If you are considering a Disneyworld vacation, be prepared to spend a good bit of time researching and comparing options. Some packages of hotel and air are excellent, but may not suit your needs. There may be time restraints, or offerings that you won’t be using, or options that you want but aren’t included. Furthermore, packages, being based on a per person occupancy, may be more expensive than a couple traveling with a older child, since room rates are usually one price for either 2 or 3 people. It all depends on how long you will be staying, what your preferences are, just how many days you’ll be visiting the parks, and whether you’ll want to “hop” between the parks throughout the day.
Start by pricing out an independent trip, beginning with the major airlines directly, and then comparing flight prices to discounters. (They may be no significant difference.) From the east coast, expect to pay at least $200. Research may even uncover non-stop flights that will get you there in about 2 hours, since several airlines service Orlando.
As far as lodging, there are two options: staying at a Disney resort, and not staying at one. If you’ve never been to Disneyworld, and you only have 3-5 days, it’s best to keep it simple and focus on the theme parks instead of trying to do water parks and other attractions where you’ll need a rental car. One park may easily use up an entire day, and Disney has 4, plus resort attractions and Disney Village. If this is how you’ll spend your vacation, there is no reason to spend extra money for a rental car to sit in a hotel garage. There is plenty of airport transportation to and from Disney resorts on free shuttle buses. The question for most families is whether it’s worth the higher price to stay at a resort, when countless chain hotels and motels line roads around Disney World. Again, it depends on your individual situation, especially if you’ll be traveling with younger children.
Disney resort accommodations are great for an early start to the day. With restaurants and coffee shops in every hotel, and buses, boats and monorails to parks, it’s possible to get a family to Epcot by 9 AM-or even before, on days when a park is open earlier. This may be more difficult if you’re staying off-premises, since you’ll have to find a place to eat, then drive to the park and spend 30 minutes parking, catching the parking tram, walking to the entrance, and waiting in line to get in. (If you don’t already have your tickets, you’ll need to wait in another line as well.)
On the other hand, a family may spend $50 a night in an inexpensive motel instead of $120 a night at a budget-level Disney resort. After adding the cost of parking and the rental car, then subtracting the less expensive dining outside of Disney World, it may come out even. The deciding factor may be how fussy the kids are. It’s a hassle driving to and from the park on a daily basis with excited kids, and it is nice to be able to go back to the room for a couple of hours in the middle of a day to let little ones lay down for a short nap or a take a swim. The resorts also offer extras such as baggage handling (from your departing airport right to your room), shorter lines for rides, and other guest courtesies.
The last step is to then check out the park ticket prices and decide how, and when, your group wants to visit the parks. (Disney’s website has all the details, and after getting ticket prices, you can check with discounters, which may save a few dollars per ticket.) To ensure your estimates aren’t low, be sure to add at least another $30 per day, per adult for park food, and a little less per child-depending on age. (Since portions are often large, 2 young kids can usually share meals.)
Finally, compare your total airfare, room and ticket costs with Disney packages to find the best option for the vacation you want.