Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Disney Planning

A few weeks ago, I shared that I had been pre-pre-planning to take the girls to Disney World in February during school vacation week until I realized that I had messed up which week was actually their vacation week and when I discovered that their actual vacation was during a peak holiday week at Disney, I shut down the planning committee.  We need to schedule our vacations around work commitments and school.  There is some flexibility but I'd like to avoid pulling the girls out of school for vacation if at all possible.  We've done it before and it's not a big deal but there are some concerns and it's just easier if we don't.  In discussing our potential 2016 trip, Rich suggested that we extend a long weekend and plan for a shorter vacation. I was in agreement until I realized that meant we would be there during a holiday weekend.  No can do. Biggest crowds and bigger bills.

Speaking of, did you all see the articles flying around the internet earlier this week?  Disney is considering demand-pricing for park tickets "in an effort to reduce congestion and raise attendance at slower times."  Disney says that they want to see consistent attendance year round which I find interesting because many fans already argue that the "slow" times at Disney are a thing of the past.  Disney's already done a pretty good job of filling up the parks during the offseason.  I think the internet and availability of information has had a hand in that as well.  We've been during the slooooow times and if I had to deal with crowds more intense than that, I wouldn't plan a vacation there.  Do they really think they can reduce those crowds between Christmas and New Year?  Do they really want to?

FYI for planning, I typically read the (free!) predicted crowd calendars at easyWDW.  The logic behind the predictions is detailed out, which I find extremely helpful as I make my plans.

Also, MouseSavers has a TON of information but the link there should bring you to a discussion of Disney seasons.

So back to planning for 2016.  I've been looking at Disney resorts and pricing out rooms for the girls' April vacation from school.  Last week, Disney announced discounts for the beginning of 2016, through April 13th.  We would be going after this special offer ends so it looks like I need to wait a bit to see what's offered for those next few weeks of April.  I'm optimistic that the discounts will be greater than the ones out now (deluxe rooms are only at 25% off) due to the fact that the end of April into May is a slower time.

Our resort room situation is a bit different than most - we need two rooms because we have six people.  Because I'm a numbers nerd (accountants unite!), I pulled together a chart to analyze different options.  And before you ask, I basically insist on staying on Disney property.  My main reason is to limit commuting back and forth between the parks and the hotel.  I've also been brainwashed.

If we're going to go with a value resort, it has to be Art of Animation.  No real line of reasoning here other than it's the newest one.  It appears that the Little Mermaid rooms are still in high demand and excluded from the special offers for a room rate discount.  However, I wanted to include them in my analysis because without discounts, they are actually the cheapest option in the lot.  I picked the Caribbean Beach Resort, Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge because we haven't stayed there and I think it's cool to check out new places and those seem like resorts that we would like.  Based on the above analysis which applies the current 2016 special offer, I would probably choose to go with the moderate resort.  The overall cost for two rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort would be only $100 more than a suite at Art of Animation.  Note that the discounts are greater for (selected) moderates than for value resorts.

That being said, many, many stars need to align for this vacation to happen.  WORK is a huge what if right now and could blow this whole thing to smithereens.  We not only have to think about what I have going on but Rich has a meeting during school vacation week that he can't miss and no, he can't just dial in for it either.  So there's that. And then there are the discounts and special offers.  Sometimes those standard view rooms go in a blink of an eye.  Wilderness Lodge is being renovated right now and I was hoping to see a bigger discount because of that.  Not really seeing it. So, yeah, there's a lot up in the air right now.


Kate said...

We are going in a few weeks and were going to stay at WL, just for the convenience factor... We had booked before all the construction plans were announced and once they were announced, Disney offered to switch us from a standard view at WL to a savannah view at AKL for the same price.... So I'm thinking the construction is pretty major (we were told lots of noise, the playground and parts of the beach would be closed as well as some pools)..... So I'm very surprised you aren't seeing bigger discounts on rooms there. Hopefully you will soon! My daughter is an animal lover, so we are excited about AKL, but are missing the idea of being such a short boat ride away from MK that we would have been at the WL.

Bernice said...

Iwas going to inform you as Kate did that there will be a lot of construction at WL,AKL is a beautiful resorted love it,if you are lucky enough to get a Savannah view, the girls will love it,and the pool is great, I would strongly suggest trying the restaurant Sanna,and Boma's the food is amazing,the only drawback of AKL is the distance to MK and Epcot.

Renee said...

We stayed in the Cars family suite at the Art of Animation resort in August and it was really great. The suite was very roomy (there were 4 of us) and we didn't even use the murphy bed. Having two bathrooms was nice too. The dining hall there was pretty good- food court type experience but VERY SLOW for some stations, which was frustrating. We went to Publix for some groceries and ate breakfast in the room since there is a table and 4 chairs in the suite. We found the main (Nemo themed) pool to be overly crowded for our taste but the Cars pool was much better (I would assume the Little Mermaid pool is less crowded too). They did a drawing class in the lobby that my daughter really enjoyed and she is a bit younger than your girls so they would probably like it if they are at all artistic. Overall, I was very impressed with the resort. I agree that the other value resorts are probably best skipped. Art of Animation is across a lake from Pop Century which is about the ugliest looking hotel I have ever seen!

FYI, another good hotel should you ever decide to venture off property is Universal's Cabana Bay Resort. We stayed there in May and it's very retro (mid century modern) but tasteful. The rooms are less expensive but they have family suites (we got two family suites that adjoined), a bowling alley, Starbucks, great pool with a small water slide, lazy river, etc. I am usually much more of a Disney person but Universal has really stepped it up lately. My kids were too small to ride many of the rides at Islands of Adventure but they enjoyed a lot of the park.

As a Disney annual pass holder, I was disappointed to see the rates increase, especially with so much of Hollywood Studios closed. We still visited that park in August and had a great time as usual but a lot of attractions have closed or will soon close. I do understand that there is a lot of construction to pay for and that they need more control over the crowds but the sudden and dramatic price increases left me a bit turned off on renewing our passes. I am curious to see if/how they implement the tiered pricing if the rumors are true. I'm also expecting huge price increases once Star Wars Land is open. :(

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your Disney planning notes. They helped with our trip the last week of August.

I know you are brainwashed to staying in a Disney resort, but we stayed at Wyndham Bonnet Creek which is in the park gates over by Downtown Disney.
We got an amazing deal on a two bedroom, two bath unit with kitchen, living room and washer/dryer from
Much less than the prices you list above. If your reasons for staying in the park is to reduce commuting time, this solves this problem. We were very happy there.

We had your constant rain problem from one of your trips. It rained for many hours every. day. Still super fun and glad we went. Thanks again for all your trip planning posts!

Julie said...

I agree with there being less of a busy season. I just visited in Mid-September with my 4 year old son and my parents (and enjoyed many of your planning tips!). The crowd prediction calendars predicted a level 2-3 out of 10 for our 2 days in MK (a Wed and a Thurs), and they ended up being a 5-6 out of 10. Luckily with good planning and fast passes we never waited too too long for anything, but it was still frustrating for it to be more crowded than anticipated. I saw peak wait times like 40 minutes for Jungle Cruise, 80 min for Peter Pan, 40 min for Winnie the Pooh, etc. Overall we had a GREAT trip (stayed at Polynesian) and still my son pours over the printed map of the park and discusses each ride everyday.
Also, Rivers of Light might be open by late April at Animal Kingdom- that looks really cool!

Baby Detective Agency said...

I love your Disney posts. I grew up in FL and went to Disney as often as I could (probably at least once a year on average) but it was as a local, not a tourist. Now, as a non-local with a toddler, I'll be staring down my own family trips soon and it's way more of a production when you don't live 45 minutes away. Plus my personal experience is woefully out of date. So this sort of gives me an idea of what to expect.

My family still talks about the least-crowded Disney trip we ever made: on Mother's Day. Of course, this was probably 20 years ago now, but at least then, it seemed to be a holiday most people celebrated at home or at a restaurant, not out at the parks. But I've heard the same things from friends still in FL (some cast members even): that the parks are pretty full all the time now.

Carla Rae Withrow said...

Be careful if you plan on going right after the promo ends in April. Its race weekend. its an INAUGURAL race weekend (Dark Side races) so its going to be a madhouse. I am running the challenge (10k and 1/2 marathon) and we are getting on the Dream right after I race to avoid the madness and come back to hopefully quieter parks the following weekend. Our twins will be 14 months so it should be interesting to say the least. We are heading back in 59 days, so we will so how 10 months old is compared to 13 weeks old when we took them the first time. lol. We are split staying at Beach Club and then a 3 bedroom grand villa when my sister and her family joins us for the end of the trip. We are staying at Yacht for race weekend and then coming back to beach after the dream (can you tell we love beach club? lol). Have you looked into renting DVC points? We are renting the 3 bedroom monstrosity at akl (it is savannah view and it has a pool table!) for $1000 a night. That is beyond reasonable for the space and there is no way you need that much, hell, we don't need that much space, but we couldn't pass up the opportunity since we are going with a large group.

Sarah said...

Carla Rae - sounds like fun. I did see that the next weekend was a race weekend. We would be arriving after that weekend so hopefully the crowds would be winding down. Just like Disney to pop that in during a slower time though.

BreezieGirl said...

I'll be there the week after Princess Half in February (so the week after the peak holiday week). It's my first trip and I'm super excited and totally overwhelmed. Haha. I'm staying on-site at POP Century over the race weekend for convenience (and that particular resort because I get a discount with the charity I'm running through), but the rest of my family gets in Monday morning and we're doing a house rental a couple miles off property. It was significantly cheaper with 7 adults (including three couples) plus a toddler.