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Monday, March 26, 2018

Deals For FL Residents At Orlando's Theme Parks

When your snowbird home is near Orlando, FL you get visitors from the north who want to visit the theme parks.  We would love to join them but they are so expensive to get into these days.  I started to wonder if there was any way to get discounts to make a visit a little more affordable.  I found out that all of the parks give some kind of discount or easy payment plans to Florida residents.  That's perfect for us because we decided to stay 6 months and a day in Florida and we are now officially residents.

Disney World - I was surprised to find any discounts here but I actually found a couple of options that would work for us as Florida residents.  There is a 3 day ($159 plus tax) or 4 day ($179 plus tax) package that we could purchase and be able to use between Jan. 4 through June 24, 2018.  The tickets can be used to enter any of the Disney parks but only one park per day.  Considering that a one day adult regular ticket for Magic Kingdom costs a minimum of $119 plus tax, (regular ticket price, prices are higher at peak times of the year) this is an amazing deal.  If we think we will be visiting the parks more than 3 or 4 times, we might consider getting one of the annual passes.  Anyone can buy an annual pass to Disney but Florida residents have a choice of two additional options not available to the general public.  The Disney Silver Pass ($439 plus tax) gives us access to all 4 parks, park hopping and parking.  There are blackout dates, though, which are basically the weeks that schools are closed.  The Disney Weekday Select Pass ($289 plus tax) is the same as the Silver except that the weekends are also blackout dates.  I am thrilled with the Florida resident deals.  We will definitely take advantage of these deals if our guests want to do Disney when they visit.
If you are not a resident:  The cheapest way to buy tickets through Disney World (see other options below) would be to buy them online.   If you are planning to visit the parks 3 or more times within 14 days you can save $20 compared to what you would pay at the window.   There are also annual pass options for non-residents.

Universal - It costs $115 plus tax, at the cheapest time of the year, for a non-resident to visit Universal, and a little more at peak times.  But we can take advantage of resident pricing here.  For $164.95 plus tax we can visit one park per day, Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure, 4 separate times.  Or if we think we might want to make more than 4 visits to the parks, we can buy an annual pass for as low as $259.99 plus tax.  Right now there is a sale going on that gives us 3 extra months free when we buy an annual pass.  This makes this deal really worth the price.  There are blackout dates but will still work for us right now.  It will not work when our grand kids get to be school aged though!
If you are not a resident:  There is a deal here that is hard to pass on if you are  planning to visit the parks 5 times in one week.  The ticket will cost you  $224.99 for 5 admissions, which is the same price you would pay if you were buying a package of 3 one park per day tickets.  It's like getting 2 days free!

Sea World - The cheapest way to purchase tickets for a day at Sea World is to buy them at least one day ahead of time online.  The ticket will cost $79.00 for non-residents and residents alike, instead of $99.00.  There are no Florida resident discounts here unless you are a teacher.  The only perk a resident could get would be to be able to make monthly payments when purchasing an annual pass compared to having to pay in full.  The annual pass is $175.   Parking is included and there are no blackout dates which makes this a very good deal even without a discount.

Busch Gardens - The only deals you can get here as a Florida resident is free yearly passes for Florida preschoolers and, like Sea World, you can make monthly payments when purchasing your annual pass.  So whether you are a resident or non-resident, your annual pass is $168 and includes unlimited visits with no blackout dates, free parking, the ability to purchase tickets for your guests at a discounted price and other perks.  A one day, one park ticket costs $89.99 and parking costs $18.69.  It is definitely worth thinking about buying an annual pass and spending two days at the park.  It would mean your second day would cost only $60.00 and would include parking.

Legoland - For only $99.99 Florida residents can purchase an annual pass.  The perk that makes this really worth buying is the $25 discount you can get for your guests, up to 4.  Saving up to $100.00 on tickets for our guests sounds like a great deal to me.  Cypress Gardens was the theme park here before Legoland.  I was thrilled to know that Legoland kept the gardens and their website claims that it is even more beautiful than ever.  I always loved those gardens and the fact that Legoland is only about 30 minutes from my Florida home makes me think we will take full advantage of the discounts we can get here.
If you are not a resident:  Buy your tickets at least 2 days in advance online and you can save $14.00 per ticket.  A one day ticket costs $88.99 at the gate.   There is a annual pass available to non-residents that will cost you $149 and will get you a full year of admission to the theme park and water park with no blackout dates and includes parking.  You also get unlimited admission to the Coca Cola Orlando Eye, SEA LIFE Aquarium and Madam Tussauds in Orlando.  (For more information on these amusements see our recent blog post here.)  This is definitely worth looking into if you were planning to enjoy more than one visit to Legoland on your vacation.

There are great deals for us now that we are Florida residents.  We will look into deals we can get in other ways too before I buy our theme park tickets.  I know we can buy discounted tickets with our AAA membership .  We have also gotten a great deal for Busch Gardens when we purchased tickets online from visitorlando.comGroupon and Trip Advisor are also worth taking a look at.  An added bonus is getting 4% back from Ebates when you buy tickets through Trip Advisor and 9% through Groupon.

Do you enjoy any perks in the city you reside in?

Monday, March 5, 2018

What Destinations Are On Your Bucket List?

I was curious to know what destinations were on my friend's and family member's bucket lists.  These are the people who have traveled as far as Japan with us.  They have hiked in a couple of national parks and camped in almost every state on the east coast with us.  We have traveled as far west, in the US, as Seattle, Washington and have cruised together.  We traveled so much together that, years ago, we decided we needed a group name.  We called ourselves the Rockland Rollers.  (Most of us live or lived in Rockland County, NY.)

I asked the group for the top 3 destinations on their bucket list.  It is a big world out there,with many places to discover, so I was ready for a very varied list.  But there were eight places that made many of the lists.  I had to find out more about these places just in case one of these destinations turned into another group vacation adventure! 

The Rockland Rollers Top Eight Bucket List Destinations

1. Greece - was on the top of at least half of the group's lists.  Because of it's many islands, when we think of Greece, we think of beautiful beaches and gorgeous weather.  There are too many islands to choose from, though, so I think one trip here would not be enough.  The most visited island is Corfu where you can enjoy elegant Italian architecture and walk the many romantic pedestrian-only streets.  The most dramatic island is Santorini with it's clifftop towns of Fira and Oia.   They are both considered romantic destinations and are popular for weddings and honeymoons.  Swimming at the black volcanic sand beaches sounds like a wonderful way to relax.  The most glamorous island is Mykonos where you can stay in boutique hotel, eat delicious meals at classy seafood restaurants and enjoy the many live music venus.  If we stayed on the mainland we might want to discover Delphi built on the slopes of Mt. Parnassus.  This was a sacred site where people came to worship Apollo.  We could explore the ruins of many temples, a theater and stadium all dating back between 8th century BC and 2nd century AD.  Or would we want to see the symbol of Greece and Athens, the Acropolis, a rocky mound where the Parthenon stands.  Yes, one trip here would definitely not be enough.

2.  Thailand - was almost on as many lists as Greece was.  I was really surprised and curious about this choice because I have never thought about ever going to Thailand.  The more I found out about this exotic country, the more I thought I needed to get there one day.  But one day or one vacation would not be enough time to explore Thailand.  I found one adventure after another when I started researching this very interesting place.  Some of the must-sees here include the Grand Palace complex in Bangkok where we could see royal residences, throne halls, government offices, Buddhist temples and priceless works of art.  Wat Rong Khun or White Temple is both a place of worship as well as an art piece.  It looks like one of those things that a picture of it wouldn't do it justice.  You'd have to see it for yourself to really take it all in.  Damnoen Saduak Floating Market sounds like a  really unique, not-to-be-missed experience where you board a boat and go shopping to buy food, souvenirs, clothing and fresh produce from vendors who are in their boats.  Another fun shopping experience can be found at Chiang Mal which hosts a night bazaar every evening but the best night to go is Sunday when there are more arts and crafts for sale and local musicians and street performers show up.  There is definitely lots to see, do and experience in Thailand that I really could keep going on forever about it.

3.  Australia - is on lots of lists and is on my bucket list mostly because I would love to get a chance to see the cutest wildlife on earth, in my opinion anyway!  In a recent post (see other must-sees here), I researched a city where koalas could be seen sitting on people's lawns.  That would be a sight to see!

4.  Africa - People who had Africa as one of their top destinations, immediately added because they would love to experience an African Safari.  There are many safari's to choose from.  How awesome would it be to join the safari that takes you view the migration of wildebeest and zebra.  This migration is called the "greatest wildlife show on earth".   Or maybe one around the Ngorongoro Crater which is a massive depression that serves as a protective enclosure for over 25,000 large animals.  You are guaranteed to see each of the Big Five of Africa.  I know, from teaching about them when I worked in a pre-school, that they are the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo.  The animals are a big draw for wanting to explore Africa but how amazing would it be to see the largest  body of falling water at Victoria Falls in Zambia.  It's twice the height and many times wider than Niagara Falls.  I thought Niagara Falls was powerful!  I can't imagine falls more than twice the size.  Chrissy crossed Africa off her bucket list when she was asked to go as a representative of the company she works for, Vitamin Shoppe.  Not only did she get to go on a safari, she also was able to experience the people and culture.  The stories she came back were amazing and are wonderful memories she will have forever.

Photo Credit: Sophia Billikopf, Vitamin Angels

Photo Credit: Sophia Billikopf, Vitamin Angels

5.  Iceland - made many of the Rollers' bucket lists.  Most added that they would love to see the Northern Lights.  I can imagine that this would be the most sensational light show we would ever witness in our lives.  So what else could we see or do in Iceland?  Iceland sounds like the perfect place to go whale watching.  We have a pretty good chance of seeing the Blue Whale here, the largest animal ever to live on earth.  Another interesting animal to see here is the Icelandic Horse.  We can choose to go horseback riding on these short-legged, muscular animals.  If it's glacier we want to see, it sounds like Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is the place to see them.   We can watch, as well as hear, them crashing into each other.  We can do this on a boat or just watch them from the shoreline.  An added treat would be also watching the seals here playing around us.  It takes a bit of luck, and a very knowledgeable guide, to be able to see the Northern Lights.  If we ever get to Iceland that would be the hope, but there are so many different and interesting things to see and do here that a trip here would be worth the trip anyway.

6.  Alaska - The natural beauty and delicious seafood are only two of the many reasons we would want to visit the largest state in America.  It is on mine (see the rest of my list and read more about Alaska here) and Soko's lists as well as a couple of others.  I'm sure we would want to visit one of the National Parks, but which one.  Denali National Park has the highest peak in North America.  We can marvel at the glaciers, grizzly bears and "drunken trees", trees that have tilted because the frozen ground is melting around them.  Glacier Bay National Park is where we would want to go to enjoy many outdoor activity opportunities like hiking, kayaking and fishing.  Or would we want to get a glimpse of whales breaching or eagles soaring at Kenai Fjords National Park.  And when we are in Alaska we would definitely have to check out the glaciers.  Heidi and Frank were lucky enough to make a trip to Alaska and checked out the Mendenhall and Spencer Glaciers among others.  Although, Heidi has been able to check Alaska off her bucket list she still dreams about going back again to explore more of the interior of this beautiful state.

7.  Hawaii -  I can definitely understand why Hawaii was a top 3 on the Rollers' lists.  Me and Soko honeymooned here and loved it.   Diamond Head in Oahu was one of the sights that were on our must-see list when we went.  If the Parthenon is the symbol of Greece, then for me Diamond Head is the symbol of Hawaii.   We took a trip to the island of Maui and it wouldn't have been complete if we didn't take the Road to Hana.  Amazing!  We also enjoyed watching the very talented hula dancers at a luau and tasting authentic Hawaiian food like poi.  (I'm not sure that I would try poi again though!)  The beaches were amazing and our hotel was across the street from the International Market Place in Waikiki which was a definite thrill for me.  I loved shopping at all the little kiosks.  I had to bring home one of the beautiful carved candles that were a popular buy there.  I heard that the Market Place that I remember has been completely renovated but is still a must-see.  Even though we have visited Hawaii, I would go back in a heartbeat!

8.  Bora Bora - After traveling around the world, we may need a place to relax.  Bora Bora sounds exactly like that place and was the top choice of a couple of the Rollers.  Whether we are relaxing on the deck of our floating bungalow, wading in the water of the lagoon surrounding Bora Bora or taking a leisurely bike ride around the island, this island sounds made for relaxing.  There are sights to see  on this French Polynesian Island, after a lot of relaxing, like Mt. Otemanu for one.  I heard that the best way to see and enjoy this magnificent dormant volcano is by taking a boat ride around it.  On the top of almost every "best things to do in Bora Bora" list is a visit to Matira Beach.  Who wouldn't want to lounge on the white sand and swim in the calm turquoise water.  And, last but not least, snorkeling in the warm, clear water in a lagoon filled with beautiful coral gardens, sounds heavenly.

I have now added more places to see on my bucket list after seeing theirs.  I hope that one day I will be posting my story and adding my pictures of the adventure I had in one of these exciting places.  Even better would be having stories and making memories on these trips with the Rockland Rollers!