Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Best Strategies for Cheap Disney Travel

This is the second post in a series of best strategies for cheaper travel that we utilize to travel as often as possible. You can see the first post here, where I focused on our general strategies, like flights and rewards points/dollars. Since the majority of our travel is Disney focused, this post will be dedicated to Disney-specific money saving tips and tricks.


This is my biggest rule if I need to get a good deal at Walt Disney World (and usually Disney Cruise line as well). Prices are always higher if school is out. Holidays, summers, and Spring Break brings an increase in crowds and prices at Walt Disney World. This may not always be possible, or the best option for you at the time, but it is the general guideline I follow when considering when to visit. 


This was covered this in the first post, but this is especially true for Walt Disney World. Flexibility is important regarding dates and hotel choices. I'll use examples to elaborate.

- Current (at the time of this posting) price per night at Animal Kingdom Lodge Friday, December 4, 2015: $360 - $563 for non club level or suites.
- Current (at the time of this posting) price per night at Pop Century Resort Friday, December 4, 2015: $136

- Current (at the time of this posting) price per night at Animal Kingdom Lodge Friday, December 18, 2015: $450 - $634 for non club level or suites.
- Current (at the time of this posting) price per night at Pop Century Resort Friday, December 18, 2015: $201

That is a small example of just how a few days can fluctuate, and this doesn't take into consideration any special offers that Disney throws out from time to time which may include 30% off certain arrival dates, or even free dining. If you can go a week or two (or even a few days!) earlier/later than originally planned to save- it might be worth it.

Being flexible on your hotel choice is a little harder. For example, I have a goal of staying at a different resort every time I visit Walt Disney World in an effort to one day stay in each one. (That's lofty, I know.) The snag I have is that I've stayed at a few that we really love, and there is always that fear that we could end up at one we like much less. So I make a point to be flexible, but sometimes the best value or option is a resort that I've already stayed at, so I might need to make a few adjustments or even change my expectations at times. (I could definitely stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge twice before trying out Caribbean Beach, right?) This could also be the other way around. You could have your favorite place to stay, just to find that there are better values elsewhere. There could be an event that has your favorite resort/room preference booked up (like Pop Warner or a runDisney event.) The resort you had your heart set on may not be included in a recent Disney offer than allows free dining. Do you want to pass up free dining? That may be true if staying at that resort is more important to you, but generally I wouldn't mind trying a new resort for my food to be (nearly) covered.



Finding the best option for yourself is really just trial and error. I pull out pen and paper, write down the vicinity I want to go, and manually look up prices for different arrival dates. I also take a look at the current offers. If they apply to my date range, I'll see if that might work for me. I generally choose two or three hotel options with the cheapest date range I found and request an official quote from a travel agent. 


Disney cruise line can be very expensive. It's usually a significant amount more than other cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival. However, there are Disney Cruise Line deals out there. I'm usually ENORMOUSLY flexible when it comes to DCL. As in, I don't have any date range in mind, and sometimes not even a destination or port of call that I'm attached to. I will literally look at prices for all types of itineraries and ships in every single month to find a deal that is appealing to me. It's time consuming, yes, but I've always been able to find an affordable option. The exact same cruise can be double the price just two weeks apart. I literally go through every month and write down the cheapest itineraries they have. If it's one I've been on before, I might skip it. If there is a stop or two that I've never visited, I'll keep it on the "possible" list. Then we go through and pick the one that is most appealing to us.

Another great thing to point out for DCL is that food is already included in price (other than the premium restaurants for an extra fee or bar purchases.) There is food available at any hour and it's already paid for. When we travel, we tend to spend less on a Disney Cruise that we would at Walt Disney World.


Split stays are when you spend some time at one resort and some time at another. This might be a money saving option if the prices of a more expensive resort are out of reach for your entire trip, but you really want the experience of a deluxe resort. I've actually never done this, (we will be doing it for the first time later this year and will report back our experience!) but I've read plenty of positive experiences with it. There is sometimes a few snags and headaches when it comes to Magic Bands, but Disney is really great at getting everything worked out as best and quickly as they can.


This is of course only true if you're not interested in the special event :). Unless I one day decide that I should run 26.2 miles (not likely) I probably wouldn't plan to visit on marathon weekend. There are other special events like cheer leading competitions, expos, golf tournaments, etc. A good calendar of events can be found here. If you're not sure, call Disney and they'll give you any information you need. (Like where all the cheerleaders will be staying. I don't know about you but thousands of teenagers in the building next to me wouldn't be my favorite thing in the world.) 

It's important to note that you definitely should NOT avoid Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, Food and Wine Festival (although it will be BUSY on weekends) or the special events leading up to Halloween or Christmas. These are all amazing events. Since they're spread out throughout several weeks, the effect isn't as much as a three day event mentioned above. 

Hope these tips help. It takes a lot of planning, but the fact that we are able to make multiple trips a year makes it all worth it! If you have any money-saving tips, please share in the comments!

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