Planning a Disney Vacation
Pick a Destination
The first step to planning any Disney vacation is picking a location. Do you want to experience the charm Disneyland and the thrill that is California Adventure? Do you prefer the wonder that is Walt Disney World? What about an adventure on the high seas on the Disney cruise line? Oh, and then there are the parks in Paris, Hong Kong, Shanghai, or Tokyo. If relaxation is your goal Disney has two resorts along the East Coast: Hilton Head and Vero Beach. If you are feeling adventurous but want to see the world with a familiar name the Adventures options are a great way to see nearly every corner of the world. There is also one more place: Hawaii.
Go ahead. Pick one. I can assure you that you will come out a winner no matter what you choose. Walt Disney World is its own little entity and a world in of itself. Disneyland is an oasis in the hustle and bustle of Southern California. The various Disney parks around the world will provide a taste of culture with the sparkle of Disney magic. In short, there is no wrong choice. My suggestion is to come up with a budget and see where you can go from there. You will have the time of your life. Just find your inner child and have fun!
Saving for Your Trip
One way that I like to save if my cutting things that I don't really need in my daily life. Think about it just cutting one trip to Starbucks each week would save at least $20 a month. Cutting happy hour once a month could save you just as much, or even more. Packing your lunch for work and your kids to take to school could help save a little too. My point is everything adds up. If you are already putting $50 away each month an extra $20 is only going to help you get to your goal faster. Think about it, just doing that for two years is more than enough for a trip to Walt Disney World for a week.
Its $1680 to be exact and if you go when they have a promotion you even have enough saved for souvenirs. Go you!
Alright. I'm going to be honest with you. Disney can be expensive. That being said you do not need to break the bank to have the trip of a lifetime. Disney has a lot of deals and promotions that can make it easier on your wallet. What kind of deals? Well, the last few years Disney has run promotions where if you book a room for a certain number of nights you get either park tickets or the dining plan for free. You heard me. Either way that is a pretty good deal right there. Especially when you consider that its normally for the value and moderate resorts.
One thing that I like to do is plan for all the parts of the trip where I have to spend money before I go. What do I mean? Simple. I know how much the hotel will cost, I know how much I want to spend on tickets, I've planned out how much it will take to get there and back home, and I know how much I will spend on food. That is one of the reasons I like the dining plans so much. You already know how much you will spend on food. The only variable is anything fun you buy while you are on vacation.
The biggest point that I cannot stress enough is don't spend more than you can afford. I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head when I heard a friend say that she was considering taking out a loan so that she could give her children the trip of a lifetime. Don't go into debt for your Disney vacation. Please, just don't. It's far better to save up until you can afford it, even if it takes a few years, then to go in debt.
I love Walt Disney World. Really, I do. But it is so expensive. When Nic and I were discussing when we could go to the parks again we found that it would be cheaper for us to take a 7 day Disney cruise than for the two of us to spend a week at the parks. That's crazy! But, I guess this means I get to plan a Disney cruise.
How Much do You Want to Do?
The planning stage is the time to decide what you want to do. Do you want a relaxing trip or do you want to have non-stop adventures? If you are looking for a slower pace and a little time to rejuvenate maybe a trip to the parks is not what you are looking for. At the same time if you want something to do every day and have a need for thrills the parks might be a better option.
If you want to take things slow you might be a little disappointed by your time at the parks since most everything is face paced and everyone is trying to get to the next attraction. I'm not saying the parks can't be relaxing. All I'm saying is most people tend to overdo it and try to do everything, which usually results in getting burned out a few days into vacation. The running joke in my family is that we need a vacation from our Disney vacation.
Plan in a rest day or two. Take advantage of the resort. You are paying for the amenities after all, so why not enjoy them.
Disney has some of the best food on the planet. That is a statement. If you don't believe me I invite you to try to prove me wrong. I have never had a meal at Disney that was not excellent. The service is great. The atmosphere is one of a kind. And of the course the food is fantastic. And for the price it should be.
Many Disney parks allow you to bring food in. My family has always liked to bring breakfast foods with us and just eat in the room before venturing out to the parks. Saves time and money. The cruise line includes all food and non-alcoholic drinks. However, places like Aulani, Vero Beach, and Hilton Head do not have much to choose from outside of the restaurants that are on property. So, dining there can be a little expensive. Be smart about choosing where to dine and how much you want to spend. Yes the beer cheese soup in Canada is amazing but it isn't worth spending half of your food budget.
If you need help with planning your dining options head over to the Disney website. They have menus you can look at from nearly every restaurant. And, even better, they can give you an idea of what you can expect to pay when you dine there.
On our last trip Nic and I shared a lot of meals. Granted, we did go during the Food and Wine festival and let me tell you, we took advantage of the festival. But, the vast majority of meals were shareable for two adults. We saved money, didn't waste food, and didn't leave every restaurant feeling like our pants were going to explode.
Its no secret that if you live in the United States it is going to be cheaper to get to one of the many locations on the mainland of the United States. It's a fact. International flights are not cheap by any means. That being said if you are looking to save a little on your flight, or just plain want to drive to your destination, maybe Disneyland Hong Kong is not the best option for you if you live in Washington State. My friend and I wanted to budget out a trip to France, mainly so that we could go to the Disneyland there, and the flight alone was just as expensive as a trip to Walt Disney World for the two of us for a week. That quickly killed all hopes of going to Paris. Florida it is!
One of the things people should keep in mind is the price difference between the resorts on property and the hotels off property. There is a big difference. But why? Well, Disney offers a pretty regular transportation system to all resort guests, ranging from buses to monorails. This means you do not need to drive while at the Walt Disney World Resort. Disney also will take you to and from the airport, though when the train service is running Disney will no longer offer the Magical Express. This means you will not need to rent a car. In short, you are saving on the rental car fees and the fee to park at the parks. Depending on your rental care rate these savings could easily totally $50 or more per day. That makes the Disney resorts very affordable compared to their off property counterparts when you think about it.
Which Disney location would you like to go to?
To Travel Agent or Not to Travel Agent
I have never had a travel agent plan a Disney vacation. That being said I also consider myself to be a self proclaimed Disney expert. If you plan on staying stateside I would not bother with a travel agent to be honest. The Disney website is more than enough to help you plan everything you could want to do. And if you get stuck simple talk to one of the fairies that pops up or call the office.
However, if you are planning to travel internationally I would strongly consider a travel agent. They will be able to help with finding out what documents you need and when you need them by. They will also be able to help you with information traveling abroad. Personally, I would feel better if someone with more experience helped me plan a vacation abroad.
Don't Forget to Have Fun!
If you spend the entire trip focusing on how you can afford this or if you had more money you could do that you will have a horrible trip. And that is true of more than just a Disney vacation. You should enjoy the fact that you are experiencing the magic of Disney. I can tell you this: I have stayed at the most expensive resorts at Walt Disney World and at Disneyland and I have also stayed at the cheapest resorts at Walt Disney World. The cast members didn't treat me any differently. The person seating me on SpaceMountain didn't care. And the other park guests most certainly didn't give me a second thought. The point was a had a bed to sleep in each night and Disney made sure I got to and from my park of choice each day.
If you spend the entire trip thinking about how expensive everything is, or how you couldn't afford to eat at Victoria and Alberts you are going to have a miserable time. Smile. You are having a Disney experience. Am I jealous of all the people that can afford to go to Aulani? Yes. But that being said I have been very blessed with the ability to go to Walt Disney World as often as I have.
© 2015 Alexandria