Orlando, Florida. The Shangri-La of kiddom. The Holy Grail of family vacations. The place we all want to be able to take our kids. At least once. But doing it without spending the entire college fund can feel like a real challenge.
Enter Visit Orlando, the city's tourism agency. Start by downloading and printing an Orlando Magicard. The card is your ticket to a host of discounts, from $59 hotel rooms to buy-one-get-one-free deals at various attractions and performances around town. The only theme park included is LEGOLAND Florida, the primo park for the under-10 set.
Chances are you won't get out of Orlando without spending some time at a Disney park or, if you are traveling with older kids who are Harry Potter fans, Universal Studios Islands of Adventure and its Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The way to save money on those very expensive must-do attractions is to consider buying a multi-day pass (which brings down the per-day charge more for every extra day you buy). And the way to get the most from your visit is to consider staying "on property" at one of the resort hotels, which entitles you to special hours before a park opens in the morning or after it closes at night. When my family visited, my daughter and I rode every ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios - and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster twice -- before the park opened.
And, of course, wherever you go, the best way make it an affordable family vacation is to do the free stuff. In Orlando, the cool free stuff includes a collection of art museums, the Winter Park Historical Museum, and a host of outdoor spaces.
Cindy Richards is the mom of two terrific and well-traveled teens and the editor for TravelingMom.com. Follow her on Twitter @CindyRichards. And join the #TMOM Twitter party at 8pm Chicago time on Aug. 13 to learn more Orlando family travel secrets.
Cindy Richards is the mom of two who gets her muse from traveling the world, usually with kids in tow. She also writes for TravelingMom.com, where she also serves as editor.
See more of Cindy's stories here.