How to Save Hundreds of Dollars Booking the Right Accommodations

March 27th, 2015

Those who love Disney World know that no price is too high for the magical experience they’re in store for. However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to save money where you can. Great news for the budget savvy is that there are a few simple things you can do to save hundreds by booking the right accommodations.

Skip the Disney properties

The simplest, fastest way you can immediately save hundreds of dollars on your Disney trip is to skip the Disney properties. When you read their literature you’ll see that there are many advantages listed: you’ll be close to the parks, you can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, and you’ll get to use Disney transportation. The reality is that none of these perks are what they’re cracked up to be.


There are many resort hotels and Orlando vacation home that are literally minutes from the parks – you don’t need to be on Disney property to get that amenity. Extra Magic Hours, which means that one of the four Disney theme parks is open for an hour or two more every day – but only for those staying on Disney property – seem like a great deal at first, but consider that these Extra Magic Hours mean the park that has them will be much busier every day. So yes, you’ll get an hour or two more in the parks, but you could end up riding less. As far as Disney transportation goes, it certainly is convenient, but renting a car will cost less than the upgrade to a Disney resort, and many offsite hotels have free transportation to and from the parks.

Consider an Orlando vacation home

If you’re planning to rent more than one hotel room for your party, then you’re almost guaranteed to save big by renting an Orlando vacation home. These homes start at just $99 and have tons of amenities you’ll love. Some have private pools and Jacuzzis, washers and dryers are included in most, and there’s plenty of room and privacy for larger groups. Not to mention the fully stocked chef’s kitchens!


Choose accommodations that allow you to prepare your own food

If you stay in a vacation home you can make your own meals, which can save you tons of money on your trip. Even if you simply prepare breakfast and pack a lunch, then buy dinner in the parks each night, you’ll be shocked by how affordable your trip could be. Likewise, some of the resorts have kitchenettes that include fridges and microwaves. Bring your own milk, bottled water, and pop, and you could save a ton.

Renting an Orlando Vacation Home: Is it Worth It?

March 21st, 2015

You have tons of accommodation options in Orlando, including vacation homes. As you compare and contrast your options, take a look at this list that outlines and details some of the factors you’ll consider as you wonder if renting a vacation home is the right choice for you.

orlandovacation_vacation-pool-homeComparing the cost of the home itself

The first thing you’ll do is compare the cost of an Orlando vacation home versus an Orlando resort hotel. You’ll find that vacation home are surprisingly affordable. In fact, they start at just $99 a night. That’s as little as a ¼ of what you’d pay to stay on a Disney property.

Comparing your overall costs

Not only are these vacation homes very affordable to rent, but they can save you money in a variety of other ways. For example, when you have access to a full kitchen you can prepare many of your meals yourself. If you make breakfast every morning for a family of 4 during a 7 day trip you could save hundreds of dollars! You can also make sandwiches and snacks to bring into the parks and enjoy adult beverages in your own home, instead of paying a premium at a hotel bar.

Comparing location

One of the biggest concerns people have is being too far from the parks. They do want great amenities and they do want to save money, but they don’t want to do it if it means driving an extra hour to get to and from the parks every day. Likewise, if their home is so far away that they can’t stop back home for a midday break, then it may not be worth it for them. The good news is that the homes available through are all within 15 minutes of the parks.

Comparing amenities

You want to be pampered on vacation – and why wouldn’t you! The great thing about these homes is that you could have access to a private pool, a private Jacuzzi, washer and dryer right in your unit, a full chef’s kitchen and much more! When you rent these homes you certainly won’t be wanting for amenities.


Comparing your options

When you rent a home you choose which home you rent, which gives you total control over which options are most important to you. For example, perhaps you aren’t a water bug and don’t plan to swim. Then get a home without a pool. Perhaps a 2-car garage is a priority. You can find one! You can choose to heat the water in your pool, you can choose the number of bedrooms. In short: you’ll have tons of options and can make the right choice for your family.

4 Ways to Prep Your Special Needs Kids for a Trip to Disney World

March 20th, 2015

Taking your special needs kid to Disney World is truly an experience you don’t want to miss. Though there are likely to be challenges, these 4 tips will help you prep them for the big trip. Take a look, make a plan, and allow yourself to have the most magical time possible!

orlandovacation_reading-disney-books-trip-planning1.         Have a family meeting

Many of the issues special needs kids can have is not understanding what’s happening. For example, children on the autism spectrum typically don’t appreciate surprises. If you show up at Disney World and try to introduce them to a million new things at once, there’s no question: they’ll be overwhelmed. A better way is to have a family meeting, discuss your exact plans, and give them as much information as they need.

2.         Read Disney vacation books

There are many guidebooks to Disney with exceptional information. Not only will this give you great tips for planning your trip, but it’ll let your kid feel prepared. If your kid is a voracious reader then you can give them books to read on their own, or with younger kids you can sit down every night and read a chapter or two. While some of the information may not be particularly interesting to them, for example a list of the best bathrooms on property, you’ll likely find that the more information they have the more comfortable they are.

orlandovacation_trip-countdown-calendar3.         Keep them involved in the planning

There are many plans that need to be made for your trip, including whether you’ll stay in a resort hotel or Orlando vacation home, which parks you’ll visit on which days, where you’ll eat, and which attractions you’ll visit. If you keep your kid involved in the planning they’ll feel more connected to the trip. Of course, while these plans are important, you don’t want to overdo it. Be flexible while you’re in the parks. Even with maximum planning your kids can still easily get overwhelmed in the parks and sometimes the right answer is simply to take a break.

4.         Use visual aids

Your kid is likely to feel more comfortable if they’ve seen many of the elements of your trip beforehand. Take a look at YouTube videos that show the various attractions, shows, and special events. Let them decide which ones look like something they’d like to try and which ones seem overwhelming. You can also use visual aids to count down your trip. A simple number posted on the fridge will do, and it may just stop the seemingly never ending questions about when your trip is. They won’t need to ask – the information will be posted for all to see!

Some Exciting Firsts for Your Teens on Vacation

March 19th, 2015

orlandovacation_teens-disney-worldTeenagers often get a reputation for being moody or unpredictable, but the reality is that they can really make a vacation even more magical. Let’s take a look at these ideas for exciting firsts that will help make your teen’s trip to Orlando one of their most cherished memories for years to come.

Let them drive in a strange city for the first time

Driving anywhere is exciting enough for a teen, but they’ll never forget their first time driving in a new city. It’s best to wait a few days into your trip so they can get a feel for the roads and different traffic patterns, but Orlando is actually a great place for a first drive. The speeds are low, there is typically enough traffic around that everyone is paying attention, and there aren’t any significant intersections that could cause panic.

orlandovacation_teen-eating-epcot-world-showcaseLet them have a day to themselves

Your teen likely does all sorts of things on their own at home, but you may feel hesitant to let them wander off for an afternoon at Disney World. Don’t be! The theme parks are a great time for kids to learn to be comfortable in new situations. If you’re worried, make their break a short one. Perhaps give them an hour to shop on their own, or let them hop around to the thrill rides while you take a break. They’ll appreciate the trust and will have a wonderful time on their own.

Let them have a meal to themselves

Eating alone doesn’t have to be lonely – it can be a lot of fun! This is an especially good tip if you have teenagers and younger children. The younger kids want to head to all the character meals, yet your teens don’t. You don’t want to waste $50 on a lunch your teen won’t like and will sulk through, so why not let them find their own lunch? You can make reservations for them at their favorite table service restaurant, or let them find a counter service restaurant to stop by.

Let them try new cuisines

There are tons of ways for your teen to get a taste for something a little out of the ordinary. World Showcase is a great example where they can sample foods from around the globe. Give them a Disney gift card or some cash and let them try a treat they won’t try at home. They may not like everything they try but they’ll remember the first time they ate Moroccan food, or the first time they sampled some real French fare for the rest of their life.

Seniors in Disney World: Top 5 Tips

March 17th, 2015

There are many wonderful things about visiting Disney World with the kids, but you may be surprised to realize that it’s just as fun to travel without the kids – especially for senior citizens! Check out these great 5 tips to help you make the most of your trip and to ensure you stay happy and healthy throughout your visit.

1.         Check for discounts in unlikely places

Disney World does not offer senior citizen discounts on their tickets or packages, and neither do most airlines. However, you may have access to discounts through senior organizations you’re affiliated with, or you can pick up some great deals on discount theme park tickets that are available to everyone. In fact, these discounts are often better than the ones you’ll find at senior centers, so be sure to compare costs before deciding.

discount disney world tickets

2.         Take warnings seriously

Do you have health conditions? Disney will post restrictions on every ride. Take these seriously! When visiting Disney World you may feel you’re in a magical bubble where nothing can hurt you, but the truth is that these warnings are there for your safety. There are tons of rides and most don’t have risks, so stick to the ones you’ll be safe one.

3.         Prepare yourself for miles of walking

orlandovacation_disney-world-for-seniorsOne of the toughest parts about visiting the theme parks is that you’ll be walking miles every day. You have a few options to deal with this. First, you can stick to short days in the parks and plenty of leisure time in your resort hotel. Second, you may decide to rent a motorized scooter, which can help you get around quickly and easily.

4.         Restaurants can accommodate your dietary restrictions

No matter what your dietary restrictions are, you’re likely to find that the sit-down restaurants at Disney World, also known as Table Service restaurants, are happy to accommodate you. There are a few ways to let them know. You can either note your dietary restrictions when you make your initial reservation or you can call Disney Dining to add the information after the fact. The key is to let them know ahead of time so they’re prepared for you.

5.         You may be an excellent candidate for trip insurance

Trip insurance may cover your airline costs and other expenditures in the event you aren’t able to travel for health and other reasons. Even if you’re in relatively good health, travel insurance is typically not terribly expensive and it can give you the peace of mind that you won’t be out thousands of dollars if you end up not being able to travel. There are many companies offering this coverage. Shop around to find the best combination of affordability and coverage.

Are Vacation Homes the Right fit for You? 4 Things to Consider

March 16th, 2015

There are many accommodation options in Orlando, and many factors you’ll have to consider when searching for the right choice for you and your family. Let’s take a look at the top four most important factors (cost, location, amenities, and convenience) and find out if this option is best for you.

Comparing the Cost of Vacation Homes vs. Resort Hotels

One of the most common misconceptions about renting an Orlando vacation home is that it will be much more expensive than staying in a resort hotel. While it will of course vary based on which vacation home you’re looking at and which resort you’re considering, keep in mind that these homes rent for as little as $99 per night. This can be an especially great deal when you’re traveling with a larger group that would require several hotel rooms.


The Importance of Location in Orlando Accommodations

Many families elect to stay on Disney property because they want to be close to the parks. What they may not realize is that the vacation homes rented from companies like are no more than 15 minutes from the parks. While you do want to make sure you’re not driving an hour each way every day, a 15 minute drive is likely worth the lower cost and added amenities.

orlandovacation_vacation-pool-home-amenitiesFinding the Amenities You Need

It’s hard to imagine a resort hotel with more amenities than you’ll find if you rent your own vacation home. Many have private pools, private Jacuzzis, full chef’s kitchens, and much more! You can choose the home you rent, so you’ll have total control over which amenities it has. About the only thing you won’t find at a rental home that you would find in a resort are the vending machines! Luckily you can simply stop by the local grocery store and stock your own private fridge with your favorite treats and snacks.

It’s all About Convenience

Let’s face it: when you’re on vacation you want the most convenient experience possible. While you might go to great lengths to save a ton of money in your everyday, it may not be worth it to inconvenience yourself when you’re on vacation. The good news is that these vacation homes are close to the parks, they have everything you need, and they provide a way for larger groups to get some privacy.

Imagine taking the kids to a hotel room where you have to be quiet the moment they go to bed. Then imagine renting a vacation home where you can tuck them into their own bedrooms and relax on the couch with your favorite TV show, take a dip in your private pool, or sit down with a few adult beverages. Vacation homes give you all these conveniences and more!

Feeding the Kids: Your Trip to Disney World with Little Ones

March 15th, 2015

There are so many things to plan for as you get ready to take your kids to Disney World, and one of them is where and what you’ll eat. There are many options but the key is to be prepared before you go. Here are some ideas that can help you make sure you maximize the fun without spending half your budget on food.

orlandovacation_a-la-carteYou can bring your own food

The good news is that you’re not totally reliant on Disney World to provide you with meal options. One choice is to rent a vacation home equipped with a full kitchen. You can then prepare full meals for your family for a fraction of the cost that you’d pay to eat in the parks. Another option is to simply bring your own bagged lunches into the parks. Disney World allows food and non-alcoholic beverages, and soft-walled coolers are okay, too.

Stick to a la carte

You’ll find many of the counter service restaurants offer meals that seem like a great bargain. However, if you’re not going to eat the entrée, side, and dessert, it won’t be a good deal after all. If you know your kid is only going to eat the nuggets, then just get the nuggets. You can order virtually anything a la carte, even if it’s only listed as part of a meal, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

Table service restaurants book well in advance

If you are going to eat a few meals in the park, and you want a sit down meal to take a break, then be sure you book your reservation as far in advance as possible. Reservations open up at 6 AM eastern time 180 days in advance. Some of the most popular options, like Cinderella’s Royal Table, can book up within minutes.

Character meals can save you time – and time is money!

There are numerous meals throughout the parks that give you and your little ones a chance to meet characters. While they can be more than $50 per adult, they can also save you a ton of time – especially if you’re traveling during peak times. Instead of waiting in several 30 minute – one hour lines just to meet a few characters, meals allow you to sit down, relax, grab a meal, and meet the characters at your own pace.

The most highly coveted character meals are those that take place before the park opens. You’ll have the chance to eat a tasty breakfast, meet your favorite characters, and then get into the parks before they open! Of course you can’t hop on rides, but you’ll be first in line when they do open.


4 Tips for Your First Trip to Disney World

March 14th, 2015

You’ll always remember your first trip to Disney World! It’s truly a magical, unique experience like nothing you can imagine. While the planning may seem overwhelming at times, the good news is that there a few simple things you can do to make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible. Check out this article that outlines tips for a Beginner’s guide to Disney World or check out our favorite four tips below.

Make plans but be flexible

There are some plans you’ll need to make ahead of time, like accommodations and which discount theme park tickets to buy. However, you should remain flexible on most of the other details. You can make dining reservations 180 days before your trip, but these can be canceled for no fee as long as you do so 24 hours in advance. Set up a number of reservations, make a general plan on what you want to do, but reassess as the time gets closer and you understand the weather, what your party likes most, and other currently unknowable factors.

Understand how park hoppers work


A base ticket allows you admission to one of the four theme parks per day. For example, if you have a 3-day base ticket you could visit Magic Kingdom one day, Epcot another, and Hollywood Studios on the third day. Alternatively, you could visit Magic Kingdom for two days and another park on the third. It doesn’t matter which park you visit, but you can’t use two day’s worth on a single day. For example, you can’t visit Magic Kingdom in the morning and decide to use another day’s worth to visit Epcot later in the afternoon.

The park hopper option allows you to visit as many parks in a single day as you’d like. Initially it seems like a great idea, but at more than $60 per ticket, it can get quite costly! The good news is that it covers every day of your ticket, so if you have a 4-day ticket you’d have park hopper on all four days. However, remember that you can always buy your discount tickets ahead of time and then add this option in the park if you find you need it.

Travel during off-season if you can

The best way to save the most money, have the lowest crowds, and get the most of your trip is to travel during the off-season. This basically means any time that most schools are in session.

It’s all about the shoes

Did you know that you may be walking up to 10 or more miles per day? It’s true! Just getting from the parking lot to the main gates of each park can be quite a trek. The good news is that you’ll be having so much fun it won’t feel like exercise. The bad news is that without the right shoes, you could be dealing with a painful experience!

Fighting Fatigue: 5 Tips to Help Dads Prevent Exhaustion on Vacation

March 13th, 2015

Is there anything better than seeing your kid’s face light up the first time you walk down Main Street USA and see Cinderella Castle? While taking the kids to Disney World is a truly incredible experience, it can also be exhausting! Follow these simple 5 tips to keep yourself from succumbing to the exhaustion of a trip with the kids.

orlandovacation_family-relaxing-vacation-home1.         Make your home away from home a true luxury

You’ll see some tips below on how to handle the days you spend in the parks, but remember that one of the most important ways to fight fatigue is to get a good night’s rest. You may think that staying at a Disney hotel offers convenience that results in a rested papa in the morning, but the truth is that these resorts are so crowded and noisy that they can bring exhaustion all their own. Consider the incredibly affordable vacation homes that give you privacy and a chance to really recharge.

2.         Say “yes” when you can

At home you’re the disciplinarian. On vacation you can be the dad who says “yes.” Does this mean you let the kids call all the shots? No, of course not! But know when to pick your battles. If your kids want to ride Barnstormer 15 times a row, why not? You’ll get a chance to relax and dealing with happy kids is much less exhausting than dealing with dragging kids!

orlandovacation_be-our-guest-restaurant3.         Know where the adult beverages are

Taking a break for a beer or mixed drink can take the edge off and let you relax in the happiest place on earth. Note that Magic Kingdom only has one location that sells alcohol: the Be Our Guest restaurant. The other parks have plenty of choices, especially the World Showcase in Epcot, where you can sample drinks from around the world.

4.         Bring backup

If you’re planning to travel alone with the kids, why not bring their favorite aunt or uncle along? Or perhaps their favorite babysitter? The money you spend to bring another adult along can be well worth it when it means you get to take a break when you need to.

5.         Have a plan

Too often dads want to simply wing it on vacation. After all, their daily routine is full of work, soccer practice, and obligations. While it may sound nice to just go with the flow, this can actually run you out of energy quicker than anything else once you find yourself standing in long lines and dealing with the worst crowds. Plan your dining reservations wisely, set up your FastPass+ reservations, and pick which park to visit based on anticipated crowd levels.


Orlando on Business – Which Theme Park Tickets to Buy?

March 12th, 2015

If you’re heading to Orlando on business it’s a great time to check out all the theme parks have to offer. However, there are so many options in tickets, and so many ways to save, that it can be challenging to figure out what to buy. One thing is certain: you’ll save money if you buy your discount tickets in advance. Let’s take a look at several different scenarios and the best tickets to buy for each of them.

When you’re not sure how many days you’ll be able to visit Disney World parks

It’s a common problem of business travelers that they just can’t be sure how many days they’ll actually have in the parks. You might know you’ll have a Saturday and Sunday, but you’re not sure if you’ll have a few hours on week nights. The good news is that you can actually add days once you’re in the parks.


The simple solution is to buy the number of days you know you’ll be able to use. If you end up needing more, just head to the Guest Relations window at any of the four theme parks. Note that you must have at least one day remaining on your ticket to add days, so be sure to add an additional days before you’ve used your last one.

You want to visit both Disney World and Universal

The tricky thing about visit both Disney World and Universal parks is that the tickets get cheaper the more days you add. As a result, it can be quite expensive to buy a 1-day or 2-day ticket to each park, compared to buying a 2-day or 4-day ticket to a single park. Crunch the numbers to decide if it’s worth it to visit every park on your visit, or if you’d rather save one for your next trip.

You’re more concerned with experiences than money

If you’re willing to pay as much as needed to have the absolute best experience, then you’re going to want to buy Park Hopper tickets for Disney World. These tickets allow you to visit as many of the four theme parks as you’d like in the same day. You can get them for a single day or for up to ten days. The Park Hopper addition can be quite expensive, but it’s worth it if you want to get the most park time possible.

You’re most concerned with affordability

If you’re looking to keep costs as low as possible then you may want to stick with non-Disney and non-Universal properties. There are tons of options, including LegoLand, SeaWorld, and GatorLand. All are much more laid back and affordable than the heavy hitters.