I have total Disney fever. Ever since we went on Z’s first trip to Disney World for her birthday, I have been planning to go back. I have gained a ton of knowledge about different ins and outs of planning a DW vacation, and figured it was time to share it! Planning a DW vacation can be extremely overwhelming, but it is not impossible. Here’s a few ways you can plan:
- Plan the conventional way. You can go through a a Disney travel planner (Small World Vacations is fantastic! We had Beth as our planner) or through Disney World’s website. This way you will stay on Disney property, be able to choose to have a dining plan (or not), and have access to things like Extra Magic Hours, Advance Dining Reservations (you can make them 6 months in advance), and Disney transportation. I really like going this route because I love for my vacations to feel all-inclusive. However, if you’re on a tight budget and don’t want to build up a savings for it (which is what I had to do), this won’t be the most cost-effective way to do it. However, you can put a $200 deposit down on it (the minimum required) and then just pay throughout the year up to 45 days before your vacation, which is when it must be paid in full.
- Rent through a DVC rental site. This is a great way to get villas and high-priced rooms on Disney property at nearly half the price (sometimes even more). DVC stands for Disney Vacation Club. It’s basically a time-share type opportunity for members who can afford that sort of thing. DVC members will then rent their rooms out during the year at various rates (depending on season). They use a point system, and the DVC Rental Store offers a great point calculator which helps see how much it will cost for the time you’re wanting to visit. Another awesome part is you can still get all the benefits of staying on Disney property: Extra Magic Hours, ADRs, Dining Plan, and Disney transportation. If you decide to go this route, I suggest you go through the aforementioned DVC Rental Store. They are the only site I’ve found that doesn’t charge you for checking availability. Every other site I’ve seen charges up to $98 just to check availability (Crazy, I know…) Once they check availability, they have a representative contact you with cost, deposit requirements, and availability. The deposit is higher for these rentals (usually 50% of the total cost of the room), but again, you can usually get into great hotels like the Contemporary, Polynesian, Animal Kingdom Villas, and The Grand Floridian for HALF the price you would pay if booking the “conventional” way.
- Rent a hotel/vacation rental off property. So, I’ve gotten to Disney World 3 times in my life. Twice I stayed on property, and once I stayed off in a rented condo. And it was great. The perks of staying off property are price (of course), you usually get a full kitchen so you can prepare your own food, and they are more spacious. You can also find Disney/Universal themed vacation rentals, which is the best of both worlds! Not having to pay the Disney price tag, but still getting some of the magic. This also gives you the opportunity to split costs with vacation buddies or another family, making it even cheaper. And while you don’t have access to the perks of staying on property, the amount of money you can save could be well worth it. Here’s a few links to get you started: Story Time Orlando Rental, All Star Vacation Homes, VRBO, Magical Memories, Luxury Disney Vacation Homes.
- And here’s .5, Shades of Green. The reason I consider this a “.5” is because Shades of Green is only available to Active Duty Military, Military Retirees, and some DoD employees. They offer standard rooms and suites at very reasonable rates, and even can get you discounted theme park tickets. I’m still unsure if you can get the dining plan when staying here, Anyone know the answer to that? I’ll update when I confirm. Also, here’s the eligibility requirements. You will have to provide proof of your (or your spouses/relatives) service.
There are a TON of resources out there to help you plan your vacation. Even if you save change for 6 years before you go, it’s something that, for my family at least, was so worth it. Anyone have any other ways to planning a great Disney vacation?