I’m a big Disney fan and love going to Walt Disney World. So, I thought I would do some blog posts to help people make vacation plans. I’ve been there a lot and have stayed and eaten in a variety of different places “on property”. Am I there every day? No. I live in Maryland, so it’s not really an option. However, I’ve got smallish kids and an adventurous palate and we see as much as possible every time we go. In other words, I’d be a great guide if you want to do lots of stuff and see lots of things. If you are just moseying around to see the theming of the park, I’m not your gal. We have been there at the opening and closing of parks. On. The. Same. Day.
Also, I constantly compare rates and deals and examine my options ad nauseum. I use my MBA and law degree to the nth degree to come up with the best deal. I’m that mom.
Using my “that mom” powers, let me explain how maddening the rates are for Disney and how you can really end up paying a lot more for the same vacation depending on when you go, where you stay, and what discount you get. Discounts can sometimes be hidden on their main webpage, but here is a link to them: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/special-offers/
Let’s say you are a family of four: two adults, 1 kid over 10 and 1 kid under 10. You would be paying for 3 adult meals on the meal plan and 1 kid meal. Let’s also say you want to stay at the Port Orleans French Quarter. Using a handy chart from the wonderful people at http://www.mousesavers.com, the 2014 price of a room in the French Quarter with a garden view can vary from the $195 “value” rate to $299 “holiday” rate. That’s right. You can pay $100 more a night depending on when you go for the exact same room. We can go further down the rabbit hole and compare moderate resort prices during value season (weekday) and Holiday Season:
Caribbean Beach: $210 (Water View Value) vs. $318 (Water View Holiday)
Coronado Springs: $232 (Water View) vs. $324 (Water View Holiday)
Port Orleans- Riverside: $196 (Garden View) vs. $299 (Water View Holiday)
To try to appeal to every person, Disney has 3 categories of resort: budget, moderate and deluxe. Making the same comparisons in the other resort categories:
Animal Kingdom Lodge: $319 (Standard View Value) vs. $555 (Standard View Holiday)
Wilderness Lodge: $325 (Standard View Value) vs. $561 (Standard View Holiday)
Polynesian: $482 (Standard View Value) vs. $760 (Standard View Holiday)
Art of Animation: $118 (Standard View Value) vs. $221 (Standard View Holiday)
Pop Century: $106 (Standard View Value) vs. $209 (Standard View Holiday)
All Star Movies: $96 (Standard View Value) vs. $198 (Standard View Holiday)
So, even among resorts in the same tier, the prices can vary wildly!!
Let’s say you are staying for 5 nights/6 days. You get the 30% off room rates deal. First of all, that deal may not apply to all resorts, especially popular resorts like the Port Orleans French Quarter. But, let’s pretend. So if you get 30% off and go during a value season, let’s round to $60, that’s $300 off. Not too bad. If you get Disney Dining free, that’s $194.86 per day savings, if you have 2 adults, a junior and a child! Huge difference, so it pays to look!
The “regular” Disney dining plan is 1 quick service (counter service) meal, 1 sit down meal (table service) and 1 snack a day. Each meal is an entree and dessert. If you use your sit down at the buffet, it’s the whole meal. Doesn’t include tip or alcoholic or speciality beverages (read: blinky toy containing beverages your kid will want– hide that menu!).
So, it pays to plan your vacation early and see what deals are available when, as the differences are substantial. There are quite a few websites that do the heavy lifting: mousesavers.com and allears.net are fantastic. But it takes some jockeying between sites to really get a sense of all the savings you can get.
Also, you have to decide what’s important. Rates vary by season. Holidays and the Summer are high dollar seasons. To me, it’s important to ride the rides, which means I have to go when the crowds are the least. For 2014, Disney had determined their “value” seasons (read: time no one goes) to be:
January 9th-February 12th (Excepting MLK weekend)
August 3rd-September 12th
The next lowest crowd time is listed as “Fall” (aka prime hurricane season):
September 13th-November 21st (except Columbus Day weekend)
November 29th- December 11th
There are likely deals offered at this time, from 30% of rooms to free dining. If you can go during these times, you’ll enjoy lower crowds and lower room prices. While the weather can be a bit variable during these times, especially in January, I have found the cost and crowd and cost differential have more than made up for a few chilly days. We’ve encountered 80 degree weather and 40 degree weather. Also, I hate walking around dying from the heat. I went once in June. Never again. 90-98 degrees, unbearable humidity and crowds and lines everywhere. Not really “fun”. Now, the water resorts during this time were a blast! But, I’m not paying low 4 figures to go down a water slide, am I? Like I said, I’m “that mom”. We’ve been on Test Track with 5-15 minute waits. They can go over 2 hours in prime crowd times.
The point of this post is not to tell you every deal or every bit of savings. It’s to tell you, you need to look and compare, as the differences are startling.
post written 2/14/2014, please check with Disney for updated information.