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  #1  
Old 07-27-2012, 12:01 AM
robynd robynd is offline
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Talking Large Family Vacation

My husband and I are planning a vacation for our family. 4 of our 6 children will be with us when we travel. They are 7, 12, 13 and 16. Our budget is between $3,000 and $4,000 for a week. Our lodging should include a full kitchen to help save money on meals. We enjoy waterparks, theme parks, beaches, history, music, etc....On our list already is Branson, MO. We would also consider a trip to Florida. We would like to keep this trip within a days driving distance from where we live. (Near Beaumont/Houston, TX) Any hints, tips, suggestions, advice, etc....greatly appreciated!! We homeschool, so it's not imperative that we go during the next month. Pretty much anytime is good for us!!
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  #2  
Old 07-27-2012, 04:29 PM
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What time of year are you planning to travel? Would you consider cruising?

Last edited by Host Young Gang Mom; 07-27-2012 at 04:31 PM.
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Old 07-28-2012, 01:07 AM
robynd robynd is offline
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Time of the year is flexible since we homeschool. We would possibly consider a cruise.
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Old 07-28-2012, 02:21 AM
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We have found the time of year we travel directly affects our budget. We usually travel in the early fall when the crowds die down, transportation is less expensive and the parks and beaches are less busy. We have modified year round (school) so we get two weeks break Sept-Oct.

We have yet to experience the beaches of Florida, only the parks. We have been to Disney 3 times now and Universal Disney for the first time this year. Being from California means 1/2 of our budget is spent on airfare though.

We have also cruised out of Florida and found it a very cost effective way for the whole family to travel and everyone gets a little bit of something they like. You could most likely get a couple of rooms on a 7 night itinerary that would send you to some beautiful beaches on your budget depending on the time of year.
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Old 07-28-2012, 01:37 PM
robynd robynd is offline
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So, how is Disney REALLY? I mean, how many days do you really need to spend there to actually get your money's worth? Is it better/worse/the same to stay on-site or off? Are the lines as bad as I've heard they are? Is it worth getting a meal plan? Have you ever done that? Etc....a cruise sounds good, too. It would be really nice to go somewhere we have never been. I bet we could squeeze a history lesson or 2 in there somewhere, too. On cruises, do you get enough time to enjoy your time OFF the ship? I just don't want to be rushed.
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Old 07-28-2012, 02:34 PM
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A lot of your inquiries are a matter of opinion, but most of us will agree that Disney is great. There are some really great threads on here debating how to stay at Disney. A lot will advocate to stay off site, perhaps at a vacation home for the week. That way you will have access to the kitchen etcs. Some swear by it. We have not done that personally, but wouldn't be against it. We have always stayed at a Disney property for a complete Disney feel and the free transportation, as we don't get a rental car. Since you will already have your own vehicle it would make it even easier.

We always get the dining plan, but again we usually travel when a free dining plan is offered. There are a lot of pros and cons regarding the dining plan. How often and how much your family likes to eat makes a great difference. Our family only eats two meals a day, but we like to have table service and we like fine dining so the plan makes sense for our family because we use all the benefits. Light eaters probably wouldn't find it financially beneficial, unless it's free of course.

Some lines are longer than others. We have been there in September, October, and February. The lines were average to us and anything we considered to long we picked up a fast pass for and came back to it later. Weather was good each time we went and i am sure less crowded than summer or the holiday's would be.

This year we re taking our third cruise, second as a family. We really enjoy spending time on the ship but do go into port on port days. If you are an early riser you can get a generous amount of time on shore. There is a lot to do and see on your own, so tours aren't always a necessity (a cost saving factor as well). It looks like you could take an affordable cruise and hit some tropical locations like the Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Cozumel. There is a lot to consider, 4 ,5, and 7 days cruises. There is often a lot of local history to take in. When we travel we read books and watch videos as a family in regards to the places we are visiting beforehand to get a real feel of the area before we get there. When we arrive, history comes to life.
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Old 07-30-2012, 02:24 AM
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Hi robynd,

I'll concur with Host Young Gang Mom regarding Disney - there are many strategies to try in doing a Disney trip, ways to save money etc. Disney is not "inexpensive" but there are always ways to save. Indeed it is very, very awesome - dreamy, super fun and non-stop action. Everyone would love it.

That said, before I got far down in the thread to see Disney came up, I had already thought of a Florida Beach destination that you could drive to in one day....the Florida Panhandle, specifically Panama City Beach which is situated on Florida's Emerald Coast, that continually ranks among the top 20 beaches in America. 27 miles of white sand beaches and the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico. The only time not to go there would be Spring Break or maybe peak of summer, like now. Since you are flexible, September/October might be great since the weather will still be great and it will be much less crowded.

There are many fun things to do there such as the Gulf World Marine Park with many shows/exhibits including dolphins, sharks, penguins, sea lions and river otters. Throughout the year, the shows vary but it is recommended to be sure and see the dolphin, reptile and sea lion shows. It's a day full of fun.

Shipwreck Island Water Park ranges from exhilerating Raging Rapids to the calmer Lazy River; there is also a section for younger children and overall a very fun water filled day.

There are hiking trails alongside Lake Powell, within Camp Helen State Park. Both freshwater and saltwater fishing are also available within the park. Swim off a secluded stretch of sand and some awesome bird watching for shorebirds and bald eagles!

At the Coconut Creek Family Fun Park, there are two tropical themed 18 hole mini golf courses (no windmills, I suppose )) and there also a Gran Maze which is a maze that you can walk through which is the size of a football field.

For more wilderness activities, check out St Andrew's State Park with an abundance of outdoor options and the ability to take a tour boat to Shell Island to sight-see, snorkel, watch for dolphins and jet ski.

In addition, there are air boat rides, pontoon boat rides and so much more. Also, with an abundance of vacation rentals available (the more popular option in Panama City Beach) it is certain you can find something to suit your family size. Oops, I forgot Zoo World, and the National Museum of Aviation - you might not think that to be a fun stop, but given that nearby Pensacola Naval Air Station is a huge Navy base, these types of museums can be LOTS of fun.

I found many beautiful and highly recommended vacation rentals to accommodate six at reasonable rates after Labor Day weekend on www.TripAdvisor.com.

I'm not sure if, being from a warm part of Texas, you're necessarily looking for warm/beach vacation. Branson is very popular but I hear mixed reviews....it's a great location for mid-westerners to take a vacation.

I recently drove across many states in June/July and saw countless family destinations throughout the country. I was driving to vacation WITH my family

Does your family have any particular interests that might help us offer further suggestions? There are so many possibilities but they have to fit all the interests of your family; let us know what might be especially fun for everyone.
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