3 Father-Son Experiences Not to be Missed in Orlando

June 29th, 2015

It’s common for people to think of Disney World and immediately think of princesses and all things girly. The truth is that there are tons of things for little princes to do, too! Let’s take a look at three unique father-son experiences you can enjoy on your next trip to Orlando.

orlandovacation_wintersummerlandgolf1.         Head out on a miniature golf extravaganza!

Sure, you can probably play put-put at home, but nobody makes a course quite like Disney does. Like most events, attractions, and rides at Disney, Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course has a backstory. As legend has it, lake one Christmas Eve, Santa Clause himself was on the way back to the North Pole when he found snow in Florida. This led to his vacation destination for off-duty elves. He divided his new creation into two different areas, one celebrating the Florida sun and the other celebrating the North Pole.

The result is two different courses at this spot, one a sand course called Summer, the other a snow course called Winter. If you choose the 18-hole Summer Course you’ll play amongst sandcastles, surfboards, and ornament-adorned palm trees. If you choose the 18-hole Winter Course you better keep an eye out for Squirty the Snowman as you play along giant peppermints, drawbridges, and even in a huge melting castle.

2.         Fantastic fishing expeditions

Nothing quite makes you think of old timey father-son days than a trip to the fishing hole. The good news is that there are many ways you can do so in Orlando. If you’re ready to head out to the ocean, hop on a deep sea excursion. If you’d prefer to stay closer to the parks, consider one of the numerous fishing options presented by Disney. From guided fishing excursions to dockside catch and release right on Disney property, there’s something for every skill level and for princes of all ages.

3.         Cowboy up for a horse excursion

You can take your little one on an incredible equestrian excursion right at Ft. Wilderness, located on Disney property. The Tri-Circle-D Ranch has tons of great activities, whether you want to visit for an hour or spend the entire afternoon there. Your options including simply strolling through the resort and checking out all the animals, taking a 25 minute pony ride, or a 45 minute horseback trail ride.

If you want to get in on the cowboy action, but riding horses isn’t your thing, you can hop on a 25 minute wagon ride that costs just $8 for adults and $5 for kids, or get your own private 25 minute carriage ride for $45. These are all great options that you likely don’t have back home and will help create lifelong father-son memories.

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5 Travel Hacks You Need to Know About

June 26th, 2015

If you travel for work on a regular basis, then you’ve got to keep an eye on the latest ways to get the most from your travel experiences. Whether you’re coming to visit us in sunny Orlando or heading overseas, there are tons of tips to help you. Check out these 10 Travel Hacks Every Business Traveler Should Know, or read our favorite five below.

1.         Increase your chances for an upgrade by checking in late

If your hotel has upgrades available, they’ll first go to their elite status members. However, those members are more likely to check in earlier in the day. If you arrive at the airport around dinner time, stop to grab a bite to eat, and check in after 8 PM, the front desk agent may be willing to give up any available upgrades.  

2.         Save your miles for last-minute trips

Booking a flight at the last minute can be quite costly. The good news is that when you cash in miles, the number of miles required isn’t affected by when the ticket is purchased. As a result, you’ll get the most bang for your miles if you save them for those short notice, last-minute trips.

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3.         Be kind to the person who does your travel booking

If there’s an administrative assistant in charge of your travel bookings, remember that it won’t hurt to go the extra mile for them! At a minimum, make sure they’re aware of your preferences. They may not know that you’d rather stay in one hotel chain over another, or that you’d prefer one airline. If you don’t make your needs known, how are they to know?

orlandovacation_vacation-travel-reward-cards4.         Think beyond your typical rewards

As a person who travels regularly, you likely have your rewards programs down to a science. You know you get extra points when you use a certain card at a certain location, and you know to always ask for upgrades when you have VIP status. However, don’t forget that not everyone you know is so savvy. Perhaps you have a family member, business associate, or friend who doesn’t take advantage of their rewards. Ask if you can book in your name and bank their rewards points. These can really add up – and if you don’t do it, those points are simply going to waste.

5.         Re-check your travel cards regularly

The most savvy business travelers are always up to date on the latest mileage and points offered. While one card may not offer much today, they could run a bonus promotion a month from now that would give you the best deal. Don’t assume that because you’ve checked into rewards once that you’re done. Check every month and come up with the plan that works best for that month.

The Big 4: Saving Money on a Trip to Disney World

June 25th, 2015

So you want to visit Disney World but you don’t want to spend thousands and thousands of dollars. Is it really possible? It sure is! This great article from Theme Park Insider, The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Budget Disney World Vacation – For Cheap, gives you some great tips. Check out the basics below and get started planning your trip!

1.         Saving money traveling to Orlando

orlandovacation_vacation-home-rentalIf there are more than two people going on your trip then you’re likely to save money by driving versus flying. While the cost of gas may be high depending on what type of year you’re traveling, remember that plane tickets for your family of four could easily cost $1600. You’ll also save a ton of cash by having your own vehicle in Orlando. This will allow you to stay at an affordable off-site hotel, plus you can skip the high cost of renting a car once you’re down there. It also allows you to skip baggage fees and easily bring everything you need for your trip.

2.         Saving money on accommodations

The number one thing you can do to assure that your accommodations are as affordable as possible is to stay in an off-site resort or rent an Orlando vacation home. Homes start at just $99 and come with kitchens, private pools, and other amenities that can make them well worth your while. Just be sure you’re choosing a home or resort that’s within 15 minutes of the Disney parks.

3.         Saving money on your theme park tickets

Whether you’re only visiting Disney World or you plan to check out other theme parks in the area like Universal, you can save some significant money on your tickets. Buy discount theme park tickets from a reputable source. Avoid booths set up in tourist areas that claim to offer super-cheap tickets. These are often counterfeit tickets or tickets that have already had one or more days used. Once a ticket is used a fingerprint scan is added to it, which means your party wouldn’t be able to use it.

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4.         Saving money while in the parks

Once you’re in the parks, there are many things you can do to keep your costs down:

  • Bring everything you need from home, including sunscreen, Band-Aids, water bottles, etc.
  • Get the most out of your theme park tickets by arriving as soon as the park opens. You can take a break in the middle of the day if you’d like, but the lines will be shortest during the first few hours of the day and the last few, so make the most of these hours.
  • The cheapest option is to bring your own food into the parks, but if you do want to eat Disney food, stick to restaurants with large portions and split meals.
  • You’ll see photographers throughout the park who can take a photo with their camera for a fee, but they’ll also take a photo with your own camera or phone for free.

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These tips can save you tons on your next trip to the happiest place on earth!

5 Ways to Bring a Little Bit of Home to Your Vacation Home

June 24th, 2015

There’s no question that renting an Orlando vacation home is one of the most affordable options available – and it gives you tons of great amenities like privacy, private pools, full kitchens, and more! As you plan your next vacation, consider these 5 awesome ways to make your home away from home a little more your own!

1.         Bring your own blankets and pillows

orlandovacation_kitchen-home-rentalYour vacation home will have everything you need, including linens, but a great way to feel more at home is to have your favorite pillows and blankets with you. This is obviously not an option if you’re flying, but if you’re driving down you’ll appreciate having these items for the drive too.

2.         Cook your favorite meals

Nothing makes you feel more at home than having your typical Sunday dinner no matter where you’re at. Many of the Orlando vacation homes have full chef’s kitchens. You’ll have everything you need to whip up the classic favorites, from spaghetti to delicious burgers. Just stop by one of the local markets, get the food you need, and continue your family traditions even while you’re on vacation.

3.         Pack a streaming device

If you’re the type of family that rarely watches live TV, then it may be a little strange to stay in a home with cable and no access to the streaming apps you’re used to. So bring your own! Whether you use a Roku, Apple TV, Xbox, or other device, you can simply pack it and plug it in when you arrive. You’ll have access to all your favorite shows and will feel just like you’re at home.

4.         Unpack as soon as you get there

One of the simplest things you can do is to unpack right when you arrive. When your clothes are hung in the closet, your items are taken out and put in drawers, and your toiletries are just where you need them, you’ll feel much more centered and at home than if you’re shifting through half a dozen suitcases every time you need something.

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5.         Bring your favorite plants

If you’re driving and you have extra room, think about packing up your potted plants! Not only will you not have to rely on someone else to stop by your own house to water them, but they’ll make you feel right at home. This is an especially great idea if you’re traveling in the winter months and your plants could use some of that lovely Florida sunshine!

No matter where you’re traveling from, or how you’re getting to Orlando, there are simple ways you can make your experience even more magical! Taking the time to make your home feel like a home makes it easy to come home every night and simple relax as you take in all the day has brought you.

6 Incredible Tips for Traveling with a Special Needs Child

June 23rd, 2015

Are you stressed about an upcoming trip with your special needs child? You want to be present with them to take in all the joys along the way, but you’re worried about the unknown. If you’re in this boat, you’ll appreciate this comprehensive Special Needs Pre-Flight Checklist, or you can check out our 6 favorite tips from the list.

1.         Stopovers may be your friends

orlandovacation_special-needs-flightMost people prefer nonstop flights, but for your special needs child, two shorter flights may be much easier for them to handle than one long one. Think about how long they can really be comfortable sitting in one spot and decide what’s best for your family.

2.         Bring a doctor’s letter

Have your doctor write down a simple, easy-to-understand description of your child’s diagnosis and any medications they’re on. In the event that you must see a doctor while on your trip, your child will have a much higher level of care if the attending physician has this concise information.

3.         Visit the airport before your big day

For many special needs children, routine is essential. If the first time they ever set foot in an airport is the same day of their first vacation, they may be overwhelmed. Consider a trip in advance where you can watch planes take off and land, and simply let them get used to the hustle and bustle.

4.         Take advantage of TSA Cares

At least 72 hours before you travel, contact TSA Cares via their website, or call them at 1-855-787-2227. You can get information about screening processes and even request special help at various checkpoints. This is your best resource to make sure you have all your ducks in a row.

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5.         Bring plenty of small bills

There are two main reasons it pays to have a wallet full of small bills. First, it’ll speed up the process of paying for a cab, buying an extra snack, or anything else you need to do in a rush. Second, it gives you the opportunity to tip those who are helpful to you. Note that not all can accept tips. For example, a particularly helpful TSA agent can benefit from an email letting their supervisor know they went above and beyond, but they can’t accept money from you.

6.         Complete all your check-ins online

There’s no reason to wait in a long line at the airport or at your resort hotel. The night before you go, check-in online to save yourself the hassle. Your goal is to spend as little time waiting for your vacation to begin and as much time as possible enjoying every second of your special adventure!

4 Essential Tips for Traveling to Disney World as a Single Parent

June 22nd, 2015

There are many things that can be more challenging as a single parent but taking the kids to Disney World doesn’t have to be one of them. Check out this interesting blog post with 10 Tips for Single Parents Traveling to Walt Disney World or check out our top 4 tips below.

orlandovacation_age-of-child1.         Carefully consider the age of your kids

There are many opinions about the right age for a child’s first trip to Disney World. Some people believe that it’s never too early and take babies that are just a few months. Others wait until their kids are in their double digits to make sure they can ride everything. For us, the sweet spot is somewhere in between.

The key is to review the restrictions on rides and decide when your kids can start enjoying many different attractions. Disney World doesn’t have age requirements, but they do have height requirements. Keep in mind that there are also plenty of rides that are fine for kids of any height. Just remember that you’ll be solely responsible for your kids in a busy, bustling place. You may want to wait until they’re old enough to get around on their own, though strollers can be rented at all of the parks.

2.         The right shoes are more than an accessory

If you’ve never spent days walking around Disney World then you may not realize just how much walking there is. Some people walk up to 10 miles per day! That’s like walking a half marathon each day. When you’re doing it pushing a stroller it can be even more daunting. The key is to have comfortable shoes. Popular options include Keens, which are open topped shoes that dry quickly in wet weather, and Sketchers Go Walks, which many people swear stay comfortable for hours and hours.

orlandovacation-single-parent-tips3.         Plan your dates strategically

The first decision you’ll make will be when to travel to Disney World. If you’re not tethered to school schedules, consider going during off peak times where crowds will be lower and prices will be cheaper. If you must go during vacations, remember that weekends are the busiest times, and afternoons will see the largest crowds. A great technique is to get there as soon as the park opens, leave around lunchtime for a nice afternoon break, and come back in the evenings when crowds start to thin out again.

4.         Accommodations are everything

You don’t want to spend big bucks to stay on Disney property, but you also don’t want to travel an hour to and from the parks every day. Find resort hotels within 15 minutes of the parks, or rent a vacation home for the ultimate in privacy and space.

Making Your Teen’s Frozen Dreams Come True

June 19th, 2015

Is your teen one of the millions of teens that’s totally enamored with Frozen? This movie has seemingly taken over the world with its incredible fans and unprecedented excitement from virtually everyone. The good news is that if you’re visiting Disney World you’ll have several ways to make sure your teen can enjoy their favorite parts of Frozen.

Take advantage of Frozen Summer Fun

There’s a special event going on at Disney’s Hollywood Studios all summer long, until September 7th, called Frozen Summer Fun. There are tons of elements to this awesome experience, including:

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  • Frozen Royal Welcome: This parade-like experience features Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Kristoff, and their friends as they snow ski through the park, all culminating in a group singalong of “Let it Go”.
  • For the First Time in Forever – A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration: Visit the Royal Historians of Arendelle, along with Anna and Elsa, as you laugh, sing, and enjoy a funny, unique retelling of the story of Frozen.
  • Frozen Fireworks: At the end of the night come together for an incredible fireworks display, set to music from the movie.
  • Hot Frozen Nights DJ Dance Party: Every night DJ Chill comes out at the main Event Stage for an incredible DJ dance party. You can share song requests and photos via social media for the chance to be shown onscreen during the party.
  • Special merchandise and food & beverages: You’ll find tons of event-specific foods and beverages you can’t get anywhere else.
  • Olaf’s Summer Cool Down: Get sprayed, splashed, and cooled off by Olaf himself! Just stop by the Event Stage during downtimes between shows.

Frozen Summer Fun Premium Package

If you want to experience all the events listed above, plus a few extras, and you don’t want to wait in lines, then the Frozen Summer Fun Premium Package is exactly what you’re looking for. The cost is $69 for adults, $39 for kids 3 – 9 and free for those under 3. It includes:

  • A reserved viewing area for the Frozen Royal Welcome, plus water, soft drinks, and ice cream.
  • Reserved seating for the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. You pick the time you want, but they are on a first-come, first-serve basis so check-in for your package early if you have a particular time in mind.
  • Reserved viewing for the Frozen Fireworks, complete with Frozen-themed desserts plus both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

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Meet Anna and Elsa in the Magic Kingdom

You can also visit the Princess Fairtytale Hale in the Magic Kingdom to meet Anna and Elsa. Note that this attraction has one of the longest wait times of all attractions in all four parks. As a result, it’s a great choice for your Fast Pass+ selections.

How to Create the Best Disney World Touring Plans for Grandparents

June 18th, 2015

As you research the best way to take in the sites at Disney World with your grandkids, you’ll find plenty of cookie-cutter touring plans available to you. It’s true that a good touring plan will guide you in making sure you hit the attractions you want to hit, and help you skip the longest lines, but many of these cookie cutter plans simply won’t work for what your grandkids want. These tips will help you create your perfect touring plan quickly and easily.

1.         Decide which park to visit on which day

First of all, decide which of the four theme parks you’ll visit on each day of your trip. If you choose Park Hopper tickets you can visit one park in the morning and another one in the afternoon, but if you choose basic tickets you’ll be limited to one park per day.

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Generally speaking, you want to skip the parks that have Extra Magic Hours. These hours are available only to those staying at Disney resorts, and though they seem like an advantage at first glance, they actually translate to larger crowds all day. You can find a number of crowd calendars that predict how busy each park will be on which day. Use these to decide which parks will work best for you on each day.

2.         Write down your list of 3 must-dos in each park

Next you’ll take a look at all the rides and attractions in each park. Do your research to make sure that your grandkid are tall enough for each ride, and make sure they’re otherwise age appropriate. Then make a list with the top 3 must-dos for each park. Create another list of rides you’d like to see if you have time and put them in order from most interested in to least interested in.

3.         Hit the most popular rides right when the park opens

Disney pros call park opening “rope drop”. This doesn’t refer to the posted opening times in all cases. Often the parks will open up to 15 minutes before the official opening time. Your best bet is to get to the parks 30 minutes before the official opening and line up at the tapstiles. Then immediately head to the busiest attractions. This will be the best time to avoid lines – even on the super-popular rides like the 7 Dwarves Mine Train.

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4.         Stick to the least popular in the middle of the day

The busiest times in the parks will be from around 11 am – dinner time. Some parks will be busy on some days through to whenever the fireworks are – sometimes 8 and sometimes 9. Hit the least popular rides during these busy times.

5 Unique Ways to Announce Your Surprise Anniversary Trip to Disney World

June 17th, 2015

Taking your sweetie on an anniversary trip to Disney World is sure to be a magical experience, but the excitement doesn’t have to wait for the day you travel. Check out these five unique ways to reveal the big surprise.

1.         Cook a delicious themed meal

Whether you’re already a gourmet cook who can simply incorporate a few Disney details into a charming spread, or you’re a novice who can’t do much more than open boxes and follow directions, preparing a meal is a great way to reveal the secret. Find some subtle homages to your favorite things at Disney World and see if your partner gets the hint. For example, you might recreate your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant, or you may do something as simple as arranging the plates in a Mickey shape.

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2.         Create a scavenger hunt

This option can be as simple or as involved as you’d like! Perhaps you’ll simply get together a series of envelopes and hide them throughout the house, each with a hint that will lead your loved one to the next envelope. Or it could be a complex web that involves them traveling to numerous locations and even getting various friends and family members involved.

orlandovacation_custom-shirts-couples3.         Have custom shirts designed

If you’re the type of couple who likes to wear matching shirts when visiting Disney World, consider having shirts made to reveal your trip. They could say something like “Smith 10th Anniversary Trip.” You’ll love the look on your spouse’s face when they’re initially surprised and then it slowly sinks in – they’re going to Disney World!

4.         Wait until the day of your trip

Keeping a secret can seem impossible, but if you’re up for the challenge, consider not telling them until the day you leave. You might tell them you’re going on a weekend excursion somewhere else and surprise them at the airport, or maybe you don’t tell them anything at all! Pack a bag for them, hop in the car, and enjoy the look of shock on their face when you pull into the airport parking lot.

5.         Tell them with dessert

If you don’t want to create an entire meal, consider simply baking a cake and adding a message about your upcoming trip. You can also buy simple fortune cookie making kits that allow you to write your own fortunes. Enjoy take out from your favorite restaurant and then swap out their cookies with your own. Write a message like, “Get ready for the anniversary of a lifetime – we’re going to Disney World!”

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No matter how you choose to relay the message, one thing is clear: you’re about to have a truly magical experience!

5 Questions to Ask Before Booking an Orlando Vacation Rental

June 11th, 2015

When you rent an Orlando vacation home you can save literally hundreds of dollars over what you’d pay for a much smaller hotel room. However, there are things to consider before hitting that confirmation button. Check out the top 5 questions you should have answers to before you book your rental.

1.         What is the cancellation policy?

Even those with the best intentions, families who are completely certain that their plans couldn’t possibly change, can end up with a wrench thrown into their plans. No matter when you cancel you’ll likely pay a cancellation fee, but some companies charge as little as $15 while others will require you to pay up for the entire reservation you can no longer use. Make sure you’re choosing a company with a fair policy.

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2.         What is the parking situation?

You may assume that because you’re renting a house, you can park as many cars as you want to on the street. The reality is that some homes have restrictions. This may be due to the rules of the Homeowners Association that oversees the neighborhood, or it may be a case of the property manager wanting to get more money out of the rental. Regardless, if you’re traveling with a large group and will have numerous cars, make sure you know if you can park them all at the home without paying an additional fee.

orlandovacation_rental-dining-room3.         What equipment is available?

Most homes come with full kitchens, but what equipment is included in it? If your unit comes with a pool, does it have the necessary equipment to get it running? Do you know how to do it or will the company take care of everything? The key when renting a home is to work with a reputable company that will make good on their end of the bargain, but you always want to make sure that you know exactly what’s included in your reservation.

4.         How many people can stay in the home?

If you’re renting a home with 4-bedrooms you may assume you can bring as many people as you can fit. This isn’t always the case. Fire codes may be in place, or an extra charge may apply if you have more than a certain number of occupants. Be sure you know if you’re staying within the parameters of your contract.

5.         What is the check-in process?

It’s easy to check in to a hotel – you show up in the lobby and get your key! This isn’t always the case in vacation homes. Find out what the check in process is and choose a company that makes it smooth and seamless for you. You may also want to find out how many keys they’re willing to issue for your vacation home.