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My family arrived home at 12:30am this morning from a week-long vacation in Florida. Tired, but happy. Nope, we couldn't really afford the trip – in fact, we has originally agreed we weren't going on our annual family vacation this year. I'm so glad we changed our minds at the last minute! We shared costs by renting a big house with extended family, grocery shopped and ate in most of the time, and let the kids play in the pool for much of the trip, rather than heading out to the pricey amusement parks. Much to our delight, it was the best family vacation we've ever had. We actually had quality time together! We realized something so simple, yet very important. We don't need to 'entertain' our kids with expensive outings, restaurants, and tons of planned activities. Great news for the kids and great for us, too (the most work I did was turn the pages of a book I've been trying to read for a year while watching the kids in the pool) – and it was a lot easier on the pocketbook, too. Tips: Skip the pricey Disney parks and buy the 14-day combo pass to Seaworld and Busch Gardens – currently just $89 per person at www.seaworld.com. We went to both parks twice. One day we toured Seaworld and watched the dolphin show. The next day, after spending a leisurely day at the pool, we returned to Seaworld at 5pm for the Shamu show. We split Busch Gardens up similarly so that we spent no more than 4 hrs. at the park each day – the kids were much happier and so were we! On our last day, we went to Downtown Disney (free entry) and ate our picnic lunch, packed at home that morning, on a balcony while listening to a free concert. If you have friends or family with children your own children's age, team up and share a house. The kids keep each other entertained! I recommend www.orlando4villas.com. You can get some great deals right now…ours was a 7 bedroom with a pool and hot tub, washer/dryer, etc. in a gated community called 'Emerald Island Resort', minutes from everything important in Orlando. Don't be afraid to haggle on the price! We did and it paid off. Total cost of the vacation including flights, groceries, park tickets, split house rental, parking, etc.: about $2,800 for a family of four. Value of the this special, quality time with my family? I know, I know, I shouldn't say it but I can't help myself… priceless!! I highly recommend it. Lisa

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