Brian, my 6-year-old, has been asking to go to the “Ninja Turtle Hotel” for about two years. He first saw it on TV, then we saw an ad on Facebook, then he made a video and entered a contest, hoping to win a trip…but just a few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to really make it happen.
The Nickelodeon Resort is a themed hotel and resort like the many other resorts down there, only this one is themed to the Nickelodeon characters. This appeals to us more than “the mouse” because he loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spongebob and Bubble Guppies. Kevin’s favorites are Sesame Street and Dr. Seuss, so my kids never request anything associated with ‘the big D.’ Nickelodeon is a much better fit for us.
I really liked our room. It had a master bedroom where Dan and I slept. Brian slept in another bedroom on the top bunk and my MIL slept on the bottom bunk. Kevin slept on the pulled-out sofa bed in the living room (his choice). We also had a small kitchenette and full bathroom. It was perfect for us.
The pool was open until 9 at night and the overall hotel quieted down soon after that. There was no excessive noise or anything disrupting our sleep. We enjoyed seeing the sliming each day at the pool. The food was decent but not too much variety. Still, it was a nice, predictable thing to come back to our room and order room service and know that the food was going to be good and fresh. We did that several nights.
Our room had a spectacular view of the main pool. The Nick Hotel is perfect in that there is enough there for kids to do that you’re not just sitting in a hotel room all day, but it’s not too much. We had 3 down days-days that we were not visiting a theme park, and even though we did activities at the hotel, it still felt like a down day. My kids need down days (me too!) and cannot just keep going and going to theme parks for 7 or 8 days straight. So on our down days we’d walk down and play miniature golf, swim and visit the mall area. Since Dan had a concussion, he was told to take it easy on Sunday (our first full day there). It was nice to have this option and not be stuck in a hotel room. We visited the breakfast buffet, then wandered the mall area to see what else was available and picked up some additional travel brochures (and then chose Kennedy Space Center for Saturday). My one disappointment was their gift shop. I really expected to be “wow’d!” and overwhelmed with TMNT and other Nickelodeon merchandise. Compared to the dozens of other themed gift shops we saw during the week, this one is disappointingly small. But, looking at it glass half-full…Brian wasn’t constantly begging me to buy him stuff there!
One of our highlights was the dinner with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That was surprisingly much better than I thought it was going to be. I thought that $33 was a high price for a pizza buffet…but we came to see the TMNT…so that is what we were going to do. So it was a very pleasant surprise to find prime rib and salmon when you are expecting pizza! (yes, there is pizza too!)
Having the kitchenette helped us save money on breakfast, snacks and beverages. Here are some other tips for family travel in Orlando, especially with special needs:
- Definitely consider what season you are going. Weather can be unbearable (heat and humidity) and crowds can be terrible. This is an expensive vacation know matter how you slice it, so you want to minimize disasters and maximize the possibility of having a good time.
- You can have an absolutely fantastic, fun, exciting and memory-filled vacation in Orlando without going to Disney. My kids never ask for that park and I don’t at all regret not going. In fact, I regret the day that I did send Dan and Brian there, but more on that later.
- Get a suite that has a kitchenette that will help you save money on things like bottled water, juice for kids, snacks and light breakfasts. There are plenty of local grocery stores.
- This is an expensive trip. When budgeting, know that there are elaborate and amazing gift shops EVERYWHERE. So set limits for your kids and stick to them. Set limits for yourself too, I saw tons of stuff I wanted to buy.
- Meals are more expensive. Where ever we went, prices were higher and there is like a 10-15% tax on everything.
- They have almost every chain restaurant available, so your child’s preferences can likely be accommodated and it is very easy to find an predictable meal if that is what you need. I love trying new things, but some nights the kids are too tired to be adventurous.
- Bring sunscreen and lots of it. I use spray Coppertone SPF 50 that I got at Ollie’s for $0.99–but I saw it in gift shops for $12 and up!
- There are plenty of stroller rental places, including special needs strollers. We rented a large mobility stroller for $128 for the week and it was worth every penny.
- You can go a week without a rental car, if you want to save money that way. But, you will then have to stick to the shuttle and bus schedules, so keep that in mind. Sometimes with Kevin, we need to leave in a hurry and a rental car offers that flexibility.
- Use what perks you can, as far as pre-boarding due to disabilities, discounts and other offerings for families with special needs.
- I was really pleased with the number of family restrooms around Orlando. I hope that the rest of the country catches on!
Of course you can shop around and find deals, but on average, the typical family of 4 will spend $1000 day on hotel, theme park tickets, meals and souvenirs. Yes, really. Again, going back to my first bullet point, consider the season because in peak season you could spend most of your days waiting in lines. And that is not fun!
I definitely recommend staying at the Nickelodeon Resorts and this year is their 10th anniversary.
Here is what was on our itinerary, read all the posts in the series:
- Staying at the Nick Hotel and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dinner-a great decision for accommodations
- Special Needs Travel Review of Legoland, Florida-so much to do in so little time
- Special Needs Travel Review of Universal Orlando Resort-not to be missed!
- Special Needs Travel Review: Sea World Surprises but Disney Disappoints
- Special Needs Travel Review of Kennedy Space Center-another must see!
- Our trip gets off to a rough start, but Southwest comes through!