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
We 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.
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. This is currently at $50 per bag round trip. The god news is that you can pay for this at any time up to the trip.
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. 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!
So far we are very satisfied with the planning we've accomplished. There are still many details to go through. Still, we've hit a few big milestones. We've got our dates. We know what parks we are going to. And, we have the travel plans set. Having these out of the way will make things easier. Hopefully the rest of our planning continues to be as smooth! 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?