Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Protips: Orlando

We've been to Orlando three times in the last four years. Here are some things I've learned from these trips. Now, just FYI, these tips mostly apply to families like ours (two adults, a couple of kids, and a budget):

Rent a house: If you choose to stay in a hotel, there is nowhere to go and escape your children enjoy some quiet time. Staying a couple of miles farther from the parks is both cheaper and you can get more space. Renting a house also gets you benefits like a washing machine that you can use any time, a full kitchen where you can cook food you know your kids will eat, and a private pool. Separate bedrooms, separate bathrooms, and your own living room. It's delightful, and you can spend a day or two in the rental just relaxing without driving each other crazy. Bonus: a lot of communities where you can rent a house offer perks like a clubhouse breakfast, playgrounds, or movie nights!

They were so sad to leave this house.

Sea World: I like saving money, and Sea World can be a great option in that regard. Buy your tickets online and save $10 off of each. Then, bring that $10 to the park and buy a 2nd day's admission with it at any of the "Vacation Club" desk things. BOOM! Two days for the price of one and that place has so much to do, you'll need both days to do it all.
Don't miss the Clyde and Seymore show.
All Day Dining: At Sea World this year, we popped for the all day dining option. For around $100 (for the whole family), we got these bracelets that allowed us to eat as much as we wanted, all day long. Elevensies? Yes, please. We totally got our money's worth, and it took the pressure off. If we didn't like a meal, we didn't lament wasting $40. We just went and got something else. Un-freakin'-limited food and soda. And Sea World has some diverse dining options. Have breakfast at Voyagers (so good) and then eat everywhere else during the day.
I love all day dining THIS much!
THAT is a hearty breakfast!

Steak fajita sandwich

Brisket, ribs, and mint chocolate cheesecake? Yes, please.

Souvenirs: OK, this one takes some planning, but it's worth it if you can pull it off. Disneystore.com has big big sales twice a year. Join their e-mail list and get the e-mail notification (and discount code) when the next sale starts. Then, buy your kids some Disney pj's, toys, autograph books, or whatever. It'll me MUCH cheaper than getting it in the parks and still official Disney stuff- the same merchandise that's in the shops in the parks. If you're less discerning, check the junky tourist shops in towns like Kissimmee. The farther from Orlando you are, the less expensive the souvenirs.

Character Dining: Here's the thing: time is limited. When you're at a park, your time is precious. Do you want to spend it waiting in line for a ride or waiting in line to see a character? I prefer rides and attractions. Plus, you never know when a character will be there or when they'll leave on break. If you book character dining, you're guaranteed some face time with the characters at that meal. It's a little more expensive, but if your kid just wants to meet Mickey and doesn't care about the rides, why not book breakfast with Mickey at the Contemporary Resort? Then you don't even have to buy a park ticket at all.

Quality Time

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