K.Z. asks from Beaufort, MO on February 03, 2008
Planning Ahead for Disney, Any Advise?
Now that I'm a stay at home mom, I'm working on a budget. I'd like to include a vacation to Disney World, Orlando in the 4-5 year plan. Maybe putting $40-50 in a savings account every month. Is this realistic? How much does a Disney vacation for a family of four cost now a days? I've heard big ranges. My daughter will be 7-8 and my son around 5 years old. Will the kids be at good ages? I think we are set on driving from Missouri and also visiting a beach while in Florida. Which one? -TBD.
Guess I'm looking for moms who have been on a vacation there lately and advise on any cost savings and other fun ideas. Thanks!
L.P. answers from Tulsa on February 11, 2008
We went to Disneyworld 4 years ago with a 4 year old and 9 year old. We also went to Cocoa Beach for a few days and loved it. Not a terribly far drive from Orlando and a chance to 'get away' and relax. As far as Disney, we stayed in downtown Disney. If you have travel points with hotels, cash in! Downtown Disney still has the shuttles to get you to the parks. Purchase tickets ahead of time. Purchase strollers for the time you're there ahead of time. This saves time when you get to each park. Also take a cooler with you. They'll let you and you can take your own bottled water and snacks and save a fortune in the park. Have fun. p.s. my 8 year still remembers this trip and she was 4 at the time. She wants to go back and do the stuff she remembers too so we'll be back! Good luck!
L.E. answers from Kansas City on February 04, 2008
Plan plan plan! The best Disney vacation is the one that is thoroghly mapped out, with some flexiblility of course! Go on a totally off-season, saves tons of $ and time. Consider staying off-premise - you get a lot more bang for the buck and rental cars are not expensive in off-season. If you have AAA, they have parking privilages if you do it ahead of time. The kids will have a ball & you are smart to start thinking about it now! My daughter is 4 and we have been 3 times already, each experience is different & tons of fun. Invest in a digital camera, totally a necessity!
S.L. answers from Kansas City on February 04, 2008
We did the Disney thing including a weekend cruise. We left here and drove through Kentucky, Tennessee, and I forget what all. We stopped in Chattanooga and visited this wonderful cave with a huge waterfall down deep. I forget the name but it was fantastic. We went to a 3d theater that was absolutely wonderful and a huge aquarium. We used a trip maker program and every place we wanted to stop for the day we would search things to do on it within 30 minutes from our stopping point. We picked up all we could at the visitor centers at each state and was able to call ahead while we were going down the road and find hotels and use coupons we found in the books.
The cruise was the largest cost for one thing. At the time we were a family of 5 and that was 10 years ago. So prices will have gone up. That was 2500 for the cruise. But we still spent another 5000 dollars all together. We spend 3 days in Disney, spent time in a fabulous resort and we bounced around Florida visiting some Beaches and the space station in Nassau.
We were gone for 2 weeks total and the whole trip was a lifetime memory. Of the 7500, 1000 of that was the income I missed for shutting down my daycare. So if you have paid vacation for your husband that will help.
We also did some extravagant things like we ate out at one nice place every day and did room service a few times.
I'm not sure 40 or 50 per month is much to be putting aside. But if you really have 5 years to plan it will be a good start.
J.D. answers from St. Joseph on February 04, 2008
We just went to Disney in November of 07. My husband and I took our six children. We had always stayed on site but this year rented a van and a house. We saved more money doing this because we found a house cheaper for the week than the resort, plus had a whole lot more room and our own swimming pool. We have gone four other times, always in the fall before Thanksgiving (off season). It cost us about $3000 for 8nights/9days. We did a five day hopper and spent the other days swimming/downtown disney etc. 2 days were of course traveling. We flew and found tickets for approx. $220 a person. We probably could have found a little cheaper but didn't do a whole lot of looking. Really look into the planning and keep looking on the Disney sites, they change offers frequently. Please don't put off going though, it really will be a magical time you will never forget, even if your kids do!
K.S. answers from Enid on February 05, 2008
Hi K.! My family of 4 went to Disney World last year about this time & had a fabulous time! It was worth every penny...you can't replace great memories!
We also drove, from OK, it was a long trip, but the kids were good. I think we probably spent a total of $2,500 - $3,000, including all expenses.
Absolutely, without a doubt, stay at a Disney resort, purchase the park-hopper passes & meals with your room. We chose the All Sports Resort...it's less expensive, has the free shuttle to all the parks & had everything we needed...multiple pools, gift shop, restaraunt & all. Nothing fancy, but we decided to spend our $$ elsewhere, especially since you spend so very little time actually in your room!
I think your kids will be a great age to enjoy everything! Animal Kingdom is really cool & a must see for both! We were there 4 days...exhausted by the end & went with the expectation of hitting the parks we really thought we'd like & then "hopping" to a different one or back to one we'd previously been to if we weren't enjoying ourselves. Of course, you could stay 2 weeks & not get everything done that there is to do!?!
It rains most every afternoon, so I took a backpack with ponchos, light snacks & water bottles to refill. The meal deal is definitely worth it...we ate FABULOUS lunches & dinners with steak, seafood & etc...snacks in the afternoon & just took cereal & etc to have breakfast in the room before we headed out each day.
Dress for a lot of walking...wearing comfortable shoes! Be sure & let them know if you're celebrating something special...it was my daughter's birthday (just happened to work out that way, not planned) & she got all kinds of special treatment, gifts, passes to the head of the line & etc!
It was great! Wouldn't trade it for anything!
B.S. answers from Kansas City on February 04, 2008
I'd say minimum to save would be $2000-$2500. We went there last year and spent about $1800 but it was when both kids were still under 3 so they got free theme park admissions. That $1800 included airfare, hotel, rental car, theme parks for me and hubby, souvenirs, food, etc... We did our trip about middle of the line, not splurging but also not scrimping totally. My opinion is if you're making the effort to get there and have fun then make sure you do!
I would say to save money...book hotel and airfare together. We did ours on travelocity and paid about $700 for airfare and hotel for our family of four. the prices go up if you book them separately.
I would also recommend getting Disney tickets with the no expiration option. we just splurged and got the 7 day park hoppers w/water park with no exp. (13 days total of Disney) and we used half this past year and have saved the other half of the tickets for the next trip. we did this because the kids were still free this last time since they were under 3 and we knew it would make it easier on us to afford our next vacation only having to worry about buying their tix and not ours too.
as far as rental car, many of the hotels there offer free shuttle service to the theme parks (limited times), and once you're at a park Disney has their own free shuttle service to each of their parks. our first time going we didn't rent a car, but the taxi ride to and from the hotel was $50 each way! so the second time we went we did rent a car, and you can usually do so for $150 for a week depending on the time of year. it gave us the flexibility to bring the kids back to hotel for naps as well as more choices for eating out and nighttime entertaiment.
we've found the 3 times we've gone to Disney that it seems to be cheapest to go in late April/early May or in Sept/Oct. Those off peak times are during the school year and just slow travel times in general so you don't have ridiculously huge crowds like you'd have if you went say 4th of July weekend. We liked going the 1st or 2nd week of May, the weather is generally really mild and it's before the beginning of hurrican season with the rain and humidity.
WOW! this ended up being really long, but hopefully it helps! HAVE FUN! :)
L.B. answers from St. Joseph on February 05, 2008
K., I've been doing the same thing...you need to first order the video from Disney and check the sites. There are pros & cons to staying at the resorts...but only you can figure the dollar savings and decide how long you are going to stay in each park. My experience w/ Disney is that if you are taking youngsters, you need to figure naps so staying at the resorts may be more beneficial...Also, are you going solely for Disney or are you going to take a day off in between (my personal recommendation...it gets to be a bit much) Staying at the resorts will discount your hopper tickets and you can also purchase a meal plan through them. AND DEFINITELY get that Disney credit card! You can really rack up the dollars over the next few years to go towards the parks...
However, I am a HUGE lover of VRBO.com (vacation rentals by owner) you can get a FULL HOUSE much cheaper than a small hotel room and most of them come with pools, not to mention full kitchens and washers & dryers...that way if you need a day off from disney you can just lounge by the pool.
My personal experience with beaches in FL is this...The Atlantic is very choppy and has a lot of seashells to step on...but if you want to do the ocean go to cocoa beach/melbourne area. If you want absolutely GORGEOUS fine white sand beaches....go to Destin/Pensecola area...it doesn't get any better.
Another idea, is hit Disney for a couple of days and do the VRBO week at the beach somewhere else...fun and excitement but downtime and enjoy the beach too.
Remember, if you go in an off season the number of hours you actually have in the park is reduced but the prices aren't. Check the web, I thought I saw a book for sale around $20 written my an ex-Disney employee that gives you ALL the ins and outs...it was going to be my next purchase....looked like a real lifesaver.
ALSO, as an FYI...Call ahead and double check...but I seem to recall if you bought the hopper pass (like 5-7 day) it was an unlimited time for use. In other words, you could use it anytime you wanted...it never expired AND it gave you the ability to hop parks throughout the day. If they are still selling this, I would buy it now and stick it in a safe deposit box...these tickets only go up every year and you would eventually be saving these dollars....especially if they never expire....and they are also transferrable to anyone so whatever you don't use you can sell or give away. Good luck! L. B
J.S. answers from Memphis on February 04, 2008
We just got back from Disney last week and for our family of 5, including air fare! spent about $2500 for the week. My kids were 4, 5, 8-it was a perfect age to go. We rented a house from VRBO.com (vacation rental by owner). we had a 4 bed/3 bath house about 15 minutes from Disney for $700 for the week.
Chase Visa offers a Disney rewards Visa Card. We started 3 years ago with it and earned disney dollars for every purchase (usually 1-2%). We charge EVERYTHING on the card-even little purchases. After 3 years, we earned over $900 Disney dollars-which bought all 3 of my children's tickets and left $200 on a rewards card for food at the parks.
You can take in snacks/drinks into the park, so that saves a lot! Kids meals are about $4.50--good news, they're big and if you order from counter service restaurants they don't care if they're for adults or kids. They fill most adults--most meals, we ordered 4 kids meals and split them around (only about $18) a meal, plus our snacks we brought into the park.
Check out mousesavers.com--they give you lots of great money saving deals. We also spent an afternoon at Cocoa Beach (only about an hour from Orlando).
As for souvenirs, we had family give the kids Disney Dollars (you can buy them at the Disney store) for gifts for birthdays, valentines day, whatever throughout the year before we went-each of mine had $60 to spend on whatever they wanted (and it didn't cost us a cent!)
If you want more money saving ideas, just e-mail--I did a ton of research and found lots of ways to pinch pennies!