Shermanstravel Blog

Orlando

summer-basics-to-packWater, a wallet, and wipes are somewhat obvious things to pack in a carry-on bag, especially if you’re a parent with more than 25 minutes of experience. But summer, being as it’s conducive to heat, splashing, grime, and a desire to pack and travel light, should inspire all summer travelers – families, beach goers, and all-around outdoorsy types – to put a smart twist on these three basic items.

Here are my picks, each coming in comfortably under twenty bucks.

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Walt Disney World alcoholWhen I visited Walt Disney World as a kid with my family – and even during a school trip to the parks in high school – I never noticed anyone drinking alcohol. Maybe the hard stuff is just more pervasive now than back in 1989, but these days you can buy booze pretty much anywhere at Disneyland and Disney World (except the Magic Kingdom – the teetotalers won out there).

Epcot is by far the booziest of the Orlando parks – the annual Food and Wine Festival (September 28-November 12 in 2012) comes highly recommended – while your best bets in Anaheim can be found in Downtown Disney. Here are a few of the top places to tipple at the Happiest Places on Earth.

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Hotel Metropole bunkerSome hotels are merely a place to rest your head at night, but others hold fascinating tales of wartime refuges, remarkable wildlife, valuable art, and ghostly spirits that refuse to let go. Sign up to be amazed and maybe learn a thing or two on these exceptional hotel tours.

Until recently, most people had forgotten there was an air raid shelter underneath the Hotel Metropole in Hanoi, Vietnam. When staff discovered it during some routine work on the pool area, however, the hotel decided to excavate the bunker and restore it to its original state. Now, hotel guests can participate in nightly tours that highlight the shelter’s famous past residents – including Joan Baez, who recorded “Where Are You Now My Son” there in 1972 – and Hotel Metropole’s role during the Vietnam War.

An in-house historian leads groups through the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, each Wednesday through Saturday to reveal such nuggets as the unlikely origins of the hotel and President Calvin Coolidge’s preference to dine with the hotel staff during his visits. The tour costs $5 for guests, $10 for non-guests; alternatively, book the tour and a three-course lunch at Marchand’s Bar & Grill for $25.

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Disney's Art of Animation ResortDisneyland may have Cars Land but only at Walt Disney World can you stay in a Cars-themed room. Or Finding Nemo. Or The Little Mermaid. Or The Lion King.

OK, technically you have to wait until June 18 for the Cars rooms, but the first section of the new Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – the Nemo suites – opens today. These family-friendly rooms sleep up to six and include three sleeping areas, two bathrooms, and a kitchenette. And of course the entire room is decked out in characters from the Disney-Pixar film, from sea turtle wall hangings to a shark attack bathroom.

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Royal Plaza Lake Buena VistaWith summer — and school break — just around the corner, it’s time to start planning a great getaway for the whole family. These money-saving deals are suitable for a group, whether you’re taking the kids to Orlando for some theme park hopping, planning your next family reunion on a cruise, or hiding out at a Caribbean resort where little ones stay free. We found those deals and more, good for travel throughout summer and fall, starting from just $87. Book soon to lock in the best savings.

$87+ Orlando: Disney-Area Hotel w/Breakfast, Save 50%

$389+ Weeklong Mexico Cruise to Cabo, Save 45%

$599+ 5 Nights at Jamaica All-Inclusive Resort w/Air; Kids Stay Free

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Holidays are always a great excuse to take a trip with the whole family. Mother’s Day (May 13) is just around the corner and the 4.5-star, 4-Diamond Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate invites you to take a last-minute trip to celebrate this special day. Stay two nights over Mother’s Day weekend or the one after for $147 a night – a great rate that includes a Mother’s Day brunch for a family of four (two adults and two children, a value of $96), breakfast daily (worth $70), and 20 percent off spa services. With these extra you save more than $55 a night.

The warm and elegant Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate is perfect for both a stay-in resort vacation and a visit to the theme parks via the Omni’s complimentary shuttle. Surrounded by two Greg Norman-designed golf courses, the property also features a spa, a family pool with waterslide, an 850-foot lazy river, a pool with private cabanas, five diverse dining experiences, and more.

To book, visit the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate website.

See our Orlando destination guide for more trip-planning information, then use our TravelSearch price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights.

Orlando at nightThere’s a reason why Florida is one of the country’s top vacation destinations. From gorgeous beaches to vibrant cities to the world’s most popular theme parks, the state offers plenty of options for a great getaway. The best part? Reasonable airfare from most parts of the U.S. makes it easy to get there, whether you’re looking for a relaxing weekend, or a full-blown family trip. Here are our favorite Florida deals from the past week:

Disneyland Cars LandAs the kids start counting down the days to summer vacation, America’s theme parks are counting down to the newest, biggest, most scream-worthy rides and attractions (so far, anyway). Here, a handy primer on where you’ll be taking the family this year.

The biggest news, of course, is the opening of Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure. This 12-acre attraction based on the Disney-Pixar Cars movies incorporates three new rides – including the thrilling coaster Radiator Springs Racers (pictured) – a trio of restaurants, and other themed shopping and entertainment venues. Watch out for Lightning McQueen, Mater, and other Cars favorites starting June 15.

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last-minute-mothers-day-hotel-dealsMother’s Day will be here on May 13 (you’re welcome, mark your calendar), which means that restaurants will be jammed to the rafters that Sunday with moms being dined by kids and spouses trying to compensate for 364 days of bad behavior.

My harshness is tongue in cheek, of course, but there really is a better way to celebrate mom and have a less stressful meal, too. If you’re mulling a last-minute escape with that special mother in your life, there are few good packages worth your attention.

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Pride Package Stay Hilton Go OutDoes the trill of a songbird remind you of a diva crescendoing against a dance beat? Is that eruption of color in a bed of tulips conjure images of an unfurled rainbow flag? It’s official: You’ve got Pride fever. And Hilton Hotels has the cure with their new “Stay Hilton. Go Out.” package, now available at 140 properties worldwide (including the Grand Vacations brand). Never too early to start planning for the season.

Booking entitles you to celebration-friendly amenities such as:
- Reduced room rates (more beer money)
- Double Hilton HHonors points (quicker access to the fab life)
- Late check-out (when available, hangover be damned)
- Free high-speed Internet (Facebook won’t know what hit it)
- Free 1-year digital subscription to OUT (the world’s leading magazine for the world’s leading gays)

Also, as a premier partner of events such as London WorldPride 2012, The Advocate 45th Anniversary, and the IGLTA gay travel association, they are offering one lucky winner a free 6-night VIP getaway to Gay Days Orlando – including airfare – from May 29 to June 4. Read more

Once airfare and hotels are covered, the most costly part of vacationing is the food. And when traveling with a family, it can become very expensive to satisfy everyone’s hunger. Walt Disney World is offering guests the opportunity to ease the stress of picking up the bill at the end of each meal. For guests of Disney Resort hotels, two free dining plan options are available when you purchase a 5-night/6-day Magic Your Way room and ticket package.

The first, the “Disney Dining Plan,” includes one quick-service meal, one snack, and one table-service meal per person, per night. You can choose from over 100 Walt Disney World Resort restaurants, like Rainforest Café, Planet Hollywood, Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner, and many more. It also includes a refillable drink mug for each guest. The second option, Disney’s “Quick-Service Dining Plan,” includes two quick service meals and one snack per person per night, as well as the refillable drink mug. In this plan, guests can choose from over 50 restaurants throughout Disney resorts, like the Lotus Blossom Café in Epcot, or Pinocchio Village Haus in Magic Kingdom.

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DisneylandFor some people, February 29 may be just another date on the calendar this year. But Disney Parks wants to make sure that day means a little extra magic. Two of its parks – Disneyland in California and the Magic Kingdom in Orlando – will stay open for 24 hours straight on February 29 to March 1, beginning at 6am on the leap day.

Schedule your stay for that time period and you could get a free night to spend at the resorts. The offer applies to stays of three or more nights from February 26 through March 10 at official Disney hotels at either Disneyland or Walt Disney World when you book a room and ticket package; book by January 31.

The best way to enjoy a Disney vacation, obviously, is if the whole thing is free: Every day through February 29, Disney is giving away a four-night vacation for four to either Disney World or Disneyland – a total of 60 prizes! The packages include hotel accommodations, airfare or ground transportation, Park Hopper passes, a $1,000 Disney gift card, and more. Enter to win (one entry per day) at disney.go.com/memories.

For general trip-planning information, see our Walt Disney World Travel Guide and Disneyland Travel Guide.

Pool deck at The Ritz-Carlton, Ft. LauderdaleFlorida brings to mind many things – theme parks, retirement condos, alligators, golf courses, and orange groves among them – but one of the state’s sometimes overlooked qualities is its easily accessible setting for romance.  It’s sunny, warm, and ringed with 663 miles of beaches. It’s home to leading hotels and top chefs. And its assorted resort regions, from the Atlantic to the Gulf to the Keys, have vibes that range from exceedingly mellow to, well, not so much. Plus, you won’t have to spend much on airfare, so you can splurge on your accommodations. Here’s a look at five very different ways to embrace the romance on offer in Florida. Read more

Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & SpaLocated just a few minutes’ drive from all of Orlando’s major theme parks, the all-suite Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa is the ideal home base for families visiting the area. While the kids are sure to go gaga for the pirate-themed pool complex – with water cannons, a water slide, and waterfalls – parents will appreciate perks like full kitchens and in-room Jacuzzi tubs. The experience is rounded out by three restaurants, a full-service spa, and free shuttle service to Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld. Thanks to a two-night pre-holiday package, rates start at just $89/night for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom suite that sleeps up to six. You’ll also receive a coupon booklet with $200 worth of savings for the on-site Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores. The package is available through December 22.

THE VALUE: You’ll save 45 percent on the room rate alone, not to mention the $200 in potential savings on your holiday shopping!

THE CATCH: There’s a two-night minimum stay for this package.

THE DETAILS: Head over to www.lbvorlandoresort.com and use code SHOP to book, or call 866-401-2699 and ask for the Holiday Shop & Stay package.

WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights to Orlando.

For general trip-planning information, see our Walt Disney World Travel Guide and Orlando Travel Guide.

Fly throughout the country this December with low holiday rates from Jet Blue. Fares start at just $34 for one-way flights!

See the holiday windows in New York City, the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., shop on Newbury Street in Boston, or ski down snow-capped mountains in Denver.   Looking to escape the cold instead?  Soak up the sun on beaches in Fort Lauderdale, Tampa or Long Beach, or enjoy family fun at the Disney World parks in Orlando.

Sample One-Way Fares this December:

• Las Vegas–Long Beach: $34
• Boston–New York City: $41
• Boston–Washington, D.C.: $46
• San Francisco–Long Beach: $59
• New York City–Washington, D.C.: $64
• Washington, D.C.–Orlando: $72
• Washington, D.C.–Fort Lauderdale: $75
• New York City–Orlando: $92
• Portland–Long Beach: $99
• New York City–Fort Lauderdale: $99
• Boston–Denver: $104
• Orlando–Austin: $112
• Boston–Orlando: $114
• Tampa–New York City: $114
• Austin–Boston: $134

* Travel is valid on select dates in December. All prices listed above were valid at the time of publication. Restrictions, taxes and fees apply.

THE VALUE: Pay as little as $34 on this holiday season airfare from Jet Blue!

THE CATCH: These rates apply to one-way travel only, before taxes and other fees.

THE DETAILS: Visit www.jetblue.com to book these flights.

WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Guides for holiday trip-planning ideas to these destinations, including New York City, Orlando, and Denver.

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