News Theme Parks Dining History. Dining News Locations Menus. Disney Dream Dining Entertainment Shopping. Disney Fantasy Dining Navigators Shopping. Christmas Celebrations. Explore More. Close Main Menu. The other afternoon, I was bored and wanted something to do — I needed to get out of the house for a while.
But I was in the mood for something at Disney. A new exhibit has opened in the Japan Pavilion. The entrance is located at the back of the pavilion on the left side as you enter the castle. Got A Light? This is the last blog in my series about lamp posts. The Animal Kingdom, the newest of the Disney World parks, has a number of custom made fixtures worth your attention. The … Continue reading "Got A Light? Part Four — Animal Kingdom" 28 Comments. Out in the parking lot we find extremely tall light towers. Notify one of the ride staff when you get in line if you want to participate.
Cast member: In its ever-present attempt to keep up the illusion that WDW is some kind of giant ongoing production, Disney refers to its staff as cast members. Whatever you call them, they are almost always knowledgeable and well trained. V Advanced Dining Reservations: This concept is the Disney version of a restaurant reservation and it's being used increasingly at other Orlando restaurants as well. Instead of reserving an exact time at a restaurant, you reserve the right to arrive at a specific time and get the next available table which can sometimes — though not often — take up to 30 minutes.
For more about this system, see Chapter Many locals commonly shorten or abbreviate the major theme-park names, as do a number of the region's highway signs. Hundreds of multiple-choice questions keep you and your kids entertained even as they enlighten. Barrett The Intrepid Traveler , will have you looking here, there, and everywhere to find these famous hidden icons. The guide is filled with pages of the best places to find them, but you're likely to find even more after you've gotten the hang of how to look.
Foglesong Yale University Press , is a serious and not always flattering look at the relationship between the Disney corpo- ration and the city of Orlando. It's a trifle didactic in tone, but its in- depth details make it fascinating reading nonetheless. It offers a lot of interesting informa- tion and insight into the creation of all Disney's parks and resorts. Filled with insider and, at times, amusing accounts, Charles Ridgway, a Disney legend, fondly recalls over four decades of service to the Mouse.
From the years he spent working directly with Walt to his retirement, Spinning Disney's World chronicles the events and recalls the people some famous, others not so that helped to create the empire — a memoir of sorts from Mickey's most famous publicist. If you're a Hurston fan, don't miss the listing in Chapter 3 for the January festival in her honor. Chapter 2: Digging Deeper into Orlando 23 If your tastes run more toward the visual medium, there's no shortage of films that can get you in the mood for your Orlando vacation.
For an introduction to Disney's classic characters who are alive and well in the theme parks , I suggest Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, Dumbo, Pinocchio, and Fantasia though this last film may be a tad too sophisticated for very young kids. If you prefer live action to animation, break out the popcorn and put on any of these pictures, all of which are represented in some form or another inside the Disney parks: Mary Poppins; Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; and Swiss Family Robinson.
It is known as the place to "Ride the Movies" so it should come as no surprise that Universal Studios Florida is filled with rides and attractions that seemingly put you smack in the middle of some of Universal's most famous films. T, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Pick up a copy of The Cat in the Hat or any one of Dr.
Seuss's classic books, for that matter for the younger kids. Universal caters more to teens and adults than Disney does, and these films like the rides they inspired are definitely aimed more at that audience, so take your child's age into consideration before popping that movie in. When you go may very well affect what you see, how much you pay, and how long you stand in line. In this chapter, I explain the advantages and disadvantages of visit- ing during the spring, summer, fall, and winter months so that you can decide the best time for your big vacation.
The Secrets of the Seasons Although Orlando has something for all ages, the city is primarily a des- tination for families. So any time children are out of school, whether for spring break or a three-day holiday, the theme parks are a tangle of pushy, sweaty, little bodies. By far the busiest times to visit are during spring break Feb to mid-Apr , the summer Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend , and the winter holidays Thanksgiving week and mid-Dec to early Jan.
Keep in mind that any holidays that fall during those peak-season weeks bring with them exponential increases in crowd levels and a vacation experi- ence that may very well border on the insane. Obviously, your vacation experience would be the best when crowds are thin and the weather is mild. In most destinations, such times would normally describe the off season; however, Orlando really has no off season. As the tourists begin their homeward journey, business clients and the convention trade start pouring in, and they come in droves.
International visitors also keep things busy year-round. This year-round popularity means that many hotels don't offer a traditional high- and low-season rate scale — and it also means that you need to book your trip as early as possible. But most out-of-state guestsaonThave that luxury. If you have younger children, consider pulling them out of school for a few days during the slower months to avoid the horrendous lines.
Ask their teachers for schoolwork to take with you. You can also suggest that your kids write a report on an educa- tional element of the vacation. And yes, they'll actually learn something while they're traipsing around places like Innoventions: The Road to Tomorrow and the World Showcase, both at Epcot, and the various marine life exhibits at SeaWorld. Even if you come during the slower season, the parks run close to full tilt, although operating hours are generally markedly shorter.
No matter what time of year you find yourself heading to Orlando, you'll want to be aware of that season's perks and pitfalls. Sunny days are followed by cool breezy nights. By early spring, the flowers are beginning to bloom; they're bursting with color later in the season. If your hometown is still blanketed by snow, you'll be in heaven. Accommodations often offer spring discounts with the exception of the weeks surrounding the Easter holiday, when rates can be at their highest.
The lines inside the theme parks are relatively short. Visit on a weekday and your wait for a ride is likely to be less than 30 minutes again the exception being the two, sometimes three, weeks on either side of the Easter holiday, which can bring with it some of the longest lines of the year.
The daytime hours can already be hot and humid by late April, although the really sticky weather doesn't usually arrive until mid- to late May. The high pollen count can drive allergy sufferers crazy. April is, by far, one of the busiest months to visit, especially around Easter. College students are headed down for their share of fun in the sun, while families take advantage of the time off for travel. Hotels are booked well in advance; the lines are, at times, unbear- able; and the crowds border on intolerable. Everything — including the roadways, restaurants, hotels, and parks — is jam-packed with people.
Crowds are manageable. Even though summer is one of the most popular seasons, it pales in comparison to spring break and the winter holidays. The weekends are busier than at almost any other time of the year, but the weekdays bring a bit of relief. W August offers back-to-school sales at Orlando's malls and outlets.
Orlando has some cool pools and unique water parks. Splashing around in any one of them makes for a fun way to beat the heat. However, keep in mind that Outside, the heat and humidity can be downright oppressive. The phrase "I'm melllllllting! Those with respi- ratory problems would do best to avoid Orlando in summer, when it may feel as if you're trying to breathe in a steam room.
Crowds and sweat create a sometimes-unpleasant perfume in the air. And with the UV index at its extreme, you'll burn in less than 20 minutes without a good sunscreen. Why should anyone cut prices when everything is running at capacity? With smaller crowds, wait times for lines can be 30 minutes or less. In fact, I've sometimes gotten off a ride, only to turn around and walk right back on. But keep in mind that Although the weather is cooler, the temperature doesn't get as mild as it is in the spring until Thanksgiving or later. Smaller crowds mean shorter park hours.
Closing times of 6 or 7 p. When mid-December arrives, so do the higher prices. January and February have the biggest temperature swings. With the exception of the holiday period from mid-December to just after New Year's — the busiest season of all — lines at the parks don't get much shorter than they do during this time of year. However, remember that The many conventions held in Orlando throughout the year keep room rates from plunging completely, and conventioneers can take over entire hotels, sometimes making rooms hard to find.
Weather Warnings You don't need to worry too much, but knowing a little about Florida's weather-related temper tantrums is a good idea. Here's a list of weather events that you may experience during your stay: Hurricanes: The Gulf and Atlantic hurricane seasons run from June 1 to November In an average year, the Atlantic churns out ten of these storms, and on average one or two touch Florida.
The Gulf adds three to five. The good news: Orlando's inland location gener- ally means the worst a hurricane can do is ruin a couple days of vacation with heavy rains and the occasional tornado. That said, in Aug and Sept of , hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne swept through Orlando, causing massive shutdowns and evacua- tions. Although this was an extremely rare occurrence, it's some- thing to keep in mind. Lightning: This scary but beautiful show, courtesy of Mother Nature, makes regular appearances during Orlando's frequent summer thunderstorms. Don't let lightning ruin your trip, however.
Unless you go out of your way to attract it, lightning's wrath likely won't bother you. Use common sense and you should be fine. Sun: Florida isn't called the Sunshine State without good reason. Make sure that you use plenty of sunscreen SPF 30 or higher during your trip. Florida tourism thrives on the sun, but you won't enjoy your vacation much if you're laid up with a painful sunburn or, even worse, sun poisoning.
Wearing lightweight, light-colored clothing will help alleviate the effects of the searing sunshine. Sunburns can really ruin a fun day at the parks. Preventing your skin from turning a magnificent, and painful, shade of red is simple: Slather yourself and your kids even the ones in covered strollers with a sun- block that has an SPF of at least 30 SPF 50 is even better for the kids and that, preferably, contains zinc or titanium oxide.
Pick a formula that's both waterproof and sweatproof. And don't forget a Florida native's favorite fashion statement — sunglasses. To avoid dehydration, another vacation killer, drink more fluids than you think you need. By the time you're thirsty and cranky from walking around in the heat, you're already dehydrated.
Ignoring these signs could lead to heat exhaustion or worse. Avoid caffeinated or carbonated beverages, as well as alcoholic drinks and those high in sugar — these actually cause you to lose more body fluids. Sports drinks can supplement fluids in your body, but water should be your first choice.
Freeze a couple of water bottles to bring along — they stay cold far longer and save you a few dollars in the end especially because you can refill them throughout the day at a drinking fountain for free. Orlando's Calendar: Attractions in RerteuJ In this section, I list by month a few of Orlando's many exciting festi- vals and special events.
Double-check with the festivals' respective gov- erning organizations before planning your vacation around any of them. Event dates, as with everything else, are subject to change. January 1. The Spots fill up fast, espe- cially Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge, so sign up as early as possible. January 11, 12, and Whether pirate or princess, everyone is invited to join in the fun at the Magic Kingdom's newest after-hours event.
Set out on a quest for treasure, filling your booty bag with beads and chocolate doubloons. Party the night away at pirate coves and princess courts where live inter- active entertainment includes Captain Jack's Pirate Tutorial, Jasmine's Royal Guard Recruitment, and Sebastian's Undersea Dance Party among others.
Select nights from mid- January through mid-March. The festival highlights the life and works of author Zora Neale Hurston. Eatonville is 25 miles north of the parks. Lectures, seminars, and special events are extra. Late January. Mardi Gras events are included in the regular price of admission to the park. Select Saturday nights from February to mid-April. The Braves play a game spring season that begins in early March. For general infor- mation, call "ff or check online at www. To purchase tickets, call Ticketmaster at or You can also get information online at www.
Late February to March. March SeaWorld offers four weekends of sensational music, concerts, dance, food sampling, and crafts to celebrate Hispanic culture in Florida at its Viva La Musica ; www. Admission is included with regular park admission. Four weekends in March. The concerts are included with regular park admission, but if you're hankering a mouth- watering meal, you'll have to pay extra to eat. Each year, more than , people enjoy this free three-day event filled with art, food, children's activities, and per- formances by nationally recognized jazz artists.
March 14, 15, and The ten-day Florida Film Festival "B 1 or ; www. Late March. Themed weekends, gardening seminars and work- shops, and nightly "Flower Power" concerts at the America Gardens Theatre are all Dart of the fun. Included with regular Epcot admission. More than acts from around the world participate in the eclectic ten-day Orlando International Fringe Festival ; www.
Entertainers perform everything from drama to political satire, experimental theater to Hamlet. Outdoor concerts and the Kids Fringe Tour round out the offerings. Usually starts third week of May. June Gay Days www. This event began in as an unofficial event at Disney World that ended up attracting 50, people. It has expanded to a weeklong celebration during which Universal Orlando and SeaWorld also host events. Keep in mind that red is the color of choice for event-goers during this week, and Saturday is when they descend en masse on the Magic Kingdom.
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First weekend in June. Included with regular Disney's Hollywood Studios admission. Four weekends in June. The parks stay open late for the occa- sion. Orlando's Lake Eola Park? July 4. Admission to the concert is separately ticketed from regular admission; Magic Kingdom attrac- tions are included. Second weekend in September. Combination tickets that include all-day park admission are also available. Events include wine tastings, seminars, concerts, and cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs.
You must be 21 or over to enjoy the libations, but all ages can enjoy the culinary treats. The end of September through mid-November. Complete with live bands, special shows, a psychopath's maze, and hundreds of ghouls and goblins roaming the streets, the studio closes at dusk and then reopens in a new, chilling form at 7 p. Guests aren't allowed to wear costumes so that Universal employees can spot their peers. This event tends to sell out, especially nearer to Halloween, so get your tickets early.
Select nights in October. Each guest receives a Halloween bag, and, throughout the park, cast members hand out treats. This is a separately ticketed event held after regular park closing, but most attractions are open. They go on sale in May! Select nights in September and October.
Kids can even trick-or-treat at specified stations throughout the park. The bonus here is that everything is included with your regular park admission. Select weekends in October. The event is included with regular park admission. First weekend of November. Downtown Disney Marketplace is home to the Festival of the Masters t? The exhibition features top artists, photographers, and craftspeople — all winners of juried shows throughout the United States. Admission to the festival is free to all. Second weekend in November. December During the Disney Christmas festivities, Main Street in the Magic Kingdom is lavishly decked out with lights and holly, and carolers wel- come visitors.
Thousands of colored lights illuminate an foot tree. Epcot and Animal Kingdom also offer special embellishments and entertainment throughout the holiday season, as do all Disney resorts. One holiday highlight includes Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, an after-hours specially ticketed event, which takes place on select evenings at the Magic Kingdom and offers a traditional Christmas parade and fireworks display.
The best part? Shorter lines for rides.
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Another holiday highlight is the Candlelight Procession at Epcot, which features hundreds of candle-holding carolers, a celebrity narrator telling the Christmas story, and a voice choir that's very moving. Call "S for details on these events or visit www. Dates vary by event, but most take place from late November to late December. I also sort out the various travel packages avail- able to the city and offer suggestions on buying travel insurance, staying healthy, and staying in contact with those who didn't get to make the trip.
And so everyone has a good time, I offer dedicated advice to those people who have special travel needs or interests — families, seniors, or gays and lesbians. Chapter 4 Drop Bbotapng Your Money In This Chapter Managing your dollars and cents Cutting your vacation costs Paying for it all a Jeveloping a realistic budget is an important key to enjoying your vacation. The last thing you want to experience when you get to Orlando is sticker shock — Central Florida is famous for its ability to exact a pound of flesh from even the most cost-conscious traveler. From hotel rooms to meal tabs to admission fees, you can easily break the bank if you don't do some homework and set some limits in advance.
The good news is that there are ways to avoid blowing your bankroll, and I show them to you in this chapter. The hard part is sticking to it after you've been swept up in all the excitement. Mickey and his pals are masters when it comes to separating you from your money. But by using the tips I give you, you can come up with a pretty accurate estimate of what a trip to Mickey's place may cost you.
Florida sales taxes, which run from 6.
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For more information, see "Taxes" in the Quick Concierge appendix. Another hidden expense many travelers fail to budget for is tips. Orlando is a tip-happy place. A 15 percent tip is the general rule for restaurant service and cab rides. They're pricier than comparable rooms in the outside world; they're tiny, basic, and heavily themed, but they're on Disney soil. Transportation: Some hotels offer free shuttles to the parks; others take you for a fee see Chapter 8 for more information.
If you stay at Disney, you can access its free Disney Transportation system though it's plodding. If you're flying into Orlando, don't forget to add the cost of getting to the airport, airport parking if you're driv- ing yourself , airline tickets you can find tips for getting the best airfare in Chapter 5 , and transportation from the Orlando airport to your room unless you're staying with Mickey and take Disney's Magical Express — see Chapter 9 for details.
If you're driving to Orlando, be sure to include your fuel costs and tolls. Dining: Satisfying your stomach in Orlando is the biggest variable in your budget, and outside of admissions, tickets, and accommo- dations it can easily end up being your biggest expense. See Chapter 10 for more information on dining. Keep in mind that food in the parks and resorts is overpriced and is aver- age at best though there are exceptions. Outside the parks, you can find delis and pizzerias for takeout as well as assorted budget- minded eateries.
Attractions: Your expenses for attractions depend on which parks you plan to visit and how many days you spend at each. SeaWorld tickets come in slightly lower. See Chapters and Chapters for information about the individual parks. The amusement park gift shops are notorious for inflating prices on souvenirs; although I don't recommend picking up more than a couple of souvenirs at the parks, be prepared for their ability to lure you in. Budget accordingly. See Chapter 25 for informa- tion about the various park nightlife options. After estimating your expenses, be sure to tack on another 15 percent to 20 percent to your budget as a safety net — a pair of fuzzy light-up Mickey ears are bound to be calling the name of someone in your group.
Table outlines various vacationing costs in Orlando. Cutting Costs — but Not the Fun You can conserve your cash in a variety of ways when you vacation in Orlando. Using these tips can keep your costs manageable: Visit during non-peak times. Hotel prices from September to November or from late April to early June can be substantially lower, depending on the property. If you can travel on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, you may find cheaper flights to your destination. When you ask about airfares, find out whether you can get a cheaper rate by flying on a different day. For more tips on getting a good fare, see Chapter 5.
Try a package tour. For many Orlando destinations, you can book airfare, hotel, ground transportation, and even some additional perks just by making one call to a travel agent or packager, often for a price much less than if you put the trip together yourself. See Chapter 5 for more about package tours. Ask whether your kids can stay in the room with you. A room with two double beds usually doesn't cost any more than one with Chapter 4: Managing Your Money a queen-size bed. And many hotels don't charge you the additional- person rate if the additional person is pint-size and related to you.
You don't have to slave over a hot stove to cut costs; several hotels have minifridges, coffeemakers, and even a microwave. Buying supplies for breakfast saves you money — and probably calories. This one may be hard to swallow for those who want to immerse themselves in all things Disney. And if your vacation can't be complete without a stay on Walt Disney World property, then by all means splurge. But if you're on a tight budget, you can stay in some wonderful, at times themed albeit, non-Mickey properties for considerably less than you would pay for the cheapest Disney hotels.
Go back to your hotel for a picnic lunch and a swim or a nap. You can eat economically, avoid the midday sun, and refuel for an afternoon or, in some cases, an evening at the park without having to pay admission fees again. Avoid splurging — pace yourself. Your money goes fastest when you overexert yourself exploring the parks, and you end up too hungry, thirsty, or tired to care about how much you spend.
Be sure to schedule rest breaks throughout the day and begin each day with a big breakfast several hotels offer spreads that are included in their room rates. Brown-bag it. Bringing your own food is extremely cost-effective. The parks are wise to this scheme and many don't allow coolers, but they generally ignore it when you aren't obvious about it, so make your operation covert — hide food in a fanny pack or back- pack.
If you don't want to schlep food, do bring drinks or stop often at drinking fountains — the bottled water and soda prices in the parks can have you wondering if the theme parks are selling liquid gold instead of Coke. Try expensive restaurants at lunch instead of dinner. Lunch tabs are usually a fraction of what dinner costs at a top restaurant, and the menu often boasts many of the same specialties.
Renting a smaller car is cheaper, and you save on gas to boot. For more about car rentals, see Chapter 7. Don't spend every day at a theme park. Discover your hotel's pool, playground, workout room, and other freebies, or head out of town to a state park, beach, or one of the lower-priced attractions DropB Part II: Planning Your Trip to Walt Disney World and Orlando away from theme-park central. Check out Chapters 21 and 26 for some suggestions. Your photographs and Sid be the best mementos of your trip.
If you're blow your budget, you can do without the T-shirts and other trinkets. Surf the Web. The Web site MouseSavers. If you want to stay at a Disney resort, MouseSavers. Receive instant discounts with an Orlando Preferred Visitor Magicard. Better yet, the card is free. You may also be eligible for other discounts if you're a member of AARP, AAA, the military, or service clubs, so don't be bashful — just ask. Handling Money You're the best judge of how much cash you feel comfortable carrying or what alternative form of currency is your favorite. That's not going to change much on your vacation.
True, you'll probably be moving around more and incurring more expenses than you generally do unless you happen to eat out every meal when you're at home , and you may let your mind slip into vacation gear and not be as vigilant about your safety as when you're in work mode. But, those factors aside, the only type of payment that won't be quite as available to you away from home is your personal checkbook.
You can find ATMs at all of Orlando's major theme parks; check the guide map you get upon entering each park for locations. Keep in mind that many banks impose a fee every time you use your card at a different bank's ATM. That's on top of any fees your bank may charge. Don't let the land of Uckeylull you into a false sense of security. Minnie and Goofy won't mug you — but thieves working the theme-park zones may.
Charging ahead With credit cards Credit cards are a safe way to carry money: They also provide a conven- ient record of all your expenses and generally offer relatively good exchange rates. If you forgot yours, or didn't even know you had one, call the number on the back of your credit card, and ask the bank to send it to you. It usually takes five to seven business days, though some banks provide the number over the phone if you tell them your mother's maiden name or some other personal information.
Keep in mind that you start paying interest on credit card cash advances the minute you get them and it's generally much higher than the rate for charging your purchases. And if you use a debit card that carries a Visa or MasterCard logo to make a purchase, choosing to use it as a credit card rather than a debit card will usually save you from paying addi- tional fees while still simply debiting your account. However, keep in mind that you will likely be charged an ATM withdrawal fee if the bank is not your own.
So if you're withdrawing money every day, you may be better off with traveler's checks — provided that you don't mind showing identification every time you want to cash one. All the major theme parks and resorts accept trav- eler's checks from major banks. If you choose to carry traveler's checks, be sure to keep a record of their ifXi serial numbers separate from your checks in case they're stolen or lost. You'll get a refund faster if you know the numbers. Your credit card company or insurer may require a police report number or record of the loss.
Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. Although I don't recommend doing so, you can buy Disney Dollars currency with cute little pictures of Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, or even a familiar pirate or two printed on it at the resorts orthe Guest Services desk in each of the parks.
This currency provides no real benefit other than its negligible souvenir value. If you want to trade Disney Dollars for real currency upon leaving, you end up facing — you guessed it! Be advised that refunds for deposits on wheelchairs, strollers, and such in the theme parks are often paid in Disney Dollars.
But if you're persistent, you can get your refunds in Uncle Sam's currency, instead of Mickey's.
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If you need emergency cash during a weekend when all banks and American Express offices are closed, you can have money wired to you via Western Union ; www. Identity theft or fraud is a potential complication of losing your wallet, especially if you've lost your driver's license along with your credit cards. Notify the major credit-reporting bureaus immediately; placing a fraud alert on your records may protect you against liability for criminal activity. The three major U. Finally, if you lose all forms of photo ID, call your airline and explain the situation; they may allow you to board your plane if you have a copy of your passport or birth certificate and a copy of the police report you've filed.
In this chapter, I eliminate the travel double talk, shed the useless options, and make sure that you have a fun and easy time planning your getaway. Flying to Orlando Getting to Orlando by plane is a breeze. Almost every major domestic airline offers direct service to Mickeyville from most major cities in the United States and Canada.
A number of international carriers also fly direct from several major European and South American cities. Finding out Which airlines fly there If you're flying to Orlando, the best place to land is Orlando International Airport S 1 ; www. The airport, which locals refer to as OIA confusingly, the official airport code is MCO , offers direct or nonstop service from approximately 60 U.
About 50 scheduled airlines and several charters feed nearly 35 million people through its gates annually. The sheer number of flights in and out of its gates makes OIA the top dog as far as local airports go, and its location reinforces that even more. The airport connects to highways, Interstate 4, and toll roads that get you whether you're driving or being driven into the heart of it all within 30 or 40 minutes fewer if you're headed into downtown Orlando. If a proposed train running from the airport to the theme park zones ever gets built, OIA will become that much more convenient.
Although you may save money flying into Sanford International, it has some drawbacks: The flight schedules aren't always convenient; the airlines using the airport don't serve all that many cities; and you definitely need a rental car — the airport is on the northern side of Orlando, well over 45 minutes from Walt Disney World. Getting the best deal on your airfare Competition among the major U. Every airline offers virtually the same product basically, a coach seat is a coach seat is a But if you can book your ticket far in advance, can stay over Saturday night, and are willing to travel midweek Tues, Wed, or Thurs , you can take advantage of far-less-expensive ticket prices — usually only a fraction of the full fare.
Obviously, planning ahead pays. The airlines also periodically hold sales, in which they lower the prices on their most popular routes. These fares have advance-purchase requirements and date-of-travel restrictions, but you can't beat the prices. As you plan your vacation, keep your eyes open for these sales, which tend to take place in seasons of low travel volume — September to November and April to early June. You almost never see a sale around the peak summer vacation months of July and August, or around Thanks- giving or Christmas, when many people fly, regardless of the fare they have to pay.
Another option is to fly on one of several no-frills airlines — low fares but no amenities — that service Orlando. Spirit Airlines 17; www. JetBlue Airways? T ; www. Ted Airlines ; www. AirTran Airways S 1 ; www. Most of these no-frills airlines the way of extras than many of the larger carriers Jo, given alTthe cuTBacks and reductions in service of late, making them an all-around good buy. Booking your flight online The "big three" online travel agencies — Expedia www. Canadian travelers should try www. Each has differ- ent business deals with the airlines and may offer different fares on the same flights, so shopping around is wise.
Expedia and Travelocity will also send you an e-mail notification when a cheap fare becomes avail- able to your favorite destination. Of the smaller travel agency Web sites, SideStep www. It's a browser add-on that purports to "search sites at once," but in reality it only beats competitors' fares as often as other sites do. Great last-minute deals are available through free weekly e-mail services provided directly by the airlines. Most of these deals are announced on Tuesday or Wednesday and must be purchased online. Most are only valid for travel that weekend, but some such as Southwest's can be booked weeks or months in advance.
Sign up for weekly e-mail alerts at airline Web sites or check mega-sites that compile comprehensive lists of last-minute specials, such as Smarter Travel www. For last-minute trips, Site59 www. If you're willing to give up some control over your flight details, use an opaque fare service like Priceline www. Both offer rock-bottom prices in exchange for travel on a "mystery airline" at a mysterious time of day, often with a mysterious change of planes en route. The mystery airlines are all major, well-known carriers — and the possibility of being sent from Philadel- phia to Orlando via Omaha is remote.
But your chances of getting a 6 a. Hotwire tells you flight prices before you buy; Priceline usually has better deals than Hotwire, but you have to play its "Name Your Own Price" game. Note: In , Priceline added non-opaque service to its roster. You now have the option to pick exact flights, times, and airlines from a list of offers — or opt to bid on opaque fares as before. You can sign up for all the major airlines at one time by logging on to Smarter Travel www. Airline sites also offer schedules, Lflitlt IJ kJii. Jipvilhimation on late-breaking bargains.
Driving to Orlando Driving to Orlando is sometimes a less expensive and potentially more scenic option, unless the distance is so great that making the road trip eats up too much of your vacation and, thanks to rising gas prices, your budget as well. Table lists how far several cities are from Orlando. Dakin Ave. Amtrak's Auto Train allows you to bring your car to Florida without having to drive it all the way.
The service begins in Lorton, Virginia — about a four-hour drive from New York, two hours from Philadelphia — and ends at Sanford, Florida, about 23 miles northeast of Orlando. Reserve early for the lowest prices. Call Amtrak for more details. As with airfares, you can sometimes get discounts if you book train rides far in advance. But you may find some restrictions on travel dates for discounted train fares, mostly around the very busy holiday periods. If you're willing to travel off season, however, and spend four or more of your vacation days in transit, you can score a rare deal.
Amtrak also offers money-saving packages, including accommodations some at WDW resorts , car rentals, tours, and so on. For vacation package information, call 'B' or go online to www. In many cases, a package tour that includes air- fare, hotel, and transportation to and from the airport costs less than the hotel alone on a tour you book yourself. That's because packages are sold in bulk to tour operators, who then resell them to the public. It's kind of like buying your vacation at a buy-in-bulk store — except the tour operator is the one who buys the 1,count box of candy bars and resells them 10 at a time at a cost that undercuts the local supermarket.
Package tours can vary as much as those candy bars, too. Some book flights on scheduled airlines; others sell charters. But don't buy insurance from the tour operator! If it doesn't fulfill its obligation to provide you with the vacation you've paid for, you have no reason to think it'll fulfill its insurance obligations either.
Obtain travel insurance through an independent agency. See Chapter 7 for more infor- mation about buying travel insurance. Another good source of package deals is the airlines themselves. If you're unsure about the pedigree of a smaller packager, check with the Better Business Bureau in the city where the company is based, or go to www.
If a packager won't tell you where it's based, don't fly with that company. Theme-park offerings Disney offers a dizzying array of packages that can include airfare, accommodations on or off Disney property, theme-park passes, a rental car, meals, and a Disney cruise.
Disney offers seasonal packages, as well as special themed vacations, including, but not limited to, golf, honey- moons, spa makeovers, little ones' travel time, and so on. Here are some of the plusses of booking a Disney package tour: Using Disney as your source for an all-Disney vacation is hard to beat.
The company's Web site www. There's even a Magical Gatherings option for families and large groups traveling together that offers special planning tips and features. However, be aware of the following drawbacks to Disney package deals: Resort guests receive the same perks, whether you buy your Disney package from Disney or someone else and sometimes other places, such as AAA, offer additional perks to people who book with them instead of directly with Disney.
If you don't ask about deals to begin with, the agents frequently don't volunteer suggestions, such as the possibility that you can save money if you start your Disney vacation a day earlier or later. Some WDW package perks aren't always worth the extra money you pay in the package price. For example, if they say you get your picture taken with Mickey as part of the deal, expect that you can find a better deal elsewhere and pay for your own photo.
What you're really paying for is the convenience of having Disney plan the details. If you want to see more of Orlando than WDW and most people do , you need to compare the offerings of a Disney agent with those of a regular travel agent. A motivated travel agent can put together a package of Disney and non-Disney accommodations and attrac- tions for less than the amount WDW charges. You'll find a dizzying menu of options from which to choose.
Although not on the same scale as Disney, the packages at Universal Orlando have improved greatly since the addition of the Islands of Adventure theme park see Chapter 19 , the CityWalk entertainment district see Chapters 10 and 25 , and the Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, and Royal Pacific hotels see Chapter 9. Your package choices include resort stays; VIP access to the parks, rides, and often restaurants; and discounts to other non-Disney attractions.
Universal also offers pack- ages that include travel and transportation. Contact Universal Vacations at 'S' , or surf online to www. SeaWorld also offers packages that include rooms at a handful of Orlando hotels including the Renaissance Orlando Resort at SeaWorld see Chapter 9 and the Orlando World Center Marriott see Chapter 9 , car rental, tickets to SeaWorld see Chapter 20 , and, in some cases, tickets to other area theme parks.
You can get information at "S or online at www. Part II: Planning Your Trip to Walt Disney World and Orlando hotel i landth Area hotels often join forces with the parks by offering special ticket deals or stay-and-play packages, so be sure to ask when making your hot el r eservations. Other places to find packages You can also find packages elsewhere than the airlines and theme parks. Other package specialists include the following: v 0 Touraine Travel?
Afraid you may experience barriers blocking your access or lifestyle? In this chapter, I dispense a little advice for travelers with specific needs. But family travel can be immensely reward- ing, letting you see the world through smaller pairs of wondrous and curious eyes. Orlando loves kids and welcomes them like no other city in the world. In addition to its theme parks, Orlando has plenty of smaller kid-friendly attractions. All but a few restaurants offer lower- priced children's menus see Chapter 10 for more info on kids and dining , and most hotels love their younger guests, providing pint-size pools and, in some cases, special gifts and programs.
Look to Chapter 9 to find kid-friendly hotels. Despite Orlando's reputation as one of the kid-friendliest places around, you may find some of its attractions a bit too edgy, sophisticated, or intense for younger kids, including a handful of Epcot's exhibits see Chapter 13 and many of the primo thrill rides at Islands of Adventure see Chapter Likewise, you may find other attractions, such as Discovery Cove see Chapter 20 , somewhat cost-prohibitive, even for adults.
Here are a few general suggestions for making travel plans for you and your youngsters: Consider age — are your kids old enough? Do you really want to bring an infant or a toddler to an overcrowded, usually overheated world that he or she may not be old enough to appreciate? The large number of stroller-pushing, toddler-toting parents in the parks suggests that many people think the experience isn't too ter- rible, but I'm warning you anyway.
If your child or grandchild is 4 years old or younger, he may be able to appreciate only some of the parks' offerings, though a good deal of Disney's Magic Kingdom is geared toward youngsters see Chapter However, some of the costume-wearing characters may intimidate very young kids. And no matter how organized you are, little ones are going to slow you down. Ask yourself whether your kids are the right ages to make the most out of a trip that costs the equivalent of a developing nation's gross national product.
Kids younger than 12 and at times up to 17 can usually stay for free in their parent's room at most hotels. Look for places that have pools and other recreational facilities so that you have the option to spend a day or two away from the parks without incurring too many addi- tional expenses. If you want to skip a rental car and you aren't staying at Disney, International Drive is the next-best place for centralized rooms, restaurants, and attractions. The I-Drive trolley makes frequent runs up and down the thoroughfare, hotels often offer family discounts see Chapter 9 , and many hotels provide free or moderate-cost shuttles to Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, and Universal Orlando.
Take advantage of sitter services. Most Orlando hotels, including all of Disney's, offer some form of baby-sitting services usually from an outside service , and several hotels feature counselor- supervised activity programs for children who've been toilet- trained. Plan ahead for character dining. If you'd like to eat a meal with a cast of Disney characters while at Walt Disney World, make Advanced Dining Reservations when you reserve your hotel room or even earlier — these meal events fill up quickly; see Chapter 10 for more details about character dining.
Prepare your kids to meet Mickey. And remember — the "in" thing is getting character auto- graphs, so take my advice: If price is no object, buy an autograph book at the parks it doubles as a good souvenir — or buy one at home and bring it along. Getting lost inside a theme park is easy no matter what your age. For adults and older kids, make sure that you arrange a lost-and-found meeting place as soon as you arrive in the park. Attach a name tag to younger kids on the inside of their clothes and find a park employee as soon as you've been separated from your party.
I list lost-and-found locations in my descriptions of the major theme parks in Chapters 12 to 16 and Chapters 18 to Consider carrying along a pair of two-way walkie-talkies or cell- phones to help keep in touch with everyone. V Pack to toddler-proof your hotel room. Although your home may be toddler-proof, hotel rooms aren't. Bring outlet covers and other necessary safety items to prevent an accident from occurring in your room. W Stay safe in the sun. Don't forget to bring sunscreen for the entire family.
If you forget, buy sunscreen with a rating of SPF 30 or higher before you go out in the sun. Slather your young children — even if they're in a stroller — and make sure that you pack a hat for infants and toddlers. Likewise, make sure that everyone traveling with you drinks plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
Remember ride restrictions. Most parks explain their height restrictions for certain attractions or identify those that may unset- tle young children. I also list these restrictions in my discussions of the major theme parks in Chapters and Chapters Save yourself and your kids some grief before getting in line and experiencing disappointment. Remember that a bad trip down a darkened tunnel or a scary loop-de-loop can upset your youngster for the rest of the day sometimes longer. Take time out for a show. Catching an inside, air-conditioned show two or three times a day provides a nice break for everyone, espe- cially on hot and steamy summer afternoons.
You may even get your littlest tykes to nap in the darkened theater. Be sure to arrive at least 20 minutes early if you want good seats, but not so early that the kids go berserk waiting. Most of the waiting areas are out- side, even if the show is inside. Pack a snack. When dreaming of your vacation, you probably don't envision hours spent waiting in lines. Store some lightweight snacks in an easy-to-carry back- pack, especially when traveling with small kids.
You'll save yourself headaches and money. It's with you when you need it — say, in your hotel room or in a restaurant as a high chair. And it's an absolute lifesaver at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, where you face long walks from the parking lot to the ticket booths.
Your stroller should be lightweight, be easy to fold and unfold with one hand, have a canopy, be able to recline for naps, and have plenty of storage space. They don't recline and have little or no storage space for kid gear. And they are absolutely inappropriate for infants and tod- dlers some parks rent infant-appropriate strollers but availability is extremely limited.
Park strollers will do, however, if you have older kids who just need an occasional break from all the walking. For infants and small toddlers, you may want to bring a Snugli-type sling or backpack-type carrier for use in traveling to and from park- ing lots and while you're standing in line for attractions. The Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld parks all feature some rather unique play areas that offer parents a rest and the kids a place to continue to have fun.
Depending on your stamina, you may want to schedule two or three visits to these spots a day. During summer months, the Florida humidity can keep you feeling soggy all day, so bring fresh clothing to change into, especially if you're headed out for dinner afterward.
And you'll really feel soggy if you take a spin on any of the parks' water-related rides, so packing changes of clothes or even swim- suits for the whole family is a good idea. W Plan playtime for parents. Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando offer a ride-share program for parents traveling with small children.
On many "big-kid" rides, one parent can ride the attrac- tion while the other stays with the kids, and then the adults can switch places and the second parent can ride without having to stand in line again. Notify a staff member that you want to take advantage of this program when you get in line. Finding kid-friendly tours Many theme parks design tours for the younger set that include great sources of age-appropriate entertainment.
SeaWorld has justifiably earned its reputation as a park that makes education fun with a variety of tours. One of the most interesting is the Polar Expedition guided tour. This hour-long journey gives kids a Chapter 6: Catering to Special Travel Needs or Interests chance to come face to face with a penguin and get a behind-the-scenes look at polar bears and beluga whales. And the Predators tour. SeaWorld tours are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, so reserve a place at the guided tour information desk when you enter the park.
Call TS or go towww. More fun options for kids Many of Disney's resorts offer special options for the young set.