Before I even start typing this post, I bet there are many of you out there who know exactly what I’m talking about. My son just turned 10 years old this past December, and all of a sudden, Disney considers him an adult. It poses a lot of difficulties for us, considering that he still behaves like at 10 year old. I’d love it if he could go out and find work to help pay for these new found adult bills; but sadly, that’s frowned upon. So, what are these challenges and how do we deal with them?
Dining – This is where it hits us the worst. Under the 3-9 year old plan, my son could join us for meals at Crystal Palace or ‘Ohana for a child’s price, between $13.99-$17.99 depending on the meal or time of year. Sure, that’s unreasonable by normal standards, but for a fine buffet meal at Walt Disney World, it’s not terrible. As I’ve written before, when you’re on the Disney Dining Plan and only paying that amount for the Table Service meal and getting a “free” Counter Service meal, it’s a great bargain.
Now, however, taking my son to buffets is expensive, and it’s hard for him to get enough to eat off the kids’ menus at other Table Service restaurants. That takes our dining costs up significantly, if you figure in one Table Service and two Counter Service meals per day. It comes out to an average increase in price of $30 per day. That adds up over the course of a vacation.
The way we’ve so far managed to get around it is twofold: finding less expensive restaurants and sharing portions. Places like Trail’s End charge lower prices than other buffets but still allow the growing boy to eat whatever he’d like. Our favorite new Table Service meal is the Plaza Restaurant on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, where we can get him a sandwich, drink, and side item for under $15. Also, with three of us now eating off the adult menu, the portions are usually large enough where my wife and I can order full size meals, then share with him. If we order a lesser priced appetizer to share, there’s more than enough food to go around.
Tickets – With recent price increases, there is less of a discrepancy between adult and child tickets, but it is still there. Magic Your Way tickets cost between $10-$20 more for 10 year old adults than they do for 3-9 year old children. Again, in the grand scheme of things with a Walt Disney World vacation, that’s not a ton. But add it to the dining difference and you’re talking about a significant price increase.
There’s really no way around this one except to try and look very carefully at how you plan your trips. We have long been advocates of the Least Expensive Ticket Calculator on TouringPlans.com, even before I started writing for the site. It helps you figure out how to get the most amount of days for the least amount of money. I won’t lie, we have created spreadsheets and color coded charts to figure out the maximum number of days we could afford. You have to do things like that with the new ticket system. The burden is now on the consumer to figure out the best ways to save money, unless you have a good travel agent who is willing to walk through it with you.
Hotel Rooms – What’s the problem? I can hear you asking now. You just get a normal Value resort room, put the 10 year old with his younger sister in a bed and life is good, right? If you think this, you don’t have a persnickety 10 year old or an equally persnickety 6 year old girl. While both are excellent children, if we put them in a bed together at this age, neither of them sleep well, which leads to some rather long and interesting days in the parks. The biggest issue is finding a hotel room where they can sleep in separate beds without breaking the bank.
On Disney property, this task is nearly impossible. For a family used to spending our days at Pop Century, the price of two rooms at Pop just for the kids to have separate beds is pretty unthinkable. That is the cheapest option, however. Look at the family suites at the new Art of Animation Resort: these rooms range from $248-$435 for a night. $248 isn’t terrible, but at that same time, two rooms at Pop would cost $188. Is it worth the extra $60? Maybe, if there’s no way to get two connecting rooms.
Other options don’t fare much better. Look at the Fort Wilderness Cabins. They will run from $285-450 a night depending on the season. They have a great deal of room and the ability to save on food if you prepare your own meals, so it’s possible the cabins are worth it if you plan to fix meals at your room.
The best option we’ve found? Port Orleans Riverside has rooms with a trundle bed, which slides out from under one of the other beds. That way you can sleep the kids in separate beds for between $159-239 a night. On the low end of that spectrum, it’s definitely a great deal, and the amenities of the resort make up for it.
An even better option? Stay off property. Yes, that’s a sacrilege to some, especially our family that has become accustomed to the Disney property lifestyle. But two years ago, we rented a vacation rental for only $89 a night, and were able to house our family of four and my parents with both kids having separate beds. That included a hot tub in our rental as well as access to a pool. This was a great deal, and there are many of them off property.
Those are the main things we have had to deal with at Walt Disney World just because our son has turned 10. There are other issues, such as souvenirs, but that’s only because the 10 year old adult has bigger dreams than the 6 year old girl. All told, the extra cost comes up to about $120 a day, when you combine the hotel, food, and ticket price issues. We try to get around it, but it’s definitely tough.
What about you? Have any of you had to deal with this problem? How did you tackle it?