So in late January we took our first trip to THE Disney World. It was awesome. We had such a good time that we are already talking about going back. So, I thought I would create a post about money saving ideas, time saving ideas, and just helpful information. It will hopefully help some of our friends who are planning trips. And, whenever we go back, I can also look back at this post to refresh my memory. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am in NO WAY an expert on Disney travel. Like I said, this was only my first trip, but I did pick up a few tips (please, feel free to add some of your own!)
Before and During Booking:
1 - Picking a date
The very first thing we did was contact a travel agent that specializes in Disney vacations. We chose Build a Better Mouse Trip. We asked if there were any free dining promotions, then decided to travel during those dates (free dining saves you over $600 for a family of four compared to purchasing a dining plan). We also checked out Disney's website and made sure that we didn't book a trip during any other events (dance competitions, marathons, etc). This gave us a list of certain dates that we would prefer to visit.
2-Choosing a flight
Next, we were ready to start planning our trip. My husband signed up for low-fare alerts from airlines. When the hubby got an alert saying that airfare would be $69 per person, we chose our travel dates. We decided to book our own flight online so that we could get the inexpensive tickets ASAP. We also opted to take the earliest flight to Orlando - this meant we almost spend the whole day at the park. We chose late afternoon for our departure - this way we could sleep in and just relax on our last day there.
3 - Booking the trip
Next, we contacted our travel agent to tell them during which dates we wanted to travel. As I mentioned above, we decided to travel during a free dining promotion. One thing to note is that you get different plans based on what type of resort you choose- for example, if you stay at a value resort during the free dining promotion, you get two quick service meals (think food court type meals) and a snack each day for each person. If you stay at a moderate resort (this is what we chose), you get one quick service, one table service (sit-down), and one snack per person. If I would have done my research, I would have discovered that we could have stayed at a value resort then paid a small fee to upgrade our plan to the one with the table service. This would have saved us money overall since the moderate resorts cost more per night.
4 - Choosing a resort
Our travel agent helped us pick a resort. We chose Port Orleans, Riverside. Like I said, we stayed in a moderate resort. Part of the reason we chose moderate is ignorance - as mentioned above, I didn't know that I could get the better dining plan while staying at a value resort. Some other reasons we chose the resort we did was that moderate hotels have refrigerators in their room, values don't (unless you pay extra). There is also some extra space in the moderate rooms compared to the value resorts. We specifically chose Port Orleans because they had very high traveler reviews compared to other Disney resorts. We also like that the grounds looked so beautiful, that there is a restaurant and food court (which, by the way, we didn't use), that there are multiple pools, and that there are many activities (outdoor movies, fishing, horse drawn carriage rides, ferry rides to downtown Disney). When you choose your resort, I would recommend talking to your travel agent, reading traveler reviews online, looking at amenities on the Disney website, and borrowing some Disney World planning books from the library. If you get an unofficial book, you can get unbiased reviews on your resort. We read the books after booking and were pleasantly surprised that we would have still picked our resort.
5 - Transportation from the hotel
When you book your hotel, your travel agent can also arrange for you to have transportation to your resort from the airport. They'll also deliver pick up your bags from MCO and deliver them to your room.
6 - Park tickets
When you book, you'll also want to decide how many days you want to visit the parks. We arrived on Monday morning and departed late afternoon on Saturday. Because of this, we chose to get park tickets for five days. We decided we could spend Saturday in downtown Disney.
We also opted to get park hoppers for all five days. Honestly, for our family, this was a waste of money. We only 'hopped' one day. For our next trip we'll either not do hoppers at all, or just get them for one or two days.
Please check back in the next couple days for some tips before the trip. Thanks for reading!