Yup. It’s Disney time. I’ve been looking for an offer that includes free dining for quite some time, and they just opened one up for October through December. I bought the tickets today. This October, we’re going to be hanging out at the Pop Century Resort.
Because this is me that we’re talking about, I obsessed over the planning of this trip for months and months. The last time we went to Disney was probably around 3 years ago. As you read in my post yesterday, I like trying to recreate childhood experiences I had so I can pass them on to my kids. And one area where it’s actually pretty easy to recreate those experiences is Disney. I went to Disney World a lot as a kid. Often every year. I know the parks really well, and I’m a self-confessed Disney nut. So in addition to visiting family in Utah and Europe, going to Disney World is high on my list of things I want to do regularly.
In any case, wanting to go to Disney and being able to go to Disney are two distinct things. The whole idea of money rears its ugly head, and who wants to worry about that? Me. So I’ve been analyzing the situation from as many sides as possible, looking for ways to shave down on the price. How did I do this? First up, I boiled it down to its basic components: airfare, hotel, Disney tickets, rental car, food. Then I did a preliminary search to figure out what all that would cost me with no discounts or deals.
(I knew things are more expensive in the summer, so we were shooting for the fall. Knowing Disney, I wanted to shoot for a day in the Magic Kingdom, one at Hollywood Studios, one at Animal Kingdom, and 2 at my favorite, EPCOT. I also knew I’d want some rest days. We’ll have a six month old baby, after all. So I thought an 8 night stay would be about right, giving us 5-6 days at the park, 2 days for travel, and 1-2 rest days.)
Disney Tickets: $1250
Car: $400 (including parking and gas)
Food: $750 (eating at the park)
Rounding up for unforeseen expenses, that meant the trip would be around $4500. Looking at ze finances, that was at least $1k too much.
With more research, it appeared that there were two approaches: one was to stay at Disney, and one was to stay nearby. Staying at Disney would mean there’d be a travel package discount, plus no need to get a rental car and pay for parking–Disney provides that transportation for free. Staying nearby would mean the potential to shop for food at grocery stores, and have cheaper hotels (maybe as low as $30/night–but who knows what you’re actually getting then). It would also mean more of a pain getting to and from the parks.
As I priced the two options out, it became clear that Disney’s done the same research. Their prices inevitably came in around the same as doing it solo with a rental car, etc. And there was less hassle and more fun, so I was leaning heavily toward that. Packaging the trip together through Disney brought the cost down to around $4000. Still too much.
However, Disney periodically offers free dining. What this means is that they give you two free meals and a snack for every night you stay at the hotel. There are two flavors–quick service and table service. Quick service gives you two meals at places where you don’t need reservations. Table service makes one of the meals be at a reservation place. If you stay in a cheap hotel, you can get free quick service. A more expensive hotel gets you the table service option.
Disney message boards said they’d be offering free dining starting today. Turns out they were right. Running the numbers, I could do a value hotel (the cheapest) and get free dining, bringing the total down to $3200. (Airfare had gone up and down in the meantime, but not by much. I did miss one awesome sale that would have given me airfare for $850. But I didn’t want to commit until I had a lock on free dining.)
$3200 met my budget, and so I pulled the trigger.
There were only 3 cheap Disney hotels that had the free dining. All Star Music, All Star Sports, and Pop Century. From what I researched, Pop Century was the best reviewed of the three. It’s bigger, has better food, and better transportation. I would have preferred All Star Movies, but it wasn’t offered. Such is life.
I could have upgraded from quick service to table service, but I decided not to. It would cost $330, and it would mean I still just got 16 meals per person–it’s just that 8 of the meals would be nicer. Well, if I payed for 3 nice meals out of pocket, I’d pay less than $330 extra, and I’d now have 19 meals instead of 16, plus the flexibility of just not paying for the meals if I don’t want to.
So anyway. This is just to say that I’ll be in Florida in late October, and it doesn’t have to cost as much as you think it might. Wanna come play?