Disney travel advice needed

Question: I’m planning on heading down to Orlando sometime in late-September/early-October for about five days and plan on focusing the major portion of the trip on the Disney parks. I haven’t been in nearly 15 years and, last time I did go, I was getting carted around with my parents. I’ve punched up a few websites and have found the discrepancy in prices quite alarming, as I can get a full trip at a Disney hotel for a large chunk of change, a stay at a top-tier hotel located in Downtown Disney for quite a bit less or go to a hotel further offsite for significantly less than both. I’d like to make the trip without having to rent a car, as most places advertise the fact they have shuttle services to and from the park and even Orlando International.

That said, I was wondering if any has had any recent experience with a trip to Disney World and can provide any feedback to their experience or overall suggestions. I’d like to make this as cost-effective as possible, but also don’t want to deal with the headaches of getting stranded at certain places and unable to get to where I want to go (which is likely only Disney, as I have no real interest in going to anywhere else in Orlando). No children involved, only myself and my fiance and was wondering if anyone could provide information as to where to stay and whether we’ll need that car or not.

Thanks in advance.

First, I’ll point out a few older entries:

Disney meal plan and restaurants

5 day Disney travel plan advice

Disney honeymoon discussion

Disney & Universal

Port Orleans or Caribbean Beach?

Disney resort experiences & suggestions

And now a few comments I’ve collected:

Comment #1: Was down there about a month ago. We stayed at the Caribe Royale which is around 10 minutes from the Disney parks. We had a 2 bedroom villa and it was great. They also have 1 bedroom villas as well as the regular hotel & suite buildings. Our stay included the daily breakfast buffet whch was very good. Park tickets were available through the hotel as they have a desk in the lobby to purchase them. We did tickets for the 4 Disney parks(Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Studios & Animal Kingdom) as well as Universal (w/Isles of Adventure) & Sea World. We got the park hopper options which were great but we couldn’t take as much advantage as we wanted due to weather(we kept dodging thunderstorms). We lost somewhere between a day & a day and a half due to the storms. We drove ourselves everywhere but like most if not all places down there they had shuttles to all the parks. As for the cost I wish I had good info for you but I joined into my friend’s vacation so they handled the reservations and bills with me just paying towards everything to cover myself.

Comment #2: Staying on Disney property is ideal for convenience, but not as important if you don’t have kids. Late Sept. is a good time to go; since the kids are in school the parks are less busy and hotel rates are lower. There are 2 major upsides to staying on Disney property. First, you get to use Disney trasportation to get to/from your hotel, which will be faster and most convenient. And second you get to take advantage of early park openings and late closings; this lets you tour the parks with low crowds.

Check out Mousesavers.com. They have all the latest discount information for Disney hotels and for other hotels nearby. Also buy the “Unoffical Guide to DisneyWorld”. That book is the bible – has great info on choosing hotels and getting good deals. And once your booked, great info on how to best tour the parks to avoid crowds.

Comment 3: We Stayed at the Beach Club at Magic Kingdom…it was great, and we enjoyed the extra hours at the parks, being 25 feet from the golf course, terrific access to the parks, the pools, service, etc but not sure it was worth the extra money.

It was a family trip with 30 of us too…oy vey!

Comment 4: Even though its the most expensive you would never be disappointed at one of the Deluxe Resorts (Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary). They have monorail service to the parks so travel is extremely easy and the resorts are great.

Comment 5: Disney – vs – Universal. It depends on what you are looking for & the age of those doing it. I loved Islands of Adventure for the big rides…and love Kraken at Sea World but I also don’t regret a minute spent at the Disney parks. The Disney parks have alot of great 3D rides/shows & are really fun places to be.

One big tip…while down there consider it a MUST DO to see the Fantasmic show at Disney Hollywood Studios. It’s a nightly show that combines live action, great water effects(including movies projected on the water, some pyro & music. It’s a great show. We got rained out the 1st night we went to see it & went back the next night to watch it. Children & Adults love the show. Just be sure to get in the amphitheater early as the seats fill fast.

Comment 6: My wife and I have been to Disney every year for a while now (also no children). Make sure that you buy a 5 day park hopper…you can go to whatever parks you want each day (i.e., hop parks). If you’re going in a warm month (which most are), take a day off and go to either Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach. Disney’s waterparks are A LOT of fun.

We usually drive there, or rent a car. The one time we didn’t rent a car we had a bad experience. It’s true that everyone offers free transportation, but it’s a major pain b/c you end up waiting a lot (which is a waste of time/money) and you end up planning your days around some courtesy transportation. Renting a car in the Orlando area isn’t that bad b/c there’s so many of them. Staying in Disney is great, but it really is WAY over-hyped, -rated, -expensive. The Downtown Disney hotels are in a good location, but I think that they’re almost as expensive as some of the lower Disney hotels. The Hilton in DD gives you the extra magic hours (which is the only non-Disney hotel to do so). Also, look into time-share condo reservations…sometimes you can get great deals and all you have to do is sit through some mindless pitch.

Here are some tips/suggestions:

– in the Magic Kingdom, the Tommorrowland Noodle Station and the Columbia Harbor House(by Haunted Mansion – excellent Clam Chowder) have excellent food for cheap.

– In Animal Kingdom, go to Everest immediately and get a fast pass, then ride it again. Get first row…it’s fun.

– In Hollywood Studios, do the same with Toy Story Mania.

– In Epcot, do the same with Soarin.

– In Animal Kingdom, make sure you ride Primeval Whirl…it looks like a dinky little kids ride, but I think it’s one of the most fun rides in Disney.

– When it’s really hot (we go in July usually), we make sure that we’re the first people in the park, and the last to leave. We take a 3-4 hour break back at our hotel to swim, shower, nap, whatever, and it makes the rest of the day 1000% better.

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  1. Carol says:

    If you are considering staying onsite at Disney, then consider the Value resorts. The most you should pay for a room should be $99 a night. They offer transportation to/from the airport, as well as throughout the resort to the parks.

    The only downside to not having a car is that you are “stuck” on property. So if you have a craving for Cheddar’s, you are out of luck.

    You can consider staying off-site for around $50 a night, but you will be stuck to their shuttle schedules. If their busses stop running at 10:00, you better catch that bus, or you’re out of luck, and will have to get a cab.

  2. Dave says:

    Stay at a hotel in the park, Very much worth the extra money. No need for a car, transportation is good. No hassels with parking, finding a place to park or walking for miles to the front gate. We stayed at Boardwalk, you can walk to Epcot, take a boat to Universal and a bus to Animal and Majic Kingdom right from the front or back door of the hotel.

  3. C.Marz says:

    When you say a Hotel in Downtown Disney, are you talking about Disney owned Sartoga Springs, or do you mean one of the few Private Hotels inside the Maingate by Downtown Disney ?

  4. A Batchelor says:

    I have been to Disney World on many occasions. I have stayed at a Disney Hotel, stayed at a hotel off site that offered a shuttle service and I have stayed in a private rented home and rented a car. If you really want to keep cost down and take advantageof all the Disney offers. I can make the following suggestions.

    1. Stay at a disney hotel – you can stay at one of the less expenseive hotels such as the Disney All Star, Sports or Music hotel. These should run you less than $80.00 per night. In addition since it is only yourself and your fiance there will be plenty of room.

    2. By staying at the disney hotel as already mentioned in your comments that your have gathered you will be able to take advantage of the extra hours they provide.

    3. If you do not want to rent a car, then staying at a Disney hotel does provide the best choices for alternative transportation. If you stay at one of the hotels suggested above you will be using a Disney bus to take you to the different parks.

    4. By staying at a Disney hotel you will also be able to take advantage of the Disney Magical Express Service which is a transportation from the Orlando International Airport to a Disney Hotel.

    5. Buying tickets is also a choice that you need to make. A multi day pass is definately the thng to do. If you are going for about 5 days then purchase the 5 day pass.

    6. To save money buy the tickets on-line before you go. This does save money over the gate prices.

    7. Whe buying tickets you will need to decide what if any options you want to include such as park hopper and or water parks. Park hopper lets you visit more than one park in a given day. While the water park option also allows you to visit one of the water parks.

    8. I find that it is not necessary to spend the extra money on the park hopper option as my family and I spend the whole day in one park. You can always leave the park go to your hotel and return to the same park in the same day.

    9. I admit the water parks are fun, but if you have not been to Disney in such a long time at least 4 of your days will be spent exploring each of the four parks. In addition the 5th day you will more than likely return to your favorite park. What I suggest is just enjoy the pools at the hotel which will not cost you extra. This is what my family and I do to save money.

    10. Staying at a Disney hotel will also allow you to leave the park go back to the hotel and enjoy the pool, get refreshed for dinner and return to the park for the evening. Even in September or October it can be hot during the day and a quick dip in the pool or a shower and a set of clean clothes makes for a more enjoyable evening.

    11. All of the above can be easily arragned on teh internet or by simply calling Disney. I have done it both ways.

  5. C.Marz says:

    I say stay at Port Orleans- Preferably Riverside over French Quarter. At least Riverside has a full service restaurant as well as counter service. Either way they are right next door to each other. Port Orleans has boat service to Downtown Disney which is a nice alternative to a bus if your heading Downtown.

    Unless I am missing something, it sounds like there may not be children in your party ? If so, avoid the Value Resorts. Not because they are bad, but they will have a tendency to have a lot more children and it can be louder and busier. They have no real food choices on site other than burgers and pizza type fare.

    Regardless of where you stay, September is a ways off. That will give you time to look into dining choices at other Resort’s and Parks if you chose to do that. The most popular dining choices may require reservations months in advance. You can do this by phone Via Guest Services about 90 days in advance. Trust me ! Making reservations to dine is a smart thing to do. Meal plans have made reservations harder because you get more bang for your buck. If you do a food plan, MAKE RESERVATIONS as soon as possible.

    Our favorite dining is :

    In Epcot Canada – Le Cellier ****

    In Epcot Germany – The Biergarten buffet ***1/2

    In Port Orleans – Boatwrights ***1/2

    In Wilderness Lodge – Whispering Canyon **** ( fun Interactive Dining ).

    In Animal Kingdom Resort – Boma buffet ****

    In Coronado Springs – Maya Grill **** ( They

    supposedly have a great Breakfast buffet ).

    Note : All Disney Dining is excellent for the most part. Dining Plans are recommended. MGM has a great Diner Style Interactive Dining Choice. I can’t remember the name.

    I envy you that you are going. After 10 trips in 9 years, the economy has kept us away last year and will again this year. Disney isn’t just for kids, it’s for us big kids also. Lucky you !!

  6. D. Brannick says:

    For the last couple of years, Disney has offered the dining package free if you stay at a Disney hotel from late Aug. to late Sept. (I’m not sure of the exact dates). You might want to look into this as food at Disney is on the expensive side. As another post said, go to Mousesavers.com. It’s a great site for all of the up to date deals. As far a hotels go, I’ve only stayed at the Disney hotels. I agree with another post that advises you to stay away from the value resorts. I stayed at the Carribean Beach resort the first time I went with the kids. I’ve stayed at Pop Century all of the other times. Pop Century (a value resort which my kids love) is very kid friendly. Carribean Beach resort is a moderate priced resort. To me it doesn’t have the population of children that the value resort does. I like both resorts but if you want a little more quite, choose the moderate to deluxe resorts. One thing I like to do is to take the first flight into Orlando and the last flight out. If you stay at a Disney hotel you can take the magical express. You don’t have to wait for your bags. They will get them for you. You go right from the airplane to the bus and it takes you right to your hotel. You check in and can immediately start enjoying the parks. On the last day, I arrange for the luggage staff to get my bags from my room at a specific time (I do this the night before), then I go and enjoy several hours at the park before I have to leave for the airport. By doing this I get almost an extra 2 days. If this adds extra days to your park ticket, don’t worry, the tickets get cheaper the more days you buy. We just came back about a month ago. Before we left I added an extra day onto a 7day ticket to make it an 8 day ticket. It only cost me $10.00 for one adult and 2 children for the extra day. It was totally worth it to spend an extra 6 hours in the park before we left. Hope this helps and have a great time.

  7. C.Marz says:

    Good points made by D. Brannick. We actually do the same thing – get there early – leave late. The only problem I have had is in the summer months, leaving later usually means storms may delay or totally cancel your flight as they fire up early in the evenings. You may be safe in September.

    As D.B. mentioned, Carribean Beach is nice. So is Coronado Springs. Like Port Orleans, they are Moderate Resorts. But what makes Port Orleans a tad bit better is the fact it is close to Downtown Disney and has the boat as an alternative to taking the bus. You can’t go wrong with the moderates whatever you choose.

    Just a note on the Deluxe Resorts. They are pricey. I have said it before and I will say it again. Deluxe Resorts are a great choice :

    If you have the extra cash to spend.

    If you have been to Disney many time’s and you just want to relax.

    On your Honeymoon or without kids.

    Why do I say this ? Because if you are going to Disney to maximize your time spent at the Parks, the room and Resort are meaningless. It will just be a place to sleep. Do you want to spend that kind of extra money on a premium room ? I would prefer to spend the extra money on fun and better dining. Rethink the rental of a car. $ 150 for a weeks worth of the extra freedom is worth it at least IMO ! The car will free up time lost on buses. If you get hint’s on using the car to your advantage at Disney, there can be parking advantages if you know what your doing. Plus you get to check out other Resorts to see what your missing…..

  8. D. Lee says:

    I am a Disney stockholder and have been to Orlando multiple times. I’ve stayed both on and off the property at all types of hotels.

    If you stay on the property, the transportation system provided, specifically the buses, are the best way to move around from park to park and hotel to hotel. About the only places they don’t go is to the golf courses.

    If you stay off, one tip I can give you is, park at Downtown Disney and pick up the buses there. Parking is free and convienent to I4.

    Also September without kids is a great time to go.

  9. I go to Disney quite often and recently have been staying at the Bahama Bay Resort which is about 20 minutes from the parks. I stay at a 2 bedroom executive comdominium (as they call it) and the individual that I rent this from is more than reasonable on rates. Yes, you would need a car to get to Disney from there but the price is offset by the reasonable price of the property. By the way, the property is really attractive, surrounded by lakes and wildlife. I rented it in October for $55 a night. The price on the door stated that the owner should not charge more than $295 per night. I can’t say enough positive things about this condo. Also, there is a restaurant on the large property (great English buffet breakfast and very reasonable priced entrees, etc.)In addition to that, there are a couple of pools and clubhouse with bar and snackfood such as burgers and pizza which they will deliver to your condo if you so wish. They offer discounted tickets to the Disney Parks and I believe that they also have shuttle service although I have never used this. Will gladly share more info and pictures if you wish. URL is the site (individual) that I rented from. I will always go back there.

  10. Ron says:

    I have been to Disney World quite a few times with my family as well as sending quite a few people to Disney World as a travel agent. First thing is to find all the discounts that you can. Look for any discount you can get. If you want to stay on the property there are plenty such as the deal they have going now through Sept. 26, 2009, you can get 2 extra hotel nights–plus 2 extra days of Theme Park admission–FREE* with the purchase of a 3-night or longer vacation package. There are also deals going on right now with the meals such as When Clients purchase this 5-night, 6-day Walt Disney Travel Company package for the Walt Disney World Resort, with accommodations for five nights at a select Disney Value Resort and a 6-day Magic Your Way Base Ticket, they’ll get the Disney Dining Plan FREE!

    This will save you on the rental as well because you don’t need one. If you are in the military there are even more discounts. Any of these Disney Resorts offer shuttles leaving I believe hourly for all Disney Parks.

    If you don’t want to stay on the property find a local motel and just concentrate on the tickets from disney world, but make sure you get the park hopper so you can visit multiple parks. A nice hotel is the Caribe Royal which is a little over 1 mile from Disney World and can save you money but will take more time to get to the parks.

  11. lilly adams says:

    My Fiance and I are planning our honeymoon and have decided to stay at http://www.swandolphin.com This is by far the most amazing Disney World resort yet. There 17 restaurants on the resort along with access to transportation to all of the parks every 15 minutes. I think this is going to be the best place for our honeymoon because it looks so romantic and elegant.

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