How to Get the Most from Walt Disney World’s $1,500 Family Vacation

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Learn what’s included in the advertised Walt Disney World package, and see how to integrate your personal preferences into a vacation within your budget. Disney World guide book author Anne Easterling explains important details and gives tips on saving money.

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The voice on the television advertisement makes an appealing offer: A family of four can enjoy a weeklong Disney World vacation for $1,500. You are intrigued but cautious, the kids are excited and the entire family is ready to say “We’re going to Disney World!”

So how do you maximize what you get with the $1,500 Disney World vacation deal?

“To enjoy a Disney World vacation within your family’s budget, the key is matching your family’s travel preferences to what is included in the package,” says Anne Easterling, author of EZ Fun Guide to Walt Disney World.

A 20-year Disney World travel veteran, writer and event planner, Easterling recommends taking time to learn what’s included in the $1,500 vacation package and plan how you can get the most for your money.

First, consider your hotel room. The $1,500 vacation will buy six nights for two adults and two children at a Value Resort, the lowest-price category available at Walt Disney World (except for campsites at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground). Carrying the names of All Star or Pop Century, the Value Resorts are very casual motel-style resorts with very bold décor and feature food courts as the primary dining option.

“Even though they are the lowest hotel category at Disney World, the Value Resorts still reflect Disney’s dedication to quality and outstanding customer service,” says Easterling, who prefers All Star Sports Resort or Fort Wilderness. “I would stay at a Disney Value Resort over a four-star hotel almost anyplace else.”

For more upscale accommodations, you can upgrade to a Moderate or Deluxe Resort, which will add $400-1,000 or more to your vacation package.

Next, learn how to use the included theme park tickets. The $1,500 vacation package includes seven-day base Magic Your Way tickets, which provides admission to one major theme park each day for seven days.

“To get the most out of your base ticket, you will need to pick which one park – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom – you will visit each day,” Easterling said. “It may take a little more planning. But there is so much to do in each theme park, this should not be a problem.”

The $1,500 package includes tickets for two adults, one junior (child age 10-17) and one child (age 3-7). If both children are over age 7, add $40; or subtract $40 if both children are 7 or younger. For more flexibility in your schedule so that you can visit different parks on any one day, add the Park Hopper Option for an extra $40 per day per person, or $160 for four.

By the way, if you want to visit Disney World’s two water parks, DisneyQuest and Pleasure Island – other entertainment options outside the theme parks – the cost is another $50 per person, or $200 for your family of four.

Meals are not included in most Disney vacation packages, so budget accordingly. Easterling offers a tip for guests on a budget: “Take advantage of less expensive options, such as eating items purchased at the resort shops, food courts or counter-service restaurants at the parks. This can keep your food costs under $20 per person per day.”

Disney also offers a dining program can be added to your vacation package. Regularly, the Disney Dining Plan costs $35 for everyone over age 9 and $10 per day for children age 3-9. For a seven-day vacation, that’s $805 for two meals and one snack per day per person. Even though meal options are limited, the Dining Plan can be a good deal for some families, especially if you prefer table-service dining.

Disney just announced that the Dining Plan can be added free for trips taken in late August and September this year. “That is a great deal obviously,” Easterling says. “Remember that you will need to plan ahead to take advantage of all of your included meals.”

Finally, plan for souvenir shopping. “No Disney World vacation would be complete without the perfect souvenir,” says Easterling, who collects Disney World pins and Mickey jewelry. True to their reputation, Disney offers thousands upon thousands of products for purchase. Easterling suggests setting a budget, especially for the children, and encouraging everyone to pick one or two favorite items as special mementos.

Regardless of what vacation package Disney is advertising, Easterling suggests keeping your eyes and ears open. “Disney has a history of offering special packages,” she says. “They just announced the free Dining Plan for six weeks this fall. Earlier this spring, they offered a free upgrade on your Magic Your Way tickets. No special or discount is guaranteed, but it’s worth taking the time to check for new packages.”

In its second year, the EZ Fun Guide to Walt Disney World is an innovative, independent travel guide that uses color-coded maps and checklists to describe the theme parks and other attractions at Walt Disney World. Readers take a step-by-step “virtual tour” into the Walt Disney World Resort. Also included are 15 “EZ Fun Sheets” that guide readers through the steps of planning their vacation, starting with a discussion of what they want to do on vacation and concluding with a final plan and budget. The EZ Fun Guide to Walt Disney World is available through Amazon.com (ISBN 0-9768890-2-1) or direct from the publisher, ASE Media, at http://www.ez-wdw.com.

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