Posts Tagged ‘ Orlando ’

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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What’s New In Orlando This Summer (Hint: It Involves Olaf and Harry Potter)

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

If you’re planning a trip to Orlando this summer, you’re in luck: Several way-cool attractions and resorts have opened or are debuting soon. Don’t miss:

* Frozen Summer Fun Live!
Since your kids can’t get enough of Anna, Elsa, and Olaf, Disney is launching Frozen-themed activities and character appearances at Hollywood Studios from July 5 to September 1. Highlights include Anna & Elsa’s Royal Welcome on a horse-drawn sleigh at 11 am daily, a 20-minute sing-a-long celebration in the Premiere Theatre presented several times daily, a “Do You Want to Build A Snowman?” area with winter activities, an ice skating rink, and Frozen Fireworks at 9:45 pm daily. How cool does all that sound?

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter—Diagon Alley
Calling all wizards in training: This much-anticipated area of Universal Studios will hold its grand opening on July 8. Families can ride the Hogwarts Express back and forth from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter—Hogsmeade (inside Islands of Adventure, the sister park of Universal Studios) to this new re-creation of London. Several other fun rides and attractions are on tap too; learn more here.

The B Resort & Spa
The stylish (but not stuffy) property recently opened in the Downtown Disney area. Many rooms feature bunk beds and kitchenettes. You can borrow an iPad or hang at the pool area, which has lots of fun features for kids. Bus transportation is provided to Disney Parks.Get a Parents-exclusive deal: For $560 (a $120-discount), you can stay two nights in a room with bunk beds, receive four complimentary breakfast buffets at American Q, get four items from the B Treated Tray, and snag four ice-cream cones at The Pickup. Use promo code PARENTS; offer valid for stays between now and September 30, 2014; book by July 31.

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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Disney Expands Art of Animation Resort

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Disney-Pixar fans, rejoice! The second phase of Walt Disney World’s Art of Animation Resort opened this Monday, adding 480 family suites inspired by Lightning McQueen, Radiator Springs, and other features of their much-loved Cars franchise.

After passing Sheriff and Doc Hudson at the hotel’s entrance, kids can take in scenes like Luigi’s Casa Della Tires and Tow Mater Towing before settling into supercharged themed rooms with Cars-inspired artwork, carpets and furniture. The resort’s centerpiece is the Cozy Cone Motel, complete with orange cone-shaped cabanas surrounding the Cozy Cone Pool.

This phase of the resort comes on the heels of the Finding Nemo section, which opened in May. For kids and parents nostalgic for some of Disney’s classic films, two new areas based on The Lion King and The Little Mermaid will open in August and September.

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