One Day Not Enough To Celebrate Independence Day? Take A Week

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Coming up in less than a month, America celebrates its Independence Day as fireworks light up the sky at events around the country. This year, the Fourth of July falls on a Thursday. That might mean an extra day off work for some, returning on Friday to end the week. Others might be in for an extra long, four-day weekend with plenty of time for travel.

Regardless of how your holiday schedule works out, one day might not be enough celebration. Plan a visit to Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort to the east or Disneyland Resort to the west. Both will be celebrating the Fourth of July for an entire week, starting July 1, 2013, during what Disney calls Limited Time Magic.

Said to “surprise and delight Guests in fanciful and unexpected ways,” Limited Time Magic events happen “only at certain times of the year,” says the Disney Parks blog. Between now and June 23, Disney wishes “ears to you” as graduates are invited to buy a mortar board Ear Hat at the Magic Kingdom park, then choose from five different tassels representing their school colors.During the Independence Week Celebration from July 1 to July 7, 2013, a fireworks spectacular will happen at 9 p.m. on July 3 and 4, and 10 p.m. on July 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7 at Walt Disney World and 9:30 p.m. each night at Disneyland. At either park, Disney chefs will have Independence Day-themed cuisine including red, white and blue strawberry shortcake or desserts in Mason Jars, apple pie-filled cupcakes and patriotic cotton candy.

Other Limited Time Magic events include a sneak peek at “The Lone Ranger,” a “Monsters University” homecoming celebration and other Monstrous Summer events.

Can’t make it but want to see those Disney fireworks? They might look something like these:



A stay at home 4th in order this year? Check Gadling’s Best Independence Day Travel Movies Of All Time.

Summer Travel Bargains, Available Now During Brief Buying ‘Sweet Spot’

Moyan_Brenn/ Flickr

Summer travel season is right around the corner but exciting travel opportunities are often limited by price. There are plenty of places to go, but they are often priced out of reach. Still, with some research and timing, summer travel bargains are out there right now. Why? Sellers of travel want occupancy and booking levels to be at a certain target number right about now. If the numbers are not where they want them to be, they bring on the discounts to shore up summer season bookings. Here are some we found as standout bargains.

Disney World, Discounted
Summer is usually a popular time to visit Florida’s Walt Disney World and this year is no exception. Many families have to do vacations during the summer, when kids are out of school, most often driving prices up. Still, with hotel capacity running a bit ahead of reservations, deals are out there. Savings of 30 percent on select Disney hotels on Disney property, free dining with a hotel and ticket package, and more can be found at Disney’s Special Offers webpage.

Hike the Blue Mountains in Jamaica
Strawberry Hill is offering guests 25 percent off rates for stays through October 31 with its “Discover the Blue Mountains” package. The three-night stay includes two hikes on Gordon Town Trail and Settlement Trail, daily breakfast, a fruit and cheese welcome amenity, dinner with a bottle of wine, daily Blackwell Rum cocktail and a spa treatment. Don’t come home without a pound or two of that Blue Mountain coffee.Summer for Less at Nantucket Island Resorts- Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket Island Resorts is offering 30 percent off room rates at White Elephant Village, The Wauwinet and the White Elephant Hotel to guests who book five consecutive nights July 7-19. Rates start at $2,500 for five nights. Visit nantucketislandresorts.com/hotel-deals for more.

Pick A Cruise, Any Cruise
Practically every cruise line sailing has felt the sting of recent widely publicized events so prices have gone down. Some lines are advertising like never before, others have quietly just not raised pricing as they might have normally done at this time of the year, choosing instead to go for maximized occupancy. Best deals can be found in the Mediterranean where prices can be as low as $75 per person, per day. Short Caribbean and Bahamas sailings are also showing fall-like pricing for summer sailings. That never happens.

Cheap Not Good Enough? How About Free?
Ultra-luxe cruise line Crystal Cruises is allowing kids ages 17 and under to sail free when sharing a third berth stateroom with two adults. Families can choose from seven- to 15-day voyages in the Mediterranean, Western Europe, North Cape, Baltic, British Isles, Canary Islands and across the Atlantic from May-December aboard Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. Book by June 28, 2013.

Take A Road Trip, You Will Not Be Alone
Compared to many summer travel options, a road trip is still a standout winner for budget-minded vacationers. A timely YP survey published in TravelPulse compared driving versus flying and found that Americans believe they have a greater flexibility in schedule (35 percent) and sight-seeing (33 percent) when driving vs. flying. They also liked having the ability to easily take more stuff with them (11 percent), avoiding crowds and security lines (9 percent), and the ability to more easily take pets (7 percent).

Perhaps something a bit more exotic? How about one of these James Bond-inspired destinations?

5 James Bond Inspired Summer Travel Destinations

Memorial Day Travel Events Bring Discounts

Memorial DayAs Memorial Day approaches, travelers are taking advantage of some special offers and events exclusive to the three-day weekend that officially begins on Friday, May 24. Discounts, special offers and events this year are available at a number of locations around the United States as America remembers the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Additionally, those in uniform have a variety of special discounts and offers.

Carnival Cruise Lines is offering a promotion that provides active and former military personnel with discounts of up to $600 per stateroom and shipboard credits of up to $100 per stateroom on a range of three- to 12-day sailings. Sister-line Princess cruises continues their Special Military Program, giving those who served up to $250 onboard credit on any sailing.

May is also National Military Appreciation Month and Florida’s Fantasy of Flight museum is offering complimentary admission to all active-duty, retired and reserve members of the U.S. Armed Forces when accompanied by a full-priced paid adult, senior or child general admission throughout the month of May.

Not a military member? There are still some Memorial Day promotions for you too.Disney is pulling an all-nighter with the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida and at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. The parks open from 6 a.m. May 24 to 6 a.m. May 25, to kick off the summer season. The parks will also have extra entertainment, live bands and characters in their pajamas.

On the West Coast, California’s Mammoth Mountain ski area has a Memorial Day $99 package to ski or ride, mountain bike and golf all in one day. The Ski-Bike-Golf Challenge allows unlimited skiing, snowboarding, and access to the bike park along with nine holes of golf at the resort’s Sierra Star course.

Also in California, the West Coast Thunder Bike Run in Riverside, the largest single-day motorcycle event west of the Mississippi, hosts nearly 7,000 motorcycle enthusiasts. Proceeds from the ride registration and concert tickets benefit the Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee and the event also includes a Military Appreciation Fair on Sunday, May 26.

Nothing at all planned yet for Memorial Day weekend? Now might be the time to do that.

According to Travelocity’s Memorial Day booking data, domestic airfare is down 2 percent year-over-year with the average cost at $341, six dollars less than it was in 2012. That might not sound like much but recent years have all seen increases in the price of airfare.

Even Amtrak is getting in the Memorial Day spirit, saving northeast regional rail travelers 25 percent when they book by May 10, 2013, for Memorial Day travel.

[Photo credit – Flickr member Fritz Liess]

Budget Guide 2013: Orlando

The notion that “Orlando” and “Budget” don’t go well together has its basis in fact; theme parks are not a cheap day’s outing. Admission alone can cost $100 per person without spending a dime on parking, food or souvenirs. Still, without trying all that hard, a good time can be had on a budget in and around Orlando – a time that captures every bit of the magic and wonder.

In the past, budget travelers and Orlando had a hard time connecting. 2013 looks to see average room rates hovering around $100 per night with popular International Drive and luxury hotels running several times that amount. Stay on property at a major resort like Disney World and expect to pay over $250 each night with the sky being the limit. Orlando’s hotel business has been hit hard by the economy in recent years. Now a recovering work in progress, there are plenty of budget hotels in the market.

Theme park admission, hotel rates and dining aside, there are a variety of activities to do and places to see in Orlando that are free. The Downtown Disney area of Orlando is a good example and has free admission and entertainment. Every chain restaurant in the world, it seems, has a version of what they do here from TGI Fridays to The Capital Grille and everything in-between. You’ll also find friendly locals eager to help with directions, though odds are they’ll be dining at a local place as simple as a grocery store meat counter.

Hotels

Orlando hotel developers have returned to building hotels after suffering during the economic depression. In what seems to be a new sense of purpose, hoteliers in Orlando are now paying better attention to the details of their work. It’s kind of like a ride, watching them handle things so efficiently. It’s refreshing.

New this year, big resorts have individual special offers worth up to 50% off the price, reduced rates for children and other promotions. Expensive luxury hotels aside, here are some reliable, nicely priced places to stay.

Best Western Plus Orlando Gateway is a full-service hotel with an outdoor pool, two restaurants and a fitness facility. Located within easy access to Wet ‘n Wild and Universal Studios Orlando, and not far from Disney World and other attractions, this hotel has free Wi-Fi, free parking and a free shuttle to area parks.
From $70. 7299 Universal Blvd – bworlando.com

Travelodge Maingate Suites is in Kissimmee, not far from parks and other attractions, and has a free shuttle to theme parks. Unique to this hotel are cooking facilities in each room including a microwave oven and refrigerator. Free Wi-Fi, parking and a continental breakfast along with a picnic area make this one a good choice for budget-minded families. The average year-round price of $30 is a bargain at twice the price.
From $30. 4649 W Irlo Bronson Freeway – travelodge.com/hotels/florida/kissimmee

Days Inn Orlando Midtown is also not far from the theme park action as well as downtown places of interest like Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital, the revitalized downtown area and more. Days Inn Orlando Midtown, like other Orlando hotels, is more expensive on the weekends. From $48.
3300 S Orange Blossom Trail – daysinn.com/hotels/florida/orlando/

Eat and Drink

Like hotels, a good way to eat and drink at a reasonable cost in Orlando is to steer clear of International Drive, the hub of all things Orlando, and the attractions … although, the world’s largest McDonalds is probably a must-see for fast food lovers and it sits not far from Disney World.

Mama B’s Giant Subs is located downtown and is open for lunch only. A local favorite, there is a choice of 30 different sandwiches, all customizable and all huge. They have a $6 lunch special that includes any half sub with chips and small drink. For a big group, a 3-foot feeds 10-15 people ($36.96), 4-foot ($49.38), 5-foot ($61.00), 6-foot ($72.68) Note that they only take cash – no credit or debit cards accepted.
692 N Orange Ave - Mama B’s Giant Subs

Bubbalou’s Bodacious BBQ is a favorite of local residents looking for a whole lot of good food for little money. This is where local barbecue fans that know what they’re talking about eat. Absolutely nothing fancy to it, this place has Floridians driving from as far away as Jacksonville. Unique menu items here include Fried Pickles ($2.99), Fried Okra ($3.49) and Sweet Potato Tots ($3.99). Beef, pork, chicken and seafood are prepared fresh daily as sandwiches ($5.99) or dinners ($11.99).
12100 Challenger Parkway – bubbalous.com

Fish and Chips is actually the name of a restaurant in the Orlando suburban city of Apopka that started as a hole-in-the-wall place in a strip mall in 2006. Fish and Chips has such a big local following that it was expanded and moved to a larger location at the end of 2012 and looks poised to be even better in 2013. Based on a simple premise of providing hearty portions of quality seafood at reasonable prices ($5-$7), the fish served at lunch today “was swimming last night,” the owners are fond of saying.
1146 West S R 436 – fishchipsorlando.com

Budget Activities

Splitsville Luxury Lanes and Dinner Lounge is a 30-lane bowling alley ($15 per person per hour, all-you-can-bowl) in Downtown Disney that’s a hip, retro venue and also features pool tables (free) and a balcony bar that overlooks Downtown Disney. Budget watchers will like that at Splitsville they don’t need to bowl to enjoy the bars and food offerings. In addition, Splitsville has live music (free) on some nights, with a variety of theme nights on others.
1494 East Buena Vista Drive – splitsvillelanes.com

Pleasure Island, is a free entertainment area in Downtown Disney that can be a cheap, if not free night out. Parking is free and so is non-stop entertainment at various venues. Try a candy apple from the Candy Cauldron, watch singers and musicians for a few hours or ride the free water taxi around to see the area. On the marketplace side, visitors can always get a free chocolate sample at the Ghirardelli Chocolate shop.
1590 Buena Vista Drive – wdwinfo.com/downtown/pi/

Universal City Walk is similar to Downtown Disney and a fun area of restaurants, shops and entertainment that requires no admission. You’ll pay for parking here ($20) but buy something in a store and they will credit your purchase towards the fee. Travelers who enjoy a Caribbean cruise for a trip to Margaritaville can stop by Jimmy Buffet’s place for a Cheeseburger In Paradise fix and a LandShark beer.
6000 Universal Blvd – universalorlando.com

Get Around

By Bus: Orlando’s citywide bus system is called the LYNX public transportation system. The extensive system that runs until midnight is worth learning over other transportation methods. A one-way fare in a single direction anywhere on the system is $4, and transit directions can be pulled from Google Maps on your smartphone. To or from Orlando International Airport (MCO) and the suburbs via cab or private car will run around $100 each way.

By Car: Rental cars in Orlando are usually very competitive because of the high volume of tourists. Cars are almost always available and everyday prices for compacts start at just $25 per day with unlimited mileage. Start your search at kayak.com for a good aggregate of fares.

By Train: While a train is not a good way to get around once in Orlando, using one to get there is another matter altogether. The Orlando area has three Amtrak passenger train stations. The Orlando station is close to the attractions but the Kissimmee station is the closest to Walt Disney World. The Winter Park station delivers passengers to a quaint suburb with frequent street markets and old-fashioned charm.

Budget Tips

Watch Disney World Fireworks For Free by going to Disney’s Polynesian Resort (no admission fee required) for a cheap dinner at Captain Cook’s quick-service restaurant, then go sit on the beach attached to the resort for the show.
1600 7 Seas Drive – disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/polynesian-resort/

Driving? Bring a roll of quarters, as many roads frequently traveled by visitors are toll roads. Better yet, if you’re going to be in town for the good part of a week, buy a SunPass transponder to save on what a car rental company might charge. Save time driving too by paying attention to road congestion via your favorite up-to-date GPS-based app; major highway projects in 2013 and beyond will make driving an activity all of its own.

Pick a suburban hotel if visiting during peak times when hotel availability may be tight. Pick something close to I-4 if visiting attractions. It will be about a 30 minute drive to Disney World, Universal Studios and others but well-worth the savings. It is almost always less costly paying for the rental car and expenses vs. staying at a pricey hotel or resort on-site.


Disney World Immersive Expansion Opens This Week

Disney WorldFlorida’s Walt Disney World is about to open a new, re-imagined Fantasyland. The iconic park had been in operation for years to the thrill of vacationers of all ages and needed a facelift. More than a fresh coat of paint and upgraded technology, Disney is adding a popular immersive element to the experience.

“The Magic Kingdom is the iconic place at Walt Disney World and Fantasyland is the favorite land,” said Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts in the U.S. and France in a Fox News report. “It’s the heart of the Magic Kingdom and we’re absolutely doubling the size of it, so I think that’s major in our guests’ minds.”


New Fantasyland has had some attractions up and running for weeks during a soft opening where cast members test their operation. Along the way, those experiencing new features and attractions have been engaged and drawn into each correlating story, every step of the way.

Enchanted Tales With Belle
A new attraction, Enchanted Tales with Belle, is an interactive experience (as opposed to a “ride”) that begins with an enchanted mirror transporting guests from Belle’s house to Beast’s library where Belle and Lumière invite guests to become part of a lively retelling of the “tale as old as time.”

Unique here is that groups are small and many are invited to participate in the experience that brings guests up close and personal with live action characters from “Beauty and the Beast.” This is not a passive, sit-around-and-watch attraction.Disney WorldUnder the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid
Also new is the musical attraction Under the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid where guests enter Prince Eric’s castle, board a giant clamshell and enjoy high-energy songs and effects that take them inside scenes from the animated Disney film “The Little Mermaid.”

Similar to Haunted Mansion in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the ride transports guests on clamshell-style vehicles using the Omnimover ride system introduced by Disney Imagineers in the 1960s. The ride takes guests through a series of scenes, first taking them to the bottom of the ocean, bringing us up to speed on Ariel’s journey from her father’s undersea kingdom then on to meeting Prince Eric.

Disney WorldBe Our Guest Restaurant
Cinderella’s Castle has some competition now with the opening of Beast’s Castle. In the middle of Beast’s Castle are three dining rooms that make up the new Be Our Guest Restaurant.

A West Wing features an enchanted rose, the Rose Gallery has twirling, larger-than-life figures of Belle and Beast and the Ballroom features an elegant domed ceiling, twinkling chandeliers and views of softly falling snow.

Inspired by Disney’s animated feature “Dumbo,” the Storybook Circus park within a park features a country fair feel with colorful big-top tents and attractions.

The Barnstormer takes the Great Goofini on a stunt plane ride high above Storybook Circus. As the story goes, Goofy has goofed his way into the role of a circus stunt pilot, The Great Goofini. In the tradition of classic air shows, The Great Goofini takes you away on a spiraling stunt plane adventure. Your twisting, turning, daredevil, roller coaster “flight” takes you high above the grounds of Storybook Circus in New Fantasyland.

A new Dumbo The Flying Elephant ride is twice the size of the old one and features a circus-themed play area offering recreation and relaxation for guests as they wait for their turn – with two rotating squadrons of airborne pachyderms! Inspired by the title character from the 1941 Disney animated motion picture, this popular attraction lets you fly with Dumbo.

Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station is a circus-themed water play area where guests can enjoy cooling refreshment and squirt each other. Interactive water features include Casey Jr., who lets off billows of cooling “steam” along with monkeys, elephants and camels that spray water.

disney worldPete’s Silly Sideshow is the place for guests to meet Disney circus stars who are excited to show off their special talents. Located inside one of the big-top tents, guests can meet Minnie Magnifique (Minnie Mouse as a circus performer), Madame Daisy Fortuna (Daisy Duck as a fortuneteller), The Great Goofini (Goofy as a daredevil stunt pilot) and The Astounding Donaldo (Donald Duck as a snake charmer).

Opening this week, that’s not the end of Fantasyland expansion. Doubling the size of the park, two other major attractions are underway, due to open in 2013 and 2014.

In the center of Fantasyland, Princess Fairytale Hall, opening in 2013, will feature walls of stone and stained glass windows opening into a large gallery where portraits of the Disney princesses cover the walls. Guests will move to elegantly finished rooms, meeting Disney princesses Aurora, Cinderella, Tiana and Rapunzel.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, opening in 2014, will take guests on a musical coaster ride into a mine via a first-of-its-kind ride system with a train of vehicles that swing back and forth, based on the classic Disney film and animated figures of “Snow White and the Dwarfs.”

See more in this preview video:




[Photo Credit- Disney Parks and Resorts]