Disney Disney World review travel Uncategorized

Complete Guide to Booking a Disney World Vacation

First things first, you can’t just swing by on your way home from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. You are talking about a 12 hour drive down south. Kinda tough if you live up in the Northeast.

Secondly you need to have at least a week there. Ten days is better. So much better. Of course you could just do a day at Magic Kingdom. But there is so much you will miss and wish you were able to see.

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With that out of the way, we are going to take a look at what it takes to plan a Walt Disney World vacation. Should you stay “on site” or “off site”? How about getting the dining plan? Is the Photopass worth it? Last but not least should you fly or drive?

On site vs Off Site

I have stayed off site (Days Inn, Hilton, Rentals) and have stayed on site. I will always recommend staying on Disney Property. It may cost you a little more but the added benefits definitely are worth the additional cost. Let’s break it down and do the math. See table one for an easy visual guide.

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A 7 day stay from Wednesday August 14th to Tuesday August 20:

At Disney’s All Star Music Resort you are looking at an average of $142 per night. Tack on a 6 day park hopper pass (1 Adult, 1 child under 10) and it comes out to $2062.13. It would be $1891.73 without the park hopper. A difference of $170.40 for the 2 tickets.

If you add the quick service meal plan on that package it will run you $2519.79. If you add the table serve meal plan that will cost you an additional $163.14 for a total of $2682.93. I won’t even go over the deluxe meal plan ($3020.51).

If you drive, parking is now going to cost you to park at the hotel. For All Star Music that will be $13 per night for a total of $78. I guess they must be running out of room.

Now if you book a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Orlando at SeaWorld it will cost you on average per night $76 for a total for the week of $454. Check out the links below for Hotels.com. I always book my hotels through them and I like that I can earn free stays.

Disney World Hotel Deals & Discounts

Now don’t forget to add on your 6 day park hopper ticket for 2 (1 adult, 1 child under 10) $1083.23.

Without adding food your price stands at $1537.23. Now you will also need to add the resort fee and parking. For DoubleTree by Hilton, that will run you 19.95 per night for the resort fee and $18 for self parking per night with in/out privileges. Add the additional $227.70 to your stay brings you up to  $1764.93.

So here is what we are looking at: 7 Days/6 nights at Disney’s All Star Music Resort with a 6 day park hopper pass for 2 (1 adult, 1 child) and parking comes to $2140.13.

7 days/6 nights at DoubleTree by Hilton with 6 day park hopper pass (1 adult, 1 child) and parking and resort fee comes to $1764.93.

Hotels.com: $99 or Less

Now that is a difference of $375.20. You could save that much if you stayed off site. However you lose a couple of key things. 1) You can only book your FastPass + 30 days out (See my FastPass+ guide here). 2) you will lose extra magic hours(times before or after official park opening/closing hours on-site guest can enter the park).

3) You are unable to use Disney buses, boats or gondolas (most outside hotels provide free transportation to the different theme parks and you can still use Disney buses to get from park to park). 4) Depending on where you stay you are further away and it will take more time to get there. 5) You cannot get the Disney Dining Plan.

Check out the Table below where I give you a couple of hotels and what it will cost you. If you are planning on staying in an off-site hotel you should check out Hotels.com. They have always have great deals and specials going on all the time.

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Table 1

HotelTicketsQs mealTable mealResort feeParkingtotal
All Star Music$976.12$1086.01$457.66 $78$2597.79
All Star Music $620.80 $78$2760.93
DoubleTree **$454.00$1083.23 $119.70$108$1764.93
All Star Music$976.12$1086.01 $78$2140.13
Residence Inn *$704.00$1083.23 ?$0$1787.23

*Residence Inn by Marriott Near Universal Orlando

**DoubleTree by Hilton in Orlando at Seaworld

Check out these reviews on a couple of hotels near Disney if considering staying off site. The Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld and Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista at Disney Springs.

Is the Dining Plan Worth it?

To me the quick service plan (2 quick service meals plus 2 snacks per day) is worth it. The table service plan (1 quick service, 1 table service, 2 snacks per day) really depends on your family. The deluxe dining plan (3 meals, 2 snacks per day) is NOT worth it unless you plan on doing a lot of table service restaurants.

Your Orlando Vacation Starts Here!

For the example I give above the quick service dining plan(Table 2) will cost you an additional $457.66 for your stay at All Star Music. Or $65.38 per day for 1 adult and 1 child. That’s only $32.69 per person if you just divide by 2. If the two of you would eat at Be Our Guest (Beast Castle) for breakfast each day you almost covered your cost for that day.

The Disney Dining Plan (table service plan)(Table 3) totals $620.80 for this trip which is $88.68 a day or $44.34 per person if you just divide it in half. Again eating at Be Our Guest for breakfast everyday and having a steak at dinner will cover the cost.

Let’s just assume you are not eating breakfast everyday at Be Our Guest. Let’s start of with a giant cinnamon roll at Gaston’s Tavern for $5.29 and 1 snack credit. It is big enough to share. For lunch head over to Columbia Harbour House at you get the Trio Platter ($13.99) for yourself and Chicken nuggets and fish ($7.69) for your child. They get a Nesquik chocolate milk ($3.79) and you get a soft drink ($3.99).

For lunch you just spend $29.46 and used 2 quick service credits. You still have 3 snacks left for the day and 2 quick service credits and spent $34.75 towards your $65.38 daily budget. For diner you head to Pecos Bill Tall Tell Inn and get the Fajita Platter (14.99) and your child gets the Mac and Cheese ($6.99) because they are picky. You both get soft drinks ($3.99 each) and you split mini churros ($5.89).

Hotels.com: $99 or Less

For dinner you used up your last two quick service for the day and used up another snack credit leaving you with 2 snack credits remaining for the day. Total cost of this meal is  $35.85 and brings your total for the day to $70.60. You end up using your last two snack credits for the day at Sunshine Tree Terrace and get one soft serve Ice Cream ($4.49) and one citrus swirl float ($5.79). Total cost of $10.28. You have now used up all your meal credits for the day and spent a total of $80.88. That is a difference of $15.50.

You would end up spending approximately $108.50 more if you were staying off site and paying out of pocket. I didn’t end up selecting the most expensive item on at either place and am still saving money on the cost of the dining plan.  

Below is a simple break down of the total money you could spend at Disney if using or not using the dining plan. Table 2 is the quick service meal plan. It covers 3 days. One day at Magic Kingdom, One day at EPCOT and one day at Animal Kingdom.

Table 3 is a simple break down of the Disney dining plan. Again it covers one day at Magic Kingdom, one day at EPCOT, and one day at Animal Kingdom. I didn’t select the most expansive item at each place but I wasn’t grabbing the cheapest either.

Boulangerie Patisserie Les Halles, EPCOT, Disney World, Orland, FL, Theme Park, WDW,

Table 2

Quick service 1Quick service 2Snack 1Snack 2Total
Adult (1)$17.98$18.98$5.89$5.79$48.64
Child (1)$11.48$10.98$5.29$4.49$32.24
Adult (2)$13.48$17.19$4.75$6.99$42.41
Child (2)$15.48$12.19$5.75$6.00$39.42
Adult (3)$22.98$17.98$6.99$4.39$52.34
Child (3)$11.98$13.48$6.99$4.59$37.04

Day 1 Magic Kingdom (Gaston’s Tavern (S1), Pecos Bill Tall Tell Inn (QS2, S1)), Columbia Harbour House (QS1), SunShine Tree Terrace (S2).

Day 2 EPCOT (Boulangerie Patisserie Les Halles (S1), Kringla Bakeri (QS1), Yorkshire County Fish Shop (QS1), Refreshment port (S2), La Cantina De San Angel (QS2), Crepes De Chefs (S2)

Day 3 Animal Kingdom (Flame Tree BBQ (QS1,S1),  Satu’li Canteen (QS2), Restaurantosaurus (QS2), Dino Bite Snacks (S1), Zuri’s Sweet Shop (S2)

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Table 3

Quick ServiceTable ServiceSnack 1Snack 2Total
Adult (1)$17.98$47.53$5.00$5.79$76.30
Child  (1)$11.48$27.23$5.29$4.49$48.49
Adult (2)$13.48$53.50$4.75$6.99$78.72
Child  (2)$15.48$11.00$5.75$6.00$38.23
Adult (3)$22.98$29.99$6.99$4.39$64.35
Child  (3)$11.98$17.99$6.99$4.59$41.54

Day 1 Magic Kingdom (Gaston’s Tavern (S1), Chef Mickey’s Dinner (TB), Columbia Harbour House (QS), SunShine Tree Terrace (S2), Storybook Circus Snacks (S1)

Day 2 EPCOT (Boulangerie Patisserie Les Halles (S1), Kringla Bakeri (QS1), Yorkshire County Fish Shop (QS1), Refreshment port (S2), Coral Reef (TB), Crepes De Chefs (S2)

Day 3 Animal Kingdom (Flame Tree BBQ (QS1,S1), Tusker House Breakfast (TB), Dino Bite Snacks (S1), Zuri’s Sweet Shop (S2)

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I have found the Dining Plan worth it for my family. It is one expense that we do not need to worry about. The food was all ready purchased before we came to the park. Just be sure to use up all of your entitlements and don’t convert any of your meals to snack credits.

Don’t forget if you choose not to select the dining plan or you are staying off site you can always order from Amazon fresh. For me information on the three Disney Dining Plans check out this complete break down of all three plans.

Is the Disney PhotoPass worth it?

For me the PhotoPass is most definitely worth it. If you are as old as me or older you can probably look and see a ton of photos of just you and your siblings with either your mom or dad. Not both cause the  other one was behind the camera taking the photo. To me having the PhotoPass is worth it just for that reason alone.

Now I know, I know you have a cell phone that takes great pictures and you can use selfie mode. While you can get some great photos with your child(ren) like that. Nothing beats getting one with a PhotoPass photographer. Plus if you have the PhotoPass option you can get “Magic” shots and ride photos and videos included in the price. Just be sure to get it linked to your tickets before you get there. It cost more if you add it while you are there and it takes about 3 days to go into effect.  

Fly or Drive?

This one again comes on down to you. If you are flying, it is best to stay on Disney property. They offer “free” transportation from MCO to your Disney World Resort. Plus you have all the different options at your resort to get to the many theme parks and to Disney Springs.

If you stay off site you will need to find your own way to your hotel if you fly. Beside how long it takes to get the free hotel shuttle to the theme parks and you need to make sure you make it back for the return trip.

To sum it all up while it may cost you more to stay on Disney property but you also get a lot of benefits like booking FastPass + 60 days in advance, being able to purchase the dining plan. Transportation from your resort to the parks including the soon to open gondolas. Also being in the “Disney bubble”. Off-site hotels don’t offer you that. Be sure to also check out our guide on the Park Hopper.

Did you find this guide helpful? Is there anything you would of added? Let me know in the comments below. I look forward to see what you have to add. Remember to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest at KozmoPhotos. It will help you stay up to day with all the latest post and photos.


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