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


  • *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

  • 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 – 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


  • 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

Another option for larger families: Fort Wilderness Campground

After reading the DWDads blog  entry this Tuesday Disney World: The Family of Five Dilemma one of our first fans and avid followers reminded us that there was another resort on Disney property that could accommodate larger families.   Although we mentioned the cabins at Fort Wilderness and quoted a price of $4,850, we did not mention that you could also stay at the campgrounds at Fort Wilderness, where each site can accommodate up to 10 people.

Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Company

Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Company

There are 4 different campsite options at Disney’s Fort Wilderness:

FW Chart

We ran the quotes above just as we had in Tuesday’s example: a family of 6 with 2 Adults, 3 children (10,7,6) and an infant (under 3) for 7 nights June 21-June 27 with 7 day park hopper tickets. As you can see if you would like to pitch a tent for the week (tent rental is $30/day) or you are lucky enough to own a camper or RV and you are driving to Orlando, the cost you see above would be very affordable.

Photo courtesy of The Disney Company

Photo courtesy of The Disney Company

Photo courtesy of The Disney Company

Photo courtesy of The Disney Company

If you don’t own a camper/RV/trailer or motor home, there are companies like Moores Camping Rentals that can offer you a Fort Wilderness camper package (sleeps 10) for the 7 nights including full service drop-off, set-up and removal for an additional cost of about $1,200 + deposit.   This would make the all in cost for your 7 night vacation package including tickets just under $4,000 (depending on which site you picked).  Not only is the campground in a great location (just short boatride to the Magic Kingdom) but you will find great amenities and plenty of activities which we will detail in future articles. So next time you are looking to book a trip to Disney World contact us and we get you a quote for the best option for you and your party.

The Stroller: Your Disney Parks Base of Operations

If you have ever been to Disney Parks you know that you tend to walk a lot of miles.  While your little ones are full of energy and enthusiasm, the amount of walking is often too much for even children who normally walk at home; therefore, a stroller is necessary.   Some families dread the idea of bringing a stroller or renting one at the parks, but I am here to tell you that it has become a key tool in our touring and our “home base of operations” as we tour Disney Parks.  The benefits of the stroller go far beyond taking your kids along for the ride, and here are some of them.

1) On our Disney vacations the stroller has become the “home base of operations”, which means it’s not only for the kids, but it is a place to hang our backpack and hold our drinks and snacks.


2) Keeping your children buckled into the stroller keeps them from wandering away from you as you make your way through the crowded parks.

3) Not only does this stroller provide a place to hold our bags while we wait for the afternoon parade, it also provides a place for our 2 year old to nap and a place for our 3 year old to fall asleep at the end of the night.


4) It provides a seat for your children for outdoor events like parades and shows rather than having them sit on the ground.


5) You can decorate your stroller to make it stand out – Last trip I used some wire and some portable battery powered EL lighting to provide some fun decorations for night time touring.


We like to bring our own stroller which easily folds up so we can take with us to gate check at the airplane and easily on all Disney Transportation.  If you do need to rent a stroller however you can do so in the parks (pretty expensive), from outside companies, or even find a stroller exchange online.

The Magic of 180: A Basic Disney Vacation Planning Timeline

It’s Labor Day Weekend! You know what that means – time to really start thinking about next summer’s Disney World vacation!

OK, that may be a bit much for some people, especially those of us who still haven’t finished unpacking from this summer’s vacation.  I do, however, want to illustrate why a Disney vacation can really benefit from early planning. It all has to do with the planning timeline.

This timeline will depend, of course, on when you are going and what you plan on eating and doing.  There are many people who can book a Disney vacation within a couple of months and still get lots of great dining and special event reservations; this is especially true if they are planning on going during one of the slower periods of the year. There are others who can plan a last-minute trip during a busy period and still have a wonderful vacation, especially if they are less interested at eating at popular table service restaurants or participating in popular special events.

However, if you are only able to vacation during the busier periods (especially summer, but other school breaks as well), either because of your schedule or because of your kids’ schedules, AND you want to be able to eat at the most popular restaurants at the most convenient times, you’ll want to consider the following timeline.

I bet you don't normally think about what you want to eat in August when it's still February.  You will if you are going to Disney!

I bet you don’t normally think about what you want to eat in August when it’s still February. You will if you are going to Disney!

180 is the magic number.  At exactly 180 days before your trip begins, you can make dining and most recreation reservations.  If you are staying on Disney property, you can make your reservations for the first 10 days of your trip at 180 days before the first day (this is commonly referred to as 180+10).  This means that if you want the most popular restaurants or recreational activities at the most popular times (or at all, in some cases), you should plan on being on the phone with Disney at 7:00 AM exactly 180 days before your trip begins.  Some places won’t open their reservations until later (60 days out, etc.) but most places will be available to reserve at the 180-day mark. To put this in perspective, if you are taking your family to Disney World starting July 15, you need to be on the phone with Disney to make reservations at 7:00 AM on January 16. January. In the middle of winter. Some of us may not even want to start thinking about summer vacations until then, but that’s when the best summertime dining reservations will start getting booked up.

So, the next logical question is: What, then, needs to be done between now and 180 days before the start of my next vacation? Well, in order to make the reservations, you need to know what reservations you want and on what preferred days. So, you need to consider the itinerary for your vacation, including the following:

  • What days am I going?
  • What special events may be occurring while I am there that I either want to take part in or avoid?
  • Which park do I want to do on each day? (This alone can take a while to figure out.)
  • Which restaurants would I prefer?
  • Are there any special activities (tours, Bibiddi Bobiddi Boutique, etc.) that I would like to do?

Booking a Disney trip anywhere from 7-9 months out should give you ample breathing room to consider these items and to put together a rough itinerary in time to make your reservations at 180 days.  After that, there will be some tweaking that needs to be done, but your major reservations will be taken care of and you will hopefully have everything you wanted.

The best way to make sure all of this happens, of course, is to work with a Disney Vacation Planner, like DW Dads. We will help you plan your itinerary and make your reservations for you. We will actually take care of most of the things mentioned in this article. And the best part? It’s a FREE service.  We get paid by Disney, not you.  So you’ll pay the same price you would pay to book direct with Disney, but you won’t have to worry about a thing.

So, enjoy the unofficial end of summer, but don’t forget: it’s not too early to start thinking about next summer’s vacation!

The Dole Whip

Some of you might be curious about our DW Dads logo with that yellow swirl in the background.  Well, the DW Dads decided to feature our favorite Disney treat the “Dole Whip” in our logo.  Since we consider ourselves both Disney World Dads and Dole Whip Dads – DWDads was a fitting name.


The Dole Whip is a soft-serve frozen desert traditionally in pineapple flavor with a close relationship with Disney Parks.  At one time you could only find this treat in Disneyland, Disney World and Hawaii.  Today you can find copies at the local fro-yo shop and there are many online recipes to make this treat at home.  You can even order the mix online or in smaller quantities on ebay.  But for the DWDads, there is nothing like enjoying the original Dole Whip inside the parks on a bench in Adventureland, or waiting for a parade to start.


Becky took this artistic shot to highlight the refreshing color of this tasty treat

You can enjoy the Dole Whip in a variety of flavors (pineapple, vanilla, orange, pineapple/vanilla swirl, or orange/vanilla swirl) and in a variety of ways (in a cup with a spoon, or as a float over juice).  DWDads endorse the traditional Dole Whip float with pineapple soft-serve over pineapple juice as our go-to snack, though you should feel free to mix it up.

This frozen treat is non-dairy because it’s a fruit puree reconstituted with water and then frozen. At only 80 calories for 1/2 a cup, this snack is guilt-free for those watching their weight.  It’s refreshingly cool, which is wonderful when you are trying to catch a break from the hot humid Florida sun.  It is fat free, cholesterol free, gluten free, allergan free and lactose free food, so most individuals can enjoy it without worry.

Another popular and similar treat to the Dole Whip that deserves to be mentioned is the Citrus Swirl, which can be purchased at Sunshine Tree Terrace (across from The Magic Carpets of Aladdin).  This cousin to the Dole Whip had a hiatus of nearly a quarter of a century before being brought back to the parks in 2012.  The Citrus Swirl is a refreshing soft-serve ice cream blended with frozen orange juice.

Locations to purchase a Dole Whip:

DisneyWorld  – Aloha Isle in Adventureland (across from the Jungle Cruise) & at Captain Cook’s Snack Co. in the Polynesian Resort (self-serve)


Aloha Isle in Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom      (Photo property of Disney Company)

What a treat by Mr. Niter at Captain Cooks

Check out this masterpiece by Mr. Niter at Captain Cooks

[Tip: If you are dining at Captain Cooks, for dessert they will give you a bowl for you to self serve your Dole Whip.  If you have good technique, you can make yourself quite a snack!!]


DisneyLandTiki Juice Bar at the Enchanted Tiki Room

[Tip: If you are on the Disney Dining Plan snack credits are accepted for Dole Whip Floats (valued at $4.99), which is a great value for your credit.]

Hawaii (Oahu)DOLE® Plantation or Lapperts ice cream


Sugar, Dextrose, Coconut Oil, Stabilizers (Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, Locust Bean Gum, Karaya Gum, Pectin), Maltodextrin, Citric Acid, Natural & Artificial Flavor (contains Pineapple Juice), Modified Food Starch, Malic Acid, Beta Carotene (Color), Mono & Diglycerides, Less Than 2% Silicon Dioxide (Anticaking).

Dietary/Allergy Info:

Vegan Statement:  The ingredients used in this product do not contain dairy, therefore, the product is considered dairy free.  The Rabbinical guidelines classify this product to be kosher-dairy.  Allergen control and sanitation procedures are in place and are strictly followed.  In addition, this product does not contain any animal based ingredients.
Allergens: None – Based on FDA FALCPA (Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004) “Big 8” allergens.
Fat Free:  **Coconut oil contributes a trivial amount of fat.


Dog Days of Summer: Top Dogs at the Magic Kingdom

In honor of the us being in that final stretch of the “dog days of summer,” we thought we’d ask our readers for their opinion on a related topic: the top dogs represented in the Magic Kingdom.

Here are the canine-didates:

Goofy – Barnstormer and Meet-and-Greet

Photo Copyright

Photo by

The Caretaker’s Dog – Haunted Mansion

Photo copyright

Photo by

Polynesian Dog – it’s a small world

Photo by Chris Barry

Photo by Chris Barry

Nana – Peter Pan’s Flight

Prison Dog – Pirates of the Caribbean

Rover – Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress

Photo by Joe Penniston

Photo by Joe Penniston

Hot Dogs – Casey’s Corner

Photo by

Photo by

Lady and the Tramp – Tony’s Town Square

Photo by

Photo by

Pluto – Meet-and-Greet

Photo by unofficialdisneycharacterhuntingguide.

Photo by

So which one is your favorite? Vote below!

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.