Holidays in Orlando

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Let’s face it, Orlando is magical any time of year but there is something extra special about the City Beautiful and her neighbors during the holidays. Though the temperature may still be warm (to our out of town guests, anyway) there is no doubt that the spirit of the winter holidays is in the air. From the theme parks and attractions to the parks and town squares, there is something for everyone and if you are lucky you might even see some snow.

Traditional favorites abound at the Walt Disney Resort and although one such classic, The Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, will not be making a comeback this year, there are new treats to discover with the conversion of Downtown Disney to Disney Springs. The Walt Disney Company has always focused on innovation and embraced new technologies, from technicolor to RFID-enabled wristbands, and this holiday season they are debuting what could possibly be the first show of its kind. Starbright Holidays – An Intel Collaboration is a light show spectacular comprised of 300 show drones that are choreographed and synchronized to an original Disney score of holiday favorites.  Another new offering at Disney Springs is the Christmas Tree Trail. Starting at the play fountain in front of Once Upon a Toy you can follow a trail leading amongst a collection of Christmas trees, each decorated in a different Disney theme. Find your favorite character or movie for a special holiday picture you and your family will cherish for years to come. And for those guests who want to revisit fond memories of days of yore, don’t worry! The Candlelight Processional and Holidays Around the World at Epcot, as well as the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom, will all be back.

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If Disney isn’t the theme park on your nice list this Christmas, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld have their own holiday cheer. At Islands of Adventure, you can enter the beloved Dr. Seuss classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” as the Whos celebrate Grinchmas! Meet the green guy himself and wander the streets of Whoville as they are decked out in their finest. If parades are more your style head over to Universal Studios to be part of a piece of American history that many of us grew up watching: The Macy’s Holiday Parade! Many of the iconic floats and balloons that make their way down 34th Street make an encore appearance at Universal. Another Christmas favorite comes to life at SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration. Meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends on select nights while dining, shopping, and enjoying festive entertainment.

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Perhaps something a little more hometown is what your family is craving this holiday season. Perhaps even a little…snow? Now Snowing is Central Florida’s original snowfall event. Strolling Charles Dickenson Carolers help set the mood as snow falls every night at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00pm. An ice skating rink is sure to make the kids happy and mom and dad can get some shopping down at one of the dozens of specialty boutiques in the town square. A short drive to Lake Wales will bring you to a Florida historical landmark. Christmas at Bok Tower Gardens includes a special nighttime carillon concert with a live choir, decorating workshops, and a Holiday Home Tour of Pinewood Estate, a 20 room Mediterranean-style mansion built in 1930 and acquired by Bok Tower Gardens in 1970.

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With all there is to do in Central Florida it is difficult to be homesick over the holidays. Want to know more about an event not covered here? Leave us a comment and we will try to add it to a future post.

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Main Street Electrical Parade Ending its Run at Magic Kingdom

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Parades come and go at the various Disney parks but few have been reincarnated and bid adieu as often as the Main Street Electrical Parade. This fall the night time favorite will make its last appearance at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom before being moved to Disneyland for a brief encore engagement. This is not, however, the first time the parade has left the Magic Kingdom and fans might not be remiss in hoping it will one day make a triumphant return; in one form or another.

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The original parade, which was also titled Main Street Electrical Parade, debuted at Disneyland on June 17, 1972, a little less than a year after its inspiration, the Electrical Water Pageant, debuted at Walt Disney World.  The Electrical Water Pageant was such a success that some of the same design technology was used on the inaugural Main Street parade. These consisted of flat screens on rolling platforms decorated with lights that would flash in a sequence to make it appear as though they were animated. Since then the float designs have become much more intricate and advanced, including over half a million shimmering LED lights.

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One of the many reasons people have come to love the Main Street Electrical Parade is because it is a unique way to see many beloved, and rarely seen, characters. Once lead by the Blue Fairy, the honor of grand marshal passed to Tinkerbell on June 12, 2009, and she has been lighting the way with pixie dust ever since. Mickey Mouse himself makes an appearance along with Goofy and Minnie and are followed by the likes of Alice, Cinderella, Snow White, and Pinocchio. Want to see Pete and his magical dragon, Elliott? The Main Street Electrical Parade is the only place to do so. And what about that music? Created in 1967 by Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley, two early pioneers of the synthesizer, “Baroque Hoedown” sets a whimsical mood for the 20-minute show.

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If you are one of the lucky ones visiting Walt Disney World Resort between now and early October this will be your last time to see the spectacle before it goes dark. The parade will step off for its final performance at the Magic Kingdom on October 9th at 9pm. Don’t worry, though, for those of you visiting Disneyland, it will make a limited appearance in 2017.

For more information about the parade click here.

Resort Spotlight: Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort

Nestled within the gates of Disney, there is an Orlando Resort that you might be missing out on!

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Wyndham Bonnet Creek offers a unique experience. It is as close as you can get to the magic without staying on-site at a Disney owned property (and paying those Disney prices). Just minutes away from the parks, and only a mile and a half from Disney Springs, this resort offers luxury and adventure at a fraction of the cost of an “on-site” vacation.

With five different pools, two lazy rivers, and two waterslides, there is something for everyone at this resort! Consisting of six towers, the Bonnet Creek Resort is as aesthetically pleasing as it is easy on the wallet, and with the private lake as a centerpiece, it’s no wonder that our guests rave about this location.

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No need to worry over getting to the parks either! Bonnet Creek offers a shuttle service that runs to each of the Disney parks as well as Universal Orlando daily. Driving yourself? Bonnet Creek has free parking and is close enough to all the action that you can make a quick trip back so the little ones can catch a mid-day nap and rest up for fun and fireworks in the evening!

Each unit has a full kitchen and a living area, offering you all the comforts of home while you’re on vacation. Picky eaters and allergy-conscious families alike can rest at ease knowing they will be able to prepare meals in their own fully furnished condo. Don’t feel like cooking? No problem. Bonnet Creek offers two pool-side bars, and restaurants for casual dining, a deli-style eatery, and an additional sit down restaurant inside. For a date-night feel, there is also Deep Blue, which offers a fine dining experience without ever having to leave the resort.

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The kids won’t complain about being bored in your down time at this resort either! After a few spins around the lazy river, there’s plenty of adventure waiting at the one-of-a-kind pirate ship pool, just outside of tower 6! Your little captain can explore the play area hidden inside a replicated galley ship, or make a splash with a quick trip down the waterslide. Bonnet Creek also boasts a “Play Days” activities program full of activities ranging from face painting and trivia to movies on the lawn. Mom and Dad can get some well-deserved R&R and be pampered at the Blue Harmony Spa. When everyone is ready to wind down, the whole family can enjoy a round of complimentary mini-golf right on-site!

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From its location to its amenities, Bonnet Creek has something for everyone! Why pay those exorbitant Disney prices, when you can be a part of the magic for a fraction of the cost? Bonnet Creek Resort is a favorite for locals and vacationers alike. With all of the fall events coming up, like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and The Food and Wine Festival, there’s no time like the present to give Bonnet Creek a try!

Vacation Strategy offers last minute “Hot Deals”, so give us a call to start saving on your next magical vacation now!

 

By: Brandy Swearengin

Back to School! Time for Spring Break 101

It’s August. Another summer comes to an end as parents and students prepare for the new school year. Supplies are bought, lunch is packed, and the all important first-day outfit is laid out but, have you booked your Spring Break destination yet? If the answer is no, don’t despair. Now is the perfect time to start planning and we are going to break down the reasons why. Don’t worry, though, we promise there won’t be a pop quiz.

Better Selection

It is a no brainer that the earlier you begin to plan the more options you will have. This is especially true when planning a trip during a popular time of year to a popular location. Florida is a leader in tourism year round but according to the Orlando Sentinel the state hosted 54.1 million tourists between January and June 2015. That is a lot of people flocking to Florida’s various natural treasures and attractions and smack dab in the middle of that time frame is Spring Break. If the Walt Disney World Resort, Daytona Beach, or Panama City is your family’s ideal destination for some fun in the sun then now is the time to make your plans before all the best accommodations are booked by the other 54 million people.

Better Prices

When searching for a deal there are two times that have a higher probability of netting you decent saving, well in advance or last minute. Many resorts and hotels update their pricing at the end or beginning of the calendar year and in most cases the prices go up instead of down. Booking before the year rolls over is a good way to lock in the current price. Depending on what dates are projected to be the highest travel times you could see a significant difference in prices from year to year.

Less Stress

For many people, the most stressful time of year is the winter holidays. Perhaps even more stressful is when you receive your credit card statement in January but still have a spring break trip to plan and being met with no availability or high prices for your second or third choice location isn’t exactly soothing. Pay as you go or layaway options have become a popular offering with many travel planning companies; no need to pay in full 6 months in advance, with a little down at the time of booking and easy payments you can secure your vacation without breaking your budget. Or your spring.

Take some time between soccer practice and PTA meetings to do a little homework of your own and you could easily plan an A+ Spring Break in no time! Need some ideas on where to go and what to do? No sweat! Join us next time as we explore popular, and perhaps not so populous, locations for your Spring Break adventure!

 

Vacation Ownership and You

Vacation ownership. To some, that phrase means little but to those who have ever had any experience with a timeshare it can elicit excitement and dread in equal measure. In theory owning a timeshare seems great, you have access to a beautiful condo near your favorite vacation destination that you can use once or multiple times a year without high out of pocket expenses. In practice, however, the prospect can seem daunting and not worth the hassle. Could there be something better?

In most cases, when you buy into a timeshare you can choose your home resort. The home resort is the property that you will have priority for scheduling (if you have not purchased the fixed week option) over all other members and guests. Whereas someone who does not have ownership in that specific resort cannot book until 6 to 10 months prior to their arrival date, a person with the home resort priority can often book 11 to 12 months in advance, ensuring that they get the dates and room type they prefer. Want to always spend the 4th of July or Labor Day at that popular beach that is always packed? Done. Have a family who has dreamed of ringing in the new year at that magical amusement park but the accommodations you need are never available when the booking window opens? Worry no more. If you have a specific vacation need that will not change for the next 10 years then locking in a guaranteed space and time may be the way to go.

Not sure you want to spend every summer in the same city at the same resort of the next 20 years? No problem! Whereas timeshare programs of the past were limited in their scope of availability and choice, today’s timeshare model offers individuals and families flexibility. Gone are the days when a timeshare consisted of one or two resorts. The most popular programs offer a plethora of options from road trips close to home to Caribbean getaways and European adventures. With the right company even your wildest travel dreams could be within your grasp.

The accommodations themselves are worth noting as well. When traveling with a family of four a hotel room with one bathroom, a mini fridge, and two double beds is not the most relaxing way to spend a week. Timeshare condominiums offer the comforts of home and range from a studio with a mini or partial kitchen to 4 bedroom units with a full kitchen, multiple bathrooms, private laundry facilities, and space to get away from the kids. It is also worth noting that the full kitchen is a good way to save money as well compared to eating two to three meals a day out. Bring basic breakfast and lunch items with you to keep in the room as well as sodas and bottles of water and you are sure to shave time and money off your vacation budget.

The biggest drawback to signing on the dotted line with a timeshare is the cost. Not only is there a large initial purchase price that is, in many cases, equivalent to a new car or a modest home, but there are often maintenance fees and annual taxes that will be due for the life of the membership. What might have been a great investment when a family was young and planning summer vacations with the kids every year might become more of a money drain when the nest is empty and fewer trips are being planned. Timeshares are a commitment that can, in the long run, bring more headaches than happiness.

Do the pros outweigh the cons? For some they do. For others, however, they find themselves eventually dissatisfied and with few options for getting out of the bargain without significant financial losses. Luckily, there are companies, such as Vacation Strategy, who are able to offer access to the same beautiful resorts for a fraction of the cost and without the lifetime of commitment. A timeshare does not fit every individual and family but for those who want to enjoy a vacation lifestyle, there is definitely something better!

Lower your Prices, Not your Expectations

There are few things in life that a family spends more money on than vacations. Spring break, summer trips, and winter holidays are an important part of many yearly schedules but a relaxing getaway can easily become a burden. The real cost of vacation planning is not only measured in dollars and cents but also time spent trying to find the best deals. In 2010, the owners of Vacation Strategy, Rick and Humaira Bourne, who were also Club Wyndham Platinum owners, realized that there was a better way for people to travel.

The concept of holiday sharing has been around since the end of World War II when it was more economical for a family or a group of friends to buy a holiday cottage and each take a specific time of year to use it. The term timeshare was first used in the early 1960s and the first timeshare in the United States was started in 1974. Since then, time sharing has become a popular way to vacation but with a high initial buy-in and ongoing yearly maintenance fees and taxes, it can be out of the budget of many families.

Vacation Strategy is a family business founded on the idea that it is better to rent from a timeshare owner than to actually be a timeshare owner. Working with other such owners the company is able to use vacation points to reserve beautiful condo style accommodations at a savings of up to 40% to 75% off the rate the resorts offer non-members. In addition to the often astounding savings, Vacation Strategy guests are able to take advantage of many of the amenities reserved for owners and their guests; a perk guests who pay a cash rate to the resort generally do not receive.

When a guest books with Vacation Strategy they can be assured that not only will they receive the best rate possible (a claim that is backed up by a price match guarantee*) but also the support and knowledge of people who own with Club Wyndham and have been making timeshare reservations for years. Unlike renting a privately owned home, where quality and condition is not guaranteed, Wyndham is a world renowned brand with a reputation for clean, comfortable accommodations.

While there are many options when it comes to planning a special vacation there are few that can offer the value and peace of mind that a stay with Vacation Strategy can. With resorts throughout the US and one of the best cancellation policies in the industry, booking is both easy and worry free. The only question left to ask is when you would like to get away?