2017 Disney Salute to the Military Offers are now available!

Salute to the military

For all of the brave men and women who are currently serving or have served our country, let me be one of the many to thank you for your service! Disney also thanks you by a wonderful “Salute to the Military” offer which has been extended through 2017! This offer is very similar year over year, but if you’re new to Disney military offers, or just want to know what has changed or what is new, I’m really excited to provide the details. This offer is available NOW.

At Walt Disney World Resort – active and retired U.S. military personnel (including active and retired members of the United States Coast Guard, National Guard and Reservists) or their spouses can purchase:

  • 4 Day Park Hopper OR Water Parks, Fun & More $209 each
  • 5 Day Park Hopper OR Water Parks, Fun & More $224 each
  • 4 Day Park Hopper AND Water Parks, Fun & More $246 each
  • 5 Day Park Hopper AND Water Parks, Fun & More $261 each

Walt Disney World Resort tickets may be used January 1, 2017, through December 19, 2017, except that the tickets may not be used April 9-23, 2017. For me the addition of a FIVE day ticket is a huge one! Most families prefer to spend a week in Disney World, so now you don’t have to worry about filling an “off day”!

Active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase Disney Military Promotional Tickets for themselves and up to five additional family members or friends. No more than six Disney Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased by any eligible member of the U.S. military (or spouse). All tickets and options are non-transferable and must be used by December 19, 2017. (THIS PART IS VERY IMPORTANT!!!)

Here are some other details you should know about:

  • Disney Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased at participating U.S. military sales outlets ONLY by Eligible Service Members or their spouses (but not both), for use by those family members or friends. They cannot be used in the absence of those military members.
  • “Eligible Service Members” are active or retired members of the U.S. military, including the National Guard, Reservists and the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Participating military sales outlets must require that Eligible Service Members (or their spouses) present valid military identification to purchase Disney Military Promotional Tickets.
  • Disney 4-Day or 5-Day Military Promotional Tickets for admission to the Walt Disney World Resort are not valid until activated by the Eligible Service Members (or their spouses) at Walt Disney World theme park ticket windows.Valid military identification will be required for purchase and use. You still may link these vouches to your My Disney Experience account to select FastPasses 30 or 60 days in advance (30 days if you are not staying in a Disney resort)
  • No more than six (6) Disney Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased and (if applicable) activated by any Eligible Service Member or spouse (regardless of the place of purchase and whether purchased by that person or that person’s spouse). In addition, one of the six (6) Tickets purchased must be used by the Eligible Service Member or his/her spouse. Exceptions may be made for immediate family that is larger than 6 people.
  • Each Disney Military Promotional Ticket must be used by the same person on any and all days. (This is the same of all Disney tickets.)

Disney World Resort Discounts

Disney typically offers an annual discount to members of the military and their families. Same inclusions as listed above apply for this room discount as well.  Room discounts are based on resort category:

  • Value Resorts – 30%
  • Moderate Resorts – 35%
  • Deluxe Resorts – 40%

The only exclusion I am aware of are the Little Mermaid Rooms at Art of Animation, 3 bedroom villas, and Bungalows at Polynesian Villas. This is of course subject to availability and black out dates (This year is the week around Easter and that’s it!)
You are also able to book up to 3 rooms with your military discount, although the qualifying member must be present, with proper identification, at check in for each room booked. They are not required to pay for every room.

Like any Disney package, booking a room only reservation will require 1 night’s room cost and the remaining balance is due upon arrival at your resort.

An additional benefit of this discount is Disney’s Dining Plan! You can add either Plus Dining (or the full dining plan) or the deluxe dining plan. There is no discount to adding the dining plan, but with the money you save on tickets and your room it’s likely worth it! (You cannot use a package promotion like play, stay, and dine or free dining since you do have theme park tickets, but the large percentage off of your room rate generally is a better deal in conjunction with the discounted theme park tickets as well).

What about Shades of Green?

Shades of Green is an Armed Forces Recreation Center located on Disney World property. Be aware that this is NOT one of the Disney World resort hotels. While I cannot go into great detail about the resort or it’s amenities outside of what is available on the internet (as I’m a civilian), I can provide the following comparison between Walt Disney World resorts and Shades of Green:

  • Cost: Cost of a Disney World Value room during peak season and Shades of Green are roughly the same cost depending on the booking category you qualify for at Shades of Green and your party size.  In a close race of cost after a comparison, choose a Disney resort as the benefits outweigh the difference of $100 or more depending on your party.
  • Transportation: Shades of Green does have bus service to all Disney World theme parks. Once at the theme parks you are welcome to use any additional method of Disney Transportation to get around. Unfortunately this bus runs on a structured schedule which is often once an hour. Disney buses run every 15-20 minutes continuously. If you miss a bus for a Disney resort, there is likely one right behind it! You must show proof of stay to board any Shades of Green bus. There are no requirements for Disney buses.
  • Airport Transportation: Shades of Green does not qualify for Disney Magical Express Service. You are able to book somewhat inexpensive shuttles, however you can’t beat the cost of free!
  • Parking at theme parks: Parking for Disney World resort guests is free at all of Disney’s theme parks. Unfortunately this benefit does not cover Shades of Green as it is not considered a Disney resort. The current cost of parking is now $17/day.
  • Dining Plan: Shades of Green guests unfortunately do not qualify for the dining plan as they are not resort guests. As noted above, you are able to add Disney’s Dining Plan to your room only package without the purchase of park tickets with the military discount.
  • Extra Magic Hours: Both Shades of Green and all Disney Resorts qualify you for Extra Magic Hours at Disney World theme parks. One of my favorite benefits!
  • FastPass+: FastPass+ service is available to add Disney World guests with valid park tickets. If you purchase tickets ahead of time, you are able to make reservations 60 days in advance at Disney World resorts and 30 days in advance at Shades of Green (as it is considered an “off site” hotel). Your tickets must be linked to your My Disney Experience account in either situation.
  • MagicBands: MagicBands are free to all Disney World resort guests. Any guest can purchase a MagicBand in the theme parks.

If cost is a major factor in your Disney World vacation, you may have a less expensive option (and a little bit more space) at Shades of Green over a Disney value resort. With such a great year round discount, you’ll save a great deal of money regardless of your resort category in a Disney World resort hotel.

Something else to note…

  • Once you arrive at Disney, check for discounts at stores (especially in Downtown Disney). You can save up to 20% on your purchases!
  • You will not find pricing online anywhere for military offers – this is available via phone only.
A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2017 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an agent that is part of authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

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Disney World Salute to the Military offer available for 2016!

Military families rejoice – the salute to the military package has officially been renewed for 2016. I was biting my nails a little bit waiting for info, but I’m happy to report that the offer is available NOW to make reservations throughout 2016. Let’s talk about specifics (this info is direct from Disney):

At Walt Disney World Resort – from September 25, 2015 through December 16, 2016, active and retired U.S. military personnel (including active and retired members of the United States Coast Guard, National Guard and Reservists) or their spouses can purchase:

  • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Park Hopper Option for $196 each, plus tax
  • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Water Park Fun and More Option for $196 each, plus tax
  • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Park Hopper and Water Park Fun and More Options for $230 each, plus tax.

Walt Disney World Resort tickets may be used January 3, 2016, through December 19, 2016, except that the tickets may not be used March 20, 2016 – April 1, 2016.

Active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase Disney Military Promotional Tickets for themselves and up to five additional family members or friends. No more than six Disney Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased by any eligible member of the U.S. military (or spouse). All tickets and options are non-transferable and must be used by December 19, 2016. (THIS PART IS VERY IMPORTANT!!!)

Here are some other details you should know about:

  • Disney Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased at participating U.S. military sales outlets ONLY by Eligible Service Members or their spouses (but not both), for use by those family members or friends. They cannot be used in the absence of those military members!
  • “Eligible Service Members” are active or retired members of the U.S. military, including the National Guard, Reservists and the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Participating military sales outlets must require that Eligible Service Members (or their spouses) present valid military identification to purchase Disney Military Promotional Tickets.
  • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets for admission to the Walt Disney World Resort are not valid until activated by the Eligible Service Members (or their spouses) at Walt Disney World theme park ticket windows.Valid military identification will be required for purchase and use. You still may link these vouches to your My Disney Experience account to select FastPasses 30 or 60 days in advance (30 days if you are not staying in a Disney resort)
  • No more than six (6) Disney Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased and (if applicable) activated by any Eligible Service Member or spouse (regardless of the place of purchase and whether purchased by that person or that person’s spouse). In addition, one of the six (6) Tickets purchased must be used by the Eligible Service Member or his/her spouse. Exceptions may be made for immediate family that is larger than 6 people.
  • Each Disney Military Promotional Ticket must be used by the same person on any and all days. (This is the same of all Disney tickets.

Disney World Resort Discounts

Disney typically offers an annual discount to members of the military and their families. Same inclusions as listed above apply for this room discount as well.  Typically, the discount looks a little like this:

  • Value Resorts – 30%
  • Moderate Resorts – 35%
  • Deluxe Resorts – 40%

The only exclusion I am aware of are the Little Mermaid Rooms at Art of Animation and Bay Lake Tower (as well as all 3 bedroom villas). This is of course subject to availability and black out dates (This year is the week around Easter and that’s it!)
You are also able to book up to 3 rooms with your military discount, although the qualifying member must be present, with proper identification, at check in for each room booked. They are not required to pay for every room.

Like any Disney package, booking a room only reservation will require 1 night’s room cost and the remaining balance is due upon arrival at your resort.

An additional benefit of this discount is Disney’s Dining Plan! While all Disney World packages require park tickets to add the dining plan, the military room discount does not! You can add either Plus Dining (or the full dining plan) or the deluxe dining plan. There is no discount to adding the dining plan, but with the money you save on tickets and your room it’s likely worth it! (You cannot use a free dining promotion if it is available at the time you are booking).

What about Shades of Green?

Shades of Green is an Armed Forces Recreation Center located on Disney World property. Be aware that this is NOT one of the Disney World resort hotels. While I cannot go into great detail about the resort or it’s amenities outside of what is available on the internet (as I’m a civilian), I can provide the following comparison between Disney World resorts and Shades of Green:

  • Cost: Cost of a Disney World Value room during peak season and Shades of Green are roughly the same cost depending on the booking category you qualify for at Shades of Green and your party size.  In a close race of cost after a comparison, choose a Disney resort as the benefits outweigh the difference of $100 or so!
  • Transportation: Shades of Green does have bus service to all Disney World theme parks. Once at the theme parks you are welcome to use any additional method of Disney Transportation to get around. Unfortunately this bus runs on a structured schedule which is often once an hour. Disney buses tend to run every 15-20 minutes continuously. If you miss a bus for a Disney resort, there is likely one right behind it! You must show proof of stay to board any Shades of Green bus. There are no requirements for Disney buses.
  • Airport Transportation: Shades of Green does not qualify for Disney Magical Express Service. You are able to book somewhat inexpensive shuttles, however you can’t beat the cost of free!
  • Parking at theme parks: Parking for Disney World resort guests is free at all of Disney’s theme parks. Unfortunately this benefit does not cover Shades of Green as it is not considered a Disney resort. The current cost of parking is now $17/day.
  • Dining Plan: Shades of Green guests unfortunately do not qualify for the dining plan as they are not resort guests. As noted above, you are able to add Disney’s Dining Plan to your room only package without the purchase of park tickets with the military discount.
  • Extra Magic Hours: Both Shades of Green and all Disney Resorts qualify you for Extra Magic Hours at Disney World theme parks. One of my favorite benefits!
  • FastPass+: FastPass+ service is available to add Disney World guests with valid park tickets. If you purchase tickets ahead of time, you are able to make reservations 60 days in advance at Disney World resorts and 30 days in advance at Shades of Green (as it is considered an “off site” hotel). Your tickets must be linked to your My Disney Experience account in either situation.
  • MagicBands: MagicBands are free to all Disney World resort guests. Any guest can purchase a MagicBand in the theme parks.

If cost is a major factor in your Disney World vacation, you may have a less expensive option (and a little bit more space) at Shades of Green over a Disney value resort. With such a great year round discount, you’ll save a great deal of money regardless of your resort category in a Disney World resort hotel.

A few other things to mention

  • If Free Dining is offered during your travel period, you may want to compare overall costs to see what will save you more money. At times it may be more advantageous for you to use a public offer over your military discount (but not often).
  • Once you arrive at Disney, check for discounts at stores (especially in Downtown Disney). You can save up to 20% on your purchases!
A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2016 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

A mom’s guide to Disney World Rider Switch

IMG_4982 (2)

Another Disney adventure in the books and I finally have a much better handle on rider switch (WITH photos)! We tried it all. The true rider switch, rider switch coupled with a FastPass selection, 2 FastPasses with no rider switch, and just using the single rider line. Everything worked better than I had planned (except the time the posted time at Splash Mountain was a LIE).

My first important mom note is that both adults DO NOT need a FastPass as long as you have a young one who is too small to enjoy the thrill ride of your choice. In our experience that was the key to every rider switch ticket we received. Our daughter was only measured once in all of the times we used rider switch. My guide focuses mostly on 2 adults with 1 child that’s too small, but it’s equally as useful if you have an older child who wants to enjoy thrill rides. The math says that one adult can start out with the equivalent of 6 FastPasses (the other adult will have 3 FastPasses and find 3 fun things to do without a FastPass).

The second important mom note is that you need to find something for the little one to do. Feel free to get creative or even just change a diaper or find a quiet spot to rest and have a snack.

IMG_4944 (1)

Traditional Rider switch ticket given at rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Soarin’.

Rider Switch with a FastPass

If you’ve got a FastPass for a thrill ride, you only need it for one adult (assuming you have 2 adults in your travel party). If you have more than 2 adults, keep it on the DL. Only TWO adults should present to make the request. Once you are inside your FastPass window, present a Cast Member at the attraction and ask for a Rider Switch ticket. There are two different styles of return tickets but the both work in the same way.

At rides like Soarin’ and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, you receive what looks like the legacy/paper FastPasses. This is good for up to 3 people (1 adult and up to 2 children). At attractions like Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, they give the first rider a lanyard which gets brought up to the cast member right before they ride to bring back down to adult #2. This means you don’t have to be in your FastPass window when you request your rider switch pass.

IMG_4979 (1)

Rider switch lanyard given at the time of request for Splash Mountain (and Big Thunder Mountain, too). The first adult brings it to the cast member right before you board and then you are given the traditional legacy FasstPass

Rider Switch without a FastPass

If you don’t have a FastPass for an attraction that has a rider switch option, you can still use the benefits. The first adult will have to use the standby line and wait it out with the rest of the population. The other adult (and any additional kids – up to 2 kids plus one adult is allowed per rider switch ticket) will be able to use the FastPass line with the rider switch ticket.

Other options besides rider switch

Many attractions have a single rider line: Expedition Everest, Test Track, Rock n Roller Coaster to name a few. If you don’t have a FastPass, you can also use the single rider line + rider switch or 2 adults using the single rider line. If you have one thrill seeking adults and the other who is like me who doesn’t like the top thrill seeking rides, the single rider ride might be your best bet instead of splitting FastPasses. Test Track is much faster using the single rider line because you skip the car customization process.

What the “other” adult can do during rider switch

These are just some suggestions for the adult staying with the little one. A bathroom or snack break is also always an option (it uses up time for rides that are faster like Seven Dwarfs or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad). There are more beyond what is available. There are two columns: the first is if you are not using an additional FastPass and the second is if you are. If you have better suggestions, I’d love to hear them. We’re still a bit “green” in rider switch with only a 2 year old with us, so I welcome all sorts of user feedback!

Park Rider Switch Attraction Non-FastPass Options FastPass-able Attraction
Magic Kingdom Space Mountain Meet Buzz Lightyear (after 10 am)Pete’s Silly Sideshow: character meet and greet (check opening time)

People Mover

Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger SpinTomorrowland Speedway (32 inch requirement to ride)
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Pete’s Silly Sideshow: character meet and greet (check opening time)Meet Gaston at his tavern

Casey Jr. Splash ‘n Soak

Meet Cinderella & RapunzelMeet Anna & Elsa

Dumbo

Prince Charming’s Carousel

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Laughin’ Place playground under Frontierland station railroadMeet Woody & Jessie near Splash Mountain entrance

Tom Sawyers Island

Not much very nearby – you can hike over to Jungle Cruise or Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Splash Mountain Laughin’ Place playground under Frontierland station railroadMeet Woody & Jessie near Splash Mountain entrance

Tom Sawyers Island

Ride the Railroad Around the loop

Not much very nearby – you can hike over to Jungle Cruise or Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Park Rider Switch Attraction Non-FastPass Options FastPass-able Attraction
Epcot Test Track The after-market: Tons of cars to climb in and out of and fun things for kids to enjoy! Epcot Character Spot
Soarin’ None really Living with the Land
Mission Space Exit has a play area for kids of all ages Epcot Character Spot
Park Rider Switch Attraction Non-FastPass Options FastPass-able Attraction
Hollywood Studios Rock n Roller Coaster Art of Disney Animation (or character meet and greet at the end of Hollywood Blvd – check daily schedule) Disney Jr Live on Stage (it’s not very close)
Tower of Terror Art of Disney Animation (or character meet and greet at the end of Hollywood Blvd – check daily schedule) Disney Jr Live on Stage (it’s not very close)
Star Tours Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie SetWatch Jedi Training Academy (or participate if kids are age 4+) Frozen Sing-Along
Park Rider Switch Attraction Non-FastPass Options FastPass-able Attraction
Animal Kingdom Expedition Everest Maharajah Jungle Trek Finding Nemo the Musical
Kali River Rapids Maharajah Jungle Trek Adventures Outpost (Meet Mickey & Minnie)
Dinosaur The Boneyard Finding Nemo the Musical
Primeval Whirl The Boneyard Finding Nemo the Musical

If you still have questions, please use the comments section below!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Planning a last minute trip to Disney World

Planning a Last Minute Vacation to Disney World!

Most of my Disney World advice stems from booking well in advance of your arrival date. So what if that’s not possible or you just didn’t know? Well fear not, there are still some great opportunities to plan a last minute or soon-ish Disney World trip without too much difficulty. In the most ideal world, it would be in your best interest to book your vacation package a minimum of 60 days prior to your arrival. This will allow you to take full advantage of FastPass+ reservations!

Looking for rates. First check discounts. If no reasonable options are available, check the non-discounted costs. At times there are some value and moderate resorts that will save you more money than available discounted rooms. Sounds strange, but it’s true!

First, are you more than 45 days from your arrival or less than 45 days from your arrival? The major difference between these two dates is whether you will be required to pay in full when you book your vacation or are able to make a smaller deposit while you gather up funds for your final payment.

Uh oh! I’m within 45 days but I don’t have $2500 to spend at this exact moment, is there anything you can do to help? Of course there is. Booking a room only offer is the way around this little difficult situation. You would be required to book your theme park tickets separately. It’s worth noting that you better be absolutely sure that you’re going to Disney World using this method as your tickets are non-refundable when purchased a single/stand-alone product! Once you link your reservation and park tickets, everything else will work just as if you booked everything together!

Now for the overwhelming part! So you’ve booked your trip, there’s a lot to do in a very short period of time!

  1. Choose your theme parks each day. Check Disney’s web site for park hours and use the appropriate strategy
  2. Check for dining reservations. While most of the popular options are likely gone, you’ll be able to find some reasonable options!
  3. Book your FastPasses at 60 days out – if you’re within that time frame, book now!
  4. Customize your MagicBands! Make sure you have them done 30 days prior to your arrival as that’s the ideal time to ship

Thankfully, you don’t have the long, painful wait until your trip. You can get excited, pack, and head for the happiest place in Florida!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

FREE Things available around Disney World

You spend money on your Disney World Resort, Park Tickets, Water Park Tickets, and Dining Package. Now you have to shell out more money on gifts and souvenirs. So what can you do for free?

Magic Kingdom

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom: A game that allows you to obtain trading cards from Magic Kingdom to help Merlin defeat Disney Villains. Stop at the Firehouse on Main Street for a brief lesson and to pick up your trading cards

Insider tip: You are allowed one set of cards per day, per person in your party. If you have a park hopper pass, you can grab an extra set of cards each day to increase your collection!

Electric Water Pageant: Nightly water pageant on Seven Seas Lagoon. This can be seen from any of the “monorail” resorts as well as Magic Kingdom.

Insider tip: Check the daily schedule at Magic Kingdom or one of the monorail resorts for times. Subject to cancellation for inclement weather.

EPCOT

Club Cool: Try Coca Cola products from around the world. Typically there are 8 flavors available to try and the flavors rotate periodically. Located in Future World near Innoventions West.

Insider tip: This is a great place to stop on a hot day for a free beverage or to wait out a brief Florida shower.

Downtown Disney

Legoland: Free play area for kids and amazing lego creations in the surrounding area!Woody

Raglan Road: Often has live music in the bar (especially on weekends)

Disney’s Boardwalk

At times there are street performers in the evening. Walk around and enjoy!

Other

Transportation: Transportation throughout Walt Disney World is free for Disney Resort Guests! This includes the monorail, bus system, and boats

Insider tip: Try and ride all the modes of transportation during your trip! Monorail service is available around Magic Kingdom, the front entrance of EPCOT, and from the Ticket and Transportation Center. Boat service is available along the Magic Kingdom Resorts and the Ticket and Transportation Center as well as Friendship Boats which have service from Disney’s Hollywood Studios to the rear entrance of EPCOT with stops at Swan/Dolphin, Boardwalk, and Beach/Yacht Club. A wonderfully relaxing ride! Bus service is available from all resorts (limited based on other modes of transportation).

Photographers: Disney’s load of PhotoPass photographers are available at all the best locations at Walt Disney World.

Insider Tip: Activate your PhotoPass Card before your departure and bring it with on your trip. Also bring a digital camera or smart phone. When you hand off your photo pass, ask the photographer if they would mind taking a photo with your camera as well. Most are happy to oblige.

What are your favorite freebies at Disney?

Disney World Historical Discounts + Planning a 2015 Disney World Vacation

 

For all of you advanced planners, coupon clippers, and deal watchers, this post is for you! It’s historical Disney World discounts. This post will also tell you how much you can plan to save and coming in a future post, an overview of traveling to Disney each month and what you can expect to pay each month as a family of 4. This will be the ultimate guide planning your Disney World vacation.

To start, let’s talk about “rack rates”.

Rack rates are the non-discounted rates you can book at any time. The last two years, rack rates have been released for the next calendar year the 2nd week in July. In 2013, rates were released in June. I would expect rates to be released again in July of 2014 for 2015 vacations. Disney allows reservations up to 365 days in advance after rates are released. Check out the crowd calendar to see when crowd levels and prices are lowest.

Predicting a discount

Rates are released, now playing with numbers, how do you choose your travel dates? Below are the general public and Disney Visa cardholder discounts that were available in both 2013 and 2014 and the date they became available in each year respectively.

Travel Dates Discount Available Date available
January – Beginning of Spring Break Season 2013 15-35% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 10/3/12

10/10/12

January – Beginning of Spring Break Season 2014 Stay, Play Dine – discounted package-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 10/3/13

10/7/13

January – week before Easter 2014 5%-35% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 10/3/13

10/7/13

Mid February – early June 2013 (excludes week of Easter) 15-30% off room rates + discounted tickets-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 12/27/13

1/3/13

Late February – mid June 2014 (excludes week of Easter) 5%-30% off room rates + free day of park tickets-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 1/2/14

1/6/14

Late April – mid June 2014 10-25% off room + Free Memory Maker-General public 2/6/14
Mid June – mid August  2013 5-30% off room rates + discounted tickets-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 3/28/13

4/2/13

Mid June – late August 2014 10-35% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 3/13/14

3/17/14

Mid August – September 2014 10-25% off room + Free Memory Maker-General public 2/6/14
Mid August – September 2013 5-30% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/6/13

5/9/13

Mid August – early October 2014 20-30% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/2/14

5/7/14

September 2013 Free Dining-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/6/13

5/9/13

October – December 2013 Free Dining (ended 12/22)-General public 8/1/13
October – December 2013 15-30% off room rates (ended 12/23)-General public 8/1/13
October – December 2014 Free Dining (blacked out 10/4-10/25; 11/2-11/8; 11/21-12/11)-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/2/14

5/7/14

 

So now you know what discount is available, you can make your decision on what saves you the most. A few important notes:

  • If more than one discount is available, make sure you choose the best one for your family. A great example is free dining and room discount. If you are traveling with less than 2 adults, planning on staying at deluxe resort, and/or have a short stay, the room discount may be greater than dining savings.
  • With ticket discounts or a free day of park tickets, just do a quick check to see how much one more day would cost, sometimes it’s under $10!
  • For free dining discounts, as long as your arrival day is within the travel window, your entire vacation will be covered. If you are booking a room rate discount, your entire vacation will need to be within available travel dates.
  • Be willing to do a split stay if your travel dates are set in stone. This way you can take advantage of some great discounts. Just make sure you book the same room type if you are planning on staying at the same resort.
  • Don’t count on a certain discount even if historical information points towards it. Free dining in 2014 is the perfect example – previous years had very few blacked out dates and 2014 blacked out almost the entire month of October.

When should I book my vacation?

If high demand dining experiences like Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Table, pre-park opening character meals, evening meals at California Grill, etc. are on your list, I highly recommend booking before your 180 days window opens (this means 180 days prior to your arrival). For those looking to budget for your vacation, book early and start paying things off on a monthly or quarterly basis.

If you are looking for high demand reservations like free dining, it may be in your best interest to book a low cost room only reservation to get your dining choices and then book your free dining reservation online as the deal comes out. 2014 Free dining brought phone wait times of 5-6 hours and phone is the ONLY way to update an existing reservation or to book a Disney Visa cardholder discount. While Disney’s web site is very slow on the first day of a free dining discount, you can at least hold your reservation t no cost if the payment system is causing issues (as it tends to when website volume is extremely high)  Get a sure thing! The best part about room only reservations is that you are required to pay 1 night’s room plus tax (at a value resort this can be about $100). It’s kind of cheating the system, but your room does go back into the pool after you cancel. If you wait at least 2 weeks after a major discount has been released, wait times can be less than 5 minutes to nothing. Your dining reservations are not tied to your reservation number, so you can cancel without losing your other reservations!

Room rate discounts are not as competitive as major discounts like free dining. Wait times are typically less than an hour and most important for locations like Port Orleans Riverside which have rooms that sleep up to 5 guests.

Regardless of your discount and your resort choice, be prepared to be flexible. This may mean upgrading your room view/category to receive the available discount or changing resorts completely (often in the case of free dining). It’s best to have a backup plan and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices and if working with a travel professional, be available via email or text message as things are changed.

Saving time AND money

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

Why Fall is truly the best time to go to Disney World

 

While it’s always a good time to go to Disney World, fall truly is the best time to plan a vacation. Kids are back in school, the weather starts to cool, the prices start to drop, and the crowds begin to dwindle. Disney also entices guests with the biggest promotion of all: Free Dining. While dates are more limited this year than in years past, it’s still a popular options for families looking to save money.

2014 free dining runs from August 31-October 3, October 26-November 1, November 9-20, and December 12-20. As long as your check in day falls on one of these dates, your entire vacation will be covered.

If free food (and savings of over $1000 for most families) isn’t enough for you, outside of holidays and days off of school, fall brings some of the lowest crowd levels during the entire year. Many days in September have overall crowds in the 1-2/10 range each day and weekends still don’t get that high.

Still want more? How about special events! Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, and holiday events at Hollywood Studios are available throughout the seasons. While the 2 parties at Magic Kingdom are special ticketed events, they are only once a year and a really fun special opportunity to enjoy time in Magic Kingdom with even lower crowd levels than during the day.

Need a little bit more enticement? The weather throughout most of this time is still warm enough to swim and enjoy the Florida sun. Evenings are comfortable. You are likely to get away with a long sleeve shirt or light jacket in November and December.

And if that’s not enough, rack rates (or non-discounted rates) are some of the lowest all year. So even if you can’t find a free dining promotional rate, you are already saving money! I just priced out a 5 night vacation for my husband and me in September. With upgraded free dining and 4 days of park tickets, it was under $1300! That also included an evening at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Pretty impressive, since we paid more for a deluxe room and tickets without dining in April which is more toward peak season!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!