Jennifer CampbellDestination: Summer!

As families close the book on another school year and – suntan lotion in hand – start checking their calendars to make summer plans, we receive lots of calls from parents looking for great getaway ideas. My answer today is Orlando. There has never been a better time to visit Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and all things magical … and you can leave your flying carpet and magic wand behind.

For starters, Disney has never been more affordable – a family of four can enjoy a week’s vacation on property with Park Hopper passes for less than $2,500 (cut out the Park Hopper option, and save $500). Constantly updating, Disney recently opened two new hotels on property, adding even more diversity to the existing 25 properties:

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village is an African lodge-style hotel on a 21-acre wildlife preserve, where more than 30 species of animals roam free.

The brand new Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a beautiful complement to the original Resort building.

Perfect for your teenagers, the newest offering at Disney’s MGM Studios is the American Idol Experience. Modeled after the hotter-than-ever television show, the attraction lets park guests audition and be voted on (or off!) just like the popular show. The performers who receive the most audience votes in the preliminary shows held throughout the day return to “star” in that evening’s grand finale show.

Not on property but offering complimentary, private shuttle service to the parks, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando offers the elegance and luxury of its iconic New York parent. Located on 480-plus acres in Bonnet Creek, the hotel is surrounded on three sides by Disney and is the first Waldorf Astoria to be built outside the flagship property in NYC.

Universal Orlando Resort will not be outdone, as they unveil The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on June 18. Complete with Hogwarts Castle, the village of Hogsmeade and The Owlery, the long-awaited theme park offers rides, attractions, shopping, eating and drinking all in the theme of the ubiquitous book series.

With more variety than ever, the Orlando area and the magic of Disney continues to be a rite of passage for many.  Whether you are four and meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time, or are 74 and experiencing Universal with your 10-year-old grandson, there is something for everyone.
Wherever you decide to go this summer – enjoy, relax and experience!

Jennifer Campbell is a partner and travel consultant with Explorations. Contact her at

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.