Disney World Vacations on a Budget
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a trip to Walt Disney World, what with 40 square miles of attractions, entertainment and recreation at guests’ beck and call.
But what about the "bottom line?" What’s all the fun going to cost? With a little planning and a pinch of pixie dust, a trip to the Vacation Kingdom can be awesome and affordable.
Here are some money-saving—and value adding—tips for guests to consider as they think about when to go, where to stay, what kinds of tickets to buy, and how to eat more economically.
Walt Disney World has 22 resorts that vary in price, allowing guests to pay for only the amenities that are important to them. Value resort guests are treated to larger-than-life themes, swimming pools and playgrounds, arcade rooms, and standard amenities—at rates beginning at $82 per night. About one-third of the Disney hotel accommodations—a total of 8,426 rooms—are at the park’s four "Value" resorts.
Families who prefer the great outdoors can rent a campsite at Disney’s Ford Wilderness Resort and Campground (there are 784 available) and either pitch a tent or bring along an RV. Sites with full hookups start at $46 per night, and sites with partial hookups can be had for $41 per night. (Of course, moderate and deluxe resorts are available for guests who prefer additional amenities during their stay. By contrast, rooms at moderate resorts start at $145, while rooms at deluxe resorts start at $215.)
Guestroom rates at Walt Disney World vary based on the time of year that a guest visits. "Value Season," which takes place over select weeks throughout the year, offers lower room rates than peak or holiday seasons (value prices are available for 130 days in 2007 as compared to 59 days of peak-season pricing.) Often, Value Seasons coincide with smaller theme park crowds, meaning less time in line and more time having fun. Compared to Peak or Holiday Seasons, Value Season pricing can save a guest anywhere from $30 to $120 per night.
Within each hotel, guestroom rates vary based on the view from the balcony or terrace. For example, at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, guests can choose from a garden, lagoon or Magic Kingdom view. During value season, lagoon-view rooms run $96 more and Magic Kingdom-view rooms run $126 more than those with a garden view (the good news is that garden-view rooms make up 616 of the 847 rooms at the resort.) At a Value resort, t he difference between a standard and preferred room (5,740 of 8,426 rooms are standard) is $12 per night – which can nearly pay for two days of the Disney Dining Plan over a six-night vacation.
Guests of WDW resorts who purchase “Magic Your Way” tickets along with their hotel accommodations are eligible to add the Disney Dining Plan to create a more inclusive “cruise-style” vacation package. For each night of their resort stay, guests can enjoy two meals and a snack (tax and gratuity included) at more than 100 select restaurants throughout WDW parks and hotels – at savings of up to 40 percent off the average non-dining plan price. The Dinsey Dining Plan costs $38.99 per person age 10 and up per night and $10.99 per child age 3-9 per night. Guests add the dining option when they book a “Magic Your Way” package (accommodations and park tickets.)
WDW offers several all-you-care-to-eat restaurants including Boma-Flavors of Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge ($25.99 per adult, $16.99 per child for dinner) and Cape May Café at Disney’s Beach Club Resort ($25.99 per adult, $11.99 per child for dinner) where guests can pay one price for an unlimited selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts.
Thirsty guests at WDW can save by purchasing length-of-stay refillable drinking mugs for $11.99, good for unlimited refills on any fountain drink at the resort’s cafeteria.
The WDW website (www.disneyworld.com) "Special Offers" section features deals throughout the year, so guests should check the page often or speak with their travel agent about promotions.
The more you play, the less you pay per day! That’s one of the charms of Disney’s “Magic Your Way” ticketing system that allows guests to customize their vacations to the specific needs of their travel party. Guests decide the number of days and whether optional features such as park hopping, visits to attractions outside the theme parks and “non-expiration” of tickets are important. The per-day ticket cost decreases the longer a guest stays, so where a one-day base ticket costs $67 per day, a seven-day base ticket costs just $30 per day. Not to mention the total price difference between four- and 10-day tickets is just $14.
Guests looking to experience some of Disney’s non-theme park entertainment options can add the Water Park Fun & More feature to their “Magic Your Way” base ticket. For $50, guests are entitled to three to six visits (depending on the number of days on the base ticket) to t heir choice of Disney’s Blizzard Beach, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, DisneyQuest, Downtown Disney Pleasure Island or Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. One-day tickets to these recreational venues range from $10.28 at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex to $39 at one of Disney’s water parks. Thus, even the three-visit add-on (offered with one-, two- and three-day base tickets) could be worth more than twice the $50 cost.
Save on multi-day theme park tickets through Advance Purchase Savings, available for guests who purchase through The Disney Store locations outside Florida, Disneyworld.com, or a Disney reservation specialist before leaving home. Guests can save $2 to $17 per ticket on “Magic Your Way” tickets for four to 10 days with the Park Hopper and/or Water Park Fun & More option. Guests not only save money, but also time as they can skip past the lines of guests purchasing individual theme park tickets at the box offices or concierge desks.
When deciding what "Magic Your Way" tickets to purchase, guests should consider how much time they want to devote to non-theme park activities offered on property like resort pools and recreational activities such as tennis, jogging or water sports. In addition, Downtown Disney marketplace and the boardwalk at Disney’s Boardwalk never charge an admission fee, so guests can wander amidst the unique shops and restaurants, and on select nights, view outdoor entertainment without spending a dime.
Travel and Transportation
Guests who travel by plane and stay at a WDW owned-and-operated resort can take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express, a service that allows guests to check their bags at their hometown airport, bypass baggage claim at Orlando International Airport and board state-of-the-art motor coaches to the Vacation Kingdom, where their bags magically appear in their room after check-in. The complimentary service not only saves time at the airport, but also relieves guests of transfer costs between the airport and resort.
All it takes at WDW is a hotel ID to secure a complimentary space aboard one of the WDW Transportation System’s buses, monorails or boats. Resort guests can travel throughout the Vacation Kingdom with door-to-door service directly from their resort to theme park entrances and recreational venues like Downtown Disney. Several WDW resort hotels, such as Disney’s Yacht Club, Disney’s Beach Club and Disney’s Boardwalk located in the Epcot Resort Area are even within walking distance to the theme parks!
Guests of WDW are also exempt from parking fees at theme parks. Just present a resort ID, resort parking pass or annual pass to enter the lot for free no matter how many parks guests visit during their stay.
Animal owners can avoid paying a pet sitter by bringing their furry friends on vacation too! WDW offers kennel services for just $13 a day, where pets lounge in style, are treated to free Purina pet food during daily feedings (owners can opt to bring their own food if they’d like), plus plenty of lovin’ from the staff. Pet owners can visit their animals 24 hours a day, and a certified veterinarian is on call at all times in case of emergencies.
Don’t forget that kids under the age of three are admitted for free to any of the WDW four theme parks.
Guests under the age of 18 stay for free in their parent’s hotel room at any of the WDW resorts.
Disney’s new affordability site, Disneyworld.com/affordable makes it even easier to plan a WDW vacation using money-saving tips, an online booking engine and a personalized take-away that guests can print and share with family and friends when discussing vacation options.
(Source: Walt Disney World)