Park Hopper Tickets: Worth it or not?

When we first visited Walt Disney World, we were diehard 1 park per day ticket people. Our kids were 3 and 8 years old our first time and it seemed logical not to push the kids from park to park each day. We did one park, were there at opening, took a break midday for naps and returned to the same park each night for fireworks or whatever. This is how we did it for the next 13 years. Do we need to pay the extra price for park hoppers? “No!” was our answer. We will do one park per day.

Then one day flights to Orlando were SUPER cheap. I mean $70 round trip FOR BOTH OF US. Who can pass that up? Not us. My husband and I decided on a kid free weekend and quickly booked a hotel. We were only going to be in the parks for 2 or 3 days and I found out that the new projection show started At Magic Kingdom while we were there. Here was my problem, I loved the old projection and wanted to see it one last time, but I also wanted to see the new projection show since we would be there. Solution – park hoppers!

We went to all 4 parks in one day. We went to Animal Kingdom just to ride Expedition Everest. I still wasn’t completely convinced and my next trip with my son we went back to our old one park per day tickets. My son didn’t know what he was missing, and it was SUPER hot that February, so we crashed midday and I didn’t miss not park hopping.

Our next two trips we had free dining and park hoppers. Let me tell you, that is the best of both worlds! We could hop from one park to another just to eat and ride a couple rides. It gave us the flexibility we didn’t know we were missing. On our last trip we were finished in Animal Kingdom by 9am thanks to Extra Magic Hours and headed back to the hotel for a quick break before our brunch reservation. Then spent the afternoon and evening at a different park.

We have decided that park hoppers are our go to ticket. Our kids are older and ready to bounce from park to park. Would I do it with smaller kids? I didn’t, but now I’m rethinking that decision. When my kids were tired of one park, we could have headed to another after the midday break.

One quick thing about park hopping to consider, if you are depending on Disney transportation to park hop, you can lose a lot of time waiting on the buses. (That’s true about the bus system even if you are only doing one park per day.) When we rented a car, it was easier and faster. Using the Skyliner from Epcot to Hollywood Studios works great for park hopping.

Next time you are trying to decide what type of ticket you want to buy for your next Disney World vacation consider these questions:

Does your family finish riding all the rides in a park and want to leave the park early and then are bored the rest of the day?

Do you want the flexibility to dine at any park on any day? This is a great alternative during Epcot’s Wine and Dine.

Does your family want to see any of the nighttime shows more than once? (I saw Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom 3 times in one trip)

During your next trip, try out the park hoppers and see if they work for you and your family.

Quick note – At Disneyland, we ALWAYS get park hoppers. Disneyland and California Adventure are just across the promenade from each other and the fastpass systems are not linked, so we jump back and forth getting fastpasses and riding rides all day long.

 

Vacation Planning That Makes “Cents”

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Recently, I read an article on another site that asked the question, “Does Disney Ever Help with Low Income Families Visit Disney World?” (their wording, not mine).  Of course, I knew the answer to the question being asked, but as a Disney NUT, I was curious how this question was to be answered.  The response was, as I expected, “no,” Disney does not offer any specific service to assist low-income families with their Walt Disney vacation.  What I did not expect, was the alternative suggested by the author.  The writer went on to suggest that a person’s best approach would be to finance their vacation; either through your personal bank or a credit card.

No…  Let me say again, No…

A Walt Disney World vacation is an absolute amazing experience that you and your family will treasure for years to come.  What you don’t want to do, especially if you are on a limited income, is to have the expense of that vacation follow you home for years to come too.  I am a big believer that everyone NEEDS a vacation.  We all need that opportunity to allow our personal batteries to recharge while we reconnect with our loved ones.  However, financing your vacation, at what can be ridiculous interest rates is not the way to go (as of the writing of this article, the Disney® Visa by Chase® has a 16.24% interest rate, ouch).

Let me offer you an alternative, and one of the great benefits of working with a Disney Travel Agent like the folks here at ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE TRAVEL, LLC (AIOT TRAVEL).  A good agent will listen and get to know you.  Many of us take pride in developing personal relationships with our clients while working with you to plan that memorable vacation.  That’s what we do, we work for you, and that includes understanding your financial situation.

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We know when Disney typically releases their deals and can help plan accordingly.  Are you worried that there may not be a discounted offer when you’re ready to book?  Book anyways, many times Disney will announce these discounts up to 4 months ahead of time.  Your AIOT TRAVEL Consultant is constantly checking for these great offers and will automatically apply them to your vacation when they can.

If you find yourself struggling with the idea of how you will pay for your Disney vacation, let’s talk!  We can help you plan your vacation several months or years in advance.  Did you know that Disney prices are available up to 499 days in advance; that’s almost a year and a half of saving!  If you can put away $100.00 a month for 16 months, you’d have $1,600.00; $150.00 a month would equal $2,400, and $200 a month…  Well, that would give you $3,200.00 to put towards your dream Disney vacation.  Hey, this is just putting money in a sock drawer, I’m not even going to discuss compounding interest! 😉

Your AIOT TRAVEL Consultant will also help you budget out and plan how much you will need to save to meet Disney’s “Paid in Full” deadline (typically 45 Days prior to arrival).

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Not a natural saver???  That’s OK.  Many direct deposit companies will allow you to set up an allotment that allows a portion of your paycheck to go into a designated account.

Afraid of having easy access to and spending the money, Disney can help with that!

Disney now offers the “Disney Vacation Account (DVA)!”  This tool, operated by Disney, is an online savings plan that can help you save for your Disney vacation.  When you’re ready to book, your AIOT TRAVEL, Independent Travel Consultant will book your reservation and then provide you with a confirmation number.  All you will need to do is contact DVA and they will deduct the money directly from the account.  Your AIOT TRAVEL Consultant will handle all other arrangements for you beyond that.

So please, take the time to contact an AIOT TRAVEL Consultant.  Our time is free and many times we can save you money.

-Rob Edwards

rob@adventureisouttheretravel.com

Disney Dining Plan – With or Without?

My family recently returned from an amazing time on our first Disney cruise.  We spent 3 nights on board the Disney Magic in the Bahamas.  We had a wonderful time and will definitely be going again someday.

When the cruise was over we stayed 2 nights at Pop Century with 1 day in the Magic Kingdom.  Ideally that is not nearly enough time but it was all we had and we’ve been to Disney every year since our “once in a lifetime trip” in 2012 so we didn’t have to see and do everything because we know we’ll be back soon.  Even though it was only 2 days, HOLY COW we spend a lot of money on food!!!  The Disney Dining Plan would’ve cost around $300 for my family of 4 and I would not be surprised if we spent that or more on meals, snacks, and drinks.  We did not do any table service meals; we ate at all quick service restaurants.

A big expense was pop (we’re from Michigan, you might call it soda).  I drink a lot of Coke Zero and I think they are somewhere around $3-5 for a 20 ounce bottle at the resort’s food court.  If we had been on the Disney Dining Plan, we would’ve each gotten a refillable mug.  We could’ve purchased one but I felt that the length of our stay was too short to justify the $17 price.  In hindsight, I should’ve probably bought at least one refillable mug because I’m sure I spent more than $17 on bottles of Coke Zero.

Another reason I think we spent more on food was that my children don’t share well.  The portions are plenty big enough for 2 kids to share and in a perfect world, they would.  Not my boys.  If one wants chicken nuggets, the other one HATES chicken nuggets today and will only eat macaroni and cheese.  So, to avoid a major meltdown, we end up buying 2 different meals and throwing half of them out because it’s too much food for one kid.  What a waste and all I kept seeing was dollar signs!

Speaking of waste, here’s how lunch at Pinocchio Village Haus went.  It was right in the middle of the lunch rush so tables were limited, everyone was starving, and the line was 10-15 minutes just to order.  I took my youngest son to find a table while my husband and oldest son got in line.  After ordering food and drinks for everyone, in excess of $40, my husband finally found us at the table.

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Naturally, he slept through the entire lunch.  We tried to eat as much as we could but ended up throwing most of his lunch out because it couldn’t be saved.  It goes without saying that when he finally woke up, he was starving.  Shocking, I know.

Maybe it’s because our kids are a year older this time, or maybe it was because we just came off the cruise ship where everything was included but we were just overly conscious about the cost of the food and it just “felt” like we spent a ton of money to eat and drink.  We’re not “foodies” by any means (I eat like a toddler); however we were all sick of chicken nuggets by the end of the trip.  I think the value of the Disney Dining Plan is different for each family.    It truly depends on your traveling style and how you plan on eating meals.  If you would be happy eating at quick service locations for the length of your trip, the Disney Dining Plan may not be for you.  For us, we look forward to a table service meal each day.

After our first trip to Walt Disney World without the Disney Dining Plan, I don’t think we would go again without it, especially on a longer trip.  With only 2 days, it would have taken too much time do table service meals but on longer trips, we enjoy them because they are a good way to take a break from the parks and see different resorts, all while still keeping that “Disney magic”.