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Stacey Kasdorf

How We Spent a Week in Florida

We just had the best family vacation ever in Florida. It was a combination of a lot of things, but I think the girls being older and getting along better played a big part in it. We had great weather, a perfect mix of activities, time to relax and rest and stayed in the best rental houses. Scroll to the bottom for a cost breakdown! A few of you asked to compare this to an all inclusive vacation, and they're just so different it's hard to compare. An All Inclusive is more relaxing, you don't have to cook or clean and you do lots of swimming and hanging out on the beach. This trip has more activity, each day looks different and you get a change of scenery. Both are GREAT, just depends on the vibe you're going for. Send me a DM on Instagram if you have any questions! I'll start by sharing a quick timeline below:


Day 1: Hang out at the house, swim, grocery shop and Chef Mickey's for dinner

Day 2: Universal Studios, Sonic for dinner, voodoo donuts, swim, bed

Day 3: Check out of Orlando house, Wild Florida, Zaxby's, check in to Melbourne House, swim, grocery shop

Day 4: Photoshoot with Villatel, swim at the pool, collect shells at the beach, movie night, dinner at the house

Day 5: Flytographer photoshoot, dolphin tour, Salty Sisters for lunch, Ron Jon's, Ccocoa beach, swim/play at the house, dinner at the house, Beachside Creamery for ice cream (stayed up late to watch a rocket launch and missed it lol)

Day 6: Swam at the house, went to the beach, Long Doggers for dinner, play games at the house and swim

Day 7: Went to the beach to collect seashells, swam at the house, played games, cleaned up and checked out, biggest McDonald's in the world for dinner and drove to the airport


Accommodation

We stayed in Villatel houses our entire trip. The first three nights we stayed at their Villa Grande house in Orlando and the next 4 nights we stayed at their Over the Moon house in Melbourne Beach. Both house were stunning! We have stayed at a Villatel Solara house before and it was also amazing. Each house is designed and decorated so well, has a huge fully stocked kitchen, dining table, pool, laundry, games and themed rooms. There was so much for the girls to do. If you book one of these houses, definitely schedule in down time at the house, because it's always one of the girls favorite parts of the trip. We love staying in a house because it lets Jason and I hang out once the girls go to bed, and we can buy groceries for breakfasts, lunch and dinners to save money.


Villatel Orlando is still completing their renovation, and their waterpark and facilities should be open by the end of this year. Our house at Melbourne Beach had a main pool and hot tub we could also use, and was a 5 minute walk from the beach. We went every day. It's a private beach so not busy and there were big waves to play in and tons of seashells to collect. It's also just a couple minute walk to the bay side that has a nice dock to walk on and you can rent jet skis. It's also down the coast from Kennedy Space Center and if you're lucky enough you can catch a rocket launching! It's about 1.5 hours from Orlando depending on traffic and 45 minutes from Cocoa Beach.





Rental Car

We rented an SUV from Hertz in the airport. We brought the girls booster seats from home. You can check them under the plane for free, so we always do that instead of renting them. Then at the end of our trip we just dropped it off at the airport before getting to our flight. It was so easy and convenient! Also, get insurance from your home insurer. The rental agency quoted us $470USD for the same thing we got from home for $70CAD.


Chef Mickey's

We weren't doing Magic Kingdom this year, and I knew the girls would want to see Mickey & Minnie, so I got us a reservation at Chef Mickey's in the Disney Contemporary Resort. It is pricey, but the buffet is really great and includes dessert and the girls LOVED getting to see all the characters. They all stop by your table and you can take pictures and videos. Donald Duck even started a conga line with the girls. I'd definitely recommend this! Take note that most character dinners you have to reserve a month in advance. Everything fills up so quickly!





Universal Studios

We chose to do just one theme park this time, and picked Universal Studios. With Zara's height, this seemed like the best option. We did Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom last time we were in Orlando and didn't wanna do the same parks again. You can read about our experience at those parks here. If you're picking only one park and haven't done Magic Kingdom, I'd pick that one! I introduced the girls to Harry Potter before we went so they'd be excited about Diagon Alley. It was for sure their favorite part. They got wands and you can walk around in the alley doing magic with them. They honestly didn't work great, and you are only in that section of the park for a little bit of time. I'd recommend saving money and getting a normal wand that isn't interactive. Whatever park you choose, research what characters/shows are prevalent and watch them ahead of time to get your kids more excited.


Also, in my opinion, the Express Pass is a must (same with the Genie at Disney parks). Especially if you are only doing one day or have young kids. It more than doubles the price of the ticket to get in, but it is 100% worth it. I would definitely only visit once you can afford to get it. Without it you'd wait in long lines, have cranky kids and you won't get to see as many attractions. We were able to ride every single ride and the longest line we waited in was 10 minutes. The girls didn't whine ONCE. The key was stopping for snack breaks whenever they asked. Sometimes every hour. We packed snacks to save money (hit up Target before you go, we even grabbed small lunch kits and ice packs). Sandwiches, chia seed pouches, veggies, pringles, apples, granola bars and then we let them buy a few candies from a candy store at the park. Most of the lines were inside and air conditioned, so we also never got too hot.


We also rented a stroller, and I'm so glad we did. We don't have one at home anymore, but park days are so long for kids and so much walking. All of the girls took a turn in it (they're 4, 6 and 7 for reference). You can rent them at the park, just walk to the left when you go in. They're only $40 USD for the day and it was worth every penny. It's a double so two girls could sit in it at a time and we could put our backpacks in it as well.


I was really impressed with the rides. Lots of them are simulated, so I didn't think I'd enjoy them as much as roller coasters, but they were so well done and so much fun! Our favorites were Revenge of the Mummy (this was scary for Rosie), Harry Potter, Fast & Furious, Rip Ride Rockit and Transformers. The other amazing thing they have is Child Swap. There were two rides Zara was too small for, but we were all able to go through the line, and then when we got up Jason and Zara would go off to the side and the girls and I would ride it. When we got off, I would take Zara and Jason would get to go on the ride with Rosie and Everly without having to wait in line again. It was amazing!


We also went the best time of year. It wasn't too hot, and because it was a few weeks after spring break it was really quiet. Not huge crowds or super long line ups anywhere. This day was for sure a highlight for us! We got there just after opening at 9am and had rode every ride by 6pm. We stopped for snacks often and didn't feel rushed. The Express Pass really makes for the best experience.






Wild Florida

This was on our way from our house in Orlando to Melbourne Beach, so we thought we'd stop in on our way over! The girls loved it here. It has a drive through safari with tons of different animals. The girls loved looking out the window and getting up close to them. Then at the end you get to feed giraffes lettuce which they also loved. When you pay for the Safari you also get access to the gator park. There are lots of alligators, birds, kangaroos, sloths and lots of other cool animals they don't get to see back home. They also have airboat rides, but because we were doing the dolphin tour we passed on that part. Overall it was a great experience! You can check it out here.





Dolphin Tour

This was definitely a highlight. We booked with Dolphin Family Tours and had such a great experience! Russ was our captain and he was so friendly and knowledgeable. You take a pontoon boat out onto the Banana River near Merritt Island. We saw 5 dolphins and one manatee. The dolphins swam all around our boat and we followed them for awhile. The girls loved it! You also dock on a small island and can swim if you want and collect shells. You're also really close to the cruise ship port and can see some really big ships. Where you dock is very close to Cocoa Beach, so we did this the same day we went to the beach! After the tour we headed to Salty Sisters for lunch and it was so fun. Outdoor picnic tables, a playground for the girls, and the food was great. In the evening apparently they have live bands and it gets super lively and fun.





Family Photos

I love getting family photos on vacation! I love capturing where we were and having the memories forever. I always use Flytographer because they have vetted the photographers and make sure you get your photos once you're back home. We had Krista and she was amazing with the girls! Definitely book her if you're in the Orlando area. You can use code Staceyk50 to save $50 off your photo shoot, valid until the end of this year!





Cocoa Beach

This is where we got our family photos taken in the morning, then we did the dolphin tour, and then we came back to Cocoa beach to spend the afternoon. Before the beach we had to stop at the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop. It's so big and there's so much to see. Definitely pop in here for a souvenir! The girls wanted to try boogie boarding, so we rented some on the beach and they all tried. I was so proud of them! They weren't huge fans of the salt water, but so glad they tried. Then we built sand castles and just hung out at the beach. Then we drove back to our house, it was about 45 minutes away from Cocoa Beach.





Food

We ate at the house most of our meals, but we did also eat out a few times! We ate at Chef Mickey's, Sonic, Zaxby's, Salty Sisters, Long Doggers and the biggest McDonald's in the world before we headed home (it's near the airport). All of them were really good! We also tried Voodoo Donuts at Universal City Walk and they were dry, definitely do not recommend. We went to Beachside Creamery one night in Melbourne Beach, which was super close to our house, and it was so good!





Flights

We flew with WestJet because they offered direct flights there and back which was SO nice. The flights were late, but I'd take that any day over having a layover. On the way there our flight was 3.5 hours and on the way back it took 4 hours. The girls did great. The flight home was late so they basically slept the entire time.


Cost:

Villatel Houses: These range depending on the size you want and the time of year you go. You can check pricing here. They start as low as $240/night. If you go with a family and split the cost it's super affordable! *This was a hosted experience for us as I created content for them and did a photoshoot

Flytographer: $385USD

Dolphin Family Tours: $276.85USD

Universal Studios: $1815USD (this was regular admission and the express pass for all 5 of us)

Universal Parking: $69.80CAD

Stroller Rental: $40USD

Boogie Boards: $20

Rental Car: $520CAD (we used points for this)

Car Insurance: $71

Gas: 92.31CAD

Food: $1076.84CAD (this number is shocking to me lol. Groceries were insanely expensive, and we also bought a lot of specialty items we can't get at home and ate out a lot. You could save money here)

Chef Mickey's: $379.14CAD (I'd say worth it if you're not doing a Disney park)

Flights:  $2055.32CAD (we used points for these)


TOTAL COST: $7952.41CAD (plus the cost of your Villatel stay, which starts at $1750 for the week)


Let me know if you take this trip one day!!


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