A travel journal
to Orlando by C.Kowalczik
Quote: Disney World is the most magical place on earth, but it's a great trip that some people can only afford to make once in a lifetime. Hopefully, I can give you some insight on how to save your money and make your vacation even more magical.
The best thing you can do when planning any trip is proper planning. You can make an okay experience one to remember by proper planning. I have found that the best way to plan a memorable vacation is to spend some time with a Travel Planner and let them work with you to make your trip one to remember. Most planners have either personal experience with Disney World or at least the reference material you will need to plan your trip.
I am not a certified Disney expert, but I can draw you a map of Magic Kingdom from memory on a cocktail napkin. In my 33 years of life, I have been to Disney more than 60 times, and now that I have two small children, we revisit the parks at least once a year. How do I do it you ask? I usually start by getting with a planner 8 to 10 months in advance, but I will try to explain all that inside this journal.
To make the most of your Magical Experience, you need to make a few decisions. First thing is to think about why you are going; is this a trip for your kids or is it just the two of you? Making this decision will set the pace for your vacation. Will you speed through with the goal to hit every ride and attraction, or will you take the leisurely route and find the best each park has to offer?
Either way, if you plan on visiting more than one Disney World theme park during your stay in Orlando, look into purchasing DISCOUNTED DISNEY PARK HOPPER TICKETS. These passes let you enter and leave all four parks at your leisure, and you will find it to be an invaluable option during your stay.
Transportation can differ depending on what your plans are while in the Orlando area. We like to travel around a lot, to different restaurants, theme parks, stores, what have you, so we like to rent a car. However, if you are staying in a Disney Resort and plan on having the ultimate Disney experience, you don’t need a car. The Magical Express Service will pick you and your luggage up at the airport and take you to your resort. After your vacation is complete, the service will take you back for your flight home. Inside this journal, I will give you some more options within your budget.
I want to begin by saying that you can spend hours of your own time researching and booking your Disney vacation on your own, or you can take my advise and work with a Travel Planner and let them do the brunt of the work. They know where to look for the discounts and how to save you money; all you need to do is ask. The choice is yours to make, and I will try to give you the pros and cons of booking your vacation with a planner or on your own.
TRAVEL PLANNERChoosing a planner is the hardest part of working with one. Who do you use and trust to plan your Disney vacation? Walt Disney World has Disney-certified vacation specialists available to you 24/7 when you call 407/WDW-MAGIC, but you have to keep in mind that they are Disney and they want your money. A well-known travel agency like Liberty Travel will be more than happy to help you, but again, you have to think: How do they pay the salaries of the four people in the office? Who pays the rent and utilities? Is that a cleaning service waiting to get in a clean up for them? Sometimes there can be a lot of mark-ups when using a larger company. I know what you’re saying. You see the television commercials for Expedia and Priceline all the time. They all say they have the lowest rates, right? Sure, the rates are lower, but who does all the work? You do.
In my opinion, you are better off finding an independent travel planner or a smaller local business. They don’t have the larger overhead, so they don’t need the bigger sale. There are usually one or two planners on staff, and you are assured a level of personal attention that you deserve when planning your vacation. Don’t let the planner tell you what you will be doing on your vacation; you tell the planner what you want to do. I have had a lot of luck planning my vacations through an independent travel planner and have included a link. I have always been provided with any current brochures I’ve needed, and sometimes I even get a park map, but most importantly, I save money.
Airfare -Before I found a planner, I used to spend hours, several hours, searching the Internet looking for the best days, dates, and flight times. Although some of the bigger online engines will tell you that you can save by booking your travel together, this isn’t always the case. Research online sites (and my other journal) for some discount codes and cheaper travel seasons, then book your package separately. The key is to book the rooms only, then call the airline, and then get the passes. This typically saves you 40% or more depending on when you are traveling.
I once read an article in WOMAN’S DAY magazine that said to save on air travel by expanding your online search and look for the cheapest fares at 12:01am ET on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. Who would have thought this would work? I found that there could be as much as a $200 difference per ticket depending on the time of day you search for fares. The major airlines know that most travelers will search during their busy days, so they increase the prices in the hope you will book. So, if booking your own airfare, stay up late and do it at night.
Rental Car -Companies only have a limited number of specific automobiles at each location. True, the more popular locations will have more vehicles, but they also have more visitors. The key to finding a Great Rental Price is to reserve your rental as early as possible, even if that is 10 months in advance. Keep in mind that when you reserve a rental, you are only reserving it, not paying for it, and you pay for it during your vacation.
(This is also something to keep in mind when planning your trip.)
In my travels, I have found that some of the off-airport rentals are just as reliable and a whole lot more affordable. The only difference between the on- and off-terminal pickups is the amount of time you want to spend getting your rental. Off-terminal rentals usually provide shuttle service to and from the airport, but you have to be patient enough to wait for the shuttle. I once saved over $150 on a weekly rental by booking through Eagle Rent-A-Car, but found my family waiting over an hour at the airport for the shuttle to take us to the pickup. The rental itself was great, a comfortable car that suited our needs. When we returned the car, the taxes and fees were shocking, but not as shocking as the shuttle driver who brought us back to the airport. When I tell you that this is not normal of most shuttle drivers, I mean it. I was shocked. This guy had me put my own bags in and out of the shuttle, he was rude, he stunk like he hadn’t showered in days, and at the end of the ride, he expected a tip. To avoid an embarrassing situation (others on the shuttle were tipping), I gave the man a $5 tip, folded nice and neat as we gathered our bags. He had the nerve to say that I didn’t give him enough and that the going gratuity was $5 per bag. This was in 2003, but I don’t use Eagle anymore, despite how much money I can save.
The on-terminal pickups are super fast and convenient, but on average, can be $60 to $100+ more expensive. To some travelers, this is money well spent. You most likely just spent a couple hours in the airport waiting to depart, then another hour or so on the plane, and you have been looking forward to this trip for months. Now you just want to get in the rental and start enjoying your vacation. You can book through each company’s website to avoid booking fees sometimes associated with search engine sites like Expedia or Priceline. In the Discount and Promotion Codes section of this journal, I will give you some codes on how to save with on-terminal companies like
Hotel Accommodations -This gets tricky if you are not exchanging through RCI. There are literally hundreds of places to stay in the Walt Disney World area. Your personal preferences will determine how much you spend. Do you want to stay in a two- or three-star hotel room most likely in need of some updating for $60 a night? Or are you willing to spend the extra money and find yourself in more comfortable surroundings. When going to Disney World, I suggest you stay in a Disney Resort. This may seem a little intimidating due to the price, but there are some great specials on rooms and ways to book your trip that will cut your cost up to 50%. The resorts make the experience so much better because they offer so many additional benefits not offered to the guests who are not staying on property.
If staying off-property is more your thing, then you need to plan ahead and decide what fits your budget. Then spend the time searching the search engines and individual hotel and resort websites to see who has the better price. The hotel prices do not change as often as car rental and airline prices do, as they follow more of a seasonal trend, with October and November being slower seasons. Often the discount is 50% to 75% off the published rate! For the last 3 years, I have taken the kids in October so that they can enjoy Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, while my wife and I can enjoy Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival. Refer to the Discount and Promotion Codes portion of the journal to learn how to save more money when booking your hotel accommodations.
In conclusion, planning the perfect Disney Vacation can be a very tiring experience. If you choose to do it on your own, it takes time to research and book everything you will need for your vacation. A Travel Planner can save you some time and effort, but you have to choose the right one and make certain that your money isn’t going into their pockets instead of your vacation. In either case, your Disney Vacation is going to be Magical, no matter who books it for you.
You think I am crazy, right? Why is Disney going to give you $100 for your vacation? Simply because Disney knows that in order to make money, you need to spend money. Now, they are not just going to hand every guest a $100 bill at the gate - there is a catch. I know, there is always a catch. But this one can get you $100 Disney Dollars for a few minutes of your time.
Most of us reading this post are already RCI members, and we are familiar with how vacation clubs work and promote. The $100 Disney Dollar Promotion is offered at Disney World and the Disney World Resorts via the Disney Vacation Club, and to my knowledge, Disney has not been advertising this. All you do is sign up to hear their pitch and they will give you $100 Disney Dollars for you to spend anywhere inside Disney World while you are on vacation. Or save your Disney Dollars and use them anywhere Disney Dollars are accepted. You DO NOT have to sign up to join the vacation club, just to take the promotional tour. As RCI owners, we have all done this before. If I may, I suggest that you or another adult member of your party sign up to attend a presentation while the rest of your family is taking a break or eating a meal. You can sign up at any Disney Vacation Club stand in each park. You can also utilize the location in Downtown Disney, or each resort has a spot where you can inquire about the tour and promotion.
I know RCI won’t approve of this, but I have to tell you that I am seriously considering joining the Disney Vacation Club . I have been working with a personal specialist on the telephone, and we have been discussing all the options the club has to offer. I go to the Walt Disney World area at least once a year, sometimes more, and for me, this would save a lot of time and money in the long run. What is the Disney Vacation Club? It offers timeshares at Disney-owned resorts and can save you up to 70% on room rates by joining the club.
I am not the salesperson, and I am still learning about it myself. If you are interested in learning more and collecting $100 Disney Dollars in the process, I would take the time to stop by a shop and take the tour.
The Disney World Passes have recently changed, and depending on how you purchase them, you can find savings. The new tickets are called Magic Your Way tickets. They are more cost-effective if you plan properly, but if you purchase extras you don’t need, you are throwing away a lot of money, so be careful. If you purchase the wrong passes, you can throw away hundred’s of dollars! Why would you be throwing away money? Mostly because the base tickets expire. There is an additional option you can purchase to make your passes so they do NOT expire, so again, proper planning is a must.
Nowadays there are a few options available to you on purchasing your Disney World tickets. It used to be that you had to wait in the long lines at the ticket center and buy your tickets at the gate, but now if you book your trip through a Travel Planner, they usually have access to DISCOUNTED TICKETS. If you are booking your trip on your own, you can spend the time researching the many Internet options available. Auction sites like eBay usually have a couple power sellers that list tickets every day at cheap starting prices. However, you need to be careful of additional shipping charges, final selling rates (I have seen people bidding on tickets for more money than they can purchase them for at the gates), and the possibility of fraud. Disney discourages future guests from buying tickets from eBay, but sometimes you can get lucky and save money.
You can also search sites like photo classified ads or Yahoo Classifieds , where people post new and used tickets that they don’t want or need. Search for Internet Travel Stores and sometimes you can find deals that are only available to travel professionals that you cannot find anywhere else. Again, Disney wants your money, so they discourage you from doing so, but it could keep more money in your pocket instead of Mickey’s. The most reliable and Disney recommended way to purchase your tickets is through the Disney World website.
Let me explain how the new ticket system works. Basically, tickets are now on a sliding scale, so the more days you buy, the cheaper the ticket. It’s expensive to buy a single day pass, but the cost per day declines as you purchase more days. This is nice if you use all your days, because it makes your ticket cheaper. However, if you do not use the passes, you threw the money away, unless you purchased the never-expire option. It is much more cost-effective to properly plan your Disney vacation and buy extra days when needed than it is to buy a single day pass. Take the time to plan which parks you want to visit and decide if you will visit more than one park per day. If you do not have a Park Hopper pass and wanted to switch parks, you wouldn’t be able to do so. All tickets start at the “base” rate, and you can add options from there.
My suggestion is to buy your tickets ahead of time to save money, as the gate price is always higher. Even AAA offers a discount on Disney World Park Passes, so contact them for up to 5% off advance purchase prices.
Your money is very important to you, and I am sure that you would like to save as much money as you can during your Magical Vacation. The time of year that you plan to take your vacation will help you determine how much money you will spend. Obviously, traveling during the Value Season will save you money. Personally, I find that that October has the better rates, and I often travel with my kids the second week in October. I like this month because it allow the kids an opportunity to see Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, while my wife and I can enjoy Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival.
Not everyone will be available to travel during the month of October, so I will outline the seasonal dates for each of the Walt Disney World Resorts. If you are not using a Travel Planner to help book your vacation, hopefully you will find this information useful.
Campsites Fort Wilderness
So, you are planning a Walt Disney World vacation and you don’t know where to begin? I can help you with this. Since 1978, when I took my very first trip to the Walt Disney World Resort, I have returned to Disney more than 60 times. No, I don’t live in Orlando and my last name isn’t Rockefeller. I just happen to enjoy the magical atmosphere that Disney creates and can’t get enough of it.
Deciding that you want to go to Disney World is the easy part. It is an expensive vacation that, unfortunately, some people can only afford to make once in a lifetime. There is so much to see and do that you are not sure where to start. That is why you bought this guide, and that in itself is a good beginning. Planning a Magical Disney vacation isn’t really that hard: you have to cover the five W’s and one H.
Now that you have answered the five W’s and one H, it is time to start booking your Disney Vacation. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that you can spend hours and hours of your own time researching and booking your Disney vacation on your own, or you can take this guide and my advice and work with a travel planner. Let them do the brunt of the work, as they should already know where to look for the discounts and find the deals that will save you money. All you need to do is ask one for help. However, the choice is yours to make, and in other portions of this journal, I will try to give you the pros and cons of booking your vacation with or without a travel planner.
For instance, I currently have five different programs that I am enrolled in that gather points. Sadly enough, I only have enough points in one of these programs to really do anything with them. However, if I combine all those points into just one program, I could really save some money by utilizing those points towards accommodations, airfare, or park tickets. Now that I have your attention, many of you are asking, "Who would allow you to combine points?" Believe it or not, a lot of the current programs offer this exchange option through a site called MyPoints.com. This is a site that offers free membership and will allow you to exchange points between accounts, like eBay Anything Points and the Gold Points Rewards Program, and change them into Delta Sky Miles. You can then take those Sky Miles and use them towards saving on airfare.
Another option is for people who are enrolled in the MyPoints program would be to transfer those points into either a Marriott Rewards or Hilton H-Honors account to redeem those points for Disney park tickets. Both of these programs are free of charge and offer the ability to convert My Points into their program. Hilton offers a better conversion rate, at 1,000 My Points for 1,000 Hilton H-Honor points, and by redeeming 85,000 points, you will get an adult 4-Day Magic Your Way Premium Ticket. Marriott will give you the same 4-Day Premium Ticket for 55,000 points, but will only exchange 1,000 Marriott Reward points for 1,750 My Points.
Without a doubt, one of the best ways to make money for your Disney vacation is to spend money. Sounds crazy, right? It is actually a lot easier than you think, and when you realize how much you have already lost out on, you are going to ask yourself why you didn’t do this before.
I am talking about the Disney Visa Card from Chase Bank. This is a perfect opportunity to make money for your trip all year long for simply charging the things you would normally write checks or pay cash for. The Disney Visa Card has a 0% APR and no annual fees. The card returns 1% of all your charges in the form of Disney Dollars that you can use for your Disney vacation.
A good way to maximize your Disney Dollars is to charge things you normally would either write a check or pay cash for. As an example, my lien holder will accept a credit-card payment towards my car payments each month. I also pay the auto insurance, life insurance, and the mortgage on my timeshare on a program credit card. This alone is over a thousand dollars and will return me ten dollars a month for just those four payments that I have to make regardless. A few other monthly financial obligations that you may be able to charge on your Disney Credit Card are:
Overall, your monthly expenses can add up, and these are bills that you have to pay, so why not get something back? By paying each of these ideas I suggested on a program card returning 1%, I get between 20 and 25 dollars a month to use towards my Disney Vacation just for using the Disney Card. The catch to all this is to make sure that you pay off the card each month to avoid any interest charges that may apply; but keep in mind, these are things you would normally write a check or pay cash for anyways, so it shouldn’t be that big of a deal to pay off.
Plus, as a Disney Visa Card holder, you will receive special money-saving offers on vacation packages and merchandise not available elsewhere, and you can also finance vacation packages on the card with 0% APR financing for up to 6 months.
Disney just opened up their fifth and newest resort, Disneyland Hong Kong, at the cost of $3,000,000,000. Yes, that is three BILLION dollars. Do you know where this money comes from? Right, directly from your pockets. Now do you know why planning is so important?
So what is the "How to" of planning, you ask? It is all about knowledge, knowing how to find things. How to find the best booking options, how to find the best deals and sales, how to find the best publications for money-saving tips, and how to find the best-discounted tickets.
In my journal HOW TO BOOK YOUR DISNEY VACATION, I discuss the options of booking yourself or utilizing the experience of an Independent Travel Planner. For the record, I do prefer the planner due to the ease of booking. I don’t need to spend the time searching for the right airlines and times, nor do I have to search for the most affordable hotel accommodations. The planner does all that for me. Best of all, most independent planners do all that work for free because they get paid a commission directly from the wholesaler, rather than charge you for their services. Some planners will even draw out a weekly itinerary for you to follow while you are on vacation, something you may find to be an invaluable service for your Disney vacation.
Whether you seek the services of an independent planner or you plan the vacation yourself, you have to be aware of the necessary tools available to save you money. Disney is not cheap! Surprisingly enough, most things that Disney offers to its guests can be found someplace else for less money. Everything from Disney Magic Your Way Vacation Packages to extremely affordable Discounted Disney Tickets. There is always a sale somewhere. The trick is to be able to tell the legitimate sales from the scams.
Twenty years ago, someone would have told you that you had to go a bookstore or the library to find publications about saving money on your Disney vacation. Now the internet is the most powerful tool in your vacation-planning arsenal. There are countless different web sites that offer information on planning your Disney vacation. Do a Google search for Disney Vacation Planning and it will return 2,330,000 results.
There are also a number of different books that you can read to give you additional guidance when planning your trip. Barnes & Noble.com is currently returning 680 titles with the keywords "disney guide." After looking through some of the results:
Seems like an awful lot of money to spend to learn how to save money, right? Don’t worry, I am sure that you can find these titles and others like them on eBay. There is another option that you can find both on eBay and off, that is e-books. Sometimes you can find some great titles on e-book for half the cost. For instance, CnCTravel.com’s Unofficial Guide to a Walt Disney World Vacation by CnCTravel.com is both available on eBay and on their web site. The prices seem to change from time to time on eBay, usually between $3.50 and $4.50. The e-book is 77 pages long and has a lot of money-saving information that you can use when booking your Disney vacation. The advertisement even has two quotes on it where people have saved over $1,000 with the information inside the guide.
Keeping with the internet theme, I have noticed that there are a lot of people searching for discounted Disney tickets, and I often receive questions asking about where is the best place to find them. This gets a little confusing because a Google search for discount Disney tickets returns 3,050,000 results. Keep in mind that the first site returned does not mean that they are the most affordable. For instance:
www.discount-tickets.us is the first return. Looking into their site, the offer a wide range of discounted tickets. Let's concentrate on the 5-Day Disney Park Hopper Pass offered for $214.04. Seems like a great savings, right? The Disney Travel Company sells the same ticket for $242.82 with tax and an additional $10.00 in shipping for 7-day service. Like it even better now? Sure you do. However, keep in mind that this ticket price doesn’t include the tax (6.5%) and shipping charges ($13.00), making the ticket $240.95. Now where are the savings?
I have found that there are three evenly priced web sites that offer discounted Disney tickets.
Now that you have some of the "How To" knowledge, it is time to put it to good use and save some money on your next Disney vacation. Tell Mickey I said "Hello."
Please review some of our other Walt Disney World journals:
Epcot’s 2004 International Food & Wine Festival
Inside Disney World Dining Guide
East Haven, Connecticut