Planning A Trip To Disney World

We have been talking for a couple of years about planning a trip to Disney World when our kids were old enough to enjoy it, and we have finally set a date and put the plans in motion.

Here are some updates:

When: Fall 2015

We are planning a trip for later in the fall.  It’s hard to imagine that we are planning something so far out, but honestly, that’s often what you have to do.

Where: Disney Property

We looked at a few options in terms of where we wanted to stay.  Our goal was to stay on Disney property.  I know many people say that renting a condo is a good way to go, but our plans are to avoid renting a car, and use the Disney transportation

Hotel: Disney or Not Disney

My wife and I took a Disney World trip in 2008, and we stayed at one of the value resorts, which is very simple.  It’s just a hotel room and not much more.  For our trip now, with two little ones, we wanted something a little bit more spacious and accommodating.  We did research and looked at two options:

  • Moderate Resort – It’s the next step up from a value resort, but not quite as luxurious (and not as pricey) as the aptly named Deluxe Resorts.  The advantages are that the transportation is included to and from the airport, the rooms are Disney themed, and they integrate within the Disney Meal Plan (more on that later).
  • Non-Disney Hotel on Disney Property – Costco offers a deal at the Swan and Dolphin hotels.  These are hotels located on Disney property, but not managed or operated by Disney.  I believe it’s run by Sheraton.  The pricing was better, but we would have to arrange our own airport transportation, the rooms weren’t Disney themed, and many people via travel site reviews indicated that the hotels are worn down.

In the end we decided to stay with the Moderate Resort.  Since this is a special family vacation that we won’t be likely doing but once every few years, we wanted to go for the Disney experience, and not just stay at what would likely amount to be ‘a regular old hotel’.

Where To Eat

Disney offers a meal plan that integrates with your hotel stay.  You get a sit down meal with many restaurants across all the parks and properties, you get a  counter meal, and you get a ‘snack’.  When my wife and I used this in 2008, we loved it.  Those who seem to have the greatest success are the ones who do their homework, line up where they want to stay, and make reservations as soon as possible, which we did last time and will be doing this time as well.  People who give it unfavorable reviews are often those who don’t make reservations, and then are unable to get in where they want to go, or face long lines if they just ‘show up’.  That won’t be us.

The plan isn’t cheap, but it’s nice to know that pretty much everything except alcohol and tips will be already paid for, and we want to do restaurants that the kids will enjoy.

Visiting The Disney Parks

mb-2015-02-disneyWe will be getting a park pass for a few days, and will be planning our trips to spend time at each park (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Adventures, and Animal Kingdom).  Disney offers a park hopper option where you can go to multiple parks on the same day, but it’s pretty expensive (it would work out to be $216 for our family of four).  We are not buying that up front, but the nice thing is that should we desire it, you can add it on for no additional cost at any time during your stay.

By booking early, we’ll be able to start looking at parks we want to go to, and on what day, and actually getting fast passes for various rides and attractions, I think 60 or 90 days in advance.  It’s amazing to me the amount of up front planning that you have to do, but they really seem to have streamlined the process and made it so that if you do the planning up front, you can spend more time enjoying the time while you’re there, versus having to worry about what you’re going to do next.

All Of This Is Already In Motion

We were referred to a travel agent who specializes in Disney World trips, and have put a deposit down to work with her.  The great thing is that the deposit is minimal ($200), and if we change our mind up until a few weeks before, all we lose is the deposit.

One thing we learned is that with Disney World, travel agents don’t get any real breaks in pricing.  This is different than when we used one during our 2007 Hawaii honeymoon planning, and the prices we got for many of the attractions and activities were cheaper than if we’d booked them ourselves.  But, there are advantages to using an agent:

  • The aforementioned ability to put a smaller deposit down
  • One-stop shopping.
  • Discount opportunities.  We are purposefully going during a slower time of the year.  As such, the parks and resorts are typically less booked, so Disney will often offer specials to attract more visitors. Sometimes they’ll discount or throw in the meal plan, or offer a particular resort type for a lower cost.  Our travel agent doesn’t get discounts, but they do get all notifications of such specials as they are announced, and if she sees any that would be advantageous to us, she will immediately make changes on our behalf, the same morning that she gets the discount information.

Travel

One thing that we aren’t using the travel agent for is travel.  We are planning on flying, and are pretty close to booking our tickets. The round trip tickets, as of the most recent check, are around $320 each. Price research shows that this is about the best we can expect to pay.  We just need to finalize the dates and book the tickets.  We will also have to factor in costs for luggage, currently at $50 per bag round trip, but you can pay for this at any time up to the trip.

Budget

I’ve mentioned in the past that my wife started an etsy shop a little over a year ago, and she’s been doing very well.  She designs digital invitations, wall art, and other material that can then be printed by the customer.  She’s been dedicating a majority of her income toward our family trip, so when we last crunched the numbers, the money is there for our trip.  This is great that paying for it is one less thing to worry about!

Overall

So far we are very satisfied with the planning we’ve accomplished.  There are still many details to go through, but committing to the dates and the park, and the travel are really big milestones that we’ve hit well in advance.  Hopefully the rest of our planning continues to be as smooth, and I’m confident that we will have a great trip!

Readers, have you planned a Disney vacation over the last couple of years?  Did you find that more planning up front led to less worries and more fun while there?

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10 thoughts on “Planning A Trip To Disney World

  1. The cool thing about Disney tickets is that the more days you buy they cheaper the actual ticket becomes. When we went the first time we knew we’d be returning again in a few years. So we bought an 8-day ticket with a no expiration option. Used 4 the first trip and 4 on the second.

  2. I am fortunate to live about an hour from Disneyland, although I have not been there in many years. It has become so expensive ($100 each), it is literally an event. I understand that when you stay at Disneyland Hotel you can return the next day for the same one day ticket price.

  3. We have been looking at a Disney Vacation and boy it’s not cheap. I have been there several times and a word of advice….stay at the premium hotels in the Park. I’m cheaper than most BUT I stayed at “Wilderness Lodge”….it’s wonderful….and DD2 still remembers the morning we got up early and went to the pool to swim. While in the pool we were joined by a mother duck and her ducklings who swam with us. A truly majestic structure…The last time we went we stayed at Animal Kingdom….funny but one just doesn’t get used to a giraffe going by your window. Every evening we would enjoy watching the assorted animals at feeding time. The zebras and giraffes are a riot at feeding time. We watched all of this from our balcony which faced the grazing area. We had a wonderful stay. Of course the Parks are great BUT it’s so nice to come back to a really memorable place to sleep and recharge. Impeccable service at these places with excellent staff…
    I’ll tell ya…time goes fast and the kids will be grown before you know it. Take the “plunge”…if it’s an extra $100 a night….so be it…Over a life time this is pennies a day .You will never regret the experience . Bear in mind a lot of perks with the “premium Disney Hotels”…Best of luck!

    • As of now we are staying in a moderate resorts, but we have heard that they will sometimes put promos where the meal plan is discounted or free, in which case we could either pocket those savings…or use the savings to upgrade our hotel stay, as we’ve heard many of the same things.

      • My vote…stay at the nicest place you can afford. With kids…my vote goes for Animal Kingdom….a lot for the kids to see and do right at the hotel. When we go to Disney we wind up only eating two meals….big breakfast and then an early dinner. Best Deal for the $?Once I walked a small marathon to get DW a “smoked turkey leg”…for…$5…..It was delicious. Seriously the place you stay makes a big difference and as memory serves they do offer discounts from time to time on the premium places. Maybe call Disney and tell them you’d like to “move up in class” but need a little…”help”. Also give America Express a call and see if they have a “special relationship” with Disney. I know they used to…Best Wishes

  4. That sure sounds like fun! 🙂

    Gosh, but the price of those Disney parks has gone through the roof! Glad I got to go when I could still afford it!

    My mother and I used to live in Long Beach, after my father started to ship out of San Pedro. Southern California’s sole redeeming quality (IMHO) was Disneyland — Anaheim was only about a half hour or 45 minutes from where we were. In those days you paid a nominal admission and bought books of tickets that were loaded in favor of the types of rides you preferred. The parking cost more than admission, as I recall. And if you went on an overcast day, the lines were short — people would stay away if it even looked vaguely like rain.

    My mother could never have afforded to take me there at today’s prices! It would simply have been out of the question.

  5. I and my family visited Disney World just last year. It was really awesome and frugal, I must say because we stay near the park or at a value resort hotel and and we volunteered like participating in Disney World’s volunteer and group programs. So we kinda got free or reduced admission.

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