Planning a Disney World Trip - Tips/Tricks

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by vickers, Aug 11, 2015.  |  Print Topic

  1. vickers

    vickers Gold Member

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    My wife and I would like to start planning our first trip to Disney World as a family. We were both there in high school, but its been over 10 years. We have a 4 year old son and our daughter will be 3 in October. Looking to go sometime in 2016, so we are making plans now, to maximize our point saving strategy. Here is our situation, and the thoughts I have. Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated.

    Airfare: We live in Alabama, so I am planning on driving. Saving our air miles for a trip to the Mall of America sometime. :)

    Lodging: Planning to use SPG points and staying at the Dolphin/Swan. We will take advantage of the stay 4 nights get 1 free. $18/day parking and resort fees will be put on the SPG AMEX card. I already have enough points, so we are good to go there.

    Tickets: I had no idea how expensive tickets were..... From my research, I found an article that shows how you can use Capital One Venture miles for tickets purchased from Undercover Tourist as they are categorized under travel (tickets purchased directly from Disney are not). Neither of us have every had these cards. The jist is that my wife and I would meet minimum spend, earn 46,000 miles each (40,000 from bonus after meeting minimum spend and 6,000 miles for that $3,000 spend) which equates to $460 each in statement credits from travel purchases, or $920. We would each then purchase an adult and child ticket. A "3 day park hopper - plus extra day" would cost us each $710.90 ($364.95 adult and $345.95 child). Using the miles from Capital One, we could each use our miles to "erase" $460 of the $710.90, so our net cost for 2 tickets would be $250.90 (or $501.80) for our family of 4 to visit Disney World for 4 days. The article is from 2013, so I am not sure if this trick still works, or if there is a better option out there. These tickets never expire, so that is a plus too.

    Food: We are not looking to break the bank on this one. Maybe a special meal here and there, but we usually try to eat cheap. For example, when we cruse, we just stick to the buffet. Our kids just pick and dont eat a lot of any one thing. lol. Maybe we use my wife's Discover IT Card and Chase Freedom card to pay for the food and then use the cash back we have been accumulating from the 5% rotating categories to pay them off? But I really need help with this one. Any thoughts?

    I think that has about covered it. Any feedback, comments, or other tips/tricks would be appreciated. Thank you.
     
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  2. timfrost

    timfrost Silver Member

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    You might look into the Disney dining plan as far as food goes. It comes in several different variations and depending on how much you eat it can be a pretty good bargain. Also keep an eye out for special deals - I am headed to WDW in 2.5 weeks (wow - I can't believe it's almost time already) and my friend that booked it got an email blast earlier this year about a promotion where if you booked within certain dates this year in Feb and March and your stay was at a Disney hotel and a certain length you got the dining plan included at no extra cost. That represents an enormous savings for all of us. All out it was ~$1500 each for a 7-day park hopper ticket, 9 nights at Wilderness lodge, and the table service dining plan. I don't really eat a whole lot so I wasn't planning on doing the meal plan at all but between the ticket at about $500 and the room at about $900 this turned out to be quite a good deal. Also actually being on their reservation simplified many aspects of trip planning, but that is secondary. Disney's food isn't bad, and frankly at WDW other options are very few and far between. Everything is quite far apart as I am sure you remember, and if you want to go off-property for lunch you'll have to clear your day.

    If you're going to use miles/points/etc for this, make sure it's actually the best value you can get. A package deal including the tickets, hotel, and meal plan booked through a travel agent (not directly with Disney) may also qualify under "travel."
     
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  3. DJP_707
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    DJP_707 Silver Member

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    Using capitol one or Amex points to pay for your travel exp, may not be the best value, but if your getting the card solely for that reason then go for it.
     
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  4. MX

    MX Gold Member

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    If you plan to visit attractions in the park and don't want to stand in lines all day, you might want to learn their system and some tricks. I recall one or several travel bloggers (Frequent Miler?) had detailed instructions.
     
  5. Pizzaman
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    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    There are a lot less tricks than there used to be with computer-controlled FastPass. Staying at Dolphin/Swan will give you access to FP but you get less availability then if you stay at a Disney Resort.
    If you're trying to conserve money you may want to consider Sheraton Vistana. They have Villas with kitchens and are located right on the edge of the park.

    We've done Dolphin and Swan and if you plan to eat in the parks Vistana has less value. Disney Dining Plan discounts are usually only really lucrative when combined with a Disney Resort stay (Swan and Dolphin don't qualify, iirc) but YMMV.

    When you go will also impact a lot of things. There are certainly softer times a year, though less than there used to be. There are ways to rent DVC points to stay at a Disney Resort on the cheap but that would dictate you having another use for the Starpoints.

    I'm not a big fan of the Dining Plans as we like to have flexibility and they can be a bit restrictive (again, YMMV).

    If you're a AAA member, they sell Disney tickets without sales tax, which should save you a few dollars.

    Lots more stuffed in my head on park strategy, etc. Happy to answer other questions.
     
  6. adamefimoff2

    adamefimoff2 Silver Member

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    swan/dolphin is okay but personally Animal Kingdom Lodge would be amazing. I really do not like the swan/dolphin but with points might be worth it. But I would go through a disney vacation specialist http://www.dreamsunlimitedtravel.com/. I would highly recommend the unofficial guide to walt disney world and do go to universal as well. It has some amazing rides. I personally think you could ask dreams as they have heaps of advice on https://www.youtube.com/user/WDWINFO. It is a big ad for the company but at least its sort of helpful even-though sometimes they some weird things @vickers
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2015
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  7. bigx0

    bigx0 Gold Member

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    Just a few random thoughts here. You probably know all this but just in case:

    The most important question is WHEN. If you go during peak times crowds will be everywhere and discounts will be slim.

    I've done the math with the dining plan -- really can't see how it ever works out. Especially if you are not staying on Disney property (the dining plan often is free or discounted if staying at a Disney-run hotel).

    I imagine you've noticed the first several days of tickets are the most expensive. The difference between a 10 day ticket and an 4 day ticket is only about $50. I absolutely guarantee you can't come anywhere close to seeing everything in 4 days. Nor in 10, but at least you may be sick of it by then.

    If you get an annual pass for just one of you (expensive -- about $660 + tax) you'll get free parking at the parks (not at the Swan/Dolphin) and you can also get a Tables in Wonderland card for another $100 which gives the group 20% off most restaurants including alcoholic beverages. You can also sometimes get discounts at the hotels as well as discounts at some shops and restaurants. The free parking is especially valuable if you are not staying on-property.

    The Disney Visa card doesn't really do too much for you but then again even the no-annual fee version has a few perks and a sign-up bonus (I've seen it as high as $100 for the free card). It's not going to be the cornerstone of your travel credit cards but if you're planning a trip there anyhow an extra $100 and some shopping discounts are nice for very little effort.
     
  8. othermike27

    othermike27 Silver Member

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    Check out mousesavers.com for useful info and pointers to discounts, and undercovertourist.com for your tickets at a (slight) discount.

    As others have said, pay special attention to advice designed to help you avoid lines. Spending north of $100 per day to stand in line for stuff is not my idea of fun, especially with kids in tow.
     
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  9. vickers

    vickers Gold Member

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    Great information, thanks Pizzaman. I hadn't considered the Vistana, but Ill check it out. When I though of SPG and Disney, the Dolphin/Swan was the only thing that came to mind, so I appreciate the suggestion.

    As far as dining in the parks, do you only need a meal plan if you plan to eat at the special places? For example, a character breakfast or nice sit-down restaurant? I remember visiting a diner within the part last time I was there, but it was awhile ago. Or is it valuable if you eat in the park period? Im with you, we like to do our own thing when it comes to dining, and the casual quick serve places or buffets are better for the kids in terms of keeping their attention and having a wide variety to choose from.
     
  10. vickers

    vickers Gold Member

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    Great points. Appreciate the insight. Yeah, I looked into the Disney Visa, and saw that one of the perks was a picture with a character, which the kids would like, but in terms of rewards, its not that great. But I agree, the sign on bonus helps. :)
     
  11. misman
    Original Member

    misman Gold Member

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    I found disboards.com invaluable when planning on trips. The two times I went were in Sept. & Oct., and those proved to be very slow times for the parks. Going solo had its benefits in that I could move at my pace and breeze through the parks. For example, I did Epcot Fri, MK Saturday, and AK & MGM (at that time) on Sunday... and did every freaking thing that I wanted.

    Disboards also had some great tips for dining inexpensively on property.
     
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  12. daninstl

    daninstl Gold Member

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    Personally I'd skip Discover and Cap One cards. They are OK for a certain trip like this I guess (kinda like cruise line cards could give you some minor value for 1 trip) but overall I'd keep the spending on a major card like the Chase Freedom or Chase Sapphire if you can.
     
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  13. timfrost

    timfrost Silver Member

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    The meal plan comes in several different versions; I would look at what you think is best for your visit and make the selection accordingly. They do have a quick-service version.

     
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  14. bigx0

    bigx0 Gold Member

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    No. you don't need the meal plan to dine anywhere. Some people like the convenience or the alleged budgeting certainties it might provide but there are no other special advantages, e.g. for "special places". You need to make the same reservations and compete with everyone else whether or not you have the meal plan. In fact, they won't even know if you have the meal plan or not until you are seated at your table and they ask.
     
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  15. Mapsmith
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    Mapsmith Gold Member

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    Based on my experience, (albeit about ten years ago myself) AAA sells discounted park passes. Not much of a discount but about 5%. But it comes with free close up parking. But if you are in one of the hotels associated with WDW, usually the buses work just fine. With a couple of small children, you may even want to look at one of the lower priced In Park hotels rather than Dolphin/Swan. We stayed at the Sports Hotel, which gives early/late access to the park. And (at least in my case) I found that they have a FREE Soft Drink fountain. Of course you have to buy your own mug. But it saved a few bucks. Another really great advantage of the InPark Hotels, it is easy to go back to the room for an hour or so for a nap. and maybe the kids will take a nap too.

    Finally, Get on Disney's mailing list. We still get mailings and emails from them. Some are almost too tempting to pass up. (like the free dining plan).
     
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  16. bigx0

    bigx0 Gold Member

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    Unfortunately the AAA preferred parking has been discontinued as of 2015.
     
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  17. Mapsmith
    Original Member

    Mapsmith Gold Member

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    Shucks.
     
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  18. othermike27

    othermike27 Silver Member

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    Couple updates to my earlier post:

    The August issue of Mousesavers monthly newsletter headlines some hotel deals (not sure if think the links came over, but you can find these on their website):

    There are some great deals at many of our MouseSavers Preferred Hotels. Be sure to check out the three hotel offers in this month’s issue, but take a look at the hotel offers on our website too! Put a stay at one of those hotels together with discounted tickets from Undercover Tourist, and you have created your own very reasonably priced “vacation package.”
    Also...
    Thinking about a trip to Walt Disney World, but not sure where to start? If you are new to planning a Disney trip the process can feel a bit overwhelming, in addition to being filled with strange terminology: FastPass+, MagicBands, Extra Magic Hours, Park Hopper, Baby Swap. Have no fear! Sue Pisaturo of Small World Vacations has a helpful planning guide below so that you don’t miss an important step or deadline.

    Finally, I recommended Undercover tourist from my own experience earlier this year: tried to buy 2 adult park-hopper passes from them with the "no expiration" feature, and their website hung up on the transaction. When I reached them on Monday after having no luck getting the transaction to complete, they immediately refunded the $1,000+ involved, but could do no more since I needed the tix right away. After I purchased passes at our Disney hotel, I emailed them and asked for a refund of the price difference that I estimated, since their website didn't deliver on the promised discount. Got a call from the co-owner(!) who agreed to my request and issued a check (not a credit on future purchases) for just under $100 - the amount I calculated. That's the kind of people I like to do business with - folks who step up when something goes wrong.

    BTW, the no expiration feature also ended on that same weekend, and the Disney pass prices went up too.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2015
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  19. bigx0

    bigx0 Gold Member

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    It's unfortunate the no-expiration passes were discontinued by Disney, though Undercover Tourist says they still have a few no-expiration passes left to sell.
     
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  20. vickers

    vickers Gold Member

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    Was this a recent change? I know that when I originally posted the article, expiration of tickets was referenced in the FAQ's. Now its gone. When I go into the Terms and Conditions, it only says:

    "If you require a refund on refundable attraction tickets, a fee of 5% of the total order amount will be charged to cover the delivery, handling and the processing fees associated with accepting your credit card and fulfilling the order. The tickets must be unused, unsigned and returned within 365 days of placing your order. Expired tickets, or any ticket not currently sold on the Website are non-refundable."

    Not very clear on how long you have to use them. Under the ticket itself, expiration is referenced as:

    "Expiration
    Ticket expires 14 days after the date of the first use - you will activate the ticket upon entry into your first Walt Disney World® Resort Theme Park. Days do not have to be used consecutively"

    So, do the tickets really not expire until the first day of use?
     
  21. bigx0

    bigx0 Gold Member

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    Sorry, I'm not sure if you're asking about 1) AAA Diamond parking, 2) Undercover Tourist's refund policy, 3) validity of DisneyWorld tickets or 4) the non-expiration feature of Disney tickets, but I think I can sum it up pretty easily.

    1) Yes, special AAA Diamond parking was not renewed for 2015. Some of those spaces are now additional handicapped parking.

    2) If you buy a ticket from Undercover Tourist and change your mind within a year they will refund your money less 5%. Of course, if it's their fault they will make it right at no additional charge.

    3) UNUSED pre-purchased tickets are valid forever, whether or not you get them from a place like Undercover Tourist. For example, you can go to Disney World and buy a ticket but not use it. Or you could buy your ticket by mail and then find out you have to cancel your trip. Doesn't matter -- you can return in a year or two with that same unused ticket and use it for it's original intent. (It can get more complicated than that but what I'm saying is true for normal practical purposes.)

    HOWEVER, once you begin to use that ticket, it then expires 14 days after it's first use. So if you bought a 7 day ticket and you start using it on September 1st you can use it for any 6 more days between Sept 2nd and Sept 14th. Doesn't matter if you use it Sept 1,2,3,4,5,6 and 7 or Sept 1,3,4,5,9,12 and 14. But after the 14th, that's it -- even if you only used 1 day of your 7 day ticket the ticket becomes worthless after the 14th.

    4) Until recently Disney used to also sell no-expiration tickets. So if you bought a 10 day no-expiration ticket and used a day on Sept 1 you still had 9 days left which you could use any time at all. Didn't matter if the next use was Sept 2nd, 2015 or June 10, 2026. That ticket expired when all 10 days were used, whenever that happened to be. They were considerably more expensive than the expiring ticket, but it basically meant you could buy a 10-day non-expiring ticket and get 2 or 3 several day trips out of it even if the visits were years apart.

    Those were discontinued last year but existing non-expiring tickets are still valid, of course. And any retailers could sell their existing stock of non-expiring tickets until their stock was exhausted. Undercover Tourist bought a big batch of non-expiring tickets when they were still available and last I saw they still have a few left to sell.
     
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  22. vickers

    vickers Gold Member

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    Appreciate the detailed explanation. Really appreciate the information, and it clears up the ticket expiration policy. I didn't realize that Disney used to allow tickets to be used until all days were exhausted regardless of time between visits.
     
  23. gconnery

    gconnery Silver Member

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    Get yourself a bunch of Amex Cards--add AU cards as needed to crank the numbers up. Set them up for Amex Sync in the usual way. Watch for offers at locations that sell Disney Gift Cards. Kohls say. Often there are deals that will get you 25% or 30% back, which can be a significant discount on your DGCs. Then set up a Disney Vacation Savings account. Accumulate the DGCs in there, and use that to pay for tickets and/or Disney hotels. Pay attention to the limits on the DVS though--you have to have the account set up for a while before you can cash out as a GC, etc. An alternative I haven't attempted is that you can now apparently transfer the balance of one DGC to another, without the timing issues involved in the DVS.
     
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  24. adamefimoff2

    adamefimoff2 Silver Member

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  25. adamefimoff2

    adamefimoff2 Silver Member

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