Archive for the ‘ Travel ’ Category

High to Low Orlando: Staying From $55 to $479 a Night

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

We split our recent Orlando vacation between bargain and pricey options. Here’s a breakdown of what we got (and didn’t get) at each price point.

Whippoorwill KOA from $55

The kids and I stayed here because it’s close to the airport and we needed to pick my husband up from a flight. But also, we love a KOA (short for Kampground of America), and this one has a pool, playground, pretty lake, and friendly geese. 

What’s to love A KOA cabin has a ship-like compactness. Though tiny, it fits a fullsize bed, bunk bed, desk and chair, television, and A/C. There are deluxe cabins with bathrooms, but we’re cheap and fine with sharing campground bathrooms. Whippoorwill is primarily a base for RVs, so we seemed to be the only customers in the bathrooms anyway. This particular KOA offers clean linens so we didn’t need to bring our own. We had a pizza delivered to our cabin for dinner and drove three miles to a Panera for breakfast. Our short stay felt like a taste of “real Florida” as opposed to “tourist Florida.”

But of course You have to enjoy camping to stay at a campground. Whippoorwill KOA is very close to the airport but not particularly close to the theme parks; the Orlando/Kissimmee KOA is a little closer to that action. Though you’ll spend far less on lodging here, you won’t get any park perks such as early admission and you’ll need to drive everywhere, plus pay for parking, tolls, and gas.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando from $134

This is Universal Orlando’s first moderate resort. Our family of four stayed in a Tower Suite which runs closer to $200 a night since there’s a sitting area plus a kitchenette. My mom stayed in a poolside room for about $150 a night; standard rooms lose the view but are bargains starting at $134.

What’s to love Universal went all-out with the retro theme of this hotel, and the kitsch is cute. My kids loved the pools and sand areas. A free bus pulls up to sweep guests over to Universal’s parks pretty much constantly, especially in the morning hours. And because you’re on Universal property, you can get into the parks an hour early most days.

But of course A stay at Cabana Bay does not get you the Universal Express Pass, useful for cutting wait time at rides. Guests at the pricier Loews Portofino Bay and Hard Rock Hotel do get Express Passes, worth up to $60 a person, so if you’ll be riding a lot during high season, paying more for one of those hotels may make sense. We, however, were only interested in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Express Passes are fairly useless there: Most Potter rides don’t accept them. If, like us, you’re going to Universal Orlando for Potter mania, Cabana Bay Beach is a fantastic option.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge from $289

There’s no other resort like this one in the country, where you are immersed in another culture and also in a wildlife park. We stayed in a villa in the Kidani Village, where rooms are spacious. By this point it was me and my kids, my mom, plus my brother and sister-in-law and baby niece. Our two-bedroom, three-bath with a full kitchen plus laundry (and a living room that became a third bedroom at bedtime) runs for $767 a night, more affordable (about $256 per family) than three separate rooms.

What’s to love Staying on Disney property means Extra Magic Hours, free transportation to and from the airport, free bus service all through the resort, and Magic Bands. We were not low-maintenence, between my newly hip-replaced mom’s scooter and my niece’s stroller, and a ground-floor room at Kidani turned out to be ideal. We pre-ordered breakfast groceries through gardengrocer.com and ate morning meals in our pajamas. Every room has a balcony for animal-watching, and tracking the creatures was a highlight of the trip for every one of us. The pools and restaurants are among our favorites too!
But of course This is one of Disney’s Deluxe Resort Hotels and hanging out with the giraffes isn’t cheap. But though it’s deluxe-priced, you can’t walk to any of the parks like you can from the deluxe Contemporary or Yacht Club Resort. (Then again, Animal Kingdom is the only hotel with a nightly drum circle!) If you want a Disney hotel but need to really slash lodging to more like $100 a night, check out Disney Value Resort Hotels. The grounds are not as lush, but you still get all the park perks.
This resort invited us in during their opening month and we couldn’t say no. It was back to me, my husband, and our two kids, and we’ve never stayed together somewhere this luxe.
What’s to love Uh…everything. I woke up from my deepest sleep in years in one of their comfy beds and was inspired to hit the fitness room and walk around the lake while my kids actually slept in. It would be easy to spend an entire day among the pools, lazy river, and water slides, where staff rush to supply you with ice water, sunscreen, and frozen fruit (all free!), or pretty much anything else you want (mostly for a price). There’s an on-site Disney concierge to help with park logistics, a tropical paradise of a kids’ center, and a spa. And you can see the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from here.
But of course You don’t stay at a Four Seasons unless you can spend. There’s no parking lot, only a valet (and valet charge). Our dinner, with a bottle of wine, went over $200. And that $479 price is not really for a family; using the Web site to try and book a room for four people, rates seem more uniformly about $700 a night. You’re living in a beautiful dream here, but it is Top. Of. The. Line.

This video nails all the reasons to go beyond the rides.

Disney's Magic Kingdom: Beyond the Rides
Disney's Magic Kingdom: Beyond the Rides
Disney's Magic Kingdom: Beyond the Rides

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How to Get Into Diagon Alley Early

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Seeing pictures of hours-long lines at Universal Orlando Resort, full of fellow Harry Potter fans eager to get into the newest Wizarding World on it’s first day, got us scheming: How can you get into Diagon Alley before the crowds?! Obviously no day will be as busy as that opening day, but still. Here are some places to stay that will get you in an hour earlier than most muggles!

Stay at a Universal hotel. All four of them, Loews Portofino Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando, Loews Royal Pacific Resort (named one of American Baby’s Most Baby-Friendly Resorts), and the brand-new, moderately priced Cabana Bay Beach Resort grant you early access to both Universal parks. Read all the fine print here, but the bottom line is, there’s not much fine print. As long as you have park tickets and an active room key for one of the hotels, you can get in early, which usually means 8am versus 9am. The other obvious advantage to a Universal Hotel is you’re right next to the parks and can either walk or ride a free shuttle, skipping the parking hassle. Hey, every minute counts!

There’s a $135 per adult, per night, tax-inclusive offer for a four-night stay at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort that includes multi-day park-to-park tickets and some breakfasts, so it’s a deal, as long as you can do a four-night getaway. Travel has to be August 17 to October 2, or November 30 to December 18, and must be booked by July 31. Start here. There are upgrade options too!

Buy a Universal Orlando package. Quite a few hotels in the area partner with Universal Orlando Resort and, if you buy a Universal-specific package, you’ll be granted those same benefits (early admission, park-to-park tickets) for about half the cost, you’ll just need to drive to the parks. For instance, Hilton Orlando’s “Universal Orlando Vacation” package boasts early admission and two park-to-park tickets for just $102/night for two people through December 18th, 2014, and $50 off if you book four or more nights using the promo code UNITRAVEL. (Based on availability, and some blackout days apply.) Those savings will buy you a serious amount of butterbeer and probably a wand, too!

Watch one staffer’s 11-year-old’s take on the Hogsmeade features at Universal Orlando Resort.

Universal Studios: Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal Studios: Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal Studios: Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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Where to Find an Anna or Elsa Dress

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

When we heard that Frozen princess dresses have been selling out in Disney World each day, it got us wondering…are they really so hard to find? The most gorgeous, premium Anna and Elsa dresses are now on Chasing-Fireflies.com, the site behind the Wishcraft catalog. However, they’re not shipping yet and they won’t be cheap. The Elsa dress shown is $130; the Anna is $124 and when we looked, neither would be available until the end of August in smaller sizes. The size-10 Anna coronation dress looks to be backordered through the end of October!

Less-expensive BuyCostumes.com has pared-down Elsa and Anna frocks, backordered until just after Labor Day. Their Elsa is $38, and Anna is $40.

On to the Disney Store, and…they don’t have the dresses yet either, but nice ones are coming. We saw the two shown below, Anna’s with the cape and Elsa’s with cool ombre sleeves, at their fall preview. AND they are going to have an Olaf costume! No word on exactly when they’ll all hit shelves, but they’ll be about $50 each.

In the meantime, there are $30 dresses for both sister characters at Toys “R” Us and at other mass merchants. Fair warning, the user reviews are brutal. (As in, “The tulle sleeves are like sandpaper.”) But desperate times may call for desperate measures, scratchy sleeves and all. Or try and teach your little princess the virtue of patience!

Heading to the Magic Kingdom? Your kids may be more interested in meeting the celebrities characters than the rides! Watch our video.

Disney's Magic Kingdom: Beyond the Rides
Disney's Magic Kingdom: Beyond the Rides
Disney's Magic Kingdom: Beyond the Rides

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American Baby’s Babymoon Special: Caribbean, Arizona, Florida and NYC Deals All for Preggos!

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

This week we’ll take a break from family-travel deals and go back to our other favorite travel topic: babymoons! About half of expectant couples say they take a pre-baby vacay; we’ll help you be one of them.

THE DESTINATION: Vieques Island, eight miles off the coast of Puerto Rico, at the W Retreat & Spa – Vieques Island 

HERE’S THE SPECIAL!  Their new “Indulge with a Babymoon” experience caters to expecting couples with a $50 Cravings Credit for late-night snacking, a $100 AWAY Spa credit for couples treatments, an in-room calming essential oil amenity, and special pregnancy pillow in order to ensure a restful retreat. The experience is bookable with the rate plan WBBYMOON and starts at $319 nightly.

 

THE DESTINATION: Arizona, specifically the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson. 

HERE’S THE SPECIAL! Expecting mothers can visit the iconic Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa for the “Mother’s Dream” package, including a pregnancy massage, sensitive skin facial, customized eye contour, warm cream mani + pedi, makeup refresher and a spa lunch for $406. With an exclusive adults-only pool, a swim-up bar (for Dad to be), numerous waterfalls and five pools, parents-to-be can escape and relax before the baby comes. The two “Summer Savings” packages have rates starting at $99 from May 25 to August 31, one inclusive of a $50 food and beverage credit when booking two or more nights.

 

THE DESTINATION: Florida, minutes from all the parks and entertainment at the Hilton Orlando 

HERE’S THE SPECIAL! Couples can enjoy favorite attractions and shopping, then mom can ease her muscles with the “Mom’s To Be” full-body massage at the on-site spa for $120. The property also boasts a winding lazy river, two resort pools complete with a waterslide, 9-hole golf, bocce ball courts and more. Rates start at $99 a night.

 

THE DESTINATION: New York City, at the famed Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York, the city’s luxurious hotel occupying the upper floors of the Waldorf Astoria. 

HERE’S THE SPECIAL! The Guerlain Spa, located within the Towers, features a “When You’re Expecting Massage,” a customized prenatal body therapy to alleviate discomfort and relieve muscle fatigue, along with a Body Polish service that helps exfoliate and soften skin, leaving skin smooth and hydrated and possibly minimizing stretch marks. Answering to the high demand for pre and post-natal services, the spa features appropriate pregnancy pillows for body support in any treatment position, and has also established a partnership with Mama Mio to incorporate their skincare products.

Two packages are available. “Babymoon, An Evening In” includes a Towers suite, breakfast in bed, and Guerlain Spa Couple’s Service (massage, training session, mocktails and milkshakes), with rates starting at $975 a night. “Babymoon, A Weekend at the Waldorf” includes a Towers suite for two nights, Guerlain Spa Couple’s Service (massage, training session, mocktails and milkshakes), dinner at the Bull and Bear, and breakfast in bed, with rates starting at $1,685.

Do a search and you can find all of our American Baby babymoon specials on Goodyblog.

Not only is leisure travel good for your state of mind during pregnancy, so is exercise! Check out these ab exercises made for core-strengthening during pregnancy.

Pregnancy Workouts: Best Abs Exercises
Pregnancy Workouts: Best Abs Exercises
Pregnancy Workouts: Best Abs Exercises

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Score a Family Vacation Package from Stowe Mountain Lodge

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

* This is part of a series of special travel deals. Most families take at least one vacay during the year; we’ll help yours be one of them.

THE DESTINATION: Stowe Mountain Lodge, in Vermont

Instead of going south again this year, travel to the northeast and escape to Vermont! This luxury lodge, which was named as a top family hotel in North America, is located at the base of the Stowe resort. If you’re someone who gawks at covered bridges, sparkling lakes, woodlands and majestic peaks, then this is the place for you!

BOOK IT! Be a first-timer at their unique activities including glider rides, a rustic Vermont furniture making class, and outdoor Yoga (Stowega). There’s also a 36-hole golf course, guided hikes, and the town’s famous bike paths, plus a world-class spa. PS your dog is welcome too.

HERE’S THE SPECIAL! By booking your reservation through the Mountain Memories special offer, you can save each additional day you stay. For instance, save 20 percent for a two-night stay, 25 percent for a three-night stay and 30 percent when you stay four days or more.

Also, if you’re on Facebook you may be able to win the Mountain Memories Facebook Photo Contest, which is worth more than $10,000. Submit a photo on their Facebook page from one of your own remarkable travel memories and tell your friends and family to “like” it in order to vote for you. The photo with the most vote at the end of each week wins. Four lucky winners will then be entered into the final week’s grand-prize drawing. The photo with the most votes at the end of week five wins a grand prize including a five-day trip to Stowe Mountain Lodge/ Stowe Mountain Resort, Airline Tickets from JetBlue, and items from participating partners, such as Burton Snowboards, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Ferro Jewelers and more.

Want your child to grow a green thumb? Show them how to grow and play outdoors all summer long.

Gardening with the Kids
Gardening with the Kids
Gardening with the Kids

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One of the Coolest Science Exhibits Ever

Friday, June 13th, 2014

Last year, Parents rated Philadelphia as one of the 10 best cities for families to visit. If it’s in your summer plans, be sure to check out the massive new exhibit, Your Brain, that opens at The Franklin Institute tomorrow. Almost 10 years in the making, the exhibit has dozens of interactive features. When my daughter and a few friends (ages 9 to 12) visited during a sneak peek event earlier this week, they were blown away, and you know that tweens are not easily impressed. Some highlights:

The exhibit starts out with a large screen that lets you see your own skelten. Jump, bend your leg, raise your hand, and the skelton on the screen will move too.

 

The visuals in all the displays were bold and fun, like this one that demos what a brain scan is like.

The kids spent a half-hour on two-story climbing structure, complete with lighting and sound effects, that represents brain pathways. They would have stayed in there all day if we let them.

Many of the activities in the exhibit are geared to kids ages 8 to 13. But if younger sibs are exploring too, making a face on this magnetic board will be fun for them (and so will that climbing structure!).

Another section of the exhibit focuses on illusions. I won’t give away all the surprises, but be sure to go in the bedroom. I took this pic of the kids in an area designated for photo ops.

Bonus! A traveling exhibit, Circus Science Under the Big Top, is at the Franklin Instutute through September 1. Check out the dress-up area with amazing costumes (of all sizes), a tight rope that kids who weigh 50 pounds or more can walk on, and circus games.

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Score a $90 Yearly Pass for Your Preschooler and You at LEGOLAND Florida Featuring New DUPLO Valley

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

* This is part of a series of special travel deals. Most families take at least one vacay during the year; we’ll help yours be one of them. 

THE DESTINATIONLEGOLAND Florida, with its latest attractions area for preschoolers ages 2 to 5, DUPLO Valley.

This new expansion, which opened on May 23, brings the LEGO DUPLO line of building toys to life with farm-themed attractions, an air-conditioned indoor play area and a water play area. From the DUPLO Train, DUPLO Tractor, and the DUPLO Splash and Play, to the reopening of the indoor DUPLO Barn, kids can play in a comfortable, toddler-friendly atmosphere where their imagination comes to life! Your toddler can aboard the DUPLO Train by themselves or you can ride along, either way it’s fun for the  whole family to get involved.

HERE’S THE SPECIAL! In part of opening its doors, DUPLO Valley welcomes visitors with a new pass, known as the Preschool Pass, available for visitors will children under 5. The Preschool Pass is for weekday Monday through Friday admission to LEGOLAND Florida, plus standard parking, for one child under 5 and one adult, for a full year. It’s only $90, plus tax, and it normally costs $84 for a person age 13 and up to get in for just one day! So even if you only use your yearly pass on two days, you’ll save some serious cash.

Even better: The pass is in the child’s name, and is transferable to multiple adults and guardians in your family. You can take your toddler to the park one day and Grandma can take him the next time–allowing the entire family to enjoy!

BOOK IT! Check out all their annual passes as well as their various ticket prices online. You can view all of their summer hours online as well.

Want tips and tricks on how to pack your munchkin for a summer vacation?

 

How to Plan a Trip
How to Plan a Trip
How to Plan a Trip

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Score Free Meals During a Stay in Disney World This Fall

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

* This is part of a series of special travel deals. Most families take at least one vacay during the year; we’ll help yours be one of them.

THE DESTINATION: Disney World Resort, in Florida

Fall is a great time to visit Disney World: lower temperatures, fewer crowds, holiday celebrations, and discounts, like this special deal that gets you free meals if you stay for six nights. If you’ve got young kids, grab this opportunity. For one thing, the older they get, the harder it is to take them out of school for that long! But also free meals takes a huge burden off you; whether your kids gobble half a buffet or turn all picky, you’re not shelling out money for food.

HERE’S THE SPECIAL! Purchase a non-discounted 6-night, 7-day Magic Your Way package, including a room and theme park tickets, and for each night you stay everyone in your family gets one quick-service meal, one table-service meal (go ahead and make reservations once you know when you’re going), and one snack per person. Read all the details and check availability. Or talk to a vacation planner by calling 407-939-7709. 

BOOK IT! Rates vary widely but we jumped online and saw that it would be about $2,000 for a family of four to visit the week of Labor Day at the All-Star Sports Resort (a value resort on the park’s bus line). It would be about $4,820 for them to stay at the Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort (one of the more posh properties, a walk from the Magic Kingdom). Note that this special is good for arrival August 31 to October 3, 2014; arrival October 26 to November 1, 2014; arrival November 9 to November 20, 2014; and finally arrival December 12 to December 23, 2014. All of travel must be booked by August 8, 2014.

New at Disney World: Magic Bands! Learn about this sanity-saver from our editor who recently visited.

Walt Disney World: Ease Your Trip With Magic Bands
Walt Disney World: Ease Your Trip With Magic Bands
Walt Disney World: Ease Your Trip With Magic Bands

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