ORLANDO: Family Fun Abounds Near Orlando Hotels
If wild animals, fun-filled theme parks, lush tropical nature and Mickey Mouse appeal, then booking a hotel in Orlando is a must. With good weather conditions year-round and several of the globe's greatest themed entertainment opportunities, Orlando leaves visitors captivated by its manmade glitz.
When to visit based on priceThe best time to visit Orlando is whenever school is session, because this is a family destination, and that’s when families come. That means plan on visiting between January and March, when the little ones are in school.
Key attractions and having FunThere are so many world famous attractions and theme parks in Orlando area that it’s difficult to know where to start. The truth is, plunk yourself in Orlando and you are guaranteed not to be bored.
Universal Studios is a major draw, with so many different experiences for your pleasure. Where else in the world can you actually star in a Star Wars Adventure movie? If you go, plan to be there when the gates open, and go right to your favorite adventure, before the crowds get there and lines get ridiculous.
Disney World goes without saying is the largest draw in Orlando, with multiple adventures to explore. There’s fun and adventure for all ages, from It’s a Small World which has been bringing smiles to little kiddies for years, to Space Mountain, a ride that can still whiten most faces. Plan more than one day at Disneyworld if possible, because one is never enough.
Then there’s Sea World, where you get to cool off as you are splashed by the dolphins in the show. If you plan ahead and see if you can get a reservation, you can actually get an “in the water tour and swim with Dolphins at Discovery Cove.
If your there in the heat, you may just want to spend a day at a water park. We have just the thing, at the Orlando Wet N Wild Waterpark. One of the best and most fun “rides” in the waterpark is in the “Bubba Tub”.
Another fun adventure that’s sure to pump up your blood pressure Dad is Orlando’s Gatorland Adventure. You actually can latch up to a Zip Line and soar above the alligator breeding marsh containing well over a hundred live toothy jaws just waiting for you to fall. If you’re really brave, how about signing up for “Trainer for a day”? Get “hands on” time with live gators.
If you have ever dreamed of squeezing into a formula one race car and speeding around the racetrack in Daytona, well here is your chance to try. The Richard Petty Driving Experience at Disneyland just might fit the bill, and the seat. With a bit of training you will soon find yourself in the seat of a six hundred-horse power Formula One NASCAR. Zip around the track at speeds up to 100 MPH or more as your wife (or husband) takes a video of a lifetime.
ShoppingIf you need a little shopping time there are multiple options available to you in Orlando. You can find designer brands and many well-known stores at The Mall at Millenia as well as the Florida Mall.
If you’re seeking top designers and exciting fashions, then it’s off to International Drive and Orlando’s Premium Outlet Stores.
Keep in mind that you will have plenty of opportunities for vacation shopping on Main Street, Disneyworld and also Universal Studios. You might even get on the plane home with a new set of “ears”.
NearbyNot far from Orlando, the 450-year-Old city of St. Augustine is quite refreshing after a few days of nothing but busy in Orlando. Stroll the quiet historic streets; sip morning coffee with fresh baked croissants and other baked goods. You’ll find some awesome little boutique stores to wander through. And of course, if you still need a beach fix, you will find over forty miles of beautiful sandy beach.
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International Palms Resort OrlandoWhen it comes to value, nothing beats the International Palms Resort in Orlando. With prices under $100/night and a location only a half hour from Disney, you can't go wrong with your stay here....ViewRooms from$59.00
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Local expert's tips
Visit the Orlando Theme Parks this year “on the cheap”!
One key to mega discounts is open to those visiting from Canada, with both SeaWorld and Disney offering special discounts for you many times during the year. Canadian or U.S. can always get a good deal if you plan on what major theme parks you want to spend your days in. Purchasing your tickets ahead of your visit offers you a discount on those tickets. Do this and you can walk past the hundreds of visitors who don’t do this, standing in line at the ticket booths?
As far as a rental vehicle, if you are planning on staying in Orlando, there is no reason to rent a car, buy insurance, gas and pay for parking, ever. In fact, from the time you walk off the plane, you can use public transportation to your hotel, if it doesn’t offer a free shuttle. Many hotels offer free shuttles to Disney, Universal and others, or there’s trams, busses etc.
Make sure you check with your hotel desk, and the rag sheets in lobby, for discount food, and especially, “kids eat free” deals at local restaurants. If you were lucky with your hotel choice, you will at least get a free hot full breakfast included with your room. Eat big and it will last you well into the day, when you can open a bag of snacks and “munch for lunch”!
Now careful planning ahead of your visit can save you a bunch of money when you are inside the major theme parks, where everything costs more. A tube or can of sunscreen can cost you up to $20 or more, bottle of Tylenol $10, package of Band-Aids? Don’t even ask. Something else to pack and bring are zip lock baggies, great for filling for the kids from that mega bag of chips you pick up at local store.
Make sure everyone has a backpack when you arrive, complete with a metal or plastic drunk container. In park restaurants offer re-fill stations where you can fill with ice, water or all day with pop if you pay for one drink.
The big saving on food budget, is eat a big and hopefully “free” breakfast, carry snacks for during the day in the park, and don’t eat dinner inside the park! Instead, wait until you get back to your hotel, and find one of those restaurants offering, “kids eat free”, and you eat big. In fact, many places offer large enough portions that you and your spouse might just split one meal.
More Vacation Tips for a successful Orlando Vacation 2017
The convenience of being able to beat the lines, stay in the park later, and use a monorail instead of shuttle isn’t always in your best interest. Instead, check deals and rates at hotels outside the park, as many offer free shuttles to parks, breakfast and more to offset costs. Also, the only reason you actually need a rental car is if you plan day trips out of the area. Shuttle services, cabs and busses will cost mush less than that rental, gas and parking. That being said, if you need a rental car, shops around for the best deal before you arrive, including a rental pick up at your hotel or nearby.
Hot Tip: Fill your gas tank well before the gas stations nearest to the Orlando International Airport and save close to $2 per gallon.
Whether you drove your own vehicle to Orlando or rented one, its easy to get excited as you get close to you destination park in Orlando, and feel the need to “step on it”! Curb you enthusiasm and obey the posted speed limits, because Orlando Police are looking for you, the tourist, thru the lens of a radar gun. Keep in mind that when the court date comes up, you will be back home, which means you will certainly just pay it instead of getting it reduced, and these fines are hefty. The last thing that you want to do on your Orlando vacation is to just walk up with the family at the entrance booth and pay “full price” for everyone. There is no reason you can’t go online in advance and get yourself good discounts on admissions ahead of your visit. You will be amazed at the long lines of people standing in that line as you breeze through in the advanced ticket booth. That being said, aren’t you glad you read this tip here?
If you can find a good deal on a hotel where they offer a hot breakfast as part of the deal, especially if a vacationing family, that’s the best way to save a ton of money. Take full advantage and eat large, so it will last well into the day. That way you can enjoy a light meal in the park, like Disney or Universal, not spending a bunch on a regular meal. By doing this, you can hold off for dinner out of the park, in a reasonable restaurant. These words of advice will save you a bunch of money if you follow them.
Keep in mind that both Disney and Universal have water coolers located throughout the park. They both also have restaurants where you can get free re-fills on beverages. What that can do for you, id provide unlimited drinks, if you think ahead. By packing a backpack with snacks, along with insulated water bottles, you have bottomless supply. Include powdered drink mixes and you can save bucks on soft drinks. The snacks can provide energy as well as fill you up at lunchtime.
Here is a hot tip for those who are AAA Members. Universal Studios restaurants offer a 10% discount on food if you can show that card.
Any way you can save money, especially on food is key to staying on budget. Keep in mind that if you say purchase a coke, hot dog and ice crème, it will run you about $20 in the theme parks.
Another savings is to decide on what parks you plan to visit, and if possible, purchase multi-day passes. By doing this you will save a bundle.
Keep in mind in your transportation expenses, that Disney now charges $20 per day to park in their lot. Hopefully your hotel has a shuttle, or maybe try Uber and spend less, with the bonus of being dropped off at the gate.
Orlando Tips and Tricks for your 2017 Vacation
The fact is if you have never visited major theme parks like Universal Studios and Disney in Orlando, but only watched TV commercials, your in for a big surprise. These parks a mega, in fact, Disney is actually the size of a city and could easily have multiple zip codes!
The first thing you need to know is you basically have two seasons in Orlando, summer and winter. Packing correctly is everything and will mean the difference between being prepared, and busting your budget shopping for this you didn’t bring. Take for instance even during summer months, when the sun goes down in that theme park, and everyone else is dragging sweatshirts out of backpacks. Yes, this does happen, I know from experience, and let me tell you, there are no cheap sweatshirts in the Disney Store! You can look and look, no “sale rack”, and you can easily spend hundreds of dollars for your family.
Basic things you need to pack and bring are “moisture wicking shirts”, like those from Excel or Under Armour. These will help you stay cool and light during warm weather. Comfortable sandals or flip-flops are essential along with shorts. And bathing suits that can be worn as shorts, and great if you make a quick decision to hit a water park. Another “must bring” is really good, high SPF sunscreen, especially for being in the water. Besides that you should bring something with you that works well on the inevitable sunburn, especially for children. Of course you need to be sensible, and bring hats for everyone, as well as another must for Florida weather, the umbrella. If you get the compact telescoping ones they will stow away in your backpack for that sudden shower.
Other things to keep in a backpack are, lip balm, Band-Aids, and spare sunglasses. As far as sunglasses, you should try purchasing polarized featured glasses, so you don’t get the glare. Also consider an external charger for you smartphone or camera.
One of the biggest ways to save money, and one often ignored, is buying your entry tickets to Disney, Universal and other parks “on-line” well in advance. Your budget as well as your time will love you for it. As you walk past the long lines at the gates, and breeze through the “already have tickets” line, just know that you are way ahead of them, and they are paying “full price”.
Another major decision you need to make well in advance is whether to stay within a park or not. Choosing to stay within a park will be more expensive than out of park hotels. That being said, you will beat the entry crowds, get to events and attractions first, and get to stay in park after hours, and not need a car or pay parking fees. Staying outside parks you will need some sort of transportation to attractions, with car you pay about $14 day parking, and you fight traffic. Of course, you can get great hotel rates, have a large selection and price ranges of restaurants, not just “in-park” expensive meals. Also, many outside the park offer free shuttles to and from parks. You can also find suite restaurants that offer free breakfast and evening “happy hour” to chill after a rough day in the heat and crowds.
Taking heed of these suggestions and tips, as well as asking friends and relatives what they would have done differently, or brought with them, will only gain you that wonderful Orlando experience. Remember, heaven or hell, the blame will be on you.
What’s new and exciting in Orlando’s Disney World for 2017?
Another highly anticipated theme park opening May 2017 is the “Pandora-the World of Avatar”. Who doesn’t want to experience “floating mountains”, and floating down a rainforest river in bioluminescent environments? Better than that, how about soaring through the skies over Pandora on a flying banshee?
One of the things most visitors complain about is the busy restaurants, and lack of places for adult beverages. We can tell you that is about to change. Early this year “The Polite Pig” will open, featuring wood-fired foods and craft beers or fancy cocktails. This new restaurant is located in the Town Center area of Disney Springs.
Another excellent place for adults to visit is The Edison, which as you may guess was inspired by “Mr. Electric” Tom. It resembles an old power plant, but inside offers live entertainment, a cabaret with live music, and a full menu of food and cocktails.
The old Fulton’s Crab House is re-opening with a change of venue, now named Paddlefish, featuring Maine Lobster, and other seafood’s, served in a “yacht designed establishment”.
Lastly for a “room with a view” you should check out the new rooftop observatory on top of Planet Hollywood. the updated restaurant now enjoys the culinary arts of Guy Fieri and his sandwiches and burgers. You just can’t beat the view especially after dark.
Opening mid-year, the hottest new themed-waterpark will open, Universals Volcano Bay. How cool will it be to raft down the river with an “active” volcano looming overhead, or hitting one of the exciting water rides or wave pools? The best feature in our opinion is the wearable TapuTapu, which serves, as your tire tube usually carried around, and also, no waiting lines.
The first LEGOLAND that opened years ago in Carlsbad, California has inspired yet another destination to open another park. LEGALAND NINJAGO and the partner LEGALAND Beach Retreat opened early this year and is already a big hit. What could be more exciting to the little ones than Ninja Lego’s?
Of course SeaWorld Orlando also have some exciting upgrades to keep you coming back. Their Dolphin Nursery was re-designed for more of an up close and personal atmosphere for visitors. You get to see the care given to the new mothers and their babies. Also, a spectacular evening event worth waiting for starts soon, the Electric Ocean, showering everyone in music and bioluminescence.
And then of course a new thrilling coaster, the Kraken Virtual Reality Roller Coaster.
With this ride you will put on a Virtual Reality Headset, and experience some very exciting and spectacular scenes and creatures, without moving a foot.
Already construction has started on new theme rides and parks for 2018 and 2019, so keep in touch and we will explore them for you future visits.
Local Tips will save you money on your Orlando Vacation
Dragging a family with kids that aren’t tall enough for rides, and getting them upset, might find you leaving the park without a refund. The same goes for one of the most popular theme parks, the Magic Kingdom. If you as adults or if traveling with teenagers, pay the entrance fee for Magic Kingdom thinking there’s plenty of fun for you for the day, will be surprised and disappointed. Again, you could soon realize that this park has nothing for you, and leave. A much better choice for you would be Epcot, which completely caters to adult visitors.
Money saving tip: Bring in your own empty drink container. Don’t pay for water bottles, especially in Disney where free ice water is available throughout the park.
Of all the major theme parks, if you are looking for something that caters to all ages, you would be pretty safe hitting Animal Kingdom and the Disney Studios, which are full of shows and adult, rides.
As far as the popular theme parks go, one of the best tips locals will tell you are, don’t pay full entrance ticket price at the gate. They know because more often than not, they bring may relatives and friends to these parks. They will tell you, instead purchase your entry tickets ahead of time, online..
Another awesome place in Orlando as many other tourist destinations in the U.S., are the local rag sheets found in the hotel lobby as well as in boxes on the main streets. Coupons within these can be found for attractions, restaurants and much more. You can also find local happy hours, buffets and other places to save money.
As far as choosing your hotel, of course, staying in a theme park hotel within that park puts you at an advantage. You won’t need a vehicle and have shuttle or transportation available to you. You will however pay more for that luxury than you will at many hotels along International Drive. You can check at the time of reservation to see if the hotel offers free shuttle services to the main resorts. Also, the I-Ride Trolley runs the entire length of International Drive with many stops at the hotels and attractions.
Another major advantage for your budget if you choose to stay along International Drive, if food! You will have many options in price range with restaurants along the popular “Restaurant Row”. If you must eat in the theme parks, most portions are massive, so why not split a meal?
Helpful meal tip: Eat a mega meal for breakfast before hitting the parks, and take snacks to curb hunger, and then dine out of the park for dinner.
New and Exciting in Orlando for 2017 Vacations
Another addition to the World of Disney and Typhoon Lagoon is Miss Fortune Falls, a new family-style adventure ride, longer than any other.
Not to be left out in gathering excitement for the New Year, the Universal Orlando Resort has added to its amenities too. 2017 will bring the grand opening of its Volcano Bay, exclusive new water park. You’ve never experienced anything like this, with some thrilling attractions, incredible wave action, and brand new technology that all but eliminate lines and use of tubes for rides.
Not to be left out of the exciting New Year, or ability to attract the kiddies, LEGOLAND is offering some new and exciting attractions too. Of note is the Lego Ninjago World, featuring an interactive ride, in the dark, where you can blast fire, ice and lightning, with hand gestures. LEGOLAND is also planning to open their own “Beach Retreat” by mid-year.
If you are a big fan of roller coasters, then you will want to check out the new exciting ride at SeaWorld. Appropriately named “The Krakan”, as you would remember from “The Pirates” movies, takes you to a new level of fantasy. This is Florida’s only “virtual reality” roller coaster. If you have never experienced one of these, you are actually stationary, and yet you experience movement, dips, spins and everything exciting about roller coasting.
And then there are the sea creatures!
It also appears that all the theme parks are getting into the world of bioluminescent lighting, but who more appropriate than SeaWorld, right? So at the end of your day, as dusk arrives, SeaWorld’s “Electric Ocean” transforms the park into a glowing underwater world of sea creatures.
And then there is something especially geared for the little ones in your family. SeaWorld’s Dolphin Nursery opens in 2017, and offers something special to the children. This attraction will offer above the water and below, observing the parks baby dolphins and their nursing Mom’s. This is geared towards both educational and fun for all little ones.
What’s New and Exciting in Orlando for 2016?
In contrast, Epcot will be offering a new and more relaxed adventure with their “Frozen Ever After” boat ride located within the Norway pavilion. This attraction is based on the new Disney animated children’s movie. Offering all the new cutting edge light and sound technology one would expect from Disney, expect plenty of “ah’s” from your little ones.
Universal Studios will be opening their newest attraction, guaranteed to bring screams to your throats and your but to the edge of your seats. Skull Island, Rein of KONG that has been created in a joint venture between Disney and Nintendo is guaranteed to be the attraction of the year. Your journey will take you through the world of King Kong and trust us; you will be meeting the “The King” up close and personal. But wait, it’s not just about King Kong! Before you have the opportunity to meet him, your nerves will be tested on your journey through the islands jungles and dangerous creatures residing there.
At the Universal Orlando Resort, the studio is working on a new attraction called Volcano Bay that is slated to open early 2017, but could open in 2016, hopefully. The giant volcano spewing water from the top like lava will cascade down into the pool creating waves for young and old to play in. All we can say is there is always a good reason for another water park in the Orlando area, especially within the park.
Walt Disney World has been working to transform the Downtown Disney into what’s called Disney Springs. This new area will have twice the shops, restaurants and other attractions for visitors to browse about. It basically will be a sort of Disney themed mall of America.
We can give you one super tip when planning to visit this new area, and that’s the opening of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s new restaurant within it. The Chef will be opening his newest restaurant, a 2-story 36 foot high structure that included open terraces, private rooms, cocktail lounge and of course, “waterslide seating”.
Well, what can we say, it is located within a theme park in Orlando.
Spend less on that Orlando, Florida vacation this year
Where you decide to stay in Orlando will definitely affect your budget. Staying inside one of the parks like one of the three hotels in Universal Studios or Walt Disney World, you won’t really need transportation and or pay for parking. A super plus if staying inside Universal at one of their hotels, you also get “head of the line passes”!
Guests staying in Disney World can take advantage of special hours for different attractions during special hours, just for them.
Another super way to save some money is by getting a free Orlando Magicard before you arrive. You can check out the mega list of places and services that offer discounts, and you will save money. This is a good service to check out while in your planning stage because some events, and parks require advanced reservations to get the discount.
Another source for discounts is the “Go Orlando Card” which is quite similar. Although it costs a bit it is well worth it for the discounts you receive on up to fifty attractions.
If you aren’t staying in one destination resort, and are planning to visit others be sure to check out the I-Ride Trolley. This super mode of transportation has scheduled pickups along its route along International Drive. It can take you to any of the hundreds of destinations in the area. One single fare is only $1, and there are also special package prices available. This is a real cost savings for family’s vacation in just this area, because you don’t really need a rental vehicle or parking fees. Keep in mind that this trolley runs from 8:30 in the morning until 9 PM at night, so you will have to plan accordingly.
To even spend less than you would on the Trolley, you can also take the LYMMO, which is a FREE, bus traveling in a large three mile loop covering the whole downtown area. Transportation can eat up a whole bunch of money, and a vacation destination with everything you want to see, do and eat this close, why not us public transportation, and save that money for a Minnie Mouse Doll?
Orlando Summer Vcation - Local expert's money saving tips!
One of the best things you can do besides the obvious in Orlando with your young children is take them to the Downtown Disney Marketplace. Wait! Take the kids to a market? Relax; it’s not just a marketplace, although there are great things for you adults there too. But also located here is the LEGO Imaginations Center. Have your camera at the ready as you approach this magical bright store, because your children’s eyes with light up as they see the large purple dragon at the entrance.
Whether your child is pre-school or still living their life as a child at 30, there’s something for everyone. Kids build Lego cars and race, build and play with all things Lego. All that activity and entertainment, and it’s free.
For the whole family, there’s the excitement of Cirque Du Soleil where you all get to hold your breath in anticipation of what’s to come.
There are lots of daily free shows for children at the DJ Kids Dance Party at Waterside Stage, adults at the Raglan Road Live Music-Patio Stage or the adult club at Paradise 37 Entertainment.
Another inexpensive attraction to visit, and almost a “must do” is Florida’s famous Gatorland. You’ll experience hundreds of these nightmare producing ancient creatures, from little “cute” babies for monsters over 20 feet long. You can actually take a Zip-line over a alligator pit is you dare. And the best part is admission can be had with discounts for only $9.99.
A really cooling and relaxing way to end a perfect day, is to grab a coffee or cold drink and visit the Lake Eola Fountain between 8 PM and 9:30 nightly for the exciting and spectacular light show. You might even decide to have a late night picnic with you. The best part is it’s free.
If the summer sun is getting a bit much and you are seeking some indoor activities, we have an excellent suggestion for you, the Orlando Science Center. Here you can explore four floors of exciting exhibits, some with giant screen movies. If you’re lucky enough your family might catch one of the live demonstrations in the Digital Adventure Theater. You also have an opportunity to visit outer space in the Crosby Observatory, where live programs for kids can lead to a career in space exploration.
There is a small charge for admission, but many times they offer free admission. It’s quite the experience and well worth a few dollars.
Check out these free activities in greater Orlando, Florida
The entire market is inside and air cooled for your comfort, and also offers fifteen choices for lunch. Free parking and free admission will start your adventure, and guys, there’s beer on draft to help you relax with Mom “shops till she drops”. Now just to ease you mind, this isn’t your average flea market, offering junk, but one offering booths selling AVON at discount prices, Discount Cellular, multiple pet stores, Graphic Design stores and more.
To make it more of a complete day adventure on a weekend, there’s also a surprise for the kids. Funworld is there too, offering magic acts, acrobatic shows and even a circus.
Take a day trip to beautiful Lake Jesup for a day on the water. While there visit Black Hammock Adventures on Fish Camp Road and check out their airboats while you enjoy the free wildlife show. Featuring alligators, Gold & Blue Macaws, a bull python and turtles. And for that special “selfie” for you and the kids, get your picture taken holding a 3-foot alligator. You also will see up close and personal during the show, “Hammy” their 12-foot alligator.
Interesting note: Lake Jesup is famous for having the largest alligator population of any lake in Florida. Let’s go swimming?
Black Hammock also offers great opportunity for lunch or dinner on the lake, known for having the best fried gator tail in town, and the Lazy Gator Bar and Tiki Bar, both with super happy hours if you adults get thirsty. If the airboats become to exciting to pass up on, it’s still a lot cheaper than admission to other attractions, and well worth it. Just be sure to have your camera ready for that alligator shot of a lifetime.
Take a day trip for an afternoon on a beautiful and quiet beach in the Canaveral National Seashore near the Kennedy Space Center. This trip can be a combination of either the Kennedy Space Center in the morning, followed by a relaxing day for you while the children play on the beach and in safe calm waters. However, there is another option for you, if the beach isn’t sounding so great.
Fort Christmas Historical Park in Christmas, Florida nearby the Space Center is a fun, interesting and learning experience for both children and adults. The park holds a complete replica of the original Fort Christmas and homes around it as they stood during the Seminole Indian Wars between 1835-1842. Your family will learn the history of the Indian wars, as well as what life was like for these early settlers and soldiers.
If you plan your day ahead, bring a picnic lunch or burgers or hot dogs and cooler of beverages along. The park offers three large pavilions and barbeque grills, water and electric outlets. Nearby is a play area with a wooden fort, swings and activities for the youngsters.
If you just can’t get the kids away from the lights, glitter and pizzazz of Walt Disney World, maybe you can at least get some relief from the high costs of being inside it for a half-day, or all day? We’re talking about Disney’s BoardWalk, which is a quarter-mile of unique shops, restaurants and nightlife. Street performers will continually entertain the children, and you can show them how to play the exciting midway games.
Disney’s idea here was to create something as exciting as Atlantic City or the old time Coney Island New York that has entertained the ages. Why, you can even rent a 4 person Surrey bike and cruise up and down the boardwalk. There are choices of sit down dining as well as less expensive grab and go food to enjoy on a bench as you people watch. The Boardwalk Bakery offers excellent sandwiches and like other boardwalks, Disney’s offers pizza slices to go at the Boardwalk Pizza Window.
To get off your feet and catch that ball game with the kids, you just might want to spend some time at the ESPN Club offering excellent food and drinks, as well as a 108-sf television screen in addition to 100 others. Ladies beware, that if you son or husband disappear to the rest room for to long, there are televisions mounted in those as well!