Money Matters

TouringPlans and MouseSavers Discounts

by on July 1, 2017

We are so happy to announce today that MouseSavers, a site that’s been saving Disney visitors money since 2001, is now the exclusive source for third party discounts on TouringPlans subscriptions. TouringPlans and MouseSavers share a common goal – helping you make the smartest decisions on how to spend your vacation time and money. Partnering with MouseSavers gives TouringPlans more time to focus on creating tools, like our Dining Reservation Finder and Room View Finder, to help you plan great trips in less time.

Readers will find links on MouseSavers and in their newsletters to special purchase pages for the discounted subscriptions.

The fine print:

  • If you’re renewing, you’ll receive the renewal price or the discounted price, whichever is lowest.
  • There is still a discount if you own a current edition of the Unofficial Guide. Again, you’ll get the lowest price.
  • If you’re looking for even better than discounted, how about free? Some travel agents offer free subscriptions to TouringPlans with qualified bookings. If yours doesn’t, why not ask about it?

Do you have more questions about how to save money on your trips? Ask in the comments – we’re always looking for new topics to cover.

Ask It: How Much Do You Spend on Souvenirs?

by on May 24, 2017

How much do you spend on souvenirs at Walt Disney World?

When planning a budget for a Disney vacation, it is fairly easy to get a good ballpark estimate for hotel costs, transportation, meals, and tickets. But when it comes to souvenirs, it can be tricky to know exactly how much to budget. Some people stick to a firm idea of how much they plan to spend, and others are a bit more fast and loose with the purse-strings, depending on what they see that they like. So this week, we’re curious about your spending habits when it comes to the souvenirs that we love to fill our suitcases with.

How much per person, per week do you spend on souvenirs for a Disney vacation?

  • $51-$100 (33%, 276 Votes)
  • $0-$50 (31%, 262 Votes)
  • $101-$200 (19%, 161 Votes)
  • More than $201 (17%, 146 Votes)

Total Voters: 845

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Voting is open here and on Twitter, and we’ll have the results next week. Feel free to share your souvenir budgeting tips in the comments. Have you ever bought something that you regretted later on? Ever skipped buying a souvenir and wishing you could go back in time to get it? Let us know!

Pro Tips – Things You Shouldn’t Pay For at Walt Disney World

by on March 15, 2017

save money at Disney by avoiding these common purchases

A few days ago Tammy Whiting wrote a great article about Things You Shouldn’t Pay for on a Disney Cruise. Today I take that idea and apply it to Walt Disney World! Here are some purchases to avoid to save money at Disney.

Some of you might think, “Hey Claire, everything is expensive at the Disney parks! You just have to deal with it!” I agree with your statement, but there are always things that are just a little too ridiculous, or a little too much like a nickel-and-dime scheme, or WAY too expensive to warrant even being put on the shelf or promoted by the company!

So if you’re trying to afford that great Disney vacation and are thinking of ways to reduce the overall budget, here are some things you can definitely ignore:

Save Money at Disney – Don’t Fall for Preferred Parking

Walt Disney World’s parking is huge and sprawling. They have always accomodated the early riser and the late arriver by shuttling people with their tram system to roughly the spot where their vehicle is located. If you are close enough to the entrance, you can just hoof it to the security checkpoint.

save money at Disney - don't pay for preferred parking

A rental car minus a Disney resort = extra cash for parking. Photo – Claire Nat

Disney’s commuting guests have grown accustomed to this arrangement. However, one year ago Disney decided to provide an up charge by giving guests really, really great parking spaces for just $20 more!

I need to remind you that parking for a Disney park in Florida is already $20, so if you want the best spot in the Mouse House you have to double your parking payment. $40 paid for the day and you haven’t even made it to the entrance yet!

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Pro Tips – 10 Things You Shouldn’t Pay For on a Disney Cruise

by on March 10, 2017

10 things you shouldn't pay for on a Disney Cruise

How about a blog post on saving money?  Everyone likes to save money right?  I mean, you’ve spent a lot of money on your Disney cruise, do you need to spend a lot more onboard?  You don’t!  I always say once you are onboard, assuming you’ve prepaid your gratuities, you don’t have to spend another penny to have a great time.  You could spend another penny!  You could spend a lot of pennies in fact, see my post on plussing your Disney cruise for examples of how.  But you don’t have to!  So here are 10 things you can skip.

1. Soda/Coke/Pop – Don’t pay for soda! Don’t you know that Disney is just about the only line out there with free soda, day and night? Well it is!  There is always free soda in the drink machines on the pool deck, and in all of the dining rooms.  I just spent $70 for a week’s worth of unlimited soda on Royal Caribbean and it pained me greatly!  So don’t buy it anywhere!  That’s just silly.  Not from a bar, not outside the movie theater, not from room service.  Don’t do it.  Wouldn’t be prudent.

2. Room Service – Let’s be clear, the vast majority of room service is 100% free. There are some packaged snacks like M&M’s, nuts and popcorn that will cost a few dollars. There are also some soda (see number 1) and alcohol options that cost money.  But why?  Why would you spend money on food from room service when there are great free options right there!  Good free options!  Cheese platter, buffalo wings, French fries, steak sandwich, cake of the day!  Mickey bars!  You really don’t ever need to leave your room if you think about it. Don’t forget to tip the person that brings it to you though!

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Flying Frontier Airlines to Walt Disney World

by on February 23, 2017

Flying Frontier to Walt Disney World

As I live a considerable distance from Walt Disney World, flying is my preferred method of travel in order to maximize my vacation time. But as many of you fellow travelers may know, flying can be almost as expensive as your actual vacation!

A few years ago, I looked into economy airlines in order to work more flexibility into my Disney World Vacation budget; and after my first roundtrip flight to Orlando International Airport with Frontier Airlines, I’ve flown with them pretty much ever since. Here’s what to expect when flying with Frontier Airlines and why I fly with them to Walt Disney World!

Schedule

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A Guide to Souvenir Mugs at Disney

by on February 15, 2017

In recent years it has become an unwritten rule that whenever a new restaurant opens at Walt Disney World a souvenir mug must be created for purchase. This also seems to go for new shows and attractions. The amount of souvenirs all throughout Walt Disney World is staggering. Disney souvenir mugs are a great way to have a practical souvenir that you’re sure to use once you are back home.

Let’s take a look at all the different souvenir mugs available through Walt Disney World. You can decide which ones you must have and plan room in your budget for these little treasures, and make sure to fit obtaining them into your schedule.

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Ask It: Inexpensive Activities at Walt Disney World

by on February 8, 2017

Ask It. Best Inexpensive activity at Walt Disney World

It’s Wednesday, and time for another Ask It!

Last week, we asked you:

Which inexpensive activity is worth the time and money during your vacation?

This poll was our closest one yet!  With more than 600 votes cast, the final results were (in order from least to greatest):

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! December 2016 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on December 31, 2016

Welcome to the latest edition of The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! the longest running monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando.

Can you believe 2016 is already over? Think about where we were a year ago at this time. There was no such thing as tiered ticket pricing, there were no cabanas in the Magic Kingdom, Tom Staggs was still with Disney, and we were all waiting for Rivers of Light to debut in Animal Kingdom. Well, at least some things never change.

I want to say up from that this month’s edition of the Outlet Report is a slightly shortened, and the reason for that is during December the Disney Outlet Stores become busier than the Magic Kingdom on a phased closure day. It’s just not fun. Both of us managed a trip in, but ran out screaming in short order. Now, I was going to make Outlet Intern Julia Mascardo go back on Christmas Eve in order to get a first hand report of the carnage, but Head Honcho Len Testa told me that would break several treaties in the Geneva Convention. First they take away water boarding and now this… maybe this generation has gone soft after all.

However, there is no rest for the wicked, and since December is my favorite month of all, I personally had a lot of fun outside of the Outlets. Myself and TouringPlans TV’s own Brian McNichols put out a new episode of the critically acclaimed Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast. While over on Twitter I did a 25 day unveiling of the Theme Park Blogger Advent Calendar as well as drawing many Derek Doodles for a good cause.

Now, what did Julia and I find when we did briefly step into Mordor the Disney Outlet Stores? Let’s check it out!

First up was a good one. You’ll remember last month I pulled my hair out seeing a May the 4th Be With You R2 droid at the Outlets that I had picked up earlier in the year at full price in Disney Springs. Well, this month brought the special Halloween figure, R2-BOO, which I did not buy at the stores. Jackpot! Originally $12.99, reduced to $4.99.

R2-BOO. (photo by Julia Mascardo)

In 2015 Disney went all in on hand sanitzers, creating a whole bunch of them. Each one holds 1 0z of hand sanitizer, which is just about the amount you will need if your kid wipes his hand on that “honey wall” in the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh queue. This year brought even more designs. The bottles originally were $8.85 each, but these were reduced to just 99cents. Picked one up at that price. For $9 I’ll take my chances with the germs.

Mickey Hand Sanitizer

More Disney Infinity stuff hit the Outlets. Disney stopping the entire system cold earlier this year was a shocker, and even made the special SATURDAY SIX: IN MEMORIAM article for this year. Here is Mulan, and even more unbelievably, the character “Time” from the Alice Through the Looking Glass movie. Maybe this line needed to be put out of its misery after all. Originally $13.99, reduced to $6.99.

Disney Infinity.

Also appearing were Disney Infinity Power Discs that were originally $9.99, now $4.99. Now I have picked up some of the Disney Infinity figures, even though I have never played the game, because I absolutely adore that cartoonish art style throughout the line. It’s like an awesome shared Universe line-up that has everything from The Incredibles to Pirates of the Caribbean to iconic Disney parks characters. Basically it’s like if Marvel Studios worked with Warner Bros to make an Avengers/Justice League film. Anyway, I was going to take a jab  at why anyone would buy these power discs, but they seem to be almost the exact same shape and size of the ridiculous “pogs” I grew up with and bought way too many of.

Disney Infinity Power Discs (photo by Julia Mascardo)

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Boxing Day Special – Everything Free at Disney World

by on December 26, 2016

Here’s some holiday leftovers for you today – a favorite topic from earlier this year, Free Disney stuff you can get during your vacation. 

Free and Disney are not words that you typically think of as belonging in the same sentence, but there are indeed a number of items and experiences, both large and small, that can be had for free during your Disney World vacation. Here’s a comprehensive list of everything we could find that you can get free at Walt Disney World (although park admission is required for some). Happy savings!

FOOD and DRINK

  • Baked goods or candy samples. The Main Street Confectionery often has cast member walking around with a tray full of samples for guest to try. I’ve tasted Krispie treats, cookies, bits of cake, and even cotton candy. Plus, there is almost always a tray of fudge samples sitting on top of the main display case. You won’t be able to fill up here like you might at your local Costco, but if you’re looking for just a bit of sweet to satisfy your palate after your meal, the Confectionery is the place for you.
Sample treats at the Magic Kingdom Confectionary

Sample treats at the Magic Kingdom Confectionary

  • Soda. Stop by Club Cool at Epcot and drink your fill of eight flavors of Coke products from around the world. These range from the bubblegum sweet Peruvian Inca Kola to the, in my opinion, totally yummy, Beverly from Italy. The Club Cool drink stations are supplied with tasting-size cups, but you’re welcome to stay and taste as much as you want for as long as you want.
  • Water. The water bottles sold throughout the parks cost $2.50 (or more) each. If you want to hydrate for free, simply walk up to any counter service restaurant and ask for a cup of ice water. They’ll hand it over at no charge. Add a lid and a straw to your cup, and you’ve got almost the same level of portability as a bottle.
  • Ice. When answering questions for the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, I have often seen questions from international guests asking if ice is available at the Disney hotels and how much it costs. They can rest assured that there are free ice machines at all the Walt Disney World resorts.
  • Meals for infants and toddlers. Children under the age of three will not be charged for food at Disney’s buffet and family-style table service restaurants when dining with their families.
  • Dining. Disney often uses free dining plan offers as lure to entice guests to visit during historically low-crowd times. If this year follows the typical pattern, it will be fairly easy to travel to Walt Disney World and receive free dining from mid-August through early October. However, there is a definite caveat emptor with this. Depending on your eating habits and where you stay, free dining might end up costing you. Tom Bricker’s wrote an excellent analysis of whether free dining really makes sense. The numbers are a bit dated now, but the principal still applies.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE the Walt Disney World SWAN and DOLPHIN

by on November 19, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE the Walt Disney World SWAN and DOLPHIN. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century and Art of Animation), Moderate (Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs), and Deluxe (The Poly and The Contemporary). Three of the Deluxe resorts are not run by Disney, these include Shades of Green (owned and operated by the US Armed Forces) and the Swan and Dolphin. For over 25 years the Swan and Dolphin has been a part of the Starwood chain of resorts. While Starwood was bought by Marriott in September of this year, the hotels continue to be run under their respective brands (Swan being part of Westin, while the Dolphin part of Sheraton.)

swan_logo

Walt Disney World Swan.

Both the Swan and Dolphin are considered Disney Deluxe Resorts. While neither hotel offers the Disney Magical Express to and from the airport, or participates in the Disney Dining Plan, guests do get the normal WDW on-site ammenities including Extra Magic Hours, Disney transportation, and early access to Fast Pass+. How do the Swan and Dolphin stack up compared to the other on-site resorts?  Well, today we are going to check out our favorite parts of these two incredible hotels, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 –  Todd English’s bluezoo

One of the most underrated restaurants on Disney property is Todd English’s bluezoo located on the ground floor of the Dolphin. The bar area is visually stunning, and sets up the unique food and drink menu perfectly. Recently we did a tongue in cheek look at a Disney Value Resort Bar Crawl, but one thing that stood out at those bars – along with many others on Disney property – is a reliance on the standard Disney bar menu. Todd English’s bluezoo is the complete opposite of that. Whether you get a Burnt Orange that arrives on fire or a Swedish Fish with its infused foam, the drinks served at bluezoo are served with creativity and flair.

The dining room of bluezoo is deceptively large. While the menu is filled with some great items (especially if you’re a seafood fan,) what shocked us was the crispy Asian pork ribs. I didn’t think anyone would come close to touching the quality of Morimoto Asia’s Hoisin sticky spare ribs, but bluezoo’s are somehow better. While many probably wouldn’t think of bluezoo as the first choice to bring your kids, there is actually a part of the menu for kid’s appetizers, entrees, and desserts. The whimsicly named “desserted island” is among the most fun at WDW.

swan_bluezoo_smoke

Smoking Red Sangria. (photo by Brandon Glover)

bluezoo_burtorange_glover

Burnt Orange – “herradura blanco infused with brûléed orange and muddled with agave nectar, grand marnier, and orange juice. topped with a flaming orange.” (photo by Brandon Glover)

swan_bluezoo_ribs

Crispy Asian pork ribs. (photo by  Brandon Glover)

swan_bluezoo_dessertedisland

Desserted Island. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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