How to Get Teens Excited About Disney World

March 6th, 2015

The teen years are a tricky time for everyone. Kids may seem more interested in texting their friends than enjoying family time on vacation, and parents may feel it’s important for everyone to stick together. These tips will help you get the kids involved and make sure it’s a great time for everyone.

orlandovacation_teens-cell-phonesGet them involved in the planning

The number one way you can get your kids excited about the trip is to let them plan part of it. Maybe you can narrow down your Orlando resort choices and let them have the final say, perhaps you can let them plan the attractions you’ll visit at the parks, or maybe they’d rather choose a few dinners during your trip. No matter what you give them control over, they’re likely to be much more present if they’ve had a hand in making some of the vacation decisions.

Set limits on media

If you try to tell your teens they have to leave their phones at the room when you visit the parks, or that meals are media-free events, you’re likely to initially get a bad reaction. However, once they get over the immediate inconvenience of it, you’ll likely find your teen much more engaged and present. The key is to make it clear when they *can* use their devices and to leave them alone during those times. Let them plan on their time with friends, even if it’s virtual, and they may perk up when in the parks.

Let them come around on their own

Remember that your kids are less likely to be interested if they feel they’re being forced to. Let them have their own experience and trust the Disney magic! Do find attractions, shows, and experiences you think they’ll like, but don’t try to force them to have fun. They may be sullen or act bored the first few days, but when they see the rest of the family having fun eventually their eyes will light up and they’ll be kids at heart again!

Give them time off from the parks

Disney’s theme parks are wondrous places, but there are other areas that may be of greater interest to your teens. For example, give them an afternoon off to lounge in your resort pool, or rent a vacation home with its own private pool. Head to Downtown Disney for an afternoon of shopping, or visit one of the many water parks in the area. Once again, the best way to get your teens excited about an off-day is to let them call the shots! Find a few things that might interest them and let them pick their favorite.

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Group Travel Tips: Battling Jet Lag

March 5th, 2015

It can be challenging enough to wrangle everyone in your large travel group, but it’s even more challenging when everyone’s dealing with jet lag. Check out this great article in which seasoned travelers share their tips for jet lag, or take a peek at our favorite ideas below.

orlandovacation_nappingFight the urge to sleep when you land

It’s normal to be tired after a day and / or night of flying, and it’s normal to have the urge to take a nap to recharge. Unless it’s nighttime in Orlando, savvy travelers say this is not a good idea. Instead, immediately get on board with Orlando time. Plan activities and meals for your group right after you land so everyone will stay busy and pumped up until it’s time to sleep for the night.

Have everyone change their watches or phones right away

One traveler who’s planned trips for many large groups has everyone change their watches or phones over not when they land, but as soon as they get to the airport to take off. They encourage you and your group to immediately start thinking in terms of Orlando’s time. If you get on the flight and it’s morning where you’re at, but nighttime in Florida, try to sleep as though it’s nighttime. The sooner you get acclimated, the easier the transition will be.

orlandovacation_drink-waterDrink plenty of water

Even those who’ve only taken short flights know that it’s easy to get dehydrated when flying. When you add a long, international flight, it’s no question that this can be exacerbated. Keep in mind that hunger, fatigue, and crankiness are all made worse by dehydration. The simple solution is to encourage everyone to drink water when they can. Juices and pops have high sugar levels and can actually make dehydration worse once it’s set in, so do your best to get folks to stick to the clear, fresh stuff.

Keep everyone on the same page

You’ll have the most success if everyone in your group sleeps at the same times. If you have half your group napping and the other wide awake, when it comes time to head to dinner, enjoy Disney World attractions, or even lounge by the pool, you’ll have some members ready for anything and some sluggish. Even if you can’t get everyone to stay awake on Orlando time, many frequent travelers say it’s better to have everyone on the same page than half the group on one and the other half on another. Remember that your purpose in going to Orlando is to have a great time! Don’t get so caught up in controlling everyone’s trip that no one can relax.

Flying to Orlando with the Grandkids? Consider these 5 Tips

March 4th, 2015

You’re excited about flying with the little ones, but perhaps you’re a little nervous too. This is normal! It’s been awhile since you traveled with your own kids and things have certainly changed since then. Check out this great article from USA Today on the top 10 tips for flying with grandchildren, or take a peek at our 5 favorites below.

orlandovacation_flying-with-grandkids1.         Be willing to pay for the right schedule

One of the first decisions you’ll make will be when to fly. You can likely get more affordable rates at off peak times, such as early in the morning or late in the evening. However, the difference in price is often just $20 per ticket. Is that worth starting off your trip with the grandkids off their schedule? Talk to their parents to find out what hours of the day are best for them. Some kids thrive in the morning while others are at their best mid-afternoon. Take the schedule into consideration before you get too hung up on the cost.

2.         Choose your seats wisely

It can be tempting to pick a window seat so your little ones can take a peek at the ground below. However, if it’s just two of you traveling and you’re picking seats in a 3-seat row, your best bet is to pick an aisle seat. Chances are there will be plenty of trips to the bathroom, or just into the aisle for some leg-stretching, and you don’t want to bug your seatmate every time you need to get up. If the first row or back row is an option these will be your best choice: fewer folks for you to bother!

3.         Write everything down!

You may assume you’ll remember the most important information, like when the kids need any medications they’re on, or what their normal bedtime routine is, but remember that you’re about to take off on a whirlwind vacation! There will be stimulation, excitement, and tired grandparents. Having everything written down is an important backup to have.

orlandovacation_parents-packing4.         Leave the packing to the parents

You’re taking the kids on a magical vacation – keep your pre-trip work to a minimum! You may have a few fun extras you want included in their luggage, but let the parents do the heavy lifting. They’ll have a much better idea of what the must-haves are.

5.         Run the kids out of energy when you can

As you’re waiting to board the plane, let the kids run and play to their heart’s content. The more energy they can burn off before boarding, the more likely they’ll be to relax once they’re on the plane. After the plane takes off, follow their lead. If they’re content to simply sit and play quietly, let them. If they need attention, give it to them.

4 Non-Disney World Orlando Spots to Celebrate an Anniversary

March 3rd, 2015

You’re traveling to Disney World for your anniversary because you want to take in the unique magic you won’t find anywhere but Disney World. However, don’t forget how many other incredible things there are to experience in the Orlando area! We’ve compiled four ideas to help you kick start your brainstorming as you search for unique, non-Disney World adventures on your anniversary.

orlandovacation_medieval-times-dinner-showSee a romantic dinner show

There are tons of dinner shows in Orlando, most of which do require advanced reservations. Arabian Nights is consistently ranked as the best dinner show in all of Orlando, with its amazing cast of 60 horses and 40 actors, Medieval Times gives you the chance to step back in history, and Capone’s Dinner Show includes incredible Italian food and lots of Italian laughs. You’ll also find numerous local theater productions with every-changing schedules that give you a chance to try a new show every time you visit Orlando.

Take to the seas

Central Florida is an incredible place to take to the seas! In fact, there are innumerable places to take off on a boating adventure. Whether you’re looking for full stocked lakes to fish from, a romantic fireworks cruise, or a boat you can rent for the day and take out at your leisure, you’ll find plenty of options in Orlando! You can even choose a champagne cruise complete with dinner and dancing. No matter what your interests are or your familiarity with boating, you’ll find a great option.

orlandovacation_wonderworks-orlandoVisit a quirky theme park

No trip to Orlando would be complete without a trip to Disney World and / or Universal, but there are also some quirky, interesting, off-the-beaten-road theme parks you may not know about. These can make for the ultimate quirky anniversary outing! Take a trip to Dinosaur World, the largest dino-themed attraction in the world, visit Fun Spot Action Park for go-cart racing and tons of fun, or head out to WonderWorks, the upside down building where you can take a hands-on approach to learning more about the interesting world of science. Take your sweetie to one of these parks for an unforgettable adventure that’ll be one for the record books!

Stay in and relax!

You may think that your perfect anniversary evening in Orlando must include wining and dining, but what if you relax in your own private Orlando vacation home instead of spending hundreds out on the town? What if you prepare a fresh, delicious meal in your chef’s kitchen, take advantage of your private Jacuzzi, and relax on your private porch? This can be the perfect ending to your day and the perfect way to celebrate the life that you and your spouse have create together.

Top 5 Vacation Home Dinner Ideas

February 28th, 2015

One of the many advantages of renting your own Orlando vacation home is that you’ll have access to a full kitchen. All of the basics will be there for you, including pots, pans, silverware, dinnerware, and much more! These creative dinner ideas are quick to make, fun to eat, and will give you a great private way to unwind after a long day at the parks.

sandwiches-orlando-vacation-home1.         Fresh, delicious sandwiches

What better way to relax after a big day at the parks than by throwing together a few gourmet sandwiches? You can buy all the fixins in advance or grab them on your way back from the parks. Either way, this option allows everyone to customize for their own needs, which makes it a great choice for larger groups with varied tastes. It’s also super fast to get the sandwiches together – plus there’s virtually no clean up!

2.         A simple pasta dish

Grab some noodles, a can of gourmet sauce, and some garlic bread. A small side salad and prepared dessert and you’ve got a dinner perfect for a hungry family, or for a romantic dinner with your sweetie! Many Orlando vacation homes have dishwashers, which makes it even more convenient to cook for your loved ones and still feel like you’re on vacation.

bucket-chicken-dinner-orlando-vacation3.         Grab a bucket of chicken to go

Not every dinner has to be fancy, and you don’t even have to cook if you don’t want to! A chicken dinner may seem like a less than optimal choice for family dinner, but when you eat it at your vacation home with real silverware, real napkins, and real plates, you’ll quickly see that it feels just like home. This is a quick, easy, and relatively cheap option for the family who wants to go-go-go.

4.         Take advantage of local fares

If you’re the type who loves to cook then why not stop at a local market to get fresh, delicious, seasonal ingredients? Orlando is well-known as an excellent seafood town and you can get all sorts of fresh prawns, fish fillets, and even shellfish. Or perhaps you’d rather take advantage of the local Cuban population? There are tons of possibilities that give you a chance to show off your skills in the kitchen while taking advantage of local foods.

chicken-casserole-vacation-home-dining5.         Create a potluck with friends and family

Are you traveling with other family members or friends? Meeting up at the parks can be complicated and difficult to orchestrate. Why not invite everyone over for dinner? You can assign dishes to certain people, for example your mom could be in charge of salad and someone else could be assigned an appetizer, or you could simply let everyone bring what they’d like and munch on a mish-mash of foods.

A Special Packing List for Single Parents in Disney World

February 27th, 2015

Are there challenges to taking the kids to Disney World as a single parent? You bet! But there are also huge rewards. This packing list is designed to give you a break and assure you don’t forget the unique items you’ll need as a sole-parent traveler.

Pack the clothes you need – then take half out!

One of the biggest mistakes single parents make is to over pack. You do want to make sure that you have the right clothes for the season, which in many cases means preparing for any weather! But you don’t need a dozen pairs of pants. Remember that resort hotels and vacation homes will have laundry facilities. Trust us – it’s better to pack light and take an hour out of your day to do laundry than to lug numerous heavy suitcases to and from the airport.

single-parents-overpacking

Consider your pool options

No matter the time of year you plan to visit Orlando, bathing suits are a must! It’s true that it can be cool in the winter months, but the vast majority of pools are heated. However, your swimming packing list shouldn’t begin and end with swimsuits. If you’re driving, consider loading up your minivan with pool noodles, floats, and others. If you’re not, figure out which supercenter is closed to your resort or vacation home and plan to get some awesome pool toys. These will help create a perfect afternoon off as you lounge by the pool while the kids play.

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Bring snacks, treats, and souvenirs

orlando-vacation-souvenierBringing your own snacks, treats, and souvenirs solves two problems. First, it helps to keep your costs down. Second, it helps prevent meltdowns. Even the most well behaved kids can become overwhelmed and overstimulated by the excitement at Disney World. They may see snack after snack or cool new toy after cool new toy and think they need it all! Your options at that point are limited to either giving in or dealing with a temper tantrum. Unless of course you bring snacks, treats, and toys from home and can easily distract them with their own special things.

Ask your kids what they need

Is this obvious advice? You may think so – but you’d be wrong! Too often parents take the reins on the entire trip planning and packing process. This may seem like a great idea that lets you keep an eye on everything and ensure your kids can just sit back and relax. However, your child may assume you’ll remember their favorite stuffed animal and it may not even cross your mind. Sit down with your kids and ask them to write down the top 5 things they want to bring with them. You may have to narrow the list down but it’ll give you a great starting point to ensure you don’t forget anything they consider essential.

The Best Spots to Take a Break with the Kids in Disney World

February 26th, 2015

Even with strollers, kids sometimes need to just park and rest. While the parks can seem bustling and busy everywhere you go, each of the four Disney World theme parks actually has quiet, restful places out of the way of the crowds. Let’s take a look at the best option in each of the parks.

The best quiet spot in the Magic Kingdom

Parents often assume that the Magic Kingdom is the least relaxing park of them all, mostly because it has by far the highest attendance of any park. However, there’s actually a great, quiet spot relatively close to the entrance. The rose garden between Cinderella Castle and Tomorrowland has winding paths, a quiet, serene view of the water, and is almost always very quiet. Note that this isn’t the best place to rest during the parade or fireworks, as people will be lined up waiting all around it, but during the rest of the day it’s generally the quietest option.

cinderellas-castle-rose-garden

Take a break in Animal Kingdom

rafikis-planet-watchThere are actually two great options in Animal Kingdom. Either take a break and ride the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, where a slower pace is the norm. There you can visit a petting zoo, visit with veterinarians, and explore a variety of animal exhibits. Alternatively, take a break on one of the numerous animal trails throughout Animal Kingdom. There are benches throughout and it’s easy to find an out-of-the-way spot to take a long or short break.

Find a spot to rest in Epcot

Epcot is full of great places to rest – just head to the World Showcase! Find your favorite country, wander around, and you’re sure to find benches and out of the way spots to take a rest. For example, in China you’ll have Zen gardens to sit by, in Canada you can walk to the back and sit by the waterfall, while in the UK you’ll have a private flower garden at the end of a brick-lined street.

Rest your feet in Hollywood Studios

If you need a rest while the littles run around, then the Honey I Shrunk the Kids! play area is a great choice. There your kids can run to their hearts content, playing on soft, safe surfaces while you watch them in the enclosed area. If you all need a rest, then take a break and head to the lake in the middle of the Studios. If you’re not sure where it is, just look for Gertie, the huge green dinosaur! There are benches and even covered tables all around the lake. For hotter days, stop by the Writer’s Shop, a coffee and snack café that rarely has a crowd.

How Many Days Do You Need in Orlando?

February 25th, 2015

So it’s your first trip to Orlando. Congrats – you have a lot to look forward to! One of the most frequently asked questions by first time visitors is how many days they should plan to spend here. The answer isn’t quite as simple as you may think – it all depends on how you like to tour, what you’d like to do, and what your priorities are.

How Many Theme Parks do You Want to Visit?

The first question you’ll need to answer is how many theme parks you want to visit. The main two theme parks are Disney World and Universal Orlando. Keep in mind that within Disney World there are four parks and within Universal there are two.

universal-disney

Many first time visitors will pick one or the other. Five days is a good number of days to spend in the four Disney Parks while only two are generally need for Universal Orlando. However, these numbers can be significantly different depending on whether or not you want to spend all day every day in the parks, if you’ll be taking lots of breaks, and whether or not you’ll have older or younger folks in your party that may need more time getting from attraction to attraction.

How Important is Food to You?

If you’re not a foodie this will seem like a silly question. If you are, then you’ll want to plan for eating at some of the most delicious restaurants in the state. Some of the most popular options can easily be 2 or 3 hour meals. This is precious time taken away from riding attractions and seeing shows, so you’ll need to decide if you’ll make up the time by staying an extra day or two or by skipping some of the attractions.

What Else do You Want to Do in Orlando?

You may decide that the theme parks are what you’re here to say – and that’s fine! However, there are lots of other activities you can partake in. For example, visiting nearby GatorLand, taking a day off at one of the many water parks in the area, taking an hour drive to visit the beach, or heading to Downtown Disney for some shopping. Any of these activities can add another day to your trip.

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Your Bottom Line

There are many other factors to consider, like whether or not you plan to spend time relaxing in your resort, how busy the parks will be when you visit, and your personal preferences. The above tips are here to give you a place to start as you attempt to decide exactly how many days are best for you when you visit the wonderful world of Orlando.

Unique Daddy-Daughter Disney World Experiences

February 24th, 2015

There’s something magical for everyone at Disney World, but as the father of a princess you have some truly special opportunities available to you. Take a look at these ideas to spend some extra-special time with your little one.

Cinderella’s Royal Table

One of the most magical experiences in all of Disney World is a meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table. This unique dining experience is located right in Cinderella Caste and gives your little one a chance to meet the princesses while eating in a regal setting. At $30 – $59.99 per adult, it’s not a cheap experience but you’re paying for more than just a meal. This is something your daughter will remember for the rest of her life – and who better to share it with than her dad?

orlandovacation_father-daughter-dining

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

To make your princess feel like a real princess for a day, consider Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. There she can get a makeover from a fairy godmother, complete with dress, hairstyle, wand, and lots and lots of glitter! There are locations in Downtown Disney and within Cinderella Castle. Once again, this isn’t an inexpensive experience, but the $54.95 – $194.95 (depending on which package you choose) includes photos, lifetime memories, and a smiling daughter! This is an experience you’ll need to plan for as reservations are required and they did fill up fast!

Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage

Not every little girl has dreams of being a princess. For those who like a little rough and tumble time, consider the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage. This experience lets you take to the high seas for a rousing sea-shanty singing voyage under the nightly Disney World fireworks. The price of $34 or children and $59 for adults includes snacks, beverages, and a night you won’t soon forget.

Spend the day at Downtown Disney

You’d be surprised by how many people don’t consider doing something outside the parks. Downtown Disney is a special place full of unique dining options, fun stores, and even activities like Cirque du Soleil. You can take a balloon ride, head to DisneyQuest for an afternoon of interactive video games, or visit the Lego store to bring back some unique souvenirs. Downtown Disney can easily be an all-day adventure, or you can go for a few hours to grab some food, have a little father-daughter shopping time and take in the sites.

orlandovacation_disney_girl_dad

No matter what you choose to do with your little one, be sure to keep her involved! Dads know that the taste of their kids is ever- changing. Don’t pull your hair out trying to get a reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table only to find out she’d rather head to GatorLand.

You Really Can Do Disney on a Budget: 4 Money-Slaying Tips

February 23rd, 2015

Don’t buy into the hype that a trip to Disney World has to cost thousands of dollars. There are actually a few little tips that can have a big impact on your cost. Take a look at our top 4 tips and get started planning your affordable, magical trip.

1.         Save hundreds on accommodations

Next to plane tickets, your accommodations are likely to be your biggest expense. Too often visitors to Orlando assume that staying on Disney property is the way to go. You’ll find blog posts out there that detail the ways you can actually save money by paying more at Disney resorts. The truth is that you’re going to save hundreds, possibly thousands if you stay at an off-site resort or Orlando vacation home.

orlandovacation_home-rental

Not only is the bottom line cost less, but when you rent a vacation home you can also prepare many of your own meals – which can save you even more! The key to making sure that saving money on your accommodations is worth it is to make sure you’re staying within 15 minutes of the parks. This assures you get the proximity you need – without the crazy cost!

orlandovacation_character-meet2.         Slash your food budget

There’s no question that the restaurants in Disney World are expensive but you don’t have to spend hundreds a day just to feed your family. Consider bringing in your own sandwiches and lunches or making a meal out of affordable snacks. If you’re only visiting restaurants to meet with characters, just changing your touring plan to include meet and greets with must-meet characters.

3.         Bring your own gifts from home

Your kids are going to want souvenirs – there’s no way around it. Instead of paying two or three times retail in the parks, bring gifts from home. Give your kids one gift per night, or one at the end of the trip. They don’t even need to know you didn’t get them in the parks!

4.         Get discount park tickets

Did you know that you don’t have to pay full price for your theme park tickets? There are discount tickets available and if you choose wisely you could save a pretty penny. For example, the difference in cost between a 4 day and a 5 day ticket is just $10 per ticket. As a result, the most cost effective way to visit Disney World is to come for at least 5 days. You should also seriously rethink the park hoppers. They can add hundreds to the cost of your tickets and most people who get them don’t end up taking advantage of them. Remember that you can always add on this option once you’re at the park.

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