Planning Our Disney Holiday!
Happy New Year to you all! That last year went by like a flash I cannot quite believe that it's January already!
Did you know that January is the most popular time of year for families to start planning and planning their summer holiday? Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that its freezing and the days are so short and dark - it's has most definitely got me yearning for brighter and longer days!
This year in a break from tradition we are travelling to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida - I actually have to pinch myself that we are going THIS SUMMER!!! By the time we actually board the plane the holiday would have been 15 months in the planning and when I say "planning" I actually mean planning within an inch of its life planning!
From my experience so far and from everyone who's been to Disney World planning is key and early planing to be even more specific.
I have also done a little video to explain a little more...
Early last year we started to think about taking the kids to Disney World. We spoke to a number of friends who had been as well as some local travel agents. We knew that we wanted to stay "on site", we liked the ability to go back to the resort for the afternoon to the pool before being able to go back to to the parks in the evening. We also loved the look of all the Disney food and most definitely wanted to take advantage of as much character dining as we could, from people who have been half the fun of Disney for the adults is the food! People also advised us that given the food at Disney can be eye wateringly expensive that it would be worth holding out for the Free Disney Dining that is offered once a year for the following year. So that is what we did.
In April last year (2018) we got an email from Disney advising us that they had just released the Free Dining offer for 2019 and it was at this point that we started to get some costings.
Let me try and explain the Dining Plans for you - there are three to chose from. These are usually extra prices but during the free dining event they are just that free and included in your package.
Quick service dining plan: 2 quick service meals, 2 snacks each day and 1 refillable mug. The quick service plan is probably great for really young children that can’t sit during a sit-down meal or for families that don’t have adventurous eaters.
Disney dining plan: 1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal and 2 snacks each day plus 1 refillable mug. This was the plan that appealed to us as for our family as we love sit down meals and also looking at the restaurants available we loved the choice. This plan is also ideal for Character Dining at your table rather than having to meet them in the parks. Character meals looking online at prices can be very pricey when you are paying out of pocket we probably would have only done one. When you are using a dining credit for them, it is more enjoyable and also means you can do more of them.
Deluxe dining plan: 3 table service meals/credits each day and 1 refillable mug.The Deluxe dining plan is great for the family that plans to eat at a lot of sit down meals or a lot of character meals or who wants to indulge in some of the restaurants that charge two dining credits a meal. You can always use your table service credit for a quick meal if you need to on this plan. This would probably be an ideal plan for couples and perfect for honeymooners even!
I also watched loads of YouTube videos on the dining plan which explained it all very well. One of the benefits for staying on site is the ability to book your dining 180 days in advance (see how you have to plan in advance to bag the best dining reservations!) and book your Fast Passes (basically pre-booked time slot to jump the queue on rides) 60 days in advance vs 30 days in advance for staying off site. Just the beauty of paying for our food all up front we hope it'll feel like we've sorted and paid for our food before we go so for us it was a no brainer!
I also looked at various websites which helped explain the cost to us including this one.
We got quotes from Attraction Tickets Direct (they deal with only hotel and park tickets, no flights), Virgin Holidays and Thomas Cook. The quotes varied from £4600 (no flights included!) to nearly £9000 for 14 nights, 14 day park tickets, upgrade to Disney Dining Plan (we wanted to upgrade from the basic quick service dining plan that was offered with our moderate hotel choice),3 x fast passes per person per day (basically a pre booked time to jump the queue on rides!) Magical Disney Express (the transfer from the airport) and refillable mug staying at a moderate resort (Disney have three resort tiers, Value, Moderate and Deluxe). To be honest Virgin and Thomas Cook were out of budget but with Attraction Tickets Direct it was doable IF we got decent flight prices.
The problem we had was that we wanted to commit but were hesitant because we could only book our flights in August. When I explained my predicament to Attraction Tickets Direct they advised me that we could lock in our holiday for just £100. That swung it for us. If the flight prices were hideous then we would only have lost £100 rather than committing to a £9000 holiday.
We waited until the end of August beginning of September for flights to be released and managed to secure flights with British Airways to Fort Lauderdale (three hours south of Orlando and we wanted to hire a car) which dropped the prices of flights down drastically and we managed to secure fights and car hire for £2500 for all of us. Looking at the flight prices we were also better off travelling five days earlier than when we were booked in for Disney as this was nearly £1000 cheaper.
I looked online for accommodation for those five nights and in the end ended up booking a villa through a Facebook group It's Orlando Time Villas and found a four bedroom villa with a private pool for just under £450 for five nights - far cheaper than a hotel and the flexibility of being able to chill out, get over our jet lag and cook at the villa before heading to Disney.
Towards the end of January we will be going online at our 180 day mark to book our dining reservations so I will do a follow up blog on how that goes!
Are you planning your upcoming summer holiday already - where are you off to? If you've been to Disney I would LOVE your tips for a first timer!