Making the Most of Orlando Business Travel: 4 Things Not to Miss

April 15th, 2015

Too often business travelers don’t take full advantage of the locales they visit. They may not feel like they have the time, they may be too tired after a day of meetings, or they may simply not know what a particular city has to offer. Nowhere is this more of a crime than in Orlando! There are so many great things to discover. Check out these four don’t-miss activities the next time you visit us on business.

1.         Try unique, local restaurants

One of the biggest mistakes travelers make is to stick with the chain restaurants you’ll find all over Orlando. Of course there is a huge audience for these chains, as visitors often want to try foods that are familiar and comfortable to them. If you’re staying near the convention center it may seem like these chains are all there is, but if you dig just a little deeper into the city you’ll find tons of foods with Cuban influences, some truly delicious seafood, and some fusion food you won’t find anywhere else.

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2.         Visit the major theme parks – at least one of them!

Of course when you think of Orlando you likely think of Disney World and Universal. In fact, many business travelers immediately count these options out simply because they don’t think they’ll have time to do much when they’re only in town for a few days. The reality is that you can visit the World Showcase at Epcot to sample adult drinks from around the world, you can visit the zoo-like atmosphere at the Animal Kingdom, or simply take an afternoon to ride some of the best thrill rides in the world at Universal.

3.         Check out some of the lesser known parks

While Orlando may be best known for the famous theme parks, there are also some lesser known parks that just may be exactly what you need. GatorLand is a totally unique spot that’s perfect for an afternoon getaway, Wet ‘N’ Wild is a fantastic water park to cool off at, and even Downtown Disney, soon to be rebranded as Disney Springs, has great nightlife, hot air balloon rides, live music, and tons of restaurants and shopping.

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4.         Visit picturesque beaches

Did you know that there are several beaches within a few hour’s drive of Orlando? Whether you want the party atmosphere of Daytona Beach or the relaxed, family vibe of Clearwater Beach, no trip to central Florida would be complete without dipping your toes in the sea. Take an afternoon, rent a car, and get a break from your busy business life to relax in the sunshine.

The 4 Most Important Tips to Follow When Choosing an Orlando Vacation Home

April 14th, 2015

You have plenty of Orlando vacation homes to choose from – so many in fact that it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you. While you’ll likely think about a wide range of factors, these are the top four that you must consider if you want to find the perfect home for your needs.

1.         Location

First and foremost, you must narrow down your options based on location. No matter what else you make think about before making your final decision, nothing is going to impact how much you enjoy your vacation home as much as the location. The good news is that you can find affordable homes in convenient spots. For example, at Orlandovacation.com you can find homes within 15 minutes of the Disney theme parks starting at just $99 per night.

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2.         Bedrooms

No matter where the home is located, if it doesn’t have the right number of bedrooms you won’t be pleased with it. One thing to keep in mind is that the price bump to add another bedroom may not be as much as you think. If you’re planning to have the kiddos share a bedroom, at least look into the cost to add another bedroom. If it’s just a few bucks more it may be well worth it to ensure everyone gets the privacy that may help keep the peace.

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3.         Amenities

You’ll have your choice of amenities in these incredible Orlando vacation homes. In fact, you may have so many options that you don’t know what you really need. To get started, write down a list of all the amenities you must have. Your list may include a washer and dryer in the home, a private pool, and a full kitchen. As you go through the options, cross off any homes that don’t meet this minimum and then take into consideration the added amenities some may have – keeping in mind that they’re not must-haves.

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4.         Price

You may be surprised to see price listed last. Does that mean it’s the least important factor? In a way, yes. Obviously you need to choose a home that’s within your budget. However, saving a few bucks may not be worth it if the home you choose is too far away, doesn’t have the bedrooms you want, and is missing essential amenities. Price is one factor that should be taken into consideration, but be careful not to let it be the only one. How much is your perfect vacation worth? When you choose a home that meets the requirements of all four points, you’ll be choosing a home that you’ll be happy to return to every night.

5 Family Vacation Tips for Traveling with Small Children

April 13th, 2015

The thought of traveling to Disney World with your small children may immediately make you anxious, but the good news is that there are tons of tips you can follow to make sure your trip is a success. There’s a great post on Huffington Post about 12 Family Vacation Tips for Traveling with Young Children. Check it out or read our favorite five below.

1.         Travel light

There are many opinions on how much you should pack. Some parents swear by packing everything you could imagine needing so you won’t find yourself without once you get to Orlando. However, another opinion is to travel as light as possible. Remember that you’ll be lugging your bags through the airport with your little ones. Imagine being able to do so with just one or two bags.

one-dollar-bills2.         Grab $40 worth of $1 bills

The key to successful traveling with kids is to be able to get in and out as quickly as possible everywhere you go. Have a bunch of change on hand makes this simple. For example, when you stop for a quick bite to eat you won’t have to wait for the server to return with your change – you’ll have plenty of cash to tip. This is especially helpful when you have a little one who could melt down at any time.

3.         Keep your phone in check

Vacation should be a way to get away from it all – and that includes our addictions to our technology! Of course you may need to take a phone call occasionally or check your email once in a while, but try to resist the urge to photograph and video everything. Everyone on social media doesn’t need to know what you’re doing every second of the day. The key is for you to enjoy your trip – not to convince everyone else that you did.

4.         Pack small bags into bigger bags

orlandovacation_pack-small-bagsIf you have several kiddos that doesn’t mean you have to pay to check several bags at the airport. Instead, pack a small bag for each of them and then pack those bags into a larger bag. You’ll save money and you’ll save time by not having to reorganize everything once you arrive. Just pull out each kiddos bag and you’re good to go!

5.         Plan ahead

It likely comes as no surprise that Orlando is a popular vacation destination. As a result, you’ll find the best prices and best selection on resort hotels, vacation homes, and restaurant reservations the further in advance you plan. Resist the urge to wait for a better price. If you’re traveling during the peak season, the first price offered is likely to be the best price you’ll see.

Discovering Disney World: Are Character Meals Worth It?

April 10th, 2015

As you begin your research into your upcoming Orlando vacation, you’ll have a lot of information to digest in a short amount of time. The great news is that we’re here to make it easy for you! If you have kids who want to meet some of the most popular characters at Disney World then you’ll likely hear about character meals. These can be expensive, but are they worth it? Let’s delve a little deeper and find out!

disney-world-character-mealsWhat are character meals?

Essentially, character meals are a meal where various beloved characters come around to greet you while you eat. The characters at each meal will vary based on the location you choose, but at each one there will be a photographer ready to snap photos of you and your family with the characters.

What kind of food is at character meals?

This varies by location. Some have buffets, some have prix fixe meals, some offer a limited menu you order off of, and some are served family style with large bowls and plates of dishes brought to your table to share. Some of the meals are worth the price alone, even without characters, and at other locations the focus is all on the interaction with the characters and the food is nothing to get excited about.

How much do character meals cost?

The prices vary per location and they also vary by the time of the year. For example, a meal at one spot will cost less during a non-peak time of year compared to the same meal during the busiest months. There are children’s prices available but remember that kids over 9 will have to pay the adult price.

Are character meals worth it?

There are a few ways to look at this. If your family is planning to have a sit-down meal and you’re also planning to meet one or more characters that can be found at a character meal, then it may be a no-brainer for you. You’ll get the chance to meet exactly who you want without waiting in lines that can be an hour or more long at the character meet and greet spots.

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On the other hand, the price for the meal may be too expense for you. If you’re planning to bring your own lunch into the parks and eat dinner back at your vacation home or Orlando resort then it may not be worth $50+ per person just to skip the lines. Most families find that taking a break in the middle of the day is a great way to recharge, and a character meal is a great way to take that break. It’s all up to you, your budget, and your priorities when you visit the parks.

5 Ways for Dads to Bond With Their Daughters at Disney World

April 9th, 2015

If you had your way, you’d find unique ways to bond with your daughter every day, but with your busy life it’s just not possible. That’s all the more reason to take the time for a special experience with your daughter at Disney World. Check out these five ways you can find that extra special bonding moment with your daughter at Disney World.

1.         Take her for an incredible makeover

dining-single-parent-dining-daughterOne of the most popular “extras” for little ladies at Disney World is the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. There your princess will get her hair done like her favorite princess and will even have the chance to buy a dress to complete the look. No matter which package you choose, there will be plenty of pixie dust both for your little girl – and in papa’s eyes!

2.         Take her out for a meal

Find a great dinner spot and treat your daughter – just the two of you! If your daughter is in her teens then she may appreciate heading to one of the Signature Restaurants where you’ll put on your fancied theme park duds and get the service of your lifetime. Younger lasses may love a character buffet with just their dad.

3.         Take her to your favorite rides

dad-daughter-disney-world-rideWhen it comes to dad and daughter bonding time, too often people think only of what their daughter wants to do. After all, as her dad you want to give her the world! However, remember that bonding goes both ways. If you loved Disney World as a kid and have your favorite spots, share them with her! Take her on Space Mountain and tell her how your heart raced the first time you rode it, or drag her onto the Jungle Cruise and watch her roll her eyes at the puns.

4.         There are spots outside the parks too!

Remember that not every idea has to be solely focused on the parks. Maybe she’d like to head to GatorLand and see gators up close, or cool off on a hot day at one of the water parks in the area. You might think of Disney World as the family’s activity but your special spot as a treat for just you and your daughter.

5.         Get the camera out and start shooting

Create a photo challenge for you and your daughter. Maybe you want a picture of the two of you with every character in Epcot, or at every railroad station in the Magic Kingdom. This is a fun experience that you can turn into a photo book when you get home and that you’ll both cherish for years to come.

4 Ways You Can Spend to Save at Disney World

April 8th, 2015

You want to visit Disney World and you want to do it on a budget. It seems that spending less is the only way to achieve that goal, right? Well, you may be surprised to learn that there are actually a few ways that spending a little more cash in one arena can save you a lot in another. Let’s take a look!

1.         Stay closer to the parks

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to look for the absolute cheapest hotel they can find. After all, accommodations can account for up to half your entire vacation budget! While it seems to make the most sense to get your hotel as cheaply as possible, consider what you’ll lose. If your hotel is 40 minutes from the parks that’s roughly an hour and a half you’ll spend away from the parks every day. That means you won’t be able to head back and take a break for lunch, that means you’ll be exhausted every night and morning. It’s especially unnecessary because there are so many affordable hotels and even vacation homes within 15 minutes of the parks.

orlandovacation_stay-near-disney-world

2.         Consider the hoppers

When you buy your discount theme park tickets you’ll have two main options: park hoppers or no park hoppers. You’ll pay a little more than $60 per ticket to add the park hopper option. Clearly this is a large extra expense, especially for a larger family. In many cases it may not be worth it, but think long and hard before you make that decision.

discount disney world tickets

If you want to see all four parks you’d have to either get a hopper or spend four days in the parks. It’s cheaper to add a fourth day to a three day park ticket than it is to add a park hopper, but consider that this also means an extra day of food, another night in a hotel, etc. It may be cheaper to add the hopper and keep your trip to a 3-day trip.

3.         Character meals may be a great bargain for you

One of the unique options at Disney is a character meal. There you get a meal, plus you get to meet some of your favorite characters. These can be expensive meals, but if you’re planning to pay for a meal anyway, the added cost of a character meal versus a regular meal may be minimal – and it could prevent hours of waiting to meet characters when you’re in the parks.

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4.         Look for optimal flight times

It’s common for families to get so caught up in finding the absolute lowest airfare that they forget what they’re really comparing. Is it worth it to save $35 per person if it means getting into Orlando at 10 PM versus noon? Those extra ten hours may well be worth the added expense.

10 Essential Things to Add to the Diaper Bag in Disney World

April 3rd, 2015

Packing the diaper bag for a trip to Disney World will include many of your everyday items, but it’ll include some items you may not have thought to add. Take a look at this article, What To Pack In The Diaper Bag For Walt Disney World Orlando, to read 11 top ideas, or check out our favorites below.

orlandovacation_first-aid-kit1.         An extra pair of shoes

It’s essential that your kids have comfortable shoes, even if they’re young enough that you don’t think they’ll do much walking on their own. Remember that Disney World requires miles of walking every day – and of course there’s nothing that attracts the kiddos quite like puddles! Bring an extra pair of shoes for them to change in to if it becomes necessary.

2.         A first aid kit including medicine

You can buy almost anything at the Disney World theme parks, including pain killer, children’s aspirin, band-aids, etc. However, you’ll pay a pretty penny and will likely waste valuable time finding the right store that stocks what you need. Pack yourself a little bag that includes all the things you may need so they’ll be ready at a moment’s notice.

3.         Portable DVD player

These can be purchased for as little as $50 and are the perfect distraction for a kid who’s about to meltdown. Simply pull it out, find a bench, and plunk the little one down in front of it while you wait for your dining reservation, wait for your FastPass+ window, or take a break.

4.         Mini Disney characters

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Souvenirs are expensive, and your little ones are going to want almost everything they see. Avoid spending hundreds of dollars and keep the kids entertained at the same time by bringing your own mini Disney characters for them to play with.

orlandovacation_toddler-to-go-snacks5.         Snacks

Food is a major expense at Disney World. You likely won’t have trouble finding foods for even the pickiest eaters, as every restaurant will have a kid’s menu that includes things like pizza and chicken nuggets, but why pay $4+ for a simple snack when you can bring your own? Disney World allows food and non-alcoholic beverages to be brought into the parks, so there’s no reason not to grab your own snacks.

6.         A change of clothes

There are a million things that can happen at Disney World that would require you to have a change of clothes on hand. For example, you might get splashed on Splash Mountain, a rain shower could come out of nowhere, or a spill could occur. Have an extra change of clothes for your kids so you can simply get rid of the old and bring in the new!

How Much Do You Really Know About Orlando Vacation Homes?

April 2nd, 2015

There are dozens of reasons it pays to seriously consider renting an Orlando vacation home versus staying in a resort. Many travelers simply don’t know much about the many advantages of these options. Let’s take a look at some of the most important facts to know before you book your accommodations.

Orlando vacation homes may be your most affordable option

First and foremost, you may be surprised to know that Orlando vacation homes could very well be your most affordable option. Many people mistakenly believe that they’re prohibitively expensive and are not as good of a deal as other options like hotels. The truth is that they start at just $99 per night! If you’re traveling with a group that requires more than one hotel room, it’s likely you’ll always find vacation homes more affordable.

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You can cook a good portion of your meals – or all of them if you’d like!

Not only are the prices themselves cheaper, but renting a vacation home gives you the opportunity to save big on food costs, too. Most have a full chef’s kitchen that is fully equipped with the basics you need to prepare meals. Remember that you can take most any food and non-alcoholic beverage into the theme parks with you, so this is a great way to save huge.

You’ll be close to the parks

One of the most common objections people have to renting these homes is that they assume they’re far from the parks. The truth is that you get to choose the home you rent and most are within 15 minutes of the parks. This is the perfect location that makes it convenient for you to get into the parks and back home quickly, but is also far enough away that you get tons of privacy.

Amenities abound!

Don’t be one of those families who skip the great savings and convenience of a vacation home because you assume you won’t have all the amenities available to you that you’d have in a resort. The reality is that, once again, you choose the home – which means you choose the amenities you want! Some homes have private pools and Jacuzzis, some have washers and dryers. You get all the amenities you want when you rent a home.

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There’s no better way for families to get privacy

When a family of 3 or 4 stays in a resort hotel, problems will arise. The truth is that once the kiddos get to bed, the parents must be quiet and their entire evening is spent trying not to wake up the kids. On the other hand, when you rent a vacation home you can put them to bed in their own room and still take advantage of the pool, watch TV in the living room, or simply relax in your own private room.

Orlando for Beginners: How to Choose the Right Hotel

April 1st, 2015

Planning your first trip to Orlando might feel overwhelming when you first start. Where do you even begin? One of the first and most important decisions will be where you’ll stay. Let’s take a look at some of the things to consider when choosing your hotel, plus outline your main options.

Top 4 things to consider when choosing your hotel

While everyone’s situation will be different, these are the four main things you’ll keep in mind as you look through your hundreds of options.

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  1. Capacity. If you’re a family of four you may not want a hotel room with two double beds, while a married couple with no kids wouldn’t likely want a 3-bedroom villa. Start by narrowing down options based on the size of your group.
  2. Location. You don’t want to spend an hour every day just getting to and from the parks. There are hotels within Disney property, but these are generally very expensive and aren’t that much closer than other hotels. In fact, you can rent hotel rooms and vacation homes that are 15 minutes or less from the Disney parks.
  3. Price. Many people believe that a trip to Disney will cost you thousands of dollars. The truth is that it can be more affordable than you think – or you could treat yourself to a luxury resort. Either way is fine, but keep your budget in mind as you look at your options.
  4. Amenities. In some cases it may be worth it to pay more if it means getting better value. For example, some hotels or homes will have full-service kitchens. These can be well worth the extra cost as they could save you hundreds of dollars when you cook your own meals versus paying in the parks.

The 2 main types of accommodations

orlandovacation_orlando-vacation-home-rentalYou’ll have two main types of accommodations: hotel resorts and Orlando vacation homes. Both have huge advantages. Let’s take a look.

  1. Hotel resorts. These resort hotels are affordable, convenient, and offer wonderful amenities like themed pools and transportation to and from the parks. They are generally recommended for families or small groups.
  2. Orlando vacation homes. These homes range from 3-bedroom all the way to 8-bedroom and start at just $99 a night. They’re great for larger groups, but smaller families find a lot of advantages in theme too, as parents have privacy and room to hang out after the kids go to sleep in their private bedrooms. Some vacation homes have private pools, chef’s kitchens, washers and dryers, and more!

No matter where you stay, you’ll love your first trip to Orlando! Just take a look at the above tips to find the best accommodations for your group.

4 Tips to Help Dad Raise his Teen Daughter

March 31st, 2015

orlandovacation_teen-daughter-father-tipsAs you plan your trip to Disney World you’re likely excited to see the smile light up your daughter’s face. However, it’s also true that teen daughters come with their own challenges. These 4 tips will help you get closer to your daughter generally, which can help make your trip to Disney World even more exciting and fulfilling for everyone!

1.         Listen to her when she speaks

As parents, it’s easy to get so busy that you’re constantly trying to multi-task. It may not seem like a huge deal to wash the dishes while she’s telling you about your day, but the truth is that when you’re distracted she’ll be able to sense it. What seems like a not-so-important story to you may seem incredibly important to you. This doesn’t mean that you have to drop what you’re doing every time she speaks to you, but it doesn’t hurt to simply say, “Honey, I’d love to hear all about this but I’m a little distracted cooking dinner right now. Can we make time to talk after clean up?”

2.         Spend real, quality time together

orlandovacation_father-teen-daughterThere’s simply no substitute for time together. This doesn’t mean just sitting on the couch next to each other watching a movie, though that can certainly be a fun activity! Take her out for coffee or a hot chocolate and sit down and actually get to know one another. You don’t want to fall into the trap of being her friend instead of her parent, but you do want to remember that she is more than just your daughter – she’s a real person, too! Get to know her.

3.         Accept her as she is – within reason

You want the best for her and this sometimes means letting her know that there are things in her life she needs to work on. However, don’t ever forget that no matter what she says, you are the most important man in her life. If you’re overly critical, she’ll take this to heart. Be supportive and uplifting, and accept her flaws for what they are.

4.         Expect bumps along the road

Your trip to Disney World is going to be amazing – but it’s also going to have bumps. There may be moments when she’s grumpy or sullen, or there may be moments when she doesn’t want to hang out with the family. Don’t get upset. Just keep moving forward and she’ll come around. Know that the attitude will pass, and while you do need to address inappropriate behavior, you don’t need to react to every sigh or eye roll. Your daughter is growing up and it’s a difficult process. Give her a break – and give her a magical trip to Disney World!