Creating New Traditions for Your Grandkids at Disney World

May 6th, 2015

You may have taken your kids to Disney World and started your own traditions, and perhaps your grandkids will love taking part in them on their first trip to the World. But why not start a few brand new traditions with the grandkids? These don’t have to be expensive or especially lavish. Check out a few ideas below to get you started.

orlandovacation_grandparents-snackTry a new snack every time you visit

There are literally hundreds of snacks to try throughout the parks. Sure, people make a big deal about the incredible restaurants – and for good reason! But why not decide on a new snack to try with the kids every year. It could be a classic like the Dole Whip, found in the Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland, or it could be something exotic like the Shwarma plate at the Moroccan pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase.

Buy a small souvenir every year

Buying a small souvenir every year is a great way to start a collection. Choose something inexpensive and easy to carry home no matter how you’re traveling. You might be driving this year, but be mindful that things change and in the future you may need to bring something back on the plane. It could be a keychain with the year on it, it could be a small cup – anything you’d like! Just pick one thing to start your collection and your grandkids will have these precious reminders of their precious memories for years to come!

Take a different tour each trip

Did you know that there are dozens of tours offered by Walt Disney World? The Keys to the Kingdom is a popular example. It occurs in the Magic Kingdom and is several hours long. During the tour you and others will be led through secret passages with a guide who knows everything there is to know about the World. Behind the Seeds is a tour offered at Epcot’s Living With the Land attraction, where you can go behind the scenes and learn about their greenhouse.

orlandovacation_disney-grandparents-ridesSome of these tours can be quite pricey, so it’s generally not a good idea for those who are usually on a budget. However, some tours cost less than $20 per guest. Take a look at the options and decide if this would be a good option for you and your grandkids.

Get a ride photo on the same ride, year after year

Numerous rides throughout the theme parks have cameras that snap your photo at the perfect moment. It’s true that it’s expensive to purchase these photos, but if you buy one every year, with the same group on the same ride, it’ll not only be a wonderful keepsake and new tradition, but it’ll be a great way to see how your grandkids have grown year after year.

May the 4th Be With You

May 4th, 2015

may-4th

What to Do When You’re On Your Own as a Parent in Disney World

May 2nd, 2015

You won’t regret taking your kids to Disney World, but as a single parent you’ll have unique challenges that you must prepare for. We ran across this fantastic article on Flying Solo – Traveling Alone with Kids to Disney and we thought you’d love the info there. You can also read the highlights below.

orlandovacation_family-discussionBe open and honest with your kids before you leave

Sometimes when it feels like our kids aren’t being helpful it’s not because they’re not willing to, it’s simply because it hasn’t occurred to them to help in the ways we need them to. Instead of assuming or hoping they’ll help in the ways you need them to, sit down before the trip and be honest with them. Tell them that it’s harder to go on vacation with just one parent and you’re going to need their help. Tell them about the rules that are non-negotiable, and what you expect from them.

Clarify non-negotiable rules

The reality is that when you’re in Disney World you’re going to want to treat the kids. It’s just a fact! And there’s nothing wrong with this – assuming you don’t fold on the essential stuff. As you’re going over the rules with the kids, make sure they know the ones you won’t budge on. Tell them that you may allow them to stay up past their bedtime or have ice cream for breakfast this one time, but you are not willing to discuss letting them explore the parks on their own, for example.

orlandovacation_disney-world-staffDon’t be afraid to ask for help from others

The staff at your resort hotel and the Disney theme parks themselves are there to help! They deal with every possible scenario you can imagine and when you need answers quickly they’re the ones to ask. Don’t waste time trying to track down new flip flops for your kiddo that lost them – just ask! There are tons of resources available to you. Use them!

Identify your biggest challenges

The biggest challenges for your family may be different than the biggest challenges for another family. For example, perhaps you have one kiddo who goes to bed at 7 PM and the other is a night owl, or perhaps you have one kid that’s terrified of anything that goes high, while another is a dare devil but can’t handle rides that spin. There are solutions to virtually any problem that comes up, but the key is to identify what those challenges will be and have a clear plan before you leave.

Of course, the best advice we can give to single parents is to stay flexible! It’s a good idea to plan, and have backup plans too, but when you get to the parks try to relax, stay flexible, and enjoy your trip.

SeaWorld Height Restrictions – Everything You Need to Know

May 1st, 2015

There are many advantages to bringing your littlest ones to SeaWorld Orlando, but before you take off it’s important to know what you can do and what you can’t do. While SeaWorld may be best known for the special shows and exhibits, there are also more rides there than many people realize. Let’s take a look at them to see which height restrictions your kids can meet.

Rides that require heights of at least 42 inches

orlandovacation_seaworld-orlando-jazzy-jelliesThe following rides require guests to be at least 42 inches tall. However, note that if they’re between 42” and 48” they will need to ride with a Supervising Companion. Essentially, this means they must ride with a guest that’s at least 14 years old and who will be sitting on the ride with them.

  • Journey to Atlantis
  • Wild Arctic
  • Polar Express
  • Sea Carousel
  • Jazzy Jellies
  • Swishy Fishes
  • Ocean Commotion
  • Flying Fiddler

Rides that require heights of at least 54 inches

There are two relatively serious roller coasters at SeaWorld Orlando. These rival mid-level coasters at the big parks like Universal Orlando. Both of these coasters require riders to be at least 54 inches tall, regardless of whether or not they’re accompanied by a Supervising Companion:

  • Kraken
  • Manta

Rides that require heights of at least 38 inches

orlandovacation_shamu-expressShamu Express, a perfect, low-speed roller coaster for kids, requires riders to be at least 38 inches tall. However, this is also a ride that requires a Supervising Companion for riders between 38” and 41”. As long as they can ride with a person 14 years of age or older, they’ll be good to go!

Rides that require heights of at least 48 inches

The Sky Tower is a unique ride in many ways, including its height restrictions. Guests under 48 inches tall must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion. However, hand held infants are allowed as long as they have their own Supervising Companion. Essentially this is a ride that kids of all ages are able to ride, but there must be someone riding with them.

Age restrictions to be aware of

In addition to the height restrictions listed above, there are also some age restrictions parents should be aware of. Unless kids are participating in a special event like Adventure Camps, birthday parties, educational programs, sleepovers, or similar activities, SeaWorld requires that any visitors 13 ages or younger be accompanied by an adult.

It’s also important to know that while adults do need to present a photo ID to get into the parks, minors 17 years old and younger do not need to meet this requirement. If they have ID, bring it, but if they don’t, you can still get into the parks with no problem.

Why Are Orlando Vacation Homes so Affordable?

April 30th, 2015

You’d be troubled to know how many people planning a visit to Orlando don’t even consider renting a vacation home for the simple reason that they assume they’re expensive. After all, if resorts can cost hundreds of dollars per night, surely a home would be much more expensive? Many are surprised to learn that this is not always the case. In fact, some homes start at just $99 per night!

orlandovacation_disney-vacation-home-rentalWhile the low prices are exciting for some, others take this as a sign that there must be something wrong with them. They must be far away from the parks, have outdated furniture, or not be clean. Surely there’s a catch! The truth is that many of these homes are affordable and if you’re sure to work with a reputable company they’re also in excellent shape, convenient to the theme parks, and kept clean as a whistle. So why are they so affordable?

Many homes are privately owned with minimal overhead

Let us be very clear here: though many of the Orlando vacation homes are privately owned, that doesn’t mean you should rent directly from the owners. There are many issues associated with doing this, including the lack of accountability they have and the fact that private owners simply don’t have the experience or the time needed to professionally manage their own properties.

That said, many of the best deals are associated with private owners that work with professional property managers as a middle man. These managers know exactly how to offer the best possible deals to visitors just like you, while also maintaining the excellent experience you’ll need if they want to keep you coming back year after year. And trust us, we do!

orlandovacation_amenities-rental-homeThese are not one-and-done homes

Resorts get a lot of their business from families who stay for a night or two. These short trips mean a lot of extra costs for the resort, as they have to clean the rooms thoroughly and deal with check-in and check-out processes on a daily basis. However, vacation homes generally have a minimum stay of at least 3 nights – sometimes longer during busy times of the year. These longer stays mean that the owners can reduce their costs – and that reduces your costs.

You only pay for the amenities you want

Resorts are chalk full of amenities – which is great if you want them! However, if you don’t use them that’s basically money that’s gone to waste. For example, if you know you’ll be spending all your time at the theme parks and won’t be swimming, then you can choose a lower cost vacation home that doesn’t include a pool. You have total control and can choose exactly the home that works best for you and your family.

Are You Ready for Disney World? 3 Things You Can’t Forget to Pack

April 29th, 2015

If it’s your first trip to Disney World then you’re likely overwhelmed with the sheer number of things you need to keep track of. Tickets, accommodations, meals – there’s a lot to do and see in the Orlando area! It’s common for newbies to forget to pack essential items, and while you can pick up most anything you need while you’re down here, this list of 3 essential items can help you avoid the hassle.

orlandovacation_sunscreen1.         Sunblock, Frog Toggs, fans, and other hot weather gear

The majority of visitors to Disney World visit during months with hot weather – but then again most months are hot in Orlando! If you’re traveling anytime between April and November, you need to come prepared for the heat. Not only does the temperature get high, but the humidity can be overwhelming.

The good news is that there are tools you can bring with you to handle these hot days. Sunblock is a must, and though you can buy it in Orlando it’ll be expensive. Frog Toggs or other cooling towels are miracles in the hottest of weather, and if you bring a personal fan along to keep you cool you certainly won’t be the only one! And course, don’t forget your water bottle! You can bring non-alcoholic drinks into the parks and you’ll certainly need them to keep yourself hydrated.

orlandovacation_comfortable-shoes2.         A bag you can carry around the park all day

This is a simple tip but so many people forget it! Remember that if you bring a purse that you must carry that your arms are going to be sick of doing so by the end of the day. Keep in mind that any backpacks you bring had better be weighted down lightly enough that they won’t overtire your muscles before the day’s halfway through. It’s up to you and your part to decide if one person will carry a bag with everything, or if the items you need will be distributed and everyone will carry their own bag. Just be sure you’ve carefully considered the options and packed accordingly!

3.         Several pairs of shoes

You may think it’s enough to bring your most comfortable pair of walking shoes, but the truth is you should have several pairs if at all possible. Even the most comfortable, most supportive shoes are going to cause blisters – it’s simply an inevitability of walking for miles every day. The last thing you want is to wear the same pair of shoes every day because they’re going to rub on those same parts. Bring foot powder, several pairs of comfy shoes, and moisture wicking socks to keep your feet dry and as comfortable as possible.

5 Tips to Keep the Family Cool on Hot Days

April 28th, 2015

Here it comes – summer is on the way! As a dad, it’s up to you to ensure that your family stays as cool as possible. Not only can the hot, sweaty summer weather get kids and adults in bad moods, but it can lead to heat exhaustion and serious problems. Luckily there are a few tips that will keep everyone in a good mood and feeling good.

1.         Don’t forget the basics

orlandovacation_frog-toggs-chilly-pad-towelThere are two things you should never leave your hotel room or vacation home without: sunscreen and bottled water. Remember that you can burned even on cloudy days, even on rainy days – and even on days that are cooler than you were expecting. As far as water goes, you can bring any non-alcoholic beverage into the parks. Grab a water bottle for everyone and keep ‘em hydrated!

2.         Check out Frog Toggs

One of the best ways to keep cool is to bring your own personal cooling towel. There are numerous brands out there, but long-time Disney visitors swear by the Frog Togg brand. The application is simple. You soak the towel in warm water, wring off the excess water, and then wear it wrapped around your neck. It keeps you cool for hours and when it dries out you simply re-wet and let it cool you again! They’re available in a wide range of colors so everyone can get one they love.

3.         Bring a personal fan

There are also many fans you can get that will do the trick in a pinch. The problem with these fans is that they can be burdensome to carry around. However, dads with little ones that have strollers and diaper bags can certainly find a spot for a fan. In fact, you can find fans that will clip right onto the stroller itself to keep the kiddo cool.

4.         Know which rides to stop in at

In each park there’s at least one ride that offers a relatively long ride experience in the cool air conditioning. In Magic Kingdom you can stop at Carousel of Progress or the Hall of Presidents, both of which generally have very low to no lines. At Epcot you can visit Ellen’s Energy Journey, which is approximately 45 minutes of uninterrupted air conditioning. At Animal Kingdom stop at The Festival of the Lion King, It’s Tough to Be a Bug, or Finding Nemo: The Musical for a break from the heat. Finally, at Hollywood Studios, you can stop in the Great Movie Ride or the Little Mermaid for relatively long, cool attractions.

orlandovacation_festival-of-the-lion-king

5.         Don’t forget the cooling power of a meal

Plan your meals around the hottest times of day and you’ll not only get the fuel you need to keep going, but you’ll have a chance to stop for a nice, cool, refreshing break. Make sure you stick with table service restaurants or find the counter service locations with indoor seating.

4 Ways to Save up for Your Disney World Vacation

April 27th, 2015

So you want to go to Disney World. Congratulations! You’re a savvy planner and have likely discovered the great savings you can get staying at an offsite hotel resort, or even renting an affordable vacation home. But how do you save up the money to get there? Check out these 4 tips that may help you get the extra money you need to travel sooner rather than later.

orlandovacation_disney-savings-jarSave those credit card rewards

Many people who have credit card rewards are quick to cash them out for gift cards or to pay down their monthly balance. However, if you can let them ride for a year you could be sitting on a pretty penny. Most rewards cards will let you request a check to cash out your rewards. Do this about 2 months before you plan to pay for your trip as it can take 6 – 8 weeks to get the check. This free money is a great way to add an experience to your trip or pay for your accommodations.

Make family sacrifices and sock the money away

One of the best ways to save for a Disney World trip is to get the entire family involved. Sit down with everyone and discuss what you need to get there. You may decide to forgo Christmas presents and put that money aside together as a family. Perhaps you can give up your annual trip to the pumpkin patch and simply buy pumpkins at the grocery store instead. Or it might be as simple as cooking dinner on Friday nights instead of ordering out for pizza. If you get everyone involved and they know exactly what the sacrifice is doing for them, they’ll be much more likely to be on board.

Get a part-time job

orlandovacation_disney-world-memorabiliaWe know what you’re thinking – you’re already busy, where could you possibly fit in another job? You may be able to find seasonal work in your area that gives you 10 hours a week for a month or two, or perhaps there are commission based opportunities in your area selling jewelry, candles, spices, or other fun commodities. Look for unique ways to raise a little extra cash and then put it all towards your Disney trip.

Sell Disney memorabilia

Of course you don’t want to part with Disney memorabilia you’ve bought over the years. There are so many memories associated with your souvenirs. However, many of the items bought years ago could fetch a hefty price today. If it comes down to staying at home with your memorabilia or visit Disney World with your family one more time – well, it may be an easy decision to make!

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

April 25th, 2015

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

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

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

Avoid the horror of not getting what you expect

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

orlandovacation_pool-home-amenitiesAvoid the horror of unclean homes

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

Avoid the horror of being too far from the parks

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

A Simple Special Needs Guide to SeaWorld Orlando and Universal

April 24th, 2015

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

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

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

SeaWorld – There’s free water for companion animals

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

SeaWorld – Choose from numerous bathrooms

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

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

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

Universal – Ask for a Disabled Guest Parking Pass

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

Both Parks – Help for Hearing Impaired Guests

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