Friday, July 22, 2011

Making More of the Mouse

A trip to the World is always tons of fun. Racking up a bill that will take you months to pay off? Not so much fun. It’s surprisingly easy to lose track of how much you’re spending. There are six tricks I use to save some money on my trips to the World, and they’ve saved me a bundle. Before we left for Disney last time, I added up two bills – what we would actually be spending, and what it could have been if we hadn’t kept a careful watch on our wallets. The difference ended up hitting the $2000 mark for a two person trip.

1. Carefully pick the time of year you’ll be visiting. Of course it’s easiest to get everyone together over Christmas or Spring Break, but during peak seasons there’s a huge jump in price on some vacation basics. A moderate resort jumps from $150 to $240 per night, and a Disney Dining Plan goes from $45 to $50 per day. Even a $5 difference over a seven day vacation means saving$140 for a family of four (or an extra night at a value resort).

2. This may seem very obvious, but make sure your hotel choice is within your budget. With 29 different resorts to choose from on the Disney property, there’s something there for every taste and price range. Snags can show up, though, when something extravagant catches your eye. If you get set on the Grand Floridian but can’t afford the price tag, ask yourself how much you’ll really be on the hotel grounds. Are you just planning to sleep there or will the majority of your vacation be spent at various resort amenities rather than in the parks? All Disney World resorts offer high quality rooms, so if you’re just looking for a place to put your head at night, moderate and value resorts are your best bet.

3. Invest in a meal plan. While I ran the math here, I’ll offer up the basics for now. By purchasing a Disney Dining Plan for your stay, you’ll average about $10 per day per person saved. The basic plan entitles each guest to one snack, one quick-service meal, and one full-service meal per day (each meal includes a non-alcoholic drink and dessert. Yum!). When it’s easy to spend that $45 on just one meal each day, you’ll most definitely come out ahead with a dining plan.

4. If you’re booking through a travel agent or directly through the Disney website, park tickets are usually included in the booking process. Ticket prices drop dramatically the more days you buy. Once you buy more than four days of park passes, each extra day is only $8 for an adult (prices are for the 2011 season). Adding the park hopper option, meaning you can visit more than one Disney park per day, will only add $55 to your total regardless of how many days it’s for. If you’re interested in visiting the water parks, the Oak Trail golf course, ESPN Wide World of Sports, or DisneyQuest in Downtown Disney, you can add the water park fun & more option to your park ticket for an extra $55 for your entire stay. This works out much cheaper than buying a water park or DisneyQuest ticket separately (DisneyQuest can set you back $43 for just one day). Even though bulking up your ticket package will cost you more up front, you’ll save a lot more in the long run if you plan to use the options your park pass gives you.

5. Set a souvenir limit (this is especially prudent if you’re traveling with children or Disney headgear junkies like me). Each year Disney parks comes out with a whole new set of fun collectables and housewares to bring home or give to family and friends. Choose to either limit the number of items or the total spent on souvenirs and you’ll find yourself putting more thought into the keepsakes you buy. You’ll love them longer compared to that extra princess pin or Mickey stuffed doll you just couldn’t leave without and your Disney memories won’t be interrupted by buyer’s remorse. If you’re more creative, you can even try making your own souvenirs. It’s a cost-effective and fun way to bring something home for friends and makes a memory all of its own. We tried it on our last trip and the results were fantastic.

6. Finally, we come to the last item on our money-saving list: enlist a travel agent. Once you have an idea of the resort, dining plan, and tickets you’d prefer, a good travel agent can help you find the cheapest flights, some extra deals on hotels or packages, and offer up advice or answer any last questions you may have. After all was said and done, the agent that helped V and I plan our last trip saved us $200 per person through hidden deals we could never have found on our own.

That's all for today. Something more than my own recycled OrlandoInformer post tomorrow (when, hopefully, it isn't hot enough to fry an egg on my coffee table).

♥ Rhys

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