In the realm of Disney vacation planning there are an impressive amount of different ticket, dining, and resort accommodation combinations and the ever present Disney World Vacation Packages. From buying from a third party seller for tickets to staying on or off property, the possibilities are truly endless when you’re looking to decipher the code that is all a part of the Disney vacation experience. Many of us love the work put into planning a vacation and others enjoy taking a step back and letting Disney or someone else do the work for us. However, the neat thing about Disney is that the variety of options provided associate themselves with an even vaster variety of solutions and travel planning outlooks. Considering all of that, a Disney World Vacation Package may or may not be the best fit for your travel needs.
If Disney does one thing well (among many other things they do well), they allow the guest to have a variety of vacation options. While that may sound a bit strange, it’s quite true and here’s why. When you book a Disney vacation you can do so for so many reasons other that simply to tour the parks. The all encompassing resort delivers world class dining, the ability to have a quiet vacation, the chance to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the parks, and so many other options that many guests entirely overlook. There truly is something for everyone, but in a similar way there’s a vacation planning strategy for each and every one of those individuals. No two guests are alike.
That concept brings us to the topic of today’s discussion, Walt Disney World Vacation Packages. For those of you who may not know, or are even first time guests, Disney offers a packaged experience which you can book your resort accommodations, dining, tickets, and any additional add ons you’d like to experience all at once in one big package. In doing so, they also offer guests the chance to pick and choose which elements of the package they would like to utilize. For example, if you want your tickets included in your resort package you can do so, but you can also opt out of the dining option altogether if you choose to do so. It’s an excellent system and one that has worked for us year after year, but when considering the big picture, it may not be the cheapest way to tour the parks.
Don’t get me wrong, when Disney offers discounted packages like this one (ending January 2nd) it is incredibly difficult to beat their price in the grand scheme of things. Additionally, something you may want to consider, especially if you are booking at non discounted prices or accommodations that do not require a package, is that you can potentially save money buying stand alone tickets from an authorized ticket reseller (Here’s why we recommend an official ticket seller in order to avoid ticket scams – Section 3 of that article) or by avoiding the dining plan altogether.
The dining plan is an excellent package and one that I have used for years, but isn’t always your cheapest option. To be quite honest with you, that’s hard for me to say because I really enjoy the dining plan and its simplicity, but when you break it down the cost is near identical to what you would be paying for the food out of pocket. In the big picture the convenience factor is excellent, but what really costs you is the fact that most guests will not eat their full allotment on the dining plan if they were paying for it out of pocket. Especially in 2018 (with the new dining plan choices), most guests would not typically buy a table service meal, a counter service meal, and two snacks. It’s certainly doable to eat, but you’ll likely be full from sun up to sun down every day of your vacation. For anyone interested, here’s a full comparison under last years pricing structure and included dining plan offerings.
Something else to consider when booking packages is the cancellation policy. Disney’s package cancellation is something that is a huge bonus when booking. If you purchase a package, or are even looking to purchase a package, if you are booking at least 30 days before your vacation, a room can be held for three days with no deposit. By the 3rd day a $200 deposit must be made to secure the reservation. At that point, full payment is due 30 days before the check in date of your stay (if you are booking at least 30 days in advance, if not the full payment will be due upon booking).
Here’e where the package gets quite beneficial. If you have to cancel for any reason, and it is at least 31 days prior to your scheduled stay you will not be charged for cancelling. For cancellation between 2 and 30 days prior to arrival, there will be a $200 cancellation fee. For cancellations one day or less before your scheduled check in, the entire amount is nonrefundable.
You may be asking why any of this matters, and here’s why. If you book tickets independently of your resort accommodations the tickets are non refundable. however, if you book a package, as described above, the tickets are refundable. Additionally, a room only reservation (with no package) requires a deposit of one nights rate for the reservation opposed to the $200 deposit to reserve a package. Sometimes this plays in your favor, especially when booking for larger groups that may be staying in a 2 bedroom or larger villa which typically cost $1000+ per night.
Vacation packages are an excellent option, but you may want to consider all of your options before you go straight to that booking plan. They’re certainly convenient, and it’s what we use in our planning process 90% of the time, but we do so knowing that we may be giving up a few dollars (or maybe even a few hundred dollars depending on the current offers on third party tickets) here and there but to us it’s worth having everything paid for together and being able to take advantage of the positive booking bonuses and cancellation policies.
As always, what we do may or may not work for your vacation style, but we simply share what has worked for us over the years. We’re fortunate enough to have traveled to the parks time and time again for around 20 years. Throughout that time frame, a lot has changed, but one thing remains true and that is the fact that a Disney vacation is more that simply a vacation destination. Disney is more of an experience that brings family together and creates memories of a lifetime.
As always, if this all seems very complicated (and to be quite honest, it is), I recommend a authorized Disney travel planner (quote request form below). At the pace Disney changes, even I have some trouble keeping up with all of Disney’s different plans and regulations, so having that person there that does this day in and day out can make all the difference when surveying your options.