The Highway 192 area is very popular with Orlando visitors who plan to visit Walt Disney World or the other theme parks. The 192 hotels are literally within minutes of Disney property, and many of them are close to the I-4 expressway, which is the main route to get to Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando.
This month’s spotlight shines on one of the 192 hotels: The Holiday Inn Main Gate East. Holiday Inn is a trusted name in vacation lodging, and this hotel is a good example of why people still flock to the brand. Here are some of the high points of this hotel:
Pools: Sure, most Florida hotels have pools, but the Holiday Inn Main Gate East takes things a step further. Not only is there a main swimming pool, but also one that’s specifically for kids. They can splash and play and have a great time in this special kid-friendly water spot.
The Holiday Inn Maingate East offers a great pool area.
Other entertainment: The Holiday Inn Main Gate East has the typical playground and arcade that caters to family fun. However, this hotel takes things a step further, with an on-site movie theater that shows films for the youngsters in your family. It’s a great entertainment option on rainy days or times when you decide to work a “rest day” into your trip.
Accommodations: Wouldn’t the kids love a spot in your hotel room made just for them? You can book a Kid Suite at the Holiday Inn Main Gate East, with a dedicated place for the youngsters. They get their own bunk beds and television set to watch whatever they want. There’s also free wi-fi so they can go online with their iPads or other devices to chat with their friends, play games, and send photos. Depending on your room location, you might even be able to see the fireworks at Walt Disney World right from your own window at night.
Location: Walt Disney World is an easy drive from the Holiday Inn Main Gate East, whether you take your own car or the free shuttle service. You’ll be at the theme parks in a matter of minutes. Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and SeaWorld Orlando are just 15 to 20 minutes away. Better yet, the hotel is on a busy tourist strip that caters to visiting families. It’s literally lined with restaurants, fast food outlets, souvenir shops and attractions, many of which are within walking distance. For example, you’ll see Fun Spot and Old Town right across the street. These two attractions have arcades, go-karts, carnival rides, shops, and even a chocolate factory that you can tour. There’s miniature golf just a little farther down the road, along with helicopter rides, Segway tours, indoor surfing, and dinner shows. You’ll want to schedule a day to take a break from the theme parks and explore all of the Orlando/Kissimmee area’s other fun offerings.
Picture of a king room at the Holiday Inn Maingate East near Disney World
Price: You might think a name-brand hotel in such a good location, with so many family friendly amenities, would be expensive, but that’s not true of the Holiday Inn Maingate East. Go to www.orlandovacation.com or call 1-800-641-4008 to see just how in expensive lodging can be at this hotel and how you can save money by booking a package.
Walt Disney World is larger than many first-time visitors realize. It has four theme parks and two water parks, all of which require separate tickets for admission.
Disney offers various types of tickets, and knowing the different options will help you choose the right one for your vacation. Here’s a quick summary:
One park tickets: One park tickets get you into the Disney theme park of your choice. You can buy single or multi-day tickets, and if you go for the multi-day option, you choose one park per day. You can enter and exit that park as often as you wish during that day, but you can’t go into one of the other three parks without using up another admission.
One park tickets work well for families with younger kids who like to take a midday break. Start your morning at the theme park of your choice, whether it’s the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Stay until the kids need a nap or a break at your hotel pool. Once they’re rested up, head back to the park for Round Two. You can hit attractions that you missed in the morning or even repeat some favorites that the kids might clamor to do again.
If you use one-park tickets, you can plan out your day at the park of your choice and hit most of your must-see attractions. Disney offers free Fastpasses for many of the most popular rides, but on busy days your Fastpass return time might be several hours away. That’s no problem if you’re staying in the same park all day. For example, you can grab a Soarin’ Fastpass at Epcot, then kill time letting the kids explore the hands-on activities in Innoventions and play a few rounds of Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure until your ride time.
Choosing the right Disney Ticket can save you hundreds on your next Orlando vacation.
Park Hopper tickets: As the name implies, Park Hopper tickets let you move freely between the four Walt Disney World theme parks as much as you wish every day. Technically you can visit all four parks in a single day, but two is a more realistic number. For example, you can start your day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studio. Then, pop over to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot in the evening to see the Wishes fireworks or the Illuminations show on the lagoon in World Showcase.
Park Hopper tickets are great if you have limited time on your vacation because they let you see multiple parks, even if you’re only staying in Orlando for two or three days. Granted, you won’t get to see everything at each park, but at least you’ll get a flavor of what they offer.
You can move directly between the theme parks or go to one, take a break, then visit a different one later. For example, park hopping gives you the flexibility to book the princess breakfast at Epcot in the morning, then head over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom or the Magic Kingdom to catch the afternoon parade.
Water Park Fun and More tickets: If you want to hit Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach, Water Park Fun and More tickets might be perfect for your family. They give you a certain number of visits to the water parks or other fun spots at the Walt Disney World resort, like the miniature golf courses and the DisneyQuest virtual theme park, depending on your ticket length. This option is available with both one-park and Park Hopper tickets.
These tickets are great for visits during the summer, when a water park gives you a day of cool relief. They also give you a great option for rainy days, since DisneyQuest is located indoors at Downtown Disney.
You probably have an idea of which type of ticket would work best for your family. If you need help with the final decision, visit www.orlandovacation.com or call 1-800-641-4008. You’ll learn about special offers that include free days with a qualifying length of stay.
You may have heard about vacation pool homes, an increasingly popular option for families traveling to Orlando. There are many vacation home communities close to Walt Disney World, and one of the most popular is Emerald Island Resort. What makes it the sort of place that families return to year after year after trying out one of the vacation pool homes? Here are some highlights:
The accommodations: Maybe you have a large family or you’re traveling with a group of friends or are on a family reunion trip. Perhaps the grandparents are joining you on vacation, or maybe you just like to have more space and amenities than a standard hotel room can offer. In any of these circumstances, Emerald Island Resort has the perfect lodging for you. This upscale resort features town homes and vacation homes with their very own private swimming pools. Not only do you get all the comforts of home, but also a cool blue oasis where the kids can splash and play to their hearts’ content.
All of the homes at Emerald Island are decorated extremely nice.
The accommodations at Emerald Island Resort all include full kitchens, living areas, and separate bedrooms where your family can spread out and relax. Save money by eating meals in your home, spend some downtime out by the pool, and enjoy the privacy that comes from staying in a house rather than a crowded hotel.
The great thing about booking a vacation pool home at Emerald Island Resort is that the accommodations are very affordable. It might sound expensive to rent your own home while you’re in Orlando, but it’s actually very comparable to a hotel.
The resort amenities: The homes at Emerald Island Resort are all lovely, but the resort itself is also one of the reasons that families choose to come back time and again. There’s a clubhouse, community swimming pool and hot tub, sauna, exercise room, volleyball and tennis courts, and a game room and playgrounds for the kids. You can even go for a hike on a lovely nature trail if you need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks and spend some quiet time. You also have access to wi-fi and concierge services.
The location: Location is a very important factor because even the nicest vacation pool home community isn’t much use if it’s nowhere near the places you want to visit. Of course, that means Walt Disney World, but many families want close proximity to Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando, too. Emerald Island Resort is just off Highway 192, near the western end of Walt Disney World. You’re right outside the Disney’s Animal Kingdom area, which means you can get to the park and the nearby water park, Blizzard Beach, within minutes. Once you’re on Disney property, the other theme parks are only a short distance away.
Emerald Island Resort also has easy access to the I-4 expressway via 192 or the 429 toll road. I-4 is your gateway to both SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando Resort. While they’re a little farther away than the Disney parks, they’re still only 15 to 20 minutes away.
The location is great for the theme parks, but it’s also handy if you want to explore other attractions, like dinner shows, helicopter rides, Segway tours, go-karts, and miniature golf courses. 192 is a popular place for tourist activities, so just head east and you’ll find a multitude of things to do. You’re close to stores like a Publix grocery store and a Target if you want to shop for groceries or other essentials, and you’ll find just about every restaurant you can imagine, from Logan’s Roadhouse to Applebee’s to Olive Garden and Red Lobster. If you just want to grab something quick, there’s plenty of fast food.
As you can see, Emerald Island Resort has it all, whether you’re talking about accommodations, the resort itself, or the location. If you’re interested in booking a home at this resort, visit www.orlandovacation.com or call 1-800-641-4008 to find out your options.
SeaWorld Orlando has special events pretty much all year ’round, starting with its Just for Kids concert series in January and ending with Christmas festivities and New Years fireworks. In the meantime, it works in special events like Bands, Brew, and BBQ and SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular, as well as a fun celebration in April known as Viva La Musica.
If you’re a fan of Latin music and cuisine, or if you just enjoy a lively time, come see Viva La Musica at SeaWorld if you’re in Orlando in April. It starts on April 13 and runs every Saturday afternoon through May 4. The festival area opens up at noon, with headliner concerts starting at 3 p.m.
The concerts are held in Bayside Stadium, with open seating on a first come, first served basis. Daddy Yankee is the opener on April 13, followed by Willie Colón on April 20 and Grupomanía on April 27. El Gran Combo wraps things up on May 4. If one of the bands is a must-see for you, purchase a VIP package that includes reserved up-front seats. The deluxe version of the package comes with a meal as well, including your main course, a side dish, and a beverage. If you’re interesting, ask about the packages when you get to the park or call to reserve ahead of time. The packages don’t include your SeaWorld Orlando admission tickets.
While the music is always a big draw at Viva La Musica, many families come for the delicious food and fun kids’ activities. SeaWorld executive chef Hector Colon always cooks up a bountiful variety of dishes, like lechón, carne frita con tostones, arroz con gandules y yuca al mojo, arroz con pollo, habichuelas coloradas y maduros, alcapurrias and ceviche. Bands perform on the waterfront, where the kids can frolic and play with Shamu and other characters.
Since Viva La Musica doesn’t start until noon, it’s smart to get to SeaWorld right at opening time to get some rides, shows, and other attractions done before you head over to the festivities. The animal shows are the main thing that differentiates SeaWorld from the other Orlando theme parks, so you’ll want to catch as many of those as possible. Put the One Ocean orca show, the Blue Horizons dolphin show, and the Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island seal lion show on your “we have to do this” this. Check the show times when you arrive at the park and make a plan for the day that ensures you’ll see the shows.
The lakefront area where Viva La Musica takes place gets more and more crowded as the day goes on and the main concert time approaches, so head over to see the entertainment and get some food as early as you can. Once you’ve sampled some spicy Latins dishes and the kids have had a chance to dance with Shamu, head back out into the main part of the park to see more shows, hop on more rides, and explore more animal habitats.
If you’re planning to be in Orlando in April and want to check out this festive event, visit www.orlandovacation.com or call 1-800-641-4008 to find out about their current SeaWorld Orlando packages.
If you are looking for a good read I suggest following Simon and Erin on their blog (http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/ ). In 2010 they sold everything and set out to travel the world forever…they post some very cool stories.
Is a picture of Simon at Disney World.
Here are some great money saving tips:
1) Stay Outside the Resorts- Hotels outside the resorts can save you literally $100’s on your vacation, and quite frankly most people spend 10 to 14 hours a day at Disney World.
2) Choose the best tickets for you- A 1 day ticket to Disney is $89, and if your budget only allows you to visit 1 day then you should use that day to explore the Magic Kingdom. If you can stay a little longer you should look at buying the 4 day base ticket. This ticket will allow you to visit each park for 1 full day.
3) Don’t forget about Universal Studios- With the addition of the Harry Potter attraction, Universal Studios Orlando is becoming more and more popular. Couple this with the fact that a multi-day ticket to Universal Studios is much less than a multi-day ticket to Disney, you might want to consider visiting just Universal Studios or perhaps a combo Universal Studios and SeaWorld ticket.
4) Take Lunch and Snacks- This is a great money saving tip. All the theme parks do allow you to take snacks into the park and we suggest getting a small back pack to put the items in. Food can get quite expensive inside the parks.
5) Take a water bottle- There are plenty of water fountains to refill your bottle, and it is hot here in Orlando (especially in the summer) so you should replenish your lost water throughout the day.
6) Eat Dinner Outside the Park- Again, food is very expensive inside the parks so eating outside the park can save you a lot of money. Since there are so many visitors to Disney World every day (over 1 million visitors a week), there are literally hundreds of restaurants located just outside the gate in the Lake Buena Vista and Kissimmee areas.
7) Allow some treats- Remember you are on vacation so if you find a delectable treat you just can’t resist go ahead a splurge a little. Some of the most popular treats are: fudge, doughnuts, pretzels, cinnamon buns, and frozen lemonade.
If you implement these money saving tips on your next Orlando vacation, we are sure you are going to save some money.
Universal Studios Florida is well known for extending the Mardi Gras season far beyond its usual span. In New Orleans, the parade floats have been put into storage, and the last beads have long since been scooped up off the pavement. At Universal, a dozen floats still roll out every Saturday night, and they’ll continue until April 20. The parade means plenty of beads and doubloons to catch, and the park also has a variety of food booths with authentic Louisiana-style fare and bands straight from the Big Easy to liven up the celebration.
The French Quarter area is the epicenter of the celebration. Graze on goodies like creole gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice, topped off with beignets for dessert. Grab an outdoor table so you can listen to the soothing sounds of jazz as you enjoy your meal. The Rockin’ Jake Band plays on April 13, followed by Daddy Mack Blues Band on April 20.
Mardi Gras is one of the most popular events at Universal Studios
Mardi Gras is family friendly, down to giving the kids their very own parade viewing area. The Little Jesters viewing spot is right next door to Terminator 2 3-D. You can stake out a spot for your family there up to one hour before the parade starts at 7:45 p.m.
Mardi Gras also means headliner concerts on the main stage. Pitbull appears on April 13, followed by The All American Rejects on April 20. The concerts are included with your regular admission tickets, but there is no reserved seating. Just crowd around the big stage in front of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket roller coaster tracks or watch the performance on one of the big screen TVs. If you’re planning to stay for the concerts, they start at 8:30 p.m. Feel free to stake out your spot any time.
All of the park’s regular rides, shows, and attractions run during Mardi Gras, so it’s best to come early even though the party doesn’t start until the evening. If you’re an early bird, you’ll have plenty of time to hop on the roller coaster and do other major attractions, like Revenge of the Mummy, Men in Black: Alien Attack, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, and the Simpsons ride.
If you visit in April, you’ll notice a lot of construction going on that might just tempt you to plan another trip. In the middle of the park, the Transformers ride is taking shape rapidly for its summer debut. While it’s the same ride you’ll find at Universal Studios Hollywood, the Florida version has its own unique building. Over on the edge, rumor says London is taking shape as part of the Harry Potter expansion. With Hogsmeade currently next door at Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Florida is the perfect spot to expand Harry’s World.
Things calm down at Universal once Mardi Gras is over, but there’s more to look forward to later in the year. Although the performers at the park’s summer concert series haven’t been announced yet, Big Time Rush is confirmed to be appearing on June 8. That gives you plenty of time to plan a visit if you have big fans in the family.
If you’re planing to head to Orlando and want to visit Universal Studios Florida, visit www.orlandovacation.com or call 1-800-641-4008 for information on some very attractive vacation packages.
Walt Disney World is a busy place in the spring, particularly at Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The main fun in April is centered at Epcot, where the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival continues its annual run, but Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrates Earth Day with three days of special activities. Here are the highlights:
The Flower and Garden Festival as absolutely beautiful.
Epcot: The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival runs through May 19. That means you can join in the fun any day you visit the park in April.
Although the topiaries are on display every day of the festival, along with the playgrounds, butterfly garden, and special talks in the Festival Center, weekends are extra special for two reasons. First, since HGTV sponsors the event, celebrities from the cable network’s shows come out on the weekends for in-personal presentations. Second, the Flower Power concert series runs on the weekends. April artists include Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Village People, and The Orchestra, which features former members of ELO and ELO II.
The concerts, talks, and access to the playgrounds and butterfly garden are all included with park admission, and you’ll find the topiaries and colorful flower gardens all around Future World and World Showcase. Stick around until nightfall and admire the new lighting this year that showcases the topiaries in a special never-before-seen way. You can also enjoy Illuminations, the nightly lagoon show that features fireworks, fountains, a floating globe, and a stirring musical score. It runs every evening, so grab a good viewing spot around the lagoon.
Also new is the Garden Marketplace, a collection of food and drink booths set up around World Showcase. They offer a wide variety of delicacies, but the common theme is freshness. If you love the famous Dole Whips served up at the Magic Kingdom, try one with rum at this event.
The kids will love getting a free passport that they can get stamped at various festival-related locations. If they manage to collect all the available stamps, they’ll get a special one commemorating their accomplishment. Click here for more information on EPCOT.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened on Earth Day in 1998, and the park still celebrates the conservation-related holiday every year. For 2013, it’s holding its annual “Party for the Planet” on April 19, 20, and 22. Come over to see special vendors and merchandise and meet artists like photographer Carlos Cuba, silver designer Tim “Bushman, and artist William Silvers.
April is always a great time to visit this park in general, even if you don’t make it over for the Earth Day celebration. The animals are most active in cool weather, and April temperatures are usually still mild. Hop aboard Kilimanjaro Safaris and scan the savannah, where you may be rewarded with sightings of creatures like hippos, rhinos, giraffes, ostriches, lions, cheetahs, warthogs, elephants, and other elusive animals. If you haven’t been on the ride in a while, or if it’s completely new to you, you’ll enjoy seeing the finale that now features zebras.
The walking trails are very pleasant in April, too. Take a stroll to see meerkats, bats, gorillas, and tigers on display in natural habitats.
If you’re planning your Walt Disney World trip, go to www.orlandovacation.com or phone 1-800-641-4008 to find out about their attractive money-saving packages.
There’s an old joke that one of the most common questions asked of Disney Cast Members is, “What time is the 3 o’clock parade?” Actually, it’s pretty easy to get confused about parade times, since the Magic Kingdom alone has two different daily parades. Add in parades at the other parks, like Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and you’ll see where the confusion comes in.
Which of the daily Walt Disney World parades are the most fun? Here are details on the ones you shouldn’t miss:
Mickey and Minnie are at most Disney World parades
Main Street Electrical Parade at the Magic Kingdom: While the daytime Celebrate a Dream Come True parade is fun, the no-miss Magic Kingdom spectacle is the Main Street Electrical Parade. It runs once or twice each night, depending on the season and park hours, so always check your map for the current schedule when you arrive at the park.
The elaborate lighted floats and delightful music are what make this parade a must-do when you visit Walt Disney World. See floats like a giant version of Elliott, Pete’s dragon, blowing smoke from his nostrils as he glides along the parade route, and wave to Tinkerbell as she brings the lights to life with her magic. There are also street performers and mini floats that delight everyone along the parade route. The 20 minute parade boasts half a million colorful lights.
Due to its popularity, the Main Street Electrical Parade draws big crowds. Be prepared to stake out and defend your viewing spot 30 to 60 minutes ahead of time, depending on the season.
Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: What’s it like when Mickey Mouse goes on safari? Find out with this afternoon parade at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s one of the most fun daily parades at Walt Disney World because it features such a wide range of entertainment.
For little kids, the characters are always the biggest draw, and Mickey is joined by friends like Minnie, Goofy, and Donald. Family members of all ages, including the adults, will be fascinated by the eight-foot-tall Party Animals that tower over the crowd as they make their way down the parade route.
This parade is worth catching because it has a little bit of everything, like floats, characters, puppetry, and street performers. It normally kicks off at 3:45 p.m., but check the show schedule in your park map in case the time has changed.
The Electrical Water Pageant: The Electrical Water Pageant is actually one of those neat little “secrets” at Walt Disney World that many people don’t even know about. This nightly parade holds several performances on the Seven Seas Lagoon outside of the Magic Kingdom. It’s a classic that has been around since 1971, although it has changed some over the years. According to the Disney Parks Blog, it was actually the inspiration for the Main Street Electrical Parade.
The barges on the water perform to music as they take on the form of various sea creatures, like whales, turtles, sea horses, and even a sea serpent. Then they switch over to a patriotic finale.
Although times can vary, the parade usually makes a stop in front of the Magic Kingdom entrance area at around 10:25 p.m. when the park is open until 10 p.m. or later.
You can also view this parade each night from any of the Disney resorts that ring the lagoon. Take the monorail to the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, or Contemporary and walk out to the beach. The times are usually 9 p.m. for the Polynesian, 9:15 for the Floridian, and 10:10 p.m. at the Contemporary. It’s also visible from the shore of the Fort Wilderness Campground, where it usually appears at 9:45 p.m.
Check out www.orlandovacation.com or call 1-800-641-4008 to find out the best Walt Disney World deals so your family can enjoy these fun parades.
Universal Orlando Resort is made up of two theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Each park has its own ambiance, but both cater to families and offer attractions geared to every age group.
If you have young children, you might be wondering which park is best. That’s a hard question to answer because both parks have cute rides and play areas made specifically to appeal to their youngest guests. The answer lies in what interests your children the most.
Do you have Dr. Seuss fans in your household? Islands of Adventure is the place for them. It has a whole area, Seuss Landing, devoted to the popular author’s whimsical creations. There’s a Cat in the Hat dark ride, a spinning (and soggy) ride themed to One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and an aerial tour aboard the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley. Seuss-inspired characters spin around on the unique Carol-Seuss-El. Characters like the Cat in the Hat and Things One and Two are on hand to greet young visitors in this crazy, colorful place.
Harry Potter is a huge attraction for kids at Universal Studios
Islands of Adventure has fun for young children in other areas, too. One popular spot is Me Ship, The Olive, a nautical-themed vessel/playground based on Popeye characters. Fittingly, it’s located in Toon Lagoon, and it’s outfitted with cargo nets, slides, horns, bells, and other interactive fun. One thing that kids love in particular is the water cannons they can use to blast riders on the Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges raft ride.
The Jurassic Park section of the park has attractions for youngsters, too. Dinosaurs fascinate kids, and they get to explore the dinos’ world in the Jurassic Park Discovery Center. The center mixes learning with fun as kids test their knowledge of dinosaur facts, test dino DNA, and even see dinosaur eggs hatching. There’s also a Camp Jurassic play area, too, where energetic youngsters can run and play. The camp has a special ride designed just for them: Pteranodon Flyers, made for those between 36 and 56 inches tall. Adults and older siblings have to be accompanied by a kid who meets those height standards to ride.
Obviously, Islands of Adventure is a great spot for kids, but Universal Studios Florida has plenty for them to do, too. The kids’ area at this park packs areas devoted to such kid favorites as Curious George, Fievel the mouse, and Barney the purple dinosaur in one convenient area. The two playgrounds, Curious George Goes to Town and Fievel’s Playland, are both great fun for kids who want to run, jump, and play, but the Curious George area is a special favorite on hot days because it has cool water play areas.
Universal Studios Florida also has Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster, a family coaster designed for all ages. It has just enough of a thrill to make kids shout with glee instead of fear. There’s also a cute E.T.-themed ride that transports families to the beloved alien’s home planet.
The park is also packed with popular characters like SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora and Diego, and the Minions from “Despicable Me.” Those characters are joined by E.B. from “Hop” in the daily Superstar Parade. The four floats make stops along the parade route so characters and street performers can put on a high-energy show. The floats also head out individually throughout the day for impromptu street parties where kids can dance and play with the characters and parents can grab some great photos.
1) Arrive as close as possible to opening time. There are several reasons to get to the Walt Disney World parks early. First, if you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll have some time for fun before the Florida heat gets too unbearable. Second, the lines are shorter early in the day, so you can get a lot more done. Many of the best attractions for young kids, like the Fantasyland rides in the Magic Kingdom and Toy Story Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, have very long lines. You minimize your wait by rushing to those popular attractions ahead of the big crowd that gets to the parks a little later.
Getting to the parks early also allows you to leave for a midday break or to head back to your hotel or vacation home for the day if your family’s had enough. Younger kids in particular can only take excitement in small doses. Once you’ve had your fun at the parks, you can head back to your lodging for swimming, playing, and other low-key activities, or for a nap to refuel so you can head back to Disney later.
All kids love Disney World
2) Start your visit in Fantasyland and New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. Fantasyland and New Fantasyland are the epicenter of the Magic Kingdom for young kids. That means long lines for the rides, starting early in the day and building throughout the afternoon. You’ll avoid some of the crowd if you make this your first stop. Head to New Fantasyland first because it’s the most popular spot, since it’s the “new kid on the block.” Do the Dumbo ride last because the wait isn’t bad, even when the line is long. This ride uses a virtual queuing system. You get a pager and relax in an air conditioned play area while the kids run, climb, slide, and generally have a great time until the pager goes off when it’s your family’s turn to ride.
3) Know the location of the Baby Care Centers. If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, the Baby Care Centers at the Disney parks are a lifesaver. They offer a cool, quiet, private place to feed or nurse your baby, plus spacious changing facilities, kid-sized bathrooms, and a nice spot just to kick back and relax when you need some down time. Check your park map to find the locations at each of the four theme parks.
4) Bring some snacks to the park. Kids often get hungry and need quick snacks to sooth their tummies. The parks at Walt Disney World sell a variety of items, including healthy snacks like fruit, but their prices are high. Bring small snacks like dry cereal, cookies, granola bars, or fruit snacks with you, and hand them out when your children get hunger pangs. You’ll save a lot of money. You can also carry water bottles and fill them at the many fountains.
5) Rent a stroller from an off-site company. All four Disney parks rent strollers, but there are certain inconveniences to getting strollers at the theme parks. First, although it’s not a frequent occurrence, it’s possible for a park to run out strollers on a very busy day. Second, all of the rental strollers look the same, so it’s often hard to find the one that belongs to your family in a sea of identical strollers outside a show or attraction. Third, the hard plastic strollers aren’t particularly comfortable for kids. Fourth, you can’t leave the theme parks with a rental stroller. If you’re park hopping, you have to leave your stroller at the first park, then pick up another one when you get to the next park.
Renting a stroller at an off-site company is a great alternative that actually ends up cheaper than doing daily rentals at the Disney parks. Your stroller stays with you, and you can choose from among several comfortable models. The big stroller companies all deliver your stroller right to your hotel or vacation home and pick it up at the end of your trip.
6) See shows later in the day. Popular rides are best done early, before the crowd grows. Reserve shows for later in the day, once the lines get long and the kids are getting tired of waiting out in the sun. Many great shows for youngsters, like Mickey’s PhilharMagic in the Magic Kingdom, Voyage of the Little Mermaid in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Finding Nemo: The Musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, are held inside, in dark, air-conditioned theaters. Youngsters enjoy the music and action, and those who are getting tired might even dose off for a quick nap.
7) Book a character meal. Sure, you can see the characters for free at all the Disney theme parks, but you often use up a big chunk of time waiting in line. Book a character meal to ensure your family will have at least one laid-back character experience. There are meals at every park and most of the Disney resorts. Call 407-WDW-DINE for details and to make a reservation. Featured characters include Mickey and friends, the Disney Princesses, and Winnie the Pooh, depending on which meal you book. The characters come right to your table to frolic with the kids, giving your the opportunity to get some of the best photos of your trip.
You’ll find great packages for your family on www.orlandovacation.com, or call 1-800-641-4008 if you need some help from a live agent to choose the perfect options for your Walt Disney World trip.