By Holly Steel, firstname.lastname@example.org
I started planning for my family’s Disney trip 10 months before our mid-January visit. I shared my experiences on planning and touring in the article “Want Magic? Plan it.”
Here’s a deeper look at my Disney World vacation planning that includes tickets, hotels and vacation packages.
You can get discounted Disney tickets, but protect yourself by using an official Disney ticket broker and not eBay or Craigslist. Ticket brokers are third-party vendors who buy tickets in bulk and then resell them at a discount. Many of them also sell discounted tickets to other Orlando attractions.
Some hotels offer free Disney tickets in return for attending a timeshare presentation. But keep in mind those presentations will dig into your time at the parks.
Disney base tickets are priced for two age groups — child (ages 3-9) and adult (ages 10 and older). Children under 3 get in free. A standard base ticket can be purchased for one to 10 days and gets you into a single Disney theme park for each day. You have three options to upgrade your ticket:
You can upgrade your tickets through Disney after you buy them, even if you purchased them from a discount broker.
The more you buy, the less you pay per day. The current price for a single-day non-discounted adult ticket is $85. A five-day ticket is $251, which works out to $50.20 per day.
I compared discounts, including those offered by my employer’s travel service and AAA, and found the best deal through MouseSavers and Undercover Tourist.To get it, you sign up for the MouseSavers e-newsletter (it’s free) and that will give you access to a special rate that is even lower than Undercover Tourist’s regular discount.
When I bought my tickets last summer, Undercover Tourist was offering six-day tickets for the five-day price. I got the MouseSavers rate and purchased my tickets just before Disney raised the base price on all its tickets (they go up every year). If I had purchased directly from Disney after the rate increase, I would have spent about $100 more on the three tickets I purchased.
There’s another lesson here: Buy your tickets before Disney raises its rates again. MouseSavers will give you a heads-up before they do.
With 22 resort hotels (and another opening in May), Disney offers a wide variety of accommodations and price points. But expect their resorts to be more expensive than what you would pay for a comparable room off Disney World property. Whether the extra expense is worth it depends on your needs.
Prices at the value resorts start at $84 for a four-person maximum occupancy room. Perks at a Disney resort include:
We considered the Disney hotels. My husband was especially keen on staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, a deluxe resort where some of the rooms offer views of wild animals on a simulated African savanna. But we decided that if we were going to be comfortable for a week that we needed more than just a single room. Our search quickly turned off-property and we selected Floridays, a hotel on International Drive where we got a two-bedroom, two-bath suite with a full kitchen and washer and dryer.
Floridays offers a 15 percent discount off its regular rate for Georgia and Florida residents. You can get the same discount through AAA or just by becoming a fan of Floridays on Facebook.
Six nights at Floridays cost us less than half what we would have spent on that savanna-view room at Animal Kingdom Lodge. And the location gave us easy access to Disney World and the Florida 528 toll road, which offers a straight shot to the beach at Port Canaveral.
Because we bought our tickets from a discounter and stayed at a non-Disney hotel, a vacation package was not an option for us. But those who want a one-stop shopping experience can get lodging, tickets and access to the Disney dining plan for a single rate by buying a vacation package.
Disney will frequently offer package discounts during off-peak times, where you can get a discount on your hotel room or a free dining plan. But keep in mind that your package must be pre-paid in full at least 45 days before your vacation.
With the Disney dining plan, you buy credits for meals and snacks to be used for dining on Disney property. The plan comes in three tiers: quick service, plus and deluxe:
Since a lot of guests use the dining plan, it has become more important for all guests who want to dine at a sit-down restaurant on Disney property to make advance reservations well ahead of their vacation.
More: Other spring break deals