Sunshine Villa Florida

Plan Your Disney Trip With Our FREE Planning Itinerary

disney planner itinerary

With 4 parks filled with so many attractions, shows, and dining, it could get overwhelming trying to plan your Disney vacation.  We have created a simple Disney Planning itinerary that you can download here FREE!

disney planner itinerary

Before planning, it may be helpful to check crowd calendars.  We recommend checking here.  This site provides crowd times for each month.

A lot of time and effort goes into planning your perfect Disney vacation.  Here are some great articles that you should check out before you go:

Travelling with pets? Read here

Want some insta worthy snaps?  Don’t forget to look for the elusive #disneywalls here

Beat the Orlando heat!

You’re all set to have a magical holiday!

Disney Plant Based Food Guide

vegan and gluten free dining in orlando

Not too long ago, we shared some gluten free and vegan friendly dining options in the Orlando area.  Well Disney’s Magic Kingdom has now launched a visitor’s guide especially for those in search of vegan & vegetarian food options.

MK vegan list

The new Disney Plant Based Cuisine Guide lists all of the vegan and veggie options across the park in a convenient pamphlet.

The guide is categorized by area and then lists each vegan and veggie-friendly restaurant in the region of that park including the offered dishes.  Head over to Casey’s corner for a vegan hot dog, The Plaza for a veggie burger or Tomorrowland for a plant based sloppy joe.

Disneyland in California was recently crowned the most vegan friendly theme park in the USA by animal rights activist group PETA.  Hopefully this means that Disneyworld will soon have just as many vegan friendly options.

The guide is available at the following locations in the Magic Kingdom:

  • All Table-Service and Quick-Service Restaurants
  • All Guest Experience Team podiums
  • Guest Relations (City Hall and Liberty Square Ticket Office locations)

For any questions or concerns about allergy-free dining and dietary preferences, see Walt Disney World’s page on special dietary requests. Alternatively, you can contact them at Special.Diets@DisneyWorld.com with any questions you might have.

*Images courtesy of WDWNT

Epcot’s Easter Egg-stravaganza

Every year during Epcot Flower & Garden Festival, Epcot hosts an annual scavenger hunt for Easter eggs.  This year the hunt runs until Sunday, April 21.

To join the scavenger hunt, you will need to first purchase a scavenger hunt map. The map costs $6.99 and you can find them at Disney Traders, Pin Central, or World Traveler.

*

The eggs on your sticker card are the eggs you are looking for around the park.  Keep your eyes peeled as some are tricky to find.

Place the matching sticker on your map after you have spotted the egg.  Once you have found them all, head over to Disney Traders to submit your map and receive your prize, the choice of one themed egg!  New this year is that the eggs themselves have a surprise inside!

Eggstravaganza is on through April 21st during Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival.  If your looking for an Easter service, Disney’s Contemporary Resort offers church services on Easter Sunday.

Hint:  Some eggs are located inside

*Image courtesy of All Ears

Gator Night Shine – Are You Brave Enough? Beyond The Parks Edition

When you think of Florida, what comes to mind? Sunshine? Oranges? How about gators?  In this edition of Beyond the Parks, we talk about Gatorland.

Gatorland lets you get up close and personal with the Florida natives in a nighttime experience- Gator Night Shine.

Gator Night Shine adventure takes you deep into the domain of Florida’s most famous reptile, the alligator!

Armed with only a flashlight and gator food, you bravely make your way along the winding wooden walkways of Gatorland’s Alligator Breeding Marsh. The sounds of the night come alive around you as the rustle of feathers overhead and the splashing of water nearby signal that you are not alone.

Turning your flashlight towards the water, you suddenly become aware of hundreds of hungry, glowing, red eyes slowly making their way closer…

Tour Length: 1 – 1.5 Hour (Tour begins at dusk, please meet at the far south end of the parking lot)

Number of People: Minimum 5, Maximum 25

Admission Policy: This guided tour is an after-hours special Gatorland event and is restricted to Gatorland’s Breeding Marsh. Gatorland will provide the flashlights, insect repellent, and some alligator food.

Tickets are $24.99 + tax

Of course Gatorland has plenty of day time encounters as well.  You can see alligators, crocodiles of all sizes along with the extremely rare white leucistic alligator.  They also have a free flight aviary, & petting zoo.

Gatorland Experiences:

Stompin Gator off road adventure: Board one of three, 12-foot-high custom-made, off-road monster vehicles for a 15-minute rugged and hilarious adventure like no other theme park ride anywhere.

Screamin Gator Zip Line: Soar across five intense zip lines ranging in length from 230 feet to more than 500 feet, and carefully cross a swinging bridge over the park’s main walkway.  Fly over alligators and crocodiles at speeds near 30 miles per hour.

Animal Shows: Thrills and chills abound as some of the largest alligators in the world jump four feet or more out of the water in this one-of-a-kind show. Learn more about alligators and crocodiles and their awesome powers.

Adventure Hour: Hand feed giant gators. Home to hundreds of alligators, you’ll have the opportunity to safely venture within a few feet of hungry, giant alligators and create a thrilling feeding frenzy.

Meet a gator: Get up close and personal with a gator for a photo opportunity

gatorland

Gatorland is open everyday from 10-5 rain or shine.

14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32837 (407) 855-5496

See Which Great Whites Are Swimming In Florida’s Waters Right Now

Florida is surrounded by the ocean which means it’s also surrounded by marine life, including sharks, many of them whom enjoy hanging out in Florida’s vast surrounding bodies of water.

With the help of the tracking devices (and social media), Ocearch brings the ocean marine life to your screen.  Ocearch conducts research expeditions aboard the M/V OCEARCH, which serves as an at-sea laboratory. The M/V OCEARCH contains a 75,000 lb. capacity hydraulic platform designed to safely lift marine animals out of the ocean for access by a multi-disciplined research team.

Animals are caught from tenders, using handlines, and are guided by hand in the water on and off the lift. The animals are then brought to the submerged platform of the M/V OCEARCH vessel and the platform is raised. Once the animals are restrained and hoses of water have been set to enable a continuous flow of fresh seawater over the gills, the science team, made up of researchers and veterinarians, begins its process. Tags such as SPOT, acoustic, and accelerometer are attached, morphometrics are recorded, and samples, such as blood and tissue, are collected.

Ocearch has carefully crafted its procedures to minimize stress and risk to the sharks during research expeditions. From the capture to the release, the tagging, handling, and sampling procedures follow established protocols by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC) of participating institutions.

Ocearch and partners have tagged & named several species of sharks (and other animals like loggerhead turtles & whales) and you can follow their aquatic travels through the oceans they call home.

Let’s meet some of the Great Whites currently swimming in Florida’s coastal waters (whom happen to have their own twitter handle. Check it out!)

  1. Miss Costa is a Sub-Adult Female Great White, weighing in at whopping 1668 lbs and a lengthy 12’5″ long. She is currently swimming around just off the gulf coast near Sarasota today!
  2. Hal is an adult male great white and is partial to the eastern side of the Sunshine State; last pinged on March 27th, 2019 – This big boy is 12’6″ long and is pretty heavy at 1420 lbs. He can be found swimming off the coast of Daytona Beach. His name is a tribute to Canada’s Halifax.
  3. Out of all the sharks we have near Florida right now, Katherine is the largest. She weighs exactly 2000 lbs and is a staggering 14’2″ long. Her location was last pinged on Feb 29th, 2019 a bit further out in the water near West Palm Beach.
  4. Caroline is a female great white, 12 ft 9 inches long weighing in at 1348 lbs. She was last pinged March 30, 2019 off the Cape Canaveral coast.
  5. Miss May is 10 ft 2 inches and was last pinged March 30th, 2019 off the Atlantic coast near the Florida/Georgia border.

You can see where these and more sharks are right now by tracking them on Ocearch’s shark tracker

Beyond The Parks – Get Up Close And Personal With Florida’s Wildlife

beyond the parks

In another Beyond The Parks edition, we explore Homosassa Springs State Park.

Want to get up close and personal with Florida’s Vibrant wildlife? Discover the wild-side of Florida with endangered Florida panthers, red wolves, manatees and whooping cranes, plus black bears, bobcats, and, of course, alligators.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park occupies almost 200 acres around Homosassa Spring, which is the primary source for the Homosassa River. The main entrance to the Park is along US19 in the town of Homosassa Springs where you will find ample parking, a visitor center, snack bar and gift shop. From that location, you can take a tram or pontoon boat to the west entrance about a half mile away. The central feature of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is the main spring, where you can view the spring from the “Fish Bowl” floating underwater observatory, where East Indian manatees are almost always present. A unique underwater structure, the Underwater Observatory, allows visitors to “walk underwater” beneath the spring’s surface and watch the various fish and manatees swim about. An astounding number of fresh and saltwater fish still congregate in the natural spring bowl—large jacks, snapper, snook and others. The Park serves an important role of being a rehabilitation center for orphaned or injured manatees that recuperate in the spring waters before being released again to the wild.

The park also features a variety of captive animals such as alligators, black bears, red wolf, key deer, flamingos, whooping cranes and the oldest hippopotamus named Lu in captivity. The native wildlife that reside in the park serve as ambassadors for their species, providing visitors face-to-face connections between the diverse Florida habitats and the animals that call those habitats home

Paved, wheelchair accessible paths wind throughout the park, allowing easy access for viewing black bear, Florida panther, bobcats, deer, alligators, and many other species. In addition to the animals that are housed at the park – most of which have been injured, or for some other reason cannot survive in the wild – a large number of wild birds and other species call the Park home.

Hours are 9:00 – 5:30

Adults (age 13+) $13, Children (ages 6-12)  $5, Children 5 and under, free

4150 S. Suncoast Blvd.
Homosassa FL 34446   (352) 628-5343

Boggy Creek Airboat Ride Through The Everglades- Beyond The Parks

beyond the parks

We know that the majority of travellers visiting Orlando come for the theme parks, but there is much more to Orlando than parks! There is no shortage of fun activities and many of them have nothing to do with theme parks.

We feature blogs we like to call “Beyond the Parks” which offers you planning options that are outside the typical roller coaster thrill rides. We will show you the vast array of recreational activities and indoor attractions beyond the parks. Like this Underwater Light Show and Orlando’s natural lazy river .

Give Boggy Creek Airboat rides a try!  Glide across the headwaters of the Florida Everglades at speeds up to 40 mph aboard six-passenger airboats. Discover territory that remains unaltered in the wilderness of the Central Florida Everglades.  You will be taking into the breathtaking beauty of nature, including wetlands and wildlife.  See alligators, turtles, birds and more in their natural environment.

Half hour tour:      $28.95 for adult and $24.61 for children

1 hour tour:          $48.95 for adult and $41.61for children

Private 1 hour:     $63 per person

Sunset tour:         $59.95 for adult and $50.96 for children

You drive:             $349 2 people, 1 hour

Feeling super adventurous? They even offer a night tour! Glide through the trails of tall grass without knowing what lurks around the bend. $59.95 adult and $50.96 for children.

You can purchase your tickets here.

TIP: The best time to see alligator’s is early in the morning, before 10AM during hot weather, and later in the day in the cold.

So if you want a different kind of Orlando experience, be sure to follow our “Beyond the Parks” edition blogs.

10 Fun Disney Facts You Probably Don’t Know!

10 fun disney facts

10 fun Disney Facts you probably don’t know

Did you know that Disney employs over 66,000 cast members spending 1.2 billion on payroll each year? The largest single-site employer in the United States, Walt Disney World has more than 3,700 job classifications.  Here are some other Disney fun facts that you may have not known:

  1. All Disney World employees are called cast members. Even Walt Disney was a cast member.
  2. Cast members will always point with two fingers or an open palm. Pointing with one finger is considered “rude” and isn’t allowed on Disney property.
  3. Cast members who play characters are taught how to sign autographs so that it matches the original.
  4. Cast members are not allowed to leave their “land” or area. The reason is to not affect the scene. A Frontierland costume would be out of place in Tomorrowland.
  5. Cast members love to talk to guests! Ask for their advice or just ask them about where they’re from. It’s usually on their nametag.
  6. A Cast Member is never supposed to say “I don’t know,” if he or she doesn’t know the answer, they are supposed to get on the phone and find out. They are also never supposed to react to silly questions.
  7. The background music continues, even after the last guest has departed.
  8. Cast members are encouraged to pin-trade with guests. Feel free to approach any cast member wearing a lanyard.
  9. Backstage photos are not allowed, both for cast members and guests on backstage tours.
  10. Seniority is a big deal with Disney. The longer you’ve worked for the company, the better your chance of advancement. Many high-level cast members, such as executives, once worked in the parks.

Did you know all of these? Do you know of any other fun Disney facts that we have missed? Please share!

 

Visiting Orlando With Pets? The Perfect Pet Daycare For Your Pet

Many people travel to Florida with their beloved fur babies but where do they go when you want to visit the parks?

Best Friends Pet Care is pet centre near Walt Disney World is a 27,000-square-foot pet care center offering boarding, daycare and grooming for dogs, cats and other family pets in a safe, healthy and fun environment. 

Choose from a range of accommodations and extensive menu of activities. While you explore the parks, your pet can enjoy playgroup, special treats and a movie!  After park-hopping, spend time with your pet playing in our private dog park or taking a walk around the grounds.

Best Friends Pet Resort welcomes all pets, regardless of where the family is staying. They do offer special discounts for Walt Disney World® Resort guests.  They are open 365 days a year and they follow Walt Disney World’s Extra Magic schedule for resort guests.

  • All Indoor Accommodations:These climate-controlled accommodations are up to 32 square feet, and provide a pet cot for your dog’s comfort. Dogs have unlimited access to their patio area, except during cleaning.

Accommodation sizes are 4’ x 7’ and 4’ x 8’. All rooms have 3 feet of clearance. The larger accommodations are comfortable for all medium sized breed dogs and some large sized breed dogs.

Our all-indoor accommodations include two potty walks with a staff member each day. Guests may visit to take their pet out into the dog park or the walking trail at any time during our normal operating hours.  $44 Standard/ $41 Resort Guest/ $37 Daycare

  • Indoor-Outdoor 2-Room Accommodations:These accommodations include a climate-controlled indoor bedroom with a pet cot, and an outdoor patio, which is protected from the elements. Dogs have unlimited access to their patios during the daytime for most of the year. During peak summer temperatures, however, to protect the dogs from the heat, the patio doors are opened four times during the day for access to the patio.

Bedrooms are 4’ x 4’ and 3’ x 4’. All bedrooms have a minimum of 3 feet of clearance. Patios are 3’ x 8’   and 4’ x 8’. Patios have more than 9 feet of clearance. The larger accommodations are comfortably sized for most dogs, except giant breeds.

All indoor-outdoor accommodations include one potty walk with our staff per day. Guests may visit to take their pet out into the dog park or the walking trail at any time during our normal operating hours.  $49 Standard/ $45 Resort Guest/ $40 Daycare

  • Vacation Villas:Our fourteen two-room villas provide an 8ft x 9ft (72 sq ft) tiled bedroom, with a raised platform bed and doggy-eye-level flat panel TV.  Each villa also has a private outdoor 4ft x 7ft (28 sq ft) relief patio.  The Vacation Villa boarding experience includes 1 Potty Walk, 1 Playgroup Session and Turn-Down Service each day all overseen by a personal pet concierge. $93 Standard/ $86 Resort Guest/ $93 Daycare
  • VIP Luxury Suites:For the ultimate in pampered pet boarding, we offer our four 226 sq ft super luxury suites.  These suites provide a 16ft x 9ft bedroom, with paw print floors and tile walls, glass doors, a raised platform bed and flat panel television, programmed for your pet’s entertainment.  Each suite also comes with a private covered outdoor play yard, where pets can enjoy private play time with their family, or with their personal “pet concierge”.  This all-inclusive boarding experience includes a wide range of daily complimentary activities: 2 Potty Walks, 2 Playgroup sessions and Bed Time Story each day, all overseen by a personal “pet concierge”.  Guests in our Super Luxury suites may also enjoy a complimentary “Go Home Fresh” bath after a 3-day minimum stay.  $109 Standard/ $101 Resort Guest/ $109 Daycare


  • a la carte for Doggies:
  • Play & Stay- $22  
  • (Four hours of play with other dogs)
  • Playgroup- $15    
  • (30 minutes of play with other dogs)
  • Playtime- $8    
  • (10 minutes of play with an associate)
  • Cuddletime- $8
  • Walk & Explore- $8
  • Bedtime Story- $6
  • Ice Cream Break- $4
  • Holiday Meal- $5
  • Premium Bed- $5
  • Kitty City is designed to be a sanctuary for our feline friends.  Housed in a separate wing of the building, it is protected from the sights, sounds and smells of dogs. We have accommodations for up to 24 kitty guests, who can relax in your choice of a two-room or four-room condos, and watch the world through their windows.  Each condo has a separate, private relief area; and all condos are individually vented to outdoors for the health of our guests.  Two Level Kitty Condo

$28 Standard/ $26 Resort Guest/ $26 Daycare / Four Level Kitty Condo $40 Standard/ $38 Resort Guest/ $35 Daycare

  • a la carte Kitties:
  • Playtime- $8
  • Cookies & Milk- $3
  • Tuna on a Ritz- $3
  • Activity Toy- $3
  • Deluxe Kitty Bed- $5

Pocket pets: facility provides a safe little haven for “pocket pets” such as hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits and ferrets.  Pet parents must provide their own housing/cage and all supplies (food, bowls, litter, etc.) for their pocket pet. Small- $13 Standard/ $11 Resort Guest

Medium- $17 Standard/ $15 Resort Guest

Large- $22 Standard/ $20 Resort Guest

X Large- $25 Standard/ $23 Resort Guest

 Reservations are strongly recommended.  Visit their website for up to date rates, terms and conditions.

Why And How You Should Book Your Next Vacation Rental Direct

6 reasons to book direct

February 6 is National #bookdirect day.  How did this come about? Within the last few years, big listing sites such as Homeaway started to charge travellers booking fees on top of the owners fees to list on their sites. They also made it so that contact information between guests were blocked so there was no communication outside of their booking platforms.  Many vacation rental owners took a stand and started to build their own websites and social media pages in order to take direct bookings and save on extortionate fees.

Travel sites like AirBnB, HomeAway/VRBO, and TripAdvisor/Flipkey have added booking fees to either the traveler, the owner and sometimes both when you reserve a vacation property through one of their sites.  These fees do NOT go to the owners, but rather to corporate giants such as Expedia.  Book with confidence? Payment protection? The sites claim to offer protection but in reality, they will ask the traveler to initiate a charge back if the rental is inhabitable or does not exist. You get that with your credit card anyway so what are you really paying for?  They claim to find you another place but it’s not always possible in peak season when majority of properties are booked or, you may end up in a sub-par property or in one miles away.  If you could book directly with the owner, you could save these large fees and use them instead toward activities, souvenirs or meals.

The large sites have eliminated owner contact info, and they withhold your contact info from the owners making it challenging to book direct.  They also monitor emails so if you try to enter your contact info in your message, it will be blocked out so the owner will not see it.  Not only that, the sorting algorithms are designed to push travelers to book properties that will help THEIR bottom line, not yours. This is all done to ensure that they get their greedy fees.

Why should you book direct?

  • Save the booking fees you are charged. In some cases, this could be in the hundreds!
  • Direct contact with the owner or property manager will expedite any questions or issues that may arise.
  • The lowest price will not be on listing sites.  Owners may increase their rates on these sites to account for the fees they are charged.
  • Many rental property owners have removed their homes from these sites. You may miss out on a great property.
  • Owners have intimate knowledge about the destination and the property itself. Ask your questions like best restaurant or beach.
  • Take comfort in knowing that the house you booked is the one you will be staying in.  Many big listing sites allocate your property on arrival.

So how do you book direct and save yourself hundreds of dollars?

  • First, look at the sort. On HomeAway/VRBO, do not use the default sort.  Instead, sort by number of reviews.  And in the filters, select Owner Operated if you truly want to book with an owner rather than a realty company.  On TripAdvisor, likewise sort by reviews.
  • Use Google search. On the listing itself, look for clues.  Many owners will highlight the name of their company or their business, for example “Sunshine Villa Florida- Your house near the Mouse” or “Another Day in Paradise Chincoteague.”  This can lead you to their Google listing, their own website, or the property’s Facebook page.  Also, if you Google the owner’s name, their contact information is often readily available on the web.
  • What if the owner hasn’t dropped any of these subtle hints? Try StaySavr.com, which has contact info for 70% of the VRBO listings that were in effect in 2016 or earlier.
  • Check if the owner has a social media page like Instagram or Facebook and contact them through there
  • Support the smaller no fee booking sites like: Houfy.com, Homeescape.com, or Floridarentalowners.com

How to rent safely:

  • Check the owner’s online reviews. Also, try to determine ownership.  Many counties have tax records available online.
  • Google search the owner’s name, the property name, and any other information you may have gathered about the owner. This will help you to rent safely.
  • Ask for a rental agreement. Many owners will also allow you to pay by credit card or PayPal.  Ask to do that if paying by check makes you uncomfortable.

#BOOKDIRECT