone keeps their luggage safe and sound. If you choose to use a padlock, make sure it’s a TSA approved device. Otherwise, airport security may just cut it off and leave your luggage unlocked.

Give an itinerary to everyone

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a travel planner is to be the only one with the itinerary. No matter how safely you may feel you’ve stored it, something could happen. You’ve spent months researching the best Orlando resorts, how to get discount tickets, and more – yet you could lose it all by misplacing your laptop or losing hard copies. Email a copy of the master itinerary to yourself so you can access it from any computer, and make sure everyone traveling has the basic itinerary.

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Make sure you have everyone’s emergency numbers is a convenient spot

If you’re planning a school trip you’ll have permission slips and waivers signed that have important emergency contact information on it. However, remember that when an emergency occurs the last thing you’ll have time for is going back to your room, finding the sheets, and sifting through them to find the number you need. Instead, make sure you have a master list that can be accessed quickly and easily.

If you’re planning a family trip, don’t assume that someone else will have emergency contact info. Sure, many family members may be there, but some members of your group may have adult children that should be contacted, or have unique medical situations that an emergency doctor would want to be aware of. It’s worth having a conversation beforehand about how they want these situations dealt with and who they’d like to be contacted.

Don’t forget childproofing supplies

If one or more members of your group will be bringing a young child, don’t forget childproofing supplies! If you’re renting an Orlando vacation home you may want a collapsible baby gate, if you’re staying in a resort you may want outlet covers. Of course the best option is to discuss the needs with the parents, but don’t assume they’ll think of these things. If it’s their first trip with the little ones it may not have even occurred to them.

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Feeding the Kids: 10 Simple Dining Tips for Disney World

December 12th, 2014

tusker house disney world orlandoThere are tons of great experiences to be had at Disney World, but if you simply look at food as a necessary expense you’re missing out. There are tons of great character interactions and some of the best themeing in all of the World is in restaurants. Check out this comprehensive list of 101 Disney World Dining Tips and check out our favorite 10 below.

  1. Tusker House is one of the least popular character meals in all the parks, yet many believe it has the best food and an incredible atmosphere. It’s much easier to score a reservation at this spot than at many other character meals.
  2. Garden Grill in Epcot is a character meal with a special twist – it rotates. You’ll see special views of the ride Living with the Land while eating hearty, kid-friendly food and interacting with Chip, Dale, and friends.
  3. When you visit a counter service restaurant you’ll see most food offered as numbered combos. However, you can order the entrée without the side, which is typically fries or chips, and save about $2.
  4. If your kiddos are all about ice cream, no trip to the water parks Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach would be complete without the Sand Pail. It easily feeds 3 – 4 hungry ice cream enthusiasts and is a great value.
  5. Don’t be afraid to share meals! Portion sizes are typically very large, and it’s often the case that the more expensive the item is, the larger the portion is. For example, if a meal costs $15 but feeds two people, it’s a better value than a meal that’s priced at only $10 but will feed just a single person.
  6. snacking at epcotIf you’re in Disney World with a special event, be sure you note this when you make your reservation. You aren’t guaranteed to get anything in return, but you may end up with a special acknowledgement from the staff.
  7. Kids can be hesitant to give Epcot a shot as they often see it as a boring spot. One way to get them engaged is to try a “snacking around the world” challenge. Stop in each country in the World Showcase and have a snack at each.
  8. Drinks can be expensive at Disney World, but when you thirst gets the better of you keep your wallet in your pocket and ask for a free fountain water at any counter service restaurant.
  9. If you’re planning to visit a character meal for breakfast or lunch, make the best of both by getting the latest reservation you can during breakfast hours. You can get there, load up on breakfast, wait for them to bring the lunch selections out, and try your favorite lunch options, too.
  10. You can bring your own food into the parks. Just keep hard-sided coolers and alcoholic beverages at home!

These tips will help make you the #1 dad in the eyes of your kids – without breaking your budget!

Breaking Down Park-Hoppers: Are They Worth the Cost?

December 11th, 2014

If you’re like most budget-conscious Orlando visitors, you do want to make sure your vacation is as affordable as possible – but you don’t want to skimp on the extras that will make your vacation a truly magical experience. One option many people struggle with are park-hoppers. This add-on allows you to travel between numerous Disney theme parks on the same day. Let’s take a look at whether or not this option is worth the added expense.

disney world park hopper tickets

Park-Hopper Basics

Without the park-hopper, you have access to just one Disney theme park per day, though you can visit a different park for each day of your ticket. For example, if you have a 5-day ticket without the park-hopper option, you can visit Magic Kingdom one day, Epcot the next, Animal Kingdom the next, and Hollywood Studios the next. On your final day, you could visit any of the parks you’d like. You can also skip any park you’d like and spend 3 days at 1 park, 2 days at another, and so forth. Basically, you can visit the parks however you’d like – but only one park per day.

With the park-hopper option you can visit multiple parks in a single day. So you could spend the morning at the Magic Kingdom then head straight to Epcot. Or you could visit Animal Kingdom in the morning, take a break in the afternoon, and head to Hollywood Studios in the afternoon. You could even visit all 4 parks in the same day if you’re really adventurous!

The Cost of Park-Hoppers

Adding park-hoppers to your tickets costs roughly $60 per adult – regardless of how long your ticket is for. As a result, you can’t elect to add park-hoppers to just one or two days of your five day ticket. On the flip side, this can make it easier to decide to add the option if you’re buying a longer ticket. Spread out over 10 days, a park-hopper costs around $6 more per day. On the other hand, if you get just a 2-day ticket, you’re looking at around $30 per person, per day to add the park-hopper option.

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Are Park-Hoppers Worth It?

Of course the answer will vary based on how you plan to tour the parks, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you make your decision. First, be aware that around 65% of guests who add the park-hopper option never end up taking advantage of it. Second, know that you can buy discounted tickets without the park-hopper option, and if you get to the parks and find that you want it, you can simply visit any Guest Relations booth and have it added for the same price you’d pay if you’d originally ordered your tickets with the option.