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Disney World and Disneyland Discounts, Hawaii Travel Tips, More

The Deal Detective is now sleuthing out bargains every week. Look for a new case each Thursday in’s Deal Alert newsletter.

I get a lot of requests for Disney deals, so this week I’ll take some time to talk about a new promotion running through the end of the year that applies to both the Florida and California parks.

United Vacations, the airfare-and-hotel wing of United Airlines, has put together a $100 discount of sorts for most Disney World or Disneyland vacation packages for the remainder of 2008. Use the promo code “GIFT” at checkout and travel by December 31.

The caveat? You have to stay at a qualifying hotel for four days or longer, and purchase a four-day Park Hopper pass as well. But for most travelers, I suspect, that’s not a caveat at all. You need at least four days to see all of the parks, and the Park Hopper passes are a great value. It is worth noting, however, that the $100 discount is technically a $100 Disney Gift Card, which can be used to pay for merchandise, food, parking, and other incidentals.

If I were planning a Disney vacation, I’d price out a vacation package departing from my city and use United Vacations’ price as a baseline. Then I’d check the other major online agencies and compare prices. If they’re all in the same ballpark, start guestimating your incidental costs like food and parking. Then apply the discount and do the math again.

This is likely to be a better deal for those of you who can fly from one of United’s hub cities (Chicago, for example), because the airfare component is often the most volatile part of the package price.

Good luck, and please feel free to post any other savings strategies you may have for the two Disney resorts.

Question of the Week

A reader named Sam asks, “I want to take my wife to Hawaii for our 25th wedding anniversary next May (2009) for two weeks. Our two daughters, ages 20 and 22, will accompany us. None of us have been to Hawaii before. I already have the airline tickets using my frequent flyer miles. Could you please suggest what island(s) would be best for us to visit? Also, what would be the best type of place to stay: hotel, condo, or vacation rental house? We had a great experience renting a vacation house in London last year and wonder if that would be the way to go. Thanks so much for your help.”

Sam, thanks for writing. I love all of the Hawaiian islands in their own way, but for my money there’s none better than Maui—a tropical potpourri of sand, sun, and island fun. For the active traveler, there’s snorkeling, volcano hiking, and white-knuckle cycling from the top of Haleakala. For the sightseers, try helicopter tours and one of the world’s most scenic drives. Add to that ample luau offerings, good dining, and old-fashioned beach-style relaxation, and the whole family will enjoy themselves.

I’m with you on the vacation rental idea. Unless you’re dying to stay in a resort, the spirit of Aloha really calls for the more laid-back atmosphere of a home rental. Check VBRO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) for a list of properties and prices.

Last but not least, you don’t have to settle for just one island anymore. The Hawaii Superferry can take you and your car from Maui to Oahu for a day trip or overnight excursion.

Get help with your next vacation

Let me help you plan your next trip, whatever your budget might be. Submit your request using the form below, and please remember that the more compelling (and specific) your question, the better the chance you’ll be selected for an upcoming case.

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