Saturday, May 16, 2009

Disney Vacation - What We Did Right - Planning

As I mentioned, we just got back from a wonderful trip to the "Wonderful World of Disney" and there were some things that we would do differently (which I'll address in a later post), but there were many things that we were happy we did. Here are some of the things that helped us plan our trip:

1) Flexibility - we were able to be fairly flexible about when we took our trip. This helped with expenses, because originally we talked about going in March or April and airfare was VERY expensive at that time. Ideally, we would have gone during our daughter's school recess, but for the 4 of us to fly during that week would have cost us $2400. We weighed our options, fortunately our daughter is a good student, and we spoke with her teacher well in advance and were able to get the work that she was going to miss. Being able to be flexible on the dates saved us a lot of money, which was great!

2) Pre-planning - we knew well in advance that we were going to make this trip to Disney and that along with our flexibility on travel dates, allowed us the time to watch the airfares and buy tickets when they were at their lowest -- we flew roundtrip, all 4 of us for $708! BIG difference from the $2400 I mentioned earlier! We also had the time to check out a lot of different options for our trip - I priced out regular hotels, Disney hotels, rental houses... I also checked out different rental car options, Disney ticket pricing options -- all of the "big ticket items" for a trip to Disney. It's great to have the time to do a little research and make sure that not only are you getting the best price, but that you are making plans that make sense for your family.

3) Booking a house instead of a hotel - now, this is a personal preference and of course, not everyone feels the same, but one of the best things that we did was to book a rental house instead of a hotel room. We traveled with my brother-in-law, his wife and their 2 young children and we talked about staying at a Disney resort, which we had done once before prior to having kids. It was nice, but it was still just a hotel room. When you have kids, you get back to the hotel room at night or for naptime, and you aren't going to leave them on their own -- so you end up sitting in the hotel room with them, either trying to be quiet (low talking, low tv) so as not to keep them awake, or it's early to bed for you too! The house we rented (through Orlando Villas) was a 4 bedroom home with 2-1/2 baths, laundry, game room, screened-in pool right off the living room, with a piercingly loud alarm that went off if anyone opened one of the doors to the pool -- perfect for kids! We were able to put our kids to bed in their room, and either go into our own room to watch tv or make a plan for the next day, or we could go downstairs to the living room, game room or pool and know that the kids were safe and sound -- just like at home. We were able to have breakfast at the house every morning, we were able to come back after a long day and relax in the house or in the pool, we made dinner in at least one night, and everyone had a room to sleep in -- we didn't have to have 4 people in one room keeping each other up. We also had a laundry room and did our laundry as we went along -- which was great! We packed a lot, but not as much as we might have... And also, we happily threw loads of laundry in at night and folded it and when we got home we did not have tons of laundry to do! And my husband pointed out that while it is nice and sometimes convenient to stay at a Disney property, he thought it was great to get us and the kids out of Disney a little each day/night -- let them unwind and get out of that crazy, overstimulating atmosphere for a little while!

4) Shop around for rental cars - in my preplanning, I had looked on for a rental car. It looked like we were going to pay about $450 for a car from Sat - Mon (10 days). I plugged this into my budget and was fully prepared to pay this amount. When I finally went to book the car, I did a search for rental cars and I tried Hotwire just for the heck of it. Well, I found that I was able to rent a full-sized car (just like on Expedia) for $287, all things included and for the same amount of days! I asked around about Hotwire, and heard good things about them. The only "catch" is that you have to book and pay before they tell you who you are renting with -- but, they guaranteed it would be with Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise or Hertz -- all companies I was familiar with. We decided to give it a try and it worked out great -- no hidden costs (I double-checked with my car insurance carrier and confirmed that my insurance would cover us in the event of an accident, so no need to get the extra insurance) and we ended up with an SUV just because that's what they had -- and no additional cost for that.

WHEW! That's a lot for one post -- even for long-winded me! Those are the big travel planning-related items. Stay tuned for more!


Catherine said...

How much did the house cost?

Deanna said...

Oh! Thanks for asking -- I totally forgot to put that in! We went from Saturday to Friday, during what they consider "mid-season" and including taxes, it cost a total of $935. Now, for 6 nights that's about $150 a night -- not at all out of line with a hotel room. And we got a 4 bedroom house with a pool! BUT, even better, was that we went with my brother-in-law's family and so we split that cost -- we paid about $467 TOTAL for 6 nights! Can't beat that!