Flying with the Grandkids: 5 Essential Travel Tips

December 18th, 2014

When you take the little ones to Disney World there are so many things to consider that it can feel overwhelming. The good news is that by taking a few specific actions you can assure everyone is prepared. Check out this helpful article with 10 Tips for Air Travel With Little Grandkids, or read out our top 5 favorites below.

orlandovacation_flying-with-kids1.         Stick with carry-ons only if at all possible

Depending on how long your trip is, you may be forced to check your bags. However, if you’re stopping by Disney for just a few days, consider packing lightly and sticking with carry-on bags only. Remember that everyone gets their own carry-on – including the little ones. Being able to get to the airport and head directly to your rental car or cab can be a lifesaver when it means skipping the wait at baggage claim with squirmy, excited kids.

2.         Be careful with your seating

These days you get to pick your own airline seats – take advantage of it! Even though kids younger than 2 can sit on your lap without the need for purchasing a ticket for them, if you can afford it you should certainly get them their own seat. Bring an airline approved car seat, which they’ll feel comfortable in as they’ve used these at home plenty of times. Any time the fasten seatbelts light is off the kiddos are free to stand. Let them use their seat as a table to draw, color, and play.

3.         Layers are your friends

The temperatures in airplanes can change dramatically and a hot or cold kiddo is not going to be in a good mood for anyone. As a result, it’s best to dress them in layers. Added bonus: this means less packing! Dress them in long pants, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and bring a coat. They can then add or take off clothes as the temps change.

4.         Clogged ears affect children more than adults

You likely know the feeling of needing to pop your ears on a flight, but kids can experience this even more dramatically. Bottles, pacifiers, and lollipops are all great ways to help them pop their ears. If they’re old enough you can also teach them the tried and true method of holding your nose and blowing hard.

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5.         Bring tons of surprises

The best way to keep the kids happy on a long flight is to keep them occupied. Pack a bag full of grandparent’s surprises. This could include new books, coloring tools, or toys. Every time they get a little antsy, simple give them a new toy. After all, it’s vacation – if you can’t spoil them here, when can you?

A Steal of a Deal: Renting an Orlando Condo

December 16th, 2014

As you plan your next trip to Orlando, it may be time for you think outside the box. You’ll find many resort hotels and vacation homes for rent, many of which offer a great bargain. But have you ever considered renting a condo? There are actually tons of reasons you should look into it. Check out a few below.

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Prices start at $84 a night

The cost of Orlando condos can be as low as $84. The cost will vary based on the number of bedrooms, the time of year you’re visiting, the location of the condo, and how many amenities it has. When you book through Orlandovacation.com you pick your own condo so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting.

It’s just like staying in a resort – but better!

There are so many incredible amenities at most condos that you’ll truly feel you’re staying in a posh resort, but with many advantages. First, most other tenants in the condo will be residents, which means you can avoid many of the issues that can come along with tourists. Second, you’ll pay much less than you’d pay to stay in a resort with similar amenities.

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Incredible amenities will make your trip

Note that every condo will vary based on the particular one you choose and what amenities it has, but you can expect a fully furnished space with climate-controlled settings that allow you to control the comfort in your room. You can also expect a separate living area and sleeping area, which is perfect for families who need a little privacy, a fully functional kitchen with appliances, and you may have access to private swimming pools and Jacuzzi.

Condos are super convenient

The condos you’ll rent from Orlandovacation.com are just a short drive to Disney World. In fact, you can get there in 15 minutes or less! It costs just $50 to hold the reservation and your balance isn’t due until a few weeks before your trip. This allows you to plan well in advance without having to pay well in advance. It’s a win-win from all sides.

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Book with confidence

Make sure you book through a company that doesn’t rent timeshares. Why? Because these properties are not privately owned the way condos are and you can’t be assured of their cleanliness or the quality. Book with a company that offers a low price guarantee so you’ll know you’re getting the best deal, and make sure you understand the cancellation policy. A good rental company will allow you to cancel up until the weeks before the trip, which gives you ultimate flexibility.

The Best Disney World Rides for ToddlersThe Best Disney World Rides for Toddlers

December 15th, 2014

Everyone can have an amazing time at Disney World, whether they’re 5 months old or 95! However, there are some rides better suited to young kids. Many guests are surprised by just how many rides there are that are perfect for toddlers. Let’s take a look at the best options in each of the 4 Disney parks.

The Magic Kingdom

If you’re only going to visit one Disney World theme park with toddlers, the Magic Kingdom is likely the best choice. There are numerous rides at this park that are perfect for wide-eyed toddlers.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean. Your toddler can sit next to you on the bench-style seats, or can sit right on your lap as you slowly ride a boat through scene after scene of pirates on the high seas. Note that this ride is very dark, and there are dramatic scenes, though none of them are particularly scary.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. What toddler wouldn’t love to board Pooh’s honey pot and ride through a fun, bright, cheery landscape of the Hundred Acre Woods?
  • Jungle Cruise. This classic ride hasn’t changed much since it was first introduced in the ‘70s. Toddlers will love the boat ride, checking out all the animals, and the soothing sound of your guide’s description of what’s going on around you. Parents will love the corny jokes and nostalgic feel.
  • Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Let your kids soar through the air at this low-pressure, mildly fast magic carpet ride.
  • it’s a small world. Easily one of the most classic of all Disney rides, this is the epitome of perfection for a toddler. The lights are bright the entire time, the song is upbeat, and there are tons of exciting, yet not scary, things to look at the entire time.

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Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom would be a great park for toddlers even if there weren’t any rides for them, on account of all the incredible trails and animal exhibits you can walk through. The stakes are raised though with a few great rides for toddlers.

  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug. This indoor show features 3-D effects and lots of great animation, though be aware that it does get very dark in theater.
  • Kilimanjaro Safari. Take your toddler on this outdoor Jeep ride, where they can meet the animals up close and personal.
  • TriceraTop Spin. This classic ride spins on its dinosaur-themed track and almost never has a line.

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Hollywood Studios

There are many great shows in Hollywood Studios, which are perfect for toddlers familiar with some of the most famous Disney movies.

  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid. If your toddler likes lights and singing then this show is likely to entertain. Note that there is quite a bit of darkness, plus a smoke effect that may scare younger kids.
  • Toy Story Mania! While the young ones won’t be able to actively participate in this interactive ride they’ll love the tie-ins to Toy Story and the colorful backdrop.

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Epcot

Many think of Epcot as a park best suited for adults, but there are a few rides that toddlers really love.

  • The Seas With Nemo & Friends. Fans of Finding Nemo will love this attraction, which ends with a ride through a real fish tank.
  • Turtle Talk with Crush. This cool interactive attraction lets kid interact directly with a cool, animated surfer turtle who’s sure to make everyone laugh.

Orlando 101: How to Create a Budget for your First Disney Trip

December 14th, 2014

Creating a budget is one of the first things you’ll have to do as you plan your first trip to Disney World. There are many factors to consider – some of which will be obvious to you, and some of which you may not have thought of. Here are a few simple tips to make sure you’re covering all the budgeting basics.

Setting up your accommodations budget

One of the largest factors in your budget will be how much you spend on accommodations. You have three basic options: staying at a Disney resort, staying at a local Orlando hotel, or renting a vacation home. Each has its own advantages.

  • Disney resorts. You’ll be as close as possible to the parks, and can take advantage of free bus and / or monorail service into the parks, but you’ll pay much, much more for this convenience.
  • Local Orlando hotels. Many of these hotels are just as close to the parks as Disney resorts, yet they can be a 1/3 of the price.
  • Orlando vacation homes. You get tons of amenities, like private pools, full kitchens and separate living and sleeping areas, and the cost can be as low as $99.

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Your best bet is to price out a few different options, weigh the pros and cons of each, and decide which makes the most sense for your unique circumstances.

Budgeting for food

Food will be another large expense. Once again, you have a few options. If you rent a vacation home you’ll have a full kitchen in your home, which allows you to prepare some of your meals and save significantly. If you stay in a hotel you can choose to eat all your meals within the Disney parks, which will quickly get very expensive, or you can visit some local Orlando restaurants that provide more affordable options. The right choice for you depends on your overall budget. If you plan to eat all your meals within the parks themselves, you can generally budget around $50 per day, per person, for food. This number can drop dramatically if you prepare one or more meals in your own private kitchen.

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Transportation costs

No matter how you arrive in Orlando you’ll have to consider transportation costs. If you fly you’ll likely need to rent a car. If you drive your own vehicle down, you’ll need to pay for parking. One tip it to consider buying one member of your party an annual pass. This gives them free parking at all Disney parks plus a variety of discounts on food and merchandise within the parks. Upgrading one of you could save you significantly on parking costs.

Group Travel Safety Tips: Stay Safe in Orlando

December 13th, 2014

orlandovacation_tsa-approved-lockOrlando is a very safe travel destination that’s easy to get around. However, anytime you’re taking a group trip it pays to follow some basic group travel safety tips. Check out our favorites that will help keep you safe on your trip to the Sunshine State.

Keep your luggage secure

All your most important items are in your luggage, and it’s incredibly important that you assure everyone keeps their luggage safe and sound. If you choose to use a padlock, make sure it’s a TSA approved device. Otherwise, airport security may just cut it off and leave your luggage unlocked.

Give an itinerary to everyone

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a travel planner is to be the only one with the itinerary. No matter how safely you may feel you’ve stored it, something could happen. You’ve spent months researching the best Orlando resorts, how to get discount tickets, and more – yet you could lose it all by misplacing your laptop or losing hard copies. Email a copy of the master itinerary to yourself so you can access it from any computer, and make sure everyone traveling has the basic itinerary.

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Make sure you have everyone’s emergency numbers is a convenient spot

If you’re planning a school trip you’ll have permission slips and waivers signed that have important emergency contact information on it. However, remember that when an emergency occurs the last thing you’ll have time for is going back to your room, finding the sheets, and sifting through them to find the number you need. Instead, make sure you have a master list that can be accessed quickly and easily.

If you’re planning a family trip, don’t assume that someone else will have emergency contact info. Sure, many family members may be there, but some members of your group may have adult children that should be contacted, or have unique medical situations that an emergency doctor would want to be aware of. It’s worth having a conversation beforehand about how they want these situations dealt with and who they’d like to be contacted.

Don’t forget childproofing supplies

If one or more members of your group will be bringing a young child, don’t forget childproofing supplies! If you’re renting an Orlando vacation home you may want a collapsible baby gate, if you’re staying in a resort you may want outlet covers. Of course the best option is to discuss the needs with the parents, but don’t assume they’ll think of these things. If it’s their first trip with the little ones it may not have even occurred to them.

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Feeding the Kids: 10 Simple Dining Tips for Disney World

December 12th, 2014

tusker house disney world orlandoThere are tons of great experiences to be had at Disney World, but if you simply look at food as a necessary expense you’re missing out. There are tons of great character interactions and some of the best themeing in all of the World is in restaurants. Check out this comprehensive list of 101 Disney World Dining Tips and check out our favorite 10 below.

  1. Tusker House is one of the least popular character meals in all the parks, yet many believe it has the best food and an incredible atmosphere. It’s much easier to score a reservation at this spot than at many other character meals.
  2. Garden Grill in Epcot is a character meal with a special twist – it rotates. You’ll see special views of the ride Living with the Land while eating hearty, kid-friendly food and interacting with Chip, Dale, and friends.
  3. When you visit a counter service restaurant you’ll see most food offered as numbered combos. However, you can order the entrée without the side, which is typically fries or chips, and save about $2.
  4. If your kiddos are all about ice cream, no trip to the water parks Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach would be complete without the Sand Pail. It easily feeds 3 – 4 hungry ice cream enthusiasts and is a great value.
  5. Don’t be afraid to share meals! Portion sizes are typically very large, and it’s often the case that the more expensive the item is, the larger the portion is. For example, if a meal costs $15 but feeds two people, it’s a better value than a meal that’s priced at only $10 but will feed just a single person.
  6. snacking at epcotIf you’re in Disney World with a special event, be sure you note this when you make your reservation. You aren’t guaranteed to get anything in return, but you may end up with a special acknowledgement from the staff.
  7. Kids can be hesitant to give Epcot a shot as they often see it as a boring spot. One way to get them engaged is to try a “snacking around the world” challenge. Stop in each country in the World Showcase and have a snack at each.
  8. Drinks can be expensive at Disney World, but when you thirst gets the better of you keep your wallet in your pocket and ask for a free fountain water at any counter service restaurant.
  9. If you’re planning to visit a character meal for breakfast or lunch, make the best of both by getting the latest reservation you can during breakfast hours. You can get there, load up on breakfast, wait for them to bring the lunch selections out, and try your favorite lunch options, too.
  10. You can bring your own food into the parks. Just keep hard-sided coolers and alcoholic beverages at home!

These tips will help make you the #1 dad in the eyes of your kids – without breaking your budget!

Breaking Down Park-Hoppers: Are They Worth the Cost?

December 11th, 2014

If you’re like most budget-conscious Orlando visitors, you do want to make sure your vacation is as affordable as possible – but you don’t want to skimp on the extras that will make your vacation a truly magical experience. One option many people struggle with are park-hoppers. This add-on allows you to travel between numerous Disney theme parks on the same day. Let’s take a look at whether or not this option is worth the added expense.

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Park-Hopper Basics

Without the park-hopper, you have access to just one Disney theme park per day, though you can visit a different park for each day of your ticket. For example, if you have a 5-day ticket without the park-hopper option, you can visit Magic Kingdom one day, Epcot the next, Animal Kingdom the next, and Hollywood Studios the next. On your final day, you could visit any of the parks you’d like. You can also skip any park you’d like and spend 3 days at 1 park, 2 days at another, and so forth. Basically, you can visit the parks however you’d like – but only one park per day.

With the park-hopper option you can visit multiple parks in a single day. So you could spend the morning at the Magic Kingdom then head straight to Epcot. Or you could visit Animal Kingdom in the morning, take a break in the afternoon, and head to Hollywood Studios in the afternoon. You could even visit all 4 parks in the same day if you’re really adventurous!

The Cost of Park-Hoppers

Adding park-hoppers to your tickets costs roughly $60 per adult – regardless of how long your ticket is for. As a result, you can’t elect to add park-hoppers to just one or two days of your five day ticket. On the flip side, this can make it easier to decide to add the option if you’re buying a longer ticket. Spread out over 10 days, a park-hopper costs around $6 more per day. On the other hand, if you get just a 2-day ticket, you’re looking at around $30 per person, per day to add the park-hopper option.

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Are Park-Hoppers Worth It?

Of course the answer will vary based on how you plan to tour the parks, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you make your decision. First, be aware that around 65% of guests who add the park-hopper option never end up taking advantage of it. Second, know that you can buy discounted tickets without the park-hopper option, and if you get to the parks and find that you want it, you can simply visit any Guest Relations booth and have it added for the same price you’d pay if you’d originally ordered your tickets with the option.

4 Ways to Save on Your Dream Disney World Wedding

December 9th, 2014

You know getting married at Disney World isn’t going to be cheap, but there are a few ways you can keep costs as low as possible. We found a great article that shows you how to Have a Cost-Effective Fairy-Tale Wedding at Walt Disney World. We’ve compiled our favorites, so check out these four ways you can cut the cost of your dream Disney wedding.

1.         Get married on a weekday morning during the off season

The most affordable time to get married at Disney World is on a weekday morning. Why? Because the minimum expenditures from Disney are higher on the weekends and after noon on weekdays. You’ll note that the prices of weddings are the same year-round, but keep in mind that everything else will be more expensive during the busy season – including hotel prices, airfares, and meals.

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2.         Count on 50% – 70% of your invited guests to attend

You may know that destination weddings tend to draw a smaller number of guests than most at-home weddings, but Disney has a higher-than-average response rate. This is due in part to the easy, affordable travel to Orlando, plus the many attractions in the area. Of course your number will vary based on how far your guests are from Orlando and how familiar they are with Disney World, but generally you can expect between 50% – 70% of those you invite to attend your wedding.

3.         Order your marriage license online – for free!

Time is money, and you’ll save hours of time by ordering your marriage license online and getting it in the mail. It’s provided for free by the Brevard County courthouse, and it will save you a ton of cash compared to the identical service you’ll get if you use the services of Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings planning services. Of course you’ll still pay the actual cost of the license, but you can skip the processing fee.

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4.         Consider holding the event outside the parks

One crucial factor to consider is that Disney does not allow any outside vendors into the parks. What does this mean? It means you must use their photographer, caterer, and other vendors. In many cases, Disney won’t even guarantee you a specific photographer, which means you’ll get the luck of the draw and may end up with someone who doesn’t match your style. If you want total control over your wedding – and to save considerably over Disney’s fees – consider having the event at one of the resorts or nearby.

There are a million ways to make your Disney wedding the dream you’ve always imagined and it can be done much more affordably than you may think by following these simple tips.

4 Ways to Have a Luxury Orlando Vacation for Less

December 8th, 2014

Orlando is full of wonder, magic, and thrills. Whether you’re heading down with the whole family, or taking an anniversary trip with your sweetie, you may be surprised by the numerous ways you can have a luxury getaway – for much less than you might think! It all starts with staying in an Orlando vacation home.

1.         Turn up the Jacuzzi

All vacation homes rented through Orlandovacation.com come with their own private pools – and many have Jacuzzis! Imagine the luxury of returning to your home away from home after a long day at the parks and soaking the night away with a glass of wine. The pools can be heated year round, so no matter what mother nature is throwing your way, you can always relax in the lap of luxury.

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2.         Cook up a gourmet meal

There are tons of incredible culinary experiences to be had in Orlando, but if you spend every night at a 5-star restaurant you’ll find your wallet a lot lighter than you’d like it to be. The perfect compromise? Cooking up your own gourmet meal. Every vacation home has a full kitchen, complete with appliances. Head to the local organic market, buy your favorite ingredients, and sit down with your family to enjoy a gourmet – yet affordable – meal together.

3.         Relax with your favorite television shows

For many families, simply having a night to sit in front of the TV and relax is quite the luxury! Every vacation home has its own TV and internet package to assure you have access to all the latest technologies. Or bring your own Chromecast, Roku, or other streaming device and pick out your favorite movie from Hulu, Netflix, or another streaming station. Take the time to simply be together and enjoy your vacation all the more.

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4.         Stay close to the excitement – but without all the hassle

Your vacation certainly won’t feel like you’re living in luxury if you’re stuck with screaming kids next door or adults who want to stay up and party the night away. When you rent your own vacation home you call the shots! You can turn in early and luxuriate in the convenience of total quiet, or you can stay up all night enjoying yourself without worrying about keeping anyone else up. A vacation home can truly give you the luxury of having all the options available to you.

What ways are you going to turn your Orlando vacation into an incredible, luxury experience? Often times the key is simply finding a balance between buying every exclusive extra you can, and pinching every penny. With vacation homes starting at just $99 a night, you can free up a lot of money to take advantage of all the attractions you’re so excited to see.

A Special Needs Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios

December 7th, 2014

orlandovacation_braille-mapOne of the many great reasons to visit Disney World is the great care they take to make sure every guest can enjoy the parks. There are many resources available for guests at all four theme parks, including Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Check out the basics you need to know when visiting Hollywood Studios, and then check out our complete special needs guide for all Disney parks.

Assistance for guests with visual disabilities

If you or someone in your party has a visual disability, stop by the Guest Relations booth located at the entrance to the park. You can choose between a Braille guidebook or an audio tour of the park. You will be required to pay a per-item deposit, but it’ll be fully refunded when you return the item on the same day. You can also ask for braille maps, which are yours to keep and are provided free of charge.

orlandovacation_service-animalService animals in Hollywood Studios

If you’re taking a service animal to Hollywood Studios, or any of the Disney parks, be aware that people frequently stop in the middle of sidewalks to enjoy street performers, to consult their maps, or to take advantage a photo opportunity. As a result, you’ll need to walk with caution. Many attractions allow service animals, and those that don’t will have a safe waiting area. Inquire at each attraction or ask the experts at Guest Relations.

Parking and courtesy wheelchairs

There is a large parking area just outside the gates specifically for those with a valid handicapped permit. The proximity to the main gate makes it an easy walk for some, but others choose to take advantage of the courtesy wheelchairs that are available to get you into the park where you can rent a mobility scooter or wheelchair.

Where to rent wheelchairs

orlandovacation_oscars-wheelchair-rentalStop by Oscar’s Super Service right inside the main entrance to rent either a wheelchair or ECV. You can also stop by Tatooine Traders at Star Tours or The Writer’s Shop for replacement wheelchairs. If you’re in the parks and can’t find these spots, just ask a cast member for assistance.

Use a companion restroom

There are numerous companion restrooms throughout Disney Hollywood Studios, including:

  • At the First Aid station
  • Across from The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Across from Star Tours
  • Within Fantasmic!
  • In Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • By Sound Stage 3 on Mickey Avenue

If you have special needs that aren’t addressed in this article, you have a few options. Call ahead to find out how your unique needs can be accommodated, or stop by Guest Relations when you get to the parks. You’ll find that Disney does everything they possibly can to assure the comfort and convenience of every guest.