April Dateline Disney - EXTRA
How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck at Walt Disney World Resort: Plan Before You Play
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a trip to Walt Disney World Resort, 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 even more affordable.
Here are some money-saving -- and value-adding -- tips for guests to consider as they think about when to go, how to get there, where to stay, what kinds of tickets to buy, and how to eat more economically.
Accommodations, Dining and Deals
# 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 theming, 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 four Value resorts. Families who prefer the great outdoors can rent a campsite at Disney's Fort 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 Resort 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 (at a value resort) to $120 (at select deluxe resorts) 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, the 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 Walt Disney World 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 Walt Disney World parks and hotels -- at savings of up to 40% off the average non-dining plan price. The Disney Dining Plan costs $38.99 per person age 10/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).
# The Walt Disney World Web site's "Special Offers" section features deals throughout the year, so guests should check the page often or speak with their travel agent about promotions. The Web site is disneyworld.com.
# Walt Disney World Resort 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 Caf 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 Walt Disney World resorts can save by purchasing length-of-stay refillable drinking mugs for $11.99, good for unlimited free refills on any fountain drink at the resort's cafeteria.
# 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 their 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 (407/934-7639) 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 such as the themed pools at Walt Disney World resorts 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 Walt Disney World 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 they 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 is a Walt Disney World Resort hotel ID to secure a complimentary space aboard one of the Walt Disney World Transportation System's buses, monorails or boats. Resort guests can travel throughout the Vacation Kingdom with door-to-door service directly from the resort to theme park entrances and other recreational venues like Downtown Disney. Several Walt Disney World 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!
# Annual passholders and guests of Walt Disney World resort hotels are exempt from parking fees at the theme parks. Guests who present a resort ID, resort parking pass or annual pass enter the lot for free no matter how many parks they visit during their stay.
# Animal lovers can avoid paying a pet sitter by bringing their furry friends on vacation too! Walt Disney World Resort offers kennel services for just $13 a day, where pets can lounge in style. Dogs are provided with free Purina pet food during daily feedings (owners can opt to bring their own food if they'd like), plus plenty of love from the staff. Pet owners are welcome to visit their animals 24 hours a day, and a certified veterinarian is on call at all times in case of emergencies.
# Families with small children can save by bringing their own stroller instead of renting one daily at the theme parks. Or, if they choose to rent, length-of-stay strollers can be purchased at a reduced rate. A single stroller costs $10 to rent for a single day or $8 per day if rented for length of stay (length-of-stay wheelchairs and ECV's are also available for handicapped guests).
# Families should weigh the pros and cons of driving versus flying to Walt Disney World Resort when planning a vacation. Although driving may initially seem more affordable, when guests consider gas, tolls and the costs of adding mileage to a vehicle, it may be less expensive to fly. Guests who'd prefer to drive might also consider renting a vehicle to use during their trip instead of adding mileage to their personal automobile.
Don't forget these tidbits!
* Children under the age of three are admitted for free to any of the Walt Disney World four theme parks.
* Guests under the age of eighteen stay for free in their parent's hotel room at any of the Walt Disney World resorts.
* Book dinner packages with preferred seating for "Fantasmic!" at Disney-MGM Studios or the holiday Epcot special show Candlelight Processional for no extra charge.
* Create a budget for souvenirs and use it as a teaching tool for young guests. Disney Dollars can be purchased in any amount and distributed to children to spend throughout their vacation. While they learn about the value of a dollar, guests create a budget!
* Annual passholders receive a plethora of discounts including reduced rates at Walt Disney World resorts, 10% off merchandise purchases at Downtown Disney's World of Disney store and up to 15% off at select restaurants on property.
* Guests who hold a Disney Rewards Visa card earn 1% back in the form of Disney Dollars that can be used to purchase Walt Disney World theme park tickets, resort stays or Disney merchandise. Cardholders also receive a 10% discount on merchandise at Downtown Disney's World of Disney store and 20% off the non-discounted price on select tours at Walt Disney World Resort. Plus, when guests book a Walt Disney World vacation using their card, they receive 0% financing for the first six months.
* The new affordability Web site (disneyworld.com/affordable) makes it even easier for guests to plan their Walt Disney World vacation using money-saving tips, an online booking engine that highlights affordable prices and a personalized take-away that guests can print and share with family when discussing vacation options.
For more information about Walt Disney World Resort, guests can visit disneyworld.com or phone 407/824-4321.
Source: Walt Disney World