In a previous column, I asked you to email me your favorite money-saving tips for Orlando and Disney World, and hinted that I might publish them in a future article. Well, you've held up your side of the bargain and now it's my turn. Your suggestions covered everything from how to maximize value for an annual park pass to how to get a free burger. Some of you even compiled your own Escapes Under $500 vacation, and came in well under budget. Impressive!
Staying in Orlando
A.P. makes the most out of sleeping and eating on Disney property:
"The Value Resorts, in the Value Season, have been available for as little as $49 a night with an annual Passholder rate. The food court also has a microwave and toaster that you can use—so bring your own microwavable oatmeal, pancakes, toaster strudels, hot dogs, etc., and eat out by the pool. You can get a refrigerator in your room for an extra $10 a night, or if you drive, bring your own cooler to keep in your room. You can also use the coffee pot in your room to heat water for oatmeal, hot chocolate, apple cider, etc. If you drink a lot, the refillable mugs ($12) at the hotel are a bargain. If you choose to eat in the parks, order a double cheeseburger and ask for an extra bun—then you get two burgers for the price of one (plus the 80 cents for the bun)."
D.J. claims to be the "ultimate budget shopper when it comes to vacations," which I think might be dead-on:
"I have six children, [ages] 11, nine, seven, four, two, and six months. I can [book an] award winning resort [like] Marriott for $299 for four nights and five days near Walt Disney World. The key, [is to] be willing to go on a 90-minute timeshare tour. I trust Marriott ... The $299 is including tax and comes out to $74 per night for eight ... That's $9.20 per person per night."
S.A. has a great tip for those who come to Disney year after year:
"Here's a great tip to save money if you go to Disney World every year as we do. We purchase an annual pass, which is good for 365 days from the first day you use it. The next year when you go back, just go one or two weeks earlier, so that your pass is still good and you are getting two years out of it. We go for two weeks each year, [and] they say after eight days it has paid for itself."
A.J. found a website with the potential to save money on Park Hopper tickets:
"There aren't many ways to buy discounted tickets to Disney World, but we did find a website [that] offered some better incentives. At Undercover Tourist, we paid for a three-day Park Hopper and got three days free. So six days for the three-day price saved us some money. But they change their special offers every now and again so it isn't guaranteed to stick around."
Editor's note: According to Mousesavers.com, an insider Disney information website, Undercover Tourist is a legitimate ticket broker.
You did the math for your own Escape Under $500
M.L. booked her trip for $467 per person, and left some wiggle room for a car rental:
"We just booked our flight plans with Allegiant Air—they show[ed] a Saturday-to-Saturday flight for under $200, plus fees and taxes. We also booked at the Floridays Resort through Hotels.com [with] a "stay-five-nights-get-two-nights-free" early booking special. [The] total with tax [for] seven nights = $1,068 (which includes free shuttle service to the parks) ... Presently, for a family of four, we are at $467 [total] each. This leaves us $33 times four [people] for a rental car—which is pushing it—but I believe it can be done."
J.C. puts us all to shame with a complete vacation for $183 per person:
"Sky Auction and Skybus Airlines are two great ways to save on your Disney trip. A few months back, Sky Auction was selling resort certificates for $199 plus a $15 fee. For this I was able to book a two-bedroom at Silver Lake Resort, which is less than five minutes from Disney's Animal Kingdom. I then lucked out and was able to purchase $20 round-trip tickets, plus taxes, [from] Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to St. Augustine, Florida, on Skybus. You have to be fast when their schedule opens, [because the] first 10 seats on each flight go for $10. Now, they do charge $10 to check bags, so our two bags will cost us another $40. [A] rental car in St. Augustine is higher than Orlando, [and] I'm paying $200. [The] trip is for three people, [and the] total cost of lodging, air, and car rental is $549, divided by three [to get] $183 per person. Add in the cost of a six-day Disney ticket, and we are well under $500 per person. Granted this is a rare exception, but my wife, daughter, and I are taking this trip in May."
Sometimes insiders—people like you who know a destination inside and out—have the best travel-planning strategies. To keep the good ideas flowing, please continue to email me your favorite money-saving tips for Orlando and Disney World. Your fellow travelers are always looking for help, and I'm more than happy to spread the word.
(Editor's Note: SmarterTravel.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Hotels.com.)
All prices and booking details are based on reader submissions. Some information may have changed since the time of submission.