Which Tickets Should I Buy When Visiting Orlando?

January 31st, 2015

There are tons of attractions to visit in Orlando. Whether you spend your entire vacation at Disney World, or spread your time around Universal, Gatorland, Legoland, and other parks, there are lots of fun yet tough decisions to be made. One of the first things you’ll have to make sense of will be which tickets to buy. You should be aware that you can buy discounted tickets in advance, so it’s rarely a good idea to wait until you’re at the parks to buy your tickets. Let’s take a look at which tickets are likely to work best for your group.

The pros and cons of visiting several amusement parks

There are two main theme parks in Orlando: Disney and Universal. At Disney you’ll find the iconic Cinderella Castle and at Universal you’ll find the very popular Harry Potter attractions and theming. Many people want to visit both Disney and Universal, and there are both pros and cons to both options.

universal-disney

The main advantage is maximizing your time in Orlando and seeing and experiencing as much as possible. The main disadvantage comes down to money. At each park your cost per day will go down significantly the more days you’re staying. For example, it’s about $50 more for a 2-day ticket to Disney compared to a 1-day ticket. On the other hand, the difference between a 3-day and a 4-day ticket is just $10.

You should also note that both amusement parks have so much to do that you could easily spend 4 or 5 days there and still not see it all. Choosing either Disney or Universal, instead of trying to do them both, gives you the opportunity to slow down and take it all in, rather than rushing from attraction to attraction so you can make it to the next park.

To park hop or not to park hop

Disney World offers a ticket that’s known as a “park hopper.” Essentially this means that you can visit more than one of their four theme parks within the same day. Without it, if you bought a 4-day ticket you could visit all four parks, but you could only visit one per day. Universal has a similar ticket that allows access to both of their parks in the same day.

orlandovacation_disney-park-hopper

Once again, there are both pros and cons to both options. The main disadvantage is that these options are expensive. For Disney you’ll spend a little over $60 per ticket for the park hopper option, but it covers every day of your ticket. For this reason, the longer you’re visiting the more affordable it is on a per-day basis.

Of course the advantage is that it offers tons of flexibility. For newcomers, we recommend that you leave the park hopper option off of your Disney tickets for one simple reason: you can add it at the parks for the same price you’d pay to have it in advance. Get to the parks, see how you want to tour, and add it if you find it will benefit you.

To Friday… and beyond!

January 30th, 2015

orlandovacation_friday-beyond

4 Special Experiences for Dad and Son

January 30th, 2015

When many people think of Disney World they immediately think of the princesses. While there’s plenty to do for little girls, there’s lots of unique experiences for little princes, too. Let’s take a look at 4 special experiences you can have with your son.

Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage

orlandovacation_pirates-league-disneyAll ye who dare enter here, at the Pirates and Pals Firework Voyage! Grab your son and take off for tales, thrills, and pirate-themed tunes. It starts at the Contemporary Resort, where you and your party get seafaring snacks and both hot and cold beverages – including the popular Pirate Punch. Then you set sail on an unforgiveable voyage where you’ll sail under incredible fireworks. The crew of your ship will also test your knowledge of Disney trivia, will sing rousing sea chanteys, and will give fun and lighthearted nautical lessons.

Join the Pirates League

The Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage isn’t the only option for young pirates in training. The Pirates League is a great opportunity for little ones to get totally decked out like a pirate! This experience comes at several levels, ranging from $29.95 – $44.95 and includes things like:

  • Choice of facial effect (cursed pirate, Captain Jack, Captain Hook, etc.)
  • Reversible bandana
  • A sword and sheath
  • Temporary tattoo
  • An official pirate name
  • Option to participate in an Adventureland Pirate Parade
  • Earring and eye patch

Dig with the Dinosaurs

If your son is like many boys who love everything dino’, then the Animal Kingdom is the place for you! Take a trip over to the Boneyard where he can dig for fossils, ride the carnival themed rides, and even take on some of your favorite carnival games. These carnival games are one of the few attractions within the parks that aren’t included in the price of admission, but you do have the chance to feel like you’re spending an evening on the midway – and of course fun prizes await you!

Sports fans have it made at the ESPN Wide World of Sports

Just outside the parks you’ll find ESPN Wide World of Sports, which has areas for baseball, soccer, football, tennis, soccer, and track and field. Special events are held throughout the year for the aforementioned sports, plus others like lacrosse volleyball, dance, and more. On days without a special event, it’s still worth the entry fee ($16 for adults and $11 for children) to look around, shop, and have a delicious meal.

orlandovacation_espn-sports-disney-world

Where to Stay in Orlando When Traveling for Business

January 29th, 2015

In most cities you’d travel to for business purposes, you’d likely get a hotel room as close to your convention center or other business-related location as you could. However, with so much to do in Orlando, this isn’t always the best choice. Let’s take a look at a few different options you have as you consider the best spot to stay when visiting Orlando for business purposes.

Rent your own vacation home

This is often the last thing business travelers consider – especially if they’re traveling alone. However, the reality is that these homes have many advantages. First of all, because these vacation homes start at just $99 it can be more affordable than staying at a convention center hotel. Second, you’ll have a dedicated extra bedroom to use as your office. If you need to entertain clients you’ll have an excellent home base in which to do so.

orlandovacation_business-travel-rental-home

Stay at a fabulous resort hotel

Who says that just because you’re going on a business trip you can’t enjoy a little vacation yourself? It’s true that Orlando is more than an hour from any beach, but you’ll find plenty of Orlando resorts with a beach-like atmosphere. Come into Orlando for business, go to your conferences or business dinners in the day and early evening, and then come back to relax at these incredible resorts.

orlandovacation_orlando-resort-hotel-business-travel

Save money near the convention center

If you’ll be spending most of your time at the convention center then you may find this the most convenient spot to stay. Note that you’ll likely see chain hotels, which is a disadvantage because you’ll miss out on much of the unique charm of Orlando. However, the plus side is that you can likely use your points – or rack up plenty of new ones. If you’re coming to a popular convention you’ll want to make your reservations as far in advance as possible because these hotels do fill up.

Consider a split stay

Remember that you don’t have to commit to a single option for your entire trip. You could travel to Orlando a few days before you need to and stay in a vacation home or resort, or you could extend your trip a few days. This gives you the optimal opportunity to get the convenience of hotels close to where you need them, yet allows you excellent flexibility to also take in all that Orlando has to offer. Beyond the theme parks that everyone is familiar with, there are also exceptional restaurants, many museums, and tons of nightlife options. Make your trip to the Sunshine State count!

When to Buy Your Orlando Plane Tickets

January 28th, 2015

Orlando is one of the most visited travel destinations in the United States, and as a result there are thousands of flights in and out every day. Finding the best deals can seem like a challenge, but these tips will help you ensure you don’t overpay for your flights.

orlandovacation_budget-flying-tipsDon’t buy tickets on holidays

Airlines know that many people buy their tickets during holidays. This may be because they’re missing their families and decide to make an impulse buy, or it may simply be because they have more free time on holidays. No matter why people are likely to buy plane tickets, one thing you can trust: the airlines know there will be an influx and they temporarily raise their prices as a result.

Look early and often

If you’ve never bought a plane ticket to Orlando and don’t know what it will cost, your best bet is to start looking early. See how much a ticket will cost 6 months out, then check the prices for two weeks from now. Check the prices for a month from now. And so on, until you get an idea of when the “sweet spot” may be for you. Play around with dates to see when the most affordable tickets are offered and try to buy yours within that window.

Don’t pay too much attention to specific advice

You may wonder why the information above is vaguer than you’ll find on other sites. After all, you’ll find sites that will claim a certain number of weeks ahead is the golden time, or that buying tickets on Tuesdays is the right time. The reality is that many, many highly respected journalists have studied the best times / ways to buy airplane tickets and have come to only one conclusion: every location is different and advice that works for you may not work with someone in the next state. That’s why we offer you this general information – it gives you the tools to find out what works for you!

orlandovacation_flying-to-disney-world

Consider other airports

Did you know there are actually two airports in the Orlando area? Orlando International Airport, also known as MCO, and Orlando Sanford International Airport, also known as SFB. MCO is a larger airport but SFB often has direct flights and they can be quite affordable. It’ll only add about 20 minutes to your trip from the airport to Disney and could save you a sizeable chunk of change. You can also consider airports in your area that are perhaps a little out of the way, but considerably more affordable.

Are Vacation Homes Really as Affordable as They Seem?

January 27th, 2015

If you’ve been thinking of renting a vacation home in Orlando you’re likely wondering how they can possibly be as affordable as they seem. Starting at just $99 per night, how is it possible that these homes can fulfill all your needs yet not break the bank? Let’s take a closer look to see if they really are too good to be true.

The impact of owners working directly with rental agents

A company like Orlandovacation.com is able to keep their prices so affordable for many reasons, including the fact that they work directly with the home owners. As a result, the owner can get what they need from the transaction, and Orlandovacation.com is able to cut out the middle man to ensure the guests get an affordable price, too.

orlandovacation_orlando-vacation-home-rental

Beware of timeshares

You may find some places listed as vacation homes but when you arrive you’ll be in for a surprise – they’re actually timeshares. Why does it matter? For a few reasons, the most important of which is that these cheap prices often require you to deal with long, pressure-filled sales pitches. You do want a great value but you don’t want to give up comfort to get it. That’s the main reason you’re looking for actual townhomes, condos, or single family residences – not timeshares!

Paying upfront

Another great reason to rent an Orlando vacation home is the fact that you won’t have to pay for the entire trip upfront. In fact, all it takes is a $50 deposit to get started. You then have until 15 days before you trip to pay the remaining balance. You can make payments as you go or pay the lump sum at once – the choice is yours! These homes give you great convenience and many options.

What happens if you have to cancel?

No matter how well you plan, no matter how excited you are about your trip, it’s a simple fact that sometimes plans change. If you do have to cancel your reservation, you don’t want to be out hundreds of dollars. This is yet another way that renting an Orlando vacation home can be a great value. Depending on how far out you cancel you could be out just $15 of your $50 deposit. Of course if you must cancel closer to your trip you may lose the entire deposit. Be sure to read the fine print so you’ll know exactly what you’re responsible for.

orlandovacation_vacation-rental-game-room

Amenities, amenities, everywhere you look

Finally, keep in mind that these homes have incredible amenities. You’ll have a full kitchen and you can even choose a home with a private pool and Jacuzzi. With prices this low it may seem too good to be true, but you really can have your dream vacation for less than you imagine!

Toddlers and Disney World: The Perfect Combination

January 26th, 2015

If you’re considering bringing your toddler to Disney World, and you’ve discussed it with others, then you’ve likely heard the opinion many have that theme parks are best suited to older kids. The reality is that Disney is a magical experience for kids and adults of all ages – it just takes a little extra planning. Check out this great resource, How to do Disney World with a toddler or Big Kid, or read our favorite tips below.

Keep your expectations in check

orlandovacation_toddler-carousel-disney-worldOne of the simplest, most important things you can do to ensure you’re maximizing everyone’s fun is to keep your expectations in check. If you’ve traveled to the Disney parks before then you should be sure not to expect to cover the same amount of ground that you’ve covered on trips in the past. If you’ve never visited before, then you should know that you’re not going to see everything there is to see in this single trip. Instead, pick a few must-do attractions and consider anything else you’re able to do a bonus.

Get ahead of the game and get there early

The absolute best way you can take advantage of as much magic as possible is to get to the parks early. This doesn’t just mean getting there within a half hour of park opening, it means that if Magic Kingdom opens at 8:00 am you should try to be there by 7:15. Why? Because you’ll be at the front of the line when guests are allowed in, because often the park opens earlier than advertised, and because you can cover a ton of ground before the crowds start rolling in around 11:00 am. Plus, most toddlers are at their very best first thing in the morning after a good night’s sleep.

Keep an eye on what your kids can handle

You’ll find plenty of guides that outline exactly what kids of specific ages can handle, and Disney has rules about height requirements for many rides. However, don’t assume that if there is no height restriction on a ride, and one guide or another says it’s good for toddlers, that it’ll automatically be good for your toddler. Many rides take place in the dark and have loud noises that could be frightening for your toddler, even if it’s a safe ride for them. Take a look at ride-through videos on YouTube to get an idea of whether or not your child will be comfortable.

Orlando 101: Top 3 Things to Know Before You Visit

January 25th, 2015

Are you planning a trip to Orlando? Congratulations! You’re in for the trip of a lifetime. While this is an incredible destination with tons to do and lots of attractions to explore, there are also a few things you should know before you hop on a plane or start the long drive. Check out our favorite three tips for beginners to the Orlando area.

1.         Disney and Universal are not one and the same

One of the most common points of confusion for new visitors to Orlando is the difference between Disney and Universal. Many assume that a visit to Disney World will include the new Harry Potter land, or that a visit to Universal will include interactions with Mickey Mouse. The reality is that Universal and Disney World are totally separate parks. Both have several amusement parks within them (2 for Universal and 4 for Disney World) but a ticket to one will not cover a visit to the other.

orlandovacation_disney-worl

2.         It doesn’t have to be an expensive trip

Many visitors save up for years to afford their trip to Orlando. This is often done because they don’t do enough research. They look at the ads put out by Disney and Universal, check their websites, and assume that the only way for a family of 4 to visit the parks is to save thousands of dollars. The truth is that there are tons of ways to make the trip much more affordable.

The biggest way to save is to stay off site. This means instead of staying at one of the expensive Universal or Disney resorts, you can stay at a nearby Orlando resort hotel or a comfortable vacation home. Either option will be much more affordable than staying on property and will give you more amenities, too. Other ways to make your trip affordable include traveling during the off season and buy discount theme park tickets.

discount disney world tickets

3.         Don’t assume it’ll always be hot and muggy

Is Orlando hot and muggy during much of the year? It sure is! The good news is that it gets comfortable at night and you’ll be having so much fun in the parks that you’ll hardly notice the heat. However, keep in mind that during the winter months it can get quite chilly in the evenings. Check the weather forecast before you head down to assure you bring clothes that will keep you comfortable.

How to Book an Affordable Vacation as a Single Father

January 24th, 2015

When you want to take the kids on vacation you have tons of things to plan for – including how to find the best prices. Unfortunately there are a few things you’ll need to look out for to ensure you’re not paying more than you have to.

orlandovacation_dad-kids-at-pool

Watch out for double occupancy fees

Depending on where you’re staying or what type of trip you’re taking, you may run into double occupancy fees. Essentially these offer accommodations, food, etc. at a set rate, but the price per person requires at least two guests to take advantage of the deals. This shouldn’t be a problem for you – after all, you’re taking the kids along, right? Not always

You’ll need to check and see if the kids are included in this deal. Their price may be lower than normal, but some places require at least 2 people over a certain age. For example, a cruise may require at least two paying passengers over the age of 12. On some excursions, the age may be as young as 8. What does that mean for you? It means that even if you take four kids along with you, the company may require you to pay for an additional adult that’s not even traveling for you. The simple solution is to read the fine print and know what you’re getting into before you begin.

Make your accommodations a part of your destination

No matter where you go or what your plans are, it’s likely that your accommodations will take up a large portion of your budget. A great way to make the most of this money is to book your trip to a resort hotel or incredible vacation home. There are really affordable examples of both in Orlando and they provide a great way to enjoy all the attractions that Orlando has to offer, while also enjoying a day or two to relax in your vacation home or explore your resort.

Don’t miss out on obvious discounts

What do we mean by obvious discounts? Well, there are lots of discounts that people simply don’t know to ask for. For example, did you know that you can get discount theme park tickets simply by buying from a third party? These work the same way that tickets work if you buy them at the parks, but you’ll have the added bonus of having bought them in advance – plus you’ll save a pretty penny!

discount disney world tickets

Visit lesser known attractions

You’ll want to check out the places everyone raves about, but don’t forget that there are often great places to visit that are off the beaten path – and are much less expensive than the more popular tourist destinations.

orlandovacation_legoland

5 Unique Ideas for Saving Money on Orlando Travel

January 23rd, 2015

It’s common for travelers to Orlando to assume that any trip to Orlando involves spending a ton of money but the truth is that you can do it more affordably than you may think. Check out this article from the Family Travel Network on 10 Money-Saving Secrets for Orlando Family Vacations, or review our favorite 5 tips below.

1.         Timing is everything

Any veteran of getting great deals in Orlando will tell you that the holy grail of savings is picking the right time to visit. If at all possible, travel during the off-season for the best deals. This essentially translates to any time that most schools are in session.

2.         Keep your accommodations affordable

Keeping the cost of your accommodations down doesn’t mean staying in a flea bag motel. In fact, you’ll find tons of resorts and vacation homes for prices much lower than you’re likely imagining. The key is to not fall into the trap of assuming the best option is to stay on Disney property. You’ll pay at least twice as much for minimal benefits and convenience.

orlandovacation_3-bedroom-vacation-rental

3.         Don’t waste money on food

Do you need to eat? Sure you do! Do you want to enjoy a few delicious, unique meals in the Disney or Universal parks? Probably. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat every meal in the parks. Instead, focus on making breakfast in your hotel room or vacation home. You can also bring lunch into the parks for added savings.

4.         Save money on your park tickets

It’s true that the prices for the tickets themselves can be high, but you can always find discounted Orlando theme park tickets to keep your costs down. You can also skip added costs like park hoppers for even more savings.

discount disney world tickets

5.         Pack wisely!

One of the best ways to save money is to simply be wise about packing. It’s likely no surprise to you that some of the items most often left behind end up being the most expensive items to purchase when you’re in Orlando. Don’t forget your sunscreen, medications, sunglasses, and other must-haves. Check out an online packing list to ensure you’re not forgetting the essentials.