Renting a house in Orlando

written by Colette Gill, specialist in Disney Destinations from St. Louis, MO

So your family has decided to take a group trip to Walt Disney World – what a wonderful idea!  Many people feel as if renting a house off Disney property offers the perfect solution to the question, ‘Where do we stay with a large group?’  The family can all stay together, usually have their own bedroom and bath, and have a common living room and kitchen to relax and eat in.  They can enjoy the Disney parks during the day and then drive back to the house at night to escape the hustle and bustle at the parks.  They would be able to eat their evening meal, relax in the pool and maybe watch some t.v. together.  Then in the morning, have breakfast and set out for the parks again, refreshed and ready for another day at Disney.  Sounds like the perfect way to save time and money on your vacation, doesn’t it?

But let’s examine this more closely.  How will the family get to the rental property?  A pay-per-person shuttle would be one option, but then…  How will the family get to the parks?  You’ll probably end up having to rent one, or possibly several, vehicles – depending on the size of the group.  How will the family get the food to cook at the rental property?  Finding a grocery store on the way and buying all the food needed – including any extras needed like spices, cooking oil, and condiments – can take considerable time, especially with children.  How do you know the rental property is well taken care of?  Is it clean?

What about driving to the Disney parks in the morning?  Unless you want to run into rush hour traffic as well as all the tourist traffic in the area (which is considerable) – an early start will be a must.  Disney Resort Guests will have early Extra Magic Hours available to them, so you will have to avoid that particular park because if you show up there, you will be denied entry.  So which park will you go to each day?  Is that a good choice based on  the crowd predictions?  And if two of the families want to visit Animal Kingdom and the other family wants to visit Epcot one day, how do you work that out?  What about fees for parking?  Each vehicle will have to pay a minimum$15.00 daily parking fee at Disney World when they’re staying at an off property location.

What about food?  There’s an endless choice of restaurants at Disney, both counter service and full service types.  There are character meals that the kids would love.  But with the house rental, you’ve decided to eat a quick breakfast before you leave for the parks and then come back to the house for lunch in the afternoon with a quick nap, back to the parks, and then back to your rental to have dinner.  This scenario can save you money, but consumes so much time that you don’t have much time in the parks to get your money’s worth out of your tickets.  Consider this:  If you want to be back to eat lunch at noon, you will need to start walking out of the park by 11am, take the tram to your car and get through traffic to your rental property.  Arriving back around noon, you eat and  grab an hour nap.  By this time it will most likely be 2pm and then it will take you approximately 1 hour to get everyone loaded back up, back down the highway, parked and back through the ticket turnstiles.  Since the parade starts at 3pm you will be vying for a spot to see at this point.  After you ride a couple of rides it will be close to 5pm, and needing to get dinner started  you head back to the car to get back to the  rental house.  It will take too long to stay for the nighttime parade, fireworks, Illuminations or any other evening show.

Your other option is to stay on Disney property.  At first glance, it seems like that would be the more expensive way to go.  But when you factor in the cost of the rental vehicle, the cost of parking, the cost of the food you’ll probably end up leaving behind (extra ketchup, extra butter…..), and the cost in time; both of driving back and forth to the park, and of time lost in the parks because you have to commute – staying on property is usually a much better option for families.  As a Disney World resort guest, once you arrive at the airport; the Disney cast members take care of everything for you.  Your luggage will be taken from the plane to your resort room.  You’ll be taken to your resort by the Disney Magical Express motor coach at no cost.  You’ll have the Disney World transportation network at your disposal – which is very extensive.  As for recreation; you can go in the pool, rent a bicycle, rent a canoe or a water sprite, go play miniature golf, even go para-sailing!  All within the confines of the Disney resort.  The dining possibilities are endless, from a quick muffin and coffee at the food court at your resort, to a Polynesian style luau dinner show.  And at certain times of year, Disney throws in the dining plan for free!  Once you’re there – if one family wants to take the little ones to Magic Kingdom again, but you want to go to Epcot; no problem!  You just take different transportation (which Disney provides free to all resort guests) to the park of your choice and meet back later.  You won’t miss any of the spectacular parades, evening shows, or fireworks displays that are offered at the parks because it’s time to get back – Disney transportation runs well into the night. They’ll always get you ‘home.’

As far as escaping from the hustle and bustle – you’ll find the Disney resort hotels very laid back and relaxing.  The real confusion comes when you leave Disney property and try to maneuver through the traffic and congestion outside the resort.

So why not let a Disney expert help you make your decision?  We can help you weigh the options, compare the prices, watch for specials that Disney offers on their vacation package, and help you choose restaurants and even make dining reservations for you!  Think of it this way; if you heard of a wonderful resort in the Caribbean with beautiful hotels, wonderful activities for people of all ages, and an endless variety of places to eat – would you stay at a hotel down the street and visit?  Or would you want to immerse yourself in an atmosphere of being treated like ‘Prince and Princess for a day’?

Guests pay one fee per day to receive a parking pass good for all theme park parking lots.

  • Car/Motorcycle/Taxi/Shuttle/Limo: $15/day
  • Camper/Trailer/RV: $16/day
  • Bus/Tractor Trailer: $19/day


To Stay or not To Stay….on Disney property

For many people planning their vacation to Walt Disney World in Florida, one of their first decisions is whether to stay on Disney property or not.  When you factor in cost, convenience and value; is it really ‘cheaper’ to stay outside the Disney resort?  There are really many things to compare when making this decision.
Consider the price of the room.  True, the prices of hotels outside Disney property can be a bargain.  But keep in mind the other expenses you’ll incur.  If you fly into Orlando, you’ll need to get from the airport to the hotel.  So you can either add the price of a rental car or a round trip shuttle service to your total budget.  Then you’ll need to get from the hotel to the Disney park.  If you drive, add the $17.00 a day price to park at Disney.  If your hotel offers a shuttle, it may go from one hotel to the next picking up additional passengers, could be very time-consuming, and will most likely have limited pick-up and drop-off times and locations.  Do you really want to miss that fabulous fireworks display over Cinderellas Castle because you have to catch the bus?  The traffic outside of Disney property can be very heavy.
The two other major theme parks in the area, hundreds of hotels, gift shops, restaurants, and small attractions can cause major congestion on the roads. Time is money – and time is also a very precious commodity on an already-too-quick vacation.Consider the perks of staying on Disney property.  They have something for everyone – from a campsite at Fort Wilderness to a Concierge level room at the beautiful Polynesian Resort.  The transportation is also included.  Disney’s Magical Express shuttle picks you up at the airport and brings you to your resort – your luggage even gets delivered to you room – at no extra cost for resort guests.  If you drive in, the parking is free for the length of your stay throughout the property and at all the theme parks.  Disney’s transportation network is very extensive and is at your disposal.  You don’t have to miss ‘One more time!’ on Space Mountain, or the last firework fizzle at Epcot’s Illuminations show.  You can take advantage of Extra Magic hours at the parks.  The parks open early or close late, but only for resort guests, on select mornings or evenings.  You can get the full value out of your ticket, not an inexpensive item, this way.
And then there’s the food…  Who hasn’t heard of the wonderful restaurants at Disney World?  When you stay on property, with the purchase of a room and ticket, you have the option of adding the dining plan to your package.  You can save up to 20% on the cost of your dining with this plan!  It’s a great way to plan for your food expenses and treat your family to a great selection of dining experiences.

When you take into consideration the value of your time, the value of the theme park ticket, having that ‘I’m home’ feeling that being at Disney from morning ’til night promotes – not to mention the cleanliness and security of being on Disney property – it may make more sense to stay at a Disney Resort.  Disney also has special promotions throughout the year.  It could be a package with free dining added, or a discount off the price of the room.  We make it a priority here at Wish Upon a Star With Us to check these specials on a daily basis and add them to any existing packages that meet the criteria.  Why not let us check what’s available for your family and help you plan your ‘Dream come true’ Disney vacation.
–Colette Gill, one of our experts in Disney Vacation planning

Dumbo (with a little circus magic)

Every kid wants to ride Dumbo, and that makes for some pretty long lines!  Not only has Disney doubled the size of the ride with all of the new Fantasyland enhancements, they have added a memorable experience.  You can get a Fast Pass if you choose, however the Standby Line has an incredible feature…..waiting in line, without the waiting in line.  When you go down the Standby Line you proceed right into the circus tent and you will be asked how many people are in your party that want to fly.  You are given a pager and your place in line is noted and reserved.  At this point, the FUN begins.  You enter the circus rings as performers and children can jump, climb, hang and play throughout the tent while parents can watch comfortably.  There is even a center ring reserved just for the wee little ones to stretch their legs.  Many of the activities are interactive, making noise, and completely entertaining the little ones.  You feel as if you are a part of the circus!When your pager buzzes, you proceed back to the entrance and after relinquishing your pager you will be directed down the path towards your Dumbo ride experience.  Dumbo, himself, has new lights and water as part of the ride

Be Our Guest Restaurant

This new restaurant, opening up in the Fantasyland expansion of the Magic Kingdom, has everyone excited!  Reservations will be opening later this month and I’m sure the phone lines will be busy!  Not a character dining experience, but one of immersion into a story, it’s a fabulous new way that Disney is bringing characters and their stories to life for ourselves and our families.  The restaurant will be open for lunch as a Quick-service option and will take a Quick-service credit if you choose to use one from the dining plan.  Of the three themed dining areas, the Castle Gallery will be the one open for lunch with larger-than-life twirling characters of Belle and the Beast.  Rather than the traditional way of getting your food and finding a table, during lunch you will place your order and choose your table, and your food will be brought to you.  The lunch menu will feature salads and sandwiches, including a steak sandwich.  In the evening the other two themed dining rooms will be open for dinner and will be only one sit-down dining credit on the dining plans.  The Ballroom will have an enchanted feeling with a high domed ceiling and views of softly falling snow, while the Mysterious West Wing will contain the enchanted rose.  The dinner menu will include steak, poultry and fish, all with a French flair.  For those families wanting to meet the storybook characters, you may step just outside the village to Belle’s cottage and Enchanted Tales with Belle. This adventure begins in Maurice’s workshop, where a magical mirror is the doorway to a captivating new kind of storytelling experience: You are transported to the Beast’s library to meet Belle and Lumiere, and share in a lively, interactive, re-telling of the “tale as old as time.”  Of course, since the restaurant isn’t open yet, this information could change, but for now these are the plans and we can all dream of eating in this lavish dining experience.

“Wanna Trade?”

written by Missy Tillman, one of our experts in Disney Vacation planning

This is a phrase that can be heard all over the Disney Parks.  Starting in the Fall of 1999, Disney came up with a way to slow down the fast moving pace of some of their daily visitors; a concept that made many of their guests stop and talk with Disney cast members.  What was truly amazing is all of this was done by something that might be as small as a quarter, the Disney Trading Pin!  Now instead of racing to your next location you might find yourself stopping to talk to cast members to see if they have the pin you have been searching for.  These pins come in all different shapes and sizes, from heroes to villains, from rides to aliens and searching for your favorite is part of the fun!  Disney also likes to create exclusive pins that represent special occasions that might be going on while you are visiting, however it is very unlikely you will find one of these while trading.  They are normally meant to be purchased as a souvenir and not for trading.

So here’s how it works…

You can start your collection by purchasing a starter kit from one of Disney’s many gift shops. Next, find a cast member with a lanyard of pins.  Check out what they have to offer and if you see something you like just ask them to trade for one of yours.  There is one catch though; each cast member can only trade two of their pins with you, so pick and choose wisely.  If you see a cast member with a green or teal lanyard those are for kids that are 3-9 years old only!

That’s it!  Happy hunting!

Hint: Get to know your cast members…

….while you are looking at their pins be sure to see where they are from, it might just be the town next to yours!  Also if you were wondering about the flags on their name badge?  Those represent the languages they speak.  This is a great way to meet and interact with people from all over the world!

The Happiest Place on Earth Just got Happier!

Check out the story, history and pictures from the Event I attended at Disneyland this month.  This is a Photo Pass book filled with information about the expansion of Disneyland resort, along with a few personal pictures at the event.  Click on the link and give it a minute to upload—it will be worth it.  Gives you an idea how nice a photo pass book can be.  A hardback book for me to enjoy at home and also available on the web to share.  Enjoy!  Debi

The Happiest Place on Earth Just got Happier

Cars Land Opening

The grand reopening of Disney’s California Adventure Park is one day away and Cars Land is enTIREly amazing!  I was part of the Premier event tonight in the park, enjoying the nightlife in Radiator Springs.
I would say that if you had children that love the Cars movies then you will definitely want to immerse them in this experience, however YOU will want to be there too because it is SO amazing.  To walk into a movie that has been recreated is just as exciting for adults!  I saw Flo’s Cafe, met Red the firetruck, and stepped into the Cozy Cone Hotel.  Disney has truly brought Radiator Springs to life and honored Route 66 at the same time.

The Premiere event started out in the convention center of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.  We were enlightened and entertained by Disney executives and those involved directly in not only the development of Cars Land but also in new and redesigned attractions,  such as the Soundsational Parade, the Mad T Party,  and Star Tours 3D.  Following the presentation all 800 of the select travel agents, chosen Cast members  and guests of Disney, were escorted over to Cars Land to celebrate.  With food stations everywhere, drinks and photopass stations, we rode the rides, tried the new food that will be

served in the dining areas, and enjoyed a fun, festive atmosphere with neon lights and laughter.  What fun it is to see Disney executives in suits, spinning around on Luigi’s Flying Tires!

The Radiator Springs Racers is a ride for everyone!  Kids must be 40 inches to ride, but it is a ride for the young and young at heart.  The Cars characters you meet along the way move and look so real.  Then the excitement comes at the end when you race another group of 6 people in a car…. to the finish line.

Disneyland is actually a great spot for families to come and spend a few days to a week, with easy access into the parks from the three Disneyland Resort hotels.  Downtown Disney is in the middle of the hotels and the parks so you are close to everything.  The two theme parks are right across from each other and allow for easy park hopping.  Disneyland is low-stress because once you are here at the resort, everything is just minutes from your hotel.  Each hotel has something that makes it special, but I absolutely love the fact that you can walk right out of the back of the Grand Californian and into the special entrance of California Adventure Park.  Talk about  convenience!  So if you are looking for a vacation where you can play in the parks and yet be back to relax at your hotel in minutes, then Disneyland is an excellent choice.  But now, even more important, the “happiest place on earth” just got happier with the opening of Radiator Springs.  Come and see it for yourself.  You will be totally floored!!

Art of Animation Pictures

We have pictures of Disney’s Art of Animation resort!

check out the Art of Animation page under the resorts for all of our pictures. Next week I will be posting more pictures as I move into my room on Wednesday, complete with TWO bathrooms (good thing because I will have two teenage girls joining me), a kitchenette, and room to sleep six people. Disney —you have done a great job with this resort and I have a feeling it is going to be a favorite of many families!

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

There is a new game at the Magic Kingdom that has guests running all over the park with delight!  The Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom all starts at the Fire Station on Main St where Merlin recruits you and your family to help him save the Magic Kingdom from Hades and the villains he has recruited to help him.  Merlin will give you a Key, five spell cards, and a map to start you on your mission.  From there you will be sent to Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, or Main Street USA;  just use your map to find the symbol and the portal that will lead you to facing your first villain.  You may find Cruella de Vil, the Evil Queen, Dr Facilier, Scar or even Ursula working with Hades trying to take over the Magic Kingdom.  Each portal has an identifying brass floor plate and a key hole where you will swipe your card and watch the magic happen!  Each game is set to last between 15 and 25 minutes but that can vary due to park crowds and the amount of people playing.

Here are a few notable things about the game.

  • Don’t expect to beat Hades on your trip.  On my most recent trip to the Magic Kingdom, my son and husband played the game for a few hours.  During that time they met a few people who have been playing every day for the past two months and have still yet to beat the game.  Now I don’t want this to stop you from playing the game because it is so much fun and has been added to my must do list, but I wanted to warn you to save the hearts of any disappointed little ones.
  • Your Key card is attached to your Key to the World card or your park ticket.  You can only sign up to play once per day to gather your spell cards.  I also recommend everyone in your party to sign up for a key card but to only play with one person’s card.  This way you will each be given a pack of spell cards that you can combine and use together.  Currently there are 70 spell cards that are being given out.  Cards 1 – 22 are considered “rare” if you find yourself with one of these hold on to it, there aren’t many of them out there!  Cards 23-40 are uncommon and 41 -70 are common. Each card, when used, will provide an animation from characters young and old.  And the more experienced gamer may use up to 7 cards at once for a single spell.

This game has added some special fun to the Magic Kingdom.  Whether this is your first visit to the park or your 200th,   this game may take you to overlooked places in the Magic Kingdom.  It will also give you an opportunity to introduce characters to your young children that they may have never heard of.

Now get to the fire station to get started!  I want to make sure the Magic Kingdom is still there for many years to come!