Can you afford a trip to Disney?

Can YOU afford a trip to Disney?

HammFirst let me say that ONLY YOU can really answer this question.  In order to honestly answer this question, however first you must be informed, which is where DWDads hope we can help.

The first step in deciding on whether you can afford a trip is to find out how much it will cost by answering these 4 simple questions:

  1. Who is going [# of Adults + # of Children (with ages)]?
  2. When do you want to go and for how many days/nights?
  3. Where do you want to stay?
  4. How do you think you’ll eat – table service or counter service meals?

By answering these 4 simple questions DWDads can give you a quote (without discounts) so you can begin saving or budgeting for your trip.

**Note – We will often book/quote clients at “rack rates” knowing there is a strong possibility of a discount coming in the future.  When the discount is released, we then apply the discount and the balance due decreases or a refund is issued.

Here is an example:

  1. Who is going?  2 Adults and 2 Children (ages 8 & 5)
  2. When do you want to go and for how many days/nights? October for 6 nights and 7 days
  3. Where do you want to stay?  Anywhere on property – Value is fine
  4. How do you think you’ll eat – table service or counter service meals?  We like to eat one big sit down meal and the other meals we will eat on the go.

Given the information above the Hotel (Pop Century), Meals (Dining Plan with 24 Table service, 24 Counter Service, 24 Snacks & 4 refillable mugs) and Tickets (7 day base tickets) would cost just about $3,000 before any discounts that might be released.

 So how do I save $3000? 

Here are some ways the DWDads recommend saving:

Simple budgeting 

Put $250 per month or $60 a week in a separate account = $3,000 after 1 year

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  • *Better yet each month go to Target and purchase $250 in Disney entertainment cards with your Target REDCARD (saving 5% on each purchase) – By the end you’ll have spent $2,850 on $3,000 in Disney Cards a $150 SAVINGS – Stack the REDCARD with a 5% Pharmacy Rewards Card (not valid in NJ) and you will save $300 on the $3,000 in cards.

Use your income tax refund

Many people receive a tax refund when they file their yearly taxes.  What better way to use this “found money” than on a family trip.tax-refund

  • In 2012 my federal and state return totaled – $3,248

Use your credit card cash back or miles balances

  • Disney Visa Card gives you 1%-2% (depending on the card) on all purchases and also saves you 10% on purchases of $50 or more at select locations including the Disneystore and Disneystore.com – Current Disney Visa Balance – $126
  • Discover Cash Back Credit Card – (2% on all purchases and 5% on select purchases each quarter) – Current Discover CASH BACK balance – $1,204

Save pocket change or even every $1 or $5 bills when you break a large bill

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  • Every time you come home, empty your pockets into a jar or milk jug.  You’d be surprised how much you can save over time.
  • DO NOT use Coinstar machines that charge a fee or spend your time rolling your change – many banks (TD Bank in my area) have FREE coin sorting machines and you do not even need to have an account there to use these machines.

Make a sacrifice for Disney

  • Quit smoking – $8 per pack per day = $2,920 in one year. Not only can you save the money, but you’ll be healthier and touring the parks will be easier too.
  • Give up Dunkin Donuts/Starbucks for daily coffee – $3-$5 or more per day
  • Pack your lunch daily – Lunch can cost you $5-$10 or more per day and those savings add up
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Disney’s Hidden Gems: Pinocchio Village Haus

Most of us are familiar with the most popular “headliner” rides at Disney’s theme parks; after all they are probably the main reason for visiting the parks. In this series, however, I focus on some of the lesser known things to do inside the parks.

 

pinocchio_village_hausThere is a quaint counter-service restaurant in Disney World that is tucked away in the corner of Fantasyland called Pinocchio Village Haus.  Although it is a fairly popular counter-service restaurant, there are a few things that classify this eatery as a “Hidden Gem” to DWDads.   The first thing you will notice about this restaurant is the décor. With carved wooden chairs and exposed beams, this dining hall gives you the feel that you are at home in a quaint European Alpine village.  Colorful stained glass windows surround the dining room and hand-painted frescos from Disney’s animated classic “Pinocchio” adorn the hallways and side dining rooms.

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Photo courtesy of Disney.com

The menu is simple with items including salads, personal flatbread pizzas, chicken nuggets and meatball and Italian sandwiches but it is easy to find something for everyone in your party.  All of the meals on the menu are 1 counter service credit on the Disney Dining Plan but the items are moderately priced for those paying out of pocket.

The real treats of this restaurant though, lie in some of the select seating options your party could enjoy.  Up on the second floor at the top of the stairs on the right hand side, there are about 5-6 tables that overlook the boarding area of it’s a small world.  IMG_1746

As your family enjoys their meal, you can watch and wave to other Disney families enjoying one of the original Disney rides designed by Walt himself.  The cast members will occasionally hand out signs to young guests to hold up to the window with messages (like “Do the Chicken Dance”) for the other guests in the ride queue.  If the weather is nice there is also seating on the balcony outside overlooking Fantasyland.  Since all of the seating is self-serve, you may have to wait or get lucky or go during off hours to get these seats.DSC_0180

blue-fairy-wish-book-pinocchio-village-haus-11Another feature of this restaurant that you don’t want to miss is making your wish to The Blue Fairy in the Book of Wishes.  Look for the soft blue glow of The Blue Fairy window (pictured right) which is just to the left as you enter the main dining room on the first floor, and beneath the window you will find the Book of Wishes (see below).   Here in this book, guests write down their wishes hoping The Blue Fairy will grant their wish.   Given the power of the Blue Fairy and the magic of Disney, guests are bound to have their dreams come true.

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Money-Saving Tip: Disney World Vacation Discounts

Going on any vacation, especially a Disney vacation, is a major investment, both of time and money.  If there is a way to save money on our Disney vacation, we will all happily take advantage of it.  There are times, however, when Disney runs multiple discounts or discounts that are not available to everyone at the same time.  How do you know when or how to get the best deal?  Here are some basics on how Disney offers discounts and how you can take advantage of them.

First, we should define a few terms:
A Vacation Package is when you combine a stay at a Disney World resort hotel with tickets to get into the theme parks.  Packages can also include the Disney Dining Plan, but they do not have to.  The tickets in your package can also include optional upgrades, such as the ability to hop from park to park.
A Room Only reservation is just what it sounds like: a reservation for a room at one of the Disney World resort hotels.  Tickets can then be added to this, thereby essentially making it a Vacation Package; but, it is important to note that this type of reservation started as Room Only.

Right now, Disney is offering Free Dining and Room Only Discounts for this fall.

Right now, Disney is offering Free Dining and Room Only Discounts for this fall.

Types of Discounts

Disney likes to offer two main types of discounts: Free Dining and Percentage-Off Room Only

Free Dining: This discount would add one of the Disney Dining Plans to your reservation for free if you book a Vacation Package at the rack rate.  The level of the Dining Plan depends on the level of resort you book.
% Off Room Only: This is a certain percentage off the Room Rate.  The percentage tends to go up as the level of hotel goes up.  As mentioned above, you can then add tickets and dining, usually at full price.

There have been other discounts, of course.  Kids Stay and Play Free basically gives your kids free park tickets.  In the past, there have been gift cards given out or free nights added, but these are a lot less common today.

Who Gets Discounts?
General Public
: Many of the discounts are available to the general public; however, there are a few groups that sometimes get to take advantage of them first:
Disney Visa Cardholders: Sometimes get to book with a discount a few days earlier than the general public.
Annual Passholders: They also get to book a few days early.  AP holders also get many discounts offered to them exclusively throughout the year, including special room rates.
Florida Residents: If you live in Florida, you can often get special room rates.
Pin Code Recipients: Many times, Disney sends out personalized postcards or e-mails that include a unique code.  This code allows the recipient to take advantage of an unpublished discount (free dining, room only, etc.).  Who gets these codes and why? That is a mystery only Disney knows the answer to!

This year's Food and Wine Festival is included among the dates for this Fall's discounts.

This year’s Food and Wine Festival is included among the dates for this Fall’s discounts.

What You Need To Know
1. You can only take advantage of one discount at a time; no double dipping!
2. Most discounts require you to pay for some of your vacation at rack rate.  Often, two discounts are offered at the same time, so do the math to see which is the better deal for you.
3. There are only a certain number of rooms at each resort earmarked for each discount.  So, the discounted rooms will sell out before the actual resort runs out of rooms.
4. If you book a vacation at rack rate, then a discount comes out, you can call and have them apply the discount to your reservation, as long as your room type is still available under the discount.
5. If the room you want is sold out under a discount, keep calling back.  It may become available as others change their vacation plans.
6. Let a Disney Vacation Specialist do the work for you! DW Dads are Disney Vacation Specialists. At no cost to you, we will find you the best discount available for your family.  If one is not currently available, we will keep in constant contact with Disney to apply a discount to your reservation as soon as it is released.  Let us crunch the numbers and make the phone calls; you can just focus on making great vacation memories! Click here to request a quote.

Food & Wine Festival and Disney’s Fall Discounts – A tasty combination

Yesterday Disney announced their Fall promotional discounts –41420480306 both free dining and room only discounts for select dates.  These promotions took me back to late last summer when my wife (Clare) and I decided we were going to take advantage of similar promotions offered in 2012 and we booked our trip to take our sons for 5 nights in November.  Because Clare is a NJ teacher we booked our trip to align with her 2 days off for NJEA teacher convention week (more on Jersey week in a future article).  This turned out to be a great time of year to go because we were able to take advantage of Christmas events, and the weather was very comfortable, but a big surprise for us was that we were able to catch the end of the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot Center.

We decided to spend our last full day of our trip at Epcot Center (mostly based on Touringplans.com projected crowd calendar).  We spent the morning enjoying the attractions in Future World and after a light lunch at Sunshine Seasons, we began our tour of the World Showcase to sample all of the great samplings Food & Wine Festival had to offer.  We knew from our research that many of the foods offered at the various stands could be purchased using a snack credit, so we saved all of snack credits for the festival.  Our first purchase was at the stand in Poland – the Kielbasa & Potato Pierogie with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream ($5.00 or DDP Snack) and a Tyskie beer ($6 – no alcohol on DDP).  From a guy whose Polish side of the family has kielbasa at every major holiday, I was skeptical of trying it, but it was fabulous.  This was a perfect sampling to either eat alone or share with someone special (in my case – Clare). IMG_1902

We continued to tour the World Showcase, playing Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure with our boys, and stopping to meet various characters at meet & greets.  Our next food stop was in Canada for “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce ($6.50 or DDP Snack) and Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup ($4.00 or DDP Snack).  These two “snacks” we simply amazing.  Once again we shared these samplings, and although the portion was a nice size, it was so delicious that we both wanted more.  

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Our last stop was scheduled to coincide with the Eat to the Beat Concert Series where Big Bad Voodo Daddy was playing.  We stopped at the Hops & Barley stand to sample Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Lobster Roll ($7.50 or DDP Snack) and Sam Adams Seasonal (12oz -$5.50) and sat at the picnic tables right outside the America Gardens Theatre to enjoy our huge and delicious lobster roll, as the boys danced to Go-Daddy-O.  That was our last Food & Wine Festival stop, as we then took in Illuminations with Mickey Ice Cream bars from the Chase VIP area (more on that in the future).  It was a wonderful day in Epcot made even more special by this great event.

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There are many ways to enjoy the Food & Wine Festival.  Some trips are centered on this Festival and its offerings, while others (like ours) it becomes a great bonus to an already full trip.  The dates for this year’s Food & Wine Festival are September 27 through November 10 and since Disney just released free dining dates and room only discounts, now might be the perfect time to talk to us about planning your getaway to enjoy this very tasty event!