Saturday, July 17, 2010

We’re Going to Disney World! What Next? How Much To Spend? Decisions, Decisions...

It was actually a difficult decision to make, but Mary Ann and I have decided to travel to Walt Disney World this year, mostly due to the 2010 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. We were trying to save up our money for a larger trip in 2011 with our children and grandchildren, but what the heck it’s only money (I can’t believe I said that).

Food & Wine was one reason, but starting “A World View” in January this year was another. I really wanted to get a couple thousand new photos from around the “World” as I’ve been adding additional features, facebook, twitter and new blogs to the “A World View” family.

We had just gotten back from our 10-day December trip when I decided to start up my Internet missives. Researching and writing several times a week about the “World” just kept building the anticipation; I would keep making notes on how we could travel “on the cheap” and make a 2010 trip a reality. Then I started reading AJ’s Disney Food Blog reports, first from Disneyland and then prepping for WDW’s event and that was the “straw” so to speak. So I e-mailed my friendly agent at MEI and Mouse Fan Travel and wrote… book-‘em Michelle! (I’ve been watching those commercials for the new Hawaii 5-0 starting soon.)


So this is the first of several columns I’ll be writing about things we plan to do, places we’ll see, attractions we’ll visit and more important, meals and tastes we plan to partake in. I’ll also include some ways we’ll try to keep our trip on the less expensive side. Essentially I’ll be bringing you along as we do our planning, explaining what we’re thinking about and why we made certain choices. Keep in mind; this is two-person trip by Mary Ann and me.

By the way, your feedback would be welcome. If you have a thought we’re not considering or an idea that would add to the magic, let us know via facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aworldview.

So let’s get started. 
When do we go? Well, it has to be between October 1 and November 14 because of the dates for the Food & Wine Festival.


My daughter is having her second child in mid-October, which immediately impacted our choice of dates. I would have liked to be part of The Disney Food Blogs “Foodie Fest” on October 3rd  but we couldn’t take a chance the baby would be born without us. Also, my son is planning my grandson’s birthday party which is later in October, but we thought we would plan around it. Then he told us that it would be better to have Jack’s second party (one each in-law) along with Bobci’s (grandma) birthday in November. Now we were cooking.

Airfare has an impact on the schedule.
 So we had some tentative dates in October, but what days and for how long. Our plan was a Value Resort, keeping in mind the cost factor. I’ve read a lot about air fares, and knew that Tuesday or Wednesday was a good day to fly for savings (driving was out , it’s 1,000 miles) and a five night/six day trip looked like the best option for both our workplaces. I knew flying back on a Sunday was not a good idea, so we started our spreadsheet on a Wednesday for a return trip on Monday.


Next was the time of day factor. We normally leave on the first flight, in this case it’s usually between 6:00 and 7:00am; which means we have to be on the road between 4:00 and 5:00am for a one-hour drive to the airport and expected check-in times. A six-day trip gives us four full days and two half-days depending on arrival and departure. We don’t like to get back too late, even with a direct flight, so we can get re-oriented to home and be ready for work the next day. There is a late flight coming back that would allow us a full day at the park before having to get to the airport, so Mary Ann asked for an extra day off so we could get back later at night and not worry about it.

I haven’t yet booked our airline. I’ve been spending time researching flights on your typical sites like Expedia and Travelocity, checking out Kayak and Fare Compare, as well as the airline web sites themselves looking for specials. We have a preference for non-stop, but to help control costs we would consider one-stop that doesn’t add too much to the time. Unfortunately we are not in a large metropolitan area and our airport/airline choices are somewhat limited for competition and price comparisons. However, we do have Jet Blue and they usually provide the best deal from Syracuse and there is a Southwest in Albany; both reasonable driving. Anyway, I plan to book our trip this week and I’ll let you know what we found and decided.

What about food?
 At this point, food appeared to be decided. Since we were going “on the cheap” it was Counter-Service meals all the way. We did expect to spend a little more than pocket change on two visits to the Food & Wine Festival since wine and beer are important to a meal; and there are so many countries with foods to sample. But by avoiding table-service, we save a lot of money and time.

Remember, our goal was to visit wherever Disney transportation would easily take us in order to keep the costs as low as possible. This is a real cost saver, but different for us since we normally rent a car and visit the wide range of Disney assets like Resorts and their food fare. We also like the time we save having our own transportation at hand.

THEN IT HAPPENED.
 Disney announced “free dining” would be extended, and we were caught in a conundrum. Do we continue our plan to limit spending (our project budget was $2,000); or do we continue our practice of sampling new and favorite restaurants?

Our plan was a Value Resort. I really was hoping Disney would extend the room discount but they didn’t (at least not yet). We selected Pop Century (Scopa Towers) which we toured in December and looked like a great place to have the family vacation. I recently posted an article on Pop  in the Value Resort Series. I also spent some time on the fan site, PopCenturySite.Com and comfortable with our choice. We have been staying in Moderate Resorts, particularly our favorite on site, the Port Orleans duo, but we save $250 by staying in a Value (we’ve stayed at an All-Star before and very much enjoyed our visit).

The option was not to move up to a moderate, but we could add $100 and book the Standard Dining that includes five table service credits each. What do we do? Remember one of my goals is to spend a lot of time in the parks and take pictures, lots of them. Our trips in the past have included meals all over, plus back-stage tours and other things that take up time. We’re only here 6 days with time for Food and Wine reducing the discretionary periods. With MYW Plus Dining we need to add both Park Hopper’s and a Rental Car if we do the meals we want and are not just what we may be left with. Together with the dining upgrade this will add $350 to our trip that wasn’t in the plan.


What will we do?
  • How will the airfares, which are creeping higher and higher anyway, affect our budget plan?
  • Should we go with the upgraded meal plan and the added costs of car and hoppers; or just enjoy the savings of the free counter service meals?
  • Can we schedule our time around Food & Wine, which has so many options and still maximize our visit to other parks and attractions?
Tune in next week, same Bat Time and same Bat Place for the answer to these and other questions surrounding our WDW trip planning exercise for our upcoming visit to the “World”. And remember, if you have an idea for us to consider and share, write us via facebook http://www.facebook.com/aworldview.


A World View is now on Twitter (http://twitter.com/wdwview); and facebook (www.facebook.com/aworldview) to provide comments and feedback on stories. Check out the right side column on A World View for a wealth of links. Then, don't forget Disney Contests and Sweepstakes (http://disneycontests.blogspot.com/) where you might win a free trip to WDW; and the Disney Bloggers Collection – New Every HOUR! (http://disneybloggers.blogspot.com/) where current posts of at least 166 Disney-related fan blogs are located.


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