High Cost Workarounds for Walt Disney World

This economy has been tough on all of us so the last thing we need is to see prices go up especially when it comes to the cost of a Walt Disney World vacation.

Thus it makes sense from time to time to revisit the topic of how to get around the high cost of going to Orlando and how to get the most out of your vacation dollars.

So let’s take a brief stroll around this issue and point out some things that you may or may not already realize.

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Airfare is not getting any cheaper and I am finding that I am now looking at all flights on the day I plan to fly and opting for the cheapest flight. The savings can be significant.

Look for flight times that most people prefer not to use. I have found that early flights are most popular and that mid-afternoon and late night flights seem to be not just sometimes less expensive but also less crowded.

This may not be true of all cities but it’s worth a look for your particular airport.

If you are renting a car don’t ignore potential savings by renting through your airlines. Not only did I save money but also got credit towards my frequent flyer miles.

Of course the cheapest way to go from the airport to Walt Disney World and back is Magical Express.

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Theme Park admission continues to rise
…not to mention the cost of parking at the theme parks

Get this: A 10-Day Magic Your Way Adult ticket (base cost of $258.80 (includes tax)”¦with a park-hopper adder ($55.38)”¦with a no-expiration adder ($209)”¦for someone who stays off property and must pay the $14 parking fee ($140 for 10 days), will realize a total expense of $663.18.

You have to drop down to a 6-day ticket before your price actually drops below the cost of an Annual Pass ($520.79).

It makes you think more and more about that Annual Pass doesn’t it?

If you do stay on property you would not have to pay that $14 a day to park.

However, besides admission, that Annual Pass is also helpful in your cost workarounds

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Lately the Walt Disney World Resorts have been offering some very attractive discounts but whatever you hear for the announced rate be sure and always look for something better. Use vacation planners (travel agents) to help you and always look for the Annual Pass rates.

Usually many people will try to get the most out of their vacation and fly down on a Friday night”¦.stay the weekend”¦.plus the whole next week and weekend and fly back on a Sunday night for a total of 10 days. Nice erh?

However, several of those 10 nights will be more expensive than the other six because they are weekend nights.

Yes, it cost more to stay at a WDW resort on a weekend night than a week day night.

So”¦if you really want to stay ten days I would start your first night on a Sunday. Again, check with a vacation planner to be sure.

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I would like to go on record right now to say that unless the Disney Dining Plan goes through some major changes then I would avoid it like the plague.


Reason number one”¦fewer restaurants are on the plan today than were several years ago”¦.you have less options

Reason number two”¦.you are not really given the flexibility of choosing from the entire menu”¦at least in every restaurant”¦there are restrictions.

Reason number three”¦.appetizers are no longer included”¦.you can have them for a price.

So what to do?

Three words: Tables of Wonderland.

This little discount card offered to Annual Passholders, gets you 20% off meals at virtually all WDW sit-down restaurants. I say virtually because policies are always changing.

The last time I checked the card costs $75 so if you expect to pay around $380 in sit-down meals on your trip then the card will pay for itself just on that trip alone.

Something else to keep in mind”¦.if possible eat the latest lunch you can in a sit-down restaurant and opt for a quick-service meal for dinner”¦on average you will save at least 15% on your meal budget every day by adding that to your overall plan of attack.

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Those are the basic things I do and they seem to work and allow me to not just save on my trips but allows me to take more than one trip in a calendar year”¦again which makes the all important Annual Pass and Tables of Wonderland my allies in the battle against the high cost of a Walt Disney World Vacation.

10 Replies to “High Cost Workarounds for Walt Disney World”

  1. Mike,

    I first learned of the then Disney Dining Experience (now, Tables In Wonderland) card through you on WDWToday! We tend to eat at signature restaurants, so the card has paid for itself again and again! Since we live in NJ, we need the AP to purchase the TiW card and it has even paid for my AP!

    Something else I do for my husband’s ticket is to buy a 5-day, no expiration, park-hopper when he runs out of days. Then, on subsequent trips (he’s not so nutty about the parks as I am) I can add the remaining 5-days and max out the ticket to 10-days. This works really well for us and has been my strategy since multi-day media was first introduced in the ’80s. I have a stack about three inches high of various “used up” tickets. I just put a sticky-note in the pass folder and track the days used so I know when it’s time to add days, or buy a new pass.

    Thanks for all your advice!
    – janet

    Hi Janet,

    Just wondering if buying your husband an AP would be more economical than adding 5 days as you said.

    If this works for you then more power to you.



  2. I am all for purchasing the annual pass if you usually go to WDW once a year. If you return the week before the pass expires, then you really can take advantage of the savings. You’re still going once a year, but you’re able to use the AP on two trips. It’s also nice to know that you can go for a quick weekend trip if you see a good flight or hotel deal 😉

  3. I have traveled to Disnney World over 30 times. Six times as thhe “paying” adult, taking my family, last vacation 2 adults 3 children. I feel the basic dining plan was worth every penny. We were ther for 11 nights, and had a 7 day plus water parks pass. We ate at almost every character meal there was, which we wouldn’t have done if we were paying, and the kids were in seventh heaven. The counter services were great, especially for breakfast at the resorts, when if used wisely, you could get 2 adult breakfasts with oatmeal/ cereal as your snack, and feed the whole family, and be full. We were stuffing ourselves the last daay to use all of our snacks!!!!!!!.
    I really hope Disney does not get rid of the dining plan—-ever!!!!

  4. i just love the tables in wonderland card . one of the GOOD deals disney offers. and if you buy before 12/31/09 you get 15 months. also if you renew your passess before 12/31 you also get 15 months.subject to change of course

  5. We love the fact that the Tables in Wonderland card takes 20% off beverages as well – especially nice when wine or alcoholic drinks are added to your order!

  6. As someone who once would not go to Disney without the Dining Plan since its inception, I have to agree it has significantly lost its luster. I was in Disney in August with the Dining Plan and could not believe all the money I ended up putting out.

    You mention the no appetizer, but I think what really gets you are the taxes and the gratuity!! Not to mention I’ve noticed higher prices on meals which makes your tax and gratuity even more!

    At the end of November, I came down for quick weekend, took a Wednesday night flight and Sunday afternoon flight which cost $169 pp on Southwest (also no baggage fees). Disney’s promotion was the Quick Service Plan for free while staying at the Value Resorts. My snack entitlements allowed me to eat throughout the Food & Wine festival NEVER taking out a dime. With this deal I was able to keep the cost of the trip UNDER $1100. My wife and I with our 2 year old had a GREAT time!

    So yes, you have to play the deals and do your research….but keeping costs down CAN be attained!

  7. You make a good case for the Annual Pass. I’ve had one off and on through the years–more off than on though, I’m sad to say. When I’ve had them, the year always seemed a little more magical with the knowledge that I could always gain admission to any WDW park any day of that year.

  8. Hey Mike,

    If I only go to Disney World once a year – is the Annual Pass still worth it? Or maybe only one person in the party get the Annual pass?

    I totally agree with you on the Dining Plan. Definitely not what it used to be and the price keeps going up on that too.


  9. Hi Mike,

    As a frequent traveler to WDW, about 40 trips in 12 years, a DVC member for over 11 years, and an Annual Pass holder, I echo your opinions in every area except one.

    Dining at WDW. We usually get the Basic Dining Plan. Have tweaked it every way possible, saving table credits for signature dining, eating the highest counter service for the credit, highest price snacks, etc. I’ve done so many cost comparisons of OOP, the 3 different dining plans and Tables, that I’ve lost count.

    We usually try to eat at the upper end 1 credit restaurants at the resorts instead of the restaurants in the parks but we have done just about every restaurant at WDW over the years.

    We used Tables one year, and found we tended to overeat, with appitizer, main course, and dessert, but that’s just us. The other thing I didn’t like was the minimal counter service available with Tables.

    I know there has been a lot of talk about 2010 and how many restaurants will or won’t be on the Dining Plans. Have not seen any official list yet. Also I’ve not seen anything about limited menus yet. Last July, we didn’t encounter any limited menus at any of the restaurants where we ate.

    The one thing I think is a little unfare, is to compare a 10 day stay and Annual Pass cost comparison, with a comparison of Tables & the dining plans, because the average person only goes to WDW for a Week at a time, and usually only once a year. So maybe an Annual Pass and Tables wouldn’t be a savings for them.

    Both of us are fortunate in that we travel to WDW on numerous occasions each year. That’s why We became a DVC members and an Annual Pass holders.

    By the way, I’ve been following the blogs about the dining plans on Allears Facebook, and if there are drastic changes to DDP in 2010, I may be going back to Tables for our next trip and bite the bullet concerning counter service.

    JMHO…………….Vic Williams

  10. Hi Mike,

    We always enjoy your blog entries. Lots of good tips! One thing we do is usually leave on a 7am flight, so we stay at a hotel near the airport that provides shuttle service to and from the airport and also free parking while you’re away.

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