July 26, 2013

How we do Disney Part 1: Planning and Paying

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HELLO and we're BACK!!  I took a week or so off from the blog world to go on vacation, I hope that's ok;)  We went to Disney World for 8 days and BOY OH BOY was it fun!!!  Disney is one of our favorite places to visit, if not THE favorite.  Since planning and going on this trip, I've had a lot of friends and family ask how we "do" Disney.  I am here to tell you how we do our trips!!

I think I'll probably do this in parts, so in this first part I'll explain the preliminary planning and the money part of things;)

PAYING FOR THE TRIP

The one thing people think of when they hear the words DISNEY WORLD is that it's expensive.  You are right, it can be pricey...but it can also be so affordable too.  We don't have all this extra money just lying around that we can throw at a trip, we work hard and save a lot and calculate expenses and really work it into our daily budget.  I actually can't imagine NOT working WDW into our daily budgets!!  We are already in the beginning stages of planning TWO more trips - a short weekend trip for Dave & I in October for the Food & Wine Festival, and another family trip, possibly a Disney cruise, for either Christmas, Easter, or next summer (we are still working out those details).  When you love it as much as we do, you just make it work.  We don't use credit cards or go into any kind of debt to go to Disney, we just try to plan really well to make it happen.  It pays off.

Let me tell you, it's totally worth it!  We had such a great time on our trip this last week, and all that saving or saying no to other things or extra shifts (on Dave's part, he is blessed to have the sort of job where he can work as much or as little as he wants) was really worth it all.

It's so easy to start planning too.  I work with my favorite travel agent, Nancy.  She runs the blog that I write articles for, The Affordable Mouse.  Using a travel agent takes the guessing and stress out of the planning.  You could go on the Disney website and book it all yourself, but it's nice to have the peace of mind that someone who really knows what they are doing has it all covered for you.  It costs NOTHING to get her to help.  She can give you a no-obligation quote.  When you are serious about your days and all that good stuff, you only need $200 to book the trip.  The balance of it all is due 45 days before you leave.  So you could book a trip for a year from now (as long as booking and pricing is available for 2014, which it is) and pay it off in increments.  This is what we do.  We booked our trip back in March and our balance wasn't due until the beginning of June.  We put the $200 down, and every other week or whenever we could, we put money towards the trip.  I love doing it this way, because you don't have to say goodbye to a whole lot of money at one time!

Before I even ask Nancy to book, I do actually go onto the Disney website and "build" the vacation myself, just so I know the ballpark price of what we will need.  Sometimes I change the resort to see what the price difference is, and then Dave and I talk about it, and then we decided and talk to Nancy and get her quote (just to make sure we did it right) and then book the trip.  We like to change our minds too.  Both of our last 2 trips we originally booked in other resorts, but then those wonderful Disney discounts came out and we upgraded to Deluxe resorts.  Deluxe is really the way to go - I mean, I love ALL Disney resorts, but the Deluxe are so worth it.  When you can match one with a 30% discount, it's like Christmas.  Suddenly a trip that seemed way out of our price range quickly becomes something we can do.

AIRFARE

We always fly to Disney World.  When you work it right, it can even be cheap!  You could save a lot of money by driving, and we have yet to do that (although I keep trying to talk Dave into it!) but airfare doesn't have to be pricey.  Some tips I have learned are:  Don't go over a holiday if you can help it (the trip we took right after Christmas 2 years ago had us paying almost $600...PER TICKET.  We spent that on our tickets this time TOTAL!!)  Check the prices months in advance and check them as many times per week as you can.  You will usually see a dip in price if you check online between Monday evenings and Wednesday mornings - this is usually when the airlines put on sales or discounts.  Also, it's cheaper to fly on Tuesday and Wednesdays.  That's not official advice, that's straight from me and my experiences.  So if you can do it, fly in and out on those days.

I book our airfare separate from the Disney vacation (although Disney or a travel agent can do that for you) because I like to watch the prices and wait for deals.  There is a sweet spot that is usually 3 months out from your trip, where the prices will dip and that will be the lowest they will go.  Once that number gets to a place you are comfortable, book it.  You don't know for sure whether they will ever be that cheap again!!



THE VERDICT

You don't have to go broke or max out a credit card to visit Disney.  You don't have to go into debt to do it.  You just have to plan and be smart about it.  Disney can be affordable for anyone.  Even staying in a Deluxe resort can work, if you book the trip way in advance and pay as you go.  For us, the magic and fun and the attractions and the food and above all else, the memories, make it a no-brainer vacation for us!!  If you have any questions, just leave a comment or email me.  Or, you can head over to the blog and talk to Nancy!

Stay tuned for more...