Florida vacation spots

Florida Vacation Packages — 5 Tips

Florida VacationFlorida vacation packages are a great idea…if you know what to look for.  There are lots of great deals, but also “gotchas”.  Here are some tips on what to think about before you sign up for a vacation package to Florida.

Tip 1:  Where Do You Want to Go (and Do)?

Do you want to hang out in a particular city, beach or attraction?  Would you like to go touring around the state?  Ar you looking for a fishing trip?

There are an awful lot of vacation packages out there — having an idea of what you want to do helps you to better able to compare packages.

Tip 2:  How Long is Your Vacation?

Packages are available from 1 day on up.  Week-long Florida vacation packages are probably the most common, but you’ll find plenty of 3 and 5 day options.  And of course, 2 week packages abound as well!

Need longer?  Think about renting a house, or combining packages.

 Tip 3:  Vacation Package Prices

You want to get the best price possible, right?  Everyone has a different budget, but here are some thoughts at getting the best price you can.

  • Is your vacation date set in stone?  If you are flexible with your dates, you can get better prices than if you have to visit during the “high” season.  For the most part, “high” (i.e., most expensive) rates are from Thanksgiving to Easter, plus around holidays.  At Disney, however, Summer has high prices, but January has low rates (go figure).
  • Do you need airfare?  If you’re flying into the Sunshine State, will you arrange for your own airfare, or do you want want with it included?  Many times you can get a better deal on your own, so do some checking.
  • Getting around.  Once you’re at your destination, will you need a car to get around?  Word of warning — Florida cities generally do not have good public transportation options.  If you plan to spend most of your time at a beach house, or you’re on a tour a car might not be necessary.  But if you’re planning on going out about about at your destination, consider what ground transportation is offered in the package.
  • Is Food included?  Food, or at least a dinner or two, is sometimes included in a package.  If you notice two similar packages that are very different in rate, check to see if one includes food.  For example, Disney World has an option for dining that is very well-worth checking out if you’re planning on staying at a Disney resort.

Tip 4:  Read Before Signing!

This is really critical.  Now, no one wants to think about their vacation being cancelled or postponed — but things do come up.  It pays (literally and figuratively) to know what kind of cancellation clause you have in your package.

Some packages only let you cancel in the first few days after signing.  Some let you cancel up until the last minute.  And there are some that are not refundable at all.  Most are somewhere in between.

Be sure you read — and understand — the cancellation clause(s) in your Florida vacation package!

Tip 5:  Plan for Weather

This actually isn’t specific to a package, except during the most active tropical weather periods in Florida (typically August and September).  If you plan to spend your vacation at a Florida beach, ask about any “act of nature” clauses.

Also, there’s a joke about Florida weather, “If you don’t like it, wait 5 minutes and it will change.”  While this isn’t always true — sometimes we have day after day of rain — you might want to plan for what else you could do if it rains for a few days.

And Finally…

Have a great time on your Florida vacation!

Yacht Club Resort at Disney World

Disney's Yacht Club ResortThe Yacht Club resort at Disney World in Orlando is kind of a “twofer” — it’s two resorts in one area.  Why do something like this?  Well, partly because the resort has two sides to its personality — luxury resort on one side and vacation villas on the other.

So what does that mean to you, if you’re thinking about staying here in this Florida vacation spot?  In a word — choice.

If you’re staying a short time, or there’s only one or two of you, the resort side makes more sense.

If, however, you have quite a few people in your party and you plan to stay a week or so, the vacation villa side may be perfect for you.

Let’s take a closer look at the resort and villas.

 Location, Location

Let’s start with where the complex is located on the Disney World property.  It’s snuggled up to EPCOT, and is so close that you can walk from the resort lobby to EPCOT and be there in 5 minutes.  There’s a special entrance for the people at the EPCOT area resorts, which has much shorter lines.

You can also take a water taxi to EPCOT from the resort landing.  It’s popular to walk to the resort, and then take the water taxi back after spending a long day walking around the park.  😀

The next closest Disney theme park is Hollywood Studios, which is about a 15 minute water taxi ride.  You could, of course, also take the Disney bus transportation.

(And remember, all the transportation between resorts and theme parks is free to guests.)

Eating Out

Interestingly, there are but two restaurants at the resort/villas.  The two are the Yacht Club Galley and the Yachtsman Steakhouse.

Word of warning, neither are inexpensive, but the Galley is the more moderately-priced of these two table-service restaurants.  I will say that the breakfast buffet on the Galley is worth the price, as long as you come to the table hungry!

The Steakhouse is only open for dinner.  And yes, it’s pretty pricy, even for

Disney.  I do hear that the food is great, though (didn’t try it while I was there with hubby).

Want to grab something on the go?  Try the food court for picking up a snack or quickie meal.

Other options are some of the resorts in the same general area as the Yacht Club — Boardwalk, Disney Swan and Disney Dolphin.  And please, do think about trying one of the character meals — they really are a lot of fun!!!

Both Yacht Club Resorts

Pools and Such

There is a wonderful pirate-themed waterslide  — you can’t miss it as you walk out on the back of the resort.  The waterslide drops you into a theme pool called “Stormalong Bay”.  And while you can swim in the lake, I wouldn’t really suggest it.

There’s a health club of sorts called Shipshape Health Club as well as watercraft rentals, tennis and an arcade.

What are the Rooms Like?

The rooms are nicely sized and have a small sitting area — the room we stayed in is the photo at the top of the page.  While you see a king-size bed in the photo, the rooms typically come with two doubles.  King-bed rooms are first come, first served, and you can’t reserve them ahead of time.  The rooms themselves are around 350 square feet — room to stretch out.

If you’re wanting even more options, there are also suites — the smallest being the “Junior” and the largest the “Presidential”.  There’s also a concierge floor, for those that would like a little extra service.

FYI — this resort is fairly spread out, so do expect a lot of walking.  If that’s an issue, ask if there is a room near to an elevator, to save yourself some steps.

And finally, because this does fall into the deluxe category of Disney’s resorts, do expect to pay more than the moderate or value resorts.  Hint: the prices fall substantially during the off seasons, like much of January and September.

 

Florida Keys Drive, North to South

Florida Keys Vacation SpotThe Florida keys as a vacation spot is both “standard Florida” as well as an escape of everyday life.  I recently took a drive down this island chain, via the Overseas Highway.  I marveled at what had changed…and what had stayed the same from my last visit, roughly 10 years ago.

Key Largo — Enter the Keys

While it’s not really the northernmost island, Key Largo is considered the gateway to the rest of this tropical island chain.  This area changed the most from the last time I ventured down.

Key Largo has always been the most like the mainland, in terms of chain restaurants, chain hotels, and outlet stores.  And, I am sad to say, that this influence is even more pronounced now.  At least in comparison to points south.

Still, there are reminders that this isn’t just a piece of the mainland.  John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is one of them — a diving mecca for the world.  Little motels have still survived here and there, as well as tiny restaurants that boast unique Keys-inspired offerings.  So if you can’t make it to points further south, you can still have a great time in Key Largo.

Islamorada — The Keys Begin

It’s not really until we got to Islamorada that the Keys really started looking like what they are — coral and limestone islands in a sea of ultra-clear tropical waters.  Not to say they don’t look that way in Largo…just that you can’t see the waters from the highway.

But starting in Islamorada, the island spiWaters in the Keysrit begins.  There are more unique places to stay, interesting places to eat, and the icon of the Keys, Theater of the Sea.  Not to mention one of the big draws of the islands — the beautiful waters.

There are plenty of places to pull over on the side of the road and mosey over to the water.  The waters are for the most part pretty shallow in these areas, but clear and warm.   Limestone rocks dot the shore, and if you bring some snorkeling gear, you can see sights below the surface — fish, sea grasses, maybe even a lobster or two at certain times of the year.

If you’re looking for sandy beaches, though, you may be in for some withdrawal symptoms.  Anne’s Beach is in the Islamorada area, once of the few natural sand beaches in the Keys.  However, there isn’t all that much of it (sand, that is).  Still, it’s natural and it’s pretty, so it’s worth a stop.

One restaurant worth mentioning in Islamorada is the Green Turtle Inn.  It’s a shadow of its former self, in that the building that used to be the entire restaurant only about 1/3 is still the restaurant proper.  However, if you would like some lobster mac and cheese, it’s definitely the place to stop  (in a word…YUM)!  The catch of the day is also superb, and the Key Lime pie is still as tasty as ever.  Be prepared for a large tab for your meal, though, as it is pricy.  The food is worth it, though.

Further on Down the Chain — Marathon and Beyond

Marathon is roughly the middle of the drive between Largo and Key West.  It boasts an airport (very tiny) as well as chain stores, restaurants and hotels.  It also boasts some places to stay that are not the standard chains, restaurants that prepare seafood in a variety of delicious ways, and some unique places to shop.

Florida Vacation SpotOh, and the waters here are fantastic for boating, snorkeling, diving, fishing…you get the idea.  I must say that Marathon didn’t change a whole lot since my last visit, even though it passed through some hurricanes since then.  The pace is slower here, more like the “Keys time” that I remembered.  Still, if you are hankering for a Big Mac, you can find one, so it’s rather a pleasant mix of mainland and tropics.

The 7 Mile Bridge is what links Marathon, in the Middle Keys, to the Lower Keys.  It’s a wonderful drive over the stretches of waters that vary from green to turquoise to blue and back again.  Plenty of sea birds float the skies or sit on the wires of the phone and electrical lines.  And while the phone and electrical lines aren’t the most scenic, they are necessary.  And, they are only on one side of the bridge.

Bahia Honda Key is on the other side of the bridge, and Bahia Honda State Park takes up a good deal of the island.  Worth a stop if you like beautiful tropical beaches — and this one is natural sand as well.

After Bahia Honda and Big Pine Keys, you’ll come to various small islands, and finally terminate your drive in Key West.  On our trip, we turned around before we got to Key West, since we were only taking a day drive, and the traffic in Key West would have added an hour all by itself.

The Keys as a Florida vacation spot, is a destination very much worth considering, even if it’s just a day trip.  The scenery, the places to stop, the food to eat — they all spell a wonderful place to spend a day, a week or even longer.  Enjoy!