When you make advance reservations for any of the four Walt Disney World parks, there's a giant pitfall that Disney wants you to trip into. Anytime you call the company and ask for reservations, you will be tempted into accepting perks suggested by Disney operators. You'll ask for tickets, and they'll suggest they throw in, say, golf or the meal plan. The instant you accept, you're purchasing a "package." Then, you may be in trouble, as you may pay more than you would have a la carte. Always, always know what everything you want would cost separately before agreeing to a Disney-suggested package -- the company spends millions advertising that a family vacation there costs $1,600 a week, but in fact, if you don't accept Disney help and use other advice in this book, you can take a trip for much less. If you must, hang up the phone and do some math before deciding to accept or reject the offer. That's the only way to ensure you're not paying more.
But there's another, hidden loophole that will cheat you out of even more cash: Disney "length of stay" ticket packages will begin the moment you arrive on the property and end the day you leave. Now, think about that. If you've just flown or driven in from a distant place, the last thing you're likely to do is rush to line up at the Magic Kingdom on the same day. Likewise, on the day you're due at the airport to fly home, you're probably not going to be able to visit a theme park.
Yet Disney will schedule your package that way. In effect, you will lose 2 days that you've paid for -- at the start and at the finish of your vacation, when you'll be resting or packing. How can you avoid this? You could spend the first and last nights of your vacation at a non-Disney hotel and move on-site for your ticket days. More simply, insist on making one reservation per phone call. Arrange your tickets. Hang up. Call back and arrange your hotel, without linking your two reservations. And don't accept packages.
Disney's reservationists are friendly but intensely legalistic, and they are trained to answer only the questions that you pose. They will not give advice and will not volunteer much money-saving information. If you're not sure about the terms of what you're about to purchase, corner them and ask when your first day of tickets will take effect: The answer should be, "Whenever you choose to begin using them," and not "On the day you arrive at the resort." And always ask if there is a less expensive option. They won't lie and tell you there isn't, but they will neglect to volunteer the information. Again, do not be afraid to get off the line and spend a few hours mulling over the price of their suggestions.
Other Ticket "Discounts" & Deals
Before Magic Your Way launched the No Expiration option, pretty much every Disney ticket was good forever. That means there are a lot of unused days floating around out there. When you see a sign on the side of U.S. 192 promising discounted tickets, that's often what's for sale. Buying a ticket like this is a huge gamble, particularly if you don't have the expertise to recognize a fake. Often, there's not even a way to tell by looking whether unused days really remain on a ticket; only a magnetic scan can tell. Other organizations, such as timeshare developers, do indeed offer legit tickets, but to get them, you must endure (and then gracefully parry, which can be harder) heavy-duty sales pitches that last several hours. I think that an entire morning out of your hard-earned vacation time is worth a lot more than whatever discount is being provided. After all, how many days of working did it take for you to accrue those 4 or 5 hours? Don't be so cheap and discount-obsessed that you throw away your time.
British visitors are eligible, through www.disneyworld.co.uk, for two more ticket types not delineated here; the Premium (5 days or 7 days, £165 adults, £145 kids 3Â?9), which is like a Park Hopper, and the Ultimate (14 days, £173/£153 or 21 days £193/£173), which works for the water parks and Pleasure Island. At recent exchange rates, though, it'd still be cheaper in most cases for British visitors to buy American-issued tickets with Park Hopper options at the gate; do the math.
Really big Disney fans carry a Chase Disney Rewards Visa credit card (tel. 888/215-3049; www.chase.com), because purchases allows cardholders to accumulate points that can be redeemed in the form of tickets, vacation packages, and souvenirs. The card also grants small discounts at certain Disney establishments. But if you're such a big fan that you're willing to commit year-round to racking up points that can only be used on Mousy things, you probably already knew about this.
You may be offered a Disney Dining Plan for a hair under $40 a day that will suit only those with extreme appetites or the tapeworm-afflicted. It's not so much a discount plan as it is a system in which you buy vouchers for meals ahead of time, and the drawbacks include the fact that a) everyone in your hotel room must also participate, b) it's only good at selected restaurants, which can create time-consuming backups, c) it's good for one counter-service and one-sit-down meal a day, so you'll spend lots of effort making and keeping reservations, and d) the system will be good throughout your stay, so you will lose some money on the last day after you check out. The plan will also serve to weld you to the Disney property (and to a subset of the available restaurants, at that), since you'll be unlikely to venture off-property if you feel you've already shelled out for food.
This article is an excerpt from Pauline Frommer's Walt Disney World & Orlando, 1st Edition, available in our online bookstore now.Share your experiences with other Frommers.com readers on our Florida Message Boards.