Keeping Your Grandkids Safe at Disney World

July 3rd, 2015

When you take the grandkids to Disney World you’re not only responsible for entertaining them, you’re responsible for their safety too. It can feel overwhelming at times, with so many things to watch out for, but the good news is that a few simple tips can keep your grandkids safe and give you the peace of mind you need.

orlandovacation_custom-disney-shirtsMake sure your grandkids are easily visible

One of the biggest concerns grandparents have is the kids running off and getting lost. With tens of thousands of people in the parks with you, this isn’t a completely unreasonable fear. One of the best ways to prevent it is to have your grandkids wear brightly colored shirts, or clothes that are otherwise easily identifiable from a distance. Perhaps you can have custom Disney shirts made in bright green so you’ll be able to spot the kids from a mile away.

Take a photo of your grandkids every morning

In the event they do get lost, how confident are you that you’ll be able to remember exactly what they were wearing? Now that we all have cell phones with cameras, it’s easy to take a snapshot of each grandkid as they’re walking out the door. If they do get lost, you’ll have a very recent photo to show cast members and will have evidence of exactly what they were wearing.

Make it clear who’s in charge

If there’s more than one adult along for the trip, it’s easy for everyone to assume someone else is watching the grandkids. You may wish to make each adult in charge of one child, or perhaps you’ll split up the time. Either way, make sure you know who’s responsible for who – and who’s in charge!

Strollers can’t be stressed enough

There are many reasons to consider renting a stroller and safety is certainly one of them. Obviously if your grandkids are toddlers this will be a no-brainer, but many parents rent a stroller for kids as old as 7 or 8. They easily get tired after a day of walking around the parks, you get extra storage, and pushing kids through the crowds at the end of the night helps you know exactly where they are – which increases their safety and your peace of mind!

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Have a plan if the kids get lost

While you want to take every step possible to avoid this possibility, you should have a plan in case it does happen. Pick a meeting spot, show the kids how to identify a cast member, and give the kids a piece of paper with your cell phones and other emergency contact information on it. Make sure everyone knows exactly what to do in the event you get split up.

Mythbusters! 5 Inaccuracies You May Believe About Renting a Vacation Home

July 2nd, 2015

If you’ve never rented a vacation home before, then you may be one of the many who believes some of the often repeated myths out there. Take a look and see if you’ve fallen prey to this inaccuracies.

1.         Vacation rentals are only affordable for the ultra-wealthy

The biggest myth we see time and time again is that you simply can’t afford to stay in a vacation home. This is simply not true. All it takes is a look at these affordable Orlando vacation homes, which start at just $99 a night, to see that most anyone can find a rental home within their budget.

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2.         The incredible vacation house you find on home will disappoint in person

It’s easy to get excited about the amazing vacation homes you’ll find online, but many worry that it won’t be as beautiful in person. Is this a real risk? Of course – just like it’s a risk that you could book a hotel room and it wouldn’t be as advertised, or the steak you order for dinner won’t look like the picture on the menu. The key is to work with a reputable rental company with plenty of positive reviews and a long track record of excellent customer service.

3.         Booking a vacation rental requires a dozen phone calls

Some folks don’t want to book a rental home because they assume the process is complicated and requires a lot of legwork. The reality is that if you’re traveling to a popular tourist destination, chances are good that there’s a company there that does nothing but rent vacation homes, condos, and townhomes. A single call – or even an online order – and you’ll be all set!

orlandovacation_private-pool-home4.         You’re in charge if anything goes wrong at your rental property

As long as you rent from a reputable company, you don’t have to worry about taking care of the property you’re staying in. Obviously if you damage the property in a significant way you’ll be held responsible for the cost of repairs, but all too often we see people who assume that if there’s an issue with the air conditioning unit they’re responsible. We’ve even seen people who think they are in charge of mowing the lawn! Your rental home is just like a hotel room in that your only job is to sit back and relax.

5.         You have to stay at least a week to rent a vacation home

While most vacation homes will have a minimum night stay, in non-peak times it’s likely only three days. If you’re looking to visit during the busiest weeks of the year, namely the Easter holiday and the winter holidays, then you may have a longer minimum requirement. However, most of the year you can stay for just a few days if you’d like.

4 Things to Check One Month Before Your Trip to Disney World

July 1st, 2015

As the parent of young kids, you need to be even more on the ball than other guests visiting Disney World. Though you’ve likely been planning since you first booked your trip, here are four things to look at a month before you travel.

1.         Buy your theme park tickets

orlandovacation_disney-world-crowdsDon’t make one of the most costly mistakes you can make – don’t wait until you get to the parks to buy your tickets! Instead, buy discount theme park tickets at least a month before you travel. Why a month? Because at 30 days out you can make your FastPass+ reservations. You simply log on to your My Disney Experience account and then choose which rides you know you’ll want to ride. You’ll then have a reservation of sorts that lets you ride the ride within an hour period that you choose – without the wait! You can schedule three FastPass+ reservations per day, but keep in mind that they must be in the same park.

2.         Check the crowds – again!

You’ve likely already checked the crowd estimates before you get to the one month point, but when you get this close you should check again. Remember that the online crowd calendars you’ll find are based on two things: last year’s crowds and recent crowds. When you get to a month out, they should be updating their estimates based on the most previous weeks.

3.         Find out which attractions are closed

No matter what time of year you’re visiting Disney World, it’s likely that there will be at least one or two attractions closed for refurbishment or repair – and the number is likely to be higher during less busy times of year. Most refurbishments are put on the schedule up to six months in advance, but some get added at the last minute and dates change all the time. If you check a month before your trip you should have a good idea of what you can expect to be closed.

4.         Order groceries

If you’re staying in an Orlando vacation home with a full kitchen then you’ll want to make sure your kitchen is stocked with groceries. The easiest way to do that is to have groceries delivered right to you. Then you’ll know exactly what the cost will be and exactly what you’ll have – plus you save the time and hassle of finding the grocery store and doing your own shopping. Even if you’re staying in a resort hotel you’ll likely want to have a few things delivered, like bottled water, quick breakfast foods, and perhaps a few adult beverages to enjoy after you put the little ones to bed.

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5 Frequently Asked Questions for Your First Trip to Orlando

June 30th, 2015

There’s so much to learn about visiting Orlando that it can be tough to know where to start. We’ve compiled five of the most basic – yet important – questions for you to ensure you’re prepared for your vacation.

Orlandovacation_orlando-vacation-home1.         Do I need to rent a car?

As a relatively large city with a huge number of tourists coming through every year, many people assume that Orlando has an easy, affordable, comprehensive public transportation system. The reality is that while you can get virtually anywhere you want to get, it can be costly for a family and the times aren’t as flexible as you may like. One option is to stay in a resort or Orlando vacation home that provides shuttle service, but if you don’t you’ll likely want to rent a car.

2.         Where do I get discounts on theme park tickets?

Too often visitors simply show up at the gates, ready to pay full price for their tickets. Or, even worse, they buy tickets from street vendors, only to find out they’re not valid! The best way to get discount tickets is to buy from a reputable seller who can give you a great price.

3.         What food and drink can I take into the parks?

The rules vary from park to park, but generally speaking you can bring food and drink into the main ones, including the Disney and Universal theme parks. Note that you’re not allowed to bring in class containers, hard coolers, or alcoholic beverages.

4.         Can we buy sunblock, ponchos, and other must-haves in the parks?

You’ll find almost anything you need for sale in various shops around all the parks, including flip flops, t-shirts, swimming suits, sunblock, fans, ponchos, etc. However, note that these are going to be much more expensive than if you buy them before you leave home. Of course you may choose to buy a few items in the parks for souvenirs but your best bet is to make sure that you have everything you need when you step out the door.

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5.         How much spending money do we need?

This will vary based on a wide number of factors, including how you plan to eat, where you’re staying, and how many people you’re traveling with. Some people get by on just $50 a person per day – including meals! – while others like to splurge. Take a look at menus around the parks, figure out how your family is likely to eat, and set a budget. If you buy your theme park tickets ahead of time, pay for your resort in advance, and have a rental car paid for, your actual expenses in the parks will likely be limited to not much more than food, parking, and souvenirs.

3 Father-Son Experiences Not to be Missed in Orlando

June 29th, 2015

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

orlandovacation_wintersummerlandgolf1.         Head out on a miniature golf extravaganza!

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

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

2.         Fantastic fishing expeditions

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

3.         Cowboy up for a horse excursion

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

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

orlandovacation_tricircledranchdisney

5 Travel Hacks You Need to Know About

June 26th, 2015

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

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

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

2.         Save your miles for last-minute trips

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

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

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

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

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

5.         Re-check your travel cards regularly

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

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

June 25th, 2015

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

1.         Saving money traveling to Orlando

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

2.         Saving money on accommodations

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

3.         Saving money on your theme park tickets

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

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4.         Saving money while in the parks

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

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

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

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

June 24th, 2015

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

1.         Bring your own blankets and pillows

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

2.         Cook your favorite meals

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

3.         Pack a streaming device

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

4.         Unpack as soon as you get there

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

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5.         Bring your favorite plants

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

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

6 Incredible Tips for Traveling with a Special Needs Child

June 23rd, 2015

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

1.         Stopovers may be your friends

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

2.         Bring a doctor’s letter

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

3.         Visit the airport before your big day

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

4.         Take advantage of TSA Cares

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

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5.         Bring plenty of small bills

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

6.         Complete all your check-ins online

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

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

June 22nd, 2015

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

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

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

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

2.         The right shoes are more than an accessory

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

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

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

4.         Accommodations are everything

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