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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The Coldest Places in Walt Disney World

It’s 7 outside right now.  Not 7:00 AM, not 70. 7 degrees. And on the ground, there is a foot of snow, which refuses to leave. This may be Disney’s most intricate marketing plan ever: somehow they’ve learned to control the weather in order to keep their main Oscar contender, Frozen, in the forefront of everyone’s minds.  I have no problem believing that snow and ice will be on the ground straight through the movie’s Blu-ray release at the end of February.

There was one thing that happened this week that warmed me up, though. We booked our summer visit to Disney World.  Disney World in the summer; it’s a bittersweet experience. On one hand, as teachers, my wife and I don’t have to deal with the angst of requesting vacation or personal time, taking the kids out of school, or fitting the trip into a specified week. On the other hand, it’s crowded and hot. Really, really hot. Eating-a-Dole-Whip-in-the-fiery-halls-of-Hades hot. Luckily, we’ve been to Disney enough to know where the best places in each park are to avoid being oven-roasted.

Magic Kingdom
As great as the attraction is, has there ever been a person who has visited The Hall of Presidents in the summer and not fallen asleep? It’s dark, the audio and visuals are relatively soothing and, most importantly, it’s cold. Not cool, not refreshing. Cold. I’m pretty sure they store the Mickey Bars in the back in the auditorium. Don’t get me wrong, Carousel of Progress is pretty cold, too.  So is Mickey’s Philharmagic. But The Hall of Presidents is cold enough to be considered a suitable candidate for an overlay featuring Anna and Elsa.

Epcot
Well, the first place that came to mind was the cold weather testing room at Test Track. While it is cold in there, you’re not really in there long enough to enjoy it.  Sometimes, it almost makes me angry. The good news is, as soon as I get off Test Track, I can head right to Epcot’s true cold-weather utopia: Club Cool.  Let’s see what Club Cool, Coke’s sampling station and company store, has going for it: it’s freezing, there is never a line, and you get free samples of soda, some of which have cult-like followings. Would anyone like a Beverly?

Animal Kingdom
(Author’s note: I usually list the theme parks, like most do,  in order based on the year they opened, meaning Animal Kingdom would be last; however, last year Animal Kingdom’s attendance finally surpassed Hollywood Studio’s. So, consider this change-in-order my version of a protest: Disney, fix Hollywood Studios! OK, who needs the soapbox next?…)
This one is tough. Animal Kingdom holds onto heat so much, you could be working in the kitchen of the Yak and Yeti and it would be more refreshing than standing in Harambe watching the afternoon parade.  Then it dawned on me: Finding Nemo – The Musical.  Maybe it’s the fact that you are sitting for 45 minutes (a la Hall of Presidents), maybe it’s the time of day I usually attend the show (late afternoon, after a full day of being barbecued). Whatever the reason, the Theater in the Wild (Nemo’s home) takes its place as the coddest, er-coldest, spot in the Animal Kingdom (#dadjoke).

Hollywood Studios
My first instinct was The American Idol Experience, but I’m not even sure if that will still exist by the time you read this.  Honestly, the coldest spot for me always seems to bee the Sci-fi Dine-in Theater.  It’s dark, it’s cold, there’s a video playing.  I’m sort of surprised more people don’t curl up on one of the car seats and take an afternoon nap. The food may not be the best in the World, but the experience is fun and the temperature can’t be beat.

This list is, of course, subjective.  A lot of these places may only seem like the coldest on property because of my own circumstances at the time of me visiting.  If you’re looking for a place to cool off, though, you won’t go wrong stopping in any of these attractions or restaurants.  Oh, and please try to forget you read this article when I re-run it a couple of weeks from now under the title “The Best Places to Nap in Disney World.”  Thanks!

One last author’s note: All kidding aside, staying cool in the parks is a legitimate concern when you are visiting during the year’s hottest months. Click here to check out our article on ways to stay cool and safe when you visit.  Thanks for reading, and contact us if you’d like some FREE help in planning your 2014 Disney vacation.

Disney World Spring 2014 Discounts

Disney just released a new discount that is valid for a good chunk of this spring. Check out the details below, then check out our homepage or request a quote to find out how we can help you book your last-minute Disney vacation!

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Walt Disney World Spring 2014 Room-Only Discount

The discount is considered room-only and the bulk of the discount will be on the room portion of any stay that you book; however, there is also a ticket discount that can be combined to make this a vacation package.

The dates for the discount are 2/24/14 – 3/5/14, 3/14/14 – 4/12/14 and 4/20/14 – 6/15/14.

The room discounts are:

Value resorts: 20 % (except All-Star Movies: 5%, Art of Animation Suites: 15%, and Art of Animation Little Mermaid rooms: excluded)

Moderate resorts: 25% (except Port Orleans French Quarter: 5%, Coronado Springs: 5%, and campsite: excluded)

Deluxe resorts: 30% (except suites: 5%, Animal Kingdom Lodge Club Level or Savanna View: 20%, Contemporary Resort: 20 %, Grand Floridian: 20%, and Wilderness Lodge Club Level and Courtyard View: 20%)

Villas:
30% (Boardwalk Villas, Old Key West Villas, and Saratoga Springs)
20% (Animal Kingdom Villas, Beach Club Villas, and Villas at Wilderness Lodge)
5% (Bay Lake Tower)
(excludes Villas at Grand Floridian and 3-bedroom villas)

If you add a ticket  (of at least 4 days), you will get one more day free, making your reservation a vacation package (room plus tickets).

Here is a link to an article with general information about Disney World discounts.

As much of the country deals with record low temperatures, doesn’t a vacation to balmy Florida sound like a good idea? Let us know how DW Dads can help you make it happen!

DW Dads Best of 2013: The Importance of Rope Drop

Happy Holidays!

As we wind down 2013, we are taking a look back at some of our most popular articles from the past several months. Over the next couple of weeks, we will re-share these tips and tricks, so our newest fans can check them out, or so those of you who have been with us from the beginning can check them out again!

Today’s article is from September 10, 2013 and it discusses the value of getting to the parks at opening time.  Enjoy!

A few weeks ago, I claimed to offer you the most important packing tip you’ll ever hear.  While that may be true, that tip will probably not have the kind of overall effect on your vacation like today’s tip will.  Today’s tip, though, is not without its detractors.

Rope Drop is Disney-speak for the opening of a park (for most parks, that is 9:00 AM, but it may vary by day and park).  It refers to the act of “dropping the rope” that holds back the morning crowd, something that only sort of happens anymore.

Getting to a Disney Park in time for Rope Drop can seriously increase the amount of time you spend riding and can eliminate some major standing-in-line time. The problem may be that you need to be willing to do something many people just refuse to do when they are on vacation: set your alarm.

First people (actually, only people) in line at Hollywood Studios!
First people (actually, only people) in line at Hollywood Studios!

Here is one example of what you would need to do to get to the park in time for Rope Drop. Of course, depending on where you are staying and how you are getting to the park, your experience may differ slightly.

1. Set your alarm for 6:30.
2. Shower and dress and be out of your room by 7:00.
3. Breakfast at the resort and out to the bus (or other mode of transportation) by 7:30.
4. Arrive to the park entrance by about 8:15.

This can be, admittedly, a lot of work. It can be particularly hard to pull off if you stayed out late the night before or if you have a big family all trying to get out the door by 7ish. If you can do it, however, you will be rewarded. Here are some of the advantages of Rope Drop:

1. Various Opening Shows

The Magic Kingdom has a Welcome Show that everyone should make an effort to see at least once. It takes place on top of the train station and starts about 15 minutes before park opening.  I don’t want to spoil the details, but I will say it is a perfect way to start a Disney day.  Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom also have small opening ceremonies, but none are worth getting out of bed for.  They are not, however, the most important reason to make it to Rope Drop. That would be…

Magic Kingdom Welcome Show
Magic Kingdom Welcome Show

2. Low Crowds

You know how you are sitting there thinking, “OK, but I don’t want to wake up early on vacation.” Well, most people actually on vacation think that too.  So, while they’re sleeping in, those of us who got up early are riding the most popular rides with a fraction of the crowd that will show up by lunchtime.  Don’t get me wrong, the crowd isn’t non-existent, but it really is nothing compared to how crowded it may get later in the day.  Our family has had no problem knocking out every ride in Fantasyland within the first hour in July. To put that into perspective: There is a high likelihood that later in the day, one of those rides (Peter Pan’s Flight) will have a wait of almost an hour by itself.  This same thing can be said for all of the parks.

3. Get the FastPasses you want…for now

While the current FastPass system is still in place, Rope Drop is the only time to get some of the most popular passes.  Toy Story Mania, in Hollywood Studios, can run out of FastPasses by late morning. Get there at Rope Drop, and you’ll be riding with Buzz and Woody by the time the sleepyheads are pulling into the parking lot. The same thing can be said for Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure.

My suggestion is to try it once and see if it is worth it for your family.  Don’t try to get to the park for Rope Drop everyday; there is a good chance you’ll be miserable after a few days of answering the alarm during your vacation.  Then again, it may be a small price to pay to avoid the lines that’ll appear later in the day.

12 Months of Christmas in Disney World

So, your friend just came back from Disney World and told you how it was the most magical place to be in the whole world for Christmas.  You’d like to jump on a plane and be there right now to bask in the balmy holiday season of sunny Florida, but you just can’t make vacation plans in the fall and winter.  Is there any way to visit Disney when it’s convenient for you, but still enjoy Christmas while you are there? You bet!

Most Disney fans know that visiting the parks at Christmastime can be one of the most festive and enjoyable vacations that your family can take.  What happens if you can’t visit during the holidays, but you still want to feel some holiday cheer while you are in the World?  Well, as usual, Disney has you covered, with Christmas-themed experiences that span three of the four parks and a few spots outside of the parks.

The most obvious place to go to feel the Christmas Spirit all year round is one of the four Christmas shops that populate Disney World.  Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe is located in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom, and while it isn’t the biggest Christmas shop on property, it does weave itself into the story of its host land better than any of the others.  The Shoppe is actually three separate late 18th century locations that have been combined; they are the home of a music instructor (Ichabod Crane), a woodcarver’s shop (the Woodwrights) and the home of German folk artists (the Kepples – a nod to Walt Disney, whose grandfather’s first name was Kepple).  The exterior still maintains the appearance of three separate facades; the stores are connected inside, but have each maintained their respective personalities.  This is not only a great place to shop for Christmas souvenirs, but Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe also really helps to tell the story of Liberty Square.

There are two other Christmas shops within the parks that help to tell the stories of their locations.  The first is housed in the Germany Pavilion of Epcot’s World Showcase: die Weihnachtsecke. This shop offers many Christmas items, specializing in those that exhibit German craftsmanship.  This is also a perfect place to get a pickle ornament, a German Christmas tradition.  The other in-park shop is It’s a Wonderful Shop, located in the Streets of America section of Hollywood Studios.  Like many spots in this section of the park, it is dressed to appear as though it is being used to film a Christmas movie: decorations are visible, but props and “off-camera” areas are left untouched.  These two are small shops, but offer nice, quick doses of holiday cheer.

They’re sweating from making snow angels. In Florida. In July.

The biggest Christmas Shop on property is located in Downtown Disney and anchors the Marketplace: Disney’s Days of Christmas.  This massive shop houses everything you can think of to hang on a tree, place on a mantle or top an antennae. While the other shops offer better theming, this is definitely the place to go if you are looking for the widest selection. There is also personalization offered on most items. (Tip: Get off the bus at the Marketplace end of Downtown Disney and make this one of your first stops.  By the time you are done walking the other shops and are returning to your bus, your personalized items will be ready!)

There are a few other locations to get your year-round Christmas fix during your Disney World vacation.  The first is Winter Summerland Miniature Golf, which tells the story of a holiday-themed vacation spot for Santa’s off-duty elves.  It’s a little off the beaten path, but Christmas fanatics won’t want to miss it.  Two attractions also offer some allusions to Christmas.  Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress features four scenes, each set in a different time of year.  The final scene, which reeks of the ‘80s, is set during Christmas in the home of the story’s family.  A much more subtle reference is made in the final scene of Soarin’, which features a flyover of Anaheim’s Disneyland during Christmastime, made most clear by the Clark Griswold-inspired lighting of it’s a small world in the upper right-corner of the park.

So, don’t be a Grinch if you can’t make it to Florida during the actual Christmas season.  Take advantage of these experiences to keep a Disney-themed Christmas with you all through the year!

Save an Extra 10% on Every Disney Vacation

Frequent Disney travelers have become accustomed to Disney running regular special offers throughout the year.  With the right amount of planning, patience and luck, most visitors will not need to pay rack rate for their vacation. But, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to save a few extra bucks? Here is a relatively easy way to save an extra 10% on your Disney vacations.

The key to your savings is that you live near a Target store.  One of the items that Target sells by the registers is Disney gift cards; they are usually sold in $50 and $25 amounts.

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These cards can essentially be used for anything related to Disney, including at the Disney Store, Disney World, Disneyland or Disney Cruise Line.  Since Target technically categorizes these as “entertainment” cards, there are a couple of discounts that can be used to purchase them:

1. Target REDCard 5% Discount

REDcards

 

If you use a Target REDCard on any purchases at Target, you get an automatic 5% discount.  The REDCard is available as both a Debit card and a Credit card, and you can use it as soon as you apply in store for it and are approved. While this 5% discount does NOT apply to Target gift cards, it will apply to the other gift cards (“entertainment” cards) that Target sells, including the Disney cards.

EDITED – Target still allows the 5% discount using a REDCard, but has changed it’s policy regarding the Pharmacy Rewards Coupon, originally posted below.

2. Target Pharmacy Rewards 5% Coupon

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Target runs a Pharmacy Rewards program that offers an additional 5% savings, if you’ve earned it.  To earn the 5%, you must enroll in the program and get 5 prescriptions filled. Once your fifth prescription is filled, you will receive a coupon for 5% off a shopping trip.  This coupon can be combined with the REDCard discount, effectively saving you 10%.

Since the cards are in $50 increments, you will need quite a few to pay off an entire vacation.  While it is certainly possible to purchase thousands of dollars worth of these cards, it may require several trips to Target, which in turn would necessitate several pharmacy reward coupons. So, it is best to give yourself plenty of time to purchase all the cards.  Then, it’s the fun part: paying for your trip with dozens of gift cards.  Disney cast members will sit patiently on the phone with you while you read each gift card number, but here’ s a better idea: let DW Dads book your trip and we can take care of this part for you!

There are certain risks associated with this plan. For example, while you should be able to return the gift cards (as they are considered merchandise), you will have abide by the Target return policy.  If you are outside of the return window, and you have to cancel your Disney trip, you may be stuck with hundreds or thousands of dollars in Disney gift cards.  Some guests have started small, only buying enough gift cards to pay for souvenirs and food.  Even that is a great way to save a little extra money on your next Disney vacation.

A Target Disney Shopping Trip

Christmas shopping season is in full swing, and retailers have been breaking out the big sales since early October.  If you have kids, you have probably noticed that nearly all of the big box stores have Christmas Toy Catalogs that include deals that run until Thanksgiving.  Even if you are just shopping for some special kids in your life, you can find some good prices on popular toys for Christmas.

I recently took a trip to Target to take advantage of a few coupons.  I wasn’t that surprised to see that the items I came home with were all Disney (we’re pretty predictable!). The Target toy catalog is filled with coupons for various popular brands.  Many of these brands sell Disney-themed items, so it worked out that I could use multiple coupons.  Also, there was a $5 off of $50 toy coupon attached to the back of the catalog that was mailed to my house, so I wanted to break that threshold (that was pretty easy!). Here’s how my list broke down.

1. The Baby

It has been a few years since our older boys have been babies, so certain toys are in need of replacement.  Our supply of bath toys is especially low, since they don’t last as long as other toys. I spotted the $5 off Fisher Price coupon and went to the baby toy section.  There were lots of fun Disney-inspired Fisher Price toys, including toys that featured Dumbo, Dalmatians and the Lion King, but then I found what I was looking for:

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Fisher Price Finding Nemo Nesting Bath Toys: $19.99 ($14.99 after the $5 coupon)

2. 4-Year-Old

Next up was our 4-year-old, who is at that weird age when he can play with age-appropriate toys one minute, but be totally into whatever his 8-year-old brother is playing with the next minute.  With a new baby brother in the house, it makes buying younger kid toys easier, knowing they will get used by a few children over the next couple of years. There is one brand that immediately came to mind that would bridge all of these gaps: LEGO. We love LEGO in our house.  The older boys love the regular LEGO sets, but can also be found playing with DUPLO (the bigger blocks) from time-to-time.  There are some fun Disney Duplo sets out right now, including Disney Princess and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  I finally settled on this set:

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Skipper’s Flight School: $39.99 (on sale this week for $38.00 – $5 LEGO coupon = $33.00)

3. The 8-Year-Old

I knew my 8-year-old would be a little tougher since he is getting to the age where he doesn’t really want toys anymore.  Instead, he’d prefer movies, video games and electronics. Luckily, there are more than a few Disney items in those categories, including one of this season’s hottest gifts for Disney fans: Disney Infinity.

We LOVE Disney Infinity and have been picking up most of the guys and discs as they come out. There are a few items, though, that would be nice for under the tree.  I picked up one of the newer sets that we didn’t have yet:

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Disney Infinity Toy Story Playset ($34.99 – $5 coupon = $29.99)

The Final Tally

So, the three items I purchased came to $78.  I also had that $5 off $50 toy coupon, so that dropped it $73.  After my RedCard 5% savings, the total was $69.35.  Not bad! It was nice to pick up Disney-themed gifts from some very popular brands and save some money at the same time.

We’ll feature some other Disney-inspired shopping trips over the next few weeks.  If you really want to put an amazing gift under the tree, why not contact DW Dads and let us help you plan that surprise Disney trip you’re giving the family this Christmas? Don’t forget, our services are FREE and we’ll always help you find the best deals for the vacation that fits your needs!