It’s the most magical glow.
It’s a particular warmth you feel after returning from a Walt Disney World or Disneyland vacation, led by the intense desire to do it all over again. In fact, immediately upon returning from a visit to the most magical place on earth, I begin planning our next vacation! And since we returned from Disneyland Resort just two weeks ago, you can guess what’s currently taking up my time – yep, consulting calendars for 2016’s epic adventure.
Addicted? I like to think I’m converted. Because now, I prefer to only vacation at world class resorts with world class theme parks. What’s wrong with that? You only live once!
Of course, one of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked since I announced our getaway is:
“How can I afford a Disney vacation with the falling Canadian dollar?”
To all those who’ve emailed or messaged me, thanks for your interest! The truth is, my Visa statement was indeed impacted by the weaker dollar; I’m not going to sugarcoat it. You need to plan ahead for increased prices. However, has that stopped me from wanting to do it all over again? NEVER! Because I have a great handle on how to stretch a weak dollar for an incredible Disney vacation. And today, I’m happy to share my best tips with you!
1. Book your vacation with a Canadian travel agent or leisure tour operator. The very best thing you can do when planning a Disney vacation is have a realistic expectation of what you will be spending. Of course there’s the option to book on your own, but all prices (online and via phone) will be quoted in US dollars, which will be understated based on the current Canadian dollar. When booking with a Canadian travel agent, or leisure tour operator such as Sunwing, you’ll have the benefit of budgeting with Canadian prices for everything from hotel to theme park tickets (and even food, if you opt for the Disney Dining Plan). And, when combined with special offers and discounts for Walt Disney World or Disneyland, you’ll be amazed at just how affordable it can be!
2. Visit the resorts during the off-season. Walt Disney World has already announced savings of up to 25% off resort hotels from January 2 through April 13, 2016; similarly, Disneyland just posted special rates on stays Sunday through Thursday nights from October 25, 2015 through December 17, 2015. Take advantage of these seasonal offers! Not only will you save money, you’ll also beat the crowds – which means you can experience more of the theme parks, giving you better value for the price. Off-season is my favourite time to enjoy a Disney vacation.
3. Purchase a Disney Dining Plan. After returning from our recent vacation, there’s no doubt about it: food costs add up. Walt Disney World offers a unique way to offset this expenditure with the Disney Dining Plan. For each night of your stay, each guest on your reservation receives an allotment of quick service meals, table service (sit-down) meals and snacks, the number of which is dependent on the specific plan you choose. This allows you to budget for food costs at the beginning of your vacation versus sorting through receipts and the end – or worse, being caught off-guard with food prices mid-vacay. Plus, you can budget your calories wisely, as guests on the Dining Plan are less likely to succumb to mid-meal cravings (tip: bring your own healthy snacks!).
4. Consider your transportation options. If you’ve decided to book flights separately from your stay, it’s no surprise that high prices can negatively impact a vacation, especially if you’re at the mercy of travelling during a peak period. In keeping with our theme of visiting the resorts during off-season, you’ll also be able to take advantage of lower flight costs. In fact, for those in the Greater Toronto Area, if you are considering a 7-day Walt Disney World vacation from January 13-20, 2016, you can find round trip airfare out of Buffalo for just $255 Canadian per person via JetBlue! (Price reflects a rate of $99 USD per way, found at 6:00 PM on October 12, 2015.) If you are flying out of a major Canadian city, WestJet regularly offers seat sales that can make flights both affordable and conveniently close to home.
If you are a family of 4+, driving may be a better alternative! Take a scenic drive down the Pacific Coast to Disneyland, or pile into the minivan like so many Ontario folks do when travelling to Orlando. Forgoing expensive flights can conceivably shave a thousand dollars (or more) off your Disney vacation costs.
5. Divide and conquer your souvenir spending. It’s part of any vacation experience, so I wouldn’t recommend doing away with souvenirs completely. However, those who know me know that I would never give in to my boys’ incessant demands for toys, toys, and more toys. So, how do I manage their expectations? Here’s what I do:
a) I let the boys know at the very beginning of our vacation that souvenirs will be purchased on the last day, and the last day ONLY. This neutralizes their disappointment and prevents me from dealing with multiple breakdowns (because, if you know Disney Parks, you know you’ll exit through the souvenir shop after every ride). As we exit, I whip out my smartphone and take pictures of the toy(s) that they have their heart set on. It’s better than simply saying “no”, as the action of taking a picture shows the boys that I am actively listening to their wishes (I’m just not giving in to them). Then, on the last day, we go through the photos together and select the toys that fit our spending budget (usually 2-3 per child, per vacation). It’s a system I always employ, and it always works!
b) I pre-purchase small “souvenirs” from The Disney Store or other retailers that sell official Disney merchandise. Then, I pack them in my suitcase and reward the boys nightly for good behaviour in the parks. These small Disney trinkets (diecast Cars, stuffies or clothing) allow me to forgo more pricey spending in the parks, and the boys don’t mind leaving the souvenir shop if they know something is waiting for them back at the hotel.
6. Assign a value to the perks of staying on-resort. I’m often asked if the benefits of staying on-resort truly do offset the savings of staying elsewhere. The trick is to assign a value to those perks, and you’ll soon find that you can actually save money!
– When staying at a resort hotel, you can take advantage of FREE Magical Express transportation to/ from the airport.
– Since all Disney resort hotels have family-friendly pools, dining options and amenities, you can rest assured that if you choose to take a day off from the parks, you can still have a great vacation day without spending a dime on entertainment.
– Staying on-resort gives you access to Extra Magic Hours, further extending the value of your park ticket. Plus, with the convenience of returning to your resort hotel for a mid-day break, you’re more likely to return to the park fresh and ready to experience the magic into the later hours of night.
I hope you’ve found my tips for stretching a weak dollar helpful! Remember, October – April (except the holidays, of course) is considered off-season for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, so it’s a great time to book your vacation! If you have any questions about planning, saving or spending, I’m always happy to help!