As a Florida Mom (born and raised), I have spent a lot of time in Orlando. And no, not all of our vacations there have been the most pleasant. I learned the hard way to do my research before booking my stay to prevent disappointments AND to ask lots of questions.
In 2003 I booked my first family vacation as a new mom. Our reservations for our family’s Seaworld trip was made directly through the park’s website. I selected an “Official Seaworld Hotel” and was expecting excellent accommodations. Our children were toddlers so we knew we needed a hotel that we would be spending some downtime in to take the vacation a little slower; since they were little. The hotel was okay, but the beds were uncomfortable and the pool was very sad… very, very, sad. Nothing about our stay was restful and we left very disappointed with all things related to our hotel stay.
We have since had several more family vacations in Orlando that went much better. I learned NOT to schedule my hotel stay through the attraction websites and to do my research about each portion of our visit beforehand. It requires me to take a little longer on the preparation side, but I have not been disappointed since! With almost a dozen trips under my belt – I’d like to think I have this Orlando vacationing thing down to a science…
I realize everyone doesn’t have the opportunity for a do-over. Those who travel here from afar, this is it! This is their one opportunity to visit Orlando and they deserve great accommodations and a great trip the first time. To be honest, they can’t do it alone! There are so many hotels with unpleasant locations, old buildings, poor cleanliness; they leave people feeling scammed! I feel horrible for those who have traveled from far away places to visit Orlando and they have unpleasant – to horrible – vacations. No family should have a bad vacation. Especially not in Florida!
As a local, I’m a little skeptic of the vacationing websites out there. I’ve heard the horror stories – I know what people have gone through. For me, the risk is just too great to trust any of them. Well, that is, until I discovered OrlandoVacation.com.
I was such a skeptic, I did something a little on the sneaky side and I called them myself. I did. I just couldn’t take their website at its word. After talking to a sweet southern gentleman, named Burt, I’m in! I can’t wait to book our next Orlando vacation with them! They have vacation homes and hotel options AND discounted attraction tickets all in one place – Amazing!
Visiting the Site:
I immediately notice they don’t offer Timeshares – whew! You have no idea how hard it is to dodge those in FL! Relief!
I like that it shows me hotels & private rentals all in one place. For our large family, it is generally much less expensive for us to stay in a private rental instead of a hotel, but it can be difficult for us to find hassle-free information on vacation rentals specific to the area. I have searched similar vacation home sites before and thought I was looking at a home near our desired destination only to find the home I was about to book was over an hour away from where we wanted to be! I like that OrlandoVacation.com is specific to the area to prevent those easy mistakes.
Ask the Expert Section was helpful. I was able to scroll through the questions asked by others and see what the answer they were provided with was… there, I learned that you can book a year in advance and make payments on your reservation, with the final balance due 15 days before your arrival!
The Blog: Their blog has some great tips for where to go besides theme parks, current special events happening at the parks, comparisons of theme parks & water parks; couples, families, & special needs vacation tips and information; How to visit [attraction] on a budget?
The Cart: It was frustrating that there wasn’t a “return to shopping” button that took me back to the previous page. I think there were lot of extra keystrokes that were unnecessary. To order 4 adult Disney Tickets, 2 Child Disney Tickets, 4 Adult SeaWorld Tickets, 2 Child SeaWorld Tickets, 3 Adult Medieval Times, and 3 Child Medieval Times Tickets…required 24 Keystrokes to accomplish this task. An easier cart and navigation method would have accomplished this order under 15 keystrokes.
I recommend you call in your large family reservations instead of using the website. (To be honest, I like that calling is an option to prevent navigation errors and online frustration.)
Making the Call:
As I mentioned above, I was a little sneaky and I called the reservation line. Burt, who was beyond helpful, reinforced our conversation with:
“I’m not here to sell, I’m here to give you piece of mind on your Orlando Vacation”
If this is their motto.. it works! I have total piece of mind and have already told my husband WE will be booking our next Orlando Vacation through them to save me time and research doing it myself!
This is what we talked about:
V: Your accommodations are a “Short 15 Minute Drive”…. is that dependent on fair traffic? Do you have a mileage requirement from the park on your homes?
B: We perform a radius check. The furthest one is 15 minutes away from Disney. None of our homes are to the North, all are East, West, or South of Disney and within four to six miles of the entrance.
V: Are the garages useable?
B: Yes they are, unless it has been converted into a game room for the kids.
V: Are any of your homes or hotels Pet Friendly?
B: No, they are not, and it is difficult to find anything in Orlando that is.
V: Do any of your pool homes have a child safety fence between the back door and the pool? I don’t see any on the pictures.
B: YES, all pool homes have security fencing AND an alarm on the back door. It is up to you to use it or take it down if you aren’t going to use it; but it is in use upon your arrival.
V: Can the cleaning fee be reimbursed if the home is cleaned by the renter?
B: No, it is nonrefundable regardless if it looks clean when you leave. We don’t want anyone cleaning but us because we want it truly cleaned for our piece of mind and for the family coming in behind you.
V: When your hotels say “Free Disney Shuttle” – who is the provider? Are any a part of the Disney Bus Line?
B: No, they are not. You must stay at a Disney Resort to utilize their service.
V: I see your website only allows booking until December of this year. How far in advanced can reservations be made?
B: In Mid July the site will be updated to include rates for all of 2015.
V: Could more hotels and homes be added to your list in July?
B: Yes, we could have more hotels on the list in July. Additional hotels are rumored to be included during this update.
V: Theme Park Ticket Prices: How do they do a 4 day ticket at a 3 day price?
B: The hotel or property management teams bought down the tickets for you! This is why we cannot offer you discounted tickets without a hotel/home reservation.
*Conversation quoted to the best of my memory
How Does It Work?
First, you need to decide if you want a hotel or vacation home stay. There is no easy way to determine which option works best for your family either, both options have great benefits. If you are having trouble making a decision, give them a call and they will help talk you through your decision making process.
Next, select your theme park tickets. YES, you want them! Don’t order your tickets anywhere else or you will pay more!
Finally, checkout and finalize your reservation by paying a $50 Deposit! (Unbelievable!)
That’s it! That’s all you need to do to make your reservation. After the reservations are made you have until fifteen days before your arrival to pay your balance. You can make payments until that time or wait and pay it all at once. It is up to you! If you see that you need to cancel your order, the inexpensive $50 deposit is refunded minus a $15 fee. (That’s really inexpensive. Even Florida State Parks charge more than that for cancellations!)
If you booked a Florida vacation home for your Orlando vacation, you will receive additional information from the property management team ten days prior to your arrival. At this time, you will be required to pay an additional nonrefundable $75 property protection fee directly to the property management company. This fee is similar to an insurance that will cover, up to, $250 in damages to the property during your stay. (So, if your teen son forgets his own strength and causes a hole in the wall somewhere- you’re covered.)
After your fee is received, you will receive directions, gate codes, and alarm information for the property you have rented.
How Does It Compare:
I really wanted to be sure to check my sources and compare OrlandoVacation.com, and their products, to that of Disney. I hopped over to book a Disney World Vacation on their official website. From there I selected the date range and the persons to attend the trip. I had a little bit of trouble getting their website to stop moving. Their slideshow was interfering with the date section and took me to another area of the website that I did not want to go. When I made my way back, I had some difficulty selecting the ages of the attendants. It never showed my selection in the box, although a selection was made and being recognized by the website.
After I made it through, I easily selected the resort we wanted. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge was my destination of choice – but given the price, I only selected a one room villa.
After making my accomodations selection, I attempted to select a 3 day park ticket – basic but the website insisted I wanted four days. After refreshing the page several times, I gave up and went ahead and allowed the four day selection to stay.
Back at OrlandoVacation.com, I made a reservation for a three bedroom vacation pool home + four day park tickets and my total was TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS LESS! Wow!
When it comes to the savings, there is no comparison. OrlandoVacation.com really saves you a ton. In this case, it saved Two Thousand Dollars overall and over a one hundred and fifty dollars on the initial payment. While the actual navigation of the Disney website is more in line with what I would like to see at OrlandoVacation.com, the savings is worth the extra keystrokes.
OrlandoVacation.com is a great resource for booking a family vacation to Orlando – large or small! Their homes and hotels are beautiful and are sure to please your family.
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