Finally Something for Dad to Get Excited About: Star Wars Land!

September 2nd, 2015

This week Disney finally made an announcement many of us have been waiting years for: they’re adding a Star Wars Land to Disney World! While details are still pretty slim, we’re here to share what we know.

Disney claims they’re building a “jaw-dropping world”

According to the announcement recently made at their annual D23 Expo, the plans include creating a world into which fans can literally walk amongst the characters and be immersed in a galaxy far, far away. This will be Disney’s largest ever expansion: more than 14 acres will be used.

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Both California and Florida are in for a big treat

This incredible new change isn’t limited to Disney World – it’s also happening in Disneyland! It’ll be interesting to see how the new lands in each parks differ. One of the many reasons that people prefer Disney World over Disneyland is because there’s so much more land at Disney World. As a result, there’s tons of room to do basically anything they want. In Disneyland, the park is in the middle of Anaheim, which means there isn’t as much room for expansion. We all agree: the Disney World version is likely to dwarf the Disneyland one.

You’re about to enter a truly immersive world

One of the most exciting things we’re looking forward to hearing more about is the idea that this is a truly immersive world. According to the official folks at Disney, this means that every store, restaurant, and ride will be staffed by residents of the planet / ship / country it represents. The rumor is that this means that every single cast member will be in costume and in character at all times. It will be like nothing we’ve seen before!

New rides, restaurants, and more!

No one has all the details on this new park yet, but there are a few things we know. We know that it will be their largest expansion ever, that there will be new restaurants, and that there will be two flagship attractions / rides. We expect that there will be additional rides beyond those two flagship options. We’ve heard major rumors that one attraction will involve driving the Millennium Falcon!

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Expected completion date

As of today, Disney has not released specific dates for completion. Their most recent major expansion, New Fantasyland, took years to complete and many Disney fans complained that it took much longer than Universal’s much more substantial Harry Potter expansion. Did Disney learn from these complaints? Will they step up production? We certainly hope so, but it’s important to remember that they’re already building a huge expansion in Animal Kingdom (Avatarland) and they’ve announced a huge Toy Story Land expansion, too. We’ll be sure to keep you up to date!

Visit Orlando – Toon Tuesday

September 1st, 2015

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Are You Getting Your Maximum Tax Deduction for Business Travel?

September 1st, 2015

Is there a better place to travel for business than Orlando? We think not! But as you plan your next trip, remember that keeping detailed receipts is important. Many business travelers aren’t aware of what can be deducted from their taxes and what can’t be. The best bet is to speak with your tax professional about your specific needs, but here you can learn the basics so you’ll know what to track and what to toss.

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Every expense you claim must be related to your trade or business

It sounds great: go out of town, meet up with a client, pick up the check, and get a tax deduction. While this may work for you, it’s not quite that simple. You must make sure that the business outing is related to your business or trade. Every single payment you deduct, including travel, meals, and entertainment, must be necessary and ordinary in your business or trade. For example, entertainment expenses have to be directly related to or associated with your trade or business.

Does your travel expense meet the two essential conditions?

Your travel expenses can include almost anything that’s relevant to travel that’s both necessary and ordinary for your business. However, these two conditions must be met in order for you to take the travel expense deduction:

  1. Your duties must require that you’re away from home (this means your place of business and has nothing to do with where you live in your family home) for substantially longer than a typical work day.
  2. You must require sleep and/or rest to meet the demands of your duties while you’re away.

You can deduct many travel-related expenses

Assuming your trip meets the above described requirements, you could deduct a wide range of expenses including:

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  • Transportation from your home to the business destination. This could include plane tickets, train tickets, bus ticket, car rental, taxi, commuter bus, and limo fares.
  • The cost of shipping items like samples or displays.
  • Maintenance for your own car if you use it for business travel. You’ll have the option of choosing a deduction for actual expenses or a standard mileage rate.
  • Tolls and parking fees.
  • Meals and hotel accommodations. Note that you’re only able to deduct half of your business meals.
  • Dry cleaning and laundry care.
  • Telephone calls and usage of fax machines.

A note about entertainment deductions

The IRS allows entertainment deductions on any activity that’s generally considered to provide either amusement or recreation. If you’re hosting a client at a social, athletic, or sporting club, then this would likely qualify. Other examples include theaters, hunting, fishing, and yacht trips. If you’re hosting a client at Disney World your theme park tickets may also be deductible. Speak to your tax preparer about the exact details of your situation to be sure.

New Ideas to Save Money on Your Disney World Vacation

August 31st, 2015

You’ve been scouring the blogs for months, trying to figure out how to save the most possible money on your next trip to Disney World, and you’re hungry for more. If that’s you, then you’re in the right place! The Disney Tourist Blog recently posted their top 10 Ways to Save Money on Your 2015 Disney World Vacation and we thought many of them were interesting. Check out our favorite ideas below.

Skip the soft drinks

The cost of a large soft drink is more than $3 each! For those who like a soft drink with every meal, this could be more than $10 per person, per day. If you really need your daily caffeine, consider loading up on coffee at your resort hotel, stock soft drinks in your Orlando vacation home rental, or stick to coffee and soft drinks in sit-down restaurants only – and make sure to get your money’s worth in free refills!

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Don’t add the park hopper option before your trip

The park hopper option allows you to visit more than one of the four Disney theme parks in the same day. It’s around $65 per ticket and adds the park hopping feature to every day of your ticket. There is no option for a lower cost by only adding it to a single day.

While some swear by this option and get quite a bit out of it, the reality is that one park per day is enough for most families. Which is right for you? The good news is that you don’t have to decide today. You can buy your discount tickets ahead of time and if you get to the parks and decide it’s an option worth having, you can simply visit any Guest Relations booth and add it for the same price you’d pay to add it in advance. This assures that you’re only paying this extra fee if you truly need it.

orlandovacation_disney-world-friesDon’t be fooled by “value” meals

When you visit any of the quick service restaurants in any of the parks you’ll see that all entrees are offered as part of a combo or “value” meal. It may seem like a great deal at first, but if all you want is an entrée, then just order an entrée! Many guests don’t realize this is even an option and order a combo for every member of their family, only to have plenty of leftover fries and other sides. A better option is for one person to get the combo, for the rest of your party to get the entrée only, and to split the sides and fries that come with the single combo you’ve ordered.

Orlando Magical Dining Month – Foodie Friday

August 28th, 2015

It could never be a better time to dine out in Orlando than now! From August 24 – September 30 over 70 restaurants are participating in Orlando Magical Dining Month.

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Magic Dining Month gives diners in the Central Florida area the chance to enjoy some of the area premier establishments without breaking a budget. Each of the restaurants participating will offer three-course dinners for $33 per person.

With so many choices available diners might want to browse the participating restaurants and their menus before heading out for the evening. It is also highly recommended to make reservations in advance to ensure you will get a table for the evening you want to dine.

Not only will diners enjoy a great meal, but they can also feel good that one dollar from each meal will be donated to ELEVATE Orlando.

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Discover the Number One Reason People Love Staying in Vacation Homes

August 28th, 2015

If you’ve ever rented a vacation home then you likely have a long list of reasons it was one of your best vacations ever. If you’ve never stayed in one then you’re in for a treat! Read on to discover many reasons people love staying in this homes – including the number one top reason families choose vacation homes over resorts.

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There’s tons of flexibility

Even if you don’t think you’re a picky traveler, there are likely some amenities or extras you’d like to have in a perfect world. Parents of special needs kids definitely know that flexibility in accommodations is an essential part of the decision-making process. And the great thing is that whether your requests are just because you want them, or because your family needs them, vacation homes come in all sizes, shapes, and with a wide range of extras that can accommodate virtually any need.

You get amenities you never even dreamed of

People who’ve always booked their reservations with a resort hotel are sometimes hesitant to try out a vacation home because they believe that they’ll miss out on all the awesome amenities they’re used. The reality is that the opposite is likely true! Many vacation homes not only have pools and Jacuzzis, but they’re private! Sure you won’t have a bar to relax at after a long day, but you’ll have your own private kitchen you can stock with your favorite drinks for much less than you’d pay at a hotel bar.

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Everyone has their spot

Once a family rents a vacation home they often never go back, and the second most popular reason for that is the fact that everyone gets plenty of space and privacy. Why cram everyone into a single hotel room? When you do, everyone has to either go to sleep at the same time, or those who are still up have to tiptoe around to avoid bothering their snoozing companions. But when you stay in a vacation home you can rent up to eight bedrooms. Everyone has their own spot and tons of privacy!

The top reason people love vacation homes – the price!

This one is often a shocker for people without experience renting vacation homes. In fact, it’s both the number one reason people who’ve never tried it say they won’t, and the number one reason people who’ve stayed in them say they’ll keep doing so. While some people seem to think these homes are prohibitively expensive, the truth is that they start at just $99 a night! Why spend thousands when you can get more amenities, more space, more flexibility, and more fun for less!

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Manta Flying Roller Coaster

August 27th, 2015

The Manta is the only flying roller coaster of its kind in the world and for guests at SeaWorld Orlando has become one of the top attractions at the park.

This massive steel roller coaster is designed to look like a giant Manta swimming through the ocean. With 4 total inversions this is one ride you may not want to hit up right after lunch. With one pretzel loop, two inline twists and one corkscrew as well as one dip to skim the top of the water below this coaster is a must ride for avid coaster fans.

Topping out at 140 feet tall with a 113 drop on the other side this coaster has everything from height, to speed, to inversions making for one exciting ride.

Take a look at this POV video to get the experience of riding the Manta at SeaWorld Orlando.

5 Steps to Finding the Right Vacation Destination for a Special Needs Child

August 27th, 2015

As a family with a special needs child, you have extra planning to do in virtually any situation. This is doubly true when it comes to traveling. There are millions of destinations you may want to visit, but not all of them will work for your family’s needs. Here are five steps you can take to find the right destination for your family.

orlandovacation_special-needs-travel1.         Determine the way your family wants to vacation

The key is to find a vacation that’s fun for everyone. Think about what your family loves doing, whether it’s visiting the beach, taking a cruise, skiing, riding rides, or simply exploring a new locale. Don’t get stuck in the trap of limiting yourself to what you’ve done before. You won’t know if it’s a good fit until you give it a shot!

2.         Make a list of options your family is interested in

Now sit down with your family and write down every place you’re interested in. Ask family and friends on Facebook for suggestions, read about successful trips for other families with special needs, and think about your own childhood vacation dreams. During this step the sky is the limit! You’re just brainstorming to come up with as many options as possible.

3.         Do your research and decide which option is best for your family

After looking at your long list you can likely narrow it down to a few based on location, cost, and other obvious factors. Then think about each one in terms of how easy they are to get to, if they’re wheelchair-friendly, if there are local medical facilities, and what their special needs programs are.

orlandovacation_special-needs-child4.         Make a list of every accommodation you need

Once you’ve narrowed the list further, make a list of all the things you need to ensure your family is comfortable. This might include a full kitchen to prepare the meals you need, a pool with a lift, a multi-bedroom vacation home so you special needs child can get away from the hustle and bustle, and other essential accommodations you’ll need.

5.         Involve the entire family

By now you should have a destination in mind. Have each family member do their own research and find one thing they really want to do or see. The location you choose should have something for everyone, and when each family member identifies the one thing they’re looking forward to, everyone will be looking forward to your trip! Then start researching accommodations, travel arrangements, and more.

This five step plan will help you find a great fit for your family, select the perfect location, and make sure everyone in the family is on board.

Get Your Teens Involved: Road Trip Games for the Whole Family

August 26th, 2015

There’s a lot to be excited about when you’re planning your trip to Disney World, but it’s not uncommon for parents to dread the drive there and back – especially when they’re traveling with teens who may not be as excited as they used to be about trips to the World. We’ve come up with some cool car games that can keep the family close during the long drive to your happy place.

Who’s Next Door?

In this game, the more outrageous the imagination the better. You simply look at the people in the car next to you, behind you, or in front of you, and make up hilarious stories about them. They could include what they do for a living, what their hobbies are, what their house is like, etc. Everyone can work together to come up with the most ridiculous story for your highway neighbors.

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20 Questions to the Professor

This is a popular game that parents likely played in their childhood. One person thinks of a thing, famous person, or location, and the others ask yes or no questions to try and find the answer. The catch? They only have 20 questions to get to the answer.

Dictionary

One person either thinks of a word that exists or makes up one that doesn’t. They say the word and the rest of the players can then ask for a definition. This can be really funny as the supposed definitions of fake words can be hilarious! The players then decide if the word is real or made up and the person who picked the word lets them in on the secret.

Emotional Alphabet

You start with the letter A and someone calls out an emotion. The person whose turn it is must say the letter A in that emotion. Then another emotion is called out and the person whose turn comes next must say A in the first emotion and B in the next emotion. This continues until someone forgets which emotion or is associated with a litter, or until they’re simply laughing too hard to get an emotion out.

Games Are for More Than Driving

These games are great ideas to keep you occupied on your long drive to and from Disney World, but remember that you should also have a few games to play in your vacation home or resort. While you’ll likely want to spend most of your time exploring the parks and Orlando at large, you’ll also likely have some downtime. Bring your favorite pad of Mad Libs, grab a baseball to throw around, or pack a few board games from home.

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Orlando Restaurants Perfect for Large Groups

August 25th, 2015

One of the reasons that large groups often visit Orlando is because it’s known as a place that caters to large groups. It’s certainly true that there’s no shortage of activities for groups to choose from, but it’s also true that too often tour group directors fail to find the perfect dining options for large groups. Never fear, we’re here to offer specialized options for your group!

The Rusty Spoon

Address: 55 W Church Street, Orlando, FL 32801
Phone: (407) 401-8811
Website: http://www.therustyspoon.com/

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This inventive spot is famous for using local, in-season ingredients. They happily accommodate large groups, are open for both lunch and dinner, and the average price per person is $11–30. The extensive menu offers something for everyone from the pickiest eater to the most adventurous.

Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant

Address: 125 W Church Street, Orlando, FL 32801
Phone: (321) 281-8140
Website: http://ceviche.com/

If your group has a hankering for seafood, Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant is the top choice of locals. They’re open for dinner every day, and stay open until midnight. You’ll pay moderate prices for delicious foods, which are designed to be shared – which make them perfect for larger groups. If you happen to be in town on a Tuesday, consider stopping off here for their $4 Tapas Tuesday specials.

K Restaurant

Address: 1710 Edgewater Drive, Orlando, FL 32804
Phone: (407) 872-2332
Website: http://krestaurant.net/

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If your party is looking for delicious, traditional American food and accompanying wines, then this is the perfect spot for you. Locals rave about their unique varieties of deviled eggs, plus their French toast bread pudding. No matter what you order, you’d be hard pressed to go wrong! This is on the higher price range of $31-60 per person, but the high quality ingredients and laid back yet upscale vibe makes it well worth the extra cost.

Artisan’s Table

Address: 22 E Pine Street, Orlando, FL 32801
Phone: (407) 730-7499
Website: http://www.artisanstableorlando.com/

One of the great things about this eclectic restaurant is that the menu is always changing. Your group could head there on your next trip, then visit again six months later and have an almost entirely new menu to choose from. Their focus is on delicious breakfasts and every day they have a different quiche of the day. You’ll pay just $11-30 per person for a complete meal.

Maggiano’s Little Italy

Address: 5259 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819
Phone: (407) 355-0355
Website: http://locations.maggianos.com/us/florida/orlando/

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Are you looking for a perfect lunch spot? This is it! Everyone gets a full 3-course lunch for just $26 per person. Of course there are plenty of delicious dinner options too. There are numerous bottomless dishes available, and you can even treat yourself to some incredible wine pairings. If your group has a taste for Italian you’d be wise to check this place out.