Flying With Special Needs: Get the Basics

July 27th, 2015

Flying with a special needs child can seem overwhelming and even terrifying. With so many unknowns, how can you adequately prepare your child? We found a great resource called Airports and Special Needs Travel: A Complete Guide that covers the basics very well. Feel free to read it in its entirety, or read on to get the details you need.

Parking at the airport

orlandovacation_airport-parkingEvery parking lot in the United States has parking spaces reserved for people with disabilities, and airports are no exception. However, if you don’t have the proper tag or license plate you’re not allowed to park in these spots. You’ll find some airports that offer free or discounted spots for cars with either a disabled placard or license place.

Some airports even provide special parking accommodations for any traveler that has a special need, even if they don’t have the requisite license plate or placard. Check with your local airport to see if they offer any special accommodations for your family, or keep it simple and get a ride to avoid the parking hassle all together.

Dropping off your luggage

Save time by checking in and choosing your seats before heading to the airport. Keep in mind though that you’ll still have to check your bags when you get there. At most airports you’ll have the option to skip the lines by checking your bags curbside. Skycap will take your bags, print out your boarding pass, and let you simply walk from the curb to security. This will significantly lighten your load on the day you fly – and allow you to focus on your kid.

orlandovacation_child-airport-securityGetting through security

For many families, the long lines at security are the most challenging part of the entire flying process. There are three things you should focus on to make this process as easy as possible:

  1. Make sure your child is prepared. Do whatever you can to make sure your child is prepared, whether this means social stories, practice, or visual aids.
  2. Find out about special lines. All airports have special lines for use by families like yours. These lines can help you avoid super-long lines and reduce the chances of a meltdown. If you can’t find the line, talk to a TSA officer to see how they can meet your needs.
  3. Know your rights. Check out the Transportation Security Administration’s guide for children with special needs. Before traveling, read it thoroughly and know what your rights are.

Things to pay attention to when walking to the gate

As you walk toward the gate, take that opportunity for a bathroom pit spot. You’ll likely find a family bathroom right in the main terminal area. Research the airport you’re traveling to and from to find out if they have light displays, which can cause issues for kids with sensory issues. There’s likely a way to get through without using them. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for a shuttle cart if the walk to your gate is long and you don’t want to put your child through it.

Financial Tips for Newly Single Parents – How to Afford Your Next Vacation!

July 24th, 2015

As a single parent you have unique financial needs, compared to families with two earners. While it can be more challenging to find the money for vacation, and to find the money for your child’s education, savings, etc., it’s certainly not impossible. Check out the 7 Strategies for Single Parents as recommended by Bankrate, or review our favorite four below.

1.         Start with a road map

The first step is to have a plan – and this requires communication with your child’s other parent. The experts recommend working hard for an even-keeled type of communication. Keep the hostility and even nonverbal cues out of it – especially when the children are around. Keep your eye on cultivating a business-like relationship with your ex, and decide which expenses you’ll be responsible for, what they’ll be responsible for, and which will be shared.


2.         Control your costs – but have fun, too!

It’s likely that you’re going to have to make some financial sacrifices, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to give everything up. Create a spending plan that keeps you accountable so you’re sure your money is going right where you want it to. Keep an eye on sales, use coupons, and buy generic products when you can. Look for two-for-one nights at local restaurants, or find nights where children eat free. Take advantage of free books at the public library. All of these savings can add up to a lovely Disney vacation for your family!

3.         Re-evaluate all your financial documents

Your children must be provided for in case something happens to you and/or your former spouse. The most affordable way to take care of this is life insurance. Check and make sure your policy is up to date, as is the policy of your former spouse. You should also be clear on who the beneficiaries are on yours and your ex-spouse’s policy. Does the money go to your child(ren) in a trust, or to the remaining parent with the understanding that it’s to be used to take care of the kids?


4.         Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it

The old saying, “it takes a village to raise a child” is no joke! The reality is that when there’s only one parent in the household, it’s easy for them to get pulled in every direction, which results in high-stress situations – and can eventually lead to poor health. It’s common for newly single parents to want to do it all and be afraid to reach out for help. The reality is that pride can’t get in the way of doing what needs to be done. If you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out to your support network, whether it includes friends, family, or co-workers.

The Ultimate Touring Plan for Taking on the Magic Kingdom With Teens

July 23rd, 2015

The makeup of your group will always affect how you tour Walt Disney World, and this is doubly true if you’re bringing teens along. You do want them to have a great time, but you also want to avoid common pitfalls that can lead to meltdowns or, believe it or not, even boredom! After all, no teen wants to spend their vacation waiting in line and riding only kiddie rides. This ultimate touring plan will help you maximize the fun for your teens.

Get to the park early and head straight to the “mountains”

There are three “mountains” at Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Splash Mountain. These are the rides most likely to excite and captivate your teens. They’re the fastest, loudest, most exciting rides in the entire Magic Kingdom. They’re also the rides with some of the longest lines.


As a result, your best plan is to get there right when the park opens and head straight to these popular attractions. You can also plan Fast Pass+ in advance to make sure you avoid the lines on these. Riding the “mountains” first also assures that your teens get their day started off with maximum thrills.

Take on the classics next

After you’ve ridden all three “mountains”, head out to some of the classic Disney rides. You can’t help but be impressed by the Walt Disney Imagineers and the incredible collection of attractions they’ve created, one or more of which are sure to dazzle even the most jaded teen.

Try out the spooky Haunted Mansion, with a perfect combination of classic Disney style dark ride and modern hologram technology, Pirates of the Caribbean with its new tie-ins to the popular movies, and even the Hall of Presidents, which, at the very least, will give you a great air conditioned break.


Teens may also enjoy the hooky, banjo-playing bears at the Country Bear Jamboree, or a relaxed ride on the Liberty Square Riverboat. Of course “it’s a small world” is one of the most popular rides in the entire world, and it’s hard to feel anything but a thrill when you hear the adorable, inspiring song.

A midday break will save you

Don’t assume that just because your teens are a little older, they can tour for hours and hours at a time without a break. Head back to your Orlando resort or vacation home for lunch to let everyone unwind, relax, and get ready for an exciting night.

Meals aren’t an afterthought

There are hundreds of restaurants in the parks and surrounding resorts. Trying new cuisines in incredibly themed restaurants can be as much of a highlight for your teen as the rides themselves. Make reservations up to 180 days in advance, and let your kids decide on which spots they’d like to try.


Avoid Group Travel Nightmares With These Simple Tips

July 22nd, 2015

You’re excited about your group trip to Disney World – and you should be! There’s tons to do and see, and traveling with a large group means you’ll get to watch a ton of people experience joy right before your very eyes. However, if you’re not on the same page with your travel plans, disappointments could be inevitable. Pay attention to these simple tips that will help assure you’re all on the same page.

How are you packing?

If you’re just traveling to Orlando for a few days, you may not need to bring an entire suitcase. Traveling with just a carryon can mean significantly shorter waits to check in, plus the time you’ll save by not having to pick up your bag when you arrive in Orlando and then back in your home destination. However, if just one person in your party checks a bag, everyone could be held up waiting for it.


The simple solution to this issue is to simply make sure everyone is on the same page. If you’ve decided that checked bags aren’t necessary, just let the group know that they won’t be used on this trip. On the other hand, if you think they are, then let everyone know that some of your will be checking bags. Everyone can then make their own decision accordingly – the key is to avoid surprises.

Do your carry-ons qualify as carry-ons?

No one wants to get caught in security, yet one of the most common reasons you can get pulled aside is due to carrying a bag that’s too large. In fact, some airlines won’t let you on the plane if you have a larger-than-approved carry-on. Make sure your review the rules before traveling. The specifics will vary based on who you’re flying with, but your airline should have both size and weight limits for carry-ons.

Does everyone have the right clothing?

Of course it’s likely that everyone will bring shorts, t-shirts, and similar clothes for days in the park. However, if you make reservations for dinner that require nicer clothes, make sure everyone knows! No one wants to feel underdressed. Likewise, if you’ve rented a resort hotel with an awesome pool, or an Orlando vacation home with a private pool, make sure everyone knows to bring their swimming suit.


How will payment work?

Money is the most common thing for groups to fight about. Before you leave on vacation, make sure you’ve discussed if all money will be pooled beforehand with one person in charge of paying for items, if everyone will be on their own, or if the costs will be split at the end of the trip. It can be awkward to talk about money, but getting it cleared up before the trip can save a nightmare scenario while you’re traveling.

Enjoy Disney World with Your Grandkids – Simple Tips to Help!

July 21st, 2015

There’s a lot to look forward to on your trip to Disney World with the grandkids, whether it’s your first trip or your twentieth, but there’s a lot to pay attention to as well! Take a look at this thought provoking article called Tips for Grandparents at Disney World, or read our favorite points below. When you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to a magical vacation no one will ever forget!

To stay together or stay separately?

When you’re traveling with your kids and their kids, and possibly even more family members, you may assume that your only option is to stay in several hotel rooms. However, you do have options! Orlando vacation homes are much more affordable than you likely realize, and everyone can get their own bedroom. However, with many different speeds of living and bedtimes, it may make more sense for everyone to get their own resort room. It’s up to you!


Start your day off together

No matter what you decide on for sleeping arrangements, your best bet is to start your day together. The mornings are the time when everyone will be happy, fresh, and so excited to start the day. The grandkids will be rested, the temperatures will be cooler, and crowds will be at their lowest points of the day. Ideally you’d spend the first hour or two of park opening riding everything you can ride together as a family.

Come together to eat meals as a family

After spending the first few hours together, kids of different ages may want to go off in several groups – supervised, of course! And the grandparents may want to take a more leisurely pace. However, try to meet up for meals. It’s a great way to reconnect throughout the day and provides a perfect opportunity to spend quality time together. You can book table service meal reservations up to 180 days in advance, just be sure that everyone has a copy of the itinerary and knows where you’re eating and when.


Don’t try to overdo it

The reality is that spending the day in Disney World can require walking up to 10 miles or more! If you’re not used to walking this much at home, don’t expect that you’ll be able to keep up with the young ones when you’re at Disney. You may need to go a little faster than you normally would, and your grandkids may need to slow down a bit. This compromise may work for a few hours, but know that you won’t be able to keep up with it all day. Take the opportunities you get to sit down, have a drink, and make the most of air conditioned attractions and shows.

Flying With Young Kids: What to Discuss, Look Out for, and Pack

July 20th, 2015

You don’t want to be “that family”: the one everyone glares at throughout the flight because your kids are acting up. While there’s nothing you can do to guarantee your kids will have a positive experience, there are many steps you can take to maximize your chances of a smooth travel experience. Check out our top tips below.

Plan ahead before you get to the airport

In the days leading up to your trip, sit down with your kids and explain the entire airport security process to them. Let them know they may be asked to remove their shoes, that their stuffed animals and toys will have to go through the security belt, etc. If you’re traveling with more than one child, make sure you know which parent is assisting which throughout the security process.


Bring plenty of healthy snacks for the plane ride

It’s tempting to give kids treats during the flight, but giving them too much sugar can increase their nervousness, cause them to be irritable, and disrupt their sleep routine. Be sure to also avoid giving them sugar in the hour before their flight. Pack some veggies, healthy chips, or fruit treats without added sugar.

Take bathroom breaks before they’re completely necessary

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is to wait to take the kids to the bathroom until they’re asking for it. By the time they need to go, it could be too late to make it there in time. The fasten safety light could be on, someone could be in the bathroom, or it could simply take a while to get your fellow passengers to get up and let you out. Try to time breaks in advance of when you think they’ll need them.

Prepare your kids for their first flight

If it’s your child’s first flight, tell them in detail what they’re in store for. It’s especially important to describe what it feels like to talk off and land. If you’ll be sitting in a row with a stranger, let them know that. Educate them on the “fasten belts” sign and make sure they understand they must be belted in when it’s on.


Make sure they have plenty of distractions

Of course you’re going to bring their favorite toy that’s easy to travel with, whether it’s a doll, an iPad, or a handheld game. However, make sure you don’t just stick with a tried and true favorite but also bring many other options for them to play with. The last thing you want is for them to get bored with their selection and be restless the entire flight. You may want to purchase a brand new toy for them to discover while you’re in flight.

4 Tips to Find the Perfect Orlando Vacation Home

July 17th, 2015

If you’re seriously considering renting an Orlando vacation home, but aren’t sure where to start, then you’re in the right place! In our vast experience we’ve learned a thing or two about how clients can find the perfect home for their needs. Check out these five tips to find the perfect home for the needs of you and your family.

orlandovacation_vacation-home-rental-orlando1.         Begin your search as early as possible

There are many months during the year where you can easily book an Orlando vacation home with as little as a week’s notice. However, there are also months during the year where they’ll be booked far in advance. You’ll almost always pay a premium to book a trip that’s coming up sooner rather than later. And of course booking in advance gives you the most available options so you can find just what you need. We recommend booking at least six months, but as much as a year in advance.

2.         Read your entire contract

Just like any contract, you should read the entire contract when you choose your vacation home. Make sure you know what happens if you have to cancel your reservation, how much your deposit is, when the total amount is due, and what is included in the cost of your reservation. For example, there may be added fees for cleaning if you stay for longer than a certain amount of time, or you may have to pay for extras like pool heat. The house you choose could still be a great deal even with these fees, but you should be aware of them before signing the contract.

3.         Prize the location above all else

orlandovacation_private-pool-rental-orlandoIt’s tempting to look at the incredible amenities first, or focus on the number of bedrooms, but trust us when we tell you that the absolute number one factor in which house you choose needs to be the location of the home. The last thing you want is to find a house that’s otherwise perfect but takes you an hour to get to and from every day. When you choose you’re working with a company that only offers homes that are within 15 minutes of the theme parks.

4.         Work with a company that lets you choose the home

You know what other factors are most important to you. You may need eight bedrooms and be willing to compromise on other features, or you may have members of your group willing to bunk together if it means getting a private pool and Jacuzzi. Perhaps your family plans to make many of your meals together and your top priority is the kitchen. Whatever your preferences are, the only way to get them is to choose a reputable rental company that lets you pick your exact home.

Simple Tips for Your First Trip to Orlando

July 16th, 2015

Orlando is a tourist’s paradise, with numerous theme parks, beaches within driving distance, and tons of entertainment options. In fact, there’s so much to do that it can be intimidating for those visiting for the first time. We have some simple tips that will help ground you so you can begin to plan your trip.

orlando-theme-park-mapGetting to Know the Major Theme Parks

As you plan your accommodations you’ll likely want to be sure you’re close to the theme parks. The good news is that they’re all located within a 15 mile radius. The Disney parks are located in Lake Buena Vista, which is 20 miles southwest of downtown Orlando. The other major ones, Universal and SeaWorld, are within the International Drive resort area, which is around 13 miles northwest of Lake Buena Vista and 10 miles southwest of downtown.

You can pay for most things ahead of time

One way that new folks are able to budget for their trip is by paying for their major expenses upfront. You can buy discount theme park tickets that could save you a significant amount of money, you can prepay for your Orlando vacation home or resort, and you can buy tickets to many of the dinner shows in Orlando.


Many special events and popular attractions fill up

If you’re the type of family who likes to just show up and go with the flow, Disney World may not be the best option for you. For example, some of the most popular Character Meals, which are special buffets and seated lunches and dinners that feature popular characters coming around to meet guests, will be booked the moment reservations go on sale. You can book advanced dining reservations directly through Disney up to 180 days in advance.

You’re relatively close to several beaches

Orlando may be best known for our theme park options, but we’re also close to several beaches. Within an hour and a half you can get to the east coach beaches that include Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach, or Canaveral National Seashore. West coach beaches are about two hours away and include Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Tarpon Springs.

Don’t forget the waterparks

If you’re traveling during the warmer months of the year, waterparks can be a great option to cool off and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks. You have tons of options, including Disney’s two waterparks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, SeaWorld’s waterpark, and Wet ‘n Wild. Even if you’re traveling during the cooler months, these parks are open year round and the water is heated. Just be sure you check the hours as they can be quite limited during the winter.


Taking Some Dad Time: A Quick Guide to Beer in Walt Disney World

July 15th, 2015

You may be visiting Disney World primarily for your kids, but that’s no reason you can’t indulge in a few adult beverages. In fact, many are surprised to learn that Disney World is a beer lover’s paradise. Check out our quick guide to beer in Walt Disney World.

Try some Italian craft beers

When you visit Epcot’s World Showcase you’ll be in beer lover’s heaven. One popular spot is the Italy pavilion. Just head for the three main dining spots in the area and between them you’ll find an incredible selection of Italian craft beer, as well as a few American craft beer options. Tutto Gusto features a Birrifico Italinoa ExtraHop and a Southampton Publick House Biere de Mars, while Via Napoli’s most popular selections are the Birrificio Le Baladin Nora and Birrifico L’Olmaia La Cinque.


Have a unique experience at Rose and Crown

Rose and Crown, located in the UK pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, isn’t known for an exceptional selection of beers, though you’ll find the standard fare you’d expect like Guinness and Boddington’s, but it’s worth the trip for the atmosphere alone. Carl the bartender plus the Hat Lady are a great duo who are sure to delight. Consider a beer blend like a Black and Tan or Black Velvet. Visit right before Illuminations, grab a seat outside, and enjoy a comfortable view of the fireworks.

You don’t have many options in Magic Kingdom

In fact, you only have one: Be Our Guest Restaurant. While this may seem like a drag, keep in mind that until a few years ago there was no alcohol at all in the entire Magic Kingdom. Here you’ll find a limited selection of beers, plus quite a few wines. The top beer pick by savvy drinkers is Saison Dupont.

Drink with the animals

If you’re making a trip to Animal Kingdom, check out the Dawa Bar. Located near Tusker House in the Harambe area of the park, it’s a great, relaxing, covered spot to rest without the hot sun beating down on you. You’ll have a wide selection of African beers that you’ve likely never seen or heard of before.


See the stars with a new brew

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is not known for their incredible selection of beers, but if you happen to visit during the busiest months when Dockside Diner is open, you’ll have an interesting selection including Orange Blossom Pilsner, Key West Sunrise Ale, and Orlando Brewing Pale Ale. There are numerous other spots to grab a beer in Hollywood Studios, though most of them limit the selection to classics like Bud Light and Yuengling.

How to Talk Your Clients Into Meeting at Walt Disney World

July 14th, 2015

No matter why you’re traveling to Orlando, or what type of client you’re meeting with, whether local, national, or international, you want to get your Disney fix in. The problem? Your client sees the parks as simply a playground for kids. What they don’t realize is that it’s the perfect place for a business meeting – and you’re just the one to show them that!

Highlight the incredible dining options

If your clients think Disney World is overrun by the typical amusement park food they’d find at any other park, well – they’re right to a degree. Obviously you can find plenty of quick service spots with average food, but there’s a lot more than that going on! You have everything from mid-priced sit down restaurants to one of the most award winning restaurants in the entire state of Florida.

Whether they have a taste for Italian and want to head to Tutto Gusto, or they’re in the mood for upscale sushi at California Grille, you’ve got plenty to show them. If you’re planning to host a business meeting during the meal, you may want to avoid some of the louder, more bustling restaurants in favor of quieter, more intimate meals that will afford you the ability to talk more easily and privately.


Educate them about the social media possibilities

If your client has a Facebook or other social media account they use for business purposes, then a trip to Disney World may be just what they need to boost their presence. Let them know how popular photos taken in front of the castle are, or give them some advice on showing their personality by posting pictures on the top roller coasters. There’s nothing that will take a business from drab to fab as quickly as some fun-loving photo opps in Disney World.

Encourage them to take a vacation during their business trip

orlandovacation_epcot-world-showcaseRemind your clients that business doesn’t have to be dull. Everyone could use a vacation, and what better time to do it than when you’re on a business trip! Get your meetings out of the way in the morning and then show them what it’s like to be a kid again by taking them to your favorite of the theme parks.

Show them the wide range of adult beverages

Of course no adult trip to Disney World is complete without imbibing some delicious adult beverages! Let your client know about the wonders of Epcot’s World Showcase and they’re likely to never want to leave! There you’ll find literally hundreds of drink options, including some unique beers you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the country, along with mixed drinks and cocktails unlike anything they’ve experienced before.