Mini-Mouse Trips #3: Weekends with Walt

Maybe you´re one of those folks who have acquired bucket loads of frequent flier miles, but just lack the time to justify going on a vacation. Or perhaps you´re one of the ones who literally just can´t afford to go away for a week, with the cost of travel, hotels, dining out day after day. And then there´s the instance of having a long weekend coming up, but you just haven´t really put much thought into what you´re going to do with it. So that´s it, isn´t it? No time, no money, no plan. No vacation, right?

This doesn´t have to be the case. Previously, we discussed many of the common myths surrounding Disney vacation stays and how it is not only possible but actually quite simple and effective to plan a short, relatively inexpensive trip to Walt Disney World. Then in part two we went on to talk about how to make the most of our extremely limited free time by making cheap and efficient day trips to the vacation kingdom. So now we´re going to take our practice one step further, as we apply our new time and money saving secrets to a slightly longer stay.

Let me in, Mickey! – Ticket options for multiple day stays.

In my last article, I talked a good deal about ticket options for single day admission into the theme parks, discussing in depth the benefits of both the Annual and Seasonal passes, as well as the low-cost single day admission ticket. But this time we´re looking at a slightly longer stay – let´s use a two to four days for the sake of this article – so obviously we have a need for more varied ticket options.

We already know that a single day pass just won´t be enough magic for this trip to satisfy us on this trip, so let´s take a closer look this time at Disney´s Magic Your Way (MYW) tickets. MYW base tickets can be purchased for any number of days you need, and are available with upgrades that allow you to personalize your ticket so that you can get the most out of your stay, and pay for only what you intend to use. In general, MYW tickets start at $67 per adult per day (before taxes), and decrease in cost per person per day with the greater number of days you purchase. For example, if you buy a two day MYW base ticket, your price per day will drop from $67 to $65. By the time you start talking about a four day MYW base ticket, your price per day has now dropped to $50.50.

These MYW base tickets are a great way to explore the Walt Disney World theme parks for a couple of days without paying anything too exorbitant, but are somewhat restrictive in the kinds of exploring they allow you to do. For those of you who know that you will want to visit multiple Disney theme parks in a single day (especially those of you staying for only a couple of days), you will want to add the Park Hopper option. This starts at $45 per ticket, and like the base tickets, decreases in cost per day as your length of stay increases. The Water Parks Fun and More option will allow you to visit some of Walt Disney Worlds other attractions, such as the two water parks, Disney Quest, Pleasure Island, and more. This upgrade starts at $50 per ticket and also decreases per day with an increased length of stay.

If you think that there is a chance you may end up with unused days on your MYW ticket at the end of your stay, intentional or not, you may also decide to upgrade your ticket with the No Expiration option. Without this option, your MYW ticket and any unused days will no longer be good after a period of fourteen days from its initial use. Purchasing this option will allow you to retain your unused days until your next visit, be it next month, or two years from now. This option will cost you a mere $10 per day starting on a two day MYW ticket, but unlike the first two MYW upgrade options, this one increases in price per day as your number of days increases.

Now Florida residents, listen carefully. With a proof of in-state residency (or a valid ID for any in-state school, for you college students), you can buy MYW base tickets at approximately 10% savings over non residents. But where the real bargain comes in is in the upgrades. Upgrading a 3 day MYW ticket for example will cost a mere $7.50 for the Park Hopper option, $8.33 for the Water Parks option, and $5.00 for the No Expiration. And they only get cheaper per day with the longer you stay (with the exception of the No Expiration option, which goes up).

I´m beat… now what? – Hotel arrangements.

Now that you´ve logged a ridiculous number of miles on your feet wandering the World, let´s talk about where to crash for the night and rest your little piggies. When it comes to deciding where you want to stay, you have to ask yourself just a couple basic questions. What are you actually going to be using your resort/hotel for? And how much are you willing to pay to stay there?

If you are only staying for two or three days, and really don´t need much more than a hot shower, a clean bed, and a door that locks… then you might want to start checking out the many travel websites for a cheap motel just outside Disney property. It´s not hard to find a place within just a few miles from WDW starting around $30 per night. The catch here is that these places are not Disney… so you can´t always be certain of the best quality here. Last fall I stayed at a $30 place that probably should have been going for far less if you ask me. But that´s not to say you can´t find a great bargain. I just recently stayed at a pretty darn nice hotel just one mile from Disney, offering everything a vacationing family needs, including both an indoor and outdoor pool and whirlpool, a small food court, coffee shop with wireless internet, a buffet-style restaurant, a bar, guest laundry, and probably more. This place cost me a mere $50 including taxes per night. It was almost a shame that I was only staying overnight!

If you are staying for more than two or three days however, you will probably find yourself wanting to stay at a place that offers something other than a bed and a bathroom. Obviously, a swimming pool is a nice start in terms of a nice place to cool off and relax when the sun gets too hot at the parks, and dining options right there at your hotel are a definite plus, especially when you´re too tired to go back out after a long day of hiking around the World Showcase. Seriously folks, as much as some of us need to be frugal, man can only live off of “free continental breakfast” for so long, especially when that breakfast translates into a dry muffin and a Styrofoam cup of juice.

This is when you will probably want to start considering a place on property. Sure, you can find this kind of a place off property… but why should you? Disney offers all this, with the added benefits of proximity, as well as a great deal more. And this can all be yours for a rather reasonable price, especially if you do your shopping.

Now without getting into all the nitty-gritty about each and every one of the resorts available at WDW, let´s just keep it simple for those of you who might be new to vacationing at Disney. Disney resorts are categorized into three types: Deluxe, Moderate, and Value. These classifications are pretty self-explanatory. The deluxe resorts are big on luxury, and will wine and dine you with the best of the best. These resorts also offer the most convenient locations and closest proximity to the parks, such as Walt Disney World´s flagship resort, the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, situated right on the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon. This resort offers monorail service directly to the Magic Kingdom – a two minute ride, and no stops in between. The only obvious downside to these jewels of luxury, convenience, and hospitality is of course the big bill that comes with it.

The value resorts on the other hand, are on the opposite end of the spectrum, but not so far that they fall below Disney´s high standards. These resorts will offer oversized fun at a good, reasonable rate, similar to what you would find off property at a comparable hotel, and of course cover all of the common necessities from pools to food courts, arcades and gift shops. These resorts are a bit more remote and may require an extra ten minutes or so to get to the parks, but as with all on-property Disney resorts, transportation is offered at no additional charge by the Disney Transport busses that run constantly here there and everywhere all over WDW. While I typically will use cheap, non-Disney hotel options just outside the property for my one-night stays, I personally prefer the value resorts for my mini-vacations because they allow me to experience the fun, excitement, and convenience benefits of staying inside Disney, without requiring me to break the bank for just a couple of nights.

The moderate category resorts, as you´ve probably guessed, will offer you a fair compromise between the deluxe and value resorts. Here you will find a place that´s not as ritzy and offers a few less services than the deluxe resorts, but is still more upscale than the cheaper value resort options. In addition to added style, the moderate resorts also offer a few more services that you won´t find at the value resorts, such as table service dining options, whirlpools, and bell services. These make the moderate resorts a fantastic choice for full-length vacations with a full-vacation budget, but in my opinion are still a bit steep for the short trips I like to take.

There is one other on-property option that I almost forgot to mention. Disney´s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, for those of you who love the great outdoors, offers both high and low cost extremes as well. On the low-cost side, campsites for tents, trailers, and RVs of all sizes, start dirt cheap, but go up with the addition of options such as water, electricity, sewer and even cable. On the other hand, if roughing it is not really your style, private air conditioned cabins are also available, but these will run you a rather high rate, roughly about the same as a room in a deluxe resort.

But regardless of whereabouts on-property you might decide to stay, any choice is a great choice. All of the resorts offer a great place, a great Disney cast working hard to make your stay magical, exquisite themes, and a whole world of fun. And don´t forget about Extra Magic Hours! These are certain times at which specific theme parks may open early or remain open past their public closing times exclusively to guests staying at on-property resorts. If you do only have a couple of days to spend at Disney, a couple extra hours with a far emptier park may be just what you need to get everything on your must-see checklist completed.

Oh, and before you go deciding whether or not you can afford to stay on property just yet, don´t forget to check and see if your trip will fall within Disney´s value season, when a room at any of the value resorts will often go for as little as $79 a night! Even if you aren´t so lucky to be visiting during value season, be sure to keep an eye out for other discounts and deals, which are fairly commonly available to both Florida residents as well as Annual and Season Pass holders.

So whether you´ve got the time but no money, the money but no time, or only little of both and are just not sure what to do with it, there´s probably a way that you can mold a custom built mini-mouse trip to fit your budget and/or tight schedule. Once you´ve gotten this far, and have decided where and for how long you are planning on staying, and how much of a budget you will have left over, then you can go about planning the real fun stuff… like what to do with the rest of it.

Join me in my next installation of the series, where we finally get around to tackling the Walt Disney World theme parks themselves. I´ll give you my opinions on the current attractions and dining at each of the parks, the best and the worst regarding the crowds and the lines, and my own personal strategies for how to get the most out of the parks with a limited amount of time. See you real soon!


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