My boss recently left on a long weekend vacation to honor his upcoming anniversary. As those of us in the northern half of the U.S. see snow storm after snow storm, it struck me how enjoyable a long weekend in Florida might be. As a Disney-phile (having been to Walt Disney World 60+ times), the attraction of the amusement parks never wears too thin with my family and anything above freezing in temperature sounds wonderful. I quickly reviewed some options for a Friday-through-Monday trip over the next two months to Walt Disney World. I found some affordable options and here is how you can find them too.
First, jump on the Disney website at www.disney.go.com and go to the parks and travel home page. From there, select your parks and destination (Walt Disney World) and a selection page will open. From here, the easiest thing to do is to select the dates of your stay and allow the search engine to provide options. If you are not familiar with the resort options and the parks, you can also search from this site.
Select Find Prices after you have entered your dates and family information and then View All Resorts at Once if you want to compare resort options. [Note: I used a family of 2 adults and one child under 10 for pricing purposes, as an example. Prices are based on availability and will change based on the time of year, ticket options, ages, size of traveling party, etc. Prices do not include travel to/from Orlando due to the variability of options].
Disney World resorts are divided into three categories: Deluxe, Moderate, and Value. Deluxe options are just what they say – deluxe. Concierge options abound, as well as higher end finishes, larger rooms, shopping, exercise facilities, game rooms, and themed-pools on site, hot tubs/spa pools, etc. can be found at Deluxe resorts. Deluxe options include Deluxe Villas. These are larger rooms, some sleeping a dozen people. Most of the villas have kitchens or kitchenettes, living areas, premium balconies and locations, and may include concierge services. The Moderate options include some larger rooms as well as themed pools. There is not as much shopping on-site though there will always be a gift shop and some basic food items available at a Disney hotel. These resorts may also be spread across a large property with bus access to a main building and some non-theme pool options throughout the resort. Value resorts are those that are traditional motel structures with outside access rooms, a food court with gift shop, a pool (all Disney pools are heated), and central check-in building. Disney World has 4 Value resorts – All-Star Music, All-Star Movies, All-Star Sports, and Pop Century. The Value resort are brightly colored, featuring over-sized iconic images matching the theme and are perfect for small families. These resorts are often home to the Magical Music Days programs where high school marching bands, dance groups, and choirs are invited to perform and are provided packages for large group stays.
I selected among the Moderate and Value options. Moderate resorts such as Port Orleans-Riverside, Port Orleans-French Quarter, Coronado Springs, and Caribbean Beach all started at $149 per night with options of two double beds. The Value resorts listed above all started at $82 per night. In addition, if you have your own RV or tent, Campsites at Fort Wilderness are available starting at $43 per night over the next two months.
Disney offers a number of special options and benefits to its resort guests. Among the options are Extra Magic Hours – early admissions and late park closing times exclusively for Disney resort guests, bus transportation among and between resorts, parks, and other Disney venues, package delivery, and well-appointed rooms and clean accommodations. All Disney resorts provide bus transportation to and from the Disney parks, unless there is another transportation option like a monorail or a boat. Among the Moderate and Value resorts, all park transportation is by bus. Buses run periodically throughout the day with additional buses assigned starting an hour before individual parks open and through park closing.
As a higher-end option, I selected Coronado Springs for the first weekend in March. My initial rate for the “Magic Your Way” plan was $1706.52. The plan includes length-of-stay tickets with Park-Hopper and Water Park options (Disney one-day passes are about $80 currently). I can cut the price of the package down to $1361.46 by removing the Park-Hopper and Water Park options.
If I add the Disney Dining Plan, my cost for four days, three nights increases to $1673.37. The Disney Dining Plan provides one table service, one quick service, and one snack per day. For an adult, it is said to provide savings of about 20% over the cost of the individual meals combined. I have personally found that the Disney Dining Plan is a matter of taste and for the foodie, like myself, I gravitate toward the table service restaurants for more than the allotted number of meals.
At the Value Resort level, I selected Pop Century for the same weekend in March. My initial rate for a standard room with the “Magic Your Way” plan without Park-Hopper and Water Park options was $1110.04. I can add a Park-Hopper option which allows me and my family to move among the different parks on each day of my stay as we wish for a total $1594.48 – the Park-Hopper option is a premium park admission ticket. I could instead upgrade my Disney Dining Plan to the Wine and Dine option taking my total cost to $1541.92.
All Disney World hotel packages include the airport transport program called Magical Express, a complimentary airport shuttle service. This program provides you direct bus transportation from Orlando International Airport to your resort hotel through a reservation. You will be provided special baggage tags sent prior to your departure to your home. You place the special tags on your luggage prior to departing your home airport and Disney will pick up your bags at the airport and take them directly to your room. There is no need to go to baggage claim at all. Bags can then be checked to your final return destination upon your departure at your hotel in the same manner. Disney will deliver your bags to your air carrier prior to your flight, along with you and your family. Again, no need to touch your bags once you check out of the resort hotel.
Finally, another option for cutting down on the price of my Disney World stay might be to drop a day at the Parks and choose to remain pool-side for a day. Three standard park admissions for three days will cost my sample family $650. Upgrading those tickets to Park-Hopper status raises the rate on the tickets to $812. If I choose to book my hotel stay separate from my tickets and opt out of the dining plan, I am likely looking at about $900 for three hotel nights at a Value resort, three days of park admission, plus the cost of food and room taxes. Depending on the family situation, this may be a good option for some families and for good weather. Magical Express is still included with the resort reservation saving the cost of a taxi or a rental car.
So, if you want to get away for a long weekend in the warm Florida sunshine, Walt Disney World can be a four-day, three-night destination of fun for under $500 per person. Enjoy!