As COVID-19 has us all (currently) locked down, I find myself reminiscing on trips that I’ve taken over the past few years. With the closure of Disney world announced, but the release of Disney+ and the Imagineering documentaries (how Disney was built), It’s got me reminiscing on my recent solo trip to Disney back in September.
Feeling nostalgic and pining for Main Street, I guess now would be a good time to tell you that I’ve booked another trip to Disney World! Yep, I didn’t expect it, but you could probably tell a mile off by the way I was writing, right? This time though, my partner is coming with me instead of going solo! Hurray! It took a lot of Disney films, nagging, promises of budget, good food and the appeal of seeing what the hell I was hyping up all this time! But we got there and now he is super excited. It’ll be his first time in America too! I’m very excited to show him all the goodies Walmart has to offer.
Due to the current situation, I wasn’t sure when to book or if this year would be possible. So I decided to go with late 2021. Not only does this work for budget and but busyness too, but more on that later. This also coincides with the Disney 50th birthday year party!
I’ve had a few requests to share how I book my trip, so here are the 5 steps I go through when booking a trip to Disney.
1. Hotel Research
The first thing I do is have a look through all the hotels available that are within Disney. I do not drive and my partner doesn’t want to drive. This means we need a resort which has the free direct hotel to park buses. I also like the idea of staying in a different hotel each time I visit, so I factor this in too. For my first visit, I stayed in Coronado Springs and for my solo trip in September I stayed in Art of Animation hotel (you can read the review here!). I excluded these two from my search list this time.
I’ve always wanted to stay in the Caribbean Beach Resort Hotel with the pirate beds (because why not?) but knowing I should stick to budget, I mentioned to my partner that I was going back with or without him but If I was to go solo again, I’d stay in pirate bed hotel, but if he came with me then I would stay in a budget hotel (because it’s the sensible choice). I then narrow it down to 4 options, two mid-range price and two budgets. I then look at the pros and cons of both e.g, if it’s a budget hotel, there will usually be one bus stop and a potential long walk to your hotel room.
2. When Is Disney World Busy?
The next part of my research is when the Disney parks will be busy. Of course, America has different holiday schedules to us in the UK. I try and avoid the big holidays like Thanksgiving, (actual) Halloween, and Christmas etc. Anyway, there are also other holidays to consider and the length of time you want to go. Does your ideal holiday time overlap with school holidays too? Did you know that there is a sporting event, a week before Thanksgiving which books up all the budget hotels? I didn’t either! Things like this you should really consider. If you have children, you might be limited to school holidays too. However, there may be a few which do not overlap with America’s holiday’s! (Around spring time.)
As it turns out, the less busy time and cheapest is September to October. So, we’re going back for Halloween again! Which is fine by me, I love how America do Halloween.
3.The Booking Process
As I learnt through my experience in the past and research last year, package deal holidays (outside of Disney) do not always work out in your favour if you are heading to Disney solo or with a partner. My first time visiting (Coronado Springs) I went through Thomas Cook (RIP) and there were very limited slots on when I could go, what hotels available, limited flights and constant visits to the shop to pay. For the final sum, I ended up paying over £5000+ on my first visit for two! Which is extraordinary when you think my solo trip was longer, better and cheaper when I did it myself (but it would have been a more expensive price through booking agents). Also, I didn’t get the Disney deal of free transport to the hotel, memory maker or wrist band when booking through an agent, so had to pay for those additionally.
3 ½. Booking Through The Official Disney World Website
This leads me to my next point…I always book directly through the Disney World website (link here). Furthermore, I do not book flights at this time (because they’re usually unavailable so far in advance anyway) but I know I can get them cheaper elsewhere.
This is where I also book the park tickets through website. Yes, this is somewhat a package deal. As it is directly with Disney though, you get added benefits of a personalised wrist band (which is your ticket and door key), free transport between the airport and the hotel, a 15% gift voucher and most importantly, Memory Maker*. Also, when your trip gets nearer, Disney will post to you a welcome pack with vouchers, park maps and luggage tags. As well as this, you will get email reminders on when you can start reserving restaurants on the app, booking fast passes etc. It makes it that little more magical.
If you’re not bothered about these things, I would suggest having a look at Virgin holiday packages (click here) instead. These are great if you want to drive or stay a little bit out of the Disney bubble.
*Memory Maker is a photo service that Disney World offers. When you visit all the parks, you will see photographers scattered around everywhere. You can literally walk up to them and have your photo taken. They then scan your wrist band and the photo appears on the app. This is also including the photos from rides. If you want this separately, it is around $180 dollars, but booking directly through Disney, you get this for free.
After narrowing down to the 4 options and working out the quieter days of Disney, the next thing I do is research on the site each individual hotel + park tickets for several dates and note down the final price. It is required when booking to put a £50pp deposit down, but if you’re just researching, don’t worry, you don’t need to do that until you confirm. There is also usually a time deadline. I believe it is 8 weeks before you go.
This time I factored in how many months I had until I was going at the time of research (20 months) and then took away 5 months for things like spending money, flights etc. I then broke down the final price of my chosen hotel and ticket cost by dividing it by the months I had. For example: (not my cost by the way) £3000 / 15 months = Cost per month. In my case, I will be paying around £150 per month. This is a little over than what I’m required to pay by my calculations, but this means it’ll get paid faster. Booking so far in advance has allowed me to have such minimum monthly payments, which is great because it doesn’t really take a huge dent out of my monthly pay from work.
*Please note* that you cannot pay per month on the Disney Website. You put down your deposit and then it asks you for the final total price online. I emailed the Disney Customer Service about this, who said you can call them monthly and put down payments. This is what I will be doing. Make sure to ask for a receipt!
The next step that I usually do is create a new folder in my email account specifically for Disney. As it’s so far away, I’m worried that I will lose confirmation and all the Disney communications I will get over the next year. I also make note of my booking reference in my journal, just in case.
A lot of people use credit card to book trips to Disney World, although I have one and it could be great, I try to avoid using this for these trips. I don’t trust myself that I wouldn’t go too over the top in spending! A credit card would be great and smart to use, should Disney World close again, so I would recommend having a think about that. I trust the world will be on the road to recovery by the time I go.
5 ½. When Disney World Gets Closer
When it gets closer to the time, I download the Disney app on my phone. This allows me for reservations (as I mentioned above) and on the day, you can use this to see wait times for rides. This is also how you book fast passes too. I also apply for my ESTA’s around the time I download this app.
Closer to the time, I also think I will do a post on what I’ll be packing for my trip but we have a while for this post, but people asked for this post so here it is! I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Let me know if you follow any steps I’ve mentioned above.
Yay – I’m going to Disney!
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