Getting around: You can easily spend your entire vacation at the various Disney attractions, all of which are connected by monorail, boat, trolley and bus. If you stay off-site or plan to visit any non-Disney attractions, you'll need a rental car. I got one from a locally based company called EZ Rent-a-Car (www.e-zrentacar.com) at the Orlando airport for about $25 a day, which undercut the rate that competing national companies were offering. Almost all of the hotels charge for parking; I paid $15 a day, so you might want to consider renting only for the day you'll need the car.
Lodging: There are thousands of on-site rooms, but I stayed at the recently renovated Holiday Inn Downtown Disney (www.holidayinn.com/hotels/us/en/dislb/hoteldetail?; 1-407-828-8888). The hotel is within walking distance of Downtown Disney, which is packed with restaurants and shops. It and several others are known as "good neighbor" hotels; they are on Disney property, but are not owned or managed by the company. I got a brand-new double room for about $100 per night. Most good-neighbor hotels offer transportation to various parks.
Splurge: Any trip to Disney is a splurge, but if you really want to break the bank, eat at the ultra-expensive Victoria & Albert's in the Grand Floridian resort. Children under 10 aren't allowed, and a meal will cost at least $100 per person. I opted instead for the California Grill restaurant on the 15th floor of Disney's Contemporary Resort, where there's a terrace that offers spectacular views of the nightly fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. I also splurged at Jiko on the lower level of the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It features more than 200 South African wines and an exotic menu that includes grilled ostrich and flatbreads prepared in wood-burning ovens.
Save money: Save money — and your sanity — by going off-season, generally winter and autumn, or any time that kids are in school.
More information: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com.
Getting around: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are adjacent, so you can move freely between them.
Lodging: Universal Orlando has three resorts, but there are plenty of other options nearby.
Splurge: Mythos Restaurant in the Lost Continent is in Islands of Adventure. There's a high-end Emeril Lagasse restaurant in CityWalk, Universal's answer to Downtown Disney.
Save money: A two-day, two-park pass is $120 for adults, vs. $75 for a one-day, one-park pass, and it lets you move between the two parks. Bring bottled water; it costs $2.50 inside the park.
More information: www.universalorlando.com.
WORLDS OF DISCOVERY
Getting around: You'll need a car. Discovery Cove, Sea World and Aquatica are near one another, but not close enough to walk. The other attraction, Busch Gardens, is in Tampa.
Lodging: There is no on-site lodging, but plenty of large hotels nearby.
Splurge: Discovery Cove's dolphin swim, which can cost about $100 over the price of admission, which starts at about $199 depending on demand.
Save money: Entrance to SeaWorld is $70 per person, but you can buy a multipark pass. Save 10 percent by buying tickets online. Or buy the Orlando Flex ticket. For $259 you'll get access to a variety of parks. FlexTicket Plus is $299 and includes Busch Gardens. Order tickets at www.seaworld.com.
More information: www.worlds ofdiscovery.com.