Today we interviewed Janessa Solem, who is the owner and editor of www.thriftyniftymommy.com. We have chosen to interview Janessa today because she was so nice to help us out with our latest infographic about how families plan their vacation.
If you have an opportunity, we strongly recommend reading Janessa’s blog she offers a lot of great advice on parenting and saving money.
Janesa is the owner and editor of thriftyniftymommy.com
When did you start blogging? I started blogging in July or August of 2010
Why did you start www.thriftyniftymommy.com? I started my website because in 2010 my first daughter was born and I used cloth diapers. In doing my research on cloth diapers, I came across all types of different mommy blogs. I just thought this would be a fun occupation.
What do you like to write about or blog about on your site? I do a lot of mystery shopping, product reviews, and give aways for family friendly products. I want to start to get into helping other bloggers get started.
Have you ever been to Disney World? Funny you should ask, we are actually coming in a couple of weeks.
That is neat, where are you staying and why did you choose to stay at this particular resort? We are staying at one of the POP Century properties. I choose it because they offer the free transportation to and from the parks throughout the day. They also offer seating for young children, I was concerned if we stayed somewhere else that I might have to lug around my kids car seats all day at the parks.
What is your best vacation planning tips to other families? Do not over schedule yourself especially if you have young children. A vacation is a place to relax and sometime s you have to go with the flow
Today we would like to introduce our readers to Tisha Haas, the owner and editor of http://www.momdot.com/. Trisha’s main goal with parenting blogging is not only to connect with her readers but she also enjoys helping others with their parent blog. If you have an opportunity we strongly recommend you checking her site out.
We interviewed Trisha today because she assisted us in our lastest infographic and we wanted our readers to get to know the mommy bloggers which assisted us with this project.
Trisha Haas is the editor and owner of momdot.com
When did you start your blog?
I started in 2008.
2) Why did you start blogging?
I originally opened a blog to help advertise a boutique I owned. I found that I enjoyed the connection of blogging more than retail, so I changed fields.
3) What topics or area of interest do you like to blog about?
I am first and foremost a parent, so I blog about all things parenting, which can also include food, crafts, humor, and products.
4) Have you ever been to Disney World? Do you plan on coming soon?
Yes. I went to college in Tampa, so I am very familiar with Disney. I am actually leaving tomorrow for a trip to Disney with my grandmother.
5) What advice would you give moms out there about planning a vacation?
Stay in a home or condo! I never stay in a hotel because its not much like a parental vacation when you have to go to bed when the kids do. I love renting with Global Resort Homes. Its far more reasonable of a cost and everyone can spread out!
Heather Bee was nicest enough to assist us in our infographic about how families plan their vacation, and we interviewed her so our readers my get to know her. Heather’s blog is http://sprittibee.com/, and we strongly recommend you check it out.
Heather’s popular blog is sprittibee.com
When did you start your blog? I started my blog in June 2005.
Why did you start blogging? Because I love to write and used to like scrapbooking, so I felt it would be a way to build my skills as a writer while keeping track of my life as a homeschool mother – for my kids to later have a record of events as they happened.
What topics or area of interest do you like to blog about? Homeschooling, homemaking, photography, cooking, field trips, and life- whatever we have going on at the time… currently we are gardening and my eldest is about to take driver’s ed.
Have you ever been to Disney World? Do you plan on coming soon? I went to Disney World and Disney Land when I was about 12 (Florida) and 14 (California). My kids haven’t been. It would have to be a sponsored blog event for me because we aren’t able to travel on one income right now. It’s on the bucket list.
What advice would you give moms out there about planning a vacation? Do a lot of research, talk to others who have been, map things out, take enough time off so you can allow spontaneous adventures to happen along the way (some of our favorite parts of trips were the roadside attractions that we passed and decided to stop in for), save up some mad money so you can be prepared for unexpected stops, take a cooler and eat sandwiches on the way there to save some money, tent camp on the way at least one night for the fun of it, pack your car full of fun games and snacks for the kids, pick up a souvenir in every state you travel through, take a lot of photos, leave your family a road-plan and phone numbers of hotels you plan to stay at just in case, and try to plan for the unexpected to happen and not get too stressed out about it — expecting the car to stay super clean on the trip is not realistic (so you might come up with a rewards game to play with the kids rather than letting it upset you – my husband is a real stickler for a clean back seat – LOL), take a photo list of license plates and flags and let the kids check them off as you see them, make a state notebook and save photos, postcards, information, flyers, and other memorabilia from the trip in your binder, and if you do go to Disney – stay in a hotel that allows you to ride the monorail.
Today we would like to introduce Cindy Richards to our readers. Cindy was so nice to help us out and on our vacation planning infographic, and we are super excited to have had her input.
Below is an interview we did with Cindy, we do this so our readers may get to know some of the contributors on our infographics. Cindy is the editor of Travelingmom.com and she used to be a traveling journalist for the Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune.
Thanks Cindy for helping us out on the infographic and by lending us a few minutes to conduct the interview
Cindy could you tell me a little about Travelingmom.com and how you all got started? Well travelingmom.com started in 2006, and it is owned by Kim Orlando. It is more than just a blog we have 60 writers, and we specialize in social media where we help companies increase their social media presence. In fact every Monday we host a Twitter party which is extremely popular, you can check it out on Twitter at #TMom (stands for Traveling Mom).
Our company also owns travelingdad.com and shebuyscars.com.
How did you get started in travel writing? Well my two kids are older now but we love to travel together and so it was just a natural fit.
What was the best vacation you ever took with your children? I have to say we rented a villa in Jamaica one year and that was great. Not only did we have a great time, but one of the ladies who helped take care of the villa was a laundress, so I came back from vacation with clean cloths…a mothers dream.
What is the best advice you could give to parents trying to plan a vacation? Have the kids help in the planning of the vacation. Give them a day and a budget and have them do some research to find fun things which everyone in the family would enjoy on their special day. This allows the kids to have some skin in the game, and also do some research on where you and your family are going to be traveling to. We have done this with our kids and it has been a great experience.
A few weeks ago we did an infographic on how parents plan their vacation and in doing our research we asked some of the top mommy bloggers to assist us in answering a short survey. Sarah Visbeek was so nice to help us with our survey that we also wanted to interview her for our site so our readers can meet the Mommy bloggers who participated.
Sarah’s blog is www.sarahviz.com, and it is a great site to visit. If you have a chance we strongly recommend you checking it out.
Sarah is a top mommy blogger
Sarah when did you start blogging? I started blogging in 2006 before Facebook. I did it as a way to keep records of special events that happen in our lives. We have 3 boys and by the third child I was frazzled and knew I was not keeping up with special events such as losing our first tooth.
What do you like to write about? I have three boys and pretty much I write about what is going on in our lives. I promise you can’t make this stuff up… it is crazy what occurs in our life. I write about my children and the stages they are going through. I try to keep everything very real.
Where do you and your family go on vacation? We usually take two vacations every year. We go to Cape Code every year with another family and we rent a house. It is a lot of fun but quite hectic we have 8 adults and 12 kids running around. We take another vacation to Myrtle Beach, and we rent a condo which one of my husband’s relatives owns. It is a lot of fun.
It is quite interesting you asked this question because this is our first year we are not going to be taking a vacation. My boys play baseball, and they will play through the summer so our commitment to sports is going to prevent us from going on vacation.
What advice would you give another family about renting a vacation home? I would say rent a house with a big back yard or a place that has a lot of outdoor activities. We have three boys so you definitely need to get them out of the house and burn off some of their energy.
What advice would you give a family who is trying to plan their first vacation? Set a budget you want to spend on your vacation and do your best to stay within that budget. Don’t feel obligated to go over that budget, usually you can do everything you want to do as long as you do a little planning.
Have you ever been to Disney World? No, we have talked about taking the boys in the near future. We may do during Thanksgiving this year. I’m know the boys will have a great time but it is a lot of work to plan a Disney vacation and it doesn’t seem like it will be a real relaxing vacation.
Again, we would like to thank Sarah for her time and we strongly recommend you checking her site out at www.sarahviz.com.
Orlando International Airport is about half an hour from Walt Disney World, and the drive is easy if you take the 528 toll road to the I-4 expressway from the north airport exit or the 417 toll road from the south airport exit. Disney area hotels are clustered in several areas that are easily accessible from those roads. For example, the Celebration Suites at Old Town, Holiday Inn Maingate East, Baymont Inn and Suites Celebration, and Royale Parc Suites are all near Highway 192; the Holiday Inn Resort Lake Buena Vista, Grand Beach Resort at Lake Buena Vista, Grande Villas Resort at Lake Buena Vista, and Best Western inside Walt Disney World are all near State Road 535; and the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Orlando Convention Center is near International Drive.
It’s an easy drive if you decide to rent a car, but it’s not necessary to have a vehicle if you prefer not to drive on your vacation. Many hotels have free shuttle transportation to the theme parks, which means you can easily let someone else chauffeur your family around. Here’s a quick summary of the options for getting from the airport to your hotel in the Disney area:
Shuttles: Shuttle vans ferry passengers regularly between the airport and the Disney area hotels. You pay a per person fee to ride a shuttle, with the cost ranging from about $20 to $40 per person. That can get pricey for families with several children. Shuttles are reliable, but you might end up stopping at other hotels on their way to your lodging.
You’ll need to book a time in advance for your trip back to the airport, and you must allow enough time for any other stops the shuttle might make. If you miss it, you run the risk of missing your flight, so you must be sure your family will be ready at the appointed time.
Cabs: A cab is a great option if you don’t want to share a vehicle or you want to go directly to your hotel, without any other stops. You don’t have to book a time in advance like you do with a town car or limo, which means no worries if your flight is delayed or your travel plans change at the last minute.
There are official cab stands at Orlando International Airport with car-sized cabs or vans to accommodate larger parties. Cabs are a good bargain for larger families because you pay once price, regardless of the number of people. Expect to pay between $30 and $60 each way, depending on your hotel location.
When you’re ready to return to the airport, the hotel clerks can help you get a cab for the final leg of your trip. The cab comes when you want it instead of forcing you to be ready at a pre-arranged time.
Town Cars and Limousines: Sometimes it’s fun to book a town car, or even a fancy limousine, to add a special flair to your trip. Like cabs, these vehicles charge a flat rate, regardless of the number of people in your party. Town cars start around $100 round trip, and prices climb steadily based on the size and type of vehicle.
Rental Cars: A rental car is convenient, but it’s also expensive, especially if you visit Orlando during the peak season. Expect rates to start anywhere from $250 to $400 per week, depending on the time of year and the type of vehicle you chose. There are plenty of rental car companies right at the airport, so you can head right from luggage pick-up to the rental desk and then walk to the garage to get your car. If you are looking to rent a car, try our deals at http://www.orlandovacation.com/car-rentals/.
If you drive a rental car to the theme parks, you’ll pay an average of $16 to park, depending on which park you visit. On the plus side, once you pay at one of the four Disney parks, you can park at the other three for the rest of the day without paying again. That’s useful if you have a Park Hopper ticket. Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure share a parking garage, so you only pay once per day even if you visit both of the Universal parks.
Visit www.orlandovacation.com or call 1-800-641-4008 to find a reasonably priced hotel with theme park shuttle service if you prefer not to drive. The agents will help you make the perfect choice.
I not a firm believer that the recession is over or even that the economy is that much better than it was 4 years ago. However, there is a lot of construction going on, and I wanted to explore the impact of this new construction with regards to existing hotels near Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando.
Last year Disney opened the Disney Art of Animation Resort. This is a budget suite hotel which is located on Disney World property. When Disney built this hotel their target market is the larger families (4 and 5 members) who want to stay on Disney property but they also are trying to stay within a budget. The Art of Animation sports the largest pool on the Disney World property and all the rooms are multi-room suites.
This year, Universal Studios is finishing up their newest hotel…Cabana Bay. This is also going to be budget oriented suite hotel which will be located on Universal Studios property. This hotel is going to offer guests the experience of jumping back in time to the 1950′s and 1960′s.
Universal Studios newest hotel is under construction.
So what is the impact these two suite hotels are going to have on other Orlando hotels? Well for one these two hotel rooms combined adds close to 4000 new hotel rooms to the Orlando hotel market. Many or most hotels in Orlando do great for about 6 to 8 weeks out of the year (Christmas, Springbreak, Easter, and 4th of July) and the rest of the time their occupancy rate and/or daily average rate is much lower than what they desire. When you go and add 4000 more resort hotel rooms, these hotels are still going to do just fine during those 6 to 7 weeks, but they are going to find it harder to fill their hotels during the other 45 to 46 weeks out of the year.
One thing which is almost a given is that non Disney World or Universal Studios hotels are going to have reduce their rates and boost the amenities they offer guests. Guests coming to Orlando are always looking for a deal, so the easiest way to boost occupancy is to simply reduce rate. The only problem with this is that the hotels still need a significant amount of revenue each and every month to keep their doors open. Another thing which Orlando hotels are going to have to do is offer families amenities which other hotels in the area are not offering. One such hotel which has done this is the Nickelodeon Hotel, they have built a grand water park area in the middle of their hotel.
When most people think of rides in Orlando, they envision attractions of the theme park variety. They don’t realize there are other rides beyond the gates of Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando, many of which are more thrilling than any roller coaster.
One of the most fun and exciting non-theme park rides is the helicopter rides offered at various locations in the Orlando/Kissimmee area that take you much higher than even the SeaWorld Sky Tower. The helicopter companies offer various options, from short jaunts to longer scenic trips that give you a bird’s eye view of Disney, Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and SeaWorld Orlando. You’ll also see the water parks and many of the hotels and resorts.
Taking a helicopter ride over Disney World is a great experience
If you want to venture a little farther afield, many companies offer tours of Downtown Orlando, the Space Coast, or lakes and wilderness areas.
While most families opt for a daytime ride, you can ride in a helicopter at night, too. It’s a totally different experience to see all the tourist areas lit up in neon and brightly colored lights. You might even catch a Disney fireworks show from the best seat in the house if you go up at the right time.
Helicopter tours have high overhead, so be prepared to a premium for the experience. Prices typically range from $30 to over $100, depending on the option you choose. Kids pay a discounted price.
You’ll find helicopter rides in two main locations: International Drive, which is in the vicinity of Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando, and Highway 192, which is closer to Walt Disney World. Companies that offer helicopter tours include Orlando Helitours, Sunshine Helicopter Tours, and Orlando Helicenter.
Helicopter tours typically require at least two people, so make sure that more than one member of your family wants to go on a sky-high adventure. If anyone is unsure, you can book a short tour that only lasts for three to four minutes to get a sampling of what it’s like to go up in a chopper.
Like most activities in Orlando, you can get a discount on helicopter tours by picking up coupon books at your hotel or an area restaurant. Many companies publish coupons that offer significant savings.
Helicopters are just one of the many non-theme park activities in the Orlando/Kissimmee area. There are other opportunities to soar in the sky, like hot air balloon rides, and plenty of fun at ground level at go-kart tracks and miniature golf courses. You’ll want to leave some free time in your vacation to explore the more off-beat ways to have fun, including the chopper rides.
Book your trip through www.orlandovacation.com or call 1-800-641-4008 to find out about the hotels near the helicopter rides and dozens of other attractions.
Yes, Walt Disney World and the other Orlando theme parks are the reason that millions of people flock to Central Florida for vacation every year. If you’re one of them, you might not even know about all the other activities in and around Orlando that can add even more fun to your family’s trip.
Many families have tunnel vision, focusing on the Walt Disney World parks, or perhaps Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, especially if they’re Harry Potter fans. They might slip in a side visit to SeaWorld Orlando, but that’s the extend of their activities. Here’s just a small sampling of the many other things you can do beyond the world of Mickey Mouse or you might want to check out our Things to Do section:
1) Fly through the sky on a zip line. Zip Orlando is less than half an hour from the Disney area, and it gives you the ultimate thrill ride. The zip line course takes you over the wide, open spaces of a working cattle ranch. If you zip at night, you’ll be able to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the top of one of the towers. The experience is suitable for kids and adults, and you can also book an ATV tour as part of a package.
2) Catch a wave indoors at Fantasy Surf. You don’t have to travel an hour or more to the ocean to go surfing. Fantasy Surf is literally minutes away from Walt Disney World, and the surf’s always up at this Flowrider venue. If you’ve never surfed before, don’t worry. They’ll teach you how to do it, and the pool’s padded if you take a spill. The whole family can join in the adventure, or you can let the kids surf while you watch and take photos.
Dancing is also a fun activity
3) Go for a hot air balloon ride. Imagine soaring up in the sky, untethered, with the vast Orlando landscape spread out below you. Several companies, like Orlando Balloon Adventures and Bob’s Balloons, offer hot air balloon rides. The baskets typically carry from four to six people, and the experience is suitable for kids and adults. You’ll see everything from the Orlando skyline to the area’s many lakes to native wildlife that most theme park visitors never get to see.
4) Hop aboard a horse. Sure, there’s a carousel at the Magic Kingdom, but wouldn’t your kids love to ride a real horse? Horse World in Poinciana gives them the chance to feel like cowboys and cowgirls as they saddle up and go for a ride in the wilderness. There are rides geared to all experience levels, so you’ll do just fine even if you’ve never ridden a horse before.
5) Take an air boat ride in a real Florida swamp. You might be surprised to know that there’s a lot of the “old Florida” left in the Walt Disney World area. Companies like Boggy Creek Airboats offer journeys out into the swampland where alligators and other wildlife roam free. If you’re lucky, you might even see a mama gator and her babies. The air boat captains know all the best places to spot the wild animals.
The Highway 192 area is your gateway to many of these attractions, which makes it convenient to stay at hotels like the Celebration Suites at Old Town, Holiday Inn Maingate East, Royale Parc Suites, Baymont Inn and Suites Celebration, and Mystic Dunes Resort. You can still get to them easily if you stay in the Lake Buena Vista or International Drive areas.
Customize your vacation on www.orlandovacation.com or by calling 1-800-641-4008 and leave a day, or even two, to try out some of the lesser known fun in Orlando
With its year ’round warm climate, Orlando is home to an assortment of water parks that stay open even in the winter. Two of the most popular are Wet ‘n Wild and Aquatica. Both parks have a lot to offer, so it’s hard to choose which one to visit. Here are some comparisons to help you make the choice:
Location: Wet ‘n Wild is owned by Universal and is located on International Drive, near Universal Orlando Resort. Aquatica is owned by SeaWorld Orlando and is just down the road and across the street from SeaWorld. You can easily get to both parks via I-4 or International Drive if you’re coming from the Disney area. They’re particularly close if you’re staying at an I-Drive hotel like the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Orlando Convention Center, and they’re also very convenient to Lake Buena Vista hotels like Grand Beach Resort at Lake Buena Vista, Grande Villas Resort at Lake Buena Vista and the Holiday Inn Resort Lake Buena Vista.
Wet and Wild offers great rides
Rides: Both Wet ‘n Wild and Aquatica have all the water park standards, like water slides, wave pools, and lazy rivers. However, the parks each have their own unique twist. For example, since it’s related to SeaWorld, Aquatica works animals into some of its attractions. You can see cute black and white Commerson’s dolphins from the Dolphin Plunge slide or a viewing window on the lazy river, and colorful macaws greet you on the walkways. In addition to its traditional slow-paced lazy river, Aquatica also has a unique take on this attraction. Roa’s Rapids is much more of an “action river” where guests don life vest and get pushed along by the wild current.
Race your friends down the waterslide at Wet N Wild
Meanwhile, at Wet ‘n Wild, you’ll find a big slant toward slides aimed directly at adrenaline junkies. Out of all the Orlando water parks, it has the biggest selection of white-knuckle offerings, like Bomb Bay, Brain Wash, and The Storm and . It also happens to have an adjacent lake, which means it can offer unique experiences like wake boarding, paddle boarding, and knee skiing out on Lake Sandy. There’s an additional charge for these activities, but it’s well worth the cost if you want to do something outside the water park norm.
Aquatica is the newest water park in Olando
Age Appeal: Since they’re in Orlando, a well-known family mecca, both Aquatica and Wet ‘n Wild cater to family members of all ages. Teens go for the thrills, but both parks also have special play spots for younger kids. Blastaway Beach at Wet ‘n Wild is the largest family water play area in Florida, while Aquatica has Walkabout Waters and Kata’s Kookaburra Cove.
You can race your friends on a waterslide at Aquatica
If your family likes to experience rides together, both parks have racing slides and family raft rides. Wet ‘n Wild is a particularly good spot for families who like to play together, since it has the highest number of multi-person rides of any Orlando water park. This park has one other advantage over Aquatica if you’re visiting in the busy season: you can buy an express pass that lets you use a shorter line, which allows you to bypass the summer crowds.
A great way to spend the day at Aquatica is to lounge around in the lazy river
You won’t go wrong, no matter which of these two water parks you choose. You can get some help with your choice on www.orlandovacation.com or by phoning 1-800-641-4008 to find out about any special ticket deals and packages during the dates of your Orlando visit.