SoCal Skiing: Planning Your Visit to Big Bear

Big Bear is the go-to location for winter ski resort vacations in Southern California. With both the Bear Mountain and Snow Summit ski resorts available for family fun, everyone from beginners to advanced skiers can find ways to amuse themselves in the snow during the winter months. Residents of Los Angeles and other areas who are planning Big Bear vacations have a few different village and town options to consider. Whether you’re looking for hotels or Big Bear vacation rentals near village amenities, these mountainside locations are your best bets for quick and easy access to the slopes without a lot of travel time in between.



If you’ll have a large group focused on getting as much skiing and snowboarding in as possible, you may want to hone in on finding a house in the Moonridge neighborhood. A rental house in this village places you right next to the Bear Mountain resort, and there’s a variety of different rental options to consider at different price points. There are plenty of good online options for finding rental houses in this area, and professionally managed cabin rentals may also be available from local property companies. Common amenities at these properties include hot tubs and porches for even more access to wintry scenery.

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Big Bear Lake

Big Bear vacation rentals are also in abundance at Big Bear Lake, which offers access to both Bear Mountain and Snow Summit ski resorts. Staying in this part of the mountain gives you the chance to book a rental with a spectacular lake view. The lake, which is a popular place for water activities in warmer weather, is generally not open for these activities in the wintertime. The hotels and rental houses near Big Bear Lake have more of a scenic quality when they offer a view at this time of year.

If you want a winter getaway but aren’t necessarily interested in skiing, Big Bear Lake is a good choice for other recreation and activity options in the area. Helicopter tours and other outdoorsy pursuits may be arranged with local businesses, though some may be closed for the season. Most of the focus here is on snow-based activities in the winter.

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A popular location for vacation homes, Sugarloaf is a more of a residential area, which means that rentals are much more common here than hotel lodgings are. Named for the summit of the mountain above, Sugarloaf is a more affordable area, with homes tending to be a bit less ritzy. If you’re considering potentially buying property in the area, you may want to look for rentals in Sugarloaf in order to see whether the area is right for you.

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Visiting Las Vegas | Where to Stay with the Whole Family

A place known as Sin City doesn’t exactly seem like the best place to travel with kids, but Las Vegas actually does have a lot of great attractions you can enjoy with your little ones. From family-friendly places to visit in Las Vegas to outdoor and historic attractions like Red Rock Canyon and Hoover Dam, there are plenty of things you and your children can enjoy — without descending into the smoky depths of a casino. Finding suitable lodgings is also pretty easy. While there are some smoke-free, gaming-free hotels on the Strip, some of Las Vegas’ top family attractions are easier to find in hotels off the Strip. Here’s where to look for places to stay in Las Vegas with family.

On The Strip


A vacation rental on the Strip puts you and your family right in the thick of the action. Kids will enjoy attractions like the gondola rides at the Venetian Hotel, the replicas of the Brooklyn Bridge and a Coney Island roller coaster at the New York, New York Hotel and the Wild Life Habitat at the Flamingo Hotel. Families can chow down at one of the great buffets in the area before catching a music concert or theatrical performance at night.

Off-Strip Resorts

The Strip happens to be the place where some of the most famous, opulent casino hotels in Vegas are situated, but it’s far from the only place to find over-the-top luxury and gaming. Off-Strip resorts in the area are great for kids because they tend to be self-contained, with many different things to do under one roof. Activities and amenities your kids might find here (and love) include pools, movie theaters and bowling alleys. Options like Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa and Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa offer something for everyone in the family, including parents who might want to let their hair down and gamble a bit.

Lake Mead


Lake Mead happens to offer easy access to Hoover Dam, and it’s also home to a number of great lakeside resorts that offer elegant accommodations and numerous fun-in-the-sun family activities. Several major hotel chains operate large resorts on Lake Mead, and each has special amenities for families. You might find kids’ clubs and activities or rollaway beds for little ones. These hotels are far away from the noise and debauchery of the Strip, but they aren’t so far that you can’t leave the kids at the resort’s club or with a babysitter and head into town for some classic Vegas fun in between activities with the whole family.

Boulder City

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One neighbor of Las Vegas is the lakeside community of Boulder City, a small town with controlled growth and no gaming. Boulder City is home of Lake Mead — the world’s largest reservoir — and the globally renowned Hoover Dam.


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Also nearby is Henderson, NV, a town that’s earned multiple awards for livability. Attractions in Henderson include Lake Las Vegas, the Lion Habitat Ranch, Clark County Historical Museum and Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve. Some regard the neighborhood of Anthem as especially suitable for families.



Summerlin, an affluent master-planned community in the area, features 150 miles of trails, more than 450 neighborhood parks, and special events like an arts festival and musical concert series. Close at hand is the visually stunning Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, a popular site for bicycling.



Fun spots in Primm include Buffalo Bill’s Casino, with family-oriented action such as the steep Desperado Roller Coaster and gentler Adventure Canyon Log Flume Ride. Also in this suburb are Sandy Valley Ranch — for guided horseback tours — and Ivanpah Dry Lake, where folks participate in an esoteric sport called dry yachting.

North Las Vegas


A separate city from Las Vegas, neighboring North Las Vegas is a particularly affordable area with plenty of attractions of its own. A planetarium, helicopter tours and the Aliante Nature Discovery Park are just a few.



Located less than an hour away from Vegas, the town of Jean, NV offers activities for teen and adult thrill-seekers that include extreme skydiving, guided kayak tours, and SpeedVegas — a fast track for guided high-speed auto racing that’s open to the public.



Situated about 90 miles from Las Vegas is the town of Laughlin. The small town has its own casinos, stretching along the Colorado River, with a water taxi running between them. Jet skis can be rented. Family members can also visit Lake Mohave, make their way through mazes at Laughlin Labyrinth and take a 12-mile drive through breathtaking desert scenery at Christmas Tree Pass.


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Located on the north end of Lake Mead, about 60 miles from Las Vegas, is the unincorporated town of Overton. Among its attractions are the Lost City Museum, focusing on Native American artifacts, and Valley of Fire State Park, the largest and oldest state park in Nevada, featuring areas of petrified wood in addition to ancient rock carvings referred to as petroglyphs. Approximately seven miles southeast of Overton is the intriguing St. Thomas Ghost Town.

Finding a Pet-Friendly Vacation Rental in Big Bear, CA

Whether you’ve got an LA-native dog who’s never seen the snow or you and your pooch are transplants who miss bounding through the frozen stuff together, there are tons of reasons to bring your pet on a trip to Big Bear. Not all vacation homes for rent here are Fido-friendly, but you can find some options you’ll both enjoy. Consider these tips as you plan your vacation, from finding pet-friendly lodging options to having a safe and successful trip together.

How to find a pet-friendly vacation home in Big Bear, California

  1. Find the Right Place to Stay

    Though it’ll naturally limit what homes you can consider, it’s important to focus on Big Bear-area vacation rentals that allow dogs. It’s too cold for dogs to stay outside overnight here, and you don’t want to get caught violating the terms of your rental agreement and possibly kicked out for bringing a pet. If you want to give your dog space to play outdoors, think about finding a rental house in Moonridge or on the outskirts of Big Bear Lake so you can potentially stay in the less-crowded parts of town.

  2. Watch for Winter Hazards

    If you do plan to let your dog run around and enjoy the snow, always keep safety in mind. Staying in a more remote part of the Big Bear area has the added bonus of access to fresh, untouched snow. Snow on sidewalks and streets in the village and towns around the mountain may be treated with harmful melting chemicals that are dangerous for your dog to ingest. Additionally, there’s a lot of wildlife in the Big Bear area, including coyotes, bobcats and cougars. The latter two animals aren’t very common, but coyotes are, and they can be big enough to carry a small dog away if you aren’t careful. It’s best to keep your dog leashed or close by and monitored at all times in this wilderness area.

  3. Consider What to Do with Your Dog While Skiing

    Before you plan the trip, think carefully about what you’d like to do while you’re in the mountains. Service animals are the only animals allowed at the Bear Mountain and Snow Summit ski areas, so if your dog isn’t a service animal, meaning he or she is trained to do specific tasks and knows how to act like a professional in public, you won’t be able to bring him or her with you on the slopes. If your dog isn’t the type to feel relaxed and normal left alone in a vacation home, you may want to rethink your plans or arrange for a friend or local resident to babysit your dog while you’re skiing.


Typhoon Lagoon: Tropical Escape Any Time of Year

Once known as the largest themed water park on the Disney World property until Blizzard Beach opened, Typhoon Lagoon continues to offer water adventures that visitors can’t get enough of. Between snorkeling tropical waters with live sharks, plunging down rushing rapids, soaking in the sun in the giant wave pool or simply gliding down a lazy river, you’ll want to rest up for more adventure in one of the many vacation rentals near Disney World’s Typhoon Lagoon.

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Staying In the Disney Resort

Hotels on the Walt Disney World Resort property are located about a mile away from the Typhoon Lagoon water park. You have your pick of any one of the luxury or less pricey hotels that accommodate families. Just about all of the hotels on the property are mini-resorts with pools to keep you cool even when you’re away from the lagoon. Just take note that rooms in various hotels could be timeshares, condos or traditional hotel rooms for rent. That means you may not have daily housekeeping service, but you might have a washer/dryer right in your unit or room. Most of the Disney Resort hotels have free shuttle (or boat) service throughout the theme and water parks so you’ll save the hassle of driving and parking fees.


Just Outside the Resort

Knowing where to stay in Orlando can make your vacation that much easier when it comes to getting to and from the theme parks, including Typhoon Lagoon. The address of Typhoon Lagoon is 1145 East Buena Vista Boulevard in Buena Vista, so anything near that area is ideal, and there are plenty of options in all price ranges and levels of luxury. Check out hotels on or near Route 4, Epcot Center Drive and World Center Drive to make sure you’re closest to the water park’s action.


Vacation Rental Homes near Disney World

If you and your family prefer to stretch your legs and stay in more of a home away from home, consider a vacation rental home or condo rather than a hotel room or suite. There are plenty of these types of rentals even closer to Typhoon Lagoon than hotels. The areas are family friendly, with plenty of activities on the grounds for kids and adults. If you prefer to stay at a more spacious entire vacation home rental, try Kissimmee, which is about 12 miles away from Typhoon Lagoon — about a half-hour drive. All you have to do is follow US-192 West, and that road leads to everything Disney.


Beyond Disney: Orlando Bed and Breakfast Vacations

Avoid resting your feet at the more touristy side of Orlando by making reservations at a quieter, quainter bed and breakfast. Whether you’re staying near the airport for convenience or hitting all the Disney, SeaWorld, or Universal Studios hot spots with your family, there’s a bed and breakfast to accommodate your needs while giving you a tranquil respite after sightseeing in the hot sun.

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Orlando Hotels Versus Bed and Breakfasts

Think beyond the big-box hotel when visiting Orlando. Bed and breakfasts are accommodations you typically find in homes, and they have the personalized feel of small inns. As a side note, newly popular boutique hotels may be smaller than the usual Orlando-area hotels, but they’re a bit larger than the bed and breakfast-style inn.

One of the advantages of staying at a bed and breakfast in a well-traveled, major city like Orlando is that there’s always a great time to visit a smaller inn. People often overlook them in favor of higher-priced or flashier hotels. With that in mind, you’ll be able to book one of your top bed and breakfast choices just about all year round, even during school vacation time.

You’ll be able to find a bed and breakfast in Orlando near Disney, or even just outside of Orlando in Kissimmee or Maitland, which are some other popular places to find accommodations when you’re visiting the area. If you choose to stay at a bed and breakfast near the Orlando airport, you’re also in luck with the number of options available.


Booking a Bed and Breakfast

Another advantage of booking a bed and breakfast in Orlando is the owner’s range policies. A number of bed and breakfasts offer flexible check-in and check-out times, but you should always give the owner a head’s up when reserving or call if you’re late to arrive. When you’re searching for a bed and breakfast in the Orlando area, you may find many larger hotels listed. Try a bed and breakfast-only website to make sure you’re looking at the real deal.

Amenities at a Bed and Breakfast

Bed and breakfasts have evolved over the years into offering luxury amenities that rival those of top hotels. It’s not all worn quilts, dried flower arrangements and shared hall bathrooms anymore. Modern bed and breakfasts might be luxury getaways that include everything from plush spa robes to wine-and-cheese happy hours to fresh foods that are locally sourced. Healthier offerings at the inn even have the potential to cut down on the eating-on-the-go you’ll do while touring Orlando.

Innkeepers are also more than happy to accommodate guests’ dietary needs, so don’t hesitate to ask about your options when you’re booking. Many of these amenities, such as high-speed Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, easy parking and even bottled water, are free at a bed and breakfast — unlike at a hotel, where you may have to pay before using these items.


Family-Friendly Bed and Breakfasts

Staying at a bed and breakfast in Orlando, Florida, means you have access to the inn’s owner or keeper, who likely knows the area intimately and who has tips and tricks on navigating the quirks of getting your family around Disney World and other famous sites. Your bed and breakfast manager may also know some local off-the-beaten-track shops, sightseeing areas or restaurants that you never would have thought — or known — to visit.

Family-friendly bed and breakfasts often have a variety of rooms and suites to accommodate families of all sizes. Outdoors, instead of a hotel water slide or water park, you may find a butterfly garden or certified wildlife habitat at a bed and breakfast. Here, kids can roam and you can relax. Staying at a bed and breakfast is an ideal way to help the kids (and you) be able to unwind after a busy day at Disney.

Bed and breakfasts are typically located within walking distance to shops and restaurants, which means you don’t need to use your car to venture out to dinner. If you or your children have a late-night snack attack, many bed and breakfasts offer guests easy access to their kitchens, where you can grab goodies. Be sure to ask the proprietor if this is okay before you tiptoe down to the fridge in your bathrobe.

Pet-Friendly Bed and Breakfasts

Not only do many bed and breakfasts allow pets to stay, but many owners also have their own pets on the premises — much to the delight of younger guests. If you’re traveling with your pet, there are plenty of vacation rental homes with big backyards that allow pets to stay. Small inns and bed and breakfasts within homes may be a bit more limited when it comes to allowing guests to bring in pets. Some may make an exception depending on the pet, or they may have a special room to accommodate families with furry friends.


The Costs of Bed and Breakfasts in Orlando

Southern hospitality at a bed and breakfast may come at a lower cost than at a full-service hotel in Orlando. It pays to compare prices and amenities. At the end of the day, it comes down to how comfortable you and your family will feel with the noise and bustle of larger hotels or the quieter and more intimate contact with fellow guests and innkeepers that you can have at a bed and breakfast. Depending on the bed and breakfast you choose, you can find as much luxury or value as you desire and even get a better deal than you would when staying at a major hotel.

How to Have A Family Friendly Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Mardi Gras, often unfairly depicted as an adults-only Bourbon Street party, can be a G-rated experience for families, too — as long as you plan for it. Why not bring kids to Mardi Gras? New Orleans is full of traditions, and it’s rich with history. If your family loves a parade, Mardi Gras is a perfect celebration and an entertaining vacation, but the first tip? Find the updated parade schedule and hit the tamer and more behaved crowd that attends family-centric parades before the actual Mardi Gras day.


Family-Friendly Tips for Mardi Gras

New Orleans is famous for its atmosphere of debauchery, and Mardi Gras in particular can be a time when you feel the need to cover your kids’ eyes. If your family is looking for a way to connect to local culture without the censorship, your group may be more interested in home rentals in Baton Rouge, which has developed a reputation for being a family-friendly destination during Mardi Gras. Even so, Iberville Parish, which is just south of Baton Rouge, may be one of the best places to stay for Mardi Gras because it’s separated from the heart of the action. Plus, this residential area is north of New Orleans on Interstate 10, so it’s not that far a drive when you want to check out what’s going on in the most iconic Mardi Gras city in the USA before heading out for quieter pastures in Baton Rouge or Iberville Parish.

When attending Mardi Gras with your family, there are a few essential tips. Choose your parade spot wisely, meaning stick to the outskirts of the French Quarter to avoid the adult parties and pre-parties. The French Quarter is void of the more formal parades, anyhow. The best family-friendly parade location: St. Charles Avenue, between First Street and Napoleon Avenue and Lee Circle, a spot notorious for hosting picnicking families during Mardi Gras. You’ll also see family-friendly parades in suburban areas like Metairie, including a major one that happens the Saturday before Mardi Gras weekend.

No matter where you go, except perhaps the Family Gras celebration in Jefferson Parish, you can expect a party atmosphere at Mardi Gras parades and gatherings. Not all of them are about exposed flesh and booze, and it’s important to research each individual parade, which usually includes the word “Krewe,” to get a sense of what it’s all about. Much of the debauchery is localized around Bourbon Street in New Orleans, so if you have kids in tow, you can simply steer clear of that area and feel reasonably secure that you aren’t going to be in over your heads.

Whichever parades you and your family attend, bring your kids in costume to catch a lot of throws, which include toys and stuffed animals as well as beads. Just think of it as Halloween, part two. There’s also something called a kiddie ladder, which is a ladder with a seat attached to the top. Many families bring those down to the street so kids can perch on them to see the colorful festivities. Ask your hotel or bed and breakfast if they have kiddie ladders available to borrow during the parades.

Dress your kids in the colors of the Mardi Gras holiday, which are purple, green and gold. Choose rugby shirts, and definitely remember the hair bows. To have an even more successful week leading to Fat Tuesday, or the actual Mardi Gras day with your family, it helps to have a pulse on the best areas for family-friendly vacation rentals.


House Rentals in New Orleans for Mardi Gras

Private house rentals in New Orleans are often easier to find than hotel reservations for the Mardi Gras season, but that doesn’t mean that a vacation in the Big Easy is appealing for everyone at this time of year. If you’re looking for a more low-key experience than the typical scene in New Orleans, you can head into neighboring Iberville Parish, home of the capital city of Baton Rouge. Iberville’s namesake was a French explorer who’s partially credited for bringing Mardi Gras celebrations to North America in the first place, so it’s a fairly fitting place to “laissez les bon temps rouler” (let the good times roll)!

There’s an abundance of New Orleans vacation homes to rent. After all, why rent a room when you have the option of feeling at home by renting a whole house? The unique architecture of New Orleans — much of it Southern Plantation and Greek Revival style — reflects the region’s history. This is especially true on St. Charles Avenue, which is one of the most popular areas to find family-friendly houses to rent during Mardi Gras. Here, you’ll find mansions and plantation-style homes, many with balconies, that line the treed boulevard and are open to renting families. From bed and breakfasts to whole house rentals, you’ll be able to comfortably accommodate your entire family for your Mardi Gras vacation. In addition, you can search for corporate rentals and retreats in New Orleans. These providers offer large and luxurious, amenity-filled apartments and houses to fit any size family.


Bed and Breakfasts

Innkeepers of bed and breakfasts are some of the most knowledgeable tour guides in New Orleans, and they can help you navigate the ins and outs of Mardi Gras with your family. You’ll find many B&Bs in historic homes and in mansions located throughout New Orleans. Focus on finding a B&B around the Garden District area near the St. Charles streetcar or directly on St. Charles Avenue. If you and your family prefer more personalized service and attention during your vacation, a B&B is your best bet during Mardi Gras. Who wouldn’t want a homemade Creole breakfast to start the festivities?


Boutique Hotels for Mardi Gras

Boutique hotels are smaller in size than hotel chains, but larger than bed and breakfasts and smaller inns. There are plenty of boutique hotels located in the heart of the historic French Quarter that exude Old-World charm, European character along with modern amenities. If you and your family are willing to try sleeping through the noise of Mardi Gras in order to have convenient access to Bourbon Street festivities, then staying in the center of the French Quarter may be right for your family, especially if you have older kids. There are also some other boutique hotels in the Uptown/Garden District that keep families with younger kids a bit farther from Bourbon Street’s shenanigans taking place before Fat Tuesday.

Hotel Chains

Major hotel chains sell out their rooms and suites quickly. If you prefer family-friendly accommodations, look for hotels on St. Charles Avenue. When booking, ask when and which parades travel down the road. Then, ask for a room with a balcony, or ask if there is a common balcony area that overlooks the parade route, so your family has front-row seats for the entertainment.

If you snag a spot with major well-known chains, you’ll enjoy perks for parents and kids of all ages. Parents will be able to take advantage of on-site concierge services that go beyond Mardi Gras fun. Adults also have the luxury of enjoying cocktail hours, luxurious accommodations like whirlpool tubs and express checkout that families find essential and convenient. Kids also love the free Wi-Fi, heated pools and sundecks for relaxing and playtime after experiencing the colorful sights and loud sounds of unforgettable Mardi Gras parades and activities.

Making the Most of Your Orlando Vacation

An Orlando vacation usually means two things: adventure at every turn and price tags to match. If you’re seeking a theme park adventure, nearby Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld offer entertainment for the whole family. But when it comes to lodging, you don’t have to settle for a pricy park property hotel room. Instead, consider the perks of choosing a home for rent by owner in the Kissimmee, FL, area to save a little money and gain a ton of space. Orlando is always busy, but there are a few ways to maximize your time and experience. Here’s how to figure out where to stay and when to go.

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When to Go to Orlando

Summer, fall, winter, spring — some say there’s never a bad time to visit Orlando, Florida. After all, it’s one of the top family vacation destinations in the entire world. It’s home to theme parks and dozens of other attractions, as well as a booming nightlife and more shopping and dining than you can possibly pack into one week. But while anytime is the best time to visit Orlando, some people may prefer certain seasons over others. In general, that decision comes down to the weather, the size of the crowds at the theme parks, how easy it is to book a place to stay and what kind of events are going on in town.

  • Summer In Orlando
    At first glance, summer may seem like the ideal time to visit Orlando, and for many people it may be. After all, the kids are out of school for a while so there’s no need to plan around weekends and holidays. However, almost everyone else with young children has the same idea, so things tend to get crowded fast. People traveling in summer need to book plane tickets, hotel rooms and other lodging, theme park tickets and dinner reservations well in advance to ensure they get what they want. You may also want to check for discounts. Because this is the city’s high season, prices are going to be a little more inflated.

    Another thing to consider during the summer is the temperature. The average highs from June to August typically hover in the 80s and 90s with humidity that can make it feel much warmer. While Floridians and other people from warmer climates may be used to this, it can be a shock to the system for those who aren’t. Luckily, there are several ways to cool down in Orlando during those hot summer months. There is always the opportunity to find rental homes near Orlando with private pools. Most of the hotels and resorts have pools and splash pads, as well. There are several malls to duck into when it gets too hot, and most summer afternoons a little rain shower will pass through. If all else fails, the beach is just over an hour away.

  • Florida Fall
    Fall in Orlando can be warm or cool, depending on the day, but for the most part, you won’t experience days nearly as hot and humid as you would during the summer. However, hurricane season, which technically starts during the summer, usually switches into high gear during the fall. This can put a damper on any well-planned trip, literally. Be sure to book with companies that offer a refund just in case. Temperatures may range from the 50s up to 80s.

    On a positive note, the crowds die down a bit since kids are usually back in school, and that means prices drop a little, too. It’s much cheaper to pay for places to stay and tickets to the theme parks in November than it is July. Just be sure to do it before Thanksgiving, as the holiday festivities — and vacations — start up around this time, and the crowds start to filter back into town.

  • Winter near Disney World
    Winter may very well be the best time to visit Orlando, if you go after the holiday season. Christmas is a big time, especially at Disney World, but once January hits, everyone returns home to work and school. Even better, some of the holiday festivities may last into January, so you can enjoy them without a million other people hanging around. The weather is also much milder in January and February. There may even be days when you need a jacket, though average temperatures typically stay in the 70s.

    Some exciting events are held this time of year, like the Walt Disney World Marathon and the Downtown Food and Wine Fest, but if you plan carefully, you can still avoid the crowds. Just avoid the week of President’s Day, as it can look like spring break at times. This is also the best time of year to snag some excellent deals. Whether you’re looking for Orlando rentals with pools or hotels right at Walt Disney World, you’ll find it for a much lower rate than you would during the peak times of year, like summer, spring break and Christmas. It’s also cheaper to fly, and many of the parks offer discounts, though be aware that some of them shut a few rides down at this time for maintenance, so you may not have access to everything you do during the spring, summer and fall.

  • Orlando in the Spring
    Next to summer, spring is the most popular time to visit Orlando, especially when kids are out of school for spring break. Keep in mind that this is usually a few weeks before and a few weeks after the Easter holiday, or the first few weeks of April. If you can manage to skip the spring break rush, spring may actually be a decent time crowd-wise. There aren’t nearly as many people in town as there are during the summer, and the weather is actually really beautiful with little rain and average temperatures in the 60s, 70s and low 80s with little humidity.

    Best of all, some of the discounts from January and February may hold over into the spring, so it’s highly likely that you can still get a good deal on lodging and tickets to attractions. By Memorial Day weekend, the crowds really start to ramp up, so be sure to get in ahead of that holiday weekend.

  • Tips for when to go

    Orlando’s status as a tourist mecca means that “off-season” is a relative term. It’s rare that you’ll find a Disney park that’s not crowded with visitors, after all. However, there are some ways to strategize for the least crowded, most comfortable Orlando vacation experience possible.

    1. Beating the Florida Heat
      Summer in Florida is hot and humid, which may sound nice. But when you throw in potential hours of waiting in line and walking around a theme park with your kids, that heat and humidity can be quite uncomfortable. The heat can even be dangerous, particularly for young children, though parks tend to provide multiple ways of keeping their guests safe and comfortable. However, given that weather in Orlando tends to be pretty nice year-round, there’s no need to tough it out during the peak-heat months of June through September. Conveniently, these also tend to be the rainiest months in the area. Why not wait until fall or spring instead?

    2. Avoiding Peak-Season Crowds
      Orlando has multiple peak seasons, and they tend to coincide with any major school breaks. Spring, summer and Christmas breaks are all popular times for families to visit. If you’re planning on traveling with kids, you may want to consider taking some time off from school to make the trip less hectic and reduce time spent waiting in line for rides.

      Given both weather and crowds, the months of January (after winter break concludes) through March (before spring break starts) are a good choice, as are September and October. Special theme park events may not be as common during these off-season times, but admission, lodging and airfare prices are typically lower.

    3. Hitting the Beach
      Florida is a thin state with miles and miles of beachy coastline, and a lot of visitors assume that they’ll be able to find a beach house rental in Orlando that lets them enjoy waves in the morning and theme park activities in the afternoon. Unfortunately, it’s not quite this simple — Orlando is located inland from the coast, and the drive from nearby oceanside resorts like Cocoa Beach isn’t exactly fast enough to allow for quick trips to the parks.


      The closest you’ll come to beach rentals in Orlando are hotels and other lodging options in the parks that are near manmade beaches by pools or lakes. Think about this as you’re considering where to stay in Orlando, and keep in mind that most hotels here have pools. Visitors hoping to find Orlando beach houses with actual ocean access should plan their trips to include a separate visit to Daytona or Cocoa Beach to the east.

    4. CC BY 2.0/TimothyJ/Flickr

      Stay in the Middle of Everything

      Many Kissimmee rental properties are located within close proximity to the popular theme parks and premier Orlando shopping destinations. If you’re vacationing in the area and don’t want to spend your entire trip at a single park, vacation rentals near Disney World put you in the middle of everything, so you can do Disney one day and SeaWorld the next. You’re also not limited to park dining options, which gives you the opportunity to try out some of the hottest restaurants in the Orlando food scene. Or, simply dine on some takeout after a long day of park hopping.

      CC BY 2.0/julien haler/Flickr

      Make the Most of Non-Park Days

      A trip to Orlando would hardly be complete without visiting one or more of the theme parks located there. But tickets for the whole family can really add up. Consider adding in some non-park days to your itinerary to save a little money and help yourself explore the nearby area. With a variety of malls, restaurants and local attractions to choose from, you won’t even miss the long ride lines. You’ll be refreshed and ready to head back to the parks the next morning. Best time to go tip: Midweek is usually slower, even in peak season.


      Enjoy the Benefits of Home

      Staying in a rental home versus a hotel room gives you many of the benefits of staying in your own home. Amenities such as a full-sized kitchen let you save time and money by letting you cook a meal or two a day instead of eating out for each one. Many Kissimmee home rentals also have perks like backyard pools that let you relax in privacy after a long day at the park.

      Live Like a Local

      Staying off of park property gives you the advantage of enjoying Kissimmee at a local’s pace. You can check out nearby attractions, such as walking trails, golf courses and farmers markets, that you’d otherwise miss out on. Additionally, you can find a favorite coffee shop that’s not swamped with tourists or plastered with mouse ears to enjoy your morning routine before heading off on your day’s adventure.

      Bring the Whole Crew

      If you have a larger family or enjoy vacationing with friends, a Kissimmee rental home gives you the option to stay with everyone in one location. Many vacation homes easily accommodate six to eight people, but there are options for staying with larger groups of 20 or more. The best part? Everyone can simply split the cost, rather than having to shell out for their own hotel rooms.

      When you’re deciding where to stay in Orlando, consider these areas near central Florida theme parks.

      Disney World Resorts

      With theme parks, shopping and entertainment districts and hotels stretched across 40 square miles, spending your entire vacation on Disney property is easy to do. The resorts range from value properties like All-Star Resorts to deluxe retreats, including classic Disney hotels like Grand Floridian, Contemporary and Wilderness Lodge. Staying on Disney property or in rentals near Disney World offers several advantages that save you time. In most cases, you just hop on the monorail or a Disney bus to get to the parks so you don’t have to deal with traffic in the area. In fact, you can skip driving all together since the hotels have airport transportation service. Resort guests also enjoy Extra Magic Hours, MagicBands and priority access to FastPass and dining reservations.

      CC BY-SA 2.0/Reinhard Link/Flickr

      International Drive North

      Orlando offers vacationers more than the Disney experience. If your plans also include a visit to Universal Studios, check out the hotels and resorts available on International Drive. This major boulevard east of Walt Disney World is home to national chain hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. You also find amusement park-style rides, and a multi-story McDonald’s restaurant. The hotels along the northern section of International Drive are located close to the gates of Universal Studios, and I-Drive’s proximity to I-4 makes the area convenient for visiting any part of the city.

      CC BY-SA 2.0/ellsfkc/Flickr

      International Drive South

      The south section of I-Drive runs from Sand Lake Road to World Center Drive south of I-4. Like the northern part of the road, this section has a selection of chain hotels and restaurants. There is also a miniature golf facility and minor attractions. If your vacation plans include a visit to one of Sea World’s parks or a stop at the convention center, consider staying at a property in the area. International Drive also leads to one of Orlando’s outlet malls. There’s still plenty to see and do on the south side of the road, but there tends to be less traffic here.

      CC BY 2.0/Experience Kissimmee/Flickr


      Kissimmee may not have the name recognition as Orlando, but this town to the south of Lake Buena Vista is just as close to the parks. U.S. 192, which runs from U.S. 27 in neighboring Polk County to the beach in Indialantic, is the main road through the town and home to a variety of local and chain hotels. If you’re willing to stay farther away from Disney’s gates, you can find budget-friendly rooms here. As a bonus, you can spend a few hours at Old Town, a local entertainment center with a brick-paved street, carnival games, amusement park-style rides and boutiques.

      CC0 1.0/Matt Popovich/Wikimedia Commons


      Maingate refers to the section of Kissimmee located closest to Disney property, and some hotels in the area are actually closer than Orlando sites. In fact, Maingate East hotels offer convenient access to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, while Maingate West hotels are closer to Animal Kingdom. The properties here range from lakeside hotels and quaint motels to contemporary condos and golf resorts. If you decide to stay here, just keep in mind that the hotels in Maingate are not actually on Disney property, and guests do not enjoy the same perks as Disney guests.

      Universal Resorts

      Like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios has its own resort properties located near the original Universal Park and Islands of Adventure. The themed hotels provide easy access to the parks via boats, but they also have partner hotels in the Orlando area so that guests can enjoy their time in Orlando while staying within their budgets. Universal Studios is a short drive away from the Disney resort via I-4, so it’s an option if you don’t want to spend your entire vacation at Walt Disney World or plan to divide your time between Disney and Universal.

      Downtown Orlando

      Located 20 miles north east of Walt Disney World and Lake Buena Vista, Orlando’s urban core has its own collection of luxury and boutique hotels nestled between galleries, theaters and nightclubs. If you’re looking for luxury digs and can live without your favorite characters, consider downtown. The Ritz Carlton Orlando, the Waldorf Astoria and Four Seasons Resort Orlando are all part of the skyline here. Downtown is also home to some local parks where you can escape from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks and resorts.

    Where To Find Vacation Rentals For Mardi Gras

    Visiting New Orleans during Mardi Gras can be a bit of a culture shock if it’s your first time. Or maybe you’ve decided to stay in a more local than touristy venue than your last visit. Either way, it helps to know there are private house rentals to fit your needs. It also benefits you to know the neighborhoods with the best places to stay during Mardi Gras. Your choice all depends on when you’ll be in New Orleans for the festivities, if you’ll be there with or without family and what you’d like to experience when you’re in town. All of those considerations will help you decide which neighborhood has the right Mardi Gras vacation rentals to suit your personality and your agenda. There are four neighborhoods to consider for private house rentals in New Orleans before, during and after Fat Tuesday.

    A little knowledge helps: Many vacation rentals (hotels or homes) require a minimum stay of four to five days, so plan ahead by booking around the summer before Mardi Gras. If booking late in the game, you may be lucky thanks to numerous cancellations, so stay persistent in your search.

    Always check on the schedule and routes of Mardi Gras parades, balls and outdoor concerts before and on Fat Tuesday (the last day of the festival). Mardi Gras typically falls in February or March of each year, and many of the most popular parades, which are usually child-friendly, begin a couple of weeks before Fat Tuesday. By the way, Mardi Gras celebrations happen all over town, close to the French Quarter, but there are no parades that go through the Quarter. Bourbon Street in the Quarter is simply an adult area many party revelers enjoy at night during Mardi Gras.


    French Quarter

    Though there are more private apartments, townhouses and condominiums (many are two-story) than private single-family houses available for vacation rentals in the French Quarter, if you’re lucky to snag a spot during Mardi Gras, you’ll be right in the middle of the festivities, minus parades. If you’re traveling to Mardi Gras with young children, you may want to steer clear of this area at any time during Mardi Gras. It’s here, especially on Bourbon Street and neighboring avenues, where it gets a bit tawdry, loud and boozy day and night. By the way, there are private apartments for vacation rentals right on Bourbon Street. Private apartments come in all sizes with any number of bedrooms you may need. If you’re looking for upscale accommodations, consider a vacation rental located in a mansion. A number of mansions have apartments on each floor with access to courtyards, gardens and patios to make you feel like you’re in your own private Big Easy paradise.


    Lower Garden District

    The Lower Garden District is closer to the festivities than the residential Upper Garden District, which is filled with majestic mansions, the traditional architecture of which deserves a look between parades. The Lower Garden District is much more eclectic than it’s sister district, and here’s where you’ll find private homes to rent for your Mardi Gras vacation. You’ll still find stately neoclassical mansions lining the streets, as well as antique shops where you’ll find vintage Mardi Gras costumes, tiny parks and hip cafes. It’s also a family-friendly area for child-centric festivities and parades near St. Charles Street. You’ll find charming whole houses with numerous bedrooms for rent, though it may come with a steeper price to stay in a single-family home, but plan on traveling with a group and divvy the bill.

    If you have small kids and your family is staying in this neighborhood, you may prefer to view parades from the street, joining in the fun with other families. A ladder with a built-in seat is a traditional way parents help their kids view the floats as they come by. Ladders should stay at least several feet away from the curb so they’re not at risk of tipping.


    Faubourg Marigny

    This remarkably quiet neighborhood, though quite close to the French Quarter, has a tongue-twister of a French-inspired name. It’s filled with cozy Creole cottages, small enough for a couple but large enough for a family to stay for Mardi Gras. The neighborhood is conveniently located near trendy areas with jazz clubs, restaurants, coffee shops and a sprinkling of street musicians. You’ll also find there are a number of quirky, off-the-beaten-path parades that travel through the Faubourg Marigny. Check to see when krewes and their floats will meander their way through the neighborhood.


    Central Business District/Warehouse District

    The CBD/Warehouse District is part of what’s termed Uptown (many quibble over Uptown’s boundaries), but the French Quarter and Lower Garden District are considered adjacent neighborhoods. As the name implies, this neighborhood is quirky and distinctive with brick buildings, trendy restaurants and art galleries. It’s also called the New Orleans Arts District, or, NOLA, and it’s a busy, bustling place that’s inherently historic. Many of the Mardi Gras parade routes twist and turn throughout Uptown.

    Since this is more of an urban neighborhood, you’ll find single-family apartments and condominiums to rent rather than more suburban-style single-family homes. But you’ll be close to the Mardi Gras activities. Luxury apartments and condos for vacation rentals are typically located in historic New Orleans buildings, many renovated, but dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.

    Regardless of which neighborhood you decide to find a vacation rental, try to make sure your vacation rental has a balcony so you can see the festivities and parades from above.

    Big Bear: Packed With Winter Activities

    Big Bear, California, is a four-season destination renowned for its amazing natural beauty and rich history. Originally a hub for gold mining, Big Bear Lake played a role in California’s Gold Rush from 1860 through the early 20th century. Although Big Bear’s first hotel opened in 1888, it didn’t become a popular vacation destination until the 1920s, when skiing and tobogganing were introduced as winter activities.

    Today, winter activities remain a huge draw to the area. In fact, many folks claim that Big Bear has Southern California’s best skiing. And that’s not all. From skiing and snowboarding to zip-lining and bald eagle watching, Big Bear offers a variety of things to do, see and experience, making it one of the premier winter vacation destinations in the U.S. Whatever your favorite winter activities may be, you’ll find this area to be a winter wonderland that’s perfect for your next getaway.

    The Winter Weather Is Great

    CC BY-SA 2.0/John Murphy/Wikimedia

    Winter is one of Big Bear’s two peak seasons. It gets plenty of glorious sunshine, and the temperatures typically range from the mid-20s at night to the mid-40s during the day. Plus, Big Bear gets around 120 inches of snow every year, making it the ideal playground for skiers and snowboarders. If you love to shred, you might want to head to Bear Mountain, where you can do everything from learning the basics to honing your expert, big-mountain skills. Bear Mountain attracts plenty of skiers too, with its big mountain terrain, challenging bump runs, and a number of terrain parks. If you’re looking for more of a traditional, more casual mountain experience, Snow Summit might be your new favorite, with its quiet trails and easy bumps and jumps.

    There’s More than One Way Down the Mountains

    CC BY-SA 4.0/Lewis Hulbert/Wikimedia

    Not a skier or snowboarder? No problem. If shredding the slopes isn’t your thing, or you’re looking for an activity to help you mix things up, consider snow tubing at Big Bear Snow Play or taking a ride on the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. Ride the magic carpet up, and then laugh your way down for family fun that’s sure to put a fine point on your trip.

    Go Bald Eagle Watching

    CC BY-SA 3.0/Big Bear Mountain Resort/Wikimedia

    For those new to the magic of Big Bear vacations, the number of bald eagles flying overhead can be surprising. Winter is a great time to see these majestic birds and learn more about them. Visit the rescued bald eagles at Big Bear Alpine Zoo, or join a guided eagle walk that’s run by volunteers who record the winter bald eagle count at Big Bear Lake. It’s tough to beat the thrill of watching an eagle swoop down to snag a fish from the lake while you’re trudging through the snow.

    Feel the Adrenaline

    Some people get a rush from flying down the mountain on their boards or skis. Others prefer flying over the treetops at warp speeds. Take your winter vacation over the top with a zip line ride high above the snow with a three-hour experience from one of the local companies. After you clip into your harness, you can fly through nine different courses, each ranging in length from 120 feet to 860 feet. Zoom over serene, snowy scenery and an awe-inspiring suspension bridge for a jolt of adrenaline and views of Big Bear that you just can’t get anywhere else.

    Immerse Yourself in Nature

    Is there anything more peaceful than being in the middle of the woods with freshly fallen snow and the people you love close by? If that sounds like your idea of a good time, snowshoeing in Big Bear might be the activity for you. Snowshoeing offers the ideal opportunity to explore Big Bear’s backwoods and its tranquil, untouched beauty while gliding through the snow. Enjoy the Zen-like environment while watching for wildlife, tracking animal prints and getting your blood pumping in the great outdoors. Most people rave about snowshoeing in Big Bear. It’s fun, stimulating, soothing and an effective way to get a little exercise into your schedule without feeling like you’re working out.

    You Have Plenty of Spots to Warm Up around Big Bear Lake

    Your Big Bear family vacation rental (more on this in a moment) isn’t the only place to get out of the cold. You can warn up with the exotic dishes at Himalayan Restaurant, which specializes in dishes like palak aloo, redolent with garlic, ginger and spices. Or, you can hit one of Big Bear’s beloved après-ski spots like Le Dolce Vita Tasting Room or one of Big Bear’s amazing restaurants like Big Bear Lake Brewing Company, where you can get a good taste of the area’s craft beer; pet-friendly Evergreen Restaurant; or Captain’s Anchorage, which specializes in steak and seafood.

    Big Bear Has A Myriad Of Lodging Options During The Winter

    CC BY 2.0/Ian D. Keating/Flickr

    From cozy, family-friendly vacation rentals to ski-in, ski-out accommodations, you have many different lodging options to pick from, making it easier to find the one that’s right for you. Choose from charming cabins and lodges, ranch-style accommodations, cozy rooms at hotels or private vacation rentals suited for small groups and large families. It’s also easy to find weekend or weeklong rentals that house bigger groups of people.

    So Where Are You Supposed To Stay in Big Bear?

    A vacation rental with a hot tub of course….

    A hot tub in your vacation rental immediately adds a certain something to your experience. Not only does it feel like a luxury add-on, it can actually provide welcome relaxation after a day on the slopes. Big Bear vacations are usually filled with physical activity. An on-site hot tub at a rental home completes the circle of active and relaxed.

    CC BY/bpprice/Flickr

    Après-Ski Fun

    Hot tubs in ski cabins provide an easy way of keeping your whole group or family entertained after a day on the slopes. Soaks can soothe any muscle aches or pains from minor tumbles taken on a tough run and get everyone primed for another day of skiing. This amenity also gives kids something to look forward to and provides groups of grown-up friends with an easy central hang-out spot at the rental cabin. The contrast between the snow on the ground and the inviting hot water of the tub makes for a luxurious way of relaxing after a day of fun.


    Staying Cozy Outdoors

    Bring the outdoors indoors with the ability to enjoy the night sky in comfort, even on the coldest of winter nights. Stargazing is a notable activity in Big Bear, with the elevation and lack of city-adjacent light pollution providing a much clearer view of the sky than what you can probably get at home. It’s such a prime location for astronomy that the New Jersey Institute of Technology even operates a solar observatory with a massive telescope off of Big Bear Lake.

    CC BY/ex_magician/Flickr

    With a hot tub, there’s no need to bundle up the kids or cut an outdoor stargazing session short due to cold weather. You can sink into the tub and gaze up at the stars with binoculars or your naked eyes and see the Milky Way, shooting stars and a gorgeous view of the moon.

    CC BY-SA/ Commons

    Finding the Right Big Bear Rental

    There are other ways to stay entertained après-ski, of course, with board games and movie nights being favorites. But having a hot tub available for use adds a special element of out-of-the-ordinary vacation entertainment. The combination of skiing and hot tubbing is popular enough that cabin rentals often include decks with hot tubs, but it’s not a guaranteed feature of rentals in Big Bear. When you’re planning a trip, make sure to look out for this feature specifically, using search filters whenever possible to narrow down options to focus on available units with this option in the properties around this winter vacation destination.


    Getting Away To Big Bear Any Time Of Year

    Living in Southern California often means missing out on traditional seasonal weather, particularly during fall and winter. However, there’s one great option for seasonal experiences in SoCal: Big Bear. The Big Bear area is at a higher elevation than other parts of Southern California, and that means seasonal differences are much more pronounced here than they are at sea level.

    Big Bear vacation rentals, particularly cabins, are available year round, and this lodging style can be preferable for families who plan to do a lot of outdoor activities using their own equipment. In Big Bear ski house rentals, your family can store bikes, snowboards, fishing equipment and other seasonal outdoor gear without taking up valuable floor space in a cramped hotel room. Consider the seasonal activities you can partake in before planning your vacation so you can pick the right type of cabin for your favorite recreational activities.


    Winter in Southern California

    Winter sports are the main draw in this part of Southern California because snow is such a unique event. Big Bear offers several different snowy outdoor recreation options that are suitable for everyone from thrill-seekers to families looking for something safe and fun. Though snowfall is less plentiful now than it once was, the resort has a robust snowmaking program to ensure the slopes stay snowy even if the rest of the area doesn’t look quite as wintry.

    Downhill skiing and snowboarding are the most popular activities here, with Big Bear’s two snow resorts, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, providing nearly 1,000 acres of skiable terrain. Each mountain area offers runs at all levels, with most catering to Low Intermediate or Intermediate skill levels. First-Time Beginner and Advanced runs are available, too. Snow Summit is the more challenging of the two, while Bear Mountain boasts a wide range of terrain park features for snowboarders looking to build their skills in performing tricks. Rentals for skis, snowboards, boots, poles and some other equipment are available at several locations in the Big Bear area. If you’re looking to improve your skills or learn how to ride or ski for the first time, you can also look into lessons with pros in the area.

    If you don’t like the idea of careening downhill at high speeds, you can opt for more relaxed snowsport activities, with cross-country skiing and snowshoeing offering the chance to hike through the snow with minimal difficulty. If you’re an experienced snowshoer or cross-country skier, you can plan your own forays into the backcountry. If you’ve never experienced this winter activity before, go through the Big Bear Discovery Center for guided tours, rentals and advice on where to go and how to stay safe on the trail.

    Families have even more low-key options available for winter fun in the snow thanks to Big Bear Snow Play, a converted ski hill that’s now the official place for sledding, snow tubing and other frosty, fun activities in the wintertime. The Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain and Grizzly Ridge tubing park at Snow Summit are also options for fun snowy activities that don’t involve a lot of physical activity or adrenaline-pumping speed.


    Summer in the Mountains

    Though it’s primarily known for its winter sports, Big Bear is a great place to visit in summertime as well. Big Bear Lake is a central attraction thanks to the many water-based activities for families, including kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and aqua flyboarding — that viral internet sensation that sees participants shoot out of the lake on water jets attached to their feet. Swimming is another popular activity in the lake, though the large number of boats and jet skis zipping around means that you should exercise extreme caution before picking a spot in which you’ll swim around.

    Other outdoor activities, such as horseback riding and Sky Chair rides to the top of Snow Summit, provide wonderful immersion in the wilderness surroundings of the area. Stargazing is another fantastic family activity that’s perfect during warm summer nights. Cabins in more remote areas far from the lights of Big Bear Lake and other populated areas are ideal for backyard stargazing with or without telescopes.

    CC BY-SA 3.0/burtonbluntsnowboard/Wikimedia Commons

    See California Change Seasons in the Spring & Fall

    As transitional seasons, the activities available for families during spring and fall depend on the weather. Snow is theoretically possible during early spring and late fall, and even without snow, temperatures can get chilly. This means that water-based activities that involve swimming or getting wet may not be ideal at this time of year, but there’s still plenty to do. Cooler temperatures make rigorous activities like mountain biking and hiking within the San Bernardino National Forest, which surrounds the area, more appealing. Each of these two seasons brings natural beauty into the spotlight, with springtime wildflowers and vibrant autumnal colors adding extra ambience to the already spectacular outdoor scenery. Hike high up enough on Sugarloaf Mountain and you’ll even be able to see the Mojave Desert down below for an incredible study in terrain contrasts.

    CC BY 2.0/usfws_pacificsw/Flickr

    Spring and fall are both quieter seasons in the area, and that makes it possible for you to take advantage of the trout and bass seasons at Big Bear Lake. Fish may get a little shy when the lake is full of boats and swimmers, but the relative lack of activity in the water means that you can get a better catch. In case of inclement weather, the Big Bear area does have some indoor activities for your family to enjoy as well, including laser tag and room escapes. Choose a cabin closer to Big Bear Lake to take advantage of this kind of amusement.