Money Saving Tips for an Orlando Visit 

A trip to Orlando is a fantastic experience, but can be hard on the wallet. With so many places to visit you want to make sure that you can fit as much in as possible, without breaking the bank.

Firstly, you will need a great, central place to stay. There are plenty of Orlando vacation rentals to suit all budgets and requirements.

Pre-Book Theme Park Tickets

If you are going to visit any of the big theme parks in Orlando, you should look at booking your tickets in advance.  This is particularly recommended if you are going to visit multiple times.  The price at the gates will often run over $100 per person and this really adds up.  You can also get the best value for money when you visit 2 parks or more in a single day without multiple charges.

Book A Combo Ticket

If you want the best value for money, you should look at booking a combo ticket.  You will probably have a few parks in mind when you take your trip.  Most people do not realize that they can combine their tickets for the different parks to save money.  You could end up paying just $60 per person in the end.  The discount rate will provide you with the same level of access as the tickets bought from the gates.

Stay at A More Basic Hotel

Staying at one of the on-site hotels does bring benefits such as free park shuttles and early admission, they also carry a much higher cost.  If you are traveling on a budget, these hotels should be avoided.  Instead, you should look at staying at a value hotel close to International Drive.  This will place you in the heart of the action, but will not break your bank account.  Staying in a more basic hotel should not be a problem because you are going to be out and about all day anyway.

Have Smaller Denomination Notes

If you are exchanging currency, you need to ask for some smaller notes as well.  Tipping in the US is very common and you will want smaller notes for this.  Smaller notes will make the whole process much easier and will ensure that you do not overspend when eating out.

Split Big Meals

Meal portions in America are also larger than what many people are used to.  A great way to save money will be to split a meal between 2 people.  You do not have to worry about seeming cheap when you do this as the servers are used to this and will be willing to bring a second plate.

This hack will be perfect for children, but there are some locations where it works for adults as well.  As you are shown to your table, you should lance around to see the portion sizes to determine if this will work.

Take Advantage of Free Wifi

Orlando has seen a spread of free Wifi to parks, hotels and other key areas.  This means that you do not have to run up your roaming and call charges.  When you get on the airplane to Orlando, turn off your roaming and activate the Wifi on your phone.  There are a lot of apps that allow you to make free calls via the internet which means that you can stay in touch without the massive bills.

Our 24 Hour Parent Staycation in Franklin, Tennessee at the Hilton Franklin Cool Springs Hotel

Two months ago for Christmas 2018, the only gift my wife and I gave one another was the promise of an upcoming 24 hour window of existence that we would share together, in which we would have zero parenting responsibilities; including uninterrupted meals out, a stay at a nice hotel, and the ability to be lazy.

We both work full-time jobs, plus I manage 5 SEO side hustles, and we have two adventurous kids. So for us, the thought of a break from reality is the greatest gift we can receive at this point in our 37 year-old lives.

Last May when I started my new full-time job as a recruiter at a Fortune 500 Company in Franklin, Tennessee, I couldn’t help but notice that an 8 story building was being built right next to my office.

A few months later, a giant Hilton sign went up on the side of the building facing the interstate (I-65). Once the hotel opened last fall, my co-workers and I started going there for lunch, and were very pleased.

So by the time my wife and I came up with the idea of the perfect mutual Christmas gift for each other, I suggested we make our stay at the Hilton Franklin Cool Springs hotel right next to where I work; which is the halfway point between where we live in Spring Hill and where my wife works in downtown Nashville.

Sometimes in your mind, you build up an idea to the point it becomes an unattainable fantasy. But no, that was not the case for our 24 Hour Parent Staycation. In fact, everything went perfectly according to plan:

My parents drove up 2 and a half hours from my hometown in Fort Payne, Alabama, to watch the kids while we were out. As my son’s Saturday morning karate lessons began, to be followed by one of his classmate’s birthday parties our daughter would end up successfully crashing, my wife and I made our way over to H&R Block to file our income taxes and were so relieved we didn’t owe any money; despite my 5 SEO side hustles unexpectedly doing much better than I planned for last year.

We officially started out our responsibility-free adventure with lunch at Sopapilla’s New Mexican (like the state) restaurant en route to the Hilton. This was a big deal to us for more than one reason.

Not only was it the first time in… (years?)… that we have been able to enjoy a delicious meal out with no children putting a damper on the conversation or the cuisine or our peace of mind, but it was our first official meal out as a now non-vegetarian, non-vegan couple.

I would go as far as to say I am now obsessed with eating at Sopapilla’s, but I don’t know the next time we’ll be able to make it back there without kids.

As for the Hilton, it was every bit as glorious as I knew it would be. My wife and I realized this is the newest hotel we have ever stayed in; throughout our decade of marriage.

And our wish came true- we got to be lazy for our entire day. In fact, we never left the hotel until the next day when we checked out. We got to watch a few movies on TV, in between heading downstairs for dinner in the hotel restaurant, The Harth Restaurant and Lounge.

Not to mention, we got to sleep in! We naturally woke up, on our own, at 8:00 AM. That is unthinkable back at our house, thanks to our children’s internal biological alarm clocks, which are annoyingly set an a default of 5:55 AM.

Life is good. I admit, I’m enjoying the view from where I’m sitting on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid. Our 24 Hour Parent Staycation taught me that the motivational carrot in my life at this point will be getting to experience our next 24 Hour Parent Staycation. That is the rarest commodity I know right now: a break.

And when that time comes, my wife and I plan to do everything exactly the same way again. It’s a formula that works for us.

This is 37.

3 Cities in Georgia for a Family Vacation

By guest blogger Eathen Smith, brought to you by the Hotel Planner campaign.

As one of the original 13 colonies, Georgia is a state with a rich history. It’s reflected in the cities that are prime spots for a family vacation. While Atlanta, the state capital, usually makes it on any list of best cities in the state, there are other cities in the state with their own beauty and community activities. On that note, here are three cities that deserve a closer look. 

St. Mary’s, Georgia 

St. Mary’s was hit by Hurricane Irma in 2017, but it still has seasonal activities. If you are thinking about visiting St. Mary’s with your family between April and July, consider making a stop to the Harriett Bluff Organic Blueberry Farm. If that doesn’t interest you, your family could take part in kayaking or visit St. Mary’s Aquatic Center. You could also enjoy Express Train rides or go fishing.

Other places in the city show its commitment to preserving its rich history. For example, the city has antebellum architecture and a Peace Garden that commemorates the War of 1812.

If you’re looking for good food in St. Mary’s, there are well over 20 places for you and your family to dine. You’ll find local tastes and flavors inspired by Japan, Thailand, and Mexico. The downtown area alone has three cafes, like the Riverside Cafe.

Senoia

If you would like to take your family on a simple, quaint vacation in Georgia, Senoia is the place. The city is the 4th safest in the state and it is where several movies, like “Fried Green Tomatoes,” were filmed.

When you visit Senoia, make sure to visit the Senoia Welcome Center and Marimac Lake. The fishing policy at the lake is “catch and release.”

While staying in Senoia, you have a least 10 options for good eating. For example, you and your family can enjoy some burgers at Nic & Normans or visit Matt’s Smalltown Pizza.

Alpharetta

Alpharetta is an affluent city that is dedicated to fitness, sports, and recreation, so there is plenty for your family to do there during your stay. Wills Park is open to the public, as is the city’s greenway system along Big Creek. There are numerous trails for biking and jogging. You could visit some golf clubs or go to the shopping district at Avalon. If you’re looking for a place to eat in Alpharetta, you have over 200 options, with flavors from around the world. For example, you could eat at AJ’s Country Cooking, which offers a buffet with Southern favorites, or you could also eat at Aomi Japanese Restaurant.

Before staying in Alpharetta — or any of these fine cities — make sure your find the best deals for hotels in the area. Who says that you can’t vacation in comfort without breaking the bank?

When visiting Georgia, you will find numerous cities that are strikingly beautiful and quaint. That is true of St. Mary’s, Senoia, and Alpharetta. Consider visiting any of these three cities as you plan your next family vacation.

Image via Flickr by RobBixbyPhotography

Dear Jack: Part Of My Job Is To Scare You

3 years, 10 months.

2015 Buick LaCrosse Asheville,NC

Dear Jack,

I think I’ve said before, but as your Daddy, Halloween is one my favorite times of the year. Getting to see you dress up and have fun “seeing monsters” is really cool for me to get to experience with you.

Part of my job and my role as your Daddy is to reinforce the fact that I’m here to protect you. So even when I lead you to a situation where you are afraid, you know that I’m right there to keep you safe.

Granted, I would never scare you to the point of you authentically crying and having nightmares. Instead, I carefully gage your response to the situation…

This past weekend on our fall road trip from Nashville to Asheville, as we reviewed the 4G capabilities of the 2015 Buick LaCrosse, we visited avery foggy (!) apple orchard near Asheville, NC.

I carried you most of the time, and as we walked through the misty orchard, I kept pretending to be the voice of an “apple monster” who was angry that you were there to “take my apples.”

With your hood up on your hoodie, I whispered into your ear, “Jaaaaaaaack… don’t take my apples… go back to the hotel, Jack. I’m the Apple Monster.”

Looking back on this short video of the event, I can see your childlike faith causing you to wonder if you truly were hearing an Apple Monster.

The paradox is that at the same time, you knew it was just me; especially for the fact I was holding you.

Another illustration of this is the fact you kept asking to play “Hide and Seek” in the hotel room.

father and son Asheville, NC

You would stand on the air conditioning unit while looking out the window as you counted; meanwhile, I would hide on the other end of the suite.

I love your adventurous spirit, as you can see in this video, how you so joyfully run to go find me, knowing I’m just going to literally jump out and scare you! (I was standing on top of the couch.)

Yes, I scare you. But I know you love it. You indeed crave that from me. So I give you these “bravery lessons” accordingly.

Love,

Daddy

P.S. “Turn the page” by clicking on Our Visit To The Ghost And Skeleton Museum to read the sequel to this story…

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Paying 5 Bucks for Kids’ Mac-and-Cheese at Restaurants

December 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm , by 

One year.

Though I’m still pretty new to this parenting thing, I have been noticing for the past several years the hilariousness of kids’ menus in non-fast-food restaurants.

Evidently, the food pyramid for children consists of peanut butter of jelly sandwiches, chicken fingers, pizza, and of course, macaroni and cheese.

Yes, I know the stress of eating out at restaurants with a kid. I’ve written about it before. Still though, it’s almost insulting that the popular food staples found on kids’ menus do not contain any unprocessed vegetables or fruit.

They are not nutritious meals; they are simply better than fast food snacks to keep a kid from whining that they’re hungry.

Even though we avoid eating out as much possible, there are times when we have no other option; like being on vacation.

Last week while we were test driving a Chevy Volt across southern Florida, our dinners mainly took place at the fancy restaurants in the glorious hotels we stayed at. Though we had brought our own fruits and veggies for our son Jack to eat throughout the three day trip, we still wanted to incorporate “big boy food” into his meals as well.

Right now Jack is in his “mac-and-cheese” phase. He’s obsessed, man. So naturally, that’s what I ordered each night for him at dinner. The first night in particular was my favorite.

After waiting a good 12 minutes or so for the cooks to prepare his mac-and-cheese, the waiter brought out a regular sized glass bowl as if it were the most premium version of the meal a person could find. It looked just like normal mac-and-cheese to me.

Jack ended up eating it in our hotel room. It tasted just like the normal stuff. Nothing over-the-top about it. Just plain ole mac-and-cheese.

But it cost 7 bucks! (Thankfully, we weren’t the ones paying for dinner.)

I mean, it’s already a joke when you have to pay 5 bucks for kids’ mac-and-cheese at most places… but 7 dollars?

For that much, the cheese needs to be made from magical goats in Switzerland that spit gold. The noodles should have been freshly hand-crafted by the grandson of Chef Boyardee himself. For seven dollars, when I changed Jack’s dirty after that meal, it should have smelled like Play-Doh.