Category Archives: Tips &Tricks
This question comes to us from Joan, who asks: “I booked a trip for December through AAA with the dining plan for three meals a day . Please tell me this would be free. Thanks.”
Joan. Thanks for reading Chip and Co and for your question. Free dining has not been announced yet for December. We don’t actually know if it will be, but the rumor is pretty persistent and from some good sources, so I’m thinking it might happen. We’ll announced it here as soon as we find out any information.
A good Disney certified travel agent will keep up with discounts as they come out and notify her clients. The only problem with this is that sometimes there can be a delay in agents getting the information. This delay can take up to 3 – 5 days because of the way Disney makes this information available to their agents, which can mean that the agents who have better connections (or who are searching Internet forums for information) are getting their clients free dining while other agents aren’t even aware that it exists. By the time an agent who isn’t “in the know” gets the information, there’s no more availability. I’ve had this happen myself and ended up informing my agent that the discount was out there; he had no idea.
I mention this because you may also want to do some searching yourself. I’ve found that the posters on Disboards are pretty savvy. If there’s a discount out there, they usually know the moment it’s been announced. Keep up with those forums and check out Mousesavers, which has historical data on when discounts are released.and
If free dining is announced, call your agent and have him change your reservation to include dining, if there’s availability. If this seems like more work than you want to do and you have faith in your travel agent, simply wait for him to inform you if free dining has been announced. You may want to send him an email expressing your interest so that he knows to keep you in mind if something comes up. By the way, you can do this with any discount, so if something better comes out, have him apply that instead.
One small but very important caveat: You’re only allowed to have one discount at a time, so if your AAA agent already booked your trip with a discount (say, a percentage off the room), you’ll need to have him switch that discount to free dining. He’ll be able to run the numbers and tell you which one is a better deal. Generally free dining is a better deal if you have more than two people and you’re staying at a value resort. For a couple staying at a deluxe, the room discount is a much better deal.
Good luck. I hope this helps.
Have a Disney question? We have answers! Write us at Chip and Co. We answer every question.
With the arrival of summer, vacation season begins and many families will be visiting Walt Disney World. While a Disney vacation is a special one, visiting central Florida in the hottest part of summer will require some planning if you want this to be a magical vacation…and not a miserable one. So let’s talk about some ways to stay cool if you will be traveling to Disney World this summer.
Keeping in mind that everyone’s definition of “hot” differs, let me give you a frame of reference if you have never been to Disney World in the summer. I am a warm-weather lover. In fact, I am actually a hot-weather lover. Summer is by far my favorite time of the year, and I am happiest when temperatures are well into the 80s. So if I say that it is too hot for me….well you get the picture, right?
I love Disney World at any time of the year, but being at the parks when the heat index is close to 100 is too hot for me.
So then, in order to keep our cool, here are some of our family’s favorite heat-coping strategies:
- Do not stay at the parks from open to close. Really. It is just too much. Nothing makes me sadder than seeing little ones with beet red faces and sweat pouring off of them, sitting in their strollers crying, as their family waits in yet another line in the Magic Kingdom. Don’t do it. Plan for a break back at your room every day. Whether it’s to go to the pool or take a nap (and we’ve done both) everyone will really be much happier if you do this, when you return to the parks in the evening.
- Consider which are the outside attractions and which are indoors and air-conditioned, and plan accordingly. As in, do the outside ones first thing when it is coolest…or later in the evening after sunset. Plan to be in as much air conditioning as possible after 11 a.m. Keep in mind that those air-conditioned places are good for naps too….
- Think about the rides/attractions that are wet and will cool you off, and plan for those as well. By that I mean that when it is hottest and you really want to go on Splash Mountain to cool off…so will everyone else. Plan your Fastpasses accordingly.
- Have access to lots of water to drink. Bring water bottles with you and refill if needed. We have often frozen them overnight, and then put them in the backpack frozen the next morning. It’s also a great way to cool off the back of the person carrying the backpack.
- Mister fans are great. Save some money by getting some at home to bring with you. And remember to bring extra batteries.
- Really think about touring the parks with the weather in mind. For example, World Showcase is just not the place to be in the heat of the day. As much as I love that area, it is just miserable walking in the sun around the lagoon, because there is not much shade. World Showcase is an evening place for us in the summer. Animal Kingdom is another park where I would very carefully think about how long I wanted to be there during the heat of the day. Seriously, even the animals know to take it easy in the afternoon there….so you will truly see more of them if you go early or go late.
- Go to the parks when they open. Really. You will get a lot more done when crowds are lower first thing (because most people do not want to do this), and will be in perfect shape to have lunch and then leave for your break (see #1) just as everyone is arriving for the day.
- Prepare to use lots of sunscreen. Bring it from home because it is much cheaper than buying it at the parks.
- Know where the First Aid Stations are in each park in case someone gets overheated and needs assistance, and keep an eye out for where you can go inside to cool off quickly if needed: gift shops, food court, Hall of Presidents etc.
- Remember that Florida has pools everywhere for a reason.
Take it from this hot-weather loving person: your enjoyment of Disney World in the summer will be in direct proportion to how much you plan in advance for keeping cool. These are just a few things we have done to cope with the heat and there are of course many more tips for handling the heat.
What are your favorites?
You’ve done all the planning, made your reservations, and taken advantage of every discount you could find. Now there’s the not so small matter of paying for it all!
Here are ten small ideas that can add up to saving big for your Disney trip.
- Vacation Club. This is a twist on the traditional Christmas Club. Save a little bit each month for your Disney vacation by depositing a portion of your paycheck directly into your Disney vacation fund. It’s easier for me to save the money if it’s not available in my general checking account waiting to be spent on those cool new shoes.
- Reward Yourself. You clip coupons, scour the weekend paper for the best sales, and fill out those annoying rebate forms. Reward your efforts by putting your savings into your Disney vacation fund. I routinely save over a hundred dollars a month using this technique. Couponing to Disney is a great resource for finding some great deals.
- Earn Rewards. If you’re spending money, you should be earning rewards, right? Sign up for a rewards credit card, the Disney Rewards Visa Card is my favorite. If debit cards are more your speed, debit reward cards are gaining in popularity although their rewards are usually less than their credit counterparts. Disney also has a Rewards debit card.
- Massage and Mani/Pedi Clinics. We all like a little pampering but the price of beauty can add up. Try a massage or a manicure/pedicure at a local massage or beauty school clinic for the fraction of the cost. You’ll also feel good helping students gain experience.
- Designer Savings. Saving for a Disney trip shouldn’t have to mean depriving yourself the rest of the year. If you’re a fashion lover, check out member only sites such as Zulily, for your baby needs, and Gilt Groupe, for fashion and luxury brands, that offer savings up to 70% on designer items.
- Adjust the Thermostat. Energy websites show that increasing the temperature just one degree in the summer can save approximately 10% on your cooling costs. Likewise, setting the programmable thermostat one degree cooler in the winter will save on average 5%. Once you’ve adjusted to the temperature change, try adjusting the thermostat just one more degree for even bigger savings.
- Go Green. Bottled water seems to be everywhere these days; go green and save money by filtering tap water and investing in a couple of stainless steel, reusable water bottles for when you’re on the go.
- After Christmas Sales. We have relatives that we never see until after the Christmas holidays and we don’t exchange presents until we get together later in the year. I get some amazing deals on their Christmas presents in the days following Christmas. The same goes for stocking up on Christmas cards, wrapping paper, bows, and decorations during after Christmas sales. Throughout the year, I keep my eye out for bargains on stocking stuffers and teacher gifts to try to keep our Christmas expenditures in check.
- Bag It. With tax and tip, a casual lunch with co-workers adds up; this is lunch money that can buy more than a couple of Mickey bars at Disney World. Keeping that in mind makes it a little easier to bring lunch at least once a week. By doing a little prep the night before, I save hundreds of dollars a year and eat healthier too. Talk your spouse into taking the challenge or pack a lunch twice a week and you’ll be meeting your Disney goals before you know it.
- Make Coffee. You’ll be able to pay for a couple of nice table-service meals at Walt Disney World if you channel your inner barista and brew your own coffee instead of making a daily stop at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. If your mornings are a blur trying to get yourself and kids out the door on time, look into a coffeepot that allows you to program it to automatically brew at the specified time.
Our own Chris and Chip have more tips for saving for your Disney vacation.
Please share your best tips for saving for your Disney trip in the comments section below.
Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe.
You call follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DisneyExplorer.
Before I had children, I was a huge fan of shorter trips to Disney World. I’d usually go for three nights, sometimes as little as two, going from morning until night. Happily, because my visit was so short, I never went home feeling exhausted. What I found when I had children however, was that this type of trip doesn’t work very well, at least with the under-five crowd. The biggest issue is that kids take a while to adjust to their surroundings; in our case, the first night or two they tend not to sleep very well, which makes for a very grumpy day for all of us in the parks. And if anything goes wrong–and if you’re a parent, you know how high the potential for that is–your whole trip is pretty much doomed.
Having said that, probably the biggest reason people don’t take shorter, more frequent trips is a big one: Cost. Go for just two long weekends a year and you’re better off buying an annual pass because ticket prices are more expensive on the front end (the first three days, as opposed to just a few dollars a day after day four). Plus, if you’re not close enough that you can drive, airfare can really add up. From a financial standpoint then, longer trips are ideal.
Still, I love taking shorter trips. I love the excitement of always being in “planning mode” even if it’s just for a short weekend trip. When I come back from a trip and don’t have another one planned or when I have one planned so far out that it seems like it’s never going to happen, I really start to miss Disney World, which is how I’m starting to feel right now as I hit the six month mark from my last trip. This got me thinking about the pros and cons of longer vs. shorter trips. Here are a few:
Benefits of a longer trip:
1. Opportunity to relax and really immerse yourself in the experience.
2. If something goes wrong (sickness, lost luggage, weird weather) you still have time to make up for it.
3. Paying airfare once.
Cons of a longer trip:
1. Can be difficult to get time off of work and school.
2. Burn out. No matter how much you love Disney, at some point you have to slow down. You may even get tired of being there.
3. If you’ve been going like a true theme park commando for a week or more, it’s hard not to feel like you need a vacation from your vacation when you get home.
Benefits of a shorter trip:
1. You stay in planning mode, so it’s less likely you’ll experience the post-Disney blahs when you get home.
2. You get to enjoy different times of the year: Food and Wine, Flower and Garden, Christmas. You don’t just have to pick just one. You can do all of them.
3. It’s easier to take a long weekend off rather than an entire week or more. This is especially true with kids who are in school, which allows you to go during slower times of the year.
4. It’s more okay to splurge. Two nights at the Grand Floridian look a lot more affordable than an entire week.
Cons of a shorter trip:
1. You have to try hard to see everything you want to see.
2. Little flexibility for minor disasters. If something goes wrong, you’re out of luck.
3. The cost of park admission and airfare. There are ways around this. You can buy an annual pass, which confers other benefits like resort discounts, and you can drive. But the bottom line is you will be paying more by taking more trips, even if number of nights you stay remains the same.
So what about you? Do you prefer longer or shorter stays? Given a choice, would you rather go on three short trips or one long trip every year?
Photo copyright UndercoverTourist.com.
Planning a vacation to Walt Disney World starts with deciding when you are going to visit. Figuring this out can be challenging though, as there are so many things to consider: work and school schedules, weather, and even special Disney events that may be occurring all play a part in your decision. And if you are trying to make your Disney vacation as affordable as possible, then that is another consideration to throw into the mix, as the time of year will radically affect your costs. Here are a few things that you will want to carefully think about as you try to decide when you are visiting Disney World.
Certain Times of the Year at Disney are Just More Expensive
Deciding on the time of year for your visit affects everything else about your Disney vacation, including cost. Certain seasons are just more expensive than others. And if you have school-age children, like the majority of families that visit Walt Disney World, then traveling during school vacations is often a necessity. Not surprisingly, summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Years, and spring/Easter breaks are the busiest times to visit, and accordingly the most expensive. If you simply must travel during those peak times, then you must also be prepared for resort accommodations to be more expensive than they would during other non-peak times of the year. And while there are always lots of options for affordable lodging in the Orlando area, you may find that your choices may be limited if you do not plan ahead.
How do You Feel About Crowds?
Crowd levels are important to consider as well, as they can dramatically affect the enjoyment of a Disney World vacation. If you hate crowds, and don’t like standing in line, do not plan a visit during peak times! It is a surefire recipe for a miserable, rather than magical vacation!
What’s the Weather Going to be Like?
Don’t overlook the weather factor. Most people are well aware of how hot and humid Florida can be in the summer: if you are visiting Disney World during this time of year, be prepared to go early, take mid-day breaks, and relax in the pool in the afternoon. And if you just can’t handle heat and humidity at all, then choose another season to go. Winter months, on the other hand, can be very unpredictable: a glorious and sunny day in the 70s one day, and 30s at night the next. Visiting during the winter requires a different kind of pre-planning, with special attention paid to packing wisely before you leave home!
The very best way to plan a Disney vacation starts with a realistic appraisal of your family’s schedule, considering how everyone in your family feels about things like crowds and weather, and then scheduling your vacation accordingly. Disney World is magical all year long…but will be far more magical for your family if it is the RIGHT time of year for your family.