4 Essential Factors to Consider When Renting a Vacation Home

September 21st, 2014

Renting an Orlando vacation home is a great way to both save money and assure you have plenty of room. As you consider your options, take a look at these 4 factors to keep in mind.

1.         Location, location, location

Of course one of the first things you’ll consider is the location of the home you’ll rent. However, think this through carefully. Don’t just think about where you’ll be spending the most time – think about your entire trip. For example, if one is just a few minutes further from Disney World, but has easier access to the interstate for your trip to Cocoa Beach, it may be worth it to stay further away.

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2.         The amenities you really need

You may be tempted to choose a home that has all the possible amenities, and that might be the best bet for you. On the other hand, you may pay more for amenities you don’t even need. For example, if you’re not planning on doing a ton of cooking, you may not benefit from the home with the nicest chef’s kitchen.

3.         The number of bedrooms

A common mistake families make is to pair up guests to share rooms in an effort to save money when it’s really not necessary. For example, a family of 5 may choose a 4-bedroom home without realizing that a 5-bedroom home is just a few dollars more per night. Consider all your options and the pros and cons of each.

4.         To heat the pool or not heat the pool

Most homes have a fee if you’d like to turn on the pool heat. Note that this fee will only be charged for the days you actually use the pool heat. If you’re traveling in cooler months and are definitely planning to use the pool, then make sure you put your request in. It can take up to 48 hours for the pool to be fully heated so you will need to give some notice.

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4 Packing Tips for Trips With Young Kids

September 20th, 2014

Taking the kiddos on a trip to Disney World is probably something you’ve dreamed about for years, but there are a lot of things to consider. Take a look at these helpful packing tips to make sure you’re not leaving something essential behind.

orlandovacation_ziploc-packing1.         Pack individual outfits and label them for quick access

If you’re traveling for more than 3 days, pick out your kid’s individual outfits, place each one in a gallon Ziploc bag, and label them. This makes it simple to grab an outfit in the morning, and allows you to take outfits to the parks in the event they need to change.

2.         Bring a mini first aid kit

You’ll find basic first aid items at your resort and at the parks, but it’s always a good idea to have your own supplies on hand. You don’t need anything fancy, just your basic Band-Aids, disinfectant, aspirin, etc. You can save time by buying a kit pre-made at your local drug store.

3.         Consider your past trips

Some parents always bring way more stuff than they need, while others are always forgetting the essentials. If you’re driving you may not care if you over pack, but for those of us who fly, having extra bags can be costly. Consider what you’ve done on your past trips and try to avoid those mistakes.

orlandovacation_packing-what-you-need4.         Pack some blue electrical tape

This may sound like a strange suggestion, but you’ll be amazed at what it can be used for. As an example, consider using this tape to baby proof the electric sockets or to hang up kid’s artwork in your hotel room. This tape is affordable and easy to get off the walls.

Click here for other tips for traveling with young children.

Frequently Asked Questions About Disney World

September 19th, 2014

orlandovacation_disney-planning-helpYour first trip to Disney World can be a little overwhelming when you consider how many different things you have to take into account. Take a look at these FAQs to see if they clear up some of the confusion.

Where do I start?

If you’re just beginning the process, take some time to check out the Disney World planning information. You’ll find a wealth of information on virtually every topic you can think of.

Where do I stay?

There are hundreds of hotels, resorts, and even vacation homes for rent in the Orlando area. You don’t want to spend more than you have you to but you do want a safe, convenient place to stay. Check out these approved resort hotels and vacation homes to see which ones strike your fancy.

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What type of tickets do I buy?

After doing a little research you’ll see that there are several ticket options. Note that Disney World is made up of 4 separate theme parks: the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Base tickets will allow you access to one park per day. Park hoppers allow you to travel from one park to another on the same day.

orlandovacation_best-age-for-disneyIf you’re on the fence about park hoppers, we recommend buying discount tickets ahead of time and not adding the park hopping option. You can always add it at the parks if you decide you need it, but many first time visitors find that one park per day is plenty.

What’s the right age to take my kids to Disney for the first time?

This is truly one of the most frequently asked questions but there is no definitive answer. Some parents take their kids at just a few months old, while others like to wait until they’re 3 or older. There are numerous rides that children of any age can ride, and there are lots of places for them to interact with the Disney characters.

A Dad Speaks Out: 5 Reasons to Attend Disney’s Halloween Party

September 18th, 2014

orlandovacation_trick-or-treat-halloweenMickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, otherwise known as MNSSHP, is a great way to take your kids on an extra special trip to the Magic Kingdom. A Dad’s Guide to WDW has posted a great article with the top 5 reasons to attend MNSSHP. Check it out there or read our favorite tips here.

1.         Characters, costumes, and candy!

There are a ton of characters to meet at MNSSHP, including some you won’t see at any other time of the year. Your kids can dress up and even trick or treat with Mickey and friends. It’s a truly magical trick or treating experience.

2.         A special fireworks experience

Happy HalloWishes, a unique fireworks experience just for MNSSHP is routinely considered one of the absolute best options of all the fireworks displays throughout the year. If your kids love fireworks, this is not to be missed.

3.         Unique treats

Not only can you get your free candy when you trick or treat, but you’ll also have access to a ton of specialty Halloween themed treats at the gift shops and bakeries throughout the Magic Kingdom.

orlandovacation_halloween-treats4.         Merchandise worth writing home about

While you’re searching for treats, don’t forget to keep an eye out for special merchandise that you won’t find anywhere else or at any other time of the year. Whether it’s a t-shirt with your favorite Disney character all dressed up for the spooky season, a MagicBand cover of the Haunted Mansion, there are tons of options to choose from.

5.         The “Boo to You” Halloween Parade

Just like the special fireworks display, if your kids are a fan of parades they won’t want to miss the “Boo to You” Halloween parade. With special guests, including the headless horseman, and plenty of spooky yet safe theatrics, this is a unique experience.

Click here to read about Disney’s Halloween Party

 

5 Half-Day Trips to Take when Visiting Orlando on Busines

September 17th, 2014

Orlando has one of the largest convention centers in the world, yet when many business travelers come here they only think of Disney World and the other theme parks. If you don’t have time to spend an entire day taking it all in, consider these 5 ideas for half-day adventures.

1.         Visit a lesser known park

You likely won’t get your admission’s worth if you try to do a half day at Disney World or Orlando, but there are other parks in the area that can be easily enjoyed in a few hours. Why not try out Gatorland or cool off at Wet ‘n’ Wild?

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2.         Enjoy delicious Orlando food

There is something for everyone in area Orlando restaurants. You’ll find plenty of chains directly surrounding the convention center area, but for a taste of local flavor try venturing out to further into the city to take a taste of some delicious Cuban food, seafood, or a local food truck.

3.         Chill out at the beach

Cocoa Beach is only 45 minutes away and the famed Clearwater / St. Pete beaches are only an hour away in the opposite direction. It’s a nice drive too, and you can enjoy some of the most well-kept and comfortable beaches anywhere in the world.

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4.         Head to Downtown Disney

If you really wish you could visit the Disney parks, but you know you won’t have time, consider checking out Downtown Disney. There you’ll find tons of shops, restaurants, entertainment, and more. It’s a great way to get a little taste without spending a cent on admission.

5.         Make your hotel your destination

Stay in a Disney area hotel to take in some amenities you won’t find elsewhere, like themed rooms, pool activities, and more. These resort hotels are spectacular enough to make a vacation in and of themselves.

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How to Save Money on Food at Disney World without Bringing Your Own

September 16th, 2014

It’s easy to see that bringing your own food into the Disney World theme parks is the best way to keep your food expenses low. But what if you don’t want to carry around a backpack full of food all day? There are actually several ways you can save big on food without the inconvenience of bringing your own.

orlandovacation_cosmicraysSplit meals strategically

Quick service meals, which are any meals you purchase at a location with a walk-up window instead of a server who comes to your table, can be quite costly – if you don’t plan correctly. A cheeseburger and fries will cost around $10 for every adult, but if you order a meal that can be split, you can feed a family of 3 or even 4 for not much more. For example, at Cosmic Rays in the Magic Kingdom, you can get a half chicken and half slab of ribs, plus 2 sides, for less than $15. This can easily be split.

Eat a big breakfast and / or lunch

Dinner will almost always be the most expensive meal of the day, so try to have a large breakfast, which will be the most affordable meal of the day, or a late lunch. Lunches can literally exist of the exact same food, but at a considerable discount, than you’d get at lunch.

Skip the buffets

It’s a common mistake to think that buffets are a great value since you can eat as much as you’d like. The reality is that they can easily cost $35 per person. You’d be hard pressed to find a counter service meal that wouldn’t fill you up as well as a buffet would, but at a fraction of the price.

Please click here for more money saving tips.

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Orlando 101: Know Your Theme Parks

September 15th, 2014

For first time travelers to Orlando are often overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available to them in Orlando. The good news is that though there are numerous theme parks, it’s also true that once you have the basics down you’ll be able to plan a trip that works perfectly for your family. Let’s review the main theme parks so you’ll be ready to dig deeper.

Disney World is more fun than the circus!

Disney World is more fun than the circus!

Disney World

Disney World is made up of 4 theme parks: The Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. One of the most frequent mistakes new visitors make is to think that Universal is a part of Disney. We’ll cover Universal in the next paragraph, but for now just note that Hollywood Studios is a Disney park and is not associated with Universal.

When you buy your tickets you’ll have several options. You can buy a single-day ticket that covers just one of the 4 theme parks mentioned above, or you can buy a single-day ticket with what’s known as the “park hopper” option. This means you can go to and from as many of the 4 theme parks as you’d like.

You can also buy multi-day passes that either give you entry to a single park per day, or allow you to hop between parks. For first-time visitors, we typically suggest not adding the park hopper option when you initially buy your tickets. If you decide at the park that you’d like to hop, you can visit Guest Relations and have this option added.

Universal Orlando

Universal has more thrill rides than Disney World, and is also home to the Harry Potter rides and attractions you’ve likely heard a lot about. There are 2 theme parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Buying tickets is similar to buying tickets for Disney World: you can buy tickets that allow entry to either one park or the other, or a ticket that gives you entry to both.

Other Theme Parks

Other theme parks in the Orlando area include Legoland, SeaWorld, Wet “n” Wild, and GatorLand. These are all more affordable than the “big ones” and are a great option if you want a lower key day to relax and take in some local Florida culture.

We hope you found this article helpful. Please click here to view more articles to help you plan your Orlando vacation.

4 Tips for a Last Minute Anniversary Meal at Disney World

September 13th, 2014

Disney World is a popular place to celebrate an anniversary – and for good reason! There’s nowhere else in the world you can go to experience the type of magical experience you’ll have at the happiest place on earth. You may think that the most romantic anniversary trip requires making your dinner reservations and plans months in advance, but these 4 tips will help you plan an incredible visit – even at the last minute.

orlandovacation_restaurants-near-convention-center1.         Step outside your comfort zone

For many couples, the biggest thing to plan is their anniversary dinner. It’ll be no surprise that the most sought-after restaurants will be booked for your last minute trip. However, consider some of the options off the beaten path. There are a wide range of incredible restaurants in downtown Orlando and near the convention center. Why not take a break from the parks and try out some local flavors?

2.         Consider a relaxing night in

If you rent an incredible vacation home, with your own private pool, your romantic anniversary dinner could be as simple as stopping by the grocery store for strawberries and champagne, and sipping and snacking next to your own private pool.

3.         Have an anniversary lunch

Who says your big meal of the day has to be dinner? Why not try for a reservation at lunch time? Or even breakfast? The idea is that you’ll be sitting down with your sweeting, enjoying a delicious meal, and reflecting on your relationship. The time of day in which you do it doesn’t matter.

4.         Check out Disney World resorts

If you’ve done any research at all into Disney World, or stayed there yourself, then you know that renting a vacation home or staying at a nearby resort hotel is a much better value than staying on Disney property. However, remember that the Disney resorts do have incredible restaurants, many of which are easy to get last-minute reservations at, and none of which require you to be staying at the resort itself.

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Please click here for more articles for couples who want to visit Orlando.

Be Kind to Your Feet When Taking the Grandkids to Disney World

September 12th, 2014

orlandovacation_comfortable-disney-shoesEven folks in the peak of health can have serious trouble at Disney World. Traveling throughout the parks everyday can put miles on your worn shoes, and can lead to sore feet and backs at the end of the day. The good news is that as grandparents you’ve been around long enough to know how important it is to take care of yourself. Here are a few tips to help you keep your health and spirits up so you can be there for the grandkids.

Invest in comfortable shoes

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to assure you have comfortable, supportive shoes. Visit your local running store and let them know you need walking shoes that offer both support and stability. They can take a look at the way you walk and recommend shoes that are perfectly fitted to your needs. The right shoes can make an enormous difference during your trip.

Pick up moleskin and Body Glide

Body Glide is a special product that you can put on your feet before you head out to the parks. It works to prevent blisters and can make a huge difference. Moleskin is a product that comes on a sheet and can be cut to the size you need. When you first see that a blister is trying to form, you simply cut the moleskin to size and place it over the affected area. Note that moleskin and Body Glide should not be used once a blister has appeared, so be sure to be proactive.

orlandovacation_mobility-scooter-rentalRent a mobility scooter

You can rent scooters from Disney directly, or save money and rent one from a third party. These scooters can be used the entirety of your trip, or you can simply use them to get from one ride to another. Every ride and attraction will have an area for you to park your mobility scooter if you’re not using it at that particular moment.

These simple tips can help you keep your feet in top shape and allow you plenty of energy to make the most of your trip with your grandkids. Please click here for more articles for grandparents.

4 Tips for Planning a Disney World Trip for Your Youth Group

September 11th, 2014

orlandovacation_large-vacation-home-rentalImagine the lifelong memories you can create with your youth group when you set off for Disney World. This will truly be a magical time for everyone involved – but it can be challenging, too. Check out these 4 helpful tips to help you plan your trip.

1.         Consider your accommodations carefully

Many youth group trip organizers assume that renting a block of rooms at a resort hotel will be both the most convenient and the most affordable option. The reality is that you can rent vacation homes in Orlando starting at just $99 per night and with up to 7 bedrooms. These homes are a great option when you have many more kids than chaperones. When you choose hotel rooms you’ll have to trust the kids in their own rooms, while in a vacation home you can have one chaperone in each home to keep an eye on everyone.

2.         Consider meal alternatives

Before your trip, make sure you’re aware of everyone’s unique meal needs. For example, do you have young folks with allergies, or are some vegetarians? Make sure you have a food plan for everyone’s needs. If you rent a vacation home you’ll have a full kitchen to prepare meals. You’ll also find that all restaurants within the 4 Disney World theme parks are well-versed on allergy and other special food needs. Just talk to the Cast Members at each establishment to find out what’s safe for any particular need.

orlandovacation_teen-group3.         Have a plan for touring the parks

There are a many rides and attractions within the parks and it’s simply impossible to get to every single one. You have two main options: break up into smaller groups so everyone gets to do exactly what they want, or let the group decide which rides and attractions everyone will go on. Be prepared for some grumbling, as either option will make some guests mad.

4.         Remember your audience

It can be tempting to push everyone to go-go-go the entire trip. After all, park tickets aren’t cheap (though you can save with discounted theme park tickets) and you want to get your money’s worth. Remember that getting your money’s worth means showing these kids the time of their lifetime. They’re likely to want to spend time at the pool, shopping, and simply relaxing. Build these activities into your touring plans.

Please click here for more articles for Group Planners.