Planning Your Vacation on a Budget

Planning Your Vacation on a Budget

ften have a lot of clients asking about how to plan their vacation on a budget. Whether you’re looking to plan a trip to a theme park resort like Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando Resort, sail away on a cruise, or take an all-inclusive trip to the Caribbean, there are always ways to work within a budget. 

A general vacation planning rule of thumb: sometimes it will require some flexibility on the time of year or dates to get the best deal. I know families don’t always want to pull their kids out of school, but oftentimes, common vacation times are going to be some of the most expensive times to travel. This is regardless of where you’re traveling. Spring break, summer vacation, and the holidays are always going to be the most expensive (and busiest!!!) times to travel anywhere. 

 It’s typically best for us to talk about what your top must-haves are for your vacation and weigh the options as well as consider some alternatives… you may have your heart set on a specific island that typically costs a little more, so if we can’t find the right resort within budget, sometimes it helps to consider islands that have a similar vibe with some more budget friendly options. Same goes for if you have your heart set on a specific resort – that resort may be out of your budget for this trip but maybe we can find one that offers some of your must-haves within your price range.

 If you’ve got cruising on your mind, you’re usually going to find better deals on cruises out of Florida since most ships sail out of Florida ports – but if you live in the northeast or mid-atlantic, it might actually be cheaper in the long run to book a more expensive cruise out of Boston, New York, New Jersey, or Baltimore to avoid having to fly to Florida PLUS potentially have an overnight stay in a hotel in Florida if you fly down the day before departure (which is recommended), plus the fees to get you to the port from the airport or hotel and back again after the cruise. 

 Shifting to the topic of the Orlando area theme parks: there’s a misconception that you’re going to save a lot of money if you stay off property. While I’m sure you can find some cheap hotels to save you money (though they’re often not hotels I’d feel comfortable booking for you as a Travel Agent if I’m not familiar with them), I also think there are several points to consider here. How are you getting from the hotel to the parks? If you’re renting a car, that’s an added expense (the rental car itself, the gas, and don’t forget about the parking fee at the parks!) plus you’ve got to find a parking spot and walk or take the tram to the front of the park… you’re losing time this way and most likely money as well. If you’re driving to Orlando and have your own car, you do have to pay to park at your resort, but then you’ll have the option of using the resort transportation for free or park at the parks with your own car (which will be free since you’re already paying to park at the resort). Some off-site hotels do offer shuttle service to the parks – but you’ll find they’re usually at set times, you’ll need a reservation to ride each day, and there’s usually a fee for each time you ride. So you’ll still be paying for transportation PLUS  you won’t have any of the flexibility that you’ll have when staying at an on-site resort hotel. 


You also won’t get the added perks of staying on-site at the resort – while charging purchases to your room may not be a deal breaker for most, on-site guests get the added benefit of entering the parks early. At Disney World, it’s 30 minutes before opening; at Universal Orlando, it’s an hour early. It may not seem like much, but that time is super important to getting on rides with shorter wait times first thing in the morning before everyone else gets into the parks. At Disney World, if you’re purchasing Genie+ for your vacation package to help skip the lines in the parks, you’ll be able to book your first Genie+ attraction at 7am daily – when you’re staying off-site, you can’t book your first attraction until you enter the park, making it more challenging to book the most highly coveted attractions at your preferred times.  

When I’ve done the number crunching with clients considering staying off property before, we have ultimately found that it makes the most sense while still being as cost effective as possible to stay at one of the value resorts on-site, and then perhaps order some groceries to have in the room so you don’t have to buy snacks all the time. Most rooms at the value resorts at both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort only have a small fridge that isn’t meant to keep a lot of perishables chilled for an extended period of time, but you can definitely get a carton of milk and cereal for breakfast to have in your room – or if you like cereal bars and such – that eliminates an entire meal that you’d need to pay for in the parks. 

Ultimately, our job as your Travel Advisor is to help you find the perfect vacation options to meet your wants and needs within your budget. We are always on your team to help make this vacation one that you’ll never forget.

Aly Hirst

Aly Hirst

Lead Travel Planner & Certified Autism Travel Professional™

Hi, I’m Aly Hirst, Lead Travel Planner with Living with the Magic Vacations! For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a Disney-obsessed gal. Even though I didn’t take many Disney vacations growing up, I can remember requesting the old vacation planning videos that Disney use to send in the mail; I would watch them over and over again to learn every nook and cranny of the Walt Disney World Resort as well as the Disneyland Resort and Disney Cruise Lines. I was thrilled to be given the opportunity in college to participate in the Disney College Program for a semester – who didn’t want to spend a semester of college living and working at the Walt Disney World Resort? (Bonus for me – I moved down to Orlando in January that year so it was the best winter escape for me from snowy New England!)

How travel changes your brain

How travel changes your brain

That’s right, traveling will change your brain! When you go out of your comfort zone and try new experiences, your brain reawakens. Are you constantly going through the same motions in your daily routine? If so, your brain isn’t necessarily challenged. When you travel, you are meeting new people and see new things, and your environment is different. Your daily routine is shaken up and this diversity keeps your brain active. You will have a whole new sense of happiness and motivation. The more that you travel the happier you will feel. You will begin to think clearer and deeper and even come up with better ideas! Exploring new environments will keep your brain happy and healthy! 

When you travel and feel nervous or face obstacles like flight delays, lost baggage or incidents that are not as relaxing, your brain is actually still growing and changing. These moments promote growth and increase your problem-solving skills.  So if these situations happen, try to remember there is still good even though it may not feel that way.

If you find yourself stuck in the same routines, consider taking an annual trip to change things up and more importantly, positively impact your overall health. 




Travel Planner

Deanna Wasley is a travel planner from Rochester, NY

She’s a Disney and Universal enthusiast as well as a mother to three beautiful daughters who loves to explore the world. She loves to learn new things, explore, and meet new people. Planning vacations brings her so much happiness; it’s safe to say that she loves all things travel.

Beaches Turks and Caicos for All Ages!

Beaches Turks and Caicos for All Ages!

We recently returned from an amazing, agency trip to Beaches Turks and Caicos!! We headed to this amazing tropical destination with our families and clients! Beaches resorts are for everyone, from girls’ weekends to multi-generational trips to even adults only! Today each agent will share with you what they loved most about their stay, all during the same weekend, with a variety of family makeups!

Traveling with Kids under 9
Megan Keebaugh

My family loves Beaches Turks & Caicos so much that we have already been there twice with a third trip on the books! Sometimes it’s difficult to find a resort that will keep EVERYONE entertained especially when your kids’ ages range a bit. Each of my kids LOVED every second of their trip. My 2-year-old loved his first experience at the swim-up bar (Strawberry smoothies all day every day for him) and seeing his Sesame Street friends! The nightly Sesame Street Stage show was a huge hit that we had to see it twice! Plus you don’t want to miss the Sesame Street parade that the kids can participate in (takes place once weekly). My 5-year-old daughter’s favorite activity was going to the kids club, she is little miss independent and loved making friends and having dinner without Mom and Dad for a night. We also planned a Tuck-In with her favorite Sesame Street friend to celebrate her Birthday. Abby Cadabby came to our room, she read a story with her and even got a special present. This is an additional cost but 100% worth it! There are so many activities included in the price of your stay, like learning about Space with Elmo or learning Italian with Count Dracula and she wanted to do each one of those! 

As parents we very rarely get out without our kids, date nights are a rarity in our house and I love that at Beaches there is a kids club for all ages, from infants through teens. The counselors are so nice and you can tell they love their job. By the end of day one, they knew all the kids’ names and would wave to them when we passed them around the resort. Beaches is also one of the only resorts with a kids club for babies at no additional cost, so we were able to get a date night without having to spend an extra dime! 

If you are traveling with young kids and looking for a kids club for the young ones as well as a ton of activities to keep them entertained you MUST plan a vacation to Beaches Turks & Caicos!

Megan Keebuagh

Megan Keebuagh

Lead Concierge Travel Manager & Certified Autism Travel Professional™

Hi! I’m Megan from Loudon, Virginia and I’m Lead Concierge Travel Manager at Living with the Magic Vacations.

I’ve been traveling most of my life with my first big trip being to Walt Disney World at the age of 2. I currently live in Loudoun County, VA with my husband, our 2 sons, and our daughter. After meeting my husband I introduced him to the world of Disney vacations, and not surprisingly he fell in love with it just as much as I did. In 2012 we were married and honeymooned at Walt Disney World and now love sharing our love of Disney and Disney vacations with our kids! We also love cruising and visiting the amazing tropical destinations of the Caribbean!


Traveling with Kids and Tweens
Amanda Mann

My kids are getting to the age (8 and 11) where they don’t necessarily want nothing but characters and little kid rides, but they aren’t quite teens and ready for big kid stuff. Since they LOVE cruising, I thought it was about time to take them to an All-Inclusive Resort. I had previously visited Beaches Turks and Caicos during our Girl’s Getaway Weekend and was blown away by how beautiful the resort and beaches were, that I knew I had to bring them back!

They loved that everything was included, similar to a cruise, but even more so! From food, to dessert and all the virgin Strawberry daiquiris they could drink, it was nice not having to pay extra for every little thing! They spent hours swimming, making new friends and trying new activities, like the glass bottom boat and wave simulator, ALL INCLUDED!

They enjoyed the family-friendly entertainment and variety of activities, pools, and beach. They all voted and said next time they’d like to come for a few more days to try out things we missed. With 21 restaurants it’s impossible to try it all and we didn’t even have time to schedule an excursion!! This vacation was one for the books and they would definitely enjoy a return trip!


Amanda Mann

Amanda Mann


My name is Amanda, from Rochester, New York and I am the owner of Living With The Magic Vacations!   I have a love and passion for helping families find the perfect vacation! From the complexities of a Walt Disney World or Universal Studios vacation to something more laid back, like Disney Cruise Line, Sandals or Beaches…you name it and I can assist. Vacation should be the most relaxing thing you do but with an overwhelming amount of information on the internet, it’s often not! Let me take the stress out of planning that perfect vacation!

Traveling with Teenagers
Andrea Trelles

For my family, we have 15-year-old twins. The waterpark was one of the top favorites – it was nice being able to transition from the sandy beach (sensory issues!) to the pool with fun things to do. The landscaping and scenery around the lazy river and the waterfalls were nice extras. 

The Xbox lounge was a huge hit with 3/4 of us! It was fun to escape the heat and helped my sensory kids self-regulate some. They also made some new friends to game with!

The beach was the other big favorite. Snorkeling, and being able to swim and see everything because the water was so clear was amazing.  The glass bottom boat was also fun!  The four of us really enjoyed sailing as well. It was something the kids had never done and they had a great time trying something new.

The last big plus for us was the food. With hungry teens, being able to get snacks, drinks, and second (and third) plates were perfect. We also loved being able to try new foods, and order exactly what we wanted even if that combination wasn’t on the menu. 

Our room in the Caribbean Village had a great location and a ton of space. We traveled with the grandparents and cousins as well.  The grands enjoyed watching the kids have fun, and they liked that everyone could do their own things but still meet up for meals or activities as desired. 

The cousins really enjoyed the evening teen activities as well as paddleboarding, snorkeling, and sailing!

Andrea Trelles

Andrea Trelles

Lead Travel Planner & Certified Autism Travel Professional™

HI! I am Andrea Trelles from Severna Park, Maryland, and I’m a Lead Travel Planner with Living with the Magic Vacations. I love to travel and I LOVE all things Disney.   Growing up in Florida, my family and I visited Walt Disney World several times a year. From riding 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to visiting Mickey Mouse and eating our way through Epcot, our family time was magical each visit. Though the attractions have changed over the years, the real magic of Disney has not. Bringing families together and making memories for a lifetime is true joy.  I have enjoyed taking my husband and then my own family to Disney over the last 17 years and making new memories.

Traveling with Adults Only
Amy Smith

The resort
It is beautiful. Large but not too large…easily walkable. There are 5 “villages” on-site for accommodations. Each with its own theming. We experienced two of them and prefer the Italian village over the Caribbean as far as the room goes. There are villages that are farther away and more private and some that are in the thick of all the happenings. Housekeeping was excellent. The room was taken care of daily. We never ran out of water, soda, beer or liquor in our room. We did have to call once for shampoo and it was delivered quickly.

The food
The food was pretty darn good. I can think of only one restaurant that I wouldn’t return to and that was Bombay…and only because it was just too spicy for my palate. There are enough restaurants onsite that we were able to choose a different one each night we were there. My only complaint was Cricketers. A nice pub with good food…however, the wait times were ridiculous. We were one of two tables one day for lunch and waited over an hour for our food. Not sure why the long wait but we encountered it a couple of times. Food quality made it worth the wait, though. It is also nice that they have a couple of restaurants that are age-restricted. We enjoyed the childless dining experience for reasons I mentioned in my food post earlier.

The pools
We loved the pools!! Our favorite one was in the Caribbean Village. It was quieter and had a nice little grotto that we could hide in. Brianna had a blast with that as we reminisced about her and her Dad’s childhood game of pool Mermaid. The pool at the Italian Village was loud and busy. It is where the main pool activities occur. Things like water yoga, games, and foam parties. We managed to swim in many of the 10 pools and most of them had swim-up bars. The drinking age in Turks is 18 so our newly HS-graduated 18-year-old College Student had fun with that. They are pretty strict, however. If she did not have her ID with her and we were not there to OK it..they would not serve her. There were plenty of pool chairs and only once did we have trouble finding a set of 3. We did notice that on some days towels did run out by the late afternoon.

The activities
So much to do that we didn’t get to fit it all in. Pool tables, game room, croquet, shuffleboard, tennis, Xbox lounge, and daily pool activities.

Water sports
So much is included here. We took the glass bottom boat trip. Didn’t see a whole lot of fish, but was still a fun couple of hours. Brian and Brianna took the sailboats out. We snorkeled a few times (my new favorite thing). Brianna wants to scuba dive next time we are there (Beaches will teach you..all complimentary). We also didn’t try the Aquatrikes..but next time!

The Ocean
OMG…the best!! The sand was so silky and smooth. The water is colors of blue that are just beautiful. We had a couple of days where we just floated around in the ocean for hours and hours. The water is so clear that we could see the little fish swimming around us. We took some shrimp tails out one day (leftover from our lunch) and fed the fish that gathered. A couple of them were quite large. Don’t forget to pack a couple of floaties with you. Floating around on them was one of my favorite things.

The Staff
The staff was exceptional here. Always willing to go out of their way to help you out.

There was entertainment every night. The performers do a great job here. Being a family resort the entertainment is PG. Do not miss the Poolside Fantasy Show….so good!!

Amy Smith

Amy Smith

Travel Planner

Hi! I am Amy Smith from Lima, New York and a travel Planner with Living With The Magic Vacations.  My first visit to Walt Disney World was as a young adult.  I will never forget the magic of that very first trip!  Since then I have visited Walt Disney World more than 20 times, spending a week or more at each visit.  Taking my children year after year has given our family memories that we will cherish forever! I have experienced Disney with young children, teens, and young adults. My husband and I have  recently visited without our children, giving us a more romantic getaway.  Over the years I have learned many tips and tricks that have helped our family get the most out of our Disney vacation, including resort, park, fastpass, and dining tips.  Disney has changed and grown and I have grown with it.  I look forward to hearing about your family’s wishes for a Magical Disney vacation and helping you create your own lasting memories!

Icon of the Seas

Icon of the Seas

I am so excited to introduce you to Royal Caribbean’s newest ship…Icon of the Seas! This innovative new ship is coming to us in 2024, with bookings opening up on 10/25! Don’t miss out on everything this spectacular ship has to offer!
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This is more than a vacation upgrade. It’s the best family vacation in the world. Introducing the new  Icon of the Seas — a first-of-its-kind Royal Caribbean® adventure where you’ll have the time of your life, multiple times a day. Let your adrenaline surge at the largest waterpark at sea, pick from seven unique pools to satisfy any mood, and fuel bolder bonding at SurfsideSM, the ultimate stay-all-day family neighborhood right onboard. And delight your appetite with 40 ways to dine and drink. This is the Icon of Vacations — arriving early 2024.
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Take your best-ever vacation experience and crank it up — way up. This is a whole new class of adventure. Test your courage and brave six record-breaking slides at Category 6, the largest waterpark at sea. Conquer your fears at the  Crown’s Edge, a test of bravery suspended high above the ocean. And discover adventure for all ages at  Surfside , an entire neighborhood that opens the floodgates on family fun.
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Save room for some extra splash because this adventure has an all-you-can-swim buffet of pools to plunge into. Take your pick of seven different pools, plus nine whirlpools, all with next-level ocean views. Like The Hideaway, the first suspended infinity pool at sea, or Cloud 17SM, your adults-only poolside oasis in a new stratosphere of chic. Find frozen cocktails on tap at The Lime and Coconut® bar spanning multiple levels, or dive into the largest swim-up bar at sea, Swim & Tonic.
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Technology and artistry merge on the new Icon of the SeasPerched at the crown of the ship, the shimmering AquaDome is a first-of-its-kind space that opens up a world of possibilities. From performances that push the bounds of bravery beneath a towering waterfall to gourmet grazing and mixology magic against a background of wraparound ocean views. And bold feats unleashed at Absolute Zero our biggest ice arena ever, where high-resolution digital projections from ceiling to rink instantly transform everything around you from one moment to the next.
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Bring the whole family onboard to discover new room layouts that give everyone their own space to hang, like Family Infinite Ocean View Balconies or Surfside Family Suites. Or upgrade to upscale from a selection of elevated accommodations, including the new Sunset Suites and Infinite Grand Suites. For the most over-the-top VIP stay, the Ultimate Family Townhouse maximizes your family vacation on three different levels with an in-suite slide, cinema and a private patio with exclusive entrance to Surfside.For reservations and information on the best vacation ever, contact us today. Icon of the Seas sets sail in 2024!
Bucket List Experiences for the Entire Family

Bucket List Experiences for the Entire Family

Deluxe Travel Experiences Your Kids (and you) Will Never Forget

What’s on your family’s bucket list? Maybe you’ve got a snapshot of the African plains stuck to your fridge, or you collectively dream of a trip to Italy during your weekly pizza nights. Whatever and wherever those travel dreams take you, I’m here to tell you to make it happen! 

While traveling with kids poses unique challenges, the rewards far outweigh the difficulties, and you’ll be talking about your family’s big trip for years to come. Stuck on ideas? Here are a few of my favorite bucket list experiences that the whole family will love. 

Visiting an Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand

Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand is an ethically run sanctuary with over 75 elephants who have been rescued from exploitative tourism or being abused for labor. The elephants roam free alongside a menagerie of other animals, including cats, dogs, horses, warthogs, water buffalo, and more. 

Visitors to the sanctuary have a few options, with both single-day and overnight stays available. Volunteers (aka visitors) help prepare fruits and vegetables for the elephants, as well as food for the other animals. 

Making Pizza in Italy

Countless Pizzaiolo’s (pizza chefs) reside in Italy, and the quest to create the perfect pie is an honorable obsession among them. From visiting family-run wineries before kneading your dough to learning the ins and outs of gelato making (because what goes better with pizza than gelato?) the options for an Italian cooking class are endless. 

The best classes, however, have a limited size (go for private if you can!), use fresh local ingredients, and are often taught right in the chef’s own kitchen. 

Riding the Rails Through the Rockies 

Do you have a family full of train enthusiasts? If so, a scenic journey on the Rocky Mountaineer through Canada’s Rocky Mountains is in order! Beginning in Banff, Alberta, explore one of Canada’s most famed National Parks before heading west to Jasper, where you’ll board your train. 

Expect quintessential Canadian vistas to pass you by, all while enjoying the comforts and gourmet fare of your first-class Gold Leaf dome train. The clear glass walls and roof provide stunning views of the Continental Divide, the river valleys of the Monashee and Cariboo Mountains, and Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the Rockies. Continue west, and witness the landscape shift to more desert-like conditions, before lush vegetation reappears and you arrive in Vancouver, British Columbia. 

Counting the Big 5 on Safari 

Gracing the bucket lists for travelers of all ages, an African safari in Kenya delivers thrill and adventure in a spectacular setting. Located in East Africa and bordering the Masa Mara National Park, renowned for its rich wildlife and annual Great Migration.

Visit a giraffe sanctuary in Nairobi before heading to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy – with some of the best wildlife viewing on the continent. Learn Swahili from the locals, explore in a bush plane, or ride a camel across the plains. A highlight of a Kenyan safari is a visit to the Masai Mara National Reserve, where if you haven’t yet – you’ll be able to cross all of the Big Five off your list through wildlife watching and nature walks with expert guides.   

My personal bucket list item includes visiting the gorgeous blue and white rooftops of Greece and getting to see all the amazing art and architecture that I’ve been reading about since I was a child. Once I’ve left Greece, I’d love to sail over to Italy and visit some of the towns were my ancestors came from, make pasta from scratch and of course, enjoy some Italian wine!

Are you ready to start planning your family’s dream trip? Reach out to our expert travel planners today to learn how we can help you achieve these travel bucket list ideas and more!

Come Visit Jamaica

Come Visit Jamaica

Allow me to re-introduce myself!

My name is Megan Keebaugh and I’m the Lead Travel Agent and Manager at Living with the Magic Vacations… and I specialize in Family Travel! 

What exactly does that mean? I help busy parents plan their all-important vacations. Whether it be a vacation with the kids, a couples trip with just the two of you so you can relax and reconnect, a Moms only weekend getaway, or a vacation with the entire family (Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, and cousins).  I take care of all the planning so all you have to do is show up and create memories with each other! 

As a Travel Agent, it is my job to keep up to date with all the latest news and updates in the travel industry as well as cultivate personal relationships with our suppliers and preferred resorts! 

This past week I had the opportunity to meet with the Jamaica Tourist Board along with representatives from some wonderful resorts located throughout Jamaica! How does this help you, my clients? Well, when you book your Jamaica vacation with me I already know who to reach out to and let them know you are a client of mine and I have the direct contact information to the resort managers of these resorts in case you need any assistance once you arrive! 

Check Out Some of these amazing resorts that are ready to welcome you to Jamaica!