Sunday, July 31, 2011

Let’s Talk Disney-Part 2: Booking a Disney Vacation Package


We’re going to take this post from the point forward that you’ve decided to book a Disney vacation and stay on Disney property.

The last post ended with 5 questions and we’re going to talk about the answers to those questions here.

1.  What dates are you considering going?  This really is a personal decision and what works for one family may not work for another.  Do you want to go when the kids are out of school?  Are you ok with taking the kids out of school to go to Disney?  Are you someone who melts in the heat so don’t want to go in the summer?  Do you want to take advantage of a Disney special?  Disney offers a variety of specials throughout the year so you’ll want to keep an eye on this link to see what offers are available on the dates you want to travel or a special may come along that helps you decide when you’d like to go.

2.  What type of resort do you want to stay at?  Value, Moderate or Deluxe?  I covered some of this in my original Disney post.  Here is a good link to the Disney Resorts and what each of them has to offer.  There are 19 resorts to choose from as well as Fort Wilderness Campground which offers both tent and trailer rental sites as well as cabins.  I’m not going to go into any more details about the resorts for the main reason that I’ve only stayed at 2 different ones.  I would really like to try out a moderate and deluxe resort but it comes down to a matter of price.  For myself I choose to stay at a value resort and visit Disney more often.  The other thing is that the value resort has all we need and more and for us we have busy days planned while on a Disney vacation so are not in the room much more than for sleeping  and getting ready for the day.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to try out the others but for now we're very happy staying at a value resort!

3. How many days do you want to visit the parks and additional options that can be added to your ticket.  The way Disney ticket pricing works is that you’ll pay the most for the first 3 days and then after that it’s almost free!  There are a variety of ticket types and those are provided here.  A basic ticket is called a ‘Magic Your Way’ ticket and truly it’s all you really need.  There are more options which are great to have but not necessary for having a good time.   My recommendation is that if you’re going to be there 4 days or longer I would get tickets for each day including your arrival and departure date unless you know for sure by your flight times that you won’t be able to go to a park on one or both of those days.  Here’s a sample of 2011 Magic Your Way ticket prices:


Guest 10+

Guest 3-9yo

1 Day MYW



2 Days MYW



3 Days MYW



4 Days MYW



5 Days MYW



6 Days MYW



7 Days MYW



8 Days MYW



9 Days MYW



10 Days MYW



There are also some other options that can be added to the base ticket.  We’ll get to those in a moment.

The tickets above expire 14 days from the day of first use.  It is possible to purchase tickets with no expiration (unused days can be used in 1 month or 1 year later) but the price increases quite a bit.  eg. a 10 Day MYW with expiration is $279.03 whereas the same ticket with no expiration is $505.88.  One thing to keep in mind is that to take advantage of some Disney specials (ie. Free Dining) you need to purchase a complete package for that stay which includes room + park ticket.  If you have unused days on a non-expiring ticket from a prior visit you either need to purchase new tickets and not use the non-expiring ones or, pay for the dining package if you want it.

Another option that can be added is the Park Hopper option which allows you to visit more than one of the Disney parks on the same day.  You can go to Magic Kingdom in the morning, Animal Kingdom in the afternoon and then finish your day with fireworks at Epcot.  The cost of adding this option is $54+tax/ticket regardless of the number of days you’re adding it to.  e.g.  It is $54 to add the Park Hopper option to a 3 day ticket and yet still $54 if you add it to a 10 day ticket.  The Park Hopper option can also be added at any time within your trip.  This is a good option to have if you hope to move within the parks.  I’ve used it in the past and it was great but again, not necessary for having a great trip.

4.  Do You Want the Disney Dining Plan?  Disney offers a variety of Dining Plans that you can purchase with your package.  Dining Plans are based on the length of your stay so for example if you’re arriving on a Sunday and departing on Thursday you’re staying for 4 nights so your dining plan is based on that.

Firstly there is the ‘Quick Service Dining Plan’ which gives each person in your party 2 counter service meals, 2 snack credits plus a refillable mug (to be used at your resort) for each night of your stay.   Counter service meals include non-restaurant locations in the resorts (including food courts) plus a variety of other restaurants located throughout the parks, water parks and Downtown Disney.  A list of all counter service qualifying locations can be found hereCost of the Quick Service Dining Plan is $34.99/adult and $11.99/child (age 3-9) per person, per night.

A second dining plan option is the ‘Disney Dining Plan’ which includes a table service meal, counter service meal plus 1 snack for each night of your stay.  There are more than 100 participating restaurants on Disney property that offer table service meals for you to try.  Some are buffets, others serve family style while still others are individual meals for each person.  Each table service meal includes an entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage.  For a list of all participating dining locations and their type of service (counter, table, etc.) please click here.

One thing to note about the table service meals is that included in the participating restaurants are those that feature character meals.  At a character meal the characters visit each table during the dining period and will sign autographs and pose for pictures.  You won’t find Mickey snacking on the cheese on your plate but you may find him dancing with your child during special times during the meal!  Personally, we love the character dining!  Next month’s trip includes reservations for breakfast with the princesses, lunch with Winnie the Pooh, supper with Mickey one night and with Cinderella in her castle another night, and others too!  We’re putting character dining to the test next month and we’re going to see if it’s possible to have too many character meals booked.  I think the answer in the end may be ‘yes’ but to fulfill everyone’s character dining wishes (and truly, our trip is for the children) we have many character dining experiences booked.  I’ll let you know how that goes and whether next time we’ll scale it back a bit and throw in a couple of ‘Yes, it is possible to eat at a restaurant without a character meals’ in the mix just to keep the adults sane!  Smile  Cost of the Deluxe Dining Plan is $45.99/adult and $11.99/child (age 3-9) per person, per night.

A third option for dining is the ‘Deluxe Dining Plan’ includes 3 meals per day per person which can be any combination of quick service locations or table service locations.  This plan also includes 2 snacks and a re-fillable mug.  There is A LOT of food on this plan but if you want to eat your way around the world then this is a really good way to do it!  Cost of the Deluxe Dining Plan is $78.99/adult and $21.99/child (age 3-9) per person, per night.

Other options are Premium Packages and Platinum Packages.  I’ll just let you click the links to find out about those.

So as you can see there are many options for dining at Disney that are available to purchase at the time you book your trip.  It is quite possible to ‘do Disney’ without a dining plan but if you’re like me and gasp and grab your wallet, holding it close each time you look at the price of food at entertainment parks, you may find it a nice treat to have all that paid for in advance and just enjoy dining during your stay without needing to pull out your wallet.  Well, unless of course you need a Mickey Mouse ice-cream bar and have spent your allotted snack credits!  Paying for additional food is always and option and in my opinion, easier if I’ve paid for the majority of it before ever stepping on Disney property!

A couple of things to note about dining before I move on:

  1. Table service meals can be booked 180 day in advance from the date of your arrival.  So if your reservation is booked for April 10, 2012 you want to count back 180 days and book your dining reservations on that day.  Trust me, many fill up very quickly and even though they seat hundreds (if not thousands) of people at each meal, sometimes reservations are hard to come by! 
  2. Reservations can be booked online at or by calling 1-407-WDW-DINE.
  3. Some dining experiences (e.g. Cinderella’s Royal Table) will be a 2 credit dining experience which means each person in your party will be deducted 2 table service credits for this dining experience.
  4. Each person in your room is required to be on the same dining plan.  If it’s Quick Service for one then it’s Quick Service for all. 
  5. Your entire party does not need to eat at the same location for each meal.  If Mom and her little princess want to dine with Belle while Dad and Jr. want to yuck it up with Stitch then you can do that.  Each party will be deducted the number of credits used for the meal they’re at.
  6. All snack, counter service and table service credits for your room will be linked to all your ‘Key to the Kingdom’ cards.  This means that if dad lines up at an ice cream stand and gets 3 popsicles, the 3 snack credits will be deducted from the entire group’s total.  It makes it much easier and you’re not always trying to figure out how many credits are left on each card.  Each card carries the group’s balance and after each transaction you will receive a printed receipt stating the number of that type of credit used and the number remaining.

Will you be using your own vehicle, renting a car or using Disney transportation?

There are pros and cons to each of these and often people end up using a combination of the above.  If you are staying at a resort, parking is included at the resort and at all of the theme parks.  You will be given a parking reservation sign to place in your window that will grant you parking privileges for the entire length of your stay.  The same is true if you rent a car.

Disney transportation begins as soon as you land at the Orlando airport.  If you choose not to rent a vehicle then you will be driven to your resort on a Disney’s Magical Express (DME) coach.  When you arrive at the airport there is no need to pick up your luggage, just proceed to the DME counter and you will be checked in there and whisked away to your resort where your luggage will be delivered to your room. 

While getting around Disney property there is a wide variety of transportation options available:  bus, boat, monorail and others.  Depending on where you are going, one or more of these options will be available to you.


I hope you’ve found the above information to be useful!  I’m working on more posts but as you can see from above it’s hard to condense all I want to say into small areas.  Upcoming posts will include such things as: Fastpasses, child swap options, PhotoPasses and more!  If you have any questions feel free to post them in the comments area or email me directly.

Have a Magical Day!!!

Previous Post:

Let’s Talk Disney-Part 1:  Where Do I Begin?


  1. Great post!!! Just wanted to note you wrote pricing twice for Deluxe plan, I believe one was for the regular plan. ;)

    We just booked plane tickets last night for our own Disney trip. I am very eager to read about Hannah's reaction to the character meals.

  2. This is great and it is already on Disney websites!

  3. What great information.

    I am a Disney Travel Agent and one of my services is that I watch for deals and if a better deal comes out I re-book your vacation to include the discount. So I would recomend using a Travel Agenct (me...LOL) but I would also recomend watching for deals and rebooking when a lower price comes out!


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