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Orlando Family Offer, 9th May, 2ad & 2ch, €465 per person!

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For most families Orlando is THE bucket list destination. Lets face it the magic starts as soon as you tell your kids you are going to Disney World!

 

With over 12 theme parks and four waterparks you are literally spoilt for choice! From Disney World, to Universal Studios, simulator rides to rollercoasters, water slides to dolphin swims, the choice is endless.  Lets not forget how much is accessible from Orlando too. Visit the Kennedy Space centre, shop till you drop in the outlets, or chill out one some of Florida’s amazing beaches. Suffice to say there is something here for everyone. For more info on Orlando you can read my blog here.Orlando family offer

I found a great Orlando family offer with Sunway Holidays. Book early, save yourself a fortune! Fly from Dublin on the 9th of May and spend seven nights at the newly renovated Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando, for only €435 per person based on 2 adults and 2 children. This hotel is located in the heart of Orlando on International Drive, close to theme parks, restaurants and night life and also offers free shuttle to Universal Studios. Facilities include 3 swimming pools, children’s playground, restaurant, sports bar and video games room! Highly rated on tripadvisor and awarded a certificate of excellence, this is a great choice for a fun filled holiday. Price include flights, taxes, baggage and seven nights hotel accommodation. If you want to extend your stay talk to the Sunway team, add on more nights in Orlando, a few days at the beach or even a Caribbean cruise – the choice is yours!

 

Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. This post was sponsored by Sunway Holidays but all views as always are my own 🙂

 

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Sarah

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Check out my best travel deals as seen on TV3’s Sunday Am on the 20th of September 2015.

 

Christmas Market Breaks:

Christmas markets are very much back in vogue. Ryanair have added extra capacity to many cities throughout the winter with lots of low priced airfares available.  I chose Berlin as it has over 50 markets to choose from and something to appeal to everyone. Sip some mulled wine while enjoying Christmas carols at the traditional markets of Charlottenburg Castle or the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Check out one of the Christmas Rock concerts at the Spandau Old Town market or try Europe’s largest mobile toboggan run at the lively Potsdamer Platz market. For more info on Europe’s top Christmas markets read my blog here.

Fly from Dublin to Berlin on the 1st or 8th of December and spend three nights at the Mark Hotel for only €199. Click here for more details.

Christmas market in Berlin by The Travel Expert as seen on SundayAM TV3

Girls Weekend Away:

Marbella is a great choice for a girls weekend away. There is plenty of style and glamour with a beachfront location, what more could you ask for! Sip a cocktail in Sinatras and simply people watch or dance the night away in the many bars or night clubs. There are lots of great shops in the old town that wont break the bank or if you want to flash the cash, there is no better place with lots of designer shops in the port to tempt you.

Fly from Dublin on the 6th of May and stay at the 3* San Cristobal Hotel for three nights for only €219 per person. Click here for more details.

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Family Holiday to Florida:

Florida is THE bucket list destination for families. There are over twelve theme parks and four waterparks so it is an adventure as well as a holiday! Enjoy the magic of Disney and marvel at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Shop till you drop at the outlets or swim with the Dolphins at Discovery Cove. I have chosen the 3* Ramada Gateway Kissimmee Hotel which is close to Disney but also offers a free shuttle bus to all the other main parks.

Fly from Dublin on the 8th of June and spend two weeks here for only €2399 based on two adults and 2 children. Click here for more details.

Universal Studios, Florida by The Travel Expert as seen on TV3

 

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Sarah
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Top 10 Honeymoon Destinations

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We all have different tastes and budgets, so I think it is fair to say that there are no perfect honeymoon destinations that suit everyone – well maybe Bora Bora…

 

Lets face it, if we had unlimited holidays and unlimited cash, we would probably all like to stay in a beach villa in the South Pacific. However, being realistic, we need to remember not everyone can take three weeks off to travel the world, and many of us have limited means. You also have to make sure to check the weather before you book, as it could be the rainy or even hurricane season in your dream honeymoon destination. Here are my top  honeymoon destinations – there should be one here to suit you.

 

 

 

1. Short on time – The Amalfi Coast

top 10 honeymoon destinations

For those of you who only don’t have lots of annual leave available, a week in Italy is the perfect choice. Stay in a deluxe hotel in Positano or Ravello and live like a celebrity. Visit the isle of Capri, take water taxis along the coast and soak up the Italian atmosphere.  Bellisimo!

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2. Short on cash – Greece

top 10 honeymoon destinations

I love the Greek islands and if you are getting married during the summer months, then Greece is a great choice. Swim with turtles in the turquoise waters of Zakynthos, explore the hilltop town of Lindos in Rhodes, or chill out in a five-star hotel in Crete. I stayed in a luxury hotel near Chania and loved it.

Read my review of Anemos Luxury Grand Resort.

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3. Like All Inclusive? –  Cancun.

top 10 honeymoon destinations

If you want a luxury hotel with all meals and drinks included, then Cancun is best for value. Cancun is perfect for anyone who wants to be pampered, without moving too far from your hotel.  Many honeymooners feel exhausted after the wedding, so all-inclusive holidays suit perfectly. You could however, mix it up a little and add in a few days in New York or Vegas on the way back….

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4. Play it safe! – The Maldives

top 10 honeymoon destinations

If you want pure luxury, idyllic beaches and want to wear flip flops for the week, the Maldives is for you. It is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations, but can still be affordable. Combine with Dubai for a great combination of city and beach.

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5. Tick all boxes – Island hopping in the Caribbean.

top 10 honeymoon destinations

This is a great choice for couples who primarily want a beach holiday, but want a bit of adventure thrown in. Barbados, The Grenadines, St Lucia and the Cayman Islands, it’s hard to believe they are all so close  – yet so different. If you don’t fancy to much packing and unpacking, try a Caribbean cruise and see them all on day trips!

Read about my stay in the Maldives here

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6. Like adventure? – South Africa

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South Africa is one of my favourite honeymoon destinations. It is the perfect place to mix adventure with beach time. Drive the garden route, go whale watching, take in a safari, explore Cape Town and finish off your honeymoon by chilling out on a wine estate.

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7. Road trip? – California

top 10 honeymoon destinations

There is nothing like the wind in your hair as you drive the Pacific Coast highway in a convertible. Combine San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and if  you have three weeks to spare, try to take in the national parks too. Drive from LA to Scottsdale, on to Vegas before hitting Death Valley and Yosemite. From there drive to San Francisco and hit the pacific coast highway back to LA. For a two week trip, make it simple, fly to San Francisco and drive the PCH to San Diego. 

Read the best places to stop on the Pacific Coast Highway.

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8. Adrenaline Junkies – Florida

top 10 honeymoon destinations

Surprisingly this is a really popular honeymoon choice. If you are looking for non-stop action, then Florida is hard to beat. Mix it up a little and combine with New York or Vegas, or why not add on a Caribbean cruise?

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9. A bit more exotic – Thailand

top 10 honeymoon destinations

Thailand is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations. Choose to relax on one of its many beaches or choose to combine a stay in Bangkok and Thailand’s cultural centre, Chiang Mai. Opt for five-star glamping in the Elephant Hills Camp, go island hopping in the Andaman Sea, or shop till you drop in Bangkok. Who says you can’t do it all?   

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10. The world is your oyster – Australia

top 10 honeymoon destinations

If you have plenty of time on your hands, and plenty of cash – then it has to be Australia! See the sights in Sydney, marvel at Ayers Rock and explore the world’s most impressive underwater paradise at the Great Barrier Reef. There is actually so much to see and do in Australia – way to many to mention! And if you manage to tour this massive continent and still want some more action – hop over to New Zealand…

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Sarah

 

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Orlando 29th Dec, flights & hotel, 8 Nights €699!

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Fancy ringing in the new year in style? No where does it better than Orlando, amazing fireworks, long lasting celebrations and balmy weather… tempted?

Orlando is one place that will definitely guarantee you a holiday full of fun. There are over twelve theme parks and four water parks to choose from as well as numerous entertainment facilities on International Drive, you will literally be spoilt for choice. The biggest surprise for me was that Orlando is not just for kids, most of the theme parks are great for adults too. It’s not all about Mickey Mouse and roller coasters. My favourite theme park is  Universal Studios, the Harry Potter experience is amazing and the simulator rides are remarkable. And if thats not enough you have the Florida Mall and the Premium Outlets on your doorstep with plenty of bargains waiting to be snapped up! Read my blog on Orlando for more information.

This fantastic offer includes flights with Virgin Atlantic on the 29th of December and 8 nights in the Ramada Gateway Hotel, based on two adults and two children sharing. This accommodation receives good reviews on trip advisor and is centrally located. You can choose to stay longer or upgrade your accommodation but bear in mind there is so much to do in Orlando you won’t spend too much time in your hotel.  This price includes all taxes and charges based on four sharing, supplement for 2 sharing is only €100 per person.

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Orlando – Where to stay

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Before you book your accommodation you need to ask yourself, do you want a hotel or a home, and do you want to rent a car.

If you are going to spend most of your time in Walt Disney World then maybe one of their Hotels or a nice Home in Lake Buena Vista would be most suitable. If on other hand you are visiting most of the other Theme Parks then International Drive is ideal. There are plenty of great value Motels here and  there is a regular bus service (I-Ride) to all of the main attractions and shopping malls, so car hire is not required. There are plenty of  bars, restaurants and lively nightlife, so if you want to be in the hart of the action, then I-Drive is for you.

My favourite theme park is Universal Studios so given the choice I would stay at one of their hotels. They have four hotels of varying standards so they have one to suit every budget. One of the main advantages is that you are allowed to enter the park one hour before opening, fantastic for the Harry Potter Rides. The Cabana Bay Resort is their three star hotel but to be honest its more like a four star. Its 50s retro style gives you the feeling you have walked on to the set of Grease. They have a bowling alley upstairs and a real diner downstairs. In fact I’m told the reason it is not rated four star is that the diner is self service.   I thought it was a great family hotel, really spacious rooms with a kitchenette, which saves on the cost of dining out. There is a large family pool with a lazy river, slides and a jacuzzi, open till late every night, a fab way to relax after a long day at the park.

Tom ten city breaks for families

Depending on your budget, there are also three luxury hotels which, not only allow early access to the park, but where you receive a complimentary express pass ticket. Express pass tickets are fantastic, particularly in high season, the queue should be no more than 15 minutes on any ride.  Note the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is excluded from the express pass.  You  can also buy these passes at the gate but they only sell a limited number and they cost $89!

My personal favourite was the five star Portofino hotel, its such a contrast from the busy Theme Parks. Designed by Steven Spielberg, it is an exact replica of the jet set Italian Resort. Sitting at one of the lake side cafes, sipping a latte, listening to the Tenors singing, you almost forget where you are. The rooms are very spacious and beautifully furnished and the service is what you would expect of a five star hotel. It is suitable for families and couples as there are three swimming pools. You can choose from the lively family pool with slides and waterfalls, the quiet pool, or the fantastic spa. You can also avail of the free water taxi straight to Universal Studios, it’s such a nice touch.

Portofino hotel

If, however, you fancy a livelier setting then the Hard Rock Hotel is for you. However bear in mind, you can’t get away from the music, it’s everywhere, even under water in the swimming pool.  It is also a five star hotel so you can expect the same excellent service but for me it lacked the grandeur of the Portofino.  There is also another choice, Lowes Royal Pacific Resort, another themed hotel, this time like a Pacific Island. I felt it was a little dated and more like a four star but then it less expensive to stay there than the others and the cost of drinks and meals  are reasonable too. It is one of their luxury hotels and you will still receive a complimentary express pass, so this is an excellent choice if you want to keep the costs down.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

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My Stay At Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida

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Universal Studios is my favourite theme park in Orlando. They have 3 parks, Universal Studios, Islands of adventure and the newly opened Volcano Bay.

 

I’m a bit of a movie buff anyway so I was mesmerised looking at the film sets and loved taking photos with all my favourite characters. The simulator rides are amazing. I think it’s safe to say that there are rides for everyone to enjoy. Some have height restrictions but there are enough rides to keep the small kids happy too.

You really feel like the ‘Transformers’ character, Optimus Prime is throwing you up in the air on the Transformers ride, the technology is mindblowing. Dispicable Me, Spiderman and the Simpsons are fantastic too. You are seated in what appears to be a small car, but they feel like rollercoaster rides. I should mention that if you are a Simpsons fan, there is a whole area dedicated to them. You can have a drink at Moes Tavern, try a Krusty Burger or just hang out and meet some characters.

universal studios

If Rollercoasters are your thing, there are plenty. Although I don’t particularly like being scared to death for fun, I did go on a few for research purposes! The Hulk goes upside down 7 times, I don’t know how I managed it, but I did it.

I preferred the water rides in Islands of Adventure. There are several, and they area a great way to cool down during the heat of the day. Some are more daring than others, like Dudley do-Rights Ripsaw Falls, which is really a rollercoaster on water! For a great fun family ride try Popeye and Blutos Bilge-Rat barges, ride the white water rapids but beware you will get drenched! Since my visit Universal Studios have opened a dedicated water park called Volcano Bay, I guess I’ll have to go back and try that one out!

universal studios

There are so many great rides in both Universal Studios parks, but for me the pièce de la resistance is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Even if you have never watched the Harry Potter movies, you cannot help but be amazed at the technology and the attention to detail. There are now two rides, one in each park, but you can go between the two on the Hogwarts Express Train. It is not just about the rides though. You visit Hogwarts Castle, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, you would easily spend a whole day there! Make sure you go to Olivanders and buy a wand. They are beautifully made and presented in a box, a really nice gift ($35) to bring home. See my detailed blogpost on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter by clicking here .

universal studios

Like most of the rides at Universal Studios, there is a child swap facility. If both parents want to ride, but can’t leave the kids alone, one parent can wait in the child swap area and they won’t have to stand in line again. Speaking of queues, these can be quite long during peak season and around school holidays.

I recommend buying an express pass to save yourself queuing time. Generally speaking  with an express pass you shouldn’t have to queue for longer than 20 minutes. Alternatively if you stay at one of Universal’s luxury hotels, you get the express pass for free. You also avail of early access to the Parks, one hour before opening time which is a huge advantage especially if you’re visiting Harry Potter. Incidentally the only area the express pass isn’t accepted is on the Harry Potter rides, so staying at one of Universal’s Hotels is the only way to avoid long queues there, by availing of the early access to the park.(See my other blogpost on where to stay in Orlando by clicking here)  In low season queues are much shorter and express passes should not be necessary.

Universal Studios

Located next to Universal Studios is City Walk. This is a huge area with bars and restaurants and a few shops too. Remember if you are planning on having a drink, you must bring age identification with you. Even if you think you couldn’t possibly be asked, you will! There were people aged over 50 refused alcohol because they had no identification with them, so don’t say you haven’t been warned! Keep your park entrance ticket, as this allows you free into the bars and night-clubs without charge.

I was genuinely surprised at the quality of the food here and throughout the park in general. The biggest Hard Rock Cafe in the  world is here and there are also some really nice restaurants too. I loved Vivo Italian Kitchen and Antojitos authentic Mexican. They make the guacamole at the table beside you and you can choose how much garlic and spice you like – it’s a nice touch.  Dare I say it, but I liked the Karaoke bar too! Rising Star is not like the tacky karaoke bars you might find abroad. You sing with a live band and backing singers, and the talent is really good!

So whether you want rollercoasters, simulator rides, movie memorabilia or some great night life – don’t miss a visit to Universal Studios, Orlando!

 

For the lowest price ticket options visit Attraction Tickets Direct.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

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Orlando, Florida

Orlando with the Travel Expert

Orlando is as much an adventure as a holiday.

In fact, if you choose to visit all the theme parks while you are there you may find that you need a holiday when you get back! Without doubt, its probably one of the best family holidays you will have with your kids, but what surprised me was how great it is for couples too. I travelled without my kids on an inspection trip and I had such a fantastic time (sorry Luke & Alex – I probably shouldn’t say that!)  There are direct flights to Orlando with Aer Lingus making it so easy to get there and transfer times from the airport are no more than 20 minutes.  Flying direct from Ireland to the USA allows you to go through customs in Ireland, so once you arrive in the States you are treated like a domestic passenger and avoid all the queues – bliss!

Depending on how much time you have you really need to plan your stay. If you are travelling with young kids, Disney is a must. The Magic Kingdom, as its name suggests is magical! There are more rides for younger children here and they can meet their favourite  Disney characters. They have daily parades too which are fantastic for adults and children to watch.  If you can let them stay up late, the firework shows are well worth it. Try not to go to Disney on your first day because the kids will probably be too tired to appreciate it and will inevitably fade before the fireworks begin. There are four Disney parks, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios so depending on whether you have kids, and their ages, you may choose to select specific parks rather than try to see them all. Bear in mind there are over twelve theme parks in the Orlando area and four waterparks so unless you are there for three weeks you won’t see them all.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to plan your trip and allow for rest days and also shopping days in between!

Pluto in Disneyland, by The Travel Expert

Discovery Cove for instance, where you have the opportunity to swim with Dolphins, needs to be booked in advance as they limit the number of visitors to the park each day. It may seem expensive at $289 but this is an all inclusive park so all meals and drinks are included and your ticket automatically allows you entrance to Seaworld and Aquatica too. If you upgrade to the Ultimate package, Busch Gardens is included in the price and you can go to either park as many times as you like within a 14 day period.

If you don’t want to go to Discovery Cove, the Orlando Flexticket might be for you.  You have unlimited access to Seaworld, Aquatica, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure , Wet ‘n Wild and Citywalk. The Flexticket plus includes Busch Gardens and a free shuttle bus from Orlando. If, on the other hand you want to see everything, then the Orlando Freedom ticket plus is for you, this has entry to all of the Disney Parks and all of the parks on the Flexticket plus and at the moment Legoland too.  Now can you see why planning is important?

My favourite is Universal though, they have two parks, Universal Studios and Islands of adventure. I’m a bit of a movie buff anyway but even if you are not,  the simulator rides are amazing. You really feel like Optimus Prime is grabbing you and throwing you up in the sky on the Transformers ride, the technology blew me away. If rollercoasters are your thing, there are plenty ! Personally they are not for me but I did  love the water rides in Islands of Adventure, there are several and a great way to cool down during the heat. The Wizarding World of Harry  Potter was the icing on the cake for me.  The attention to detail in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley not to mention the two simulator rides and the Hogwarts Express – as the American’s like to say ‘awesome’!

Orlando

Beside Universal Studios there is City Walk. This is a huge area with bars and restaurants and a few shops too. I was genuinely surprised at the quality of the food here and throughout the park in general. There are plenty of nite clubs too if that’s your scene. Dare I say it but I liked the Karaoke bar- Rising Star, it’s not like the tacky ones you find abroad, you sing with a live band and backing singers – the talent is really good. Remember if you are planning on drinking you must bring ID with you, even if you think you couldn’t possibly be asked, there were people aged over 50 refused alcohol because they had no Identification with them, so don’t say you haven’t been warned!

Last but not least – the shopping! The Florida Mall is a like a traditional shopping centre with all the typical high street stores, it has Abercrombie and Fitch and the new Pink store from Victoria Secrets plus a huge range of other shops. If on the other hand you are looking for a bargain , then head for the Premium Outlets, like the name suggests, it’s mainly designer shops at discount prices. Make sure you register at the information kiosk before you start. You need to pay $5 for a discount booklet, it will save you  a lot more in each shop, a massive 20% off the already discounted bags in the Michael Kors outlet alone! Remember to purchase an extra suit case  on your plane ticket for your return journey, or better still pack light on your outbound journey and then you will just have to go shopping when you get there!

Like this post? Check out my  blogpost on Universal Studios.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

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