Friday, 5 June 2015

The Countdown to Florida - Month 4

We are four months away from our trip to Florida! Just under 120 days to go which is scary when we started at over 500.

Last month I didn't have much planning or booking to do as we booked all of our Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) in April. I also booked Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for Miss C's Princess makeover which I know she will love.

Our next spell of booking stuff will be around August time when we reach the 60 days before we go mark when I can book our Fast Passes. Everything can be done ahead of your arrival to Disney these days!

What I have been doing this last month is research. I've been looking in to different deals, places to book with, doing it yourself and deals to look out for. I actually wish I had done this research ahead of booking our holiday because I think we might have been doing a different sort of holiday if I had. However I was excited I was allowed to book the holiday and went with Thomas Cook and booked at the second quote I had. I had one first from Virgin and it was more expensive.

In April, Disney released their free dining offers for 2016. These are also available to book through Travel Agents who may have their own deal thrown in to the mix but essentially how it works is you can get a free dining plan with any moderate or deluxe Disney hotel. I believe some of the value resorts are offering a free breakfast for stays in 2016 but you check these directly on the Disney website and then ask a Travel Agent if you'd prefer to book with them. The dining plan you get for free depends on the hotel you choose to stay in but the higher grade the hotel, the more options you have with your dining plan. You can also pay to upgrade the dining plan if you wanted to stay in a moderate resort. Disney are also offering a free $200 gift card and free memory maker which is basically all the photos you can have taken by photographers in the park or the cameras on the ride uploaded to your Disney account for you to keep. Fab!

These deals were available (perhaps slightly different with the freebies) in 2015 and my travel agent never told me about them. So I'm a bit miffed about that as I would have quite happily taken a free dining plan and paid a bit more to stay in a different hotel. As it turns out, I could have gotten a deluxe hotel with free dining plan for the same price as what we've paid to stay at Art of Animation.

My advice from realising this...if you know you want to stay at a Disney hotel for any duration of your stay in Florida, wait until Disney bring out their dining plan offers. Apparently these do happen every year and some Travel Agents will take your details and contact you with when the offers become available or they will pre-book them for you! Not sure which ones...Ours certainly didn't for us!

Other options for Florida that I've been looking at is a villa. I had considered booking a villa for our stay but I knew I wanted us to experience the magic (and the benefits) of staying onsite at Disney this time. If you are looking at booking a villa, you will need to factor in the costs of parking at the parks which is currently $17 per day. If you go from one park to another within Disney, the parking ticket moves with you so you only pay it once but it's a hefty amount if you plan to go to parks every day of your holiday.

It definitely seems like the best and most cost effective way to book a holiday to Florida is to cut out the Travel Agent and do it all yourself. So book your flights yourself which are generally released around 11 months beforehand. Consider going indirect to save even more money. You can book your villa directly with owners and it's probably cheaper to book a Disney hotel directly with Disney via the website or over the phone. They are so nice over the phone! For park tickets, I've used Florida Tix and not had any problems but I've read that Attraction Tickets Direct are good too.

A brilliant group to join if you are on Facebook is It's Orlando Time. The members are really great at answering any questions you have or giving you tips, advice or recommendations. It was through them that I realised I didn't need the transfers I had paid Thomas Cook for to our Disney hotel as Disney have their own free shuttle service from the airport. Just make sure you go on to the Disney website and book your place on the shuttle.

If you aren't on Facebook then a great website to use is The Dibb or Kenny the Pirate. Lots of information on there.

I'll finish this update with a vlog I did after I discovered a very appropriate to this holiday meme. It's on Extraordinary Chaos blog if you want to give it ago yourself.

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