Orlando 101: Know Your Theme Parks

September 15th, 2014

For first time travelers to Orlando are often overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available to them in Orlando. The good news is that though there are numerous theme parks, it’s also true that once you have the basics down you’ll be able to plan a trip that works perfectly for your family. Let’s review the main theme parks so you’ll be ready to dig deeper.

Disney World is more fun than the circus!

Disney World is more fun than the circus!

Disney World

Disney World is made up of 4 theme parks: The Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. One of the most frequent mistakes new visitors make is to think that Universal is a part of Disney. We’ll cover Universal in the next paragraph, but for now just note that Hollywood Studios is a Disney park and is not associated with Universal.

When you buy your tickets you’ll have several options. You can buy a single-day ticket that covers just one of the 4 theme parks mentioned above, or you can buy a single-day ticket with what’s known as the “park hopper” option. This means you can go to and from as many of the 4 theme parks as you’d like.

You can also buy multi-day passes that either give you entry to a single park per day, or allow you to hop between parks. For first-time visitors, we typically suggest not adding the park hopper option when you initially buy your tickets. If you decide at the park that you’d like to hop, you can visit Guest Relations and have this option added.

Universal Orlando

Universal has more thrill rides than Disney World, and is also home to the Harry Potter rides and attractions you’ve likely heard a lot about. There are 2 theme parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Buying tickets is similar to buying tickets for Disney World: you can buy tickets that allow entry to either one park or the other, or a ticket that gives you entry to both.

Other Theme Parks

Other theme parks in the Orlando area include Legoland, SeaWorld, Wet “n” Wild, and GatorLand. These are all more affordable than the “big ones” and are a great option if you want a lower key day to relax and take in some local Florida culture.

We hope you found this article helpful. Please click here to view more articles to help you plan your Orlando vacation.

4 Tips for a Last Minute Anniversary Meal at Disney World

September 13th, 2014

Disney World is a popular place to celebrate an anniversary – and for good reason! There’s nowhere else in the world you can go to experience the type of magical experience you’ll have at the happiest place on earth. You may think that the most romantic anniversary trip requires making your dinner reservations and plans months in advance, but these 4 tips will help you plan an incredible visit – even at the last minute.

orlandovacation_restaurants-near-convention-center1.         Step outside your comfort zone

For many couples, the biggest thing to plan is their anniversary dinner. It’ll be no surprise that the most sought-after restaurants will be booked for your last minute trip. However, consider some of the options off the beaten path. There are a wide range of incredible restaurants in downtown Orlando and near the convention center. Why not take a break from the parks and try out some local flavors?

2.         Consider a relaxing night in

If you rent an incredible vacation home, with your own private pool, your romantic anniversary dinner could be as simple as stopping by the grocery store for strawberries and champagne, and sipping and snacking next to your own private pool.

3.         Have an anniversary lunch

Who says your big meal of the day has to be dinner? Why not try for a reservation at lunch time? Or even breakfast? The idea is that you’ll be sitting down with your sweeting, enjoying a delicious meal, and reflecting on your relationship. The time of day in which you do it doesn’t matter.

4.         Check out Disney World resorts

If you’ve done any research at all into Disney World, or stayed there yourself, then you know that renting a vacation home or staying at a nearby resort hotel is a much better value than staying on Disney property. However, remember that the Disney resorts do have incredible restaurants, many of which are easy to get last-minute reservations at, and none of which require you to be staying at the resort itself.

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Please click here for more articles for couples who want to visit Orlando.

Be Kind to Your Feet When Taking the Grandkids to Disney World

September 12th, 2014

orlandovacation_comfortable-disney-shoesEven folks in the peak of health can have serious trouble at Disney World. Traveling throughout the parks everyday can put miles on your worn shoes, and can lead to sore feet and backs at the end of the day. The good news is that as grandparents you’ve been around long enough to know how important it is to take care of yourself. Here are a few tips to help you keep your health and spirits up so you can be there for the grandkids.

Invest in comfortable shoes

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to assure you have comfortable, supportive shoes. Visit your local running store and let them know you need walking shoes that offer both support and stability. They can take a look at the way you walk and recommend shoes that are perfectly fitted to your needs. The right shoes can make an enormous difference during your trip.

Pick up moleskin and Body Glide

Body Glide is a special product that you can put on your feet before you head out to the parks. It works to prevent blisters and can make a huge difference. Moleskin is a product that comes on a sheet and can be cut to the size you need. When you first see that a blister is trying to form, you simply cut the moleskin to size and place it over the affected area. Note that moleskin and Body Glide should not be used once a blister has appeared, so be sure to be proactive.

orlandovacation_mobility-scooter-rentalRent a mobility scooter

You can rent scooters from Disney directly, or save money and rent one from a third party. These scooters can be used the entirety of your trip, or you can simply use them to get from one ride to another. Every ride and attraction will have an area for you to park your mobility scooter if you’re not using it at that particular moment.

These simple tips can help you keep your feet in top shape and allow you plenty of energy to make the most of your trip with your grandkids. Please click here for more articles for grandparents.

4 Tips for Planning a Disney World Trip for Your Youth Group

September 11th, 2014

orlandovacation_large-vacation-home-rentalImagine the lifelong memories you can create with your youth group when you set off for Disney World. This will truly be a magical time for everyone involved – but it can be challenging, too. Check out these 4 helpful tips to help you plan your trip.

1.         Consider your accommodations carefully

Many youth group trip organizers assume that renting a block of rooms at a resort hotel will be both the most convenient and the most affordable option. The reality is that you can rent vacation homes in Orlando starting at just $99 per night and with up to 7 bedrooms. These homes are a great option when you have many more kids than chaperones. When you choose hotel rooms you’ll have to trust the kids in their own rooms, while in a vacation home you can have one chaperone in each home to keep an eye on everyone.

2.         Consider meal alternatives

Before your trip, make sure you’re aware of everyone’s unique meal needs. For example, do you have young folks with allergies, or are some vegetarians? Make sure you have a food plan for everyone’s needs. If you rent a vacation home you’ll have a full kitchen to prepare meals. You’ll also find that all restaurants within the 4 Disney World theme parks are well-versed on allergy and other special food needs. Just talk to the Cast Members at each establishment to find out what’s safe for any particular need.

orlandovacation_teen-group3.         Have a plan for touring the parks

There are a many rides and attractions within the parks and it’s simply impossible to get to every single one. You have two main options: break up into smaller groups so everyone gets to do exactly what they want, or let the group decide which rides and attractions everyone will go on. Be prepared for some grumbling, as either option will make some guests mad.

4.         Remember your audience

It can be tempting to push everyone to go-go-go the entire trip. After all, park tickets aren’t cheap (though you can save with discounted theme park tickets) and you want to get your money’s worth. Remember that getting your money’s worth means showing these kids the time of their lifetime. They’re likely to want to spend time at the pool, shopping, and simply relaxing. Build these activities into your touring plans.

Please click here for more articles for Group Planners.

4 Things to Remember When Taking Your Teens to Disney World

September 10th, 2014

Even if you’ve taken your kids to Disney World a dozen times, their first trip as a teenager will be a different beast entirely. The folks at All Ears wrote an interesting article that includes 7 great points about a teen’s trip to Disney. Take a look at their article, or read our favorite 5 points below.

1.         Staying in larger accommodations can make a huge difference

Taking younger kids to Disney World is often a reason parents choose to rent vacation homes, as they allow them to put the kids to bed and then stay up watching TV and relaxing without fear of keeping the kids up. These large accommodations are just as important with teens, but for a different reason – teens need their privacy.

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2.         Don’t assume older kids will want to go on scarier rides

If you’ve taken your kids to Disney World before and they’ve been afraid of the scarier rides, don’t assume that just because they’re older they’ll like them all. Likewise, if you’ve never taken your kids before, remember that they may indeed be afraid of some of the thrill rides. It’s always a good idea to encourage them to try something new, but there’s no need to push the issue if they’re not comfortable.

orlandovacation_mickey-premium-ice-cream3.         Don’t discount bribes

You may not use bribes in your day-to-day parenting style, but they can be an effective tool when you’re on vacation. Parents especially find success with this method when it comes to getting teens to go on “kiddie” rides. Some of the vintage, classic rides may elicit an eye-roll from teens, but once they’re in the queue they’re likely to be enchanted. Promise them extra time by the pool or a Mickey premium bar if they go along with the touring plan for the day.

4.         Consider letting the kids venture out on their own

Your kids are going to want to venture out on their own. This can be a complicated situation that you’ll have to carefully consider. Do you let them go off on their own at home? If so, then it’s likely reasonable to let them do so at Disney World. With so many people around, and so many Cast Members with their eyes on what’s going on, it’s a relatively safe place.

That said, it likely shouldn’t be their first experience going off on their own. Use your best judgment, but remember that even though you want to have a family trip with shared memories, it’s OK to let them go off on their own once in a while.

Please click here for more articles for parents with teens who desire to visit Disney World.

Disney World and Special Needs: Understanding the DAS System

September 9th, 2014

The Disability Access Service, otherwise known as DAS, is for guests who have a disability that prevents them from waiting in conventional lines. While it doesn’t allow you to skip to the head of the line without a wait, it does allow you to schedule a return time that’s equivalent to the current wait time for the attraction, but instead of waiting in line you can head out and relax until your return time. Let’s take a look at the main points of this system.

orlandovacation_disney-guest-servicesYour first step: talk to Guest Services

When you first arrive at the theme park you’ll visit Guest Services, which will be located near the entrance. There are Guest Services offices at each of the 4 theme parks. You’ll discuss your situation with them and they’ll offer options, which may include the DAS card. Keep in mind that they cannot legally require any proof of your disability, and as such they will not accept proof. They will take trust what you tell them, treat you with compassion, and do everything they can reasonably do to accommodate you.

Getting your DAS card

If you and the Cast Member decide a DAS card is the right option, you’ll go through a registration process that includes having your photo taken. If the card is issued for a minor, you can have the parent’s picture on the card. A signature will then be required. The card is valid for up to 60 days, or the length of the ticket you have. The card you get will be good for all Disney theme parks within the valid timeframe.

Using your DAS card

Simply head to the attraction you want to visit. The Cast Member will give you a return time, which will be based on the wait time for the standby line. You can then leave the line and enjoy other rides, meat a character, relax, or do virtually anything you want. When your return time comes up, you simply return, show your stamped DAS card, and ride without a wait.

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Note that you can only have one active return time at a time, but as soon as you finish an attraction you have a return time for, you can get a new return time for that attraction, or any other attraction. The DAS cardholder does not need to be present to get a return time, but they must be present when it’s time to ride the attraction.

We hope you found this article helpful, please click here for more informational articles.

4 Ways to Save Money By Renting a Vacation Home

September 8th, 2014

There are a lot of ways in which renting a vacation home is much more convenient than staying in a crowded hotel, but did you know that you can save a significant amount of money? Why stay in a smaller, cramped room when you could save big and have tons of room? Let’s check out 4 ways you can save money by renting an Orlando vacation home.

orlandovacation_home-rental1.         Save money on baggage fees

With very few airlines offering free bags anymore, and those that do imposing very strict weight limits, it can cost hundreds of dollars to bring all the clothes your family needs. All of the vacation rental homes at Orlandovacation.com include washers and dryers – which means you can bring just a few day’s worth of clothes and simply throw them in the wash when they get dirty.

2.         Save money on food

It’s no surprise that buying food at the theme parks is expensive. The good news is that every vacation home you’ll rent through us is equipped with a full kitchen. You can stop by the grocery store on your way back from the parks your first day, or even have a company like Garden Grocer deliver your food to you. Either way, preparing your own meals can save you hundreds of dollars.

3.         Save money on fees

The price you pay for your vacation home will be a flat fee. You won’t pay for parking, you won’t pay “resort fees” that other places may charge. If you visit during cooler months you may choose to pay an optional fee to heat your pool, but other than that you’ll be able to skip right past the fees.

4.         Save money on your accommodation rates

The great news is that not only will you save on the above mentioned costs, you can also save by simply paying less for a vacation home than you’d pay to stay a resort hotel. Our vacation homes and villas start at just $99 and have as many as 7 bedrooms. If you want to travel in luxury for less, then you want to work with us!

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If you are interested in renting a vacation home please click here

5 Tips for Visiting Disney World with Autistic Children

September 7th, 2014

Disney World can be a fantastic place for your autistic child, but it can also be an overwhelming and over stimulating experience. The good news is that you can follow these tips to increase your chances of a successful outing.

orlandovacation_hearing-protection1.         Earplugs are a must!

Many rides and attractions have loud music, not just in the ride itself but in the standby line. If your little one already has trouble with waiting, this loud and often jarring music can be a little much. Earplugs allow your kiddo to plug in and tune out if necessary.

2.         Consider alternatives to driving

Renting a car may be the most cost-effective option, but remember that getting from the middle of the park to your resort hotel or vacation home may be more of a hassle than you’re anticipating. You’ll have to find the trams to the parking lot, locate your vehicle among thousands, and then wander through the parking lot to the exit. It’s much faster and easier to simply hop in a cab and take it straight back to your accommodations.

3.         Ask for priority seating

Whether you’re in a theater watching one of Disney’s fabulous shows, or you’re eating dinner at one of the many delicious restaurants, consider asking for seating near an exit. The Cast Members are well trained on working with autistic children and will be happy to accommodate you if you simply ask. Being seated near an exit ensures you can get out quickly in the event the experience becomes too much for your little on.

4.         There are many great choices for sensory-defensive children

Many parents have reported that the wave pool at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, the sandy beaches at several resort pools, and whirlpool spas have been great options for their autistic children.

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5.         Watch videos before you leave

If you’re not sure if a particular ride or attraction will be a good fit for your kiddo, hop on YouTube and watch a ride through. Check it out yourself first to see if you can identify anything they might be uncomfortable with. If it seems fine to you, then sit down and watch it with your kids. Simply knowing what to expect can help make the experience a net positive when they finally get on the ride.

Disney World is very do-able for kids of all ages and with a wide range of unique attributes. Just remember that you can’t do everything in a single trip.

Please click here to view our Autism guide to Orlando theme parks.

Tips for Single Parents: How to Make the Most of a Trip to Disney

September 6th, 2014

Is there any spot in the world more magical for children than Disney World? The point is arguable, but one thing is certainly true: it can be challenging for single parents to take the kids alone. The good news is that Frommer’s has come up with some great tips for single parents traveling alone with kids. Head over there to read the entire article or take a look at our favorite tips below.

orlandovacation_disney-traveling-planningInvolve your kids in the planning

Taking a trip to Disney World can involve a lot of planning. Be sure you get your kid’s input before you take off. Ask them what their must-dos are for the trip, and offer them several options for restaurants. The more involved they are in the planning, the more excited they will be – and the more understanding they will be of limitations you may have to set.

Use all the resources at your disposal

There are many sites devoted to helping parents who travel alone. Parents Without Partners and TravelWithYourKids are both great resources to help you plan your trip and make the most of it. In some cases it’s as simple as identifying problems that you hadn’t even considered. Having a plan for the issues that will come up on a day to day basis can make your trip a much more relaxing and successful experience.

Focus on activities you can do together

This may seem like an obvious point, but often parents get so focused on finding the best rides and attractions for their kids they don’t consider their own needs. For example, your kids may want to spend the entirety of the trip at character meet and greets, but the fact that you get bored after the first hour-long wait will be apparent to them. Find compromises that allow everyone to have a great time.

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Consider babysitting services

Orlando has numerous babysitting services, and they can be a lifesaver for single parents. They’ll come right to your hotel or vacation home and you can slip out to enjoy a night on your own. You can also hire helpers to come with you to the parks for the day. Their fees can be quite high, but it may be worth it to splurge and take the pressure off of you.

Please click here for more articles for single parents.

The Top 3 Rides for Young Kids at Universal Orlando

September 4th, 2014

Universal Orlando has a reputation as the perfect theme park for teenagers and thrill-seekers, but the truth is that it’s a great park for kids and adults of all ages. Let’s take a look at the 3 best rides for young kids at the Universal Orlando parks.

1.         One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Most everything in Islands of Adventure’s Seuss Landing are perfect for kids, especially One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. You’ll board adorable fish-shaped boats and fly, spin, and swoop through numerous fountains that squirt water in time to a whimsical rhyme. You better keep your eyes on the words throughout – and do what they say! – or you’ll get even wetter. This ride has no height requirement, but kids under 48” cannot ride unaccompanied.

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2.         E.T. Adventure

Take your little one, board a flying bicycle, and help sneak E.T. through the woods. You’ll fly past the moon, the stars, and the entire night sky. It all ends with a trip to a magical planet full of adorable creatures who show their excitement in song. This ride requires kids to be 34” tall and is regularly listed as the top kid’s ride at Universal Studios Orlando.

3.         Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster

This family-style coaster requires your little one to be at least 36” tall and is a great ride for the entire family. The premise of this attraction is that Woody was set loose to design his own rollercoaster. What resulted is a ride full of corny jokes, puns, and gentle twists and turns. Built specifically for the younger crowd, older kids can also have a great time riding this amusing family roller coaster.

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Universal Studios Orlando caters to families and so it’s no surprise that there are so many great rides for young kids. Before you take off on your exciting adventure, make sure to check the height requirements to get a great idea of which rides your little ones will love.

Please click here for more articles for parents with young children.