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Monday, September 24, 2018

Disney Tickets Are Going to Date-Based Pricing on October 16th


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Disney Tickets Are Going to Date-Based Pricing on October 16th

As of this morning, official information is starting to be shared by the Disney Company of a new ticket pricing structure arriving October 16th. The pricing specifics have yet to be announced, but we do know that a Date-Based Ticket and Pricing structure will be adopted on October 16th. 

Beginning on that date, guests will have to purchase tickets that are priced based on the date that they choose to visit the parks. The ticket buying process will essentially use a calendar of different prices (based on the date) where guests can choose their travel dates. Tickets will need to be used during a specific time period, as planned by the dates they select.

Ticket expiration timeframes will also change. 

1 Day base tickets will be valid for admission on the specific date selected. Multi-day tickets are only valid for the start date selected and must be used in an extremely limited time period. Here's the breakdown of expiration we know so far:

1-Day Tickets: only on the date selected 
2-Day Tickets: any 2 days within 4 days of the chosen start date 
3-Day Tickets: any 3 days within 5 days of the chosen start date
4-Day Tickets: any 4 days within 7 days of the chosen start date 
5-Day Tickets: any 5 days within 8 days of the chosen start date 
6-Day Tickets: any 6 days within 9 days of the chosen start date 
7-Day Tickets: any 7 days within 10 days of the chosen start date  
8-Day Tickets: any 8 days within 12 days of the chosen start date 
9-Day Tickets: any 9 days within 13 days of the chosen start date 
10-Day Tickets: any 10 days within 14 days of your originally selected start date

For example, a 6-day ticket is only allowed to be used November 1st through November 9th if the the selected start date is November 1st. 

If you choose to buy the park hopper plus option, it will extend the period for which you can use your ticket by one day. In the example listed above, if you add the park hopper plus option, your ticket will be valid any 6 days November 1st through November 10th.

The only exception to the expiration timeframes are if you are staying at a Walt Disney World resort. Packaged ticket and resort stay bundles will have a valid ticket use period of the package resort check in date to the package resort check out date. You will receive whichever timeframe is longer concerning expiration. 

According to Disney, the expiration changes "better align with observed guest ticket usage patterns." If you do want added ticket flexibility, a "Flexible Date Ticket" option will be available. The cost of that option has yet to be released.        

This is a change that we have expected for quite some time, but it has not arrived in the typical ticket pricing change timeframe. There is only one way around this and that is to book now if you possibly can. If you do want to book a trip before all of this changes, contact our friends over at Destinations to Travel (which also helps us out) or head on over to Disney's site before October 16th. 

The ticket buying change is one that will change the booking experience drastically and is likely to accompany increased costs across the board. Sadly, it's an unfortunate change but one that we will soon be facing for upcoming Walt Disney World vacations. 

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Need My Help?

Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or free-lance work at Guide4WDW@gmail.com. If you need a landscape or theme park photographer, feel free contact me with photo requests or contracts. All theme park writing and photos will be assessed on a case by case basis. 

For anyone else looking to give me a shout or to have their questions answered by me, feel free to contact me anytime via that same email address! I never charge anyone to answer a question and I do answer all of my emails personally.      

Need a Travel Planner?

If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They'll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you'd like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thanks for supporting those who support us.

Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way. 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Illuminations is Leaving Epcot - Now What?


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Illuminations is Leaving Epcot - Now What? 

By now you've likely heard that Illuminations finally has an official end in sight after years upon years of rumor and speculation. Disney announced a short few days ago that the show will run until next summer. While no specific "last showing" date has been announced, I have to say that I believe whole heartedly that this is the first of many announcements we'll see announced for Epcot by the end of the year. As any life long Disney fan would, I am waiting in both eager and hesitant anticipation of the details as they unfold. 

Epcot has been a place that so many of us have grown to appreciate for so many reasons, but nostalgia tends to top that list time and time again. As the rumors swirl about what expansions and changes may be on the horizon for the park, it's inevitably hard to see a few things disappear along the way. The entire process is bitter sweet in so many ways. I'll miss Illuminations substantially because it is and will always be quintessentially "Epcot" in my mind. At the same time, it is time for a change. It's been a part of the magic in one way or another since the late 80's and inevitably a lot has changed in the roughly 30 years since it's debut. Without a doubt, it is time for a change. The question still remains, what's next? What's next for nighttime entertainment, what's next for the World Showcase, and what's next for Epcot as a whole? At this point we have more questions than answers, but the Disney rumor mill is churning faster than ever. 

What's Next For Nighttime Entertainment? 

A few short weeks ago, I touched on this exact topic in my Disney Parks Wish List for the Next Two Years! First and perhaps most recognizably I think it's a safe bet that we'll see drones emerge in some form or fashion within the Illuminations replacement show. That detail has yet to be confirmed, but it's about time for Disney to use the technology on a greater level than they have in the past. Intel is doing incredible things with synchronized drones and even Disney has used it in years past, despite reported struggles with the FAA. 

As many of you may remember, around two years ago, Disney debuted the StarBright Holiday drone show at Disney Springs. Among avid Disney parks fans, the show was a hit and one of the most unique and innovative things Disney had tried in years. Skip scene to the following May and drones appeared once again for the media event featuring the Tree of Life Awakening. It was a subtle effect but a shocking addition (I was not there to view it person) that added an entirely different dimension to the creative new show for Animal Kingdom. Sadly, it never became a permanent part of the show.  

Now, well over a year later, drones have yet to reappear. At the same time, Intel continues to improve the technology. It's certainly not a definitive part of the upcoming nighttime spectacular but I could see it as something that is quite likely. Additionally, I would not be surprised if we see a new type of fireworks and a new array of launch angles different than what currently exists with Illuminations. It's not overly difficult to monitor changes to the current launch sites, due to their location on the World Showcase Lagoon, but there is heavy speculation that the new show will feature World of Color-esque water elements. Again, chalk all of this up to complete and utter rumor at this point. It does seem like it is time for a show with a water element to arrive at Walt Disney World. There's no denying World of Color has been vastly successful in California, but outside of the water effects of Rivers of Light, there has yet to be a place for a similar technology in Florida. Is it wishful thinking? Maybe. 

Moving on to a slightly different topic, I do believe there could be a greater push towards a larger scale nighttime entertainment lineup in Epcot. Personally, I'd love to see a nighttime parade (in any park at this point) arrive at Epcot. It is inevitably a long shot and the least likely addition possible at this point in time. 

What's Next for Attractions?

Epcot attraction rumors are in full swing, and they are just that, rumors! All of them could be true and none of them could be true, but they're interesting nonetheless. Perhaps the most believable rumor at this point is a new attraction arriving in the World Showcase. We already know a Ratatouille attraction is coming to the France Pavilion, but speculation is building for one more addition to the World Showcase as well. 

The most believable of the rumors (and they're all likely a stretch) is the potential for a Mary Poppins attraction in the United Kingdom. There are a few flaws in this theory and the first of which is cost. Cost of a new attraction of any quality is going to be a big factor. With this many construction projects unfolding in one park --- the Ratatouille attraction, the Space themed restaurant, the new nighttime show, the Guardians of the Galaxy Coaster, and the entire Epcot "Update" --- I don't see Disney taking on another costly construction project in this park. Another attraction heavily rumored centers around the Jungle Book and an entirely new India pavilion. For similar reasons, I see this as an even less likely addition. Anything is possible but more attraction announcements may be a long-shot this early in the project.

Will the World Showcase "Feel" Start Changing?

I know so many us have this same question, and in all honesty I have no answer whatsoever regarding all of this. For years, I had hopes of a Ratatouille inspired dining location in Epcot, and could almost see the neon lighting of Gusteau's peaking over the buildings in the back of the current France pavilion. Sadly, that day-dream may never become a realty, but I have to say I am surprisingly excited about the attraction. It could add a greater depth and size to that pavilion that has always felt "cramped" as the Epcot crowds have grown over time.

We know IP in the World Showcase is here and here to stay, but so far I'm not overly bothered by it. The Maelstrom to Frozen change still irritates me to this day, but the transition was made in a less aggressive way than it could have been enacted. If everything stays authentically themed and distinctly Disney, I can't see the "character influence" amounting to much of a difference over time.

To be quite straight forward, my larger concern regarding Epcot is what could become of the International Gateway back entrance to the park. As the SkyLiner draws closer and closer to testing and completion over time, and a new resort announced in the Swan and Dolphin group starts construction, more and more guests will become aware of the back entrance. Will the gates be expanded? Will security lines increase? Will the Crescent Lake resort area experience be adversely affected? Those are my peak concerns right now. The Boardwalk resort area is what I consider one of the most overlooked areas of Walt Disney World, and this could be the the change that makes it less of a "Hidden Gem."  

Long story made short, Epcot is going to be changing and it will feel different. It is, at it's very core, the inevitability of change. Change keeps us returning to the parks time and time again. I'm one of the more nostalgic Disney parks fans, but change is inevitable and Imagineering has yet to disappoint. These next few years could unveil an entirely new future for Epcot, and I have to say I'm looking forward to what's next in hesitant anticipation.

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Need My Help?

Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or free-lance work at Guide4WDW@gmail.com. If you need a landscape or theme park photographer, feel free contact me with photo requests or contracts. All theme park writing and photos will be assessed on a case by case basis. 

For anyone else looking to give me a shout or to have their questions answered by me, feel free to contact me anytime via that same email address! I never charge anyone to answer a question and I do answer all of my emails personally.      

Need a Travel Planner?

If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They'll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you'd like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thanks for supporting those who support us.

Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way. 


Saturday, September 22, 2018

2018 Disney World Vacation Planning Tips


by: guide4wdw - Collin

2018 Disney World Vacation Planning Tips

As many of you may know, we've spent around 20 years planning our personal Disney vacations and have had the opportunity to watch Walt Disney World grow and develop as new ideas and thought processes have come and gone. Of course, we don't know everything, and I wouldn't trust anyone who says they do, but we have learned quite a few things from our recurring trips and different vacation strategies. So, today we're sharing a large scale overview of what we do when planning a vacation and what has worked for us in the past time and time again. Along the way, we'll share some helpful hints on when to book,  how to get started, and quite a bit more which we hope will improve your vacation experience.

Cinderellas Castle Night - 2018 Disney World Tips

When many first time guests decide to book a Disney parks vacation, many overlook the inevitable nature of the modern Disney experience. Today, there's very little room for guests to simply "wing it" on their first Disney vacation and successfully accomplish many of their vacation goals throughout their vacation. So, taking that into consideration, and the fact that many of you are repeat Disney guests, we're going to try and create a blend of information that can help everyone out in some way or another. 

As the new year rolls in, we'll try to keep this post as updated as we can as the year progresses similarly to how we've put out a few brief updates to our Discount Disney World Ticket Buying Tips - What is the Best Option For Your Situation? 

Disney changes incredibly quickly so there's always something new to add in the planning process and we're continually learning new and better ways to get the most out of the vacation experience. As always, a great place to start is by joining our Guide4WDW Community email list (and i'll send you a preview of my Disney Planning Book just for joining!) for genuine updates and special offers as they roll out throughout the year. Additionally, Disney themselves has a few unique special offerings for guests looking to plan as much as possible prior to their vacation no matter what your experience level may be. They've recently been pushing a free vacation planning video, but also be sure to utilize their free reservation planning services over the phone to truly get that level of personal service that Disney has become synonymous with. 

This article may be a bit tedious and a touch long winded, but hopefully it will help you out in some way or another. We certainly don't know it all, and Disney does change from day to day, but hopefully this will give you something to examine and build upon as your vacation approaches or you take the first steps in planning the vacation a lifetime. With all of that being said, we'll jump right into it and if you ever have any questions that aren't addressed or covered here, never hesitate to message me on Facebook (or any other social media avenue - we're on just about all of them). Honestly, don't hesitate to ask. I truly enjoy answering questions and it gives me the opportunity to address specific questions or to find answers to things I may have never considered myself. 

1. A Few Timeframes to Consider

Every once in a while I get the question from a friend or extended family member that goes a little something like this, "When do I want to go to Walt Disney World?" To be quite honest with you, there is no good answer to that question. The days of low crowd weeks and walk on attractions are unfortunately over. As technology has developed and become more and more precise Disney has found ways to monitor those "dead" times and find new ways to bring guests to the parks at less typical times. One of the best ways they've done this is by offering discounts during "unnatural" vacation traveling timeframes, but even more recently they have created special events and lengthened existing events to fill the gaps that once existed. 

Of course, I know that wasn't the answer you were hoping for, but there are a few other things to consider when choosing your Disney dates. First and foremost I would look into a few of the more prominent events that occur throughout the seasons at Walt Disney World. Each season has a way of welcoming guests into special events, but here's a few of the most popular events that occur in each season.

You see, there are a ton of events to consider working into your next vacation and many of these are truly wonderful events. Personally a highlight of my year is always the Flower and Garden Festival in the spring. The festival truly revitalizes the atmosphere of Epcot and brings a unique flair (and vast amount of food) to the World Showcase and overall theme park experience. However, the joy that experience brings to me, one of these other events may create for you. Additionally, I adore the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, but many guests prefer the Halloween Party. When it comes right down to it, it's all a matter of preference and what you want to see and do during your vacation experience. Thankfully Disney isn't a "one size fits all" vacation, so taking a moment to look over these special events and many others that appear throughout the year (believe it or not these simply scratch the surface of what is offered).

Truthfully, I would say to toss the idea of planning around the crowds out the window. At this point you just have to get lucky to catch the right day where the crowd levels are lesser than usual. If you're bound and determined to find a time where you might have the opportunity to avoid some crowds, your best bet is to travel at or around the time when schools start back to classes or possibly a week in mid to late January, but that window is becoming very limited. 

Last but certainly not least, you'll want to consider any big ticket attractions or lands that will be opening throughout the year of your desired vacation.

Additionally, we hope to see a new nighttime parade arriving at Magic Kingdom this year at some point, potentially a new nighttime spectacular at Epcot to replace Illuminations (which I'd hate to see go), and if you haven't already witnessed it first hand, Pandora is truly a must-see part of the magic that remains incredibly popular on a day to day basis. To learn more about it and all of it's incredible details I'd recommend taking a closer look at a few of our more in depth articles:

Of course some of this is simply speculation, but are certainly a few things and events you may want to watch for as the year unfolds.

In the long term, be sure to look out for the debut of Star Wars: Galaxies Edge in 2019 and the any accompanying resort openings and refurbishments that will be wrapping up in the timeframe following that big debut. Even further in the future, be on the lookout for big changes coming to Epcot in the coming years that could potential draw massive crowds. Many of you may want to participate in the upcoming debuts, but if you're looking to avoid sometimes chaotic crowds, I'd recommend planning your vacation before mid 2019.                      

2. Watch The Weather

For many guests, booking a vacation revolves highly around when the kids are out of school and trust me, I understand that one more than you may realize. I'm currently a college student, ave two elementary school teachers in the family, and have unfortunately faced the constraints of school scheduling for many years. 

Sadly that constraint typically leaves the warmer months of the year for traveling, but I will certainly caution you and urge you to consider the effects weather may play in your overall enjoyment of the parks. Summer is inevitably extremely hot in Florida. Unfortunately, that's just the way it is. However, I will never discourage anyone from visiting in the ridiculously warm summer months because it largely opens you up to a different vacation outlook. When we tour Disney in the summer, we go with a somewhat different goal in mind than our other vacations. Typically, a summer vacation means two things, shorter continuous timeframes in the parks and more time spent enjoying the resort. A summer vacation doesn't have to be difficult, but you'll certainly want to be prepare for the heat and take time to leave the parks and cool off at the pool or simply book a few extra dining reservations to escape the heat for even a brief moment. 

Festival of Fantasy - 2018 Disney World Tips

For those of you not facing those small constraints, or even if you are, try and consider a vacation in the early spring, winter months (as close as Florida gets to winter), or even potentially a late fall trip. The cooler weather will allow longer timeframes in the parks while still giving you the opportunity to enjoy the pool (typically) while avoiding the peak summer crowds and incredible heat Florida can encompass.

3. Buying Tickets 

To be quite honest with you, buying Disney tickets is more complicated today than it has ever been in the past. To explain everything in depth and help you avoid any ticket scams that are out there, we even shared an article about it that is being continually updated:

While it is a rather complicated process in buying the best ticket for your individual circumstance, the new system also brings with it some great options. You can buy a package from Disney or your favorite travel agency (we recommend Destinations to Travel), buy tickets in a stand-alone matter (just watch for expiration dates and cancellation), and can even catch a few deals from sources like the Official Ticket Center for extra free days and park-hopper upgrades. Personally, I see the park hopper option as a vastly important addition to any Walt Disney World trip. It not only allows you to return to that one attraction you loved or simply missed on your planned day in that particular park, but also opens you up to potentially longer park days due to the variation in hours across the different parks, and a vast variety of dining options for each day of your vacation. All in all, it creates a much more "free" Disney parks experience. We've tried it both ways and without a doubt I see the park-hoper as vastly beneficial if you don't have an annual pass. 

4. Picking a Disney World Resort

Picking a Walt Disney World resort is one of the toughest planning decisions and one of the most time consuming aspects of starting the planning process altogether. Disney currently owns and operates 24+ resort hotels (as they continue to build more) and each and every one of them have their strengths and weaknesses. 

The price point typically tends to be a selling factor for guests and in all reality you have to gauge your interest in the amenities and benefits of higher priced accommodations. Without a doubt, we enjoy staying deluxe and to be quite honest we truly enjoyed staying in a club level room on our last vacation. However, that isn't always an expense many guests are wiling to pay. I know many of you are thinking, "that's easy for you to say, you probably get discounts or are paid to do this." To be quite honest with you, our Disney trips are paid out of pocket and we make very little from this site, but we save up and pay extra for these experiences because of the benefit it brings to our style of travel. It's not out of the ordinary for us to set aside a day just to enjoy the resort, so as a result, the deluxe benefits tend to be our go-to option. Additionally, I can't remember the last time we've booked a vacation without utilizing a Disney special percentage offer or dining credit that is available to the public. If you book at the right time and are willing to put in a little bit of extra effort, you may be surprised at the rates you can find at Deluxe tier resorts. 

We don't always stay deluxe though. We've spent many trips at Caribbean Beach and even over at Port Orleans (which is a personal favorite). There's truly nothing wrong with any of the Disney resorts, but my largest piece of advice would be to find a way to stay on property. The benefits are vastly influential in the quality of your vacation, and typically the cost is quite comparable if you're careful about the dates you book and when you book. As mentioned in past articles, I understand much of this can be incredibly daunting for guests and it's one of the many reasons we recommend an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. Here's one such authorized planner that we've personally used and had great success with. If you're a returning guest, just like us, I understand it can be difficult to have someone else plan your vacation, but what I didn't realize at first is that a good agency will let you do as little or as much of the planning as you would like to do. As an added bonus, it also helps support the site without costing you anything extra. However, all things considered I never used a travel agent in the past, but it truly makes the booking experience that much easier, no matter what agency you choose to use. 

If a new rate pops up at a cheaper cost than what you originally booked, they can apply it right away (and often know about it ahead of time due to trends) without you ever having to worry about dealing with it yourself. It seems simple but can be quite helpful. 

Setting that aside, if you need any help picking a resort without a travel agent, here's a few of our articles that may get you on the right track: 

And an active discount you may want to look into:
For all intensive purposes, this is the easiest question for me to address on this entire list. If it is your first visit, or even if you're a seasoned veteran of the parks, I typically recommend staying at least 4 nights at Walt Disney World and for truly new guests I recommend no less than a 5 night stay. The reasoning behind that suggestion is quite simple. If you stay 4 nights, it will typically give you at least 3 full days in the parks. In that situation, if you plan your days carefully, you can successfully tour all four of the parks if you're willing to go sun up to sun down each day. 

Honestly, you can't experience all of Walt Disney World in one vacation and trying to do so will cause more headache than it will enjoyment. As I've mentioned before, and truly believe, I've been to Disney World an incredible amount of times over the years and I've come nowhere close to seeing and doing all that there is to offer. To be even more upfront with you, I wouldn't have it any other way. There's always something new to try and something new to experience which keeps so many of us coming back time and time again. (It's certainly a blessing to be able to return time and time again, but it definitely takes a toll on the wallet over the years. lol)

Disney Barnstormer - 2018 Disney World Tips

To really accomplish a lot in 3 full days, here is what I would do. First and foremost, you'll need a park hopper. Additionally, I would schedule two days to spend sun up to sun down in your two favorite parks (or what you think will be your two favorite parks). Then, on the third day, split your time between the two remaining parks. Personally, when we've been forced to travel this way in the past, we spend the two full days at Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The other day we'll split with Animal Kingdom in the morning and Hollywood Studios in the afternoon and here's why. 

If you get to Animal Kingdom early, you can ride about every attraction in the park by lunch time. You wont get everything done, but you'll get a full taste of the park before you head off to Hollywood Studios. Once you arrive there, hit as many early afternoon shows as you can and then proceed to the attractions after the shows have finished for the day. Once again, you wont get everything done, but if you're tight on time, this is often your best case scenario based on our past experience. On the other two days, you can easily accomplish a ton of attractions early on in the day at Magic Kingdom using the tips we shared in How to Ride 6 or More Attractions in 90 Minutes or Less: With Only 1 Fastpass+! and Epcot can be done effectively using our Our Tried and True "Epcot in a Day" Touring Plan. Unfortunately, these aren't perfect plans and you'll have to put your now spin on them but it's largely what has worked for us time and time again. 

Also, when planning your days, be sure to consider the dining plan in your cost analysis. For some, it's an excellent option, but for others it can and probably should be avoided depending on your unique situation. To get a better explanation of my thoughts on that, I welcome you to read Is The Dining Plan Truly a "Good Deal" From a Cost Perspective? - A Closer Look. Personally, we tend to avoid the dining plan unless it is being offered as a free option when booking (but you'll want to check if "free" is actually cheaper than what you'd be paying for the dining plan outright with a different resort-only stand-alone discount) simply because it tends to cost us more in the long run. Others find the convenience factor a huge bonus so you'll have to make your own educated decision based on your unique circumstances. No two Disney vacations are identical just as no two Disney guests are identical.  

6. Venturing Beyond the 4 Major Parks

If you have the time, or choose to make the time, to step away from the 4 main parks to experience something a little different, I highly recommend a few experiences. First, be sure to look into Disney's waterparks. Both Blizzard Beach (my personal favorite) and typhoon Lagoon are absolutely incredible waterparks that continually top the top 10 lists of best waterparks in the United States. 

If you journey beyond Walt Disney World, first check and see what it may be costing you to do so. Oftentimes adding an additional park day to your Disney ticket can be vastly cheaper than heading to Universal or Seaworld for the day. While you take that into consideration, there's one park I recommend more than any of the others (outside of WDW) and that is Discovery Cove. Recently we visited the property and were honestly blown away by the level of service and quality of the experience. I have absolutely no affiliation with the park in any way (Even though I wish I did! A couple free passes for Discovery Cove would be amazing. lol), and I would honestly put it next to any Disney park in quality any day of the week. Of course, as usual, that level of service comes at a price, and that price is not cheap. 

On average, a day at Discovery Cove will cost you $200 per person, assuming you opt out of the dolphin encounter which will bump the price up to or exceeding $300 (we opted out of that option). That rate does cover two meals and unlimited snacks for your day and additional access to both Seaworld and Aquatica on either side of your Discovery Cove day. Even with that in consideration, well over $1000 for a family of four is expensive by any standards. I can, without a doubt, say it was well worth it for our family and we'd go back again sometime. We even went as far as to write an unsolicited article about it here on our Disney site: An Honest Comparison: Discovery Cove From a Disney Perspective. I even bought a t-shirt at the end of the day and use the lanyard they provide as your "access" pass on a near daily basis as a name tag hanger.

7. Expect the Unexpected

When traveling to Walt Disney World, much like traveling anywhere in the country, you have to consider what could happen along the way. Setbacks happen, pop up rainstorms occur, and things don't always go as planned. I understand this tip sounds fairly simple, but it's a fundamental part of an outstanding vacation. 

Expecting something to not go as planned and accepting that fact before you get to the parks or your designated resort can not only prepare you for the worst case scenario, but also allows the little issues of rain, longer than usual wait times, or even an issue with your resort accommodations to seem trivial. Plan for the worst and expect the best. Chances are you'll get that pop up rain shower so grab some ponchos at your local dollar store or even on Amazon and save yourself some money along the way while staying dry and somewhat comfortable in the parks. 

In a similar way, be wiling to just go with the flow. If you miss a fastpass+ reservation for an attraction, don't worry about it. Missing that one attraction could be the one thing that sets up and incredible experience on an entirely different attraction for your family. Don't be so caught up in the little issues that you don't enjoy the many wonders of the vacation and elements that have created incredible memories. 

8. Take a Few Things With You 

I understand packing for any length of stay at Walt Disney World can be stressful, especially with a family, but be sure to take a few things with you that will make your life a little easier. The most obvious necessity in my opinion is a simple backpack. Even if you don't take it with you to the parks, you can load it with snacks or breakfast items for the park, a laptop computer, or even a few extra clothes that you will be guaranteed to have with you in the unfortunate off chance that your luggage gets lost or you are forced to check your carry on. Your personal item, which includes most backpacks, is the only thing that you can basically guarantee will make it on the plane with you, so take full advantage of that and pack a few necessities. 

As mentioned in the realm of food in the last scenario, a great way to save money is to pack some breakfast items with you that are easy to travel with (granola bars, snack crackers, etc.) so that you don't have to worry about buying breakfast items at the parks or resorts. It sounds simple but not having to buy breakfast or being able to delay a breakfast to combine it with a lunch, as we mentioned in our Disney World Dining Plan Tips and Tricks, can make a big difference over a week long vacation. 

9. Plan, But Don't Over Plan

As someone who spends tons of time writing here and sharing tips and tricks for the parks, I would be contradicting myself if I said not to do your research and plan for your Disney vacation. However, over planning can be the downfall of many guests. If you're headed to the parks, use the tips above and plan your tickets, resort accommodations, dining, and a few select experiences you don't want to miss, but don't plan everything down to what attractions you'll ride at what time down to the very minute. So many guests try that and honestly it never goes as planned and creates more stress than should ever be involved in planning a Disney trip or embarking on the trip itself. 

Instead, plan only what's absolutely necessary. Don't get so caught up in doing things at the very first second of the very first minute of every booking window that you overlook the simple joys of the experience. Enjoy the planning and enjoy the little elements of the parks while you're in the parks because that's what truly separates Disney from all the rest. Do your research and look for ways to improve your vacation, but once you're there just take it all in and enjoy the moments with friends and family that we don't all get to enjoy when we're at home and dealing with busy lives. 

This may be the easiest tip on this list to put into practice, but it is the one I believe could have the single greatest impact on any vacation.           

Wrapping Up

To finish things up here, I know this was a vast amount of information to take in all at once. There's a lot to consider when booking a Disney vacation or even returning to the parks for additional visits, but don't let that discourage you from experiencing something that could change your life and create memories that will stick with you forever. If you need help, reach out to me and I'll do whatever I can to respond as quickly and efficiently as I possibly can. 

Cinderella Castle - 2018 Disney World Tips

Hopefully this article gives you a variety of resources and related information that will at least get you on the right track in booking your dream vacation. Disney has basically been apart of my life since the beginning, so sharing that experience with someone else is something that I not only enjoy doing, but hope that it will somehow inspire you to reach out to this Disney community and find friends and new people that you never thought you'd come in contact with. I've met friends through this website building process and met people I would have never come in contact with. It's great to see this community grow and we truly 
appreciate you being here with us! I hope you enjoyed this article and have a great rest of the day!

Ready to Plan?

Need help planning your vacation? Let our friends over at Destinations to Travel (FREE - no obligation quote request form below) help you out at no additional cost to you! Their service are free and a great way for you to help out the site at no extra cost to you!

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips, 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin!

Last but certainly not least, I ask you to share this article with a friend if it helped you out in any way. Your shares are honestly the only way we grow and they mean more to me than you'll ever know. Additionally, if you're interested in any of the links in this article, we do receive a compensation for any sales made, and that money goes right track into improving the site and continually building this dream of ours. We truly appreciate all of your support!   

Thursday, September 20, 2018

10 Easy Ways To Save Money At Disney World in 2018


by: guide4wdw - Collin

10 Easy Ways To Save Money At Disney World in 2018

Back in July we shared a brief look at 5 Simple Ways to Save Money At Walt Disney World and while many of those tips still remain vastly true for the new year, we wanted to take a moment and add to our list as the parks grow and change from time to time. Today, we're taking a look at 10 Easy Ways to Save Money At Walt Disney World in 2018. A select few of these are fairly common sense options, but others dive a bit deeper into specific and somewhat creative ways to save money when booking, and even occasionally while you're on your Disney vacation.

Before we get started, there's a few different reasons you may be interested in saving money during or when panning your Disney vacation. First and foremost, many of us have been in the position where we needed to keep a trip as budget friendly as humanly possible, and while Disney still remains quite expensive, it doesn't have to be the monumental expense that many prospective travelers view it as. 

We've done Disney on so many different budgets. I can remember our early trips where we stayed at Caribbean Beach (when it used to cost around $100 a night!), cut coupons for the grocery store for months to save money for the trip, and were incredibly selective about the few dining reservations we could afford. 

At that point, Hollywood Studios was still showing "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire: Play It!", Test Track was breaking down almost daily over at Epcot, and Fantasyland still featured the lake which once held 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea: Submarine Voyage. It was a different time in Disney history, but a savings experience nonetheless. Today, we tend to travel a little bit differently and have been known to stay at Deluxe resorts and eat at many table service dining locations, but for us the same frugal mindset still applies. We cut certain things out, prepare in advance, and do whatever we can to save money in order to afford our typical vacation "style." 

So, today we're going to look closer at what we do or have considered doing to save money over the years in one way or another. The biggest thing to remember is that when implementing these tips, you may have to give something up during your vacation. The key to getting the most out of these tips is not to cut out something the makes a huge difference during your vacation but rather to cut the small things that aren't necessarily fundamental to your vacation style. We tend to splurge on resort accommodations because that's what we enjoy, but other guests may not spend the time in the resort necessary to make a difference in their vacation experience. Everyone's situation is going to be different so you'll have to apply what tips work for you in the long run to truly maximize your savings.

1. Take Some Food With You

This is perhaps one of our simplest tips on the list. If you're driving to Disney World, pack up a cooler with fruit, drinks, and snacks that you would otherwise have to buy at your resort or make a trip to an Orlando area grocery store to pick up when you arrive at your resort. Buying simple snacks on Disney property can be ridiculously expensive and items that seem fairly simple tend to be the most expensive. Take for example a gallon of milk. Expect to pay near twice what you would typically pay at a grocery store if you buy a gallon at one of Disney's resort hotels. From Disney's perspective it's simply a necessity scenario. They know if you need it, you'll buy it and pay just about anything to get it. 

If you're flying, you still have a few options. Personally, I've heard excellent recommendations for Garden Grocer. The company is a grocery delivery service which services Disney property and surrounding areas. I know many Disney sites do have an affiliate relationship with them but I can assure you I am not one of them at this time. I simply recommend them because it could save you money compared to buying food on Disney property or catching a town car or uber to the closest grocery store. 

Lastly, in regards to food, we tend to recommend that guests, no matter if you're flying or driving, grab at the very least some cheese crackers or granola bars from home before embarking on their Disney vacation. Not only do they travel well and meet TSA guidelines, you can avoid a ton of breakfast costs by skipping counter service breakfast and simply doing a grab and go breakfast with a granola bar on the bus to the parks. If you still want to grab that full breakfast, wait until around 10:30 and use it as a breakfast and a lunch and save yourself an extra meal to be paid for in the end. To learn more about that strategy, before sure to check out our Disney World Dining Plan Tips and Tricks.

2. Reconsider the Dining Plan

If you've spent much time here one the site, you likely already know my opinion of the dining plan. It's a great program but a convenience rather than a good deal. If you cut out the dining plan (which seems like a good deal on paper), you may be surprised what you can save. The main plan will cost you near identical to what you would pay for the included items out of pocket. However, the kicker to it all is that most guests will never be able to fully enjoy the full showcase of offerings the dining plan provides. By the time you eat a full table service meal, which is oftentimes a buffet at Walt Disney World, you're typically so full you wont eat the next meal of the day. On top of that, your snack offerings tend to get used as secondary meals if you use them most effectively as mentioned in tip number 6 below. 

All things consider, most guests end up paying for something that they wouldn't typically buy in the first place if they were paying for the meals directly out of pocket rather than on a plan. It's vastly convenient but if you're looking to save many, it's not your best option unless you are someone who travels to the parks as a culinary adventure rather than a theme park experience. We've done that before, and it's a ton of fun, but certainly not the most cost effective option for the vast majority of guests. 

If you are looking for dining plan tips, be sure to check out our Disney World Dining Plan Tips and Tricks post or our  5 Disney Dining Plan Mistakes You Want To Avoid And Why.

3. Consider dropping the Park Hopper

I'm not ashamed to admit that I love the park hopper option on tickets. It allows you to jump from park to park as much as you want and in my opinion really allows you to maximize your time on vacation. If you want to ride Flight of Passage again but you're in Magic Kingdom, no problem! Jump on a bus and head to Animal Kingdom and jump in line. For us, the opportunities it provides vastly outweighs its cost in the long run, but with that being said, when traveling with a larger party the costs associated with the ticket add-on each day tends to get expensive.

Additionally, be aware of the reversed diminishing returns. If you go for a shorter ticketed stay, the park hopper isn't going to be all that useful to you because you will be spending each full day trying to cover as much of that particular park as possible on each given day. However, if you plan on a 7 day stay (if so you may want to try Our Typical Disney World 7 Day Itinerary) or a comparable length of stay, the park hopper can be incredibly beneficial. It can free up a ton of different dining options for each day of your trip and really allows you to bounce from park to park to make the most of every minute of your trip. 

With all of that under consideration, if you want to save as much as humanely possible, avoid the park hopper altogether. It's an expense that can be avoided unless it is fundamental to your vacation style. If you're a first time guest, you wont miss the park hopper option in the slightest.         

4. Try a Moderate or Value Resort

I openly admitted at the beginning of this article that we typically stay at Deluxe resorts. For us, it tends to be the splurge of most of our vacations. Sometimes, it's a bigger splurge than others, like when we tried club level for the first time. Granted, that was likely a once in a lifetime trip that we booked for a special occasion at a rate that we lucked into at the last minute. Even considering that reality, it may require the sacrifice we talk about in number 7 to do so.

As in life, Disney planning is very much about weighing what things are worth to you and your given situation. For us, we travel with people that get carsick very easily. So, as a result, we try to book resorts that have water transportation or monorail transportation rather than buses. There's nothing worse than arriving at a park carsick and fighting with that feeling for the first few hours. For us, it's worth the extra costs, but that is just one of many reasons we tend to stay deluxe.

In the long run, we've still stayed at moderate resorts time and time again and for a vast majority of guests they are top tier accommodations. We adored Port Orleans French Quarter and spent year after year staying exclusively at Caribbean Beach. Sure, you may have to walk further to the bus stops, or even walk quite a ways to get to the pool, but the trade off can save you $100 or more per night of your stay.  

5. Buy Disney Gift Cards

This tip is something that may or may not work for everyone. As a relatively new trend in the Disney planning online community, many guests have started buying Disney gift cards to pay for their vacations. In concept that sounds a bit strange but many guest have found it as a great way to save money and sometimes quite a bit of money. 

The kicker to the whole system is to buy the gift cards you'll use to pay for your vacation or to use on your vacation from a local grocery store or hardware store that sells gift cards and has a loyalty program. 

Kroger stores are perhaps the best example. When you buy these gift cards, there are often kickback offers throughout the year that allow the purchases to influence points used in exchange for gas station discounts at their gas stations. Typically, if you buy so many gift cards, you get a certain amount of cents off each gallon of gas purchased. 

If you do so carefully, you can max out your cents per gallon savings each month leading up to your vacation and save hundreds of dollars on gasoline while storing up gift cards to pay for your vacation expenses. 

Additionally, retail giant Target will occasionally run Black Friday type sales on gift cards offering a set percentage off of the total amount of the gift card in order to get people in their stores in hopes that they will buy something else while they're there. Most of the time, these offers are capped at a certain dollar amount of cards you can buy, but it could save you some money nonetheless. 

It me be the strangest option on our list but it has been proven to save some guests hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.    

6. Use High Quality "Snacks" to Avoid Full Meal Costs 

If you're concerned about meal costs or simply want to cut back on meal spending, look for high quality snacks in the parks. If you're eating a table service breakfast or even some select counter service meals, you may not be hungry for a full fledge meal at the next meal time. Instead, head to a bakery and grab a muffin or a caramel apple, or even the iconic Turkey legs (not a dining plan snack) in the parks for a snack offering that will get you to the next meal without breaking the bank on an unnecessary full counter service meal. 

In conjunction with this tip, avoid the combo style meals at counter service locations. You don't always need to buy a drink and a side to get a full meal at Walt Disney World. Order a big cheeseburger, a giant hotdog, or even a half rack of ribs and forget the combo. You probably wont eat all of the side items anyway and avoiding the drink alone (and opting for tip 9 instead) can save you a ton of money over the span of a weeks vacation.    

7. Cut a Park Day

We've done this time after time to offset costs. I know it seems counter productive, but you dont have to go the parks every day of your vacation to have an amazing day. Just to share with you a few options we came up with The Top 5 Things To Do At Walt Disney World Outside Of The Parks (on a budget)

You will be shocked at how much time you can spend resort hoping or touring Disney Springs for a fraction of the cost of touring the parks even when you include a table service meal at the Springs or at a resort hotel. 

We take advantage of this on nearly every trip at some point and it has become one of the highlights of our longer trips to the parks. You'll be shocked at all their is to do at the different resorts and more importantly, you'll be surprised at how little it costs when you compare it to the cost of an additional ticketed day on shorter stays.    

8. Travel With Friends To Make Deluxe Affordable

This single tip is the main reason we can afford staying Deluxe on nearly every vacation. When we travel, we travel with friends. For example, on our next trip we'll be traveling in a group of seven people. While that many guests requires a 2 bedroom villa or larger accommodations available mostly at deluxe resorts, its often cheaper to do that and all stay in one room than it is to book multiple rooms at moderate tier or even value tier resorts at times. This is especially true when you consider the tradeoffs of a full kitchen and better transportation. 

When you spread out the cost among seven individuals, the cost per person, or even per family decreases exponentially. A room that was at one time unattainable for a single family becomes much more affordable when split two or more ways.

For most groups, this is the ideal situation. you don't have to break up your party, you save money, and you get to do almost everything together. If you want a few minutes away from the group, typically doors separate sections of the villa rooms that can easily be closed to partition off the accommodations. It's a win-win for everybody if you can find family or a group of friends you enjoy traveling with.    


9. Drink Lots of Water

This is a two sided tip. It can save you money while greatly influencing your health during your trip. Every Disney counter service location will give you a free cup of ice water just for asking for it. It doesn't matter what you order, or if you order nothing at all, they'll give it to you and you can save a ton of money doing so. 

If you can avoid soft drinks it will save you more money than you may expect. Fountain drinks at Walt Disney World parks and resorts tend to be a bit aggressively priced. Not only that, but in the heat of the summer, water will ultimately be the best thing for you and your health as you walk many miles each day. In the end it might not only save you money, but also keep you from falling into that "Disney Funk" many guests talk about half way through their week long vacation. The body can only stand so much junk food before it starts having adverse effects in the Florida heat. Take my advice from experience and make yourself feel better while saving money along the way. Ok, rant over (lol).     


10. Avoid The "Hidden Costs"

For many guests, this expense is the greatest expense of them all. Disney is designed to suck you into gift shop after gift shop full of unique merchandise to commemorate your experiences. From dated logo gear to attraction specific merchandise, it's easy to want one of everything that you walk past. If you can avoid the temptation to buy these souvenirs or convince yourself to wait and find that one ideal souvenir to commemorate you're whole trip rather than just one facet of it, you can save a ton of money. 

In a similar way, watch for hidden fees of off property resorts. If you want to stay off property to save money, I would reconsider it. Many times, after paying resort fees, parking costs at the resort and parks, or fighting with non-Disney shuttles you'll realize the couple bucks you may or may not have saved wasn't worth it in the long run. Trust me, I've tried it many times, and it's just not worth it. The sole exception to this tip is the Swan and Dolphin. It's an excellent resort but features Disney transportation and official Disney "bonuses" that very few off site resorts currently offer in early 2018. 

Hopefully these tips get you on the right track to saving money on your Disney vacation. This is far from an all inclusive list but hopefully a great place for you to start or add something to your planning process. 

Ready to Plan?

Need help planning your vacation? Let our friends over at Destinations to Travel (FREE - no obligation quote request form below) help you out at no additional cost to you! Their service are free and a great way for you to help out the site at no extra cost to you!  

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips, 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! 

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