The $1696 Mailbag – Part 2

Recently I blogged about Disney’s Magic Your Way commercial.

Yesterday I shared Part 1 of the emails I received as a result of that blog.

Today I share with you Part 2 (and the final part) of your feedback. Thanks to everyone who wrote in!

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Kelly draws a great analogy between putting together a WDW vacation and purchasing a car”¦

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for printing what I’ve been preaching for years. I go to Disney every other year; we usually stay for 10 nights and 11 days, park hopper/water park/more tickets for 9 days, dinning plan, at a value resort for $1249 a person. (If we’re lucky, we sometimes get an upgrade for free – free dining plan or park hopper is free) I tell people how much my trip will cost and they flip out.

They can’t figure out that it’s like buying a car. You can get a standard car (basic ticket/value resort hotel) for around 16,000. But if you want leather interior (Deluxe hotel) it’s more. Or Satellite radio (dinning plan) a few more dollars. Chrome wheels (park hopper) its more. Lifetime extended warranty (no expiration of tickets) its more. So you can drive off the lot with a standard car for 16,000 or drive off the lot with all the extras for 36,000 or somewhere in between. Same with Disney you decide (standard – moderate – deluxe) but you will pay for your extras. You will have a great time at the standard level, so don’t think you have to upgrade. You just need to sit down and decide what you can handle financially.”

Great note Kelly”¦wish I had thought of putting it that way.

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Marc sees another car buying analogy”¦

“Hey Mike,

I look at the “$1696” just like the car commercials where you can buy a Honda for 15k. As they show a nice looking accord drive by the fine print at the bottom says Vehicle shown is 22k”

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From Lesa”¦

“I never see comments on going cheap – and meaning it – from those of you experienced Disney visitors. We went last year for our first time. We drove in from Dallas (it was a beating, but a quarter of the cost to fly). Instead of spending our time standing in lines and eating in nice restaurants that would bore our children, we stopped at Wal-Mart and I bought a week’s worth of groceries for $100. We stayed at Pop Century (and we didn’t care – it was Disney!) where we only played in the kiddie pool and slept.

Our smartest decision was packing a microwave and ice chest, and eating in the room. There was no way, after a day of being in a park, tired, hungry and dirty, that we would have taken the kids back out for a full service meal, even if it had been free. We ate and fell into bed, every night. That $100 included food, drinks, snacks for the park, plates, bowls, utensils, and liquor for 5 days. We did eat at the Castle one evening with the Fairy Godmother. The 4 of us for $130. My kids were ages 4 & 2, so I don’t think the 2 year old counted. That was our big splurge and the food wasn’t that good.

We packed a soft sided cooler every day. It was juice boxes, bottled water, peanut butter crackers, grapes, bananas, and one day, microwave popcorn. We were inspected and told to have a great day. No problem bringing it in the park. We went back to the room to nap and have a late lunch.

If someone is new to Disney, they’re probably happy to be over stimulated in one park per day. We certainly were. I’m not convinced that we’ll do a park hopper next time either.

Please realize that you go so often that you are a bit immune to the magic. You have a great job. There’s far more to be appreciated, and spend time on, than eating or being choosy about which park to attend in the morning vs. evening. Those things are all extras, and probably won’t be appreciated by the first-timer anyway. Just try, once in a while, to consider those of us who mean it when we say “Budget.”

Love this website!


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For those of us who frequent WDW a lot, sometimes the ways we save money does not translate well to others.

In the first place, many of us go solo. That means we always try to stay at a value resort.

Secondly, since we are frequent visitors we all hold Annual Passports, which offer many opportunities to save money”¦room discounts”¦restaurant discounts”¦.souvenir discounts”¦and so on.

Also, at least for me, I stick with the same airline and car rental agency every time and my loyalty is usually awarded with free flights and free days.

It all adds up”¦or I should say “adds down.”


For myself, my upcoming Mousefest trip includes a free flight to Orlando, a discounted rental car with a free day, a discounted room AP room rate at a value resort, and oh yes, through my Annual Passport I have a Disney Dining Experience discount card. All this plus I plan to use my Annual Passholder’s discount when I shop at the World of Disney in Downtown Disney.

One comment on Lesa’s note. I am not sure if guests are allowed to have microwaves in guest rooms so I would call the resort before lugging the oven to WDW.

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Finally, I saved the best for last”¦from Tim”¦

“Just read your – ‘Magic your way’ article and I think if people look at a Disney vacation alone or not in comparison to other vacations, it may seem expensive. I took my family (wife, kids, 4, 2 and 9 months) in April 2008. We stayed at a moderate resort, purchased the deluxe dinning plan (which I am completely sold on by the way) and had all the bells and whistles added on. It was not a cheap trip – about $3,500 to $4,000 before flight, but what I discovered months later, was that 1) you can do it cheaper and 2) there isn’t much else out there that is even comparable!

Because we had such a great time, we began looking for other places to visit in 2009. All- inclusive resorts are extremely expensive for a family of 5, as we were looking at $8,000 to $10,000 just to ‘sit on a beach’ and eat the same food for seven days. Other family vacation spots (i.e. amusement park locations) couldn’t beat the amenities, food options, or even price! A local indoor water park up here in Canada for a one night stay was pricing at $400 a night! No food included. Even our ‘bargain’ vacation – renting a cottage for a week, although it didn’t have the transportation costs, by the time we paid the rental fee, bought groceries, rented boats and everything else, it wasn’t much cheaper than a value resort stay at Disney.

The end result”¦ We’ve booked our Disney Vacation for November 2009. We took advantage of the ‘return trip’ discount, low attendance season and decided to stay at a value resort in a suite. We loved the Moderate resort, but having stayed at a value resort in my pre-kid days, didn’t see any deterioration to our FPM stats (fun per minute). Our kids, even at home, are much like their father – they get stir crazy if they are at home – so we don’t need the ‘luxury’ of a moderate resort, and quite frankly if the pool water is wet, then it meets our needs. We again opted for the deluxe dinning plan, park hopper etc, and even with paying for an extra kid (the ages will be 6, 4, and 2 this time) were able to keep the price under $3000. There is not a vacation out there that includes, hotel, admissions, food (and probably the largest variety of dinning experiences available in the world at any one resort) and entertainment for a family of five for that price. Disney is not only a great vacation and my personal favorite place to visit – it is also one of the cheapest. The only downside is trying to keep the plans secret for over a year – it’s especially hard when your kids ask if they can go to Disney every weekend”¦In about 370 days I’ll be able to say ‘sure – let’s go’.’

Basically, Tim is saying several basic things.

First, go with what works for you. Extra amenities are very nice but they should be looked at it terms of necessity. If you don’t need them then go with a different resort which may not have them but also offers a cheaper rate.

Secondly, look at all your line items for your vacation and carefully determine which of these line items can be tweaked to make the most out of your vacation dollar. For Tim and family the Disney Dining Plan makes sense”¦it may not for you and your family”¦but the point is to find what woks for you.

Lastly, and I’m glad Tim pointed this out”¦although everyone is quick to comment on the cost of a WDW vacation, if those same people looked closely and compared a WDW vacation to other type vacations they may find that the cost is quite comparable and that the quality of the vacation experience usually always falls in Disney’s column.

I think that the overall lesson learned here from all the folks who took the time to write is that it’s up to us to figure out how to do a WDW vacation in an affordable way.

That’s where WDW becomes our partner. We have options”¦we can customize our trip to fit our budget”¦.we can create the Magic”¦.our way.

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