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!

Simple Business Travel Tips That Make a Big Difference

March 30th, 2015

There are pros and cons to business travel. On the one hand, you get to visit locales you may not normally visit. On the other hand, it can be difficult to spend so much time in airports and meetings. Especially when travel takes you to Orland and all you want is to visit the fabulous theme parks! Check out these 10 Tips for Effective Business Travel, or take a peek at our favorite five ideas below.

orlandovacation_business-travel-packing-tips1.         Always keep your essentials packed

Packing is one of the most time consuming and least fun parts of business travel. To avoid the inconvenience, keep a bag packed with your essentials. For example, grab an extra toothbrush and a travel tube of toothpaste and have them always packed. Get an extra pair of sunglasses, a first aid kit, and other essentials you take with you every time.

2.         Pack disposables when you can

Do you have an old t-shirt that’s seen better days and will get the boot sooner rather than later? Do you have an old pair of shoes that has a few good wears in them? Consider packing these items and then tossing them at the end of your trip. This is a great way to both clean out your closet and make room for souvenirs you may want to bring back from your trip.

3.         Don’t forget your leisure items

When you’re packing for a trip that’s primarily for business purposes you’re unlikely to forget your suits or business wear, but you may find yourself forgetting your casual essentials. If you plan to take a day to visit Disney World, make sure you bring gym shoes, a comfortable pair of shorts or pants, and a t-shirt. Don’t get stuck with work wear when you’re taking a day for play!

orlandovacation_business-travel-packing-list4.         Ship items for longer trips

If you’re heading to Orlando for a week or more, consider shipping the items you need directly to your resort hotel or Orlando vacation home. This allows you to get everything you need without paying a ton in baggage fees. If you need food or pantry items, consider Amazon’s new pantry service. If you need clothes, just pack up a flat rate shipping box and have them shipped. You’ll avoid not just the baggage fees but the inconvenience that comes along with checking bags.

5.         Make a permanent checklist

Sometimes when travelers take off on trips regularly, they’ll forget the most obvious things. This is because we get into an automatic pilot mode and simply leave essentials behind. Write yourself a checklist of things you’ll need on every single trip, like ID, passport, airline reservation info, etc. and check it before you take off on every trip.

How to Save Hundreds of Dollars Booking the Right Accommodations

March 27th, 2015

Those who love Disney World know that no price is too high for the magical experience they’re in store for. However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to save money where you can. Great news for the budget savvy is that there are a few simple things you can do to save hundreds by booking the right accommodations.

Skip the Disney properties

The simplest, fastest way you can immediately save hundreds of dollars on your Disney trip is to skip the Disney properties. When you read their literature you’ll see that there are many advantages listed: you’ll be close to the parks, you can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, and you’ll get to use Disney transportation. The reality is that none of these perks are what they’re cracked up to be.

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There are many resort hotels and Orlando vacation home that are literally minutes from the parks – you don’t need to be on Disney property to get that amenity. Extra Magic Hours, which means that one of the four Disney theme parks is open for an hour or two more every day – but only for those staying on Disney property – seem like a great deal at first, but consider that these Extra Magic Hours mean the park that has them will be much busier every day. So yes, you’ll get an hour or two more in the parks, but you could end up riding less. As far as Disney transportation goes, it certainly is convenient, but renting a car will cost less than the upgrade to a Disney resort, and many offsite hotels have free transportation to and from the parks.

Consider an Orlando vacation home

If you’re planning to rent more than one hotel room for your party, then you’re almost guaranteed to save big by renting an Orlando vacation home. These homes start at just $99 and have tons of amenities you’ll love. Some have private pools and Jacuzzis, washers and dryers are included in most, and there’s plenty of room and privacy for larger groups. Not to mention the fully stocked chef’s kitchens!

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Choose accommodations that allow you to prepare your own food

If you stay in a vacation home you can make your own meals, which can save you tons of money on your trip. Even if you simply prepare breakfast and pack a lunch, then buy dinner in the parks each night, you’ll be shocked by how affordable your trip could be. Likewise, some of the resorts have kitchenettes that include fridges and microwaves. Bring your own milk, bottled water, and pop, and you could save a ton.

Renting an Orlando Vacation Home: Is it Worth It?

March 21st, 2015

You have tons of accommodation options in Orlando, including vacation homes. As you compare and contrast your options, take a look at this list that outlines and details some of the factors you’ll consider as you wonder if renting a vacation home is the right choice for you.

orlandovacation_vacation-pool-homeComparing the cost of the home itself

The first thing you’ll do is compare the cost of an Orlando vacation home versus an Orlando resort hotel. You’ll find that vacation home are surprisingly affordable. In fact, they start at just $99 a night. That’s as little as a ¼ of what you’d pay to stay on a Disney property.

Comparing your overall costs

Not only are these vacation homes very affordable to rent, but they can save you money in a variety of other ways. For example, when you have access to a full kitchen you can prepare many of your meals yourself. If you make breakfast every morning for a family of 4 during a 7 day trip you could save hundreds of dollars! You can also make sandwiches and snacks to bring into the parks and enjoy adult beverages in your own home, instead of paying a premium at a hotel bar.

Comparing location

One of the biggest concerns people have is being too far from the parks. They do want great amenities and they do want to save money, but they don’t want to do it if it means driving an extra hour to get to and from the parks every day. Likewise, if their home is so far away that they can’t stop back home for a midday break, then it may not be worth it for them. The good news is that the homes available through OrlandoVacation.com are all within 15 minutes of the parks.

Comparing amenities

You want to be pampered on vacation – and why wouldn’t you! The great thing about these homes is that you could have access to a private pool, a private Jacuzzi, washer and dryer right in your unit, a full chef’s kitchen and much more! When you rent these homes you certainly won’t be wanting for amenities.

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Comparing your options

When you rent a home you choose which home you rent, which gives you total control over which options are most important to you. For example, perhaps you aren’t a water bug and don’t plan to swim. Then get a home without a pool. Perhaps a 2-car garage is a priority. You can find one! You can choose to heat the water in your pool, you can choose the number of bedrooms. In short: you’ll have tons of options and can make the right choice for your family.

4 Ways to Prep Your Special Needs Kids for a Trip to Disney World

March 20th, 2015

Taking your special needs kid to Disney World is truly an experience you don’t want to miss. Though there are likely to be challenges, these 4 tips will help you prep them for the big trip. Take a look, make a plan, and allow yourself to have the most magical time possible!

orlandovacation_reading-disney-books-trip-planning1.         Have a family meeting

Many of the issues special needs kids can have is not understanding what’s happening. For example, children on the autism spectrum typically don’t appreciate surprises. If you show up at Disney World and try to introduce them to a million new things at once, there’s no question: they’ll be overwhelmed. A better way is to have a family meeting, discuss your exact plans, and give them as much information as they need.

2.         Read Disney vacation books

There are many guidebooks to Disney with exceptional information. Not only will this give you great tips for planning your trip, but it’ll let your kid feel prepared. If your kid is a voracious reader then you can give them books to read on their own, or with younger kids you can sit down every night and read a chapter or two. While some of the information may not be particularly interesting to them, for example a list of the best bathrooms on property, you’ll likely find that the more information they have the more comfortable they are.

orlandovacation_trip-countdown-calendar3.         Keep them involved in the planning

There are many plans that need to be made for your trip, including whether you’ll stay in a resort hotel or Orlando vacation home, which parks you’ll visit on which days, where you’ll eat, and which attractions you’ll visit. If you keep your kid involved in the planning they’ll feel more connected to the trip. Of course, while these plans are important, you don’t want to overdo it. Be flexible while you’re in the parks. Even with maximum planning your kids can still easily get overwhelmed in the parks and sometimes the right answer is simply to take a break.

4.         Use visual aids

Your kid is likely to feel more comfortable if they’ve seen many of the elements of your trip beforehand. Take a look at YouTube videos that show the various attractions, shows, and special events. Let them decide which ones look like something they’d like to try and which ones seem overwhelming. You can also use visual aids to count down your trip. A simple number posted on the fridge will do, and it may just stop the seemingly never ending questions about when your trip is. They won’t need to ask – the information will be posted for all to see!

Some Exciting Firsts for Your Teens on Vacation

March 19th, 2015

orlandovacation_teens-disney-worldTeenagers often get a reputation for being moody or unpredictable, but the reality is that they can really make a vacation even more magical. Let’s take a look at these ideas for exciting firsts that will help make your teen’s trip to Orlando one of their most cherished memories for years to come.

Let them drive in a strange city for the first time

Driving anywhere is exciting enough for a teen, but they’ll never forget their first time driving in a new city. It’s best to wait a few days into your trip so they can get a feel for the roads and different traffic patterns, but Orlando is actually a great place for a first drive. The speeds are low, there is typically enough traffic around that everyone is paying attention, and there aren’t any significant intersections that could cause panic.

orlandovacation_teen-eating-epcot-world-showcaseLet them have a day to themselves

Your teen likely does all sorts of things on their own at home, but you may feel hesitant to let them wander off for an afternoon at Disney World. Don’t be! The theme parks are a great time for kids to learn to be comfortable in new situations. If you’re worried, make their break a short one. Perhaps give them an hour to shop on their own, or let them hop around to the thrill rides while you take a break. They’ll appreciate the trust and will have a wonderful time on their own.

Let them have a meal to themselves

Eating alone doesn’t have to be lonely – it can be a lot of fun! This is an especially good tip if you have teenagers and younger children. The younger kids want to head to all the character meals, yet your teens don’t. You don’t want to waste $50 on a lunch your teen won’t like and will sulk through, so why not let them find their own lunch? You can make reservations for them at their favorite table service restaurant, or let them find a counter service restaurant to stop by.

Let them try new cuisines

There are tons of ways for your teen to get a taste for something a little out of the ordinary. World Showcase is a great example where they can sample foods from around the globe. Give them a Disney gift card or some cash and let them try a treat they won’t try at home. They may not like everything they try but they’ll remember the first time they ate Moroccan food, or the first time they sampled some real French fare for the rest of their life.

Seniors in Disney World: Top 5 Tips

March 17th, 2015

There are many wonderful things about visiting Disney World with the kids, but you may be surprised to realize that it’s just as fun to travel without the kids – especially for senior citizens! Check out these great 5 tips to help you make the most of your trip and to ensure you stay happy and healthy throughout your visit.

1.         Check for discounts in unlikely places

Disney World does not offer senior citizen discounts on their tickets or packages, and neither do most airlines. However, you may have access to discounts through senior organizations you’re affiliated with, or you can pick up some great deals on discount theme park tickets that are available to everyone. In fact, these discounts are often better than the ones you’ll find at senior centers, so be sure to compare costs before deciding.

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2.         Take warnings seriously

Do you have health conditions? Disney will post restrictions on every ride. Take these seriously! When visiting Disney World you may feel you’re in a magical bubble where nothing can hurt you, but the truth is that these warnings are there for your safety. There are tons of rides and most don’t have risks, so stick to the ones you’ll be safe one.

3.         Prepare yourself for miles of walking

orlandovacation_disney-world-for-seniorsOne of the toughest parts about visiting the theme parks is that you’ll be walking miles every day. You have a few options to deal with this. First, you can stick to short days in the parks and plenty of leisure time in your resort hotel. Second, you may decide to rent a motorized scooter, which can help you get around quickly and easily.

4.         Restaurants can accommodate your dietary restrictions

No matter what your dietary restrictions are, you’re likely to find that the sit-down restaurants at Disney World, also known as Table Service restaurants, are happy to accommodate you. There are a few ways to let them know. You can either note your dietary restrictions when you make your initial reservation or you can call Disney Dining to add the information after the fact. The key is to let them know ahead of time so they’re prepared for you.

5.         You may be an excellent candidate for trip insurance

Trip insurance may cover your airline costs and other expenditures in the event you aren’t able to travel for health and other reasons. Even if you’re in relatively good health, travel insurance is typically not terribly expensive and it can give you the peace of mind that you won’t be out thousands of dollars if you end up not being able to travel. There are many companies offering this coverage. Shop around to find the best combination of affordability and coverage.

Are Vacation Homes the Right fit for You? 4 Things to Consider

March 16th, 2015

There are many accommodation options in Orlando, and many factors you’ll have to consider when searching for the right choice for you and your family. Let’s take a look at the top four most important factors (cost, location, amenities, and convenience) and find out if this option is best for you.

Comparing the Cost of Vacation Homes vs. Resort Hotels

One of the most common misconceptions about renting an Orlando vacation home is that it will be much more expensive than staying in a resort hotel. While it will of course vary based on which vacation home you’re looking at and which resort you’re considering, keep in mind that these homes rent for as little as $99 per night. This can be an especially great deal when you’re traveling with a larger group that would require several hotel rooms.

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The Importance of Location in Orlando Accommodations

Many families elect to stay on Disney property because they want to be close to the parks. What they may not realize is that the vacation homes rented from companies like Orlandovacation.com are no more than 15 minutes from the parks. While you do want to make sure you’re not driving an hour each way every day, a 15 minute drive is likely worth the lower cost and added amenities.

orlandovacation_vacation-pool-home-amenitiesFinding the Amenities You Need

It’s hard to imagine a resort hotel with more amenities than you’ll find if you rent your own vacation home. Many have private pools, private Jacuzzis, full chef’s kitchens, and much more! You can choose the home you rent, so you’ll have total control over which amenities it has. About the only thing you won’t find at a rental home that you would find in a resort are the vending machines! Luckily you can simply stop by the local grocery store and stock your own private fridge with your favorite treats and snacks.

It’s all About Convenience

Let’s face it: when you’re on vacation you want the most convenient experience possible. While you might go to great lengths to save a ton of money in your everyday, it may not be worth it to inconvenience yourself when you’re on vacation. The good news is that these vacation homes are close to the parks, they have everything you need, and they provide a way for larger groups to get some privacy.

Imagine taking the kids to a hotel room where you have to be quiet the moment they go to bed. Then imagine renting a vacation home where you can tuck them into their own bedrooms and relax on the couch with your favorite TV show, take a dip in your private pool, or sit down with a few adult beverages. Vacation homes give you all these conveniences and more!

Feeding the Kids: Your Trip to Disney World with Little Ones

March 15th, 2015

There are so many things to plan for as you get ready to take your kids to Disney World, and one of them is where and what you’ll eat. There are many options but the key is to be prepared before you go. Here are some ideas that can help you make sure you maximize the fun without spending half your budget on food.

orlandovacation_a-la-carteYou can bring your own food

The good news is that you’re not totally reliant on Disney World to provide you with meal options. One choice is to rent a vacation home equipped with a full kitchen. You can then prepare full meals for your family for a fraction of the cost that you’d pay to eat in the parks. Another option is to simply bring your own bagged lunches into the parks. Disney World allows food and non-alcoholic beverages, and soft-walled coolers are okay, too.

Stick to a la carte

You’ll find many of the counter service restaurants offer meals that seem like a great bargain. However, if you’re not going to eat the entrée, side, and dessert, it won’t be a good deal after all. If you know your kid is only going to eat the nuggets, then just get the nuggets. You can order virtually anything a la carte, even if it’s only listed as part of a meal, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

Table service restaurants book well in advance

If you are going to eat a few meals in the park, and you want a sit down meal to take a break, then be sure you book your reservation as far in advance as possible. Reservations open up at 6 AM eastern time 180 days in advance. Some of the most popular options, like Cinderella’s Royal Table, can book up within minutes.

Character meals can save you time – and time is money!

There are numerous meals throughout the parks that give you and your little ones a chance to meet characters. While they can be more than $50 per adult, they can also save you a ton of time – especially if you’re traveling during peak times. Instead of waiting in several 30 minute – one hour lines just to meet a few characters, meals allow you to sit down, relax, grab a meal, and meet the characters at your own pace.

The most highly coveted character meals are those that take place before the park opens. You’ll have the chance to eat a tasty breakfast, meet your favorite characters, and then get into the parks before they open! Of course you can’t hop on rides, but you’ll be first in line when they do open.

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