Orlando Attractions
Vacation Guide




Planning Your Vacation


Orlando attractions draw more than 50-million people to the area every year. As a matter of fact, this Central Florida city welcomes more visitors to its theme parks, amusement parks and water parks than any other city in the world. The combination of the year-round tropical climate, superior accommodations and outstanding entertainment has made it the number one attraction for families around the globe.

Seeing that this is such a popular travel destination, it is imperative that you make your reservations and plans ahead of time. This will not only ensure that you have an ideal place to stay when you visit Orlando theme parks, but it will also ensure that you get the best prices possible on your theme park vacation.

Planning your vacation to Orlando theme parks during the off-season can also save big money. Peak vacation times include spring break weeks, mid-summer school vacations and Christmastime while slower times include January, February, and the end of October. If you can't take your trip during the off-season, be sure to book your vacation way in advance.

There is no question that Orlando theme parks are one of the best ideas for family for fun and relaxation. But there is a significant cost to the families who decide to visit. Families that struggle to keep their head above water often can't imagine shelling out thousands of dollars for the trip. Of course anything is possible if you plan your budget accordingly.

Going on vacation to different Orlando theme parks, while expensive, does not have to break the bank if you follow a few simple guidelines. Forward thinking, anticipating, organizing and planning all protect your travel interests, saves money and avoids unnecessary costs. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to do the research needed.

The most helpful currency you have besides your travel funds is knowledge and information. Investing time, effort and a sometimes a little money to get quality information will save you money in the long run. The more you know about the Orlando theme parks you will be visiting, the more rewarding and fiscally successful your visit will be.


Package Deal or "A la Carte" ?

There are a couple of different ways to book your trip to Orlando theme parks. The first way is to shop the various vacation packages available and pick the one that fits your needs and budget.

The second way is to price everything individually and look under every rock to ferret out the best deals. I call this type of vacation pricing the "a la carte" method. Regardless of which method is best for you, this guide includes the resources you need to plan the best vacation ever. Now, let's get started on that budget!


Budget

Write it down! Having your Orlando theme parks budget in writing before you start the research process will help you focus when all the choices start flying at you. It is also no surprise at all that impulse shopping or spur of the moment expenses make us over-spend and max-out our travel budget quickly. If you have a hard time resisting temptation, just be sure and make a category in your budget to allow for those spending sprees.

When you are planning your vacation to Orlando theme parks and setting up your travel budget, do the major obligations and essentials first, then add for incidental expenses. Budgetary monitoring and disciplined spending when taking your theme park vacation will pay off. Here are just a few examples to start with that you can add your own categories to:

• Major Expenses

1. Travel expenses – plane, train or automobile (gas for your own car or cost of a rental)
2. Length of stay
3. Accommodations – Resort and area hotels, condos, vacation rental homes
4. Food – more choices than I can list…
5. Special events – character dining, golf, scuba diving (EPCOT and Discovery Cove), etc.
6. Tickets to Orlando theme parks – several options to choose from depending on your length of stay, park hopping options, meal packages, water parks, etc.

• Incidental Expenses

1. Travel insurance
2. Souvenirs and gifts
3. Entertainment – concerts, movies, etc.
4. Ground transportation
5. Laundry
6. Travel essentials – see list
7. Pet Accommodations
8. Miscellaneous – stroller rent, parking fees, tips


Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is a subject that seems to divide the vacation crowd into two distinct camps. Some people wouldn't consider traveling without it, and others don't really ever seriously consider getting it until it's too late.

Obviously the vast majority of our trips to Orlando theme parks go off without a major hitch, but when something goes wrong on the road it can be far worse than if the same thing happened at home.

Travel insurance is insurance that you can purchase when you are taking a trip to Orlando theme parks. Trip cancellation or interruption policies, or TCI, are the most common but additional medical coverage or life insurance can also be included with price depending on age, pre-existing conditions and length of trip.

Basic TCI policies typically cost between 4 percent and 7 percent of the price of the trip and can protect your Orlando theme parks vacation investment as well as provide additional benefits such as lost baggage claims and a small amount of basic medical coverage.

TCI coverage is frequently offered by tour operators, insurance companies, travel agencies and airlines. It is often offered as an option when booking a vacation package although you can easily purchase a policy separately when planning your trip "a la carte". Medical and auto insurance policies may also provide some coverage with some credit card issuers offering life insurance on flights.

Travel insurance is worthwhile even on a budget and is essential if you're planning a big budget vacation to Orlando theme parks. Accidents, emergencies, and unforeseen circumstances can happen anywhere at any time, to anyone.

TCI policies are optional but can be a great investment and give you peace of mind by protecting your vacation investment, health, and belongings in the event your trip is waylaid or canceled. If you're booking your trip "a la carte", learn how to cover your vacation with AIG Travel Guard. Click here for a free quote!


Ready, Aim, Research!


Sign Up For A Free Email Account

Before beginning your online research, do yourself a favor and sign up for a free email account, like Hotmail or Yahoo, to receive all of your travel-related newsletters and information.

When you register at the various and sundry online travel agencies and Orlando theme parks, they will sometimes send you emails and offers from their corporate travel partners. Having a separate account just for this purpose will save you and your primary mailbox a lot of headaches.


Research Your Theme Park

Ensuring that you are familiar with as much background and up-to-date park information will enable you to make the most of your budget and plan your vacation schedule more effectively.

Orlando theme parks can be hectic so take a little time before you go to explore the park from the comfort of your own home so you can avoid feeling so overwhelmed when you get there. There are free and easy ways to check out your theme park destination before you go. Here are my favorites:

• Check out your local library or bookstore to see which “unofficial” Orlando theme parks guides they may have. They are usually written by very devoted attendees to a particular park and boast several money-saving tips as well as a "must do's” section for each park in case your time is limited and you just want to hit the highlights.

1. For Walt Disney World, I would recommend a couple of books. First, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2008 by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa. It includes time-saving touring plans, attraction ratings and dining guide along with additional information on Universal Studios.

Second, I would recommend investing in the Disney World Vacation And Savings Travel Guide by Beth Hayworth. She's an ex-Disney employee and has great insider information on getting steep Disney World Discounts.

2. For Universal Studios Orlando, I would recommend the book Universal Orlando 2008: The Ultimate Guide to the Ultimate Theme Park Adventure by Kelly Monaghan. This book offers the most up-to-date features and attractions of the park along with some great insider tips.

3. For Busch Gardens Africa, SeaWorld and some of the other smaller parks, like Holy Land Experience and Gatorland, I would recommend Beyond Disney: The Unofficial Guide to Universal, Sea World & the Best of Central Florida by Bob Sehlinger and Grant Rafter. This book does rehash some information on WDW and Universal but the info on the other area parks is worth the read.

• Go online and visit each Orlando theme parks official website.

1. Sign up to receive any free publications and newsletters which may include ticket discounts. Disney has a free trip planning DVD that you can request and I highly recommend that you get it. It’s excellent and serves as a great “video memory book” for your kids once they get home from the vacation! Disney also offers printable children's activities you can use to get kids excited about the trip as well as pass the time on a long plane or car ride.

2. Check out their maps. Most Orlando theme parks have maps that you can look at and even download as well as up-to-date listings of live shows, exhibits and other special attractions that may so new that it isn't in the unofficial guides. Their sites are also the ideal spot to get familiar with park hours, parking fees, stroller rental and other important information.

3. Here are the Orlando theme parks in alphabetical order. Although the Walt Disney World Resort dominates the area, there are several other unique theme parks in the Orlando area that provide excellent entertainment and are definitely worth exploring.

Animal Kingdom
Blizzard Beach
Bob Makinson Aquatic Center
Discovery Cove
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
EPCOT
Fun Spot
Gatorland & Gator Gully Splash Park
The Holy Land Experience
Magic Kingdom
Old Town
SeaWorld Aquatica
SeaWorld Orlando
Typhoon Lagoon
Universal Studios Orlando & Islands of Adventure
& Wet n’ Wild Water Park




Theme Park Tickets

Orlando theme parks offer tickets with single and multi-day options and opportunities to add park hopping features, meal plans and "fast pass" options that allow you to jump to the head of the line at park attractions. Typically, the more days or parks your ticket covers, the larger the savings. Just be sure that you will be able to use the features of a multi-option ticket in order to justify the increase in cost.

Vacation packages usually include tickets to Orlando theme parks but if you are pricing your trip individually, Undercover Tourist offers discount theme park tickets. Their prices include tax and shipping and they also offer an excellent refund policy in the event you have a change in plans.Theme Park Tickets - which ticket is right for me?

If there are attractions you want to see that are not covered by the cost of your passes, decide together which ones you will include, planning ahead of time to stay within budget so no one is disappointed later.

The Go Orlando card by Smart Destinations is a great option and allows you to see 50 of Orlando's Most Popular Attractions, Tours, & Shows for One Low Price. Here are just a few of the great attractions that are included:

• Kennedy Space Center
• Daytona 500 Experience
• Gatorland
• Cypress Gardens Adventure Park
• Silver Springs Nature Park
• Fun Spot Action Park
• Splash Island Water Park
• Wet 'N Wild Orlando
• Train Land
• Ripley's Believe it or Not
• WonderWorks
• Haunted Grimm House
• Arabian Nights Dinner Theater
• Pirate's Dinner Adventure
• The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show
• Hawaiian Rumble Golf

The Go Orlando cards are good up to two weeks after date of purchase and also include a "Kids Eat Free" card with the purchase of each adult card.


Vacation Packages


Vacation packages can be a great choice for you if you don't have the time or inclination to price and book your vacation to Orlando theme parks "a la carte". Airlines and online travel agencies have done a lot of the heavy lifting so that you can purchase the combined package for less and do all of your shopping at one site.

Typical vacation packages include airfare, lodging and car rentals and may also include many other additional perks such as theme park tickets, tours, area attractions, meal plans and ground transfers.

Orlando vacation packages can be a great bargain but before congratulating yourself for a job well done and money saved, check the cancellation and refund policy. You need to calculate what the financial impact would be if you had to forfeit or cancel your trip.

Your vacation can take a year to save for, and only a second to ruin. This is also where the option of travel insurance may come in handy so be sure to read all the fine print.


Online Travel Agencies

Online travel agencies have partners that grant them access to exclusive deals and special offers as well as their unsold inventory, such as vacant seats on planes, empty hotel rooms and unrented cars, at an enormous discount. The travel agencies can then create vacations packages for Orlando theme parks and pass the savings on to you.

If you're planning to use an all-in-one online travel agency, you could shop around for a few hours online, take notes and price similar vacation packages at several sites...or do what I do…

I use the travel search engine, Kayak.com, to do all the comparison shopping for me. I enter my criteria for my Orlando theme parks vacation package and it searches over a hundred different travel websites for me. I choose which package is best for me and get sent directly to that particular site.



Don't be afraid to check with your local travel agent about Orlando theme parks. Sometimes a travel agency will charge a booking and administration fee to handle your trip and reservation. This leads to the misconception that they are expensive and usually the opposite is true.

They are able to provide you with considerable information regarding special offers, limited time package deals and seat sales as well as special rates. They can also offer advice and information about destination travel, travel advisories, needs and costs. It never hurts to ask…


Take Advantage of Current Club Memberships

Do you already belong to AAA Auto Club, AARP, Sam's Club or Costco? These club memberships and others like them offer a lot more benefits than just the obvious ones so be sure to check into them.

Go to their websites and see what travel specials that they may have on Orlando theme parks and sign up to receive any free travel guides they may offer. You can often get member discounts on theme park tickets, rental cars, hotels and even complete vacation packages. Since you're paying for the membership anyway, you might as well take advantage of it!


"A La Carte"


If you like the idea of pricing and booking each part of your Orlando theme parks vacation individually, then here are some of the the main things to consider.


Accommodations

Accommodations are as much a part of your vacation as the restaurants and theme parks. You have a lot of options, from budget inns to luxury hotels as well as vacation rental homes and timeshare properties. Let's take a look…


Hotels

Regardless of the Orlando theme parks vacation you desire, there is a great hotel waiting to accommodate your stay. It is a city that has been designed to cater to every theme park vacationing need and desire, from the newlywed couple looking to have a memorable honeymoon to the family of four enjoying their summer school break. There are thousands of hotel rooms in the greater Orlando area to fit every budget and style.

Choosing your hotel will depend a great deal on your budget. A low price is great, but if the property is miles away from the Orlando theme parks you're visiting, is in need of repairs, or has some other major problem, your vacation may suffer. Look for a hotel closest to your preferred park that also features added incentives like complimentary breakfasts and free transportation services to and from the major theme parks.

Again, I use the travel search engine, Kayak.com to do all the hotel comparison shopping for me. I enter my criteria and it searches over a hundred different travel websites for me, showing me the prices - from low to high - for what I was looking for.



If Comfort Inn had the best hotel deal, for example, I would just click that price and I would then be sent directly to the Comfort Inn website to book my room. Kayak.com isn't a travel agency so you don't book anything through them…they just do all the searching for you and tie it up in a bow!


Hotel Tips

Here are a few tips when staying at a hotel:

• Be sure to confirm the checkout time to avoid being billed for late checkout and advise the front desk immediately if there is a problem. Late checkouts are often permitted if approved by the hotel management in advance so be certain to request approval for late arrival/departure just as a precaution when booking and or checking into a hotel.

• Do not hesitate to strike up a conversation or ask questions. Hotel staff and employees are wonderful sources of information and offer another way to secure local tips and perspective. Asking for instructions, directions or advise about your Orlando theme parks vacation will usually be met with an eagerness to serve.

• Remember your thoughtfulness for the room attendance, valet and bellhop (if applicable) with appropriate tips and a little note if you so choose to show your appreciation.

• Carrying hotel or resort location information and telephone numbers is advisable. The easiest way is to simply ask the front-desk attendant for a business card when you check in. This again will save you time and money should you ever get lost and need to provide a cab driver with directions.

• If your hotel does provide free shuttle service to any of the Orlando theme parks, make sure to get a copy of their pick-up and drop-off schedule so that you don't get stuck at the park and have to find an expensive way back to the hotel!


Vacation Rental Homes

Vacation home rentals have become an incredibly popular alternative to the traditional hotel room when it comes to Orlando theme parks vacations. Lodging is usually one of the biggest chunks of a vacation budget and most savvy travelers want to make certain that every dollar is spent wisely. Not only are vacation homes clean and conveniently located next to many major theme parks, but they are also very affordable.

Most private vacation homes offer considerably more living space than you will find in the typical hotel room and are a great value for the budget-conscious. These homes are perfect for large families that need a little more room to spread out or perhaps two families who are traveling together and want to stay under one roof. Most rental homes offer several bedrooms and can sleep up to 12 people, which often makes the cost per person far less than that of a hotel.

Renting a vacation home is not like making a hotel reservation and typically requires signing an agreement and making a security deposit with the vacation property owner. The deposit is usually returned a few days after check-out, assuming that nothing in the home was damaged or taken.

This agreement is legally binding and provides more detail than the standard form you might find at a hotel. Make certain that you read and understand the terms of your agreement and are fully aware of all fees and deposits that due before signing the rental agreement so you can avoid any surprises later on.

Vacation rental homes are my number one choice in accommodations when vacationing at Orlando theme parks. We buy groceries and save additional money by eating meals at our rental home and by preparing and taking snacks to the park. We all have our own bedrooms and can go to bed at our regular and often different bedtimes.

I enjoy that "home away from home" freedom that comes with my rental fee and because I shop around, that rental fee is always less than that of a typical hotel stay. And, yes, I can say "always" because I do a lot of research before I ever spend a dime on a deposit.

Although there are several online rental home agencies available, my first step in rental home research always begins with EBAY. There are hundreds of rental properties listed on EBAY and I am never disappointed in the amount of results I find near the Orlando theme parks. Click the "View all items" link below to see the current listings of Orlando vacation rental homes available.



Of course, your budget is the first thing to consider when narrowing down your search results. Planning ahead and booking your rental home several weeks or even months ahead of time can save you money as well as give you peace of mind. But if you're making last-minute travel plans to Orlando theme parks, don't worry that you may have missed out on early bird savings because you can often take advantage of great deals on last-minute cancellations.

Rental home booking agencies always have customers that, for whatever reason, have to forfeit their deposit and cancel their reservation at the eleventh hour. They obviously don't want to have an empty rental home for a week so they often offer it up for a discounted price so that it will be rented quickly. They win and you definitely win and come away with a great deal on a rental home that fits your style and budget.

Regardless of your budget, make sure that the home you choose is cleaned before you arrive, is adequately furnished and features everything that you would use at your own home. Remember that reputable rental companies go above and beyond to provide you not only with great details about themselves but also with pictures and details about the homes that they offer. Here are just the very basics of what the home should supply:

• A fully equipped kitchen with dishes, microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator and cooking appliances.
• A washer and dryer.
• Central heat and air conditioning and all other utilities.
• Local phone service with emergency numbers by each phone.
• Cable TV, DVD/VCR player – some even offer free high-speed internet.
• An ample supply and assortment of towels and bed linens.
• Safety and security features like locks on all doors, pool alarm, fire extinguishers, etc.
• Off-street parking.
• Directions and phone numbers of area groceries and supercenters, entertainment venues and medical facilities.

Cleaning fees are usually included in your rental fee if your stay is at least 5 days. This makes the departure easier because you don't have to clean around the clutter or fear you're putting things back in the wrong spot. Rental companies can also supply cribs, high chairs and play pens upon request and some are even pet-friendly. Additional deposits may be required for some of these items so just ask first.

Vacation rental homes can provide a welcome and home-like retreat for those of us who spend most of our days enjoying the hustle and bustle of our favorite Orlando theme parks. From modest to extravagant, selecting a vacation rental that fits your personal style, accommodation needs and budget can be the beginning of a lasting vacation memory.


Timeshare Vacations

When it comes to staying in a timeshare property, there are two ways to go. First, you can rent the timeshare owner's week from him and be done with it. You can find great deals on several timeshare rentals on EBAY if you're so inclined. Just take a look at these current Orlando timeshare rentals...



Second, you could book your trip through a timeshare sales agency, like Hilton Grand Vacation Club, with the condition that you attend a sales meeting for the purpose of soliciting the sale of the timeshare property you are visiting.

If you’re considering vacation ownership and don't mind a lengthy sales presentation, this would be a great opportunity to find out more and have a discounted Orlando theme parks vacation at the same time. The vacation packages are generally between 3-5 days long with extra days available for additional fees. Most timeshare presentations come with the added incentive of free or deeply discounted theme park tickets, usually only good towards two tickets, but every little bit helps.

Just in case you're truly interested, timeshare ownerships are can be based on a "vacation point" system with flexibility in choosing among that companies network of locations and length of stay is up to you - stay for night, weekend, a week or longer.

Some timeshare companies offer fixed weeks at one resort, giving owners the option of exchanging weeks with different resorts within their network if they're available. Each year, the owner's vacation points or week is renewed and they can also bank unused points or weeks to the following year.

Timeshares are a great deal if you and your family plan to travel every year and if you’re the type of family who needs 5-star accommodations. Just because it's worth mentioning and no offense to the timeshare agents out there, you can also find authorized timeshare resellers on EBAY with listings like these:



If you attend a presentation and it's not right for you to invest in at that time, you can wait until you're ready and get a timeshare at a fraction of the cost. And because it's worth mentioning, always read the fine print when buying real estate, especially online!


Airlines

Flying to your vacation destination definitely has its benefits. Flying cuts travel time by at least half or more, depending on your destination, and leaves you with more time to enjoy your time at Orlando theme parks. It also saves wear and tear on your car, and more importantly your nerves, by not being cooped up hours on end with cranky kids, which then lead to cranky parents!

Most major airlines have online travel planners that provide savings to customers that book vacation packages online. If flying is in your future, then I suggest visiting all the major airlines and signing up for their weekly email specials.

My number one choice is Southwest Airlines because of their great deals on airfare and excellent all-in-one Orlando theme parks vacation packages that include air, rental cars, hotels, rental homes, travel insurance and park tickets.

Whether you plan to buy your airfare separately or as part of a vacation package, it still pays to be informed. Free air travel link. Here is a list of the major airlines that you can subscribe to:

• Alaska Airlines
• American
• Continental
• Delta
• Frontier
• Hawaiian
• Northwest
• Southwest
• Spirit
• United
• US Air
• West Jet – Canadian


Airline Tips

Here are a few things to keep in mind when traveling by air:

• Most airlines allow you one carry-on bag and limit your check-in baggage to two bags per person. Be sure to check out the luggage size and weight restrictions on the airline you are using to avoid having to pay additional costs and penalties for luggage overages.

• Try getting to the airport at least two hours before your flight time to allow enough time for security screenings. A favorite or planned book to read or something fun to do will keep you occupied if you do end up having time on your hands. Most boarding happens early these days due to security concerns so it is definitely more crucial to be early rather than risking being refused at the boarding gate due to safety regulations.

• If you are delayed and miss your flight for any reason, you need to know what your options are ahead of time. Airline errors, overbooking or inclement weather could delay or even cancel your vacation plans. If the delay is the result of the airline, be sure to inquire about seat upgrades, complimentary meals and/or hotel rooms or free flight vouchers.

• To avoid paying for over-priced airport food, be sure to take along extra water and snacks. Also take along some extra reading materials and if you're traveling with kids, bring along some travel games and some of those printable theme park games and activities.

• Do you have a non-stop flight? Non-stops do not stop while direct flights may stop several times. Check with your travel agent or airline and be aware of how long your layover will be at which airport as well as where the connection flights will be through.

• Seating arrangements on the plane can be done in advance or at time of booking even. Ensure you get what is comfortable for you, verify upon check-in, and boarding that you have what you need, requested and paid for. Who knows, you might just score and upgrade if seats are available. This is very important for those traveling with special needs, parents traveling with infants and pregnant passengers.

• If you are in for a long flight, there are several suggestions for seeing it through. Getting a good night's sleep the night before and wearing comfortable clothes and shoes that are fully broken in are all advisable. Taking casual strolls up and down the aisles keeps the circulation going and making several trips to the washroom to wash your face and brush your teeth will keep you refreshed.

• Planes can also be very cool spaces, so ask for a blanket and pillow when you sit down in your seat. You could also include a light jacket in your carry-on to take off the chill.


Feed Me!


Restaurant Meals

The costs of eating out can add up quickly while you're away from home so being conscious of where you're going and what you're spending is essential to staying within your budget. Many Orlando theme parks vacation packages offer meal plan upgrades but they sometimes don't offer that big of savings. Meal plans are usually limited to food counters and sit-down restaurants within the theme park and don't generally include outside establishments unless the park owns it.

If you don't have the budget to go that route, I suggest investing in an Orlando Entertainment Book. Entertainment books are full of great offers with 25% - 50% off or 2-for-1 discounts on restaurant and movies as well as tourist attractions and travel accommodations. Right now, you can get the Entertainment 2008 Book. All Books $15!

The Go Orlando card mentioned earlier also offers a "Kids Eat Free" card with each adult card purchased and is good at over 50 Orlando area restaurants. Go Orlando Card - Save 15% Now!


Food and Water On The Go

When we're busy enjoying our day at Orlando theme parks, we tend not to think too much about nutrition and good diet. The last thing you want to do is spend more money upon your return on a personal trainer or weight management program to battle those extra vacation pounds you have gained. Ensure a healthy, balanced eating style with the occasional indulgence and treat as opposed to throwing all caution into the wind and making it all about the food.

Shopping at a local grocer, deli or supercenter are all ways to stretch that “meal” ticket and travel dollar just a little further. If you are renting a vacation home or staying in a hotel room with its own mini-kitchen and fridge, you can save a lot of money just by cooking some of your own meals and bringing your own snacks to the park. The money you save on snacks and drinks can be put towards a great sit-down meal at the park later on.

When walking through acres and acres of attractions at Orlando theme parks, you need a lot of energy and stamina. It's very easy to succumb to the smells of all the great food available at the parks but it can sometimes be an unhealthy and especially expensive option. Be sure to pack snacks that require little to no refrigeration like raisins, nuts, peanut butter and crackers and fresh fruit.

Staying hydrated is just common sense. Drinking lots of water regularly will help prevent dehydration especially if you're visiting Orlando theme parks during the scorching summer months. Make sure every member of your party has their own travel water bottle with a secure cap.

Parks also supply free cups of tap water along with a plentitude of water fountains for filling up. Bringing along individual packets of lemonade or other flavored drink mixes can help you take advantage of an available resource.


Things To Arrange Before You Go...


House Sitters

Arrange for house sitters while you are away and always leave emergency contact numbers and information where they can find it. A neighbor or close trusted friend can keep a watchful eye on your behalf and drop in from time to time to water plants, shovel driveways and collect mail and newspapers. Reward them with a special gift or dinner upon your return. Also leave your Orlando theme parks itinerary with your friends, relatives and co-workers in case they may need to contact you.


Pet Accommodations

If you're leaving your pet at home, make certain that their caregiver is responsible and, in a perfect world, someone they already know and love. The trusted neighbor or friend who is house sitting for you may be able to pull double duty when it comes to watching your pet or even be able to keep it at their home while you're away. However, you may need to hire a pet sitter or take your pet to a reputable boarding facility.

Pet sitters come with all kinds of certifications and recommendations these days so feel free to interview several of them before making a decision. Let you pet in on the choice as well by making sure that both pet sitter and pet are compatible.

Boarding facilities are great choices for pets with medical issues or those who suffer separation anxiety. The same interviewing process goes for them as well since you want to make sure that your pet is lovingly and responsibly taken care of while you're gone.

If your pets are accompanying you on your trip to Orlando theme parks, special arrangements should be made well in advance. Some vacation rental homes, apartments, hotels and resorts are pet-friendly and encourage owners to bring them along.

Make it a rule of thumb to verify any details pertaining to animals prior to your departure and get all vet visits, guidelines and other paperwork done in advance as well as any additional fees that may apply.

Being able to leave your pet in a safe, air conditioned hotel room can provide peace of mind and avoid unnecessary boarding costs. But if leaving Fido at the hotel isn't an option, larger Orlando theme parks like Walt Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Studios also have kennels available for guests who need to bring their pets to the park.

The kennels will also provide you with a list of necessities your pet will need in order to stay in the facility so they will enjoy their day at the Orlando theme parks, too.


Checklists

Checklists are helpful travel-enablers at any phase of your trip. Some people write a list of what they are taking and expand the list after buying something while on the trip. On the way home, having this checklist with you will help you avoid leaving or forgetting something along the way in a bathroom or hotel drawer!


Travel Diary

You may want to keep a diary or notebook handy for receipts or just to scribble down experiences from the Orlando theme parks you visit. It jalso provides you with a good way to record your travel tips and suggestions to share with others as well as having that first step towards your budget consolidation and next trip already started. This cuts down on the work you will have to do on planning and budgeting for your next Orlando theme parks vacation.


Money Matters

In addition to the small bills you carry, you may want to invest in travelers checks to take with you. Some automobile clubs and banks offer them free to members and preferred customers and it is definitely worth your while and travel budget to check this out before obtaining your checks. As a precautionary security measure, remember to keep a list of the numbers of the checks somewhere separate from the checks themselves in case they are lost or stolen.

I load my Orlando theme parks vacation money onto a reloadable Visa debit card that I picked up at the customer service area of my local Wal-Mart. I find that it makes me very aware of sticking to my budget every time I have to swipe it! If you plan to use an existing credit card, limit your ATM transactions to avoid paying too many pricey transaction fees.

FYI, if you're staying at a Walt Disney World Resort property, your room key serves as a debit card at any WDW store or restaurant. The cast member just swipes your key card and your purchases are automatically billed to your room. This is very handy but can be very seductive and cause you to overspend.


Luggage

Inspect your existing luggage, including zippers, wheels, handles and identification tags. Clean the exterior of leather luggage with a good liquid saddle soap and conditioner. Nylon, vinyl and canvas luggage can easily be cleaned using a small amount of detergent, a cup of water and a scrub brush.

If cleaning your luggage is not enough and it isn't salvageable, consider borrowing from a friend or relative. You can also watch for retail sales or shop the closeout and clearance outlets for bargains.

Clearly marking and tagging your luggage can prevent spending additional money on possessions lost or misplaced. Never travel with an unmarked bag that does not carry your name and information on it. Buy a sharpie or permanent marker and some quality luggage tags and also be sure to use the airline provided tags at your departure location just for overkill.

You may want to "decorate" your luggage by putting some identifying elements on it, like a colorful ribbon, stickers or other identifier. Making it stand out will make it easier to identify amidst the other hundred bags in baggage claim or hotel lobby.


Packing

Think minimalism when packing. One of the most commonly made mistakes made by travelers is packing too much of everything. Except for the inconvenience, there are also charges and fees for overages. You have to deal with having to ship personal belongings home, leaving some items at the airport, packing and unpacking bags, removing items and more!

Pack and travel light and choose items that are multi-purpose, functional, mix and match, durable and easy-care essentials. Maximize the packing space you have in your luggage by putting small items such as spare glasses, dress accessories, socks and other small items inside your shoes. Shoes are usually rigid and can protect items that might otherwise be broken.

Depending on the time of year that you visit Orlando, you may want to take a sweater or multi-purpose jacket with you. A theme park gift shop is not the most economical place to buy something. Prices are always alot higher and you would probably spend too much without a second thought just because you need a jacket! That is where the checklist comes in handy when packing your suitcase in the first place.

Make sure to also leave a little room for things you may purchase during your trip or pack a flat fabric bag in the bottom of your suitcase to bring home those extra purchases. A wise traveler once said: “Take half the clothes and twice the money!”This is especially true when traveling to Orlando theme parks!

After packing your luggage, lift it up and carry it around the house or up and down the stairs to see how it feels. Remember, you will have to handle these eventually! This is a useful technique to re-evaluate and re-pack the amount you are taking with you and prevent you from being bogged down with a bag that's too heavy and clumsy for you.


Travel Essentials

Here is a small list of travel essentials that will come in incredibly handy on your Orlando theme parks vacation. If you don't already have any of these items, your local Dollar Tree or similar store offers a smorgasbord of items that will not break your budget. Practical items like these can come in handy in solving minor emergencies.

• Do-it-yourself kits like small tool kits, sewing kits, first aid kits, eyeglass repair kits could save you embarrassment, time and money! They take up limited space so it is wise to toss something like this into your luggage.

• A frequent-traveler favorite and luggage essential is a small, lightweight travel alarm. It will prove to come in handy repeatedly and is easily carried anywhere. They are freely available and affordable from specialty travel stores as well as discount stores.

• Weather can be unpredictable while visiting Orlando theme parks so being prepared for the occasional downpour is better than getting soaked and going broke on rain ponchos! An inexpensive raincoat or poncho and collapsible umbrella can be a money-saver since they run about ten dollars a piece at theme park gift shops. My local dollar store offers a pack of three adult rain ponchos for a buck! They don't have the cute mouse ears on the back but saving money makes me feel pretty good!

• Hand sanitizer and wipes are other small travel essential you can consider for your pockets or travel bag when you are out and about at Orlando theme parks where countless other germ-covered hands have gone before you.

• Sunscreen is a must-have and should be applied several times a day, especially on infants and children. If you don't already have a favorite brand, start sampling different ones until you find the one that one that you like. Some brands can be very greasy, smelly or both so you don't want to spend the whole day wearing something you hate. Other brands also have bug repellent mixed in with the sunscreen as well.


Handy Bags and Carry-Ons

Carry-on luggage is a stopgap solution for inevitabilities and a safe haven for valuables and your all-in-one solution to anything that can be thrown at you. It should ideally be packed with any items necessary to keep you happy, healthy and clean – like hand sanitizer, meds, sunglasses, etc.- in case your checked luggage is misplaced, delayed or worse, stolen.

It's also a good idea to take a clean set of underwear and one change of clothes in your on-board or carry-on luggage. Remember not to pack any dangerous or forbidden items in your on-flight baggage. Check with any airline's website for a list of taboo items.


Laundry

A laundry-saving tip suggests taking an ample supply of plastic bags to hold such things as soiled laundry, damp items and muddy shoes. These will protect and save your clothing and pocketbook in various ways. Small bags are excellent for storing toilet articles, stationery items and medicine. You can also get the space-saver vacuum-type bags to maximize space in your suitcases and keep dirty and clean clothes separated and free from spills and leaks.

Consider placing all things fluid in sealable plastic bags that will not leak. Wrapping a bottle in a towel or clothing will not protect it or keep it from leaking and staining your clothes. The damage could be permanent and lead to unnecessary laundry expenses or even replacement of clothes.


The Doctor Is Out!

Medical details should be on hand at all times. Having any and all health related questions, information and emergency contacts and logistics, insurance and policy, immunization record (if applicable) and all other relevant documentation handy is key and can not be ignored. It's also a good idea to prepare a list of health care providers, clinics, hospitals and pharmacies in the Orlando area especially when traveling with children or special needs situations.


Prescriptions

If you have to travel with medicine, it is wise to carry it in the bottle the prescription came in to avoid any confusion during airport inspections. Even a note from your doctor to state what it is and what condition it is used for could be helpful. Make sure to fill any prescriptions prior to your trip and keep physician's phone numbers and all insurance information handy.


Over-The-Counter Meds

Also remember to bring along a short supply of your regular over-the-counter pain medication, allergy relief as well as stuff for the occasional upset tummy. There are several brands that offer convenient strips that are easy to slip into a wallet or purse.


Glasses

Wear glasses? Bring an extra pair along with a copy of the existing prescription. cleaning solutions, eyeglass repair kit etc, are all travel necessities if you wear them. Ensure they are on your pre-departure, out-the-door checklist. Good advice to eyeglass-wearers: take an extra pair of glasses, as well as either a copy of the existing or a new prescription for your glasses, just in case you might need them.


Cameras and Laptops

Multi-media and technology are travel essentials these days for staying in touch and capturing memories at Orlando theme parks. Digital cameras and laptop computers are lighter and more convenient than ever before and usually take up little room in a carry-on bag when flying or driving.

Make certain to buy necessary items like extra rechargeable batteries, charger-kits, adapter plugs, cables and memory cards before your trip. The additional cost of replacing these items in addition to not being able to take the footage or pictures you want because the power has run low or out make this the best investment you can make in order to re-live precious family moments.


Phone Home

Cell phones and pre-paid phone cards are must-haves. They are a good alternative to long distance calls from your hotel room, vacation rental home or at the Orlando theme parks you're visiting.


Incidental Expenses


Strollers, Wheelchairs and Electric Scooters

If you were planning on renting a stroller or chair at any of the Orlando theme parks, check the park's website to be sure you are budgeting for the correct amount. As for strollers, I’d recommend looking at the cost of buying one as compared to renting.


Souvenirs and Gifts

Does your Orlando theme parks budget allow gifts? Budget categories often overlook include gifts for others. If you're running low on capital or just have a tight budget, consider sending a personalized post-card. It is always thoughtful idea and makes others feel flattered that you took the time to think about them and send it.

If you do plan on purchasing souvenirs and mementos for friends, be sure to leave some money in a discretionary or personal allowance category. Make a list of names prior to your trip for which you want to purchase gifts, the amount that you can spend and then check the names off as you make your purchases. Avoid utilizing your credit card as we tend to over-spend by default by not having to pay for it with ready cash.


Tips

Giving tips are considered common courtesy and customary most places in the world but as an expenditure category, it can add up quickly and substantially! If ever in doubt whether it is appropriate to give a tip, ask. Ensure you set aside enough of an incidental budget to cover these and other daily expenditures covering the duration of your trip to Orlando theme parks.


Parking Fees

Orlando theme parks charge daily parking fees so be sure to check your theme parks website to see the most recent parking rate. Once the parking fee is paid, it is good for that entire day in the event you have to leave and come back. Walt Disney World resort guests and annual pass holders receive complimentary parking as do annual pas holders at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.


Safe and Secure


Play It Safe, Please

Personal freedom and safety deserves a word to the travel wise. If traveling in a group, you can venture out on your own if you choose but always ensure that everyone in the group knows what your plans are, where you are going and when you plan to return. Check that the attractions you have chosen are safe, tourist-friendly and easily accessible.

Having a specific time and location in the Orlando theme parks to meet up with your group is especially handy when traveling with different age groups. It is almost inevitable that not everyone will want to do the same thing so having a plan in place before you separate is essential.

Although nothing replaces a parents' watchful eye, investing in a proximity alarm for a small child can also be a wise idea. Little ones can wander off or get out of sight pretty quickly in a busy theme park so having a backup adds a little peace of mind.

I have a Safety First Child Alarm that has a belt for my daughter to wear under her shirt along with a receiver that I attach to my belt loop. I can adjust the distance on my unit - up to 50 feet – and if she exceeds that distance, both alarms go off. Both units also have panic buttons so if she is playing hide and seek, I can hit the panic button and find her immediately, or if she loses sight of me, she can hit her button.


Paperwork

Paperwork like travelers check numbers and credit card numbers, insurance cards, medical information and even the booking information for your trip should always be kept in a hotel safe or equally secure place. Keeping a photocopy packed somewhere is also a good idea. In the unlikely event that things get stolen, you will have all the information ready in order to notify the authorities and cancel any accounts.


Relax, You're On Vacation!


Over Scheduling

Don't feel that you have to cram every minute of your vacation day to get your money's worth. There is not a thing wrong with relaxing and taking a breather along the way. Burdening yourself with an overwhelming schedule will leave you feeling like you need the vacation when you get back home from your trip. Maximizing and optimizing your budget and trip does not mean doing everything thinkable, imaginable under the Orlando sun.

Time is money when visiting Orlando theme parks, but give yourself some free time for visiting a fascinating place, like a special shop or cool restaurant off-the-beaten path. There are only 24 hours in a day after all!


Rest

Even if you have a five- or six-day trip to Orlando theme parks, don’t plan to spend every waking moment in a park. Pace yourself and spend some down time by the pool or indulging in other slower-paced activities. People often say the only thing you really need to travel is money and a sense of humor. Remember this advice:

"Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, and never pass up a chance to use the bathroom.”

Have a great time at the Orlando theme parks!






Return To Home Page