Orlando Vacation Home Horror Stories: How to Avoid One of Your Own

April 25th, 2015

Some visitors to Orlando are hesitant to rent a vacation home. Sometimes they just assume they’re expensive, other times they’ve heard horror stories of unclean homes, or homes that weren’t as advertised. The good news is that there are tons of incredible, affordable homes. You just need to follow these tips to ensure you get exactly what you’re paying for – or perhaps a little bit more!

orlandovacation_private-pool-home-rentalAvoid the horror of spending way too much

The biggest thing between many people and renting an Orlando vacation home is the cost. They assume that these homes cost $500+ per night. The reality is that tried and true companies like OrlandoVacation.com rent their homes starting at just $99. These homes are often more affordable than staying at a resort hotel. Just make sure you see what’s out there before committing to a prohibitively expensive home that doesn’t give you the bang for your buck that you deserve – and have access to!

Avoid the horror of not getting what you expect

When you pick out your vacation home you must make sure that it has all the amenities you need. Don’t assume anything! If you want a full kitchen, a private pool, a Jacuzzi, or a washer and dryer in the unit, make sure the company you’re renting from notes that these things are included. Not all companies let you choose the specific house. Instead, you agree on a house, you get the keys on the day you check in, and some serious surprises can arise. Make sure you rent through a reputable company that lets you select the right home for you and your family.

orlandovacation_pool-home-amenitiesAvoid the horror of unclean homes

This one can be easily avoided: rent through a reputable company! It can be tempting to rent directly from an owner but the reality is that you can’t trust the home is clean enough, that the sheets are changed, or that the kitchen will be equipped as promised. When you rent from a company that deals exclusively in vacation rentals you can be assure that you’ll get a home that’s well kept up and clean.

Avoid the horror of being too far from the parks

For many families, the most important factor when choosing a home is where it’s located. This should be a top priority for you too. No matter how inexpensive a rental is, if you have to travel 40 minutes or more just to get to the parks – and just to get home at night – then it’s not worth the price. You’ll find that all the homes on OrlandoVacation.com are within 15 minutes of the parks.

A Simple Special Needs Guide to SeaWorld Orlando and Universal

April 24th, 2015

There’s so much to do and see in SeaWorld Orlando and Universal, but those with special needs can worry that they simply won’t be able to do it all. The good news is that SeaWorld and Universal both do a great job of making sure as many people as possible can get in on the fun. Check out the main ways in which special needs guests can find accommodations at SeaWorld Orlando and Universal.

orlandovacation_seaworld-handicapped-seatingSeaWorld – Special seating and entrances in every theater

Of course on of the most exciting parts of visit SeaWorld Orlando is checking out the numerous shows. The good news is that those with special needs can attend. All theaters have special seating to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters. Some also have special entrances. If you’re not sure if you should enter through the main entrance of take advantage of a special entrance, just ask a helpful employee for assistance.

SeaWorld – There’s free water for companion animals

Companion animals are welcome in SeaWorld Orlando. They even offer free water at multiple locations! Just stop by any restaurant in the entire park and ask for water for your companion animal. There will never be a charge.

SeaWorld – Choose from numerous bathrooms

In some theme parks you’ll have a limited number of assisted restrooms available. Luckily when you visit SeaWorld Orlando this won’t be a problem. Pick up a park map and you’ll see the many assisted restrooms clearly marked. You’ll never be far away from one, no matter where you venture within the park.

orlandovacation_seaworld-wheelchair-rentalBoth Parks – Wheelchairs are available at the parks

You can rent wheelchairs for a relatively small fee. There are also electric wheelchairs available. However, note that there are a limited number available and they’re rented on a first come, first served basis. As a result, if you’re traveling on a busy day of the year, or a day that’s particularly hot and difficult to get around on for those with special needs, then you may want to rent an electric wheelchair from a third party. All of this is true for both SeaWorld and Universal.

Universal – Ask for a Disabled Guest Parking Pass

There is a special parking area for disabled guests, but you’ll need a pass to use it. Just ask when you pay for parking and you’ll get this special pass that can be displayed on your dashboard.

Both Parks – Help for Hearing Impaired Guests

If you’re hearing impaired and need a TDD, just contact the Guest Services Office or Health Services. They’re always available and though there is deposit required it’s refundable as long as you return the device the same day.

Tried and True Tips for Teens in Disney World

April 23rd, 2015

As you gear up for your big trip to Disney World, whether it’s your first trip or your twentieth, it’s important to consider the special needs your teen will have. Consider this great article, The Times They Are a-Changin’; Taking Tweens and Teens to Walt Disney World, or take a moment and review our favorite tips below.

orlandovacation_disney-world-haunted-mansion1.         Just because they’re older doesn’t mean everything’s changed

As parents get ready to take their teens to Disney World they often think about the things that have changed. It’s important to do that – and we’ll cover several things you should think about that may have changed – but it’s also important to remember that Disney brings out the kid in all of us. Don’t assume that your teen doesn’t want to meet the Princesses, or that they suddenly won’t be spooked out by the Haunted Mansion.

2.         Don’t be afraid to bribe them

Yes, bribing your kids may not be the most sound parenting advice anywhere else in the world, but at Disney sometimes you have to make an exception – especially if you have more than one kid. Teenagers are notorious for wanting to do what they want when they want it. If your family wants to head to some of the tamer rides and your teen isn’t on board, offer to buy them a Dole Whip after the ride, or let them pick two rides for every one ride everyone else picks. These kinds of bribes can go a long way toward keeping the peace.

orlandovacation_teen-movie-relax3.         Be careful when planning evening activities

You know your kids best and when it comes time to plan for evening activities, you’ll have to take their unique preferences into account. For example, some teens stay up all night and would love nothing more than to close the park down. Others don’t like being tired and sore and would rather head back to the resort earlier for a night of swimming and movie watching. Remember that dragging anyone through the parks is no fun if they don’t want to be there. Try to find some creative compromises.

4.         Consider letting your teen venture out on their own

This can be a scary prospect for many parents, but it’s often a great opportunity to give your kids a little space and let them feel more grown up. Take precautions, like only letting them off on their own when you’re in the same park, or having them check in every few hours. Not only will they be excited to do a few things on their own, but they’ll be more willing to participate in family activities if they know they get time to themselves.

The Best Orlando Restaurants for Large Groups

April 22nd, 2015

When you’re traveling with a group it can be tricky to find restaurants that can accommodate anyone. These restaurants all have the capacity for your group and all take reservations. Be sure to call as far ahead as possible to make sure they can get your group in.

Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant

Address: 125 W Church Street, Orlando, FL 32801

Area: Downtown / Central Business District / CBD

There’s a lot to love about Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant. This unique spot offers tapas, which are essentially small plates made for sharing, plus tons of great wines and alcoholic drinks. Though this spot is family friendly enough to allow folks of all ages, the high energy nightlife vibe makes it a better choice for a group of business travelers than a group of high school travelers. However, it’s hard to imagine anyone not having a great time at this energetic, unique – and don’t forget delicious – eatery.

orlandovacation_ceviche-orlando

The Rusty Spoon

Address: 55 W Church Street, Suite 101, Orlando, FL 32801

Area: Downtown / Central Business District / CBD

The Rusty Spoon is a unique eatery that makes you feel you’ve walked into the past. With pre-prohibition style cocktails and delicious foods like lamb sliders and deviled eggs, there’s something here for everyone’s taste. The décor has a comfortable farm fresh vibe to it, and the kitchen is open so you can see the chefs preparing your food as you wait. This is a spot that focuses on supporting local farms and artisans, which makes it a great choice for groups who want to get a real taste of the freshest foods in central Florida.

orlandovacation_the-rusty-spoon

Texas de Brazil

Address: 5259 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819

Area: International Drive / I-Drive

If you’re in the mood for stakes, Texas de Brazil won’t disappoint. Not only can you get an impeccably seasoned and prepared steak, but your group can take advantage of a hot bar with rotating selections like rice and beans. This is a true crowd pleaser. The specials here change daily and are truly some of the most unique dishes you’ll find in all of Orlando.

orlandovacation_texas-de-brazil

Maggiano’s Little Italy

Address: 9101 International Drive, Suite 2400, Orlando, FL 32819

Area: International Drive / I-Drive

If you and your group have a taste for Italian, there’s only one spot that comes highly recommended by virtually everyone: Maggiano’s Little Italy. Here you can order entrees individually, or get everything you want family style. Each dish you order family style will be brought to your table with a huge portion that everyone can share. It’s the ultimate way to get a little taste of everything.

orlandovacation_maggianos-little-italy

4 Etiquette Tips for Grandparents Tagging Along on a Family Vacation

April 21st, 2015

Are you a grandparent who’s been invited to tag along on your son or daughter’s family vacation? While you were excited to be asked, there are a few things you should be careful of. Check out these 4 tips that will help make sure everyone has a fun and exciting – yet stress-free – experience.

orlandovacation_multi-generation-disney-trip1.         Make a plan for payment

The biggest mistake you can make is to assume anything about who’s paying for what. If the kids invited you, then you may assume they’re going to pay for certain things on your trip. The reality is that if both parties don’t have their expectations clear, this can turn into a very awkward situation very quickly. If you’re driving down, who is paying for the gas? Are you staying in the same resort hotel room? Or renting a vacation home? Either way, will you be expected to pay a portion of this expense? Just be straightforward about what’s expected and you can avoid serious issues that might otherwise arise.

2.         Offer to Watch the Kids – or Don’t!

If the parents are paying for all or a large portion of your trip, then it may be considered good manners to offer to watch the kids for a night or two so the parents can whisk themselves away for a special night out. Not only is this a very helpful thing to do to show your gratitude, but it’ll give you a chance to spend some quality time with the grandkids. On the other hand, if you’re interested in taking the trip but don’t feel as though you want to go as their personal nanny, let your family know! The key it be clear about your expectations.

3.         Give your kids some space – but only if they want it

You have to remember that you are the guest on this trip. If your kids want some time with just them and the kids, give it to them! Graciously offer to spend an afternoon at the pool while they take the kids out to a special lunch, or give yourself some me-time in the parks if they want to all experience a ride together for the first time.

On the other hand, if your kids want you around the entire time – respect that! You have plenty of alone time at home. If family bonding time is the most important factor to them, then go along with it.

orlandovacation_grandparents-disney

4.         Return the generosity

If your kids are planning to pay for the majority of the trip, be sure to do something nice to return the favor. It could mean paying for a meal, paying for a special experience, or buying a souvenir for everyone. If you’re on a limited budget it could be as simple as buying everyone a key chain. Just try to find something you can do to show your appreciation.

Unique Anniversary Gifts for Disney World Lovers

April 20th, 2015

Do you and your significant other love Disney World? Are you about to celebrate an anniversary? Then you’re in luck! We’ve rounded up some unique anniversary gift ideas for those who just can’t get enough of Disney World.

orlandovacation_laila-perfumeBring home the Voices of Liberty

If you and your honey spend a lot of time in the World Showcase, especially around Christmas Time, then this Christmas album may be just the hit you’re looking for! Performed by the acapella group Voices of Liberty that performs in American Adventure. On this unique album they call themselves by the clever name “Liberty Voices” and it is truly delightful! You can even preview all the songs before you buy.

Surprise your sweetie with the smells of Norway

If you’ve been to the store in the Norway section of the World Showcase than you’re familiar with a very distinctive scent. This is Laila perfume, which people tend to either love or hate. If your sweetie is one who loves it, then you can purchase a number of Laila products, including both perfume and lotion. They’re available online and at most Nordstroms.

Work directly with the Disney Florist

Many people think of the Disney Florist as the place to shop if you want gifts delivered right to your resort room, but they’ll also deliver right to your house. You can order a ton of Disney products from them, including Mickey Ears and Disney candy – all without having to step foot out your front door! You can even request custom orders to give your sweetie their very favorite combination of Disney flowers, foods, or scents.

orlandovacation_vera-bradley-disney-bagsGet her a unique Vera Bradley bag

Vera Bradley purses and bags have been popular for many years, but in recent years they’ve branched out into some seriously adorable Disney themed bags. There are currently 6 different Disney options. When they were first introduced the only place you could buy them was in the Disney theme parks. Thankfully today you can buy these bags online!

A Walt Disney World transportation map

If you’re looking to bring home a piece of the world that will remind your loved one of all the adventures you’ve been on in your favorite theme park, then this Walt Disney World transportation map may be a great choice. It features all the buses, monorails, and fairies that run throughout Disney World. You have tons of options on that site, from buying a canvas print to buying a framed print, or just the print itself. You can also buy greeting cards, an acrylic print, or a metal print. This versatile give is a unique, thoughtful option for the lady or gentleman who seemingly has it all.

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.

cuban-restaurant-orlando

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.

wet-n-wild-orlando

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.

orlandovacation_vacation-home-near-disney

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.

orlandovacation_multiple-bedrooms

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.

orlandovacation_home-amenities-game-room

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.

disney-world-mickey-waffles

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.