Jul 25 2008

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Disney and beyond: Orlando vacation alternatives

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Arabiannights
By Samantha Chapnick

I haven’t taken a single trip that didn’t give me cause to recall John Lennon’s prophetic words: "Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans."

I hope your Orlando vacation goes off without a hitch. But should life throw any surprises your way, here are some insider tips to help deal with unexpected weather, delays, costs or changes of heart.

FOOD

Problem: Disney character dining is sold out.
Solution: Several hotels under the Walt Disney World Resort banner offer character visits. Call them to confirm specific days and times.

Problem: The Disney dinner shows are sold out or too expensive.
Solution: Orlando has many themed dinner shows for kids that are very reasonably priced (most less than $30 per person) with additional discounts available in local tourist magazines or brochures.

  • Pirates Dinner Adventure, 6400 Carrier Drive, Orlando, FL 32819  (407) 248-0590, (800) 866-2469 
  • Capone’s Dinner & Show Guide marker #12-13  4740 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway.  Kissimmee, FL 34746  (407) 2378, (800) 220-8428
  • Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, Guide marker #14-15, 4510 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee, FL 34746,(407) 396-1518, (800) 229-8300   
  • Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Show, 508 Universal Blvd., Orlando, FL 32819 (407) 363-1985, US 800-393-1985  Fax (407) 352-1743
  • Arabian Nights Dinner Attraction, Guide marker #8 – Off exit 25A of I-4 onto Highway 192.  (407) 239-9223 or (407) 396-7400

KEEPING KIDS BUSY

Problem: It rains and you want to keep the kids busy:
Solution
: Try one of these indoor options:

  • Orlando Science Center: Forgive their misnomer (it
    should have been called the Children’s Museum). This is a multi-floor
    nature and art center for kids.
  • Monkey Joe’s: Perfect for kids under 8. For about $8, they
    get the run of this large space with several bouncy castles, arcade
    games, a TV and a concession stand (not included in the price). Adults
    get free wireless access.

Skyventureorlando
Problem
: The older kids are sick of going to Disney and want some real athletic action.
Solution: Take them to one of the adrenaline-inducing activity centers including:

  • Vans Skate Park, 5220 International Drive Orlando FL (407) 351-3881
  • Orlando Skate Park, (Outdoor skate park) 400 Festival Way, Orlando 32803
(407) 898-9600
  • SkyCoaster & G-Force, 2850 Florida Plaza Boulevard, Kissimmee 34746 407) 397-2509
  • SkyVenture Indoor "skydiving", (a powerful wind tunnel) 6805 Visitors Circle, Orlando, 32819 (407) 903-1150
  • Epik Paintball,14200 East Colonial Drive, Orlando 32826 (407) 273-6899

Problem: You’ve had it with the crowds but you don’t want to hang out by the pool.
Solution: Lake Eola — Get back to nature at this park with Swan boats, a modernist playground and no crowds.

Problem: Kids want the rides, you don’t want the lines or don’t have time to do Disney.
Solution: Try these family-friendly alternatives …

  • FunSpot: A go-kart
    track, bumper cars, kids rides, Ferris wheel and an arcade are enough
    to keep kids of all ages busy for a few hours or all day. It’s
    affordable ($38 adult for unlimited rides and arcade; $24.95 for kids;
    $4.95 for adult companion), easy to park and get in and out, and has
    very short lines.
  • Pirate Cove Mini Golf: A national chain of mini golf done with a nautical pirate theme.

SAVING MONEY

Problem: Flights or rental cars to Orlando are too expensive:
Solution: Fly into Daytona. This
wonderfully small airport is only about a 40 minute drive from Orlando
but offers several benefits in certain circumstances. Last-minute flights into Daytona from Atlanta and New York are often half the price of those to Orlando. With more manageable schedules, there are fewer flight delays for inbound flights. 
Going through security is usually much faster and easier. And if you are flying round trip from Daytona, a car rental is usually less money than renting in Orlando. When we followed this advice, we saved $109 on each of our flights (Daytona to NYC) and $35 per day on a car rental. (Note: This doesn’t apply to the weekends when large Daytona Speedway races are on.)

Problem: You want to go to a theme park but have more time than money.
Solution:
Several companies will give one free adult ticket to the major theme
parks (plus some perks like restaurant gift cards) if you sit through
their timeshare presentation. Do a search on the Web using keywords
like "Free Disney ticket Orlando."

Have you ever had to kick in a contingency plan for Orlando? Please let us know what you did in the comments section below.

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