Headed to Disney this summer? Here are my tips for saving on hotels and transportation!
I just saw this fun blog post about how to keep cool this summer at Disney World and thought it would be helpful to recap my strategies for saving when visiting The Mouse House.
Disney World is the holy grail for most kids, and can be the downfall of many deal-seekers. Having been twice in the last two years, I can at least offer some hope that a trip to see the mouse doesn’t have to be a complete budget buster. I’m posting some tips that have been hard-earned by myself and friends. Hope they help, and please include your own to be added!
To stay or not to stay in the parks? Having stayed both on-site and off-site, the clear Deal Mommy answer is off. I know, I know, sometimes Disney offers free dining offers and discounts, but the savings (and comfort) to be had off-site more than compensate for the location. I did a cost/benefit analysis of on-site and off for our last trip and the cost difference for a family of 4 staying in a mid-range resort on property and a 2 BEDROOM CONDO 1 mile away AND renting a car for a week was over $1000!
One benefit usually mentioned by those who love staying in the parks is the transportation options. The flaw in this theory is that it holds up only if you are visiting the park closest to your hotel. So while it is a piece of cake to get from say, the Polynesian to the Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom lodge to the Animal Kingdom, if you want to go to Epcot from Sarasota Springs you’re in for a 45 minute wait and bus ride if you don’t get lucky! Having easy access to a car just makes life so much easier, and Orlando is the capital of cheap car rentals. I’ve rented full sizes for as low as $18 a day including tax! If you don’t luck out at Hotwire, my number #1 choice for cars in Orlando, try Expedia. Even with the $14 a day parking fee at the parks, you will come out ahead.
Another huge benefit of having a car is being able to hit off-site restaurants, groceries, and shops (more on those in a post soon). Not being restricted to Disney dining can easily save $100 a day for a family of 4.
So if you’re not staying at a Disney hotel, where should you stay? My first choice is a rental condo (suggested links posted below), but if you’re committed to a hotel and not a condo, here are two options I like:
Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin.
I think the Swan and Dolphin are a great mix of Disney convenience (they even have boat transfers to Epcot) and off-site independence. Rates are more competitive, even down to under $100 off season, and nights earn points in the Starwood program. You’ll want a car as they are not on the Disney Magical Express, but even with a weekly car rental you’ll come out ahead. Best of all, in my opinion, their restaurants (of which friends and I can vouch for Bluezoo and Il Molino) offer two free hours of childcare! My kids had such a great time in Club Dolphin last year that they begged to go back! Disney trips are so full of kid time, that two hour break with a great meal was worth every penny.
Here’s a link to Hotels.com Orlandopage. I like their page because you can search by accommodation type for “vacation home or condo”, which give you more room and (usually) a kitchen and a bedroom door that closes! (Their narrowing options are on the results page.) I also like the fact that they have a rewards program independent of hotel chain!
Here are some places to start for condo and house rentals. I know it takes a bit more vetting (and I always recommend paying by credit card), but these services have good reputations, and I’ve used Homeaway myself numerous times.: