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There’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:
- Beach Package at 4-Star Gulf Coast Resort, from $199
- Captiva Island Resort w/Dining Credit & Extras, from $160
- Family Resort near Disney w/Upgrade and Credit; from $69
- Oceanfront Condo Suite on Ormond Beach, from $77
- Save on Summer Getaways to Daytona Beach
- Panama City: Beach Hotel w/Water Park Tickets & More, from $109
As 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.
Mother’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.
Does 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.
For 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.
Florida 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
Located 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.
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.
This week’s family vacation post was inspired by the opening sentence of our swell Orlando Travel Guide: “There’s more to Orlando than Mickey Mouse.” True enough, but the problem is, many families visiting the city for the first or even the fourth time are still not taking the time to find that out.
The pressure not to find out is enormous. During your first visit to Orlando you and your family will likely visit some but not all of the Walt Disney World parks. On subsequent trips you might knock off some of Universal, take in delightful Aquatica, spend an afternoon at SeaWorld, or revisit the parts of Disney you rushed through or skipped the last time.
Meanwhile, the Orlando tourism bureau, like any parent who loves all its children equally, shrewdly embraces Disney and the other theme parks as the city’s crown jewels, all the while wishing that you would take the other parts of its fair city out for a cup of coffee and get to know them.
Well, the time might be now.
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